Jacek Dehnel’s LALA

Dehnel Lala.jpg

The latest issue of the ever-stimulating Quarterly Conversation carries my review of Jacek Dehnel’s debut novel Lala, which Antonia Lloyd-Jones has translated from Polish with great skill and charm. The review begins:

If a novel is especially immersive, if the voice of its narrator is sufficiently consistent and evocative, the world it describes may come to life in picturesque color. I say picturesque, rather than vivid, because a novel’s dominant colors may not be entirely lifelike; they may be closer to the rich oils of Rembrandt or the downy pastels of Degas. Such colors suggest life but also remind us of art’s mediating presence. Jacek Dehnel’s lush debut novel, Lala, for instance, is awash in the sepia tones of old photographs, a few of which punctuate the text. Like an old family album, assembled by an eccentric relative with an artistic bent, Dehnel’s work is drawn from life and enriched with intent, with a kind of aesthetic cohesion that bare facts lack.

Dehnel is as fine a poet as he is a prose stylist. In 2009 he edited the anthology Six Polish Poets for Arc Publications, which featured a small selection of his own verse, and this month Zephyr Press will bring out his first full English-language collection, Aperture, translated by Karen Kovacik.

And since we’re speaking of poetry, I’d like to thank Patrick Kurp for his sensitive review of Ten Poems from Russia on Anecdotal Evidence. I’m especially grateful for his contextual reading of Osip Mandelstam’s “Take from my palms some sun to bring you joy,” a marvelous poem delicately translated by Peter France.

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