Must-Read Books by Authors From Austria to Somalia
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because if the pen is mightier than the sword, then this quartet of wordsmiths could take on an army.
Somali-born, Ethiopian- and Indian-educated, and a former resident of Germany, the United States, Sudan, Italy, Nigeria — Nuruddin Farah is nothing if not global. And yet, his work is also obsessed with problems that are particular to a certain region of the world — in this case, his motherland. His latest novel, Hiding in Plain Sight, follows Aar, a United Nations logistics officer who (like Farah did in the late ’90s) returns to Somalia after many years. Upon his return, he receives death threats from the al-Shabab terrorist organization. An attack soon erupts. It’s a story that’s far too real: Farah notes, almost casually in the acknowledgments, that his sister Basra Farah Hassan was killed by a Taliban bombing in Afghanistan. Read the story here.
A room containing an endless array of mummified birds. An aging chimpanzee who tears the headphones out of a doctor’s ears. And epigraphs quoting Batman as played by Adam West. These are just a few of the surreal, fragmented and yet strangely compelling elements of 31-year-old Austrian writer Clemens J. Setz’s third novel, Indigo. But for seven years, unless you read German, you probably wouldn’t know of his work, which recalls the strange but also fun style of famed novelists Don DeLillo and Steve Erickson. That is, until now. Read the story here.
How often does a journalist get to ask the question, “So you really gave al-Qaida its name?” Sonali Kokra recently did. Well, not exactly, but close. D-Company is one of the most deadly terrorist organizations in the world, headed by Dawood Ibrahim, one of the most wanted terrorists in India, Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates. And the man who gave the terrorist group its name? An unlikely character, a hard-of-hearing, myopic, 74-year-old crime novelist. His name is Surender Mohan Pathak, and he is the doyen of Hindi crime fiction. Read the story here.
Eight or nine years ago in Dallas, a young waitress wanted to know if a short story she wrote was any good. Ben Fountain, then an acquaintance and editor of the Southwest Review, agreed to read it. The story was about a young waitress, Marie, who works at an upscale steakhouse with a drug-infused, high-adrenaline, misogynistic culture. “She wrote it with no sentimentality,” says Fountain. “Just the clarity of her vision and the mercilessness of her writing.” He read the story every day for a week and then called up the real-life waitress, Merritt Tierce. She didn’t believe he really wanted to publish it. After he did publish it, Tierce still figured it was a favor. Only when the story was picked up for an anthology by another renowned writer, ZZ Packer, did Tierce begin to believe she could write. Read the story here.