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Monday, June 10, 2019

A Ballad for Georg Henig (1987) by Victor Paskov

Image result for viktor paskov
Bulgarian author Victor Paskov
Book Review
A Ballad for Georg Henig (1987)
 by Victor Paskov

Replaces:   Operation Shylock by Philip Roth

  The 1001 Books project is really bogging down in it's last stages, as I run out of titles of all sorts from the original list, and Audiobook titles from the 2008 revised list.   A Ballad for Georg Henig gives Bulgarian literature its first representative.  Paskov is totally unknown in the United States- he has zero books available for sale at Amazon, which is about as low as you can go.  The Los Angeles Public Library has a copy of the UK edition- it even has an "imported by" sticker on it. 

  The Bulgarian-ness is about as unclear as you would expect from a single example.  Paskov resembles central.eastern European authors preoccupied with the vicissitudes of life in Communist Europe at the end of Communism.  Georg Henig is a violin maker par excellance, now in his dotage and suffering in a sub-par basement apartment to which he has dubious title.   Henig experiences changes when a local musician and his son rediscover Henig and enlist him in the father's quest to build his nagging wife "the greatest sideboard ever made" despite having no experience as a carpenter.  Melancholy and depression permeate A Ballad for Georg Henig in much the way the same emotions permeate all "serious" European literature written between the end of World War II and the present day.

The Plotters (2019) Un-Su Kim

Book Review
The Plotters (2019)
by Un-Su Kim

   The pull quote on the publisher's product page for The Plotters, a crime novel by Korean author Un-Su Kim calls it right when it claims The Plotters is, "as if Haruki Murakami rewrote Day of the Jackal."   The straight genre premise:  Assassin becomes disillusioned by the powers-that-be and wreaks insane vengeance is enlivened by the Murakami-esque prose and a variety of "only in Korea" details.  Specifically, the fact that the other than some guest appearances by a silenced pistol and improvised explosives, the only weapon used by the numerous assassins in this book is a more-or-less standard kitchen knife.    The grit level of an assassin who works with a knife is like, one million.

  I listened to the Audiobook edition, which was great, and I immediately recommended it to a friend who is a crime fiction obsessive- he also loved The Plotters.   And while the foreign setting and stylistic quirks mark it as a genre-category escapee, from crime fiction to literary fiction, the grit and gore of repeated knife fights is likely to dissuade more timid readers.

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