The art of killing well by Marco Malvaldi

The art of killing well

The art of Killing well by Marco Malvaldi 

Italian fiction 

Original title – Odore di chiuso

Translator – Howard Curtis 

Source – Review Copy 

Politeness and civility to visitors is one of the things masters and mistresses have a right to expect, and should exact rigorously. When visitors present themselves, the servant charged with the duty of opening the door will open it promptly, and answer, without hesitation, if the family are “not at home,” or “engaged;” which general same thing, and might be oftener used with advantage to morals.

Miss Beeton on visitors seemed apt for this book source 

Now I feel awful ,I met Marco at the more bloody foreigners  lunch earlier in the year .Marco is from Pisa  , he has written a guide to his home city .He is a crime writer and Chemist .He has a series of crime novels the Bar lume series and this is a new series .Marco is a fan of cooking and cook books this is how he came up with the idea for this story .This book won Isola d’Elba Award and the Castiglioncello Prize.

Arrived safe and sound at the castle of Rocapendente .

The castle is beautiful , but the interior strikes me as unusally devoid of furnishings , although it may be the sheer size of the rooms and staircases that gives me that impression ,

as far as beauty of appearance is concerned , even the servants are well suited to the castle .

From the diary of Pellegrino Artusi ,just after he arrived on the friday for the weekend .

The art of killing well is the story of Pellegrino Artusi man Italian nobleman that had enjoyed many cooks in his time and was shocked at the time to discover no one had written the recipes used down .So he set of round Italy collecting the best dishes of  Italian cooking ,which he intended to write as a book for himself and his friends any way he did and the book snowball till the book  became a staple of most upper class and middle class families in the late 1890’s ,a sort of Italian miss Beeton .Well the art of killing well is an imagine incident in Pellegrino’s life ,we meet him just as he has finished his travels around Italy and has chosen to take up an invite from a Baron to sample his chef and finish writing his book oh and the chance to hunt Boar .Anyway a body turns up in the cellar the family butler  .Pellegrino feels he has the talents via his nose and knowledge of food and cooking to find who the killer is before he strikes again and kills the baron .Will he find the killer in time ?

” Thank you m Barone .I must ask you all to be patient for a moment .I have just made a preliminary examination of the body of Teodoro Banti ,as a result of which I find myself unable to issue a death certificate “

The doctor tells them the dead butler is actually murder .

Well imagine this now book now it is like Gordon Ramsey does crime or Jamie oliver invesigates .Of course there has been one cooking detective I know off and the was Henry crabbe in the tv series pie in the sky .But Pellegrino was the orginal Chef ,the best known of his day ,this is a book about smells and taste and how they can help solve crimes .This book is a clever turn on the amateur detective ,of course a cook has skills to be a detective ,like in his other series where the main character is a barista in a coffee shop .So if you want a slice of upper class Italian life in the 1890’s  and a weekend  murder mystery ala country house style ,this is the book for you ,I really hope Marco chooses to  writes again about Pellegrino and also includes more of the recipes like he did in the back of this book .Have you a favourite amateur detective ?

Winston books hello Helle

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Well it’s been a quiet week for books at winston towers .But. the one that did arrived looks rather good with a rather bright cover .This should be written in the present tense by Helle Helle is the story of Dorte a young women in Copenhagen that is sleepless lonely and really should be seeing to her studies as a student buy she is being a bit reckless .One of the quotes describes her writing as taking a humdrum life and giving it the kind of obsession normally reserved for thrillers .Helle Helle has won most of the major prizes in Danish literature including a lifetime award from the Danish arts Council ,her books have been translated into thirteen languages before this is her first book to be translated to English .What books did you get book wise this week ?

The story of a shipwrecked sailor by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

shipwreck sailor

The story of a shipwrecked sailor by Gabriel Garcia Marquez 

Columbian non fiction 

Original title – Relato de un náufrago

Translator – Randolph Hogan 

Source personnel copy 

Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.

Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.

From rime of the ancient mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge  source

Well this is a book hung over from Spanish literature month that I didn’t get time to review ,which is a real shame as I had want to include the two non fiction books I had read by Marquez for Spanish literature month  .Marquez worked as a journalist most of his life .He started as a journalist he was a member of the Barranquilla group a group of Journalist ,philosophers and writers based in the city of Barranquilla  in Columbia .This group was also featured in his novel one hundred years of solitude .Now to this book based on the true story of a Columbian sailor .

