Ron Slate's blog

on Compass, a novel by Mathias Énard, tr. by Charlotte Mandell (New Directions)

A slight fever, racing pulse, cramps, vague discomforts – what is ailing the musicologist Franz Ritter other than habitual melancholia and insomnia?

on The Arcades: Contemporary Art and Walter Benjamin, convoluted by Jens Hoffmann et al (Yale University Press)

Hannah Arendt once described Walter Benjamin as among “the unclassifiable ones … whose work neither fits the existing order nor introduces a new genre.” But a new genre is exactly what he inspired: the cross-breeding of forms – journalism, citation, exegesis, philosophical asides, flashes of memory.

on France, Story of a Childhood, an autofiction by Zahia Rahmani (Yale University Press)

Zahia Rahmani was born in Algeria in 1962 just as that country’s eight-year war of independence from France was ending. Her father was counted among the “Harkis” – the 75,000 Algerians who fought alongside the French against their own nationalist countrypeople. Literally overnight, the French crept away leaving 20,000 Harkis to be pulled from their beds, massacred and imprisoned.

on Dark At The Crossing, a novel by Elliot Ackerman (Knopf)

For marketing’s sake, Elliot Ackerman’s second novel, Dark At The Crossing, has been described as a current day war story about the tumult in Syria with a love interest. But Ackerman’s actual subject is the making of choices under dire circumstances. How a choice may trigger betrayal or the recognition of one’s illusions or self-satisfaction or self-defeat.

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