The reason for the dark of the night, by John Tresch (Farrar, Straus & Giroux). The book that Edgar Allan Poe considered his crowning achievement, “Eureka”, was a treatise on the origin and composition of the universe. A wild and poetic journey through space and time published the year before his death, he reflects on gravity, consciousness and the dispersion of stars. She was also, as this biographical study shows, at the forefront of scientific thought. Poe was known for his fiction and poetry, but he had spent decades reporting on the latest developments in science, and some of his theories anticipated new physics, including the “prophetic” observation that “space and duration are one ”. Tresch draws alluring connections between Poe’s cosmological view and his fiction, noting the “astonishing unity of purpose” that defines the two.
Migrator birds, by Mariana Oliver, translated from Spanish by Julia Sanches (Transit). Meditating on revolutionary Cuba, the Berlin Wall, and the caves of Cappadocia, these essays explore themes of memory, war, movement, and home. Oliver probes the words for their historical and emotional associations, likening her task to that of women in the rubble of postwar Germany, sorting bricks to salvage what could be used. She sees liberation in language but doesn’t dwell on her own reasons for wandering. Glimpses of his life emerge from beneath the surface and, like the unexploded bomb in the Rhine that appears in an essay, are powerful and mysterious.
You people, by Nikita Lalwani (McSweeney’s). Set at the start, this novel orbits a London pizzeria that is also a haven for undocumented workers. We meet Shan, a Tamil refugee from Sri Lanka, who works in the kitchen and longs to be reunited with his wife and son; Nia, a young Indo-Welsh waitress who fled her abusive mother in Wales; and Tuli, the magnanimous owner. The characters live in fear of deportation, but Lalwani also evokes their little comfort. Shan, thinking of five Tamil colleagues living in two rooms above the restaurant, reflects that “their relationships contain the same grievances and sticky celebrations as a common family at home, where the needs of daughters-in-law, sons, parents and grandchildren all collide under one roof.
The women of Troy, by Rosanna Bruno and Anne Carson (New Directions). Mourning the sack of Troy, Hekabe and his daughters wait to be enslaved by the victorious Greeks, in this comic book rendition of Euripides’ tragedy. Bruno’s monochrome drawings represent characters like animals and everyday objects, accompanied by a weary chorus of dogs and cows. This gives a phantasmagorical form to Carson’s characteristically unclassifiable translation. Carson preserves some of the impenetrability of the ancient Greek text, but also imbues it with a contemporary immediacy: Poseidon enters with allusions to James Baldwin, and Hekabe, ruminating on Helen’s role in the fall of the city, calls it the “why’s and why’s everything.”