The Review’s Review: Secrets, Sebald, and Simmering Heat


This Week’s Reading

Still from Alicia Scherson’s Il Futuro, 2013. Courtesy of Strand Releasing.

A film I often come back to and that I think everyone should see is Il Futuro (2013), by the Chilean director Alicia Scherson. It’s based on A Little Lumpen Novelita, one of my favorite novels by Roberto Bolaño, translated by Natasha Wimmer and published by New Directions in 2014. The book is about Bianca, orphaned in her teens by a car crash, and the life of crime she and her brother begin to lead soon after. Starring Manuela Martelli and the late Rutger Hauer, Scherson’s film conveys Bianca’s new sense of reality in scenes of dark, destabilizing eroticism, and sometimes warmth and levity. Scherson’s film adaptation of Bolaño’s novel The Third Reich is also in the works, titled 1989. —Amina Cain 

Peter Atkins risks a big overpromise in the short introduction to the “short introduction” to The Laws of Thermodynamics—understand these laws and “you will know what drives the universe.” Ever the seeker, I dived into this slim orange book with high expectations and found an unexpected treatise on language. Atkins writes that “science … takes terms with an everyday meaning and sharpens them—some would say, hijacks them—so that they take on an exact and unambiguous meaning.” System, surroundings, open, close, heat, spontaneous, tendency all became rich and weighty, and in the heady way of reading a Wallace Stevens poem, paragraphs on steam engines and combustion started to feel like metaphors for everything and nothing—or, probably, for whatever drives the universe. —Lauren Kane

FOTOMATIC, a post-punk trio out of Toulouse, France, has been obsessing me for the better part of a month. Released this past June, their 7″ featuring “Bipolarity” is frenetic yet polished. It’s heaven for hotheaded listeners like me. On the B-side, FOTOMATIC covers “Take a Ride,” by the Parisian all-girl punk band Les Lou’s, whose sole extant recording of it is the one used in the 1979 cult film La Brune et Moi. The story goes that the film screened for a week on the Left Bank and then receded into obscurity for a few decades. We have FOTOMATIC to thank for digging it up. —Jay Graham

I just finished Sybille Bedford’s A Legacy. I’d never read any Sybille Bedford before and now feel I have to read everything she’s ever written. A Legacy is the strangest composition, a kind of memoir of the lives of her parents before she was born, but really a novel about families and their secrets and the way a secret keeps on operating in a family over time. Also, her dialogue is some of the best novelistic dialogue I’ve read. —Adam Thirlwell 


Still from Fradique’s Air Conditioner, 2020. © Geração 80. Courtesy of MUBI.


Temperatures are high in Luanda, Angola’s capital, and air conditioners are mysteriously falling from apartment windows. From this straightforward premise, Angolan director Fradique creates Air Conditioner, which follows Matacedo, a security guard, on a quest to repair his awful boss’s air-conditioning unit. With pleasurably meandering shots of everyday life in Luanda and a borderline surreal scene set in an electronics repair shop, Air Conditioner isn’t shy about critiquing the class divide—as a T-shirt shown in one of the film’s opening series of stills declares, ART IS RESISTANCE. —Rhian Sasseen

Pandemic trauma has presented differently in each of us. Standing in line at a grocery store, I noticed the words “September 2021” on the cover of The Atlantic, with its story on a young man killed in the 9/11 attacks, and thought, The magazines here are a whole year out of date? Of course, it was my own mind that had slipped. Jennifer Senior’s piece is both a kind of stunning synecdoche and a timely exploration of how grief has as many variants as it has hosts, mutating until we are each alone in our memory of even the most common tragedy. —Julia Berick

A new album by Torres—stage name of the singer-songwriter and indie rock powerhouse Mackenzie Scott—is just what the world needs right now. Thirstier, her fifth, is unrelenting in its intensity and unafraid to grip live emotional wires, driven, as all Scott’s music is, to get at the truth about love and connection. Everywhere I look, there’s something to be scared of; thank you, Torres, for feeling all the feels I can’t afford to. —Craig Morgan Teicher

Once, in a letter to his friend Marie, W. G. Sebald enclosed a photo of his sister Gertrud and his friend Sepp Willers. The picture had been taken six months before Sebald was born. Sebald told Marie, “It’s outrageous… they clearly don’t miss me.” “Dear Max,” I thought as I read the first biography of Sebald, Carole Angier’s forthcoming Speak, Silence, and pictured that melancholy white mustache, “we all miss you terribly.” —Robin Jones


W. G. Sebald. Photo: © Jerry Bauer. Courtesy of New Directions.


Read Amina Cain’s interview with Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi, published earlier this week on the Daily.