Meaning of YEAR IN REVIEW 1999: LITERATURE in English

YEAR IN REVIEW 1999: LITERATURE

Arabic Literature In 1998 Arabic literature was characterized by two recurring themes: death and revival. Several works, many reminiscent of the writings of the Jahili poet al-Khansa', eulogized writers and thinkers who were victims of tragic assassinations, especially in Algeria. The analogy to al-Khansa' was reinforced by the fact that many of these writers were women. Assia Djebar, who eulogized assassinated writers in Le Blanc d'Algrie (1995; "The Whiteness of Algeria"), produced a collection of short stories and prose, Oran, langue morte (1997; "Oran, Language Dead"), that was dedicated to other victims in Algeria. In Leaving Beirut, Mayy Ghassub reflected on postwar Lebanon, and in Baghdad Diaries, Nuha Radi described the breakdown of society in post-Gulf War Iraq. Of special importance, owing to the racial conflict between Arabs and Berbers in Algeria, was the publication, in Arabic, of Al-Amazigh (al-Barbar), !Arab !arribah (1996; "The Berber Amazigh, Pure Arabs") by !Uthman Sa!di, a member of the Namamsha tribe, the largest of the Amazigh. In Egypt the complete collections of two journals were published: Apollo, which played a major role in promoting poetry in the 20th century, and Al-Zuhur, which featured both poetry and prose. New and familiar writers in Morocco made their mark. !Abd al-Karim Ghallab's latest collection of short stories, Hadha al-wajh a!rifuh! (1997; "I Know This Face!"), probed the theme of social reform. Most prominent among the new Moroccan writers was Ahmad Tawfiq, who in Jarat Abi Musa (1997; "The Neighbours of Abi Musa") posed questions about the limits of authority and the interplay of religion and politics. A second novel, Shujayrat hinna' wa-qamar ("A Henna Shrub and a Moon") explored the perils of political power. Writings in French continued to be spearheaded by prolific writer Tahar Ben Jelloun, who published Le Racisme expliqu ma fille, owing to his concern over the suffering immigrant Maghribi workers in France. The book received the first Global Tolerance Award. Moving in synchrony with the transformation of her society, Palestinian novelist Sahar Khalifah turned her attention to the inhabitants of the "liberated" territories in Al-Mirath-riwayah (1997; "The Inheritance"), which ended on a pessimistic note. Classical Arabic was the subject of several conferences and books, the most prominent of which was Lughatuna al-!Arabiyah fi ma!rakat al-hadarah (1997; "Our Language in the Battle of Civilization"), edited by Amin al-!Alim. This feverish activity reflected a preoccupation with the future of classical Arabic in the new world order. Poetry was the subject of similar concern. It was in that spirit that the Association Bayt ash-Shir ("House of Poetry") organized an international poetry conference that was held in Morocco in September. The occasion was marked by the publication of an anthology, Diwan ash-shir al-muasir ("The Collection of Contemporary Poetry"), edited by Salah Bou Srif. Arab writers living in exile published several noteworthy works. Algerian Mohammed Dib, living in France, published the novel Si Diable veut, the theme of which was the impossibility of returning to one's homeland--a subject that was at the centre of most works by the children of North African immigrants. Tunisian Hdi Bouraoui, living and working in Canada, published Retour Thyna (1996), which featured Tunisian themes and won the prize of the city of Sfax. In La Pharaonne he raised the issue of Arab nationalism. Samar Attar, a resident of Sydney, Australia, evoked her native Syria in The House on Arnus Square, which she translated into English and published in 1998. Two well-known writers died in 1998: Syrian poet Nizar Qabbani (see OBITUARIES) and Egyptian literary critic Ghali Shukri. AIDA A. BAMIA Brazil. During 1998 eminent Brazilian playwright Plnio Marcos turned from his lifelong preoccupation with political themes. In his new play, A dana final, he detailed a couple's celebration of their 25-year marriage. Videoclip Blues, a play by Marcos's son, Leo Lama, also dealt with human concerns--specifically the lack of communication between a much younger couple. Also of theatrical note was Aracy Balabanian's one-woman show Clarice Lispector-Corao selvagem, which examined and tried to dispel the myth behind the supposed depressed state of Lispector, a short-story writer and novelist. A biography of theatrical director Ademar Guerra, best known for his agitprop productions of the 1970s, was written by his collaborator, Oswaldo Mendes. Marly de Oliveira's volume of poems, O mar de permeio, dealt with themes of anguish and emptiness. Roberto Piva, one of the 1960s poets most influenced by the Beat Generation, published Ciclones, a volume of poems that centred on the sexual nature of young men. Heitor Ferraz's first collection of poetry, A mesma noite, provided isolation and frustration as its resounding themes. New works of fiction included Marcelo Coelho's Jantando com Melvin, which might be considered a Rabelaisian critique