October 2017

La Superba

By Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer, translated from the Dutch by Michele Hutchison
Publisher: Deep Vellum Publishing
Recommended by Lillian Klein

In this autobiographically based novel, Ilja, a successful Dutch Poet, leaves his northern home for the romantic labyrinth of Genoa, Italy. He sits in a café and writes slowly, freely, unfettered by relentless order enforced in his “efficient homeland.” Local acquaintances smile and say, “Good luck living the dream.” However, Ilja is not a tourist or a whimsical dreamer; he is a committed immigrant—in love with Genoa, determined to assimilate. But Ilja’s northern, monolithic understanding of Genoa does not account for the chaos and unchartability of the city and its populace. Living there is not as simple as being there.

La Superba is about contemporary Europe, immigration, and the European dream. Arguably, it is about Genoa—and arguably all Europe—past and present, reality and lore. Pfeijffer’s Genoa is a dream, distorted, nebulous, and glistening with spit and antique silver. Pleasant, meandering cobbled streets become as dark and slippery as a monster’s throat, leaving walkers not only lost, but trapped. In Genoa, definitions, including these organizable abstractions of Europe—immigration, the European dream—are slippery. You can live in the promise land, but only if you can become something else.

Like Genoa, La Superba is finely tuned. The plot is a compelling mix of rich and thought provoking, uncomfortable and beautiful. Pfeijffer’s prose is layered and captivating, the perfectly graceful dance partner to the plot’s unpredictable Voltas. This unique novel is exceedingly relevant, confronting the many sides of the issues—migration, sexuality, space, identity, crime, prejudice, traditionalism—facing Europe today.

 

European Anthropologies
By Andrés Barrera-González, Monica Heintz and Anna Horolets
Publisher: Berghahn Books
Recommended by Hélène B. Ducros

European Anthropologies interrogates the foundations of socio-cultural anthropology based on different national and institutional genealogies. The edited volume points to various historical trajectories that have shaped the emergence and the practices of anthropology and ethnology under different circumstances in various countries of Europe. By putting side by side well-known (such as France or Germany) and less-known (such as Finland or Croatia) national academic and extra-academic contexts, the contributions assembled by Andrés Barrera-Gonzáles, Monica Heintz and Anna Horolets highlight the ways in which the discipline’s identity, discourses and epistemologies have been carved out of exploration endeavors, colonial histories, nation-building objectives, and the conceptualization of the “Other,” which have also impacted the relationship between anthropology and ethnology and between anthropology and other sciences, resulting in asymmetric power relations across national disciplinary traditions in terms of visibility, power of influence, and range of research dissemination. In accounting for the diversity in socio-cultural anthropological national traditions and ethnological scholarly lineages in Europe, the book also leads to a useful understanding of what might unite the field across national boundaries. While positioning itself in the framework of the Bologna Process and the principles of a European higher education landscape, the book not only suggests that Europeanness should not mean sameness since the discipline’s plurality is precisely one of its strengths, but that a standardization in European knowledge production may in fact crystallize existing inequalities and marginalizations across the European academe.

 

Banking on Markets: The Transformation of Bank-State Ties in Europe and Beyond
By Rachel A. Epstein
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Recommended by Malcolm Campbell-Verduyn

At the height of the Eurozone crisis the prominent Bank of England economist Andrew Haldane lamented the formation of “Doom Loop” in which European states and the large banks based in their jurisdictions had become closely intertwined in an apparent death spiral. Banking on Markets traces the transformation of relations between large banks and governments in Central, East, and West Europe in the decades prior to the recent Eurozone crisis, as well as in its aftermath with the creation of the European Banking Union. Rachel A. Epstein details how development options have become curtailed by losses of national control over large financial institutions. However, her detailed and nuanced analysis also stresses important reductions in economic volatilities and an overall strengthening of both the Eurozone monetary union and regional financial governance. This book is a must-read for all Europeanists, as well as students and scholars of finance, governance, and development.

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