Category: A Book A Week (page 2 of 4)

A Book A Week #29 | Spaceman of Bohemia, by Jaroslav Kalfar

Spaceman of Bohemia, by Jaroslav Kalfar

It’s pretty rare that one gets to review something completely new, utterly fresh. Sure, there is no new thing under the sun. There are plenty of stories about spacemen. There are plenty of books about marital breakdown. There are plenty of novels about barely repressed Communist legacies. But there aren’t many that combine the three, and certainly not with as much panache and consummate, mordant wit as Jaroslav Kalfar’s first novel, Spaceman of Bohemia.

Jakub Procházka is the titular Bohemian spaceman, the first Czech astronaut to leave the Earth’s atmospheric swaddling blanket behind. He’s on a mission to a vast interstellar cloud that appeared between the Earth and Venus, to bring back both space dust and national pride. And poor Jakub is going out of his mind. Despite his daily broadcasts proclaiming his cheer, his mental state is disintegrating, as is his marriage. His wife leaves him via Skype. Jakub has nothing to do but sit and drink whisky and wait. And then Hanuš appears.

Spaceman of Bohemia, by Jaroslav Kalfar

Jakub is at first baffled and horrified by the presence of Hanuš, a giant space arthropod with a taste for “this spread of Nutella,” and the ability to read minds, but comes to relish his company and alien wisdom as they inhabit what can only be described as a space-bachelor pad.

Add to this already-crowded mix a potent meditation on Czechoslovakia’s communist past — Jakub’s father was a torturer for the secret police, and the sins of the father have been heaped on the son — and there’s the potential for Spacema of Bohemia to go off the rails, to fail to contain its own multitudes. But Kalfar’s novel holds all this together. At times haunting, at times wise, at times darkly hilarious, Spaceman of Bohemia is an assured debut that turns the microscope onto humans and their transcendental smallnesses, from our tininess in the face of the universe to our tininess in the face of ourselves.

Jaroslav Kalfar, Spaceman of Bohemia, Sceptre Books (London: 2017)

Sceptre Books kindly provided me with a review copy of Spaceman of Bohemia.

A Book A Week #28 | The Impossible Fairy Tale, by Han Yujoo

The Impossible Fairy Tale, by Han Yujoo

Mia is lucky. She has two fathers who compete for her affection. They spoil her with expensive foreign coloured pencils, with jumpers that she’ll grow out of. Her mother dotes on her. In a school where casual cruelty and inexplicable rage is the norm, where children play at choking one another, and buy baby chicks only to stomp them to death, Mia is pretty and popular. She wants for nothing.

The Child, on the other hand, is none of those things. Her clothes are threadbare, her skin pallid. Her mother beats her and cuts her nails so short that it is painful for her to pick anything up. She is so far down the school’s rigid hierarchy that she does not even merit a name.

One night, The Child sneaks out of her flat and into the school, where forges her classmates’ handwriting and writes disturbing messages in their workbooks. This strange but more-or-less harmless act leads to still more horrifying acts. Another bright day, she slits the throat of a kitten she finds on the street. And then one day, after school, she follows Mia home from school, chokes her and cuts her throat.

But then, The Impossible Fairy Tale changes entirely. A woman awakes from a dream. A teacher. The Child’s teacher, who is writing a book named something like The Impossible Fairy Tale. And The Child knows everything that happens in her book, set several years ago, in some strange ontological swerve. The teacher’s appearance scores a line under this tale of neglect and inordinate cruelty, raising the spectre of the ethical status of making art out of horror: what happens if your story turns out to be true?

Written in an oneiric prose-poetry that cuts like a scalpel, and where ideas and physical things connect in a suffocating blanket. “We must not call that time “back then.” The words back then attempt to make the past too beautiful, something to long for,” Yujoo writes, “That time. Time’s grime. That time when I wanted to snap, trample, snip, cut, crumple, and ruin everything I saw.” In Han Yujoo’s world, language cuts, maims, and burns just as much as a blade or a set of nail clippers. The Impossible Fairy Tale is a meditation on pain — not just that which a knife causes, but that contained in ideas and in words. And with the arrival of The Child’s teacher in the second half, it becomes a meditation on the link between the two, how pain can be put down onto the page, can become narrative. Sticks and stones.