of contemporary So Paulo high society; Luiz Alfredo Garca-Roza's Achados e perdidos, which found detective Espinosa immersed in contemporary life in Rio de Janeiro, where the city's social extremes were accepted as part of a normal existence; and Carmen L. Oliveira's Trilhos e quintais, a fictionalization of the life of Maria Lacerda de Moura (1887-1945), an early Brazilian feminist leader of the 1930s. Among other notable novels were Cristvo Tezza's Breve espao entre cor e sombra and Betty Milan's O papagaio e o doutor. New works of short fiction were published by Rubens Figueiredo and Eric Nepomuceno. Antnio Cndido, Brazil's most highly regarded literary critic and scholar, was awarded the Cames Prize for his body of work. Poet Moacyr Flix published a biography of publisher nio Silveira, who, during the 1960s and '70s, issued works by the most controversial Brazilian and foreign writers despite recurrent harassment by the military regime. Finally, a new biography of film director Glauber Rocha was published by Joo Carlos Teixeira Gomes. IRWIN STERN Canada. The theme of escapism defined many of the literary works of 1998. In Freedom's Just Another Word Dakota Hamilton explored the paradoxes of liberty, and themes of guilt and innocence directed the course of this rambunctious novel of women on the lam. A teenager finds a mental hospital a temporary haven after giving birth and surrendering her baby for adoption in Lynn Coady's Strange Heaven, and Newfoundlander politician Joey Smallwood, the last "father of confederation," was featured in Wayne Johnston's biographical novel The Colony of Unrequited Dreams. Douglas Coupland's Girlfriend in a Coma was less an escape than a holiday of ideas; the coming-of-age tale was spun from the rhythms of sleep and light. Two other novels embracing the same theme were Andr Alexis's Childhood, in which a reunion illuminates the necessary separation that preceded it, and Frances Itani's Leaning, Leaning over Water: A Novel in Ten Stories, which examined discovery and regret. Greg Hollingshead, far from escaping, created his own mind traps in The Healer, a quest for meaning that navigated through thickets of syntax and suspense and was assaulted by wild, strange concepts on every side. Even wilder was Kiss of the Fur Queen, Tomson Highway's foray into the magic of the North and the realism of the South, with language flaring like the aurora borealis, both illuminating and transforming. A sunnier mystical vision flickered through Gail Anderson-Dargatz's A Recipe for Bees, in which the natural and supernatural naturally coexist and, where least expected, blend into one another. In Barbara Gowdy's The White Bone, the action was described from an elephant's point of view as the pachyderm survivors of a massacre try to evade the humans who were laying waste to their land. Survivors of a different uprooting were caught in The Electrical Field, Kerri Sakamoto's meticulous depiction of a Japanese family's struggle to overcome the shame of their years spent in internment camps following their physical release. Helene Littmann's short-story collection, Peripheries, followed those who fled to the West Coast and wound up staring out to sea. Alice Munro's tales in The Love of a Good Woman inextricably mingled goodness and evil, and the ordinary dissolved suddenly into horror, notably when a bridal veil ignites in a candle's flame and a murderous complicity is exposed. Mark Sinnett's Bull abounded in beasts and blunders, whereas Dennis E. Bolen's Gas Tank & Other Stories delivered death in all of its rude, unintelligible reality. Michael Ondaatje's poetry collection, Handwriting, deciphered many different scripts--ranging from superficial scratches to the calligraphic lettering on seals and certificates and to the deep bass lines of the drum--to convey messages from the heart of his Sri Lankan heritage. In Alphabetical P.K. Page played with the smallest bits of sense and nonsense, and in How I Joined Humanity at Last David Zieroth investigated his own mysterious character(s). Brian Brett's The Colour of Bones in a Stream was an evocation of appetites, replete with metaphors of nourishment and slaughter cooked up in various tempting dishes. Louise Bernice Halfe celebrated survival in Blue Marrow, digging out toothsome truths with a finely pointed style. Patrick Friesen unhinged Winnipeg from the constrictions of fact in St. Mary at Main, and in White Stone: The Alice Poems Stephanie Bolster followed her muse into Wonderland, where anything can happen at any time. Kate Braid took historical liberties to bring two great artists together in her epic poem Inward to the Bones: Georgia O'Keefe's Journey with Emily Carr, which meditated on the relationships between and among persons, places, art, and artifacts. ELIZABETH WOODS Canada. The premier event of 1998 in French-language literature was the Montreal Book Fair, or Salon du Livre, where an estimated 120,000 readers and writers gathered in November. Gatan Soucy's 1997 L'acquittement captured the 1998 City of Montreal book prize of $10,000, and his new novel, La