Gaudeamus by Mircea Eliade review – an ode to the joys of student life

The Romanian-born author beautifully captures the buzz of being a university undergraduate in 1920s Bucharest

The Romanian-born academic Eliade is most famous for his studies of religious history, but his Diary of a Short-Sighted Adolescent, an account of his teenage years first published in English in 2016, revealed he was also an engaging – if not exactly straightforward – writer of his own life. In Gaudeamus, written in 1928 and translated into English by Christopher Bartholomew, the undergraduate Eliade is torn between the rigours of study and the pleasures of company as he escapes “the austerity of adolescence” in 1920s Bucharest.

Eliade has been criticised for his links to the far-right Iron Guard, but two boorish antisemites get short shrift here

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The End of the Fxxxing World review – a modern ballad of angst and murder

Charles Forsman’s graphic novel about teenage fugitives in the American midwest, now adapted for TV, is a lurid miniature epic

This tale of teens on the run began as a 2013 series of eight-page comic strips set in the American midwest. Reissued as a graphic novel on the back of the acclaimed UK-set adaptation shown on Channel 4 and Netflix, it’s a short, satisfying modern ballad of angst and mass murder.

James and Alyssa flee their homes after he punches his dad and steals the family car. They narrate alternate chapters of a book that’s at once a brutally honest tale of teenage dislocation and a lurid portrait of a small-town America inhabited by bullies, abusers and Satanists.

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Out of Nothing review – a breezy trip from the big bang to the end of days

Daniel Locke and David Blandy’s graphic novel covers everything from the creation of the universe to hip-hop through the eyes of a blue-skinned time traveller

This bright, imaginative graphic novel moves from the universe’s creation to its destruction, taking in clay tablets, the Gutenberg Bible, the birth of hip-hop and DNA sequencing. Out of Nothing gives its odyssey a human face through its narrator, a blue-skinned, green-eyed time traveller who is as happy waiting in a sea of blackness for time to begin as she is talking about the world wide web with Tim Berners-Lee.

Her account celebrates humanity’s attempts to explore the world around it and the great beyond, from cave paintings and lion totems to scientists and astronauts. Darkness (whether the Manhattan Project or existential nihilism) lingers around the edges, but this is a mostly breezy account, fuelled by the good stuff – campfire companionship, creative leaps and symbols that talk ...

Blankets by Craig Thompson review – one of the best graphic novels of all time

This touching, passionate account of growing up in the American midwest is officially released for the first time in the UK

Blankets has been garlanded with praise since its publication in 2003, winning an Eisner award and regularly featuring in lists of the best graphic novels of all time. But Thompson’s autobiographical tale of family life and young love in the American midwest has never before received an official UK release. First-time readers expecting an instant showstopper may wind up disappointed: the book unspools gradually over 600 black-and-white pages as young Craig negotiates life, sharing blankets unwillingly with his younger brother and reverently with his girlfriend Raina. It’s a childhood cloaked in snow, in which money is ever tight and Christ ever present, and school is a hostile place. The dialogue can be clunky, but Thompson has a great eye for the moment, and the pages fly by as Craig ...

The White Review Anthology review – bold literary collection

A rewarding mixture of short stories, reportage, photography and criticism from the periodical

Seven years ago a New York intern and a London journalist drunkenly decided to launch a literary periodical “unconstrained by form, subject or genre”. The White Review is now on its 20th issue, and celebrates this milestone with a frequently thrilling anthology mixing short stories, reportage, photography and literary criticism. The latter is perhaps the weakest strand, although Lauren Elkin turns a crisis of confidence into an illuminating exploration of feminist writing. The journalism is great fun – Patrick Langley and Alexander Christie-Miller paint precious pictures of the respective transformations wrought by development in London’s once booming, now ghostly Silvertown and in Turkey’s Pontus, where a people shaped by falconry and the tea trade overlook the lifeless depths of the Black Sea. The fiction ranges far and wide. China Miéville tells of urban pyromancy, Claire Louise-Bennett spins a ...

