Briefly Noted Book Reviews | the new yorker
To freeby Léa Ypi (Norton). This memory of growing up in the midst of Albania’s transition to democracy is limited by two revolutions: the violent uprisings against the communist regime in 1990, and those that took place seven years later, against the depredations of the “therapy “economic shock” that followed its collapse. . Ypi, who was twelve at the time of the first protests, writes with compassion and dry humor about the dismantling of the worldview – in which socialism meant “everyone was already free” – that she internalized at the primary school. As the reductive principles of proletarian struggle give way to the equally facile doctrines of capitalism and privatization, she finds the latter, which has devastated the Albanian economy, to be deeply flawed. She finally sets out to find a new definition of “freedom” that would tame “state violence” in all its forms.
Desireby Carl Erik Fisher (Penguin Press). Addiction is variously described as a disease of the brain, a personal demon, and an epidemic. This compelling story argues that she is simply “part of humanity.” Fisher, an addiction physician and recovering drug addict, illustrates the “terrifying breakdown of reason” that accompanies the condition based on patient anecdotes and his own experience. It also highlights how stigmata — like the “water of fire” myth, that Native Americans were particularly vulnerable to alcohol addiction — provided an “ideological cover” to control certain groups.
It’s getting darkby Peter Stamm, translated from German by Michael Hofmann (Other Press). The characters in this gripping collection of stories are bound together by the loss of love, fortune, the life they once had or the one they missed. In one tale, a man discovers a flirtatious e-mail on his girlfriend’s computer and, taking the name of the interlocutor, has a written affair with her. In another, a model imagines changing places with a sculpture of herself, set in the home of a wealthy businessman. Though brooding, the collection is tinged with hope, like when a tarot reader says to a woman, “I can see how it’s all going to end. What I don’t see is what we will do with it, what we will come back to. And that is happiness. »
In case of emergencyby Mahsa Mohebali, translated from Farsi by Mariam Rahmani (Feminist Press). This novel, published in Iran in 2008, takes place in Tehran during a day when the city is plunged into chaos by a series of earthquakes. Shadi, the disgruntled young narrator, is less concerned with disaster than with locating her next dose of opium. Rather than fleeing the city with her family, she spends the day traversing it, getting high with various misfit friends and commenting on Tehran’s society with her acerbic wit. Her sardonic commentary is interspersed with sultry descriptions of her highs and the periodic earthquakes that shake the ground beneath her. “I wish I could sink, pour into the earth and dance with it,” she says. “Let the tremors crawl through my body. I don’t want them to stop.