petite fillequiaimait trop les allumettes, enjoyed both critical and commercial success. A best-selling book was produced from the popular French-language television program "La petite vie," a kind of theatre-of-the-absurd sitcom featuring an old couple, one of whom was a man who dressed like a woman. Though the book that was derived from the series was little more than a hodgepodge of dialogues from the show, readers lined up to buy it. In another television crossover popular small-screen personality Michel Desautel won the Prix Robert Cliche for best first novel with Smiley, a story about an Olympic sprinter. A small but spirited publishing company, Les intouchables, made waves in 1998. The firm, headed by Michel Brl, provoked and challenged Quebec on political and literary grounds. Brl made a point of publishing young, performance-oriented poets like Stphane Despatie. The 1998 Governor-General's Award for French-language poetry went to veteran writer Suzanne Jacob for La part de feu. French Quebeckers also enjoyed new foreign-language literature written by their neighbours--English Quebeckers. Novels by "les Anglos" were translated into French and attracted media attention, disproving the tired myths about the two solitudes, at least in Quebec. DAVID HOMEL CHINESE Chinese literature showed signs of renewed vitality in 1998. Brilliant works appeared one after another throughout the year. One fervently discussed book was Liu Zhenyun's Gu xiang mian he hua duo ("Hometown Noodles and Flower"). The four-volume novel was the lengthiest Chinese literary work published since 1979. One of China's most accomplished young writers, Liu dedicated eight years to writing the novel, which employed a wide array of literary techniques, including stream of consciousness and magic realism, to explore the complexity of human nature as well as the absurdity of human society. In language that was extravagant, boisterous, and richly engaging, Liu unveiled an enigmatic and grotesque plot, in which the past and present were intertwined as modern-day characters encountered souls from ancient times while visiting the "hometown" of the novel. The end result was a remarkable work of literature that gave the creative imagination a free rein. Wang Jiabing's Bai nian hai lang ("The Centennial Sea-Wolf") was an encyclopedic novel that discussed all matters relating to the sea, including maritime history, marine disasters, pirates, tsunamis, and sea gods and spirits. This ambitious undertaking attracted the attention of critics both in China and abroad, many of whom compared the novel to Herman Melville's Moby Dick and Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea. Another young writer, Zeng Weihao, published Shi fu ("Father Murdering"), a novel marked by a free and flowing prose style. Full of preposterous humour and hyperbolic expressions, the book was also philosophical, dealing with the themes of paradise and the fall of humankind from grace. Some critics referred to the novel as "an embodiment of life, death, love, and sorrow." Veteran writer Cong Weixi published Zou xiang hundun ("Toward Chaos") after a decade of work on the novel. The book depicted the suffering of Chinese intellectuals and revealed the folly of those who had believed blindly in their faith. A book of poignant soul-searching, Zou xiang hundun described the determination of individuals to keep a firm control over their own destiny. The novel was likened by some critics to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago. During the year poet Lu Yuan won the Golden Wreath award at the 37th Struga Poetry Festival in Macedonia, one of the oldest and largest poetry festivals in the world. It was the first time that a Chinese poet had been awarded the honour. The China Times newspaper awarded Taiwanese novelist Zhang Guixing its 1998 prize for best novel for Zhang's Qun xiang ("Mass Appearances"). Shi Shuqing's Guo ke ("The Passing Traveler"), a historical novel set in Hong Kong, was widely praised by critics and readers alike. QIAN ZHONGIWEN Danish. The standout author in Danish literature in 1998 was Jens Christian Grndahl, who emerged as a dominant figure in Danish letters. He departed from his experimental style with the novel Lucca, which detailed, with deep insight and feeling, the unusual relationship between 32-year-old Lucca Montale, who had been seriously injured and blinded in an automobile accident, and her doctor, Robert, recently divorced. In his book of essays, Night Mail, Grndahl covered a wide scope geographically, historically, and intellectually. Carsten Jensen, too, stretched the imagination with Jeg har hrt et stjerneskud (1997), a work of cultural philosophy masquerading as a travelogue. The epistolary novel made an appearance with Iselin C. Hermann's Prioritaire, a work about a young Danish woman who writes to thank a French artist for one of his works, an action that prompts an increasingly intense series of letters. When the two finally meet, their relationship takes an abrupt and tragic turn. Another tragic and intense work was Christina Hesselholdt's