The past can be a gloriously fertile place for authors: the sparser the facts, the more space there is for fiction to grow and thrive. As Hilary Mantel puts it, ‘the imagination can suggest what’s erased’, while WG Sebald speaks of the desire to ‘fill in the gaps and blank spaces and create out of this a meaning which is greater that that which you can prove.’ The Miniaturist, a novel with a mystery at its heart, makes enthusiastic use of the ‘blank spaces’ of seventeenth-century mercantile Amsterdam in its story of eighteen-year-old Nella Brandt.
Immediately, the tension that works so well throughout the novel is established: just like the waxing and waning of the tides that dictate life on the water, Zentner teases out a back and forth in the narrative that makes for an endlessly salacious read.
“A lot of the women of course are overlooked. You have ruth weiss—she was just here a few days ago. She was the first person to get up and start reading her poetry to jazz; she did that before Kerouac did it in New York. Diane di Prima. Denise Levertov. Unfortunately, the women didn’t get published like the men did.”
What’s interesting about magical realism—and I prefer the term “fabulism”—is that I’ve seen a lot of grumpy posts even in the last few years complaining about being people being weird and quirky on purpose. That shows so much ignorance about world literature. For most of the world, fabulism is the mainstream literature. It’s the other stuff, what we call psychological realism, that would seem weird to much of the rest of the world.
A new review of books focused on debuts, translations, and all works that would otherwise go undetected. It is a collaborative of authors, translators, and reviewers bound by one purpose: to contribute to the dialogue of literature.