Kafka wrote that we must read books that take an “axe to the frozen sea within us.” The Impossible Fairy Tale does just this, but in doing so, it reveals what we gain from that thick, insulating ice. Strange creatures live in the depths below: creatures that we do not want to look at, though we can’t help but stare.

Han Yujoo has published many books in her native Korean, to much acclaim, but The Impossible Fairy Tale is the first to have been translated into English. Hopefully there are many more to come.

Graywolf Press kindly provided me with a copy of The Impossible Fairy Tale.

Han Yujoo, trans. Janet Hong, The Impossible Fairy Tale, Graywolf Press (Minneapolis: 2017)

A Book A Week #27 | First Love, by Gwendoline Riley

First Love, by Gwendoline Riley

Reading First Love is like taking an icy shot of vodka in a world of flat, slightly warm lager. It is the story of Neve, a writer in her thirties, trapped in a marriage to an older man, Edwyn, that ranges between unhappy and downright abusive. Gwendoline Riley has spent the past decade-and-a-half detailing the unhappy lives of unhappy women, and it might be all too easy to point the finger at Neve as another inhabitant of a well-worn rut. Trapped with Edwyn, who blames everyone but himself for his violent outbursts, she is plagued with memories.

Riley’s prose has an icy elegance as it details without sentiment or schtick Neve’s chaotic and poverty-stricken childhood, dominated by her father, given to savage tantrums. This earns Neve little sympathy from her husband, who calls his attacks against her mother — rather unsettlingly — mere “incidents,” and uses her father’s cruelty as a weapon against her.

“Your father. You hated him, he was cruel to you, that’s the only relationship you understand. A man being horrible to you and you being vicious back. So that’s what you’re recreating here. I am not your father. You don’t have to go on being vicious. If you do go on being vicious, you’re out. I don’t want anything to do with you.”

It goes without saying that Edwyn is the vicious partner in this relationship, constantly looking to manipulate and to shift the blame for his anger onto Neve, using her father, her quote-unquote “impoverished” upbringing, her quote-unquote “feminism” as a stick with which to beat her.

First Love, by Gwendoline Riley

But were it just a chronicle of a grim marriage, First Love would not carry the weight that it does. Were it just a chronicle of an equally grim childhood, the novel would not pack the punch that it does. Rather, Riley’s slender novel is also a gracefully rendered meditation on memory, and how the past and the present collide in curious ways — how, no matter how far we run, we can never quite escape it. The spectre of what’s passed always comes back to haunt us. As Riley writes,

“Considering one’s life requires a horribly delicate determination, doesn’t it? To get to the truth, to the heart of the trouble. You wake and your dreams disband, in a mid-brain void. At the sink, in the street, other shadows crowd in: dim thugs (they are everywhere) who’d like you never to work anything out.”

It’s these dim thugs who present perhaps the greatest, and the most horrifying, indignity of all. They’re the recurrent memories of a grandmother’s filthy house. They’re the husband who uses your father’s past cruelties to accuse you of cruelty in the present. And they’re what makes Gwendoline Riley’s latest novel quite so potent.

Gwendoline Riley, First Love, Granta (London: 2017)

I was kindly provided with a review copy of First Love by Granta.

A Book A Week #26 | The Burning Ground, by Adam O’Riordan

The Burning Ground, by Adam O’Riordan

It’s hard to escape the feeling that Adam O’Riordan is flirting with the Joycean in his debut short story collection, The Burning Ground. It’s not just that all of O’Riordan’s stories are set in the one city — LA. Rather, O’Riordan’s first collection of short stories shares something deeper, more elemental with Joyce’s only collection of short stories, something in the DNA of the two books. In ‘The Sisters,’ one of Joyce’s more precocious child narrators says something quite mysterious: “Every night as I gazed up at the window I said softly to myself the word paralysis. It had always sounded strangely in my ears, like the word gnomon in the Euclid and the word simony in the Catechism.” Taken on its own, this might be a child revelling over the strange sound of exotic words tripping off the tongue. But those three words, paralysis, gnomon, and simony come to define Joyce’s Dublin, Joyce’s Dubliners, and Joyce’s Dubliners.

