The World's international literature critic recommends four books for the holidays.
||"Laughter in the Dark" Vladimir Nabokov, translated from the Russian by the author
Publisher: New Directions
A delightfully cruel novel, set in Berlin on the eve of Hitler's rise to power, in which a rich man loses everything in his quest for a younger woman who cares nothing for him. Nabokov seemed to know everything about human natureâ€”and the world. This reissue of his early masterpiece will be a welcome addition to the library of every serious reader.
||"Restless" by William Boyd
This novel about the largest covert intelligence operation undertaken in the United States gives new meaning to the "special relationship" between Americans and the British. For it turns out that nothing is ever as it seems. An Englishwoman, a Russian by birth, has a much more dramatic history than her daughter might have imagined. Boyd knows his spycraft as well as his history and characters. A suspenseful, and deeply rewarding, read.
||"Persian Girls" by Nahid Rachlin
If you want to know what it was like to grow up in Iran under the Shah, this is the book to read. Rachlin, the author of five previous works of fiction, including the much acclaimed Foreigners, begins her story at the age of nine, when she was taken away from the only mother she had ever knownâ€”her aunt, as it happensâ€”and returned to a family in which the prospects of her becoming a writer were, at best, dim. But her portrait of the artist in an Islamic country on the verge of dramatic change is filled with light.
||"Life's Wisdom" by Naguib Mafouz, edited by Aleya Serour
Publisher: The American University in Cairo Press
These aphorisms from various writings by the late Egyptian Nobel laureate will give you plenty to think aboutâ€”now and in the New Year. For example: "Man's civilization is not determined by what he owns, but by the pulse of his thoughts and heart." The pulse of Mafouz's thoughts and heart was among the most vital of our age. And you will not soon forget his bracing wisdom: "Life can be summed up in two words: hello and goodbye."