At six o’clock the destroyer began pitching violently .Luis Rengifo was awake one bunk below me .

“Fatso ” he asked me ,”Haven’t you gotten sick yet ? “

I said no ,but I admitted I was worried .Rengifo ,who as I said was an engineer -very studious and a good seaman explained why it was unlikely that something could happen to the Caldas in the Caribbean

How untrue this was !.

 

In 1955 a crew of eight set sail on a Columbian navy destroyer Caldis ,that has spent time in the US .The book sets of with a crew that maybe had partied too much when in America and a lot of stuff on board they shouldn’t have ,so when they hit a storm in the middle of the Caribbean ocean ,the crew and items they were returning to Columbia with all end up in the sea .Now the Navy searches and finds no one .But actually Luis Alejandro Velasco ,he managed to grab stuff and make him self a raft ,he spent ten days drifting on the ocean in which time he drank little ,manage to wrestle  fish from the sharks around him ,also kill a gull which he didn’t eat (can’t blame him I have a friend that grew up in the wilds of highland and shot regularly and once shot and tried a gull which he didn’t like one bit ) .Any way he manages to drift to land which luckily for him is actually his homeland of Columbia  ,he is brought back  to the city nursed back to health and given a heros welcome ,this is the point where his path crosses with Marquez who likes his story and decides to write this book to keep it for prosperity .

Hunger is bearable when you have no hope of food .but it was never so insistent as when I was trying to slash that shiny green flesh with my keys .

After a few minutes ,I realized I would have to use more violent methods if I wanted to eat my victim .

Velasco struggle to find food to eat .

This is a good old adventure yarn ,but far from being fiction it actually happened Luis Alejandro Velasco did spend ten days at sea ,he did suffer but like any true hero he had to fall t o rise and be honoured .As I read this I wondered if Yann Martell had read this .I think he did in some ways this is rather like a blueprint for A life of Pi but if Marquez had written this as a novel it would have been near Martell’s book I do wonder if in some way if life of pi was a way to see what happens when you add magic realism to a shipwreck story .Velasco story is of course like other stories Crusoe (based on the real life Alexander Selkirk from Lower Largo in Fife ,I used pass his statue on the way to my Gran’s every year ) which Defoe wrote and spawn many similar stories in what are known as Robinsonade fiction books about  a shipwrecks and sailors  from William Golding with Pincher Martin to Umberto Eco with the island of the day before  and also life of Pi .The actual book cause Marquez a lot of trouble due to the way he told the story of the contraband the ship was carrying and he had to actually leave Columbia for a while he also hand the writes to the book to Velasco in Spanish ,but kept the translation Rights himself  ,even thou Velasco tried to sue for them ,but then later made up with Marquez .Have you read this or have a favourite Robinsonade story ?

The portrait by Willem Jan Otten

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The portrait by Willem Jan Otten

Dutch Fiction 

Original title – Specht en zoon

Translator – David Colmer 

Source – review copy 

 

I think images are worth repeating
Images repeated from a painting
Images taken from a painting
From a photo worth re-seeing
I love images worth repeating, project them upon the ceiling
Multiply them with silk screening
See them with a different feeling
Images
Images
Images
Images

Images by Lou Reed and John Cale from their album Songs for Drella about Andy Warhol

When I was asked to review this award-winning Dutch book from scribe ,I was pleased as Scribe the Australian publisher has not long moved into the uk market and has over last few years found some gems in translation ,like David Vogel ,whose books have been on my radar for a while .So The portrait or in its Dutch title Specht and son ,is the fourth novel by Willem Jan Otten ,he is also a well-known poet , playwright and essayist in his native Holland ,he has won a number of awards including two for this book ,the most prestigious being the Libris literature prize a Dutch language prize whose previous winners include Harry Mulisch ,Hugo Claus and JJ Voskull .

I admit to remembering virtually nothing of the moment I was finally brought .It was a nondescript man ,smallish ,in a dark-blue army-disposials coat and paint splashed shoes .He had wide ,avid eyes but I didn’t really see them wile the transaction was taking place .

