In THE ELEPHANT’S JOURNEY (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $24) the late Nobel laureate José Saramago recreates an actual expedition undertaken in 1551 by Solomon the elephant, his keeper, and a large retinue of soldiers, porters, and nobles. The king of Portugal having decided to honor the Archduke of Austria’s wedding by bestowing on him an Asian elephant, the challenge lay in getting the gift to its recipient. This historical tidbit caught Saramago’s eye for the unlikely, and as his narrative retraces the trek from Lisbon to Vienna—which included an Alpine crossing in a blizzard—he fills in the factual interstices with his trademark musings on subjects as disparate as religion, social hierarchy, fate, the development of languages, and how animals think. By turns enchantingly whimsical and solidly realistic, this is a historical novel in the guise of fable. Or perhaps a fable under the cover of history.

The Elephant's Journey Cover Image
By José Saramago, Margaret Jull Costa (Translated by)
ISBN: 9780547574110
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Mariner Books - May 11th, 2011

Think of the contemporary short story and a handful of names come to mind. Among the masters still at work, William Trevor, now in his eighties, continues to produce rich, impeccably crafted fiction. While everything he’s written in his long career is worth reading, the sheer volume of it (fourteen novels, twelve collections of stories) may overwhelm even the staunchest fans. So here is a manageable sampling of his shorter work. SELECTED STORIES (Viking, $35) gathers some 48 pieces from Trevor’s recent volumes After Rain, The Hill Bachelors, A Bit on the Side, and Cheating at Canasta. Set in small towns, rural areas of Ireland, the past, the present, these stories focus on ordinary people and their ordinary problems. But given Trevor’s patient, compassionate treatment, no one is really ordinary, and each joy, each struggle with love, loss, or loneliness is unique and valuable. 

Selected Stories Cover Image
ISBN: 9780143115960
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Penguin Books - September 27th, 2011

No one is more particular about language than the French, so that they named Lydia Davis a Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters means a lot. Davis, an American, has demonstrated her skill in rendering 19th-century French  into contemporary English over the course of a long career; her recent translation of Proust’s Swann’s  Way earned special acclaim. In addition, Davis is an accomplished fiction writer, and her profound understanding of the genre informs every detail of her new version of Gustave Flaubert’s MADAME BOVARY (Viking, $27.95). And there are many wonderful details. Flaubert’s novel of romance and adultery “is now viewed as the first masterpiece of realist fiction,” Davis says, and in it Flaubert captures not just the emotional nuances of his characters’ ennui and passion, but itemizes the everyday objects they use, the fabrics of the clothes they wear, and the conveyances they ride in. Davis’s unobtrusive endnotes supply cultural and historical details, by which today’s readers can see how acutely Flaubert captured his own time, and how much his social satire is still relevant in today’s consumer culture.

Madame Bovary Cover Image
By Gustave Flaubert, Lydia Davis (Translated by)
ISBN: 9780670022076
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Viking - September 23rd, 2010