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Frederik wasn’t himself

Nikil Saval: Christian Jungerson, 18 June 2014

You Disappear 
by Christian Jungersen, translated by Misha Hoekstra.
Talese, 336 pp., £17, January 2014, 978 0 385 53725 4
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... The Danish novelist​ Christian Jungersen writes topical novels with untopical frames, which appear to be of the moment though they look at the news askance. His second novel, The Exception, came out in Denmark in 2004, when liberal debates about the justness of humanitarian intervention were at their height. Jungersen’s novel was set in the made-up Danish Centre for Information on Genocide (DCIG), where the relations between the office workers appear to mirror the everyday blindnesses and cruelties that supposedly led to the mass slaughters of the 20th century ...

Yellow as Teeth

Nikil Saval: John Wray’s ‘Lowboy’, 11 June 2009

Lowboy 
by John Wray.
Canongate, 258 pp., £12.99, March 2009, 978 1 84767 151 6
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... John Wray’s first book, The Right Hand of Sleep (2001), was a historical novel, narrating the slow collapse of an Austrian hilltown into the embrace of the Nazis. His second, Canaan’s Tongue (2005), was set during the American Civil War, but in place of the wistfulness and nostalgia that pervaded his previous book, this one was reminiscent of William Faulkner in his demonic vein ...

White Happy Doves

Nikil Saval: The Real Mo Yan, 29 August 2013

Change 
by Mo Yan, translated by Howard Goldblatt.
Seagull, 117 pp., £9, October 2012, 978 0 85742 160 9
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Sandalwood Death 
by Mo Yan, translated by Howard Goldblatt.
Oklahoma, 409 pp., £16, January 2013, 978 0 8061 4339 2
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Pow! 
by Mo Yan, translated by Howard Goldblatt.
Seagull, 440 pp., £19.50, December 2012, 978 0 85742 076 3
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... When the English translation of Mo Yan’s novel Big Breasts and Wide Hips (1996) was published in 2004, it was seen by some critics as his bid for global literary prestige. It hit all the right notes: it was a historical saga of modern China featuring a proliferation of stories, it was unceasingly violent and nasty, and it came near to puncturing Party myths ...

Post-its, push pins, pencils

Jenny Diski: In the Stationery Cupboard, 30 July 2014

Cubed: A Secret History of the Workplace 
by Nikil Saval.
Doubleday, 288 pp., £20, June 2014, 978 0 385 53657 8
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... The subtitle​ of Nikil Saval’s book is curiously inapt. Cubed is not a ‘secret history of the workplace’, but the not (entirely) secret history of a very particular kind of workplace. The main title is intended to pull that particular workplace into focus, I suppose, to narrow the vast number of possible workplaces down to a single square box (or latterly a three-walled lidless box) that will inevitably bring to mind the environment of the white-collar pen-pusher, although it has been a very long time since office workers reliably wore white collars or pushed pens to fulfil their duties ...

The New Grunge

Lauren Oyler, 23 May 2019

Godsend 
by John Wray.
Canongate, 228 pp., £14.99, January 2019, 978 1 78211 962 3
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... of picturing them dead’. Reviewing Wray’s third novel, Lowboy, in the LRB of 11 June 2009, Nikil Saval wrote that inevitability guides Wray’s books like ‘a metaphysics of plotting, operating behind or beyond the visible, palpable world’. As in that novel, the sense of imminent tragedy here places the reader in the role of worried ...

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