Travel Pictures

Divided into four parts, Travel Pictures by Heinrich Heine (1797-1856) is a proud, unruly book that was inspired by the poet's travels across Germany and Italy during the early part of the 19th century. Rather than sticking to the familiar travelogue form, Heine's book is an exercise in poetic fancy that reads like a collection of short stories. Curiously, Heine seems less invested in the lyrical evocation of the places that he visited -- as one might expect from a writer identified with German Romanticism -- than in treating the reader to a number of baser delights, such as pulling pranks, savaging one's enemies, and recounting a good ghost story. One display of Heine's earthiness is occasioned by the lack of a vacancy at an inn, obliging the author to share a room with a traveling salesman. Alas, the man from Frankfurt regales Heine -- a converted Jew -- with a carelessly anti-Semitic remark about Jewish merchants' abdication of noble values in favor of maximizing their profit margins. In response to this, Heine tells the man that he's a sleepwalker and apologizes, in advance, for any misfortune that may be visited upon him due to this condition. In the morning, Heine writes: "he poor fellow did not shut an eye all night, fearing that I might in my sleepwalking state do something regrettable with the pistols I kept lying in front of my bed." After reading this poet's biting account of his travels, one would imagine that most readers will presume that those pistols were loaded and primed for any eventuality.

April 23: " 'A job,' the woman repeated again, smiling, as if I hadn't heard her. 'Would you like one?' "

Kenneth Calhoun (Black Moon) and Lysely Tenorio (Monstress) of the Discover Great New Writers program on B-movies, heritage, and finales.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
A Private Venus

Dubbed "the Italian Simenon," Giorgio Scerbanenco (1911-1969) began his crime-writing career with books set in the USA, but quickly shifted scene closer to home, the city of Milan.  In this adventure, appearing in English for the first time, his underdog hero Dr. Duca Lamberti finds himself in the middle of a seedy, scantily clad criminal racket, where the presence of an outsider could result in death.

The Promise of Hope

Killed last year in the infamous terror attack at Nairobi's Westgate mall, Kofi Awoonor was a national treasure in his native Ghana.  His career began in 1964 with Rediscovery, and this magnum opus serves as a tribute to his entire long journey charting his beloved nation's course through his accomplished poetry.

Winter Mythologies and Abbots

A pair of linked stories finds that, as translator Ann Jefferson relates, "[Pierre] Michon's great theme is the precarious balance between belief and imposture, and the way the greatest aspirations can be complicated by physical desire or the equally urgent desire for what he calls glory."