Friday, June 15, 2012
Featured: 6 From Melville House
The fifth and final book in the author’s acclaimed Factory Series was published just after Derek Raymond’s death, and so didn’t get the kind of adulatory attention the previous four titles in the series got. The book has been unavailable for so long that many of Derek Raymond’s rabid fans aren’t even aware there is a fifth book.
But Dead Man Upright may be the most psychologically probing book in the series. Unlike the others, it’s not so much an investigation into the identity of a killer, but a chase to catch him before he kills again. Meanwhile, the series’ hero—the nameless Sargent from the “Unexplained Deaths” department—is facing more obstacles in the department, due to severe budget cutbacks, than he’s ever faced before.
However, this time, the Sargent knows the identity of the next victim of the serial killer in question. But even the Sargent’s brutally blunt way of speaking can’t convince the besotted victim, and he’s got to convince a colleague to go against orders and join him in the attempt to catch the killer . . . before it’s too late.
Derek Raymond was the pseudonym adopted by Robin Cook, a well-born Englishman who spent a great portion of his life in France. Turning his back on Eton and all his birth class implied, he worked for years at whatever menial jobs or scams came to him, writing all the while, learning the secret life of London the way a cab driver must learn its streets. Soon enough he took the crime novel to heart, taking as his subject the dispossessed and faceless, society's rejects: alcoholics, abused women, prostitutes, petty criminals swarming like pilot fish in the wake of sharks. His life's work culminated in the four Factory novels now seen as clear landmarks in British fiction: He Died with His Eyes Open, The Devil's Home on Leave, How the Dead Live, and I Was Dora Suarez.
Hailed by Jean Cocteau as a “masterpiece,” and by the Guardian as “Bret Easton Ellis’s Less Than Zero, avant la lettre,” this taut tale written by a teenager in the form of a frank “confession” is a gem of early twentieth century romanticism. Long unavailable in the U.S., it is here presented in a sparkling new translation.
Set in Paris during the First World War, it tells the story of Francois, the 16-year-old narrator, who falls in love with Marthe, an older, married woman whose husband is off fighting at the front. What seems to begin as a charming tale of puppy love quickly darkens, and they launch into a steamy affair. In the tense environment of the wartime city, their love takes on a desperation transcending their youthfulness.
And as the badly-kept secret of their relationship unfolds, scandal descends, leading the story to a final, startling conclusion — and causing the book itself to become a scandal when it was first published in 1923, just before the author’s death at the age of 20.
Raymond Radiguet was born in 1903 in Saint-Maur, a small town outside Paris. He was the son of a cartoonist, but little else is known about his childhood until, at age 16, he dropped out of school after an affair with the wife of a soldier off fighting in the first World War, to go to Paris. At the age of 18, after writing a collection of poems that would only be published posthumously, Les joues en feu, Radiguet moved to a fishing village near Toulon to work on the novel that would become his masterpiece, The Devil in the Flesh, which was based on his high school affair. Radiguet died of typhoid fever at age 20. Composer Francis Poulenc said of his death, “For two days I was unable to do anything, I was so stunned.”
Ten years in the writing, this fearless novel—so powerful it’s banned in Iran—tells the stirring story of a tortured people forced to live under successive oppressive regimes.
It begins on a pitch black, rainy night, when there’s a knock on the Colonel’s door. Two policemen have come to summon him to collect the tortured body of his youngest daughter. The Islamic Revolution is devouring its own children. Set over the course of a single night, the novel follows the Colonel as he pays a bribe to recover his daughter’s body and then races to bury her before sunrise.
As we watch him struggle with the death of his innocent child, we find him wracked with guilt and anger over the condition of his country, particularly as represented by his own children: a son who fell during the 1979 revolution; another driven to madness after being tortured during the Shah’s regime; a third who went off to martyr himself fighting for the ayatollahs in their war against Iraq; one murdered daughter, and another who survives by being married to a cruel opportunist.