Birth of a Bridge by Maylis de Kerangal review – a symphony of human drama

There’s tremendous energy in this novel about the building of a California bridge from the Wellcome prize winnerSome structures are so grand and defining that it’s hard to imagine they haven’t always been there. But as Wellcome prize-winner Kerangal shows in her striking 2010 novel, translated by Jessica Moore, the bigger the project, the bigger the story. Her setting is Coca, a fictional California city that sits beside a vast river, “a long golden cobra lazing and wild, lying curved like a trigger across an entire continent”. Few locals seem to need a new crossing, but ambition and money talk, and plans are made for a suspension bridge 6,200ft long and 100ft wide that will put Coca on the map. The result is a feverish coming together of men, women and technology as project managers, construction workers and hangers-on swarm, and great machines tear the earth and inch their ...

Pantheon by Hamish Steele review – meet the Egyptian gods

Savage, bawdy, irreverent and uproariously funny, this graphic novel has moments of grandeur and insight that make it educational as well as entertaining As the treatments of Beowulf and The Epic of Gilgamesh in Russ Kick’s inspiring The Graphic Canon showed, the strangeness and brutality of ancient myth can work surprisingly well in comic-book form. Illustrator Hamish Steele’s tale of the Egyptian gods is another fine example of the genre. Pantheon begins with the world’s creation by a mysterious aquatic pyramid, but its main subject is the struggle for Egypt’s throne after weary sun god Ra leaves the Earth to Osiris, Isis, Set and Nephthys. The resulting action is savage, bawdy and often uproariously funny, full of trickery, sex, revenge and rebirth. Steele knows his stuff, but Pantheon is certainly not reverent: pastiches of Mrs Doubtfire and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? sit alongside decidedly contemporary dialogue (“Husband, don’t ...

Pantheon by Hamish Steele review – meet the Egyptian gods

Savage, bawdy, irreverent and uproariously funny, this graphic novel has moments of grandeur and insight that make it educational as well as entertaining As the treatments of Beowulf and The Epic of Gilgamesh in Russ Kick’s inspiring The Graphic Canon showed, the strangeness and brutality of ancient myth can work surprisingly well in comic-book form. Illustrator Hamish Steele’s tale of the Egyptian gods is another fine example of the genre. Pantheon begins with the world’s creation by a mysterious aquatic pyramid, but its main subject is the struggle for Egypt’s throne after weary sun god Ra leaves the Earth to Osiris, Isis, Set and Nephthys. The resulting action is savage, bawdy and often uproariously funny, full of trickery, sex, revenge and rebirth. Steele knows his stuff, but Pantheon is certainly not reverent: pastiches of Mrs Doubtfire and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? sit alongside decidedly contemporary dialogue (“Husband, don’t ...

Collecting Sticks by Joe Decie review – a warts-and-all tale of glamping

An affectionate graphic novel debut that captures perfectly the in-jokes, nonsensical conversations, even boredom of a family weekend away
A family – organised mum, boyish dad and quirky child – turn their backs on social media and city life to go glamping. It could be the set-up for a multivitamin ad, but Joe Decie’s first graphic novel is a low-key ode to the precious little nothings of family life. This is a warts-and-all vision of the weekend away – alarms are missed, directions mangled, fires don’t start and bedtimes lead to insomnia. Other than these small calamities – and a very British downpour – there’s not much to report. The trio make it to their woodland hut, wander around gathering sticks and climbing trees, go to the pub and walk along a stark beach before it’s time to go home again. But Decie is a fine chronicler of life ...

Moranifesto by Caitlin Moran review – spiky, funny and passionate

Whether she’s slamming inequality or bounding around the Olympics, there’s a lovely energy to this collection of newspaper columns Collections of newspaper columns tend to be better to flick through than read – hobby horses are fine if just a few, but a whole herd can put you off. Moran has been a columnist since she was 18 and is now negotiating middle age (in what seems like cheerfully disgraceful fashion) and minor celebrity (thanks to a prodigious Twitter following and the bestselling How to Be a Woman). There are certainly repeat topics in her recent writing – you’ll learn several times that Moran likes David Bowie and talking to gay men while drunk, and dislikes blithe politicians and Piers Morgan. Subjects such as hangovers or malfunctioning printers are obvious enough to merit little beyond a shrug of recognition. But a lovely energy flows through the book, whether she ...

