These Are the Names

Tommy Wieringa, trans. from the Dutch by Sam Garrett. Melville House (PRH, dist.), $24.95 (240p) ISBN 978-1-61219-565-0
Bestselling Dutch writer Wieringa’s (Joe Speedboat) novel offers two searing portrayals of transformation on the unforgiving Eurasian Steppe. Pontus Beg is a policeman in Michailopol, a once-thriving small town whose “demise had been as turbulent as its rise.” At 53, “still too young to really be considered old, but he could see the writing on the wall,” Beg reexamines his life’s work: not a failure, but perhaps not the path of wisdom he might have imagined as a child. When Yehuda Herz, one of the town’s two remaining Jews, is murdered, Beg investigates, and with the guidance of Rabbi Zalman Eder, he has a revelation that both haunts and rejuvenates him. In a parallel story, seven desperate refugees—five men, a woman, and a child—suffer betrayal and extraordinary hardship to make new lives in an elusive promised land. One of their number, a man imbued by the others with talismanic powers, brings Beg and the nomads together, irrevocably changing everyone. Biblical symbolism and themes of wandering, suffering, and redemption pervade the novel. There are echoes of John Steinbeck’s intrepid dust bowl survivors, the voyeuristic allure of Franz Kafka’s “The Hunger Artist,” and the quiet nihilism and documentary detail of British novelist Jim Crace. Wieringa, whose longtime collaboration with translator Sam Garrett pays off again with deft, muscular prose perfectly suited to the author’s harrowing vision, strips lives bare and drills to their essence. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 09/19/2016
Release date: 11/08/2016
Genre: Fiction
Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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