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Book Reviews
A Useless Man Sait Faik Abasiyanik
Sait Faik Abasiyanik ( 1906-1954) is still one of Turkey’s most revered writers who, amidst other literary works, wrote twelve books of short stories. The stories collected in A Useless Man are vivid tales of the marginalised and poor in Istanbul which sparkle into life in Maureen Freely and Alexander Dawe’s masterful translations. Engrossing and curiously refreshing, Sait Faik opens magical doors to Istanbul as it stood back in the early twentieth century, with its colourful array of prostitutes, barflys and musicians who frequented its coffee and tea houses and drinking dens. Paddy Kehoe
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The Long, Hot Summer
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Georges Simenon Inspector Maigret
Crime writer Georges Simenon (1903-1989) wrote 75 Maigret novels and 28 Maigret short stories. Penguin Classics are reissuing them all in translation and they are well worth checking out. The author offered very little glosses or explanations but the following few words are interesting in terms of how the author viewed his best-known character, Inspector Maigret. “My motto, to the extent that I have one, has been noted often enough, and I’ve always conformed to it. It’s the one I’ve given to old Maigret, who resembles me in certain points.....’understand and judge not.’ Highly recommended. PK
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Kiš The Encyclopaedia of the Dead
A half-Jewish ethnic Serb born in 1935 in Subotica, then in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, Danilo Kiš’s father and many members of his extended family were murdered in Auschwitz. Early works explored that legacy, but by the time he got to The Encyclopedia of the Dead - first published in Serbo-Croatian in 1983 - the author had moved to elaborately playful, post-Borgesian territory.the 167-page Encyclopaedia of the Dead is a book of wonders, product of a vivid imagination that is yet a model of narrative restraint. The collection was first published in English by Penguin in 1991. This new edition, translated by Michael Henry Heim, includes an informative, shrewd introduction by Mark Thompson.
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Hall Introducing The Ancient Greeks
To help us understand the Greeks - both the ancient race and by extension the modern for there is obvious continuity - Edith Hall has written a fascinating book which is erudite, witty and accessible, recently published by Bodley Head in hardback.
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Hall teaches at King’s College, London and is regarded one as of Britain’s most distinguished classicists. She also reviews theatre productions on the radio, and you sense a writer who has a keen sense of audience. Hall begins the book by signalling ten identifying qualities or characteristics. These are as follows - seagoing; suspicious of authority; individualistic; enquiring; open to new ideas; witty; competitive; admiring excellence; elaborately articulate; and finally, addicted to pleasure. How Greece actually became an actual entity is the matter of a chapter which includes absorbing material on Homer, the Iliad and the Odyssey. Hall’s lively, often colourful account is essential for those of us who want to know the Greeks, ancient and modern. P K
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