Trading Futures by Jim Powell review – claustrophobic and compelling

Powell’s dark tale about a City trader’s decline, doubt and attempt at escape feels authentic, even if it doesn’t soarMatthew Oxenhay unwillingly attends his own 60th birthday party, drinks too much and delivers a bilious speech in front of his pleasant wife, blameless children and boss. Then, having been let go by said boss a few weeks later, he starts greeting his embarrassed colleagues outside his City office at the start and end of each day, whiling away the hours in between in coffee shops. Powell’s second novel could almost be a comedy of a bumbling Englishman; instead, it’s a dark tale about the decisions we make and where they leave us. Over the years, Oxenhay has moved from 60s radical to a frustrated life in the suburbs, in which alcohol, lies and disappointment have congealed to form a shell that keeps the world at a safe distance. “We invented sex ...

Trading Futures by Jim Powell review – claustrophobic and compelling

Powell’s dark tale about a City trader’s decline, doubt and attempt at escape feels authentic, even if it doesn’t soarMatthew Oxenhay unwillingly attends his own 60th birthday party, drinks too much and delivers a bilious speech in front of his pleasant wife, blameless children and boss. Then, having been let go by said boss a few weeks later, he starts greeting his embarrassed colleagues outside his City office at the start and end of each day, whiling away the hours in between in coffee shops. Powell’s second novel could almost be a comedy of a bumbling Englishman; instead, it’s a dark tale about the decisions we make and where they leave us. Over the years, Oxenhay has moved from 60s radical to a frustrated life in the suburbs, in which alcohol, lies and disappointment have congealed to form a shell that keeps the world at a safe distance. “We invented sex ...

Trading Futures by Jim Powell review – claustrophobic and compelling

Powell’s dark tale about a City trader’s decline, doubt and attempt at escape feels authentic, even if it doesn’t soarMatthew Oxenhay unwillingly attends his own 60th birthday party, drinks too much and delivers a bilious speech in front of his pleasant wife, blameless children and boss. Then, having been let go by said boss a few weeks later, he starts greeting his embarrassed colleagues outside his City office at the start and end of each day, whiling away the hours in between in coffee shops. Powell’s second novel could almost be a comedy of a bumbling Englishman; instead, it’s a dark tale about the decisions we make and where they leave us. Over the years, Oxenhay has moved from 60s radical to a frustrated life in the suburbs, in which alcohol, lies and disappointment have congealed to form a shell that keeps the world at a safe distance. “We invented sex ...

Euphoria by Heinz Helle review – life after the apocalypse in Austria

Bonhomie fades as five thirtysomething men find themselves ill-equipped to survive amid the detritus of a ruined country After the apocalypse, most fictions tell us, things may be horrible but at least they will be interesting. There are no tidal waves or cavalcades of motorbike-riding freaks here. Instead, against a backdrop of drab countryside, deserted roads, golf courses and provincial nightclubs, five men struggle to light fires and scavenge food from the detritus of a ruined Austria. They are on a boozy weekend in a mountain cabin when disaster strikes: everyone is vague about the details, but the land is ravaged and life virtually wiped out. Cormac McCarthy’s The Road had the fierce love of a father and son at its heart, but here the bonhomie of a group of thirtysomething friends is gradually stripped bare. Their competence as scientists, financial advisers and pilots proves meaningless, and their treasured memories ...

Euphoria by Heinz Helle review – life after the apocalypse in Austria

Bonhomie fades as five thirtysomething men find themselves ill-equipped to survive amid the detritus of a ruined country After the apocalypse, most fictions tell us, things may be horrible but at least they will be interesting. There are no tidal waves or cavalcades of motorbike-riding freaks here. Instead, against a backdrop of drab countryside, deserted roads, golf courses and provincial nightclubs, five men struggle to light fires and scavenge food from the detritus of a ruined Austria. They are on a boozy weekend in a mountain cabin when disaster strikes: everyone is vague about the details, but the land is ravaged and life virtually wiped out. Cormac McCarthy’s The Road had the fierce love of a father and son at its heart, but here the bonhomie of a group of thirtysomething friends is gradually stripped bare. Their competence as scientists, financial advisers and pilots proves meaningless, and their treasured memories ...

