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on City Gate, Open Up, a memoir by Bei Dao, tr. by Jeffrey Yang (New Directions)

Zhao Zhenkai was 17 years old when Mao’s Cultural Revolution occurred in 1966. At his high school, he was among those who forced his teachers to wear incriminating placards around their necks, and who ridiculed, kicked and punched them through a gauntlet in the schoolyard. He had become one of the Red Guards.

on Stigmata of Bliss, three novellas by Klaus Merz (Seagull Books)

The most generous writers give the reader something to do, respecting their capabilities. The least generous ones explain too much, reflecting credit on themselves. The Swiss writer Klaus Merz has engaged his readers in such a way that he is beloved among Germanophones who regard his 1997 novella Jacob Asleep as a contemporary classic.

on Slight Exaggeration, an essay by Adam Zagajewski, tr. by Clare Cavanaugh (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

One day in the late 1990’s while teaching in Houston, Adam Zagajewski received a call from his friend Czeslaw Milosz in Berkeley. Milosz was then in his mid-80’s.

on 2084: The End of the World, a novel by Boualem Sansal, tr. by Alison Anderson (Europa Editions)

In the wake of the Great Holy War of 2084, hundreds of millions of martyrs lay dead and vast regions are devastated, probably caused by atomic weapons. Now there is only Abistan whose residents worship the omniscient deity Yölah and his earthly messenger Abi who rules absolutely through his many ministries in the capital city of Qodsabad. How long ago did the great victory occur?

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