Udsigten, the final novel in the trilogy she began in 1996. Hesselholdt had already exhibited her mastery of the ultrashort but penetrating novel, providing readers with brief glimpses and hints of the action to come. At the other end of the spectrum was Michael Larsen's intellectual thriller set in Sydney, Australia; Slangen i Sydney, complex, bewildering, and spine-chilling, was infused with an encyclopedic knowledge of snakes and their poisons. Greenland was the subject of two works. Hans Anthon Lynge's Lige fr der kommer skib chronicled the conflict between the old and the new in a north Greenland community, while Kirsten Thisted published Jens Kreutzmann's Fortllinger og akvareller in English, using Kreutzmann's own translation. The Greenlandic legends thus appeared in a particularly fascinating form, with the author's point of view remaining intact. In poetry, Morten Sndergaard's Bier dr sovende was filled with new insights intensified by a highly original use of language and metaphor. A determined use of a single metaphor--water--was at the centre of Pia Tafdrup's Dronningeporten.One of Denmark's internationally best-known authors, Henrik Stangerup, died in July. (See OBITUARIES.) W. GLYN JONES EASTERN EUROPEAN Despite the ravages of war in Kosovo and the economic uncertainty throughout Eastern Europe, a number of excellent works were published in 1998. The death of Polish poet Zbigniew Herbert precipitated a great deal of interest in his poetry. His latest collection, Epilog burzy ("Epilogue to a Storm"), focused on his struggle with Parkinson's disease. His contemporary Tadeusz RKewicz also published Zawsze fragment ("Always a Fragment"), in which he attempted to place the finishing touches on his biography and various bothersome fragments. His trademark wit and humour were most evident in the poem Totentanz--wierszyk barokowy ("Dance of Death--a Baroque Poem"), dedicated to his confidant, the Polish scholar Czeslaw Hernas. Stanislaw Baranczak continued his hold on the literary market with several new works and his latest collection, Chirurgiczna precyzja ("Surgical Precision"). With its emphasis on life's bearable irritations, Baranczak's poetry contrasted with the older poets' preoccupation with death and finality. Michal G}owinski's haunting reminiscences, Czarne sezony ("Black Seasons"), touched upon the darker side of man's nature. In a totally different vein, Irena Jurgielewiczowa, best known for her children's books, surprised readers and critics alike with her depiction of Polish society in the 1920s, By}am, bylimy ("I Was, We Were"). In the Czech Republic Vclav Havel maintained his popularity. Celebrity turned statesman, his words carried weight with both intellectuals and the general public. His preface to The Prague Spring, 1968, compiled and edited by Jaromr Navrtil, was both authoritative and fair. The book was the first documented account of the Cold War crisis as seen from both sides of the Iron Curtain. Two important works appeared in English translation: The Poetry of Jaroslav Seifert, translated by Ewald Osers and edited by George Gibian, and Karl Aapek: In Pursuit of Truth, Tolerance, and Trust, by Bohuslava R. Bradbrook. A number of female writers made their mark on the literary scene: Iva Herckov's Vse ("Passion"), a love story between two Czech migrs set in a wealthy American suburb; Hana Bhlohradsk's Pestastne manelstv ("A Very Happy Marriage"), a collection of 13 psychological stories based on contemporary life; and Miloslava Holubov's Necestou cestou ("Through Thick and Thin"), in which the writer reminisces about the philosopher Jan Patohka. In Romania censorship continued to be a burning issue. Censorship in Romania, edited by Lidia Vianu, was a series of interviews with prominent Romanian literary figures and a selection of their writings. Other publications included two poetry collections--Mihai Ursachi's Nebunie di lumina ("Craziness and Light") and Mircea Cartarescu's Dublu CD ("Double CD"). A number of excellent short-story collections were published, including Nicolae Breban's Ziua di noaptea ("Day and Night") and Gabriela Melinescu's Copii radbarii ("Children of Patience"). The novel form was well represented by Marius Tupan's Coroana Izabelei ("Isabela's Crown"). In Slovakia Marian Grupac made an auspicious debut, receiving numerous awards for poetry and short stories. His new collection of poems, Audna noc v Parzi ("Wonderful Night in Paris"), solidified his position as a significant presence on the Slovak literary scene. The turmoil in Kosovo affected all areas of the former Yugoslavia. A number of writers had immigrated, including Mario Susko, who continued to write in the U.S. His latest collection of poems in English translation, Versus Exsul, was highly praised. Josip Novakovich's collection of short stories, Salvation and Other Disasters, also first appeared in English. One of Croatia's finest writers, Petar egedin, died in 1998. His last novel, Nema spasa od zivota ("No Escape from Life"), was well-received by critics. Bulgaria's vibrant literary and intellectual circle continued