This week, Richard Scarry for grown-ups, the tireless work of translators, and the final novel from a Nobel laureate. Plus: talking with the last survivors of WWI.
A Conspiracy of Faith by Jussi Adler-Olsen, trans. from the Danish by Martin Aitkin (Dutton) - A cold 14-year-old murder-arson case preoccupies crotchety Copenhagen Deputy Det. Supt. Carl Mørck in bestseller Adler-Olsen’s third Department Q thriller, a shattering parable of honest individuals caught up in corruption.
In Translation: Translators on Their Work and What It Means edited by Esther Allen and Susan Bernofsky (Columbia Univ.) - The book is divided between theory and practice, though all essays focus on the experience of translators. The 18 translators included—among them Eliot Weinberger (translator of Bei Dao, Jorge Luis Borges, and Octavio Paz), David Bellos (Georges Perec), and Haruki Murakami (whose afterword to his Japanese translation of The Great Gatsby is itself translated into English reprinted here)—offer memorable anecdotes.
My Dirty Dumb Eyes by Lisa Hanawalt (Drawn & Quarterly) - Imagine a grown-up Richard Scarry turned absurdist social commentator, and a world where dogs sit in houses made of fish. Hanawalt’s humor comics, which previously appeared in publications like Vanity Fair and the New York Times Book Review, are collected here for the first time.
You Are One of Them by Elliott Holt (Penguin Press) – Fresh from college, adrift Washington, D.C., native Sarah Zuckerman heads to post–Cold War Moscow in search of clues about what happened to Jenny Jones, her childhood best friend. After she wrote a letter to Soviet leader Yuri Andropov asking for peace in 1982, when the girls were 10, Jenny was invited to the U.S.S.R. as a “peace ambassador” and became an international sensation. But three years later, she and her parents were killed in a plane crash—or so it seemed. Check out a Q&A with Holt.
American Spirit by Dan Kennedy (Amazon/New Harvest) - A Connecticut man loses his high-paying job and takes up drunk-jogging, drug-peddling, and commu-nity center crafting in Kennedy's mid-life revival novel. After peeing on the carpet of his own private office, 40 year-old Matthew Harris is fired and forced to re-examine the tragedies of his childhood and recent past: the death of his parents in a plane crash, his subsequent orphan hood, and the devastating end of his first marriage.
The Son by Philipp Meyer (Ecco) - In chronicling the settlement and scourge of the American West, from the Comanche raids of the mid-19th century into the present era, Meyer never falters. The sweeping history of the McCullough dynasty unfolds across generations and through alternating remembrances of three masterfully drawn characters: Eli, the first white male born in a newly founded Texas, captured and raised by Comanche Indians; Eli’s self-sacrificing son, Peter, who shuns everything his power-hungry father represents; and Jeannie, Eli’s fiercely independent great-great-granddaughter, who inherits the family fortune. Read a profile about former bike mechanic Meyer and the five years he spent writing The Son.
The Last of the Doughboys: The Forgotten Generation and Their Forgotten World War by Richard Rubin (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) - To write this affecting book, Rubin traveled the country to interview the last American survivors of WWI. At the time (10 years ago), all were over 100 years old, and one was 113. Even with their understandably imprecise memories, they could recall the realities of their long-ago service, much of it in battle. A fitting epitaph to brave men too often overlooked.
The Hanging Garden by Patrick White (Picador) - This final, unfinished novel by Nobel laureate White cements the late author’s reputation as an incisive and compassionate voice of the 20th century. An elegiac portrait of two adolescents displaced during WWII, the novel guides the reader through multiple points of view, including Eirene Sklavos, brought to Australia after her father’s death in a Greek prison, and Gilbert Horsfall, who witnessed the death of his friend in the Blitz and attempts to integrate into an unwelcoming community.