John Banville’s new novel, Mrs. Osmond, will be published in November. (November 2017)

IN THE REVIEW

Tender Is the Fall

Paradise Lost: A Life of F. Scott Fitzgerald

by David S. Brown
Writers in general are not known for their modesty. To a question by a New York Times interviewer in 1972 as to what was his position in the world of letters, Vladimir Nabokov delivered the merry reply, “Jolly good view from up here,” which, while typically smug, at least had …

Ending at the Beginning

Franz Kafka (right) with Max Brod’s younger brother, Otto, at the Castel Toblino near Trento, Italy, 1909

Kafka: The Early Years

by Reiner Stach, translated from the German by Shelley Frisch
For a person as sensitive as Kafka was, or at least as he presented himself as being—it is entirely possible to view his life in a light other than the one he himself shone upon it—inner escape was the only available strategy. “If we are to believe his own personal mythology,” biographer Reiner Stach writes, “he drifted out of life and into literature,” to the point, indeed, that as an adult he would declare that he was literature, and nothing else. Stach, however, offers another and, in its way, far more interesting possibility when he asks, “What if literature was the only feasible way back for him?”

Life as a Burning House

Colin Thubron, London, 2008

Night of Fire

by Colin Thubron
Toward the close of Night of Fire, Colin Thubron’s first novel in fifteen years, and surely his finest, an old Tibetan monk, having denied the existence of the self, remarks merrily that in the view of Buddhists, “life is a burning house.” The same might be said, figuratively if not …

The Strange Genius of the Master

Evelyn Waugh, 1920s; photograph by Cecil Beaton

Evelyn Waugh: A Life Revisited

by Philip Eade
Philip Eade, so his publisher tells us, has worked as a barrister, an English teacher, and a journalist, which makes him particularly suitable as a biographer of Evelyn Waugh, who in his time was a gossip columnist, a war correspondent, and a teacher at an extremely seedy boarding school in …

Philip Marlowe’s Revolution

Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in a publicity photograph for the film adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep, 1946

Raymond Chandler: The Detections of Totality

by Fredric Jameson
For the critic with a conscious ideology, the world must be a manifold entity, fraught with significance, immanent with shadowed meaning, a landscape strewn with clues. In this endlessly interpreted world, practically everything is metaphor and nothing merely itself. And of course, there is no such thing as an innocent …

Surrounded by Jew-Haters

For Two Thousand Years

by Mihail Sebastian, translated from the Romanian by Philip Ó Ceallaigh
In his Journal 1935–44, Mihail Sebastian left a profound and moving record of some of the most terrible years in the history of Europe. The Journal is not only an invaluable historical document, fully as significant as the diaries of Victor Klemperer and Anne Frank, but also a beautifully shaped and subtly executed work of literary art. Never has the savagery of which human beings are capable been recorded with such insight, style, gracefulness, and, amazingly, humor. Now, in For Two Thousand Years, we have a fictional precursor of the Journal that in its way is equally fascinating, and equally shocking.

‘A Beautiful and Closely Woven Tapestry’

Tom McCarthy, New York City, 2012

Satin Island

by Tom McCarthy
In The Soul of the Marionette,1 his latest treatise on human folly and delusion, the British philosopher John Gray discusses among a wide variety of topics our unflagging fondness for conspiracy theory. To interpret history in terms of conspiracy, Gray observes, is to pay “a backhanded compliment to human …

NYR DAILY

Simenon’s Island of Bad Dreams

Georges Simenon, 1966

In Georges Simenon’s The Mahé Circle, translated now into English for the first time, François Mahé is suffering from a sense of general dissatisfaction. It is a quintessential Simenon crise, in which a man who has spent his life in servitude to family, work, society, suddenly lays down his burden and determines to live for the moment, and for himself.