Information about the author.
In Europe Central, Vollmann presents a mesmerizing series of intertwined paired stories that compare and contrast the moral decisions made by various figures—some famous, some infamous, some unknown—associated with the warring authoritarian cultures of Germany and the USSR in the twentieth century. He conjures up two generals, one Russian and one German, who collaborate with the enemy for different reasons and with different results. Another pairing tells of two heroes—a female Russian partisan martyred at the beginning of World War II and a young German man who joins the SS in order to reveal its secrets and halt its crimes. Several stories concern the complex and elusive Soviet composer Dmitri Shostakovich and the Stalinist assaults against his work and life; also explored are the fates of artists and poets such as Käthe Kollwitz, Anna Akhmatova, and the documentary filmmaker Roman Karmen. Europe Central is another high-wire act of fiction by a writer of prodigious talent.
The Imperial Valley of southeastern California and the U.S./Mexico border is a place with a heavy history and an uncertain future. It is a land of great progress and crushing failure, home to a past that includes migrant workers, Mexican laborers, struggling farmers, corporate exploitation, pollution, the forgotten paradise of the Salton Sea, and underground tunnels that housed illegal Chinese immigrants, brothels, and gambling dens. Even at the turn of the twentieth century, few settled in the Imperial Valley because of its hot desert climate and lack of water. In 1901, the Imperial Land Company recognized the area’s soil potential and diverted the waters of the Colorado River to it, in effect transforming wasteland into productive farmland. Named for the corporation that brought it to life, the Imperial Valley, its surrounding regions (including the Coachella and Mexicali Valleys), and the people who live there are the subjects of the latest work by acclaimed author and now published photographer William T. Vollmann…[more]
A labor of seventeen years, Vollmann’s first book of non-fiction since 1992’s An Afghanistan Picture Show is a gravely urgent invitation to look back at the world’s long, bloody path and find some threads of meaning, wisdom, and guidance to plot a moral course. From the street violence of prostitutes and junkies to the centuries-long battles between the Native Americans and European colonists,Vollmann’s mesmerizing imagery and compelling logic is presented with authority born of astounding research and personal experience.
The Rifles establishes more firmly than ever before that William Vollmann is, in the words of the The Washington Post, “the most prodigiously talented and historically important American novelist under thirty-five.” This work, the sixth in Vollmann’s projected seven-novel cycle examining the clash of native Americans and their European colonizers, is at once a gripping tale of adventure, a contemporary love story, and a chronicle of the ongoing destruction of Inuit lifeways.
It is one hundred and fifty years ago. Our continent has been mapped east, west, and south, but the white explorers who hope to discover the Northwest Passage have found only ice and death. Sir John Franklin—cheerful, determined, and dangerously rigid—sets out to complete the Passage with hundreds of men and supplies for three years. This is the third Arctic expedition he has commanded; on both of the others he has defied the warnings of the Inuit and Indians he’s encountered along the way. This time…[more]