The World's book critic, Christopher Merrill, chooses four books for end of summer reading.
The Complete Stories
Title: The Complete Stories
Author: David Malouf
One of Australia's most acclaimed writers has gathered into a single book nearly all of his short fiction, and what a feast this is. Malouf is a gifted story teller who can describe land- and cityscapes with equal flair, in Australia and abroad, mapping psychic and physical terrain in which momentous changes occur, often without our notice. In one story, a hunting trip to the north becomes for a teenager the occasion not only for the passing on of the lore necessary to survive in a given place, but also of the wisdom integral to adulthood. Here are characters from many walks of life whose losses always count.
Peeling the Onion
Title: Peeling the Onion
Author: GÃ¼nter Grass, translated from the German by Michael Henry Heim
This is the memoir that created such a stir when it was published in Germany last year, because Nobel laureate GÃ¼nter Grass admitted that as a teenager in Danzig, he was an enthusiastic supporter of the Third Reich, attempted to enlist in the Navy, and then was drafted into the Waffen SS. Determined to â€œhave the last wordâ€ on the subject of his own complicity in the Nazi machine, he asks at every turn why he remained silent â€“ a question that he cannot answer. But this book is much more than his interrogation of his past. It is also a richly textured portrait of a young man driven by his hunger for food, women, and art.
Out Stealing Horses
Title: Out Stealing Horses
Author: Per Petterson, translated from the Norwegian by Anne Born
The winner of the lucrative 2007 IMPAC Literary Award, this is a retrospective novel, narrated by an elderly man, about the summer of his fifteenth year, when his world was turned upside down. He and his father had gone to the country, and there between stints of working in the fields and skidding logs into the river, he learns that his father's service in the Norwegian resistance has in profound respects never ended. Petterson's evocation of the natural world is stunning, his understanding of the human condition is deep, and in this quiet book there are enough surprises to satisfy any reader. A deeply moving read.
Title: After Dark
Author: Haruki Murakami, translated from the Japanese by Jay Rubin
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Two sisters, a jazz trombonist, the proprietor of a love hotel, a businessman, a Chinese prostitute â€“ these are the residents of Tokyo whose lives intersect one night, sometimes brutally, sometimes in a dreamlike fashion. Between midnight and dawn, in encounters that are at once mysterious and matter-of-fact, these sharply-etched characters reveal some of the secrets of the dark. Murakami approaches his fictions in a musical fashionâ€”motifs return at odd momentsâ€”and if the writing is occasionally repetitive (watching a woman sleep through the night takes stamina) it is also often illuminating, and affecting.