Sunday, June 16, 2013

Daphne Kalotay

Daphne Kalotay's fiction collection, Calamity and Other Stories (Doubleday), was short listed for the 2005 Story Prize, and her debut novel, Russian Winter (HarperCollins), won the 2011 Writers’ League of Texas Fiction Prize, made the long list for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, and has been published in 21 foreign editions.

Her new novel is Sight Reading.

A couple of weeks ago I asked Kalotay about what she was reading.  Her reply:
Last Friends, by Jane Gardam:

I just tore through this new novel by Jane Gardam. She’s simply one of the best authors writing in English today, and Last Friends is the final book in the wonderful Old Filth trilogy. Old Filth is one of my top ten novels of all time, and I loved The Man With the Wooden Hat as well. In this new book, Gardam again seamlessly shifts from present-day northern England back to World War Two and the complex, fascinating early lives of her now aged characters. I was able to meet Jane Gardam in person when she read at the Harvard Book Store last month, and she said this would be her final book (though her Selected Stories will be released in the future.) I hope that’s not true and that she continues writing!

Children of the New World, by Assia Djebar:

This is a 1962 novel about the early months of the Algerian war for independence--but it was only translated into English a few years ago. It’s an excellent translation, and the novel is very powerful, spanning the perspectives of a range of characters across Algerian society, from a French soldier in love with a nontraditional, provocative Algerian girl to a policeman forced to torture a fellow Arab in order to prove that he is unbiased. I’m impressed not only by the writing and the fact that this was one of Djebar’s first novels, when she was quite young, but also that she wrote it while the war was still going on, without the benefit of historical distance.

Martyr’s Day: Chronicle of a Small War, by Michael Kelly:

This journalistic account of the weeks leading up to, during, and after the 1991 Gulf war is wise, engaging, and emotionally powerful. While clearly explaining the progression of events that culminated in the allied liberation of Kuwait, Kelly movingly describes his interactions with citizens of the various countries affected by the turmoil, from Iraqis hoping against war while awaiting deployment, to Israelis carrying their gas masks around Tel Aviv in anticipation of attack. His great empathy, understanding, and sense of humor, along with precise, energetic prose that recreates scenes vividly and at times terrifyingly, make this an amazing read. Kelly was the first U.S. journalist killed when the Iraq War began in 2003, and reading his take on the first Gulf war makes me realize all that we might have learned from him had he lived to chronicle that war, too.
Visit Daphne Kalotay's website.

The Page 69 Test: Sight Reading.

--Marshal Zeringue