Could two people live a more elegant Left Bank existence? He's a screenwriter, she shops at Agnes B. She sleeps with X, he drinks with V. He sleeps with P, L and C . . . but still loves G. Where will it all end? Probably with lunch at La Coupole. Short sentences and short names make Dan Franck's novel of fortysomething ennui a perfect companion for a bout of winter flu; though a bit like Lemsip, leaves a slightly bad taste in the mouth.
Journal of a Solitude by May Sarton, The Women's Press £7.99
"When it comes to the important things one is always alone", wrote the poet and novelist May Sarton in a February entry of the journal she kept over 20 years ago. Living in semi-isolation in a remote corner of New England, even here she found it hard work, distracted by the ever-encroaching demands of the American literary circuit and her own dark moods. You can see why the journal has always had its fans - Sarton's high seriousness and passionate longings are grounded by a healthy respect for aired cupboards and clean sheets . . . a seductive combination. Emma Hagestadt
The Concert by Ismail Kadare, Harvill, £15.99
This is a cracking tale, and one that confirms Kadare's place at the top table of Eastern Bloc literary stars who are now earning wider recognition. While it is predictably anti-totalitarian, The Concert is neither a historical nor an angry book. It is anovel first and foremost, an insight into the fictional lives of some ordinary people in a country renowned only for being the birthplace of Mother Theresa. Kadare's setting is Tirana, a city with an uncertain past and used to having its future decided in foreign capitals. Despite having been translated into English via French, Kadare's prose is full of crystal moments, and though the plot is slow at best, what he offers is a canvas containing the intertwining lives of nine characters, all drawn with aprecise, perceptive and forgiving brush.
After Ovid edited by Michael Hofmann and James Lasdun, Faber £14.99
It is amazing how the classical poets go on and on, Homer pulsing through the minds of Walcott and Logue, Aeschylus through Tony Harrison's, and Ovid through - well, through most of the leading poets of this generation: Ted Hughes, Ciaran Carson, Simon Armitage, Carol Ann Duffy, Tom Paulin, Craig Raine and Thom Gunn are among those represented in this volume. Their approaches range from the most precise narrative renderings, to tiny, imagistic moments, to personal updates that often roam very far from t he original. Among the range of bewilderingly rich offerings, it's worth pausing on Eavan Boland's reflection on the tale of Persephone. As a mother speaking to her own daughter about the need to pluck experience, she adds something warmly human to thel egend. And Seamus Heaney's lolloping verse gives a nice physical weight to the transformations he describes: "So each of the landlogged women heaved and hauled / In vain, in agony, as the roots took hold / And bark began to thicken the smooth skin."Reuse content