The enigma of Modiano ?

 

Well Monday see’s the first post nobel book by Patrick Modiano come out its only on kindle for now by Yale press world republic of letters imprints are bringing out Suspended sentences a collection of three novellas by him , they are described as an ode to a bygone Paris and the dark days of Nazi rules and the writers own experience  , this sounds rather like the search warrant , which those of you that read my review know I instantly fell in love with .So we now need to know how this writer hasn’t ever really taken of in the English speaking world ? So why has this not happened , well has he not won a big prize ? no he won the Prix Goncourt ok a long time ago but it is the biggest prize in French literature , he has also won a number of big european prizes before the Nobel win so no that isn’t a reason .Not enough books ? no he has written 26 novels so there is a body of work by him .His books are they  too long ? no they tend to be below 200 pages which means they are actually cheap to translate .The style of the books tend to be Literary detective book missed with memories a sort of Sebald Eco mix so that isn’t really a reason for people not to buy them as both those writers are among the most popular selling writers in translation .Setting now this is maybe a problem a lot of his books look at the French war years , now I think in the 21st century maybe we are ready to rewrite the view of this period , yes it was bad , but people still had to live and this is at heart what a lot of his books seem to be about the everyday going ons of wartime France .He is called the New Proust I have seen , now for me this is another kiss of death line , it reminds me of the bands in the late 80’s and early 90’s that were given the tagline “The new smiths ” , i for one tend to be wary when a writer is directly compared to one of the greats of his own countries literature !! I did say on Grants post for his review of Honeymoon , which he had already order before the win after reading my review of search warrant , that maybe he was a little too subtle for English readers , in the fact that its good writing but not exciting , rather like Pamuk and LLosa both nobel winners that maybe just write  great books but not Standout books .But that said they both have been published most of their careers ,but maybe this is another reason , they have both been published mainly by one publisher were as Modiano books have come out on a number of publishers .Another reason maybe he is a little shy and isn’t interviewed a lot ,not a full enigma like Elena Ferrante or Thomas Pynchon  which maybe is a problem we like a writer we can’t see and ones we can see ,  but somepne  in-between we maybe just don’t get ! well a post of questions no answers I hope the Nobel win brings some more books by him I for one will be reading them .Maybe now he has won we will finally get to like him !

Have you a theory ?

Five wonderful years of Peirene Press lets go back to year one

stones in a landslide

This years sees the fifth year of Peirene press publishing the wonderful novellas in translation and on this #translationthurs , I m setting a challenge  for you all .They publish three books a year and each year has  a theme for the three books that  year .I for one have loved every single book I have read from them ,Meike seems to have a real talent to  bring three books on a theme every year that although different show different sides of the theme of the year and how this theme can be viewed around europe  . Any way its been five years since ,I read the first three books from Peirene so I’ve decide this  December I ‘m going to revisit those first three books on the theme of female voices  and review them again , to see if time has change my view of them but also to see if the five years since I reviewed them if this blogger has changed in the way I look at books ! I would love for some of my fellow bloggers to join in with just one or even all of the books , for the first time or just to revisit them like my self .The first three are beside the sea by Veronique Olmi  which has since been a play .Stone in a landslide by Maria Barbel , any one that has read this blog or followed me on twitter for any time know this is my all time favourite from Peirene , a classic of Catalan fiction and will tie nicely with the two recent books from there I have read .Lastly portrait of the mother as a young woman , a one sentence book that follows a young woman on one afternoon in Rome in 1943 .So just read and post over December if we use a hashtag of #peirene5  then we can see them on twitter .

What is your favourite book from Peirene press !! ?

The poisoning Angel by Jean Teule

 

The poisoning Angel by Jean Teule

French fiction

Original title – Fleur de Tonerre

Translator – Melaine Florence

Source review copy

I live in a town called Millhaven
And it’s small and it’s mean and it’s cold
But if you come around just as the sun goes down
You can watch the whole town turn to gold
It’s around about then that I used to go a-roaming
Singing La la la la La la la lie
All God’s children they all gotta die

My name is Loretta but I prefer Lottie
I’m closing in on my fifteenth year
And if you think you have seen a pair of eyes more green
Then you sure didn’t see them around here
My hair is yellow and I’m always a-combing
La la la la La la la lie
Mama often told me we all got to die

I choose the curse of milhaven , as lottie is a bit like Helene from NIck Cave’s wonderful album of murder Ballads ,source 

I struggle with historical fiction , I was one of the few people who didn’t really like Wolf Hall , so when this arrived from gallic books I wasn’t exactly jumping over the moon , but a quick read of the cover and I was caught by the tagline , She came , She cooked , She killed .Who couldn’t resist finding out more .I also want to try Jean Teule ,I know one of his earlier books Suicide shop is highly regard ,a multi talent man who also illustrates , makes films and is a Tv presenter , he has written ten novels and is married to the well-known French actress Miou-Miou .He is currently making a film of this book starring his wife .

