Amélie Nothomb: Les prénoms épicènes [The Epicene First Names]

Latest on my website: Amélie Nothomb‘s Les prénoms épicènes [The Epicene First Names]. This is a Nothomb parable, telling the tale of a couple with epicene first names, (names which can be used for either sex) and their daughter called Epicène. He (Claude) had seduced her (Dominique) and persuaded her to marry him and move with him to Paris (from Brest). She could not get pregnant for a long time but, when she did, she had a daughter whom they called Epicène. However, there is considerable antipathy, turning to hate, between father and daughter, and things only get worse, till we learn of a dastardly plot by Claude at the expense of his wife and daughter, for which he will have to pay a high price. As always, Nothomb tells her tale well and makes her point.

Norah Lange: Personas en la sala (People in the Room)

The latest addition to my website is Norah Lange‘s Personas en la sala (People in the Room). This is the second Lange book I have read but the first to be published in English, sixty-eight years after it first appeared in Spanish. It tells the story of a seventeen-year old woman who observes the three sisters who live in the house opposite and almost never leave the house or, indeed, the room. She wonders who they are and, eventually, gets to know them but still learns little about who they are. The whole story is told about the four women, as though sealed off from the rest of the world, with only occasional appearances by other, peripheral characters. There is a feeling of death, sadness and complete isolation hanging over them and the story. Lange tells her story very well, with what is not said as important as what is said.

Nicole Krauss: Forest Dark

The latest addition to my website is Nicole KraussForest Dark. This is another superb novel from Krauss, telling two parallel stories. One is about Jules Epstein, a sixty-eight year old, divorced Jewish-American man who has made a lot of money but now feels disconnected from his present and finds the need to reconnect with both his personal past (his parents, in particular) and his Jewish past. The other story is about a novelist called Nicole whose failing marriage and writers’ block gives her an epiphany – a sense of being in two places at once but also in the forest dark (a quote from Dante). Both set off to Israel, Jules to reconnect with King David and leave a tribute to his parents, Nicole to reconnect with the Tel Aviv Hilton, where she was conceived and where she has spent many happy hours both as a child and adult, which she thinks might be the key to writing her next novel, but also to find Kafka. Both Jules and Nicole also get their own contemporary but somewhat oddball guides. It is a book about discovering one’s private past but also one’ collective past as well as finding our who we are now.

US literature chronological order

The oldest US novel on my site

If you have poked around my website, you might be aware that every book, as well as being listed under the country/author, is also listed chronologically, so that you can see what books were published in any given year. I must admit to being somewhat fascinated by finding out that Book X was published in the same year as Book Y and have long thought it would be interesting to show books chronologically for each country as well as alphabetically by author. I have now done this for literature from the United States, the country where I have most books and most authors under review, not least because I have always found the US novel to be of special interest. It includes not only all the US books on my site but also the births and deaths of authors as well as quite a few books not on my site, in particular poetry, drama and non-fiction which will not, of course, appear on my site. However, as compiling this list took far longer than I thought it would, I do not see myself doing the same for other countries any time soon. I hope you find it interesting.

You may also have noticed that the design – what WordPress calls the theme – has changed. There are a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, the previous theme had not been updated since 2012, which is a long time in WordPress years, and was starting to show some incompatibilities with WordPress. Secondly, I just thought it might be nice to have a change now and then. I have to admit that I spent no more than a few minutes selecting a design, picking one that looked all right and, more particularly, was up-to-date. As there are hundreds or even thousands of possible designs, one that was up-to-date but also tried and tested was important to me. However, if after using it for a while, I am not too happy with it, I may well do further research and switch again. But then probably not.

I also took the opportunity to update the list of recommended blogs. Quite a few were defunct. A couple had changed their URLs. There were also quite a few which I visit regularly and which were not on the list. This list has now been updated. You can find it by scrolling down. It is on the right below the recent blog posts. Some of the blogs are not in English but I can recommend all of them. If you want more The Literary Saloon has loads.