to surprise critics and observers. Outstanding poetry collections included Ivan Radoev's Svurzvane ("Bonding"), Edvin Sugarev's Haiku ot Kamen Brjag ("Haiku from Kamen Bryag"), and Binio Ivanov's Chasut na uchastta ("The Hour of Destiny"). Several interesting novels appeared, including one by Bulgaria's supreme prose stylist, Yordan Radichkov's Myure ("Sitting Duck"). Bulgaria's ambassador to Switzerland, Lea Cohen, published a highly personal novel, Florida. Macedonia's literary scene continued to develop, despite the political and social turmoil among its neighbours. Noteworthy novels included Slavko Janevski's Cudotvorci (1988; Miracle Workers; 1994), Slobodan Mi:kovic's Istorija na cmata ljubov ("History of a Black Love"), and Petre Bakevski's historical novel Vo senkata na mecot--Aleksandar Makadonski (1994; In the Shadow of the Sword--Alexander the Great; 1996). Macedonia's finest poet, Ante Popovski, was lauded for his newest publication, Arkanum II (1996; "Arcanum II"). lovenia continued to be a bright spot within a corridor of political chaos. A number of works were first published in the U.S., including Drago Jancar's novel Mocking Desire and Tomaz alamun's selected poems The Four Questions of Melancholy. Another Jancar novel, Zvenenje v glavi ("Ringing in the Head"), received accolades from Slovenian critics, along with Nina Kokelj's novel Milovanje ("Pity"). Two collections of poetry stood out: Vladimir Kos's Cvet ki je rekel Nagasaki: izbrane pesmi ("The World, Which Uttered Nagasaki") and Uros Zupan's Nasledstvo ("Successor"). EDWARD J. CZERWINSKI France. One of the most interesting literary trends of 1998 was the growing experimentation with genre, particularly the mixture of autobiography and fiction recently termed "autobiofiction." This was perhaps best exemplified by Sujet Angot, in which Christine Angot assumed the voice of her real-life ex-lover and wrote a hymn of love to herself as well as a response to her critics' charges of rampant narcissism. A similar mixture of autobiography and fiction, including a philosophical treatise on the power of memory, marked Michel Braudeau's Prou. This was the story of the author's voyage as a student to Peru, of the love he found there, and of the irreparable yearning he felt after losing that love forever. Another autobiofiction book was Jean Prol's Un t mmorable, a story about the author's coming of age as a 12-year-old amid the horrors of the Nazi occupation of France. Jean Rouaud also published Pour vos cadeaux, a novel about his mother. Widowed at 41 with three children, she held her family together with stern discipline until finally rediscovering life through laughter. A related experiment in the blending of genres was Alain Corbin's biographical novel, Le monde retrouv de Louis-Franois Pinagot. The author found a single name in a 19th-century population list of a provincial town and reconstructed the unknown man's entire world--from the sounds and smells surrounding his life to the personal effects of insurrections raging in far-off Paris. Besides the experimentation with genre, the year's novels also explored variations on two time-honoured themes: the dubiousness of memory and the struggle against despair. In Albert Bensoussan's Le chant silencieux des chouettes a man, guilt-stricken at the death of his ex-lover, obsessively attempts to revive their life together in his memory with all its excruciating and perhaps imaginary detail in order to understand his mistakes. A similarly tentative process of resurrecting the past through memory was recounted in Marie Darrieussecq's La naissance des fantmes, in which a woman suddenly and inexplicably abandoned by her husband tries to discover the reasons for his disappearance. Fluctuating between fact and hallucination, the text emphasizes the unreliability of memory, especially when warped by neurotic remorse. The same uncertainty of memory formed the intrigue of Lorette Nobcourt's La conversation, a stream of consciousness monologue of a woman's life, tinged with all the contradictions of memory. She finally reveals that the death of a young man is the catalyst for her drunkenness, though the reader never learns whether she is guilty of murder or herself a victim. Perhaps the most egregious example of the second prevalent theme, the struggle against despair, was Michel Houellebecq's Les particules lmentaires, in which two brothers, separated since childhood, reunite in adulthood only to find themselves completely isolated from the rest of the world. Both are embittered idealists. The first is a biologist who hopes to correct mankind through a genetic weeding out of desire. The second is forever seeking an ideal through sexual obsessions. The two wander hopelessly in an empty world, slowly sinking deeper into misery. In Martin Winckler's best-selling La maladie de Sachs a doctor sets up practice in a provincial town. His patients realize that he is tormented and try to piece together the reasons for his despair. The doctor's writings reveal that he suffers from all the horrors he has seen and has become infused with