The Can Opener’s Daughter review – knives fall like rain in twisted graphic novel

Children make their parents and gods speak from inkpots in Rob Davis’s dystopic take on a coming of age taleIt’s a world in which mothers are hard-drinking, poorly adjusted machines, fathers are simple appliances and children plot their own demise. Rob Davis introduced the Bear Park and Grave Acre in his surreal The Motherless Oven, and the second book in his gripping trilogy continues the tale of three rebellious children in a fantastic, perilous world. There are plenty of wonders here – children make their parents, strange bear-babies dwell in the woods and gods speak from ink pots. But this is a dystopia of mandated suicides where knives fall like rain, ruled by a vindictive weather clock who happens to be Vera Pike’s mum. The Motherless Oven saw Pike and her friends Cas and Scarper flee the police in a bid to avert Scarper’s death day, and The ...

The Jesus Man by Christos Tsiolkas review – a 1999 novel finally published in the UK

This dark story follows a Greek-Italian family in Melbourne through the 1980s and 90s as unemployment rises, acid house emerges and racism taints pubs and politicsA brutal crime sits at the heart of Tsiolkas’s raw 1999 novel, now published in the UK for the first time. It follows a Greek-Italian family in Melbourne through the 1980s and 90s, as unemployment rises, acid house emerges and racism taints pubs and politics. Oldest brother Dom, a carpenter who grows weed on the side, is close to his youngest sibling, handsome, curious Lou. But middle brother Tommy stands apart, and when he loses his job as a printer, he shuts off from the world and gorges on pornography and food. Most of the first half of The Jesus Man follows Tommy in a repetitive parade of porn shops, dole offices and arguments, sullen monosyllables masking an internal monologue that shouts out in ...

Munch by Steffen Kverneland review – an ambitious graphic biography

Matching original quotes with dark artworks, this fine book shines a bright light on the Norwegian artist This ambitious graphic biography of Edvard Munch, translated by Francesca M Nichols, its text almost entirely direct quotes from the artist and his contemporaries, took seven years to complete. The resulting story sometimes jars, but shines a bright light on the Norwegian artist. The text’s shifts in style are matched by dark artwork that mixes caricatured renderings of Munch’s boozy, bickering bohemian clique with careful re-creations of works in progress, photos and images of mental strife. Kverneland pops up regularly to offer academic background and ribald quips, but never obscures his ambitious, self-absorbed subject, who travels from Norway to France and Germany, tussling with his critics from behind a comically protruding chin. The account explores Munch’s troubled relationships with women and – in a touching series of panels – his own family; ...

Tram 83 by Fiston Mwanza Mujila review – a comic tale of late-night mayhem

Set in a bar in a Congolese mining town, this hip, award-winning debut takes a while to warm up but ends up gripping like a vice Three places loom large in Mujila’s award-winning debut, translated by Roland Glasser. The City-State’s train station is a great, gutted metal structure where writer Lucien arrives from the Back-Country, on the run from the “fog of his past”. Tram 83 is a pulsating bar, fuelled by dog kebabs, great music and bad booze, where his old friend Requiem takes him for a drink. And Hope Mine is the source of the City-State’s prosperity and misery, its tunnels holding diamonds and cobalt. The City-State is based on Lubumbashi, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and while Lucien’s attempts to publish an elaborate play about Africa’s collective memory supply a narrative arc, the book is really about a dark, surreal place and its denizens. There’s the ...

The Voyage of the Dolphin review – a jovial tale of polar adventure

Kevin Smith’s second novel sees three incompetent undergrads try to recover a legendary giant’s bones from the Arctic It’s 1916. Across Europe, young men are dying on muddy battlefields; in Dublin, Republican rebels are planning an uprising. But inside the rarefied walls of the city’s Trinity College, claret is flowing and a polar expedition to recover a legendary giant’s bones is being planned. Smith’s second novel is a jovial tale of post-Victorian adventure complete with redacted swearwords and an indomitable dog. With Trinity’s eligible men off fighting the kaiser, it’s left to three incompetent undergrads to follow a map to the resting place of Bernard McNeill, a man from Tyrone who grew to 8ft 9in and died while cheffing on an Arctic expedition. So self-regarding Fitzmaurice, hopeless medic Rafferty and nature-loving Crozier head north with an eccentric crew, a stowaway suffragette and Fitzmaurice’s haughty pet iguana on a journey that ...