Henry Roth’s ‘Mercy of a Rude Stream’ was hailed as the literary comeback of the century. Now, it’s time for a new generation to discover the master.
Dara Horn’s novels recover vestiges of the Jewish past. Her latest, ‘A Guide For the Perplexed,’ jumps back and forth between America, England, and Cairo.
Marco Roth’s new memoir charts the his struggle to understand his elusive and beloved father, who died of AIDS. The lucid and self-lacerating prose is a literary triumph.
The most powerful passion in Irene Nemirovsky’s novel is her love for France. The writer embraced the language and religion of a country that spurned and eventually killed her.
It is not obligatory for an Israeli novelist to double as national prophet, but it helps secure publication in the United States, where translations constitute less than 3% of books. Writing about and against public injustice, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Václav Havel and Reinaldo Arenas found American readers. Compatriots who pursued private themes did not.
It is a great desk — an enormous, ornate escritoire equipped with 19 drawers — rather than a “Great House” that connects the characters in Nicole Krauss’s ambitious third novel, following “Man Walks Into a Room” (2002) and “The History of Love” (2008). Like one of those anthology movies, such as “Tales of Manhattan” (1942), “The Yellow Rolls-Royce” (1964) or “The Red Violin” (1998), that binds its separate stories through ownership of a single item, whether a black tailcoat, an automobile or a violin, “Great House” uses a desk to link strangers scattered in New York, London, Jerusalem and Santiago, Chile.
Many recently released novels have been written by authors who are unavailable for interviews, on account of their posthumous status. But even more thrilling than the publication of works by Roberto Bolaño, Ralph Ellison, Stieg Larsson, Vladimir Nabokov and Henry Roth was the recovery of “Suite Française,” an ambitious project that Irène Némirovsky was working on when deported to Auschwitz in 1942.
Imminence of the end concentrates the craft. German critics employ the term Altersstill — late style — to designate the tendency of such aging masters as Poussin, Beethoven and Beckett to focus their energies on essentials. Once the enfant terrible of American Jewish literature, Philip Roth (Long may he live!) is now 76, and in “Everyman” (2006), “Exit Ghost” (2007) and “Indignation” (2008), the virtuoso of boisterous provocations has taken on the urgent task of confronting mortality. “The Humbling” extends that project.
More than most other novelists of her generation, Dara Horn draws inspiration from neglected nooks of Jewish history. She set part of her first novel, “In the Image,” published in 2002, in Amsterdam before the German invasion. Horn, however, has been reluctant to add to the bulging body of Holocaust literature, which, she has claimed, “ultimately teaches that what is worth knowing about Jewish life is only that it ended.”
Three years ago, a newly discovered manuscript became the talk of France. “Suite Française,” an uncompleted novel about the German invasion and occupation of France, attracted widespread interest in its author, Irène Némirovsky, who wrote in French and died because she was a Jew but never felt entirely French or Jewish. Indeed, as many critics have pointed out, for all its range of characters — urban and rural, peasant, bourgeois, and aristocrat, French and German, male and female, young and old — “Suite Française” lacks any Jewish character.