Criticism & Features

NBCC Reads

Long Tail: Parul Hinzen and Leora Skolkin-Smith

By James Marcus

Continuing with with the Long Tail series, we have suggestions from critic Parul Hinzen and from Leora Skolkin-Smith, whose novel Edges was published in 2005. (You can read the earlier, omnibus post here. And a reminder: we asked respondents which work in translation had the deepest effect on their reading and writing.)

Parul Hinzen: The most memorable work in translation I’ve read is Naguib Mahfouz’s Palace Walk, translated by William Maynard Hutchins.image It is simply a great work of literature, comparable to the richest novels of Dickens or even Mann, for its comprehensive and incredibly nuanced view of a culture and a class of people, in this case middle-class Egyptians. Through one family, we are enlightened about an entire society.

Leora Skolkin-Smith: Now, in the aftermath of Israel/Hamas war, might be the saddest of times to be reading J.M.G. Le Clezio’s Wandering Star. imageYet I couldn’t help feeling, too, that this novel was confirming, affirming. The simple, fable-like quality of the prose offered up a place where I found shelter from all the shouts, noisy rhetoric, and rigid absolutes which seem to be filling up the media pages. This voice is a singular, isolated voice, who is more witness than victim, and more reliable as the teller of historical truths than all the objective reportage we have come to rely and believe in. Paradoxically, then, a literature based on subjective sensibilities has become one of our most objective looks into the Israel/Palestine conflict.