Five Unique Books: Ducornet, Agus, Appanah, Chapman, Kang

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Five rather intriguing and unique books have entered the house the past few days, and I’d like to put some special emphasis on them. I haven’t read them yet, but have sampled all of them.

Netsukeby Rikki Ducornet—One of our iconic surrealists, Ducornet has gone very dark this time, with a tale of a psychologist who “seduces both patients and strangers,” in a feat of very deep characterization. A strange and unusual book.

From the Land of the Moonby Milena Agus—Set in Sardinia, this is another treasure from Europa editions by the looks of it. A young woman reflecting on the life of her grandmother, telling a sweeping story that’s charming and painful. A short novel but a grand scope.

The Last Brother: A Novelby Nathana Appanah—Set during World War II on Mauritius in the Indian Ocean, this novel, from a sampling, is both devastating and beautifully written. The book follows the life of nine-year-old Raj who is put in a prison camp and meets a Jewish refugee named David. The novel focuses on Raj’s life in the camp and the two boys’ attempts to escape.

Sublime Dreams of Living Machines: The Automaton in the European Imaginationby Minsoo Kang—A wonderful short story writer, Kang has turned his hand to nothing less than a history of automata that looks absolutely fascinating. There are chapters on Alexandria, Masahiro Mori, Vaucanson, Borelli, Kempelen, Capek, Metropolis, and more. (I’m honored that my “Dradin, In Love” is mentioned on page 46.)

Your Presence Is Requested at Suvanto: A Novelby Maile Chapman—I’ve read Chapman’s short stories and they’re brillliant, especially the one we reprinted in Best American Fantasy. This first novel made a Guardian list of best first novels while being criminally under-appreciated here. Junot Diaz says it best: “Maile Chapman is one of my favorite writers and in [her novel] she has given us an eerie gift…It is a superb hallucinatory piercing, an ominous dispatch from that Gothic frontier of the Female Body.” The novel’s set in a convalescent hospital in Finland and the writing, again from a sampling, is brilliant. Compared also to early McEwan and Highsmith.

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