The canvas is brought and taking tom wait at the studio .

So the portrait ,is an unusual book as the narrator of this book is a canvas , we see the story unfold from its point of view  .The book starts at the end as a man walks in the snow  towards a fire   ,then we go back in time and this canvas is waiting for what it calls the creator to use it  .The creator is an up and coming young painter known for his realistic paintings of people .He has been hired by Specht who is a rich and powerful man who could help the creator become better known  he has asked the creator  to make a photo of his late son into a painting like his other painting and breath life into it , to save  his  own life  .So as the creator starts to cover the canvas we start to find out who is being painted on him ,is it Specht’s son or something more sinster  what is their relationship ? What happened to this young boy ? Who is Specht why was he in such a rush for the painter to create this painting for him ?

Specht had sat down again .

I actually only have one question , he said

His voice ,which had been very quiet the whole time had become virtually inaudible .

Do you also work from death ?

Specht ask the creator does he paint from death and the canvas gets its chance to come to life .

Now this is one of those books that just goes at a pace when you start reading it ,at points I had to keep saying to myself this is just a canvas as the narrator as it’s  jumps of the page ,we see its waiting as the creator ,choose other canvases before it  until the big job he has been destined to be used for comes in .The book has a slightly Moral feel to it almost as thou the story of Specht’s  son is a wider story of lost children everywhere .I read in a Dutch interview I translated online that Otten has convert to Catholicism with his wife in the 90’s and this book was picked as an example of literature reflecting Christian  values and morals  the ClO 15 list ,which also features a book ny his wife Yvone van der Meer  the list shows the literary merit Christian literature can have .Know I can see you shaking your head and I am not a big fan of overtly Christian books ,I can say this isn’t you can read into it that it is but also just read it as a story of a painting being made and the young bo is in the painting a journey through a life of a canvas  and it’s subject .Also another readable and faultless translation by David Colmer  .Have you a favourite book about artist and paintings ?

Winstons books – A bumper week

Well last week no books arrived for me ,but this week I have had five arrive .

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First up from And other stories By the mountains burn by Juan Tomas Avila Laurel ,a writer from Equatorial Guinea (A first for this blog ,the only spanish speaking country ) a childhood on a remote island of the west african coast ,cholera ,superstitions and fire destroy crops sounds great .Then The alphabet of birds by S J Naude one of the best Afrikaans writers a collection of short stories with recurring motifs ,from London via Milan to Johannesburg .

IMG_1917

Now to a writer I have reviewed before Philippe Claudel his new book is a memoir formed up of Smells so each chapter is a smell and what it means or meant to him .I really like the idea of a smell memoir a quick flick and cigar is one ,I have this a smell with my father when younger .from MacLehose press

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Next up are two novels from German the first in the shadow is a price to pay by Alex Capus a Swiss- French writer that writes in German (only via books in translation do you find story’s like that a franco swiss writer in German !!!) the story is of three characters whose paths cross in 1924 on a station in Zürich this leads them in different directions all after this chance meeting .The other is The glory of life by Michael Kumpfmuller ,the story of the last year of Kafka’s  life caught in the relationship he had with Dora a young women he meet whilst recovering by the Baltic sea .both from Haus publishing

What books have you got this week ?

 

Twilight of Eastern gods by Ismail Kadare

twilight of eastern gods

Twilight of the Eastern gods by Ismail Kadare 

Albanian fiction 

Original title –  French title- Le Crépuscule des dieux de la steppe

Translator David Bellos from the french translation of  Jusuf Vrioni

Source  – review copy

“Light is meaningful only in relation to darkness, and truth presupposes error. It is these mingled opposites which people our life, which make it pungent, intoxicating. We only exist in terms of this conflict, in the zone where black and white clash.”

A louis Aragon quote seem fitting for Kadare as a writer in general ,source

Now the other day when I did my Nobel round-up for this year I did miss one name of knowing I had this on my pile of books to be reviewed that of Ismail Kadare .Kadare is the best known Albanian writer with nearly twenty of his books translated into english already .i have reviewed Fall of stone city and The pyramid  .Kadare has won all the major book prize around the world barring the Nobel ,he studied at Maxim Gorky Literature institute ,originally at that time he was a poet ,then wrote short stories eventually publishing his first novel in 1963 ,he left Albania as an exile in 1990 ,where he said” the writer is the natural enemy of dictatorship ” .Twilight of the eastern gods is about his time at the Maxim Gorky .