Oh no,don’t pick that Helene , it’s a thunderflower .Goodness , that’s what I should call you from now on :”Thunderflower “. And don’t pull on that stem either ; it belongs to a viper flower .Don’t you know that a woman picked up a bunch of those and her tongue split in two ? You’re seven years old – when will you ever learn ?

Seven Helene gets her names and so much more !

The poisoning angel is based on the true story of Helene Jegado  , she was a french servant in 19th century France  .She is from  the Breton region of France , she was schooled via her mother in the old traditions of this region ,so this beautiful young girl grows up in the old world  .She starts working in households , we know her as thunderflower in the book ,which happens to be the original french title  .She travels around from household to household , doing various domestic servant jobs but mainly as a cook people love her cooking  , but what is she adding toi the pot as she cooks ! Now this is the twist in the tail Helene Jegado is one of the most notorious serial killers , as she travelled around in early 19th century France from town to town  , she is thought to have killed up to  36 people .We see her story , a mix of an ancient world of traditions and superstitions .It also shows how in a time when the end of people’s worlds tend to be with in their eyesight how some one could easily get away with murder .

“Helene Jegado is an excellent cook .My one regret is that I was unable to keep her until I die …. ” That’s what I call a glowing recommendation! This missive from the abbe … Lohro has no date .So since then ?

The humour is subtle at times in the book .

This book mixes  dark murder with comic touches so well . This for me is how true crime should be Helene comes to life as more than a woman who killed to more of a woman who by a stroke of fate and misguide sense of tradition want to be deaths henchman .It is a book like version of the murder ballads of the deep south of the US , where we hear the story of the murderer .Has it made me want to try more historic fiction ,well I think I will have more of an open mind next time one comes my way .AS for Jean Teule i have another of his books I was sent that will be jumping up my TBR pile .Jean conjures a world of ancient myths and traditions , and a young girl that thinks she is haunted by a ghost ,that becomes a killer .

Have you a favourite True crime novel ?

 

 

Winstons music Spike Island

On sky this week was the film Spike island a fictional take on four young lads in a band taking the trip to see the legendary Stone Roses gig on Spike Island , I could have gone to this gig back in 1990 a number of my friends went , I was a fan of them , not a big fan then as I was till a mad smiths fan back then .I did have a few stone rose t-shirts at the time , also the baggy jeans and Joe Bloggs sweatshirt that were the fashion .The film brought back the times for me , I remember hearing the stone rose for the first time at a friend’s house who had recorded them on a Tony Wilson show on  tv , i think it was called after dark , which at this time he had all the up and coming bands from Manchester the Happy Mondays and inspiral carpets were also both on it .I enjoyed the remind of my teen years , any fans of the music or growing up at the time will love the film it is steeped in the time and of course has loads of stone rose songs in it .I like being on the very edge of this time the Madchester scene , I had a friend at college that wrote the fanzine for Inspiral carpets for me the most underrated of the madchester bands , closely followed by the new fast automatic dafodils , that burnt out to soon .

Where you a fan of the madchester scene ?

Winstons books Translated Non-fiction

Well only two books arrived this week , that said I only read two books myself this week , had a busy week and a bit of a cold has led me not to read as much as usual .

IMG_1977

The first book to arrive was from istros book , Susan asked me if I’d like to try their latest a non fiction work by the leading intellectual and political voice in Albanian life Fatos Lubonja , the book follows the fall of the communist system with in Albania and the chaos of corruption pyramid schemes that followed it .This is also a reminder that I should add a few more Translated works of NON fiction to this blog , my big hope is that someone will translate Thomas Bernhard’s letters to his publisher from German this is one book I would love to read .

IMG_1978

The other book is the finished hardback edition of the new book by Cees nooteboom letter to Poseidon , I can’t wait to share this with you Cees is fast becoming one of my all time favourite writers and also I feel he should be a Nobel winner one day soon ,especially after Modiano won he is very much like him memories mean a lot to Cees .

What books did you have arrive this week ?

