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Escape through Fiction

There is something to be said about leaving reality behind for a bit. These works of fiction will take you around the world and beyond.


If China has one possibility of a Nobel laureate it is Can Xue.” —Susan Sontag

“[Can Xue] invites comparison to the century’s masters of decay made meaningful, to Kafka especially.” —The New York Times

Combining elements of both Chinese materiality and Western abstract thinking, I Live in the Slums hovers in the dreamlike state between consciousness and unconsciousness. Delightful, enchanting, and full of mystery and secrets, Can Xue’s newest collection of short stories shines a light on the forces that give contours to the visible terrain we acknowledge as reality.

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“Elegant. Unpretentious. Approachable. . . . quite an endearing Novelist.”—Michael Dirda, Washington Post

“Modiano is a pure original.”—Adam Thirlwell, The Guardian

“These novellas have a mood. They cast a spell.”—Dwight Garner, New York Times

In Suspended Sentences, a trilogy of novellas by the winner of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Literature, French author Patrick Modiano draws on his own experiences, blended with the real or invented stories of others, to present a dreamlike autobiography and also the biography of a place. Orphaned children, mysterious parents, forgotten friends, enigmatic strangers—each appears in this three-part love song to a Paris that no longer exists.

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Now available in paperback, the original English-language translation of Ó Cadhain’s raucous masterpiece.

The Dirty Dust is consistently ranked as the most important prose work in modern Irish. In The Dirty Dust all characters lie dead in their graves. This, however, does not impair their banter or their appetite for news of aboveground happenings from the recently arrived. Told entirely in dialogue, Ó Cadhain’s daring novel listens in on the gossip, rumors, backbiting, complaining, and obsessing of the local community. In this merciless yet comical portrayal of a closely bound community, Ó Cadhain remains keenly attuned to the absurdity of human behavior, the lilt of Irish gab, and the nasty, deceptive magic of human connection.

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Acclaimed and celebrated in the Arab world for its vivid portrait of Iraq, this heartbreaking novel confronts the war-torn nation’s horrifying recent history.

In The Corpse Washer, Young Jawad, born to a traditional Shiite family of corpse washers and shrouders in Baghdad, decides to abandon the family tradition, choosing instead to become a sculptor, to celebrate life rather than tend to death. But Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship and the economic sanctions of the 1990s destroy the socioeconomic fabric of society. The 2003 invasion and military occupation unleash sectarian violence. Corpses pile up, and Jawad returns to the inevitable washing and shrouding. Trained as an artist to shape materials to represent life aesthetically, he now must contemplate how death shapes daily life and the bodies of Baghdad’s inhabitants.

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A new translation of the Guatemalan author whom Roberto Bolaño called “the most rigorous writer of my generation, the most transparent…the most luminous of all.”

“Right from the start I picked her for a thief, although that day she didn’t take anything. . . . I knew she’d be back,” the narrator/bookseller of Rodrigo Rey Rosa’s Severina recalls in this novel’s opening pages. Imagine a dark-haired book thief as alluring as she is dangerous. Imagine the mesmerized bookseller secretly tracking the volumes she steals, hoping for insight into her character, her motives, her love life. In Rodrigo Rey Rosa’s hands, this tale of obsessive love is told with almost breathless precision and economy, an unsettling exploration of the alienating and simultaneously liberating power of love.

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