From Publishers Weekly
Hemon (The Lazarus Project
) edits the inaugural volume of an anthology of European short fiction, and while the maiden outing has many fine moments, there's room for improvement in upcoming years. The mix of authors—35 writers from 30 countries—is excellent and includes better knowns with unknowns, though each piece is allotted an average of 10 pages, leading several of the more promising works to feel truncated. Other pieces (such as Giulio Mozzi's story, originally written as part of an art exhibit) don't seem like the best work to represent an author. Still, there is much excellent work. Christine Montalbetti's surreal and enigmatic Hotel Komaba Eminence (with Haruki Murakami) plays on the author's obsession with the Japanese writer. In Igor Stiks's terse but well-managed At the Sarajevo Market, the discovery of a watch at a Bosnian marketplace triggers a crisis between war-fatigued lovers. Victor Pelevin's acidic satire Friedmann Space evolves into a Borgesian tale of Russian scientists sending lucrenauts past the Schwarzenegger threshold to report back on the black hole–like domain of the megarich. This is a good start—one hopes that next year's volume will be a more consistent collection. (Jan.)
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*Starred Review* Dalkey Archive Press inaugurates a planned series of annual anthologies of European fiction with this impressive first volume, which gathers short stories from 30 countries. Readers for whom the expression “foreign literature” means the work of Canada’s Alice Munro stand to have their eyes opened wide and their reading exposure exploded as they encounter works from places such as Croatia, Bulgaria, and Macedonia (and, yes, from more familiar terrain, such as Spain, the UK, and Russia). Even tiny Liechtenstein is represented, by a correlatively tiny but pungent story, “In the Snow,” about two teenage boys hiking to another town that promises great entertainment. The stories are arranged alphabetically by home country. The first, then, is from Albania, a piece called “The Country Where No One Ever Dies,” a beautifully composed and marvelously entertaining expression of Albanian cultural eccentricities. Certainly not all stories are conventional in construction or easy to decipher, but every piece benefits serious fiction lovers’ reading experience. The book contains an insightful preface by novelist Zadie Smith, who overviews the included stories’ commonalities and differences, as well as an introduction by Bosnian writer and volume editorHemon, author of the highly acclaimed novel The Lazarus Project (2008) and now a Chicago resident, who eloquently insists that the short story is hardly a moribund literary form. --Brad Hooper