In brief: The Love Songs of WEB Du Bois; Impossible; Jan Ullrich – comments | Books

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Honoree Fanonne Jeffers
4th power, £9.99, pp816 (paperback)

Jeffers fills his wonderful debut with references to The purple colorbut love songs by Web Du Bois should also be seen as an enduring expression of the American experience. In the “song” sections punctuating the novel, enslaved Africans and Native Americans are brutalized by European traders in the American South. Fast forward to the late 20th century and young, funny, Ailey is our narrator; spending summers in small town Georgia enduring the traumas of all the women in her maternal line. Jeffers brilliantly balances oppression and cruelty with resistance and resilience.

Erri De Luca (translated by NS Thompson)
Mountain Leopard, £14.99, pp160

If there is an entry point into the work of award-winning Italian writer Erri De Luca, then NS Thompson’s excellent translation is surely it. Combining many of De Luca’s concerns – he is a reclusive mountaineer and sometimes an activist – Impossible is ostensibly a subtle detective story beginning when a hiker falls suspicious to his death in the Dolomites. Our narrator is questioned not only about his proximity to the event, but about his passage in a left-wing context. Thoughtful and wise about life and the landscape, it is the most cerebral of thrillers.

Daniel Friebe
Macmillan, £25, pp304

Twenty-five years ago, the enigmatic East German Jan Ullrich won his first Tour de France and was widely expected to dominate cycling. What happened next is a classic story of falling from grace, a life of unbearable pressure leading to drug abuse, mental fragility and broken relationships. Friebe, however, is less interested in separating Ullrich than in piecing together a complex character: “the screams drowned out the hosannas”. Combining journalistic rigor and genuine concern for its subject, it is a superlative biography as well as a social and sporting history.


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