An incredibly powerful novel about nation, history and family, The Colonel leaves no taboo unbroken.
Mahmoud Dowlatabadi is one of the Middle East’s most important writers of the last century. The author of numerous novels, plays and screenplays, he is a leading proponent of social and artistic freedom in contemporary Iran. Dowlatabadi pioneered the use of the everyday language of the Iranian people as suitable for high literary art, and often examines the lives of the marginal and oppressed in his work, such as in his previous Melville House title, Missing Soluch, his first work translated into English.
Cheikh Hamidou Kane, Ambiguous Adventure
Hailed by Chinua Achebe as one of the greatest African novels ever written, this long-unavailable classic tells the tale of young Samba Diallo, a devout pupil in a Koranic school in Senegal whose parents send him to Paris to study philosophy.
But unknown to Samba, it is a desperate attempt by his parents to better understand the French colonial forces transforming their traditional way of life. Instead, for Samba, it seems an exciting adventure, and once in France he excels at his new studies and is delighted by his new “marvelous comprehension and total communion” with the Western world.
Soon, though, he finds himself torn between the materialistic secularism and isolation of French civilization and the deeper spiritual influences of his homeland. As Samba puts it: “I have become the two.”
Written in an elegant, lyrical prose, Ambiguous Adventure is a masterful expression of the immigrant experience and the repercussions of colonialism, and a great work of literature about the uneasy relationship between Islamic Africa and the West — a relationship more important today than ever before.
Cheikh Hamidou Kane was born in 1928 in Senegal. Educated in a Koranic school, he went on to study philosophy and law at the University of Paris, before returning to Senegal where he became a government minister and, later, a UNICEF representative traveling throughout Africa. He lives in Dakar.
Lars Iyer, Dogma
The sequel to the 2011 hit Spurious—which was acclaimed by The Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, The San Francisco Chronicle, and The Washington Post, which called it “fearsomely funny”—Dogma finds Lars and W. still, continually and without cease, arguing, although this time in a different country.
This time out, the duo embarks on a trip to the American Deep South, where, in company with a band of Canadians who may or may not be related to W., they attempt to form a new religion based on their philosophical studies. Their mission is soon derailed by their inability to take meaningful action, their endless bickering, the peculiar behavior of the natives, and by a true catastrophe: they can’t seem to find a liquor store that carries their brand of gin.
Part Nietzsche, part Monty Python, part Huckleberry Finn, Dogma is a novel as ridiculous and profound as religion itself.
Lars Iyer is a lecturer in philosophy at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne. He is the author of two books on Blanchot (Blanchot's Communism: Art, Philosophy, Politics and Blanchot's Vigilance: Phenomenology, Literature, Ethics) and the novel Spurious, which was 3:AM Magazine's Book of the Year in 2011. He writes at his blog Spurious, and is also a contributor to Britain's leading literary blog, Ready, Steady, Book. His literary manifesto, "Nude in Your Hot Tub, Facing the Abyss" appeared in Post Road and The White Review.
The Collected Stories of Heinrich Boll
These diverse, psychologically rich, and morally profound stories explore the consequences of war on individuals and on an entire culture. The Collected Stories of Heinrich Böll provides readers with the only comprehensive collection by this master of the short-story form.
Includes all the stories from Böll’s The Mad Dog, Eighteen Short Stories, The Casualty, and The Stories of Heinrich Böll. A Nobel Laureate, Böll was considered a master of 20th century literature, and The Collected Stories of Heinrich Böll contains some of his finest work.
Heinrich Boll was born in Cologne in 1917. Despite his background as a Catholic pacifist, Böll was conscripted and saw combat during the second World War. He was wounded four times before surrendering to American Soldiers. He published his first novel, The Train Was on Time, in 1949. His best-known novels include The Clown, Billiards at Half-Past Nine, and Group Portrait with Lady. Böll served as president of PEN and was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1972.
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