Reviews by John Klassen
David Holdsworth is a retired public service officer who worked abroad and held a number of positions including in the Privy Council Office. He has now turned his skills to writing with a sharp eye for the foibles of government and public service. His first novel: The Ambassador’s Camel: Undiplomatic Tales of Embassy Life described the antics of diplomatic life in a fictitious country. His new book turns inward with a funny, satirical focus on the “tough on crime” agenda of the current government.
Mairtin O Cadhain
O Cadhain (1905-1970), whose name could most closely be rendered in English as Marteen O’Kine, was an Irish novelist, short story writer, journalist and school teacher. O Cadhain is considered Gaelic Ireland’s most important writer and a pioneer in Irish-language modernism. He wrote principally in Irish and also translated some works from English. The Dirty Dust is considered one of the greatest achievements of the Irish novel.
Juan Gabriel Vasquez
Vasquez (1973-) was described by The Guardian as, “among the most inventive and erudite or Colombia’s emerging generation of novelists”. He lived in Paris (1996-1999) and received a doctorate in Latin American Literature from the Sorbonne, followed by Barcelona for about 10 years, until 2012; he now lives in Bogota. Vasquez has written three principal novels: The Informers, The Secret History of Costaguana, and The Sound of Things Falling; the last won the International Dublin Literary Award in 2014; the first South American writer to do so. There were two earlier novels, but Vasquez prefers to ignore them.
Macdonald is an English writer, naturalist, and an affiliated research scholar at the University of Cambridge Department of History and Political Science. Her book H is for Hawk (2014) won the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction and the Costa Book of the Year Award. Earlier books include Shaler’s Fish (2001) and Falcon (2006).
Shteyngart was born in Leningrad (1972) and moved to the USA at the age of seven. His novels, which have received various awards, include The Russian Debutante’s Handbook (2002), Absurdistan (2006), and Super Sad True Love Story (2010); he published a memoir, Little Failure (2014).
Ferrante is an interesting person and a terrific writer. She is the author of seven novels over 20 years. She is very popular in Europe and increasingly so in North America, but she maintains a strict anonymity. She has given interviews only in writing, and has provided a bare minimum of personal information: she is from Naples, she is a mother.
Une Comédie familiale de Isabelle Hausser
Editions de Fallois
Un ex-diplomate français reconverti en directeur européen d’une multinationale et affecté à Bruxelles, Rachel, 48 ans va vivre entre mari, fils, père et tante, une année de transformations profondes, personnelle et familiales.
Living in suburbia is the North American norm but the nature of suburbs has changed over time. The author of this readable 200-page paperback, Richard Harris, Geography Professor at McMaster University, maintains that suburbs have become less diverse over the sixty years mentioned in the title.
The Crisis of Islam
(Modern Library 2003)
What Went Wrong
(Oxford University Press, 2002)
In recent years, an understanding of the nature of Islam has become increasingly important in the everyday lives of North Americans and western Europeans, not only because of Al-Qaeda terrorist activities in the name of Islam, but also because our pluralist societies are increasingly poly-cultural as well as multi-racial. We saw recently in Ontario how a proposed role for Shari’ a law tribunals in relation to civil courts caused a mini-crisis in government.
Report by Primo Levi and Leonardo de Benedetti.
This report was commissioned by Soviet authorities as a description of life in the camp, and it is the first thing that Levi wrote about his experience in Auschwitz. The Report describes the transport by train for four days from Italy, general life in the camp, and perhaps because Benedetti was a medical doctor, much of the short piece focuses on medical conditions and illnesses. One can clearly see information and incidents that Levi expanded upon in his later books about the camp and life afterwards. Levi and Benedetti survived the camp together, made their way back to Italy through a long and tortuous route, and remained life-long friends.