Books of the year 2011: Benjamin Kunkel

Leaving the Atocha Station - Ben Lerner

 

Ben Lerner's Leaving the Atocha Station (Coffee House Press, $15) is a slightly deranged, philosophically inclined monologue in the Continental tradition running from Büchner's Lenz to Thomas Bernhard and Javier Marías. The adoption of this mode by a young American narrator - solipsistic, overmedicated, feckless yet ambitious - ends up feeling like the most natural thing in the world.

Meanwhile, the anthropologist and agitator David Graeber, allegedly the man behind Occupy Wall Street's "We are the 99 per cent" slogan, has produced in Debt: the First 5,000 Years (Melville House, $24), a breezy and bracing corrective to the sado-monetarism being visited upon Europe by its finance ministers, and the historical myopia of orthodox economics. Both Lerner's beautiful novel and Graeber's brilliant history locate our present moment in time.

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