They are also words that come to define O’Riordan’s work, over a century later. Paralysis is an existential state in The Burning Ground‘s LA, in spite of the city’s Ballardian obsession with the freeway. O’Riordan’s city is full of elegies for things left unsaid and undone. The story, ‘Wave-Riding Giants’ is probably the most openly mournful story of the lot — the ageing McCauley looks back over a life spent watching, but never acting. He spent the war in the Pacific, but Hiroshima and Nagasaki put an end to the fighting before he could be deployed. He drifted around the West Coast, finally discovering a talent for woodwork and setting up shop making surfboards he could never use — McCauley had never learnt to swim.

Likewise, gnomon. A gnomon is the bit of the sundial that casts a shadow by which we tell time — in other words, the pointy bit. It’s also synecdoche for all those things left unsaid, but where silence is more eloquent than words could ever be. “You did good, son, real good,” Randall says to his estranged son, Joey, at the end of ‘Black Bear in the Snow’. They’re on a hunting trip, tracing a route that Randall’s own father took him on when he was a boy Joey’s age, and Joey has just killed a bear with a single textbook shot. Those six words speak to the gulf that has opened up between father and son, and they carry more weight than a lengthy speech might.

The Burning Ground, by Adam O’Riordan

LA is full of simoniacs, one way or another. Buying and selling choice ecclesiastical goodies might well seem like an idea that had its time, a long time ago, but The Burning Ground is full of people trying to buy their way into redemption one way or another — from Randall’s attempt to redeem lost time by shooting at megafauna in ‘Black Bear in the Snow’ to a mutual, and failed, attempt to rekindle a lost fling in ‘A Thunderstorm in Santa Monica,’ and Harvey’s acceptance that his rom-com rush half-way across the world to an old lover might not bring back the past.

O’Riordan is best known as a poet, and he is a fine poet with a knack for weighing words carefully, and making them do strange and new things. In ‘Oysters,’ the consumption of raw, cold sea-snot is imbued with a sense of quickness, of danger, of violence, but also of holiness, sanctity and ritual. To open an oyster, “you twist a blunt blade and the adductor severs || and light moves in the darkened chamber. | Naked on its bed of bone, you offer it: vulviform, raw, exposed.”

Contrast this with his description of an aeroplane taking off. “The focused quiet of an exam hall as passengers concentrated on keeping calm and pretending what was happening was perfectly normal.” This is a far cry from O’Riordan’s holy vulviform oysters. It’s big, it’s clunky, and, its greatest sin is that it’s obvious. It’s unreasonable to ask O’Riordan to write stories like Joyce. It’s just a pity he couldn’t write stories a little bit more like himself.

Adam O’Riordan, The Burning Ground, Bloomsbury (London: 2017)

Bloomsbury kindly provided me with a copy of The Burning Ground for review.

A Book A Week #25 | Idaho, by Emily Ruskovich

Idaho, by Emily Ruskovich

Calling a book a haunting meditation on time, memory and grief is pretty much damning it with faint praise in this publishing climate. Everyone’s written one. Grieving and melancholy seem to be in fashion these days, much as moon boots were in the ‘80s. And yet, Emily Ruskovich’s new novel Idaho is all of these things at once. It meditates. It grieves. It remembers. And boy, does it haunt.

It’s 1995, a hot August day in the mountains above Ponderosa, Idaho. Jenny has just killed one of her two daughters. The other is missing, never to be found again.

2004. Jenny’s husband, Wade, has remarried. Ann, his new wife, lives in a house with a gaping wound at its heart. Wade’s behaviour is becoming strange and violent. His mind is slowly slipping away as dementia makes its early onslaught.

2008. Jenny has been in prison for thirteen years. She is set to spend two lifetimes in there. She has just left a month in solitary confinement for stabbing Sylvia, her former cellmate and her only friend. She speaks to no one. She does not step outside. She punishes herself for her senseless acts of violence more than any prison could.

Idaho, by Emily Ruskovich

Idaho, by Emily Ruskovich

The echoes of Jenny’s actions echo throughout the book, resounding in its past, its present, and its future. The absence of May and June, the two daughters, is a suffocating one — as solid and suffocating as the walls of Jenny’s prison. It’s an absence that informs every action that every character takes, every word that they speak, every thought that they have. Ann spends her days getting face-fits of June made up, as she ages. But as she ages, the chances of finding her slip away, as do Wade’s memories of his daughters.

Knives are a big thing in Idaho — Wade is a subsistence farmer, but makes a buck or two crafting intricate knives out of wood and bone and steel — and Ruskovich’s prose cuts like one. Idaho, Ruskovich’s first novel, is a psychologically acute work of psychic anguish, which traces the fragments of a family split open by a single act of unspeakable violence, scattered across America and through the decades. There might be rather a lot of meditations on time, memory and grief, but  this one promises to haunt like little else.

