The fact that quite a few NYRB Classics sport rather “inflammatory” covers recently became a topic of interest around here. We got to wondering if we’re all repressed pyromaniacs. Or if some mad marketing employee here decided that “fire sells.” Not that anyone buys a book for its cover or anything.
Underneath the sizzling exteriors of each of the above titles, however, is a really great story. Clockwise from the top-left:
Unforgiving Years, Victor Serge’s harrowing depiction of World War II, told from the streets of Paris, Leningrad, a destroyed city in Germany, and, in the aftermath, Mexico.
Memed, My Hawk, a novel by Yashar Kemal about a young boy growing up in a desperately poor village in Turkey. He attempts escape, fails, tries again and … you’ll have to read the book.
Hav, a one-of-a-kind novel in which Jan Morris wields her legendary travel writing skills to bring to life a completely fictional and utterly beautiful city. After reading this book, it’s hard to believe that Hav doesn’t exist in our world.
Blood on the Forge, by William Attaway. A devastating vision of the African-American Great Migration that follows the fictional Moss brothers’ escape from the rural South, only to find themselves in the inferno of the Northern steel mills. (The cover is, aptly, a photograph of molten steel. Youch.)
Fiery photo credits/descriptions in the same order: Antony Gormley, Waste Man, 2006; Waves of fire near cattle pens, Chase County, Kansas, 1990 © Larry Schwarm; Hav cover image © Lee Gibbons; Molten steel, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania © Nathan Benn/Corbis.