In Moscow Literary circle I had indeed heard a lot of talk about suicide .I shared with her the most interesting pieces of gossip that were going around .She listen without responding .Suddenly it occurred to me to tell her about Fadeyev’s treatment in the Kremlin hospital .

Some of his fellow writers fell before they had really started !Fadyev was one that Kadare studied with that did .

Well twilight of the gods is rather like the fall of stone city was and takes part of Kadare’s own life and fictionalized it .The time is 1958 and the young Kadare is in Moscow studying at the Maxim Gorky (this is a writers workshop like the well-known ones elsewhere ,but obviously with a twist they were wanting a soviet twist on the writers work ) ,when the news filters through that Boris Pasternak has won the Nobel prize ,earlier the young writer had been hand pages of this Banned  book ,why had he won this bog prize  .Why was this book of his banned ? Added to this is the writers at the Gorky ,the wanting of them to follow a style of Realistic writing ,one of the writers ,a French writer who was in love with the soviet system , Louis Aragon ,I have mention before as he championed Chingiz Aitmatov whose book Jamila I reviewed  another writer from the Maxim Gorky not at the same time but he wrote in the style they wanted a social realistic style .Then there is a growing tension between the writers own country Albania and the Soviet regime ,Hoxha the Albanian leader saw the soviets become to liberal .Then there is the last part of the book the city Kadare capture fifties Moscow so well where in some ways there is still a glimmer of light but behind closed door things are very different .

Even if she were to revert to her former friendliness ,to the particular variety of benevolence that most Russian babuskas exhibited towards foreign students ,I would never forgive her coldness she had shown me earlier .

I just has use this bit for the word Babuskas ,such a great word .

Now what can I say ,I  feel  Kadare is  a writer ,I can’t get enough of every time I read a book by him (Hence I tend to buy his one at a time every few years to ration them ) ,you feel he is one that had taken part of what he learned at Maxim Gorky ,but took it further this is realism ,but real realism ,the book originally came out in French in 1978 ,so he was critical while still in Albania and about one of the few regimes to still help Albania the Soviets ,brave moves indeed .Another way to view the book is a coming of age novel ,a writers coming of age surrounded by the cream of the writers in Soviet and soviet satellite regimes The young writer starts to see himself as a writer ,but also gather thoughts that he would later use in his books yes the is hints at thoughts ,ideas that he had since wrote about  in his novels .Although in his canon ,this is a minor book ,for any other writer this would be seen as a major book ,a writers coming of age written so well .Have you read Kadare ?

 

What time is it ? Noble time

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Well as the article in the Guardian pointed out yesterday we are just a month away from The Nobel literature prize being announced is it really 12 months since Alice Munro won ? The article mentioned the fact the odds of Ngugi Wa Thiong’o had shorten greatly ,well this served as a timely reminder that  I haven’t a book by him reviewed on the blog so I hope to reread grain of wheat or read petals of blood this next week or so , is the move a sign he is going to win ,for me usually a name or two jumps up in the weeks before it is the name on the few days before that the odd shorten on the tends to be the winner .As for the other names in the running according to ladbrokes -

Murakami favourite

Assia Djebar & Ngugi Wa thiong’o joint second favourites

Svetlana Aleksijevitj  & Joyce Carol Oates third favourites

then Adonis ,Kundera ,roth ,Nadas ,Dao ,Cartarescu ,Un ,Fossee Pynchon and Eco

Well it is similar list of names to last years list and my speculation post .For me I’d throw in Krasznahorkai,Goytisolo,Vila – Matas ,Marani  and Handke as names I’d love to see win .Who would you like to see win this year ?

 

The Appointment by Herta Müller

the-appointment

The Appointment by Herta Müller

German fiction

Original title – Heute wär ich mir lieber nicht begegnet

Translator – Michael Hulse and Phillip Boehm

Source – Library copy

He’s shining brightly, he can’t