Emily Ruskovich, Idaho, Chatto & Windus (London: 2017)

Chatto & Windus generously provided me with a review copy of Idaho.

A Book A Week #24 | Ashland & Vine, by John Burnside

Ashland & Vine, by John Burnside

Carbondale, Alabama. Jean Culver watches her father get shot, on the intersection of Ashland and Vine. So begins Culver’s tale, told to Kate Lambert, and so begins Ashland & Vine. It’s a tale that spans much of the landscape of 20th century America, taking in World War II and Korea, the Cold War and Vietnam, anti-war protesters and the Weather Underground. She tells her story to the grieving Lambert on the condition that she sobers up — if Lambert can go a day without drinking, Culver will tell her a story; another day, another story — like a Scheherazade for the self-help generation.

Lambert isn’t listening to Culver out of her own curiosity — rather, she begins talking to her in an attempt to collect testimony for an oral history project cooked up by her film studies professor boyfriend Laurits, who claims to be Estonian, and uses this to harangue his friends on “their” American history. He isn’t Estonian, but he is a cliché.

Ashland & Vine, by John Burnside

Ashland & Vine, by John Burnside

Lambert teeters on the brink of alcoholism, driven to the precipice by grief, but even in this fraught state, she never forgets her impeccable array of literary references, never forgets to ensure that everything is imbued with a Lit-101 significance. The sound of chopping wood brings forth a Proustian remembrance of woods past:

“As a child I convinced myself that the woods around our house went back to a time before the settlers arrived; ancient Iroquois lands, full of blue jays and cardinals and families of tender, sweet-lipped deer. They were my own private, haunted realm when I was a child, my small promise of heaven and, at the same time, proof of the history my father claimed as his own, for was he not at least part Native American and therefore entitled to look at those woods in a different way from his neighbours? Now, like the house, those woods are gone…”.

And so on.

Similarly, she sobers up to break out of the “tedium of the self. Not myself, but the self as random burden, imposed on a whim by some malevolent visitor from an old fairy tale.” Culver masquerades as a Scheherazade-figure, but Lambert fancies herself an existential philosopher.

For someone so insistent on telling her story, very little happens to Jean Culver herself. She watches as her father is shot in broad daylight, and seems not really to be affected by it. Her brother fights in the D-Day Landings and in France, before joining the CIA at the height of the Cold War. Her genius sister is swept up in the 1960s anti-Vietnam protests and in the Students for a Democratic Society movement, before disappearing off the map as a member of the Weather Underground. Culver herself sits in middle America, chopping wood and drinking endless cups of herbal tea. She narrates her story in an unaffected, encyclopaedic prose that conveys powerful emotion and grand historical narratives, talking about the Weather Underground with the same flat affect as the Shipping Forecast.

John Burnside is one of Ireland’s most accomplished authors and critics, and the premise for Ashland & Vine is a fascinating one. However, his attempt to read post-War American history is an attempt that falls flat, reading more as exposition than exploration, a lecture rather than a fairy tale.

John Burnside, Ashland & Vine, Jonathan Cape (London: 2016)

Jonathan Cape provided me with a review copy of Ashland & Vine.

A Book A Week #23 | 4 3 2 1, by Paul Auster

4 3 2 1, by Paul Auster

4 3 2 1, Paul Auster’s new novel, and his first in seven years, is a Bildungsroman by way of Borges; his Garden of Forking Paths spreading across a suburb in New Jersey, and a chunk of Manhattan. Briefly put, it is the story of Archibald Ferguson, a kid growing up in Newark — more or less contemporaneously with Auster himself. A microscopically detailed novel that takes up a plethora of topics from baseball to the Vietnam War, Auster’s novel perhaps bears more resemblance to David Copperfield than ‘City of Glass’.