The Eagle’s throne by Carlos Fuentes

 

The Eagle’s throne by Carlos Fuentes

Mexican Fiction

Original title – La silla del águila

Translator – Kristina Cordero

Source – Personnel copy

 

Here we are, seeking out the Reds
Trying to keep the communists in order
Just remember when you’re sleeping in your beds
They’re only two days drive from the Texas border

How can a country large as ours be scared of such a threat
Well, if they won’t work for us, they’re against us you can bet
They may be sovereign countries but you folks at home forget
That they all want what we’ve got but they don’t know it yet

We’re making the world safe for capitalism

Billy Bragg wrote this song , The marching Ballard of the covert battalions ,the song is a satirical take on US foreign policy .

This was one of the first books I brought around the time I started the blog with the idea of  52 books from 52 countries , well of course that has long since been past and this book has sat on the shelf for over five years , I was attracted by both the fact it was a Fuentes novel , but also the great cover on this book a linocutout of an eagle is very eye-catching .Carlos Fuentes is probably the best known Mexican writer in his time a member of what is called the latin American boom ,he wrote over thirty novels , and was always a writer tipped for the Nobel prize .He supported Castro and was at one time investigated by FBI .I had thought i reviewed him before on the blog , but no this is the first by him on here .

Our modern communications system has suffered a grave paradox .On the one hand ,we strived to become part of the largest global communication network in existence .On the other hand , we have wanted to monopolise access to information for our Government’s benefit.

They put all their eggs in one basket so ended up getting cut off , when US struck back at them .

The eagles throne although written twelve years ago and set in 2020 , seems more apt now than it did at the time it was written .We are told the story in a series of letters , yes letters as the premise of the book is the the Mexican president and government in 2020 , has angered the US government  this has led to the US effectively removing all the modern communication tools from Mexico .So with letters are the only way contacting and keeping in touch .We see a change in life as people start to open up more in letters .The topic of course on the mind is how will take over The Eagle’s throne (the name of the seat of the president !) .So what we get is the inner workings of the Mexican government laid bare in letters as we see the leading figures and powerbrokers jostling for power and trying to get the throne and the blackout sorted .Also what secrets will be let out in the letters .

Ex-president Cesar Leon came to visit me .At first I didn’t even recognise him .That young man with wavy black hair is now a mature man with wavy white hair .Those matinée idol’s wavy locks are what define him for me , politically and morally as well as physically .They remind me of that old song “The waves of the lagoon” some waves come ,while others go .

I was struck by the opening of this letter it is so true , leaders do age when in power .

Now I said this is more meaningful now than twelve years ago , imagine the  present with out the chance to use smartphones , laptops etc .I doubt even Fuentes could see how much the world would move on and really even more on wireless communication , this is like the millenium bug happening a country thrown back to a time when the written word was the only way to contact one another .Another thread to this book is of course the relationship between mexico and the US , this strangely has changed as well (from the totally uniformed view of me ) it seems Mexico is growing and is often mentioned as one of those countries along side Brazil , China  and India that will one day hold more power in world affairs ,whereas the US has seen the world power shrinking in recent years .So Fuentes wrote this after fifty years of writing , it isn’t as epic as some of his other books but is said a unusal future take on the epistolary novel .I must not wait five years to have another book by Fuentes on the blog .

Have you read Fuentes

 

A song and album that have caught the eye

I still get two music magazines every month Mojo and uncut like I have for the last decade or more .I tend to mainly read the articles these days as there seems to be very little new that appears that really grabs me by the horns and makes me want to run out and listen to it but this one album has caught my eye in its reviews in this months Mojo and uncut it is a solo album from Steve Gunn , he has in the past been a member of kurt Vile’s backing  band an artist who’s work I have enjoyed .So i download onto my phone via spotify his album way out weather and am loving it , a mellow mournful album of blues songs .

What albums and singers have you enjoyed recently ?

 

Pedro Páramo by Juan Rulfo

 

Pedro Páramo By Juan Rulfo

Mexican fiction

Original title -Pedro Páramo

Translator – Margaret Sayers Peden

Source – Library copy

Have you got just a minute
Are you easily mad
Let me show you the back room
Where I saw the dead
Dancing like children
On a midsummer morn
And they asked me to join
They asked me to join
But my body was stubborn
Wouldn’t let me give in
So I offered a good deed
In return for a sin

I thought of this song even as i read this book I saw the dead by the underrated Irish band the villagers source

Now I ask myself a couple of years ago when the right time to read and put this book on the blog would be and I decide to wait as it is considered one of the most important books in Latin American fiction as it has influenced some of the biggest names in Latin American fiction .Juan Rulfo had lost both his parent before his tenth Birthday , he carried on to complete his schooling but due to university being on strike he ended up in Mexico city at the military academy ,which he left after three months worked as a clerk managing to study literature at the university in between .He started to write ,publishing a literary journal , then from getting a fellowship he got time to write his first two novel which where a huge hit and in 1955 this book his second book came out .

