As I was putting together this list of anticipated books, I realized that there are many links to be made between the narratives included here. Many of these books investigate the often complex relationships and tensions between history and the present, between memory and truth, between community and solitude. This short list includes writers who are very familiar to me as well as those whose work is brand new to me. I realize, too, that this group is limited to books coming out in the first half of the year, so consider these stories a lively way to help us navigate the wintry months ahead, and lead the way to the warmer breezes of late spring.
Chaudhuri is a writer and musician who is always pushing against any fixed genre limits. An essayist, a literary critic, a musician, and a novelist, Chaudhuri’s work is often engaged in the tensions between home and homesickness, solitude and communal identity. His latest book focuses on a young poet from Calcutta, savoring his homesickness while staying with his uncle in London. I’m looking forward to seeing how Chaudhuri explores these two men’s relationships as they wander the streets of London, the younger a naïve artist and the older a self-satisfied failure. Pre-review descriptions of this book call it witty, wry, thoughtful, and charming.
I am not familiar with Ruiz-Camacho’s work, but the descriptions of his debut linked story collection sound really intriguing. The stories trace the kidnapping of José Victoriano Arteaga, the patriarch of a wealthy Mexican family. When his family start receiving gruesome packages holding clues to Jose’s disappearance, the family begins its descent into financial and social exile. Yiyun Li describes the collection: “In the world of today no calamity stays local, no tragedy private. Someone missing at a street corner leaves unhealed scars in other countries, among different generations. It is with this keen sense of intersection between personal and impersonal history that Antonio Ruiz-Camacho approaches his characters–his scrutiny of them, his empathy for them, and his versatile voice reminding us of Grace Paley, among other masters of the short story.” Any allusion to Grace Paley works for me, but on top of that praise, I’m eager to see how Ruiz-Camacho shapes these intersecting narratives.
This is Barry’s first published book of fiction (she has published several books of poetry). Her novel focuses on a young girl born during the height of the Vietnam War. She possesses a magical ability to hear the voices of the dead, and travels with a group of displaced travelers who become a sort of family. Because Rabbit (the girl’s name) has the ability to hear the voices of history, the novel is able to journey across time, from the days of colonial French Indochina to the aftermath of the war. I’m intrigued to read this novel’s approach to the intersection of history and myth via the lens of a character who seems to inhabit multiple worlds simultaneously.
Another novel that explores the complicated history of the Vietnam War, Nguyen’s book focuses on the days leading up to the fall of Saigon. The central character, a spy who has infiltrated the South Vietnamese army, navigates multiple worlds simultaneously. Nguyen layers his character and his novel with multiple and competing dualities/loyalties—between America and Vietnam, between European and Vietnamese lineage, between two armies. The book has been described as a black comedy, historical novel, and literary thriller, but I am perhaps most intrigued by its interest in the psychological and political investigations of what it means to be multiple selves at once.
I know that Barrett included this book in his anticipated books list also, but I couldn’t help but add it to my list too. Perhaps I’m feeling drawn to novels where characters magically seem to hear a cacophony of voices. Doten’s narrative approaches the American-Iraqi conflict through the discovery of an injured boy, found badly burned in the Akkad Valley. Like Barry’s novel, Doten uses some strategies of the fantastic to offer his commentary on the war on terror. Through a masterful interrogator and a ruthless torture device that produces “perfect confessions,” the boy becomes a mouthpiece from a motley array of voices—from Condoleeza Rice to Osama Bin Laden, Mark Zuckerberg to the more anonymous voices of this perpetual war. With the recent release of America’s “torture report,” this novel feels like a particularly timely investigation into the complex and disturbing interplay of war, torture, and (mis)information.
There is barely a whisper to be found on the subject of Ishiguro’s latest novel. Ishiguro has indicated that the narrative focuses on “lost memories, love, revenge, and war,” and it begins with a couple setting out for a journey to find a son, separated from them for many years. I’m a huge admirer of Ishiguro’s books, his range of settings and time periods, his quiet restraint, and his embrace of mystery, fragmentation, and irresolution. His work always explores history in complicated ways, the ghostly traces of the past, and its influence on his often solitary characters.
Fuller’s novel has a compelling premise—eight-year-old Peggy Hillcoat is taken by her survivalist father out of her London home to live in a remote forest. Her father tells her that the rest of the world has been destroyed, and he and Peggy begin to make a life for themselves in the woods. She isn’t seen again for nine years. The narrative moves back and forth between these two time lines, slowly revealing the mystery of Peggy’s return to “civilization” and the fate of her father. There seems to be tons of productive suspense in this novel, but I’m also interested in discovering how Fuller explores the psyche of a child caught between competing worlds and ideologies.
I am an enormous fan (and a subscriber and you should be too!) of And Other Stories press. This independent publishing house based in England publishes books that are strange, that take risks, and that promote translation. I haven’t had the chance to read Deborah Levy’s latest– An Amorous Discourse in the Suburbs of Hell—but I’m looking forward to getting my hands on it in the new year. (I’m cheating a little bit because technically this book came out in October, 2014, but I’m including it on my list of my anticipated reading of 2015.) And Other Stories describes Levy’s latest as a dramatic poem, one that follows the unexpected pairing of a disillusioned, tattooed angel and an accountant, worn down by his hum-drum life. Kafka meets Wings of Desire?
I’m also looking forward to the release of Niyati Keni’s, Esperanza Street (And Other Stories, February, 2015). I had the chance to read an early copy of this novel, a quiet and patient coming of age story that follows Joseph, a young house servant to a wealthy family living in a port town in the Philippines. The book explores the tensions between tradition and progress, community and capitalism, and the divides between the classes in a world changing before Joseph’s observant eyes. Keni’s book is densely populated with lively, engaging characters who all see their world (and its rapid changes) differently, but who are united through the singular lens of Joseph’s critical and curious eyes.
Clarice Lispector is one of my favorite writers, and I’m excited that New Directions is releasing her collected stories on the heels of releasing five of her novels in the past few years. The Complete Stories, (August, 2015), includes 86 stories gathered from 9 collections written between her teenage years and old age. New Directions summarizes the collection: “From teenagers coming into awareness of their sexual and artistic powers, to humdrum housewives whose lives are shattered by unexpected epiphanies, to old people who don’t know what to do with themselves. Clarice’s stories take us through their lives—and ours.”
And a brief list of other intriguing titles: From Archipelo Press, A Useless Man: Selected Stories by Sait Faik Abasiyanik (June, 2015) and This Life: A Novel, by Karel Schoeman (May, 2015). From Melville House, The Scapegoat by Sofia Nikolaidou (February, 2015). From Other Press, Where Women are Kings by Christie Watson (April, 2015).
Joanna Luloff is one of Memorious‘s two current fiction editors and the author of The Beach at Galle Road (Algonquin, 2012), a Barnes and Noble “Discover Great New Writers” Pick. A former Peace Corps volunteer, she is an Assistant Professor of English at University of Colorado, Denver.