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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

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Friday, June 23, 2017

The challenge of finding one work of fiction from each European country

Another story in the anthology from Dalkey Archive Press Best European Fiction 2017 is  from the Irish (i.e., writing in Irish/Gaelic, who knew?) Daithi O Muiri, Duran - a straightforward story about a pair of malevolent preteens who break into an unoccupied house and pretty much destroy the place, but it turns out they made a very bad choice as to whose house to destroy. O Muiri tightens the knot of tension w/ each page, as it becomes increasingly obvious that the mob-connected victim of the random vandalism is tracking down the perpetrators - all good, but I only wish the conclusion of the story were more explicit and less tentative, and even vague. Otherwise, not so many great stories and I wonder if this is really the best Europe has to offer; clearly, the editors were seeking little-known (though not always young) authors, and maybe they couldn't get the right to the more prominent European authors such as Knausgaard, Houllebecq, or Ferrante - but seriously wouldn't be better to come clean and ID this as new or "undiscovered" writers, or some such term? Other selections I read yesterday that are worth a look: the selection from the Italian writer Marosia Castaldi's novel The Hunger of Women, an appealing vignette about older women in distress comforting one another with conversation and shared recipes - I loved the descriptions of the Italian home cooking. But this is an excerpt and, as such, offers a glimpse at a longer work w/out offering a real arc of a story. I also like Jonathan Hutton's story Moondust, about the last days in the life of an astronaut, but it's inclusion in this anthology is odd: Hutton is an American living in Liechtenstein and, though he wrote this story in German, its entire setting and scope is in the U.S., so it doesn't feel in the least like an insite into European literature or contemporary culture (I get it that it's a bit of a challenge to find one work from each European culture and language group).

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