Tell Them of Bat­tles, Kings, & Ele­phants Mouth­ful of Birds

The Week (US) - - Arts - By Mathias Énard (New Di­rec­tions, $20) by Sa­manta Sch­we­blin

Mathias Énard’s short new novel about Michelan­gelo is “pure ge­nius,” said Juan Vi­dal in NPR.org. Imag­in­ing that the young artist ac­cepted a sul­tan’s in­vi­ta­tion to build a land­mark bridge in 1506 Con­stantino­ple, the cel­e­brated French au­thor de­liv­ers “an imag­i­na­tive and sus­pense­ful tale of civ­i­liza­tions and per­son­al­i­ties clash­ing, of love, and of en­thralling ‘what-ifs.’” The plot moves swiftly, truth blends teas­ingly with fic­tion, and Énard’s de­scrip­tive pas­sages “con­sis­tently daz­zle.” Ar­gentina’s Sa­manta Sch­we­blin, born in 1978 and “among the most ac­claimed Span­ish-lan­guage writ­ers of her gen­er­a­tion,” makes her home in the un­canny, said Parul Se­h­gal in The New York Times. In this col­lec­tion’s ti­tle story, a fa­ther dis­cov­ers his teenage daugh­ter has be­gun eat­ing pet birds—and tries ra­tio­nal­iz­ing it. One of three per­fect tales here, it cap­tures the way peo­ple talk them­selves into ig­nor­ing re­al­ity. Keep read­ing, and Sch­we­blin’s dark farces “just might awaken you to some of your own.”

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