humanity's misery. The young protagonist of Sylvie Germain's Tobie des marais, based on the biblical book of Tobias, is also a victim of Existentialist despair, weighed down by his family's past: their plight as Jews in Poland and his mother's death in childbirth. Unlike the protagonists in Houellebecq's and Winckler's novels, however, Tobie finds a chance for redemption, reconquering life through friendship and love. Essays dealt mainly with social issues. In Le racisme expliqu ma fille Tahar Ben Jelloun tackled the problem of racism in a book written as a series of answers to his daughter's deceptively simple questions. Jean-Claude Guillebaud published La tyrannie du plaisir, which explored whether the sexual revolution actually freed relations between the sexes or if it was an outbreak of sexual militancy that subverted the preexisting order only to install hedonism as the supreme virtue. In La domination masculine the sociologist Pierre Bourdieu also examined the relation between the sexes, but from the viewpoint of domination. He suggested that although males have historically always dominated females, that hierarchy also victimizes men by continually forcing them to prove their manliness. The hierarchy of domination, though institutional rather than sexual, was also studied in Franois Bon's Prison, in which prisoners' own words were transcribed without commentary in order to produce a more true picture of their everyday life behind bars. The Prix Femina was awarded to Franois Cheng's Le dit de Tianyi, a fictionalization of the author's spiritual and artistic quest within Chinese and Western cultures. The Prix Mdicis was given to Homric's Le loup Mongol, the lyric epic of Genghis Khan as told by his estranged childhood friend. The Prix Renaudot went to Dominique Bona's Le manuscrit de Port-Ebne, which recounted the fictitious confessions of an 18th-century French woman, revealing her scandalous incestuous love against the backdrop of bloody slave revolts and the Haitian war of independence. Finally, Paule Constant won the Prix Goncourt for Confidence pour confidence, in which four women, reunited after a long separation, share their disappointments in love and life with a mix of despair and satire. VINCENT AURORA German. The year 1998 witnessed the successful fusion of the western and eastern German PEN clubs. The president of the newly unified club was the eastern German writer Christoph Hein. With the merger, a contentious issue that had plagued German writers since national reunification was largely settled; the German PEN club now turned its attention to helping oppressed writers in other countries and promoting freedom of speech and expression around the world. Germany's most prestigious literary award, the Bchner prize, went to the Austrian feminist playwright Elfriede Jelinek, whose plays were harshly critical of patriarchal domination and the exploitation of nature. The Peace Prize of the German Book Trade was awarded to Martin Walser during the October Book Fair in Frankfurt, the world's largest literary trade fair. Walser's novel, the autobiographical Ein springender Brunnen, was an attempt to portray a less dogmatic and more judicious representation of the German past. The novel told the story of his childhood and early adulthood in a small provincial town on Lake Constance during and shortly after the Nazi period. The novel's title comes from Nietzsche's Also sprach Zarathustra, where the human soul is described as a spouting fountain; for Walser, it is language that is the gushing source of wisdom. Ingo Schulze's Simple Storys, greeted by many critics as the long-sought-after novel of German reunification, was probably the most important contribution of the year by a young writer. The 29 stories that made up the novel were loosely interconnected; all revolved around the Saxon town of Altenburg and its inhabitants, who were trying to live their lives in a world that had suddenly become foreign to them. Raised in the socialist German Democratic Republic, these characters had to remain afloat economically and emotionally in an insecure post-socialist East still haunted by the ghosts of the past. The prevailing tone was one of sadness and resignation. Schulze created a novel that added up to more than the sum of its parts; whereas any individual story may have seemed meaningless or even banal, all of the stories together formed a powerful picture of post-reunification eastern Germany. The new eastern German writer Kathrin Schmidt published Die Gunnar-Lennefsen-Expedition, a feminist historical fantasy that recounted the expedition of the pregnant Josepha and her great-grandmother Therese into Germany's past. Like Gnter Grass's Der Butt (1977), Schmidt's novel sought to retell history from a relatively anarchistic and fantastic female point of view so that the child in Josepha's womb would have a history/story when it was born. Another important novel came from Angela Krau. Like Schulze's Simple Storys, Krau's Sommer auf dem Eis dealt with problems in eastern Germany; set in the postindustrial wasteland of Bitterfeld