I came to Comala because I had been told my father a man named Pedro Páramo , lived there .It was my mother who told me .And I promised her that after shee died I would do it .She was near death , and I would have promised her anything .”Don’t fail to go see him ” she had insisted .”Some call him one thing , some another .I’m sure he will want to know you “

Juan completes the promise he made his dying mother .

Pedro Páramo   is the story of a son returning to his home town , after his mother death to find his father , but also to find out more about his father  .The son Juan Preciado sets out to the town of Comala .Now this is the point where the story starts getting odd because he gets to the town and finds it is full of ghosts of his fathers past and the present , so the story drifts between his father  Pedro Páramo time in the village , his father as a boy falling for a girl called Susana .Her life is one of death and madness .Pedro own life takes many a turn he is a womanizer , tyrant and quite a cruel man .But Juan is in the present where this town isn’t the vibrant place it once was now it’s a dying town .THis is a small part of what are many threads Juan sees in his time in Comala .

If was as if time had turned backward .Once again I saw the star nestling close to the moon ,scattering clouds .Flocks of thrushes .And suddenly , bright afternoon light .

Time is very fluid in this book it is almost as thou the past and present are one place at times .

It’s hard to grasp this book without giving to many bits and side stories away  as there are a number of small threads in this book .The book although 120 pages long feels like an epic russian novel by the time you have finished it you feel as thou it was a real epic journey not a short novella .You feel part of Juan Rulfo own story is in this  book , parents dying ,young family torn apart .His greatest influence as  a writer is on the generation that follow just after him .Marquez said he saw how to write after he felt blocked in his first four books , so yes this is the book that gave birth to magic realism , but is a book of Magic realism  , for me no it owes more to its writers homeland mexico where the dead are celebrated and death sometimes isn’t  the end of someones life these are echoes of what was once a more vibrant  place juan sees at times  .The book also shows how sometimes thwarted love as in the case of Pedro and Susana can lead people down different paths .For me the time was right to read it just after a burst of Marquez , but also Fuentes and Llosa in recent years you can see how this slim book had maybe pushed each of these writers to write in turn as I have also read the other great Mexican book that came out five years before this labyrinth of solitude by Octavio Paz a collection of Essays about mexico and its love of death and myths !

Have you a favourite book from Mexico

Winston’s books a tale of two cities !

Well there was four books arrive this week at Winston towers .

IMG_1975

First up is two more in the series Tales from the OUP press , this time they are visiting Copenhagen , with stories from Hans Christian Anderson , Jakob Esersbo , Soren KIerkegaard and Karen Blixen on the back it says it takes you from the narrow twisting streets of the old town centre to the shady docklands ,captures the essence of Copenhagen and its many faces .Next we are off to Vienna and a few more familiar names to me Arthur Schnitzler , Joseph Roth , and Veza Canetti it says about Vienna tales , situated on the cusp of West and East ,between the foothills of the Alps and the mights “Blue Danube ” Vienna has long presented authors with a wealth of material for stories that entertain and intrigue .I love these snapshots of a cities writers and how a place has influenced a writer .

IMG_1974

Next up is a novel by one of Algeria’s most controversial writers Boualem Sansal set in a crumbling mansion in the old quarter of Algiers we meet two women one young and rebellious ,the other is a recluse Lamia whose world is turned upside by the arrival of the young Cherifa at her home .Frank Wynne has translated this novel so I am rather excited about this one .

IMG_1976

The last book is one I have reviewed ,but will mention here as it has been made into a series for Radio four in the UK it seems , The boy from Aleppo who painted the war ,is the Debut novel of Sumia Sukkar , is one of the first works of fiction to cover the recent war in Syria .

What books arrived at your house this week ?

Nobel Literature Prize 2014 Patrick modiano

The Search Warrant (eBook)

Another year waiting in front of the youtube channel for the live cast of the Nobel literature prize winner 2014 waiting for a rather splendid pair of wooden doors to open and for the world to be let in on this years winner and the winner this year  is Patrick modiano   here is an interview with the winner from France today ,I also reviewed his book The search warrant the other day , which for me is a perfect example of what they said in the announcement about memory as it is about his own family and Dora Bruder’s memories mixed together .

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