Aleksandar Hemon, Il Progetto Lazarus (Einaudi, translation by Maurizia Balmelli)
“The Lazarus Project by Aleksandar Hemon is 290 pages long but there is not a single dispensable paragraph in its entirety. This powerful novel (Hemon’s third book) tells two stories set in two different periods. The first tale, which takes place at the beginning of the twentieth century, recounts how a Jewish immigrant named Lazarus is mistaken for a dangerous anarchist assassin and is mowed down in Chicago. Lazarus is quickly buried but (in a ghastly variation on his name) is disinterred by medical students who rob his corpse of its organs. Lazarus’s sister Olga struggles to recover her brother’s body and to give him a decent religious burial and to clear his name.
The other story, which takes place now, is about a Bosnian writer living in Chicago named Vladimir Brik who becomes intrigued with the Lazarus story. He tries to reconstruct it and relive it by returning to Eastern Europe with a photographer friend. The casual violence of Sarajevo today (the photographer is shot and killed by a passerby who wants to try out his new rifle) is spliced into the turn-of-the-century violence of policemen in Chicago.
Whether Hemon is writing about Brik’s breaking his hand while beating up a detestable pimp or about a Viennese Jew in Chicago at the beginning of the twentieth century trying to wheedle incriminating information out of Lazarus’s sister, his story-telling is always vivid and authentic. Most novels sag and repeat themselves or lose their momentum; The Lazarus Project remains terse and dynamic and truthful from one end to the other.
Hemon’s story-telling is always compelling. The minute we begin to read a page or even a sentence, we are drawn into the powerful currents of the narrative. His syntax is straightforward, even blunt, but his sensibility is alive to those details that pump life into every portrait, every scene.
We live in a shattered world of immigration, of ethnic cleansing, of tribal warfare, of globalization, of exploitation of the third world by the first. Although this fragmentation has reached its apogee in our day, it commenced with the beginning of modernity, an international economy and industrialized warfare. Without ever being didactic or essayistic, Hemon presents us with the raw human data of a violent and disrupted society and traces it back to the dawn of the twentieth century. These large forces, however, are always dramatized by memorable characters who often act and react in complete ignorance of one another.
Aleksandar Hemon dispels this ignorance and allows us to understand what appears mysterious and occluded to the uninstructed eye. He is our guide into the great misunderstandings that undermine the cohesion of our world. With Hemon’s vision we can at last render the opaque transparent, the inscrutable understandable. He is a master story-teller whose tales are paced swiftly, whose characters are convincing and particular, whose scenes etch themselves on our consciousness with the blinding force of a flash photo shot in the dark. But these tales are not just entertaining and engrossing; they are also emblematic of the vexed politics of our day.”
Marie Ndiaye, Three Strong Women (Giunti Editore)
Marie Ndiaye was born in 1967 in Pithivier to a Senegalese father and French mother. She graduated from L’Academie de France in Rome. Between 1985 and 2009 she has published more than twenty works, including novels, short stories and comedies. Several of her novels have been published in Italy, including In The Family, Thinking of the Senses, The Devil, All My Friends, Dad is Back, The Off-Season, Close to the Heart andThree Strong Women. She has won the Prix Femina in 2001 and the Prix Goncourt in 2009 for Three Strong Women.
David Mitchell, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet (Frassinelli)
David Mitchell was born in 1969 in Southport, Lancashire; holds a degree in English and American literature and has a masters in comparative literature. He lived in Japan, teaching English, from 1994 to 2003, when he moved to Ireland, where he currently resides with his wife and children. The winner of numerous awards, he has published five novels: Ghostwritten, which won the Mail on Sunday / John Llewellyn Rhys Award, number9dream and Cloud Atlas, both finalists for the Man Booker Prize; Black Swan Green, which was selected as one of the 10 best books of the year by Time
Miguel Syjuco, Ilustrado (Fazi)
Miguel Syjuco was born and raised in Manila. His debut novel Ilustrado won the 2008 Man Asian Literary Prize, the Hugh MacLennan Prize, the Palanca Award; was a finalist for the Grand Prix du Livre de Montreal, the Amazon First Novel Award, and the Commonwealth First Book Prize for the Canada and Caribbean region. Ilustrado has been translated into more than fifteen languages. He has a bachelor’s degree in English literature from the Ateneo de Manila University, an MFA from Columbia University, and a PhD in literature from the University of Adelaide. He has written forinternational publications, including The New York Times, the International Herald Tribune, The Drawbridge, The Walrus, the Globe & Mail, and the CBC. He currently lives in Montreal.
Wells Tower, Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned (Mondadori)
Wells Tower is the author of Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned, a collection of short fiction. He is the recipient of two Pushcart Prizes, the 2002 Plimpton (Discovery) Prize from The Paris Review, and a Henfield Foundation Award. Tower’s first short story collection, Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned was published in 2009. Michiko Kakutani picked it as one of her ten best books of 2009. It was also a finalist for The Story Prize. In June, 2010, Tower was named as one of The New Yorker magazine’s “20 under 40″ luminary fiction writers. On June 10, 2010, he was presented with the Tenth Annual New York Public Library’s Young Lions Fiction Award, a $10,000 prize for an American writer under 40. His work was selected for the Best American Short Stories 2010.