in Saxony-Anhalt, the novel gave a powerful picture of people trying to cope with the historical changes around them. Several fine short-story collections by young authors appeared during 1998. Judith Hermann's authorial debut, a collection of short stories entitled Sommerhaus, spter, heralded the arrival of a major talent. Like Schulze's novel, Hermann's stories were unpretentious and relatively simple, but they created a compelling account of daily life in contemporary Germany for "Generation X." Another important short-story collection was Franz Dobler's Nachmittag eines Reporters, full of ironic observations about Germany today. The talented young writer Jakob Arjouni, author of several well-received detective novels, also produced a collection of short stories entitled Ein Freund, full of finely wrought characters and exciting action. Among older writers, the 85-year-old Stefan Heym produced a major historical novel, Pargfrider, based on the life of a 19th-century Jewish businessman who went from great poverty to fantastic wealth by providing clothes for the Austrian army. An account of the role played by money, ethnic identity, aristocratic snobbishness, and democratic tolerance in Central European history, the novel was also a reflection on immortality and what one must do to attain it. Peter Handke published a collection of diary entries, Am Felsfenster morgens, spanning the years 1982-1987. The Austrian writer Ulrike Lngle published the novel Vermutungen ber die Liebe in einem fremden Haus, a lyrical exploration of love and the Swedish landscape. Finally, 1998 witnessed the end of one of the most remarkable literary careers of the twentieth century: the novelist Ernst Jnger, author of the gripping World War I memoir In Stahlgewittern (1920), of the nonconformist and putatively anti-Nazi novel Auf den Marmorklippen (1939), and of many post-World War II memoirs and reflections, died in February at the age of 102. Jnger's life and work spanned the century and four different German states; the writer had embodied many of the contradictions and problems, as well as the brilliance shown by Germans during this period. STEPHEN BROCKMANN Hebrew. The main events in Hebrew literature in 1998 were S. Yizhar's new novel, Malcomia Yefaifia ("Lovely Malcomia") and Amos Oz's innovative novel Oto hayam ("The Same Sea"). Yizhar, considered one of the best Israeli novelists after S.Y. Agnon, had not published a work of fiction for almost 30 years until the early 1990s, when he began producing a new novel about every two years. Despite his long, self-imposed silence, these new works were of the same high quality as his early work. After a series of disappointing novels Oz surprised his readers with a poetic work whose imagery, rhythm, and occasional rhymes gave renewed force to his familiar themes. Other notable novels by veteran writers included Yehoshu Kenaz's Mahzir ahavot kodmot (1997; "Restoring Former Loves"), Yonat and Alexander Sened's Bamidbar melon orhim ("In the Desert a Lodging Place"), Hayim Lapid's Pesha haktiva ("The Crime of Writing"), and Etgar Keret's Hakaitana shel Kneller ("Kneller's Happy Campers"). Some veteran novelists, however, did not match their previous achievements. Among them were Aharon Megged's Dudaim min ha'aretz hakdosha ("Love Flowers from the Holy Land"), David Grossman's Shetiheyi li sakin ("Words into Flesh"), Meir Shalev's Beveito bamidbar ("In His Home in the Wilderness"), Savyon Liebrecht's Ish ve'isha ve'ish ("A Man, a Woman and a Man"), David Schtz's Kemo nahal ("Like a River"), and Yitzhak Laor's Ve'im ruhi gviati ("And with My Spirit, My Corpse"). Originality and promise could be found in the first novels of Binjamin Shvili (Kastoria) and Ori Rom (Shemesh shehora ["A Black Sun"]). The premier publications in Hebrew poetry were the last two volumes of the collected work of Uri Zvi Greenberg as well as Yehuda Amichai's Patuah sagur patuah ("Open, Closed, Open"), Dalia Rabikovitch's Hatzi sha'a lifnei hamonsoon ("Half an Hour Before the Monsoon"), Hamutal Bar-Josef's Halo ("The No"), and Maya Bejerano's Anase laga'at betabur bitni ("Trying to Touch My Belly Button"). Among the works of literary scholarship were Ziva Shamir's study of Bialik stories, Be'ein alila: sipurei bialik bemagloteihem ("No Story, No History"), and Hanna Hertsig's examination of current trends in contemporary Israeli fiction, Hakol ha'omer Ani ("The Voice Saying I"). Pnina Shirav discussed female representations in the writings of Yehudit Hendel, Amalia Kahana-Carmon, and Ruth Almog in Ktiva lo tama ("Noninnocent Writing"), and Nili Levy studied the narrative of Joshua Kenaz in Mirehov ha'even el ha'hatulim ("From the Stone Streets to the Cats"). The Israel Prize was awarded to poet Dalia Rabikovitch and novelist Amos Oz. AVRAHAM BALABAN Italian The year 1998 was marked by celebrations of the bicentenary of the birth of Giacomo Leopardi, the great Romantic poet. Conferences, symposia, and public readings were held throughout Italy. Several new books appeared on the subject of Leopardi's slender poetry collection (the Canti) and