Of course, Auster has a trick up his sleeve. 4 3 2 1 isn’t just the story of Archibald Ferguson. rather, it is the story of four Archibald Ferguson — or perhaps it’s four stories of a single Archie. Auster uses 4 3 2 1 as a space to explore alternate histories (what would have happened had Germany won the war, say) on a personal level. What would have happened had Archie’s father not stayed late at the shop that day? Quite a lot, it seems — early on, one of the Ferguson-fathers is killed in a blaze started by his brother, as an insurance scam. In another one of Auster’s forking paths, the blaze burns down the family business. In yet another, it does not happen at all. One Archie studies at Columbia, and becomes involved in the protests of 1968. Another wins a prestigious scholarship to Princeton. Yet another flees to Paris after being caught stealing paperbacks to pay for a trip to a prostitute. These alternate Archies live out quite separate lives, love quite separate loves, and follow quite separate paths.

4 3 2 1, by Paul Auster

4 3 2 1, by Paul Auster

Or do they? The alternate lives of Archibald Ferguson are curiously similar. In each of them, the general trajectory of his life is the same, moving from Norman Rockwell painting (Suburban picket fence; baseball) to Simon and Garfunkel song (Manhattan brownstone; existential angst). The countdown in the novel’s title is prophetic, three of the four Fergusons being killed off before the novel reaches its end, but on the way each of them is a talented baseball player; each of them is a youthful connoisseur of European arthouse cinema; each of them becoming a writer after a fashion.

All this presents a rather depressing view of human potential. Fans of 18th century literature might remember Tristram Shandy’s father — his hobby horse, his peccadillo, was names. Apparently, if “ever malignant spirit took pleasure, or busied itself in traversing the purposes of mortal man,” said spirit would take the form of the name Tristram. Perhaps the same can be said for people named Archibald Ferguson. Whatever happens to them, they will always be youthful baseball players, and aspiring writers with impeccably liberal credentials. 4 3 2 1 makes a great play of tracing Archie’s roots, back to the first Ferguson to set foot on Ellis Island, but it seems there’s no escaping these roots. However the garden’s paths may fork, the destination is always the same.

Paul Auster, 4 3 2 1, Faber & Faber (London: 2017)

Faber & Faber kindly provided me with a review copy of 4 3 2 1

A Book A Week #22 | This is the Ritual, by Rob Doyle

This is the Ritual, by Rob Doyle

People who read Nietzsche don’t tend to end up very happy — that’s a take-home message from Rob Doyle’s short story collection This is the Ritual, even if it’s not quite the one that he intended. Doyle’s world is one populated by junkies, drifters, and burnouts, all of whom believe they have a novel gestating inside of them — even if getting it out into the world rips them apart, Alien-style.

The spectre of figures such as Nietzsche hang heavy on on Doyle’s stories, driving their denizens to the point of insanity. ‘On Nietzsche’ follows a young, disaffected man who discovers the philosopher in the toilets of a Post Office depot, and makes it his life’s mission to write on him, to the detriment of his health, his sanity, and his hygiene. ‘Martin Knows Me — The Lonely Struggle of David Haynes’ follows a similar trajectory, only beginning with a youthful flirtation with Martin Amis. Over and again, Doyle’s authors are drawn towards writers who feel the need to remind the world just how well they write, like moths to a proverbial flame.

This is the Ritual, by Rob Doyle

This is the Ritual, by Rob Doyle

The ur-Author in Doyle’s collection is Killian Turner, a whirlwind of sex, drugs, and Weltschmerz. Turner flees Ireland to live out every starving artist’s West Berlin fantasy, writing very little and imbibing rather a lot, believing himself to be the reincarnation of Georges Bataille. It’s a story of ludicrous excess, so ludicrous that it can only be bettered by the sudden realisation that Turner was real — the endless footnotes and nods towards academic propriety of ‘Exiled in the Infinite — Killian Turner, Ireland’s Vanished Literary Outlaw’ aren’t part of the trappings of pomo storytelling a la Foster Wallace, but are honest-to-god references.

It’s tempting to read Doyle’s stories as gross-out material plain and simple, tales of orgiastic excess, but to do so would be to ignore his finely crafted prose and keen eye for the intricacies of the human psyche, which shine through no matter how dark his subject matter.

Rob Doyle, This is the Ritual, Bloomsbury (London: 2016)

Bloomsbury kindly provided me with a review copy of This is the Ritual.

