On returning from the horrors of the Eastern Front in 1941, the sardonic detective, Bernie Gunther, is presented with a diplomatic minefield when he is required to investigate a murder in a country house full of senior figures in the SS and SD. Kerr's eighth Bernie Gunther novel evokes the spirit of the age impeccably and is, as ever, a treat to read.
Imprisoned at Auschwitz and on the verge of collapse, master violin-maker Daniel must recapture his lost art when he is instructed to make a violin to be played for the Commander in the camp. This beautifully presented little book contains a haunting story of pride and dignity in the most horrific of circumstances.
A quite extraordinary book - part memoir, part travelogue, part unrequited-love letter. In his quest to win over the impoverished Romanian for whom he has fallen Benderson embarks on a wild obsession with the nation and its culture, laying bare the darkest sides of both the country and himself.
Republished in gloriously colourful jackets as part of Penguin's Translated Texts series, Capek's allegory of Czech politics is a darkly humourous satire in which humans discover a species of newt on Sumatra who can be trained to work and even speak.
This slender and wonderful novel, published shortly before the author's death and shortlisted for the 1988 Booker Prize, traces the fortunes of the enigmatic Utz, a man whose love for his precious porcelain collection prevents him from fleeing the oppression of Communist Czechoslovakia. Fantastic.
By no means a classic collection of stories but still very good indeed. It brings together a range of authors that might otherwise not have been translated into English and as such offers a rare glimpse into the lives and imaginations of Czech women.
A fantastic psychological thriller by enigmatic Romanian philosopher Eliade, this novel tells of Matei, an elderly academic pursued by the Nazis for his prodigious powers of memory and comprehension. Suspenseful, witty and poignant.
A collection of short stories from a Bulgarian writer, which encapsulates the zeitgeist of a post-communist society in all its weirdness and wonder. Translated by the author of 'Street Without A Name'.
Fischer's hilarious debut follows two young Hungarian basketball players through the turbulent years post-WW2 and pre-Revolution. Pataki and Gyuri travel across their homeland on an epic quest for adventure, and find it in considerable doses. A great read.
Raise a glass to Atlantic books for publishing this thumpingly brilliant collected poems of the great Polish poet. A born poet, compelled to use poetry for the highest human means, Herbert is not always easy but he is always fascinating. This volume is edited and translated from the Polish by Alissa Valles with a fine introduction by Adam Zagajewski.
First translated in 1968, this is a real gem. Milos is a gauche young apprentice at a tiny but strategically crucial Bohemian train station in 1945. In less than 100 pages Hrabal weaves his memorably comic and heroic tale. A true Czech classic.
A glitteringly comic novel charting the rise and fall of its remarkable hero Ditie, a daydreaming hotel waiter who comes into great fortune only to lose it. Deceptively whimsical, Hrabal here deftly skewers the 20th Century trials of his country.
A slender but profound novel. Learning to drive in 1990s Gdansk the narrator regales his instructor with tales of his family's enduring love affair with the famous automobile, in doing so contrasting the golden era of Poland's pre-war independence with the dismal communist years. Excellent.
An exquisite translation of one of Poland's most uncomfortable masterstrokes of literature. On its publication in 1928, Jasienski's brutal dissection of utopian fantasies and transformation of Paris into a product of disease-addled minds caused uproar. With its strikingly immediate prose and bleak portrayal of mercenary relationships, I Burn Paris has lost none of its punch.
Josef K. is on trial for his right to exist. Chilling, prophetic and compelling, this is one of Kafka's, and the 20th Century's, best. In the words of Camus its greatness is that 'it offers everything and confirms nothing'.
Budai becomes stranded in a city where every language but his own is spoken. Struggling to survive he finds comfort in an unconventional relationship with the elevator-operator in his hotel. A haunting dystopian classic with a unique sense of humour.
An extraordinary and deeply moving novel that tells of a 14-year-old Hungarian Jew sent to Auschwitz. Finding himself an outsider among his own people, Gyuri becomes an acute observer and makes for a compelling narrator.
'I killed my husband last night. I used a dental drill to bore a hole in his skull. I waited to see if a dove would fly out but out came a big black crow instead.' So begins this absorbing and passionate novel of Prague, told in the voices of three generations.