his prose work (Operette morali, Zibaldone). In other nonfiction publications, an essay by Carla Benedetti, Pasolini contro Calvino, caused considerable controversy. It presented the writers Pier Paolo Pasolini and Italo Calvino as contrasting embodiments of Italian postmodernism: Calvino coldly experimenting within the boundaries of traditional literary institutions and Pasolini constantly, radically, and passionately in conflict with authority in both his work and his life. The low number of Italian readers, especially among the young, was troubling. Best-sellers were, as usual, from the U.S. and included John Grisham, Patricia Cornwell, and Tom Clancy. The "American style" proved successful for Andrea Camilleri, who wrote several popular detective stories that suddenly invaded the Italian top-10 list. Set in Sicily and liberally sprinkled with Sicilianisms, most of Camilleri's novels were centred on the character of Montalbano. He was an ironic copy of the Manhattan sleuth: clever, hardworking, tenacious, and, with his appalling eating habits and difficult love life, captivatingly humane. Camilleri's newest Montalbano installment was Un mese con Montalbano. Serious fiction, however, was not lacking. Sebastiano Vassalli reached a new level in his apparent progression toward mysticism with La notte del lupo, an ambitious rewriting of the life of Jesus as seen from Judas's point of view. Veering between the disturbingly profound and the plainly ludicrous, the novel linked Jesus and Judas across the centuries with Pope John Paul II and Mehmet Ali Agca (the young Turkish man who attempted to assassinate the pope in 1981). Vassalli's novel was inspired by the notion that Christ did not intend to found the church; therefore, Judas and AHca were the only two among his followers who did not betray him. Equally ambitious was Adriatico by Raffaele Nigro. Its focus was the recent spate of immigrants, mainly but not exclusively from Albania, into southern Italy--a problem debated almost daily in the Italian media. Though convincing in its portrayal of the early life of its protagonist--a journalist aboard an Italian coast guard ship--the novel was not as successful in integrating its various narrative strands. Gianni Celati published Avventure in Africa, the diary of his journey across three African countries (Mali, Senegal, and Mauritania) whose people had recently begun migrating to Europe. Celati's minimalist notes avoided any political or philosophical considerations unless lighthearted and self-deprecating. Two literary veterans returned to their favourite themes. In his short-story collection Sentieri sotto la neve, Mario Rigoni Stern told of a soldier's journey home at the end of a lost war; in a highly idyllic style, he wrote of a natural world and people from a past gone forever. Paolo Barbaro mused on his beloved Venice in Venezia: la citt ritrovata and revealed, beyond the alleys worn away by tourists, the still-valid idea of a universal city designed for humans: the only unchanging city--beautiful, mysterious, and vulnerable. Pulp fiction was still a hotly debated genre. Not all young writers, however, were its devotees. Gianni Riotta's accomplished novel of love and war, Principe delle nuvole, created the unusual character of a sophisticated military scholar who spends his life in Fascist Italy studying the great battles of the past. He proves himself as a strategist only when he chances to lead a group of Sicilian peasants against their landowners' paid gangs. Notable new books by women writers included a reprint of La vacanza (1962) by Dacia Maraini--sun, sex, and war against the background of the fall of Fascism. In her book Inventario, Gina Lagorio compellingly distilled 50 years of memories about masters, books, music, and urban and rural landscapes from Piedmont to Israel. Particularly memorable was L'isola riflessa by Fabrizia Ramondino, a magical account of one year on the tiny island of Ventotene. First used as a prison by the Bourbons and later by the Fascists, the island had become an ambiguous microcosm of memories, corruption, and desires. Most disturbing were several novels that delved pitilessly into the darker side of Italian family life. La bocca pi di tutto mi piaceva and Due volte la stessa carezza by Nadia Fusini were the stories of two young women caught in the deadly web of family affections. Uffizio delle tenebre by Fausta Garavini portrayed a mother-son relationship that disables the son while offering him an alibi, both for his inability to act and for his willingness to create an imaginary, though not less-distressing, world. The novel was a harrowing meditation on the devastating power of an obsessive mother's love that causes contempt and unbearable guilt in the loved one, crippling him even beyond her death. LINO PERTILE Japanese In 1998 the Akutagawa Prize, Japan's top literary award for young writers, was shared by Shu Fujisawa, author of Buenosuairesu gozen reiji ("At 0 A.M. in Buenos Aires"), and Mangetsu Hanamura, author of Gerumaniumu no

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