A Book A Week #21 | Difficult Women, by Roxane Gay

Difficult Women, by Roxane Gay

Roxane Gay is a writer who cuts hard, and cuts deep. Her short stories, collected in Difficult Women, are precisely observed portraits of human misery and unwarranted suffering—very often, at the hands of terrible men. The sisters in the first story in the collection, ‘I Will Follow You’ were abducted and raped over decades. The only way that the narrator of ‘Break All The Way Down’ can escape the spectre of her dead child is through being abused by a sadistic boyfriend. The story for which the collection is named is an anatomy of the ways that men categorise women—“loose women,” “crazy women,” “frigid women,” and, finally, “dead girls”. Gay’s women can’t escape, even in death, for “Death makes them more interesting.”

Difficult Women, by Roxane Gay

Difficult Women, by Roxane Gay

If Gay’s difficult women are all-too often subjected to the depredations of dreadful men, it’s this very difficulty, their intractability and sheer will to live, that very often allows them not just to survive, but to live. In ‘How,’ two sisters escape the alcoholic father they are forced to care for, driving off and never looking back. In spite of this, the characters whose lives Gay sketches are never one-dimensional, never written to prove a point. Rather, the sheer, vivid intensity of Gay’s prose comes about because her stories are populated by such vivid, intense people. Difficult Women never feels prurient, but rather, raw, harrowing, and unflinching.

Roxane Gay, Difficult Women, Corsair (London: 2017)

Corsair kindly provided me with a review copy of Difficult Women

A Book A Week #20 | Iraq + 100, edited by Hassan Blasim

Iraq + 100 edited by Hassan Blasim

Iraq has a long literary history, but science fiction has not ever weighed very heavily on it. As editor Hassan Blasim points out, Iraq “has not tasted peace, freedom or stability since the first British invasion of the country in 1914.” Since then, Iraqi history has been a cavalcade of “wars, death, destruction, population displacement, imprisonment, torture, ruin and tragedies.” It’s hard, perhaps, to imagine a far-flung future when your own day-to-day one is barely assured. Yet this is what Blasim tries to do in Iraq + 100, an anthology of short stories set a century after Blair and Bush’s 2003 invasion. His anthology asks a question whose simplicity of phrasing belies its sheer complexity — what might Iraq look like in 2103?

Writers of sci-fi (or, at least the good ones) invariably write about now as much as they do distant futures and far-flung galaxies. The imaginative space afforded by writing the future allows one to look at the present anew, askance. Writing the future into being is as much a way of working through the contradictions of the present as it is about imaginative projection, and the authors of the stories Iraq + 100 are little different from stalwarts of the Western sci-fi canon in that regard. Today’s Iraq inevitably weighs heavily on Iraq + 100, the Iraq of Gulf Wars and Saddam and banners proclaiming Mission Accomplished to the watching world. The only story in this anthology that traffics explicitly in the otherworldly is Hassan Abdulrazzak’s ‘Kuszib,’ written from the point of view of a lowly bureaucrat in a race of successful alien invaders — or perhaps colonisers — who keep humans as livestock for their flesh and blood. It’s rather a clumsy allegory, but rather deftly done, oozing with Cronenbergian body horror.

Iraq + 100 ed. by Hassan Blasim

Iraq + 100 ed. Hassan Blasim

One of the most openly utopian story is Blasim’s own, ‘The Gardens of Babylon,’ where psychedelic insects send Babylon’s residents into Huxley-esque trips beneath glittering pleasure-domes. And yet even this demi-paradise is underscored by the presence of an older world, a desiccated ruin of a city outside the domes of Babylon. In Kalid Kaki’s story, ‘Operation Daniel,’ the “Venerable Benefactor” Gao Dong has forbidden the use of any language other than Chinese — citizens of his city-state found in breach of this rule are “archived,” or incinerated, their ashes compressed into diamonds that would decorate the Benefactor’s shoes or hats. “It was called ‘archiving’,” Kaki writes,  “because a crystal can store an infinite library of information locked in its chambers – more secrets than the House of Wisdom.” Even when it’s suppressed, history can never quite be erased.

Future Iraq is often a strange and unsettling place — as is Iraq + 100. A curious and uneven book by authors for whom sci-fi is not a vernacular, Iraq + 100 can feel in places like homage or pastiche, but in others it can be strikingly original and exhilaratingly fresh. Perhaps what is more important though is that such a project exists. Iraq + 100 is a gallery full of striking portraits not just of an Iraq that’s a century off but the Iraq that exists today, and of the fruit that today’s Iraq might bear.

Hassan Blasim (ed.), Iraq + 100, Comma Press (Manchester: 2016)

Comma Press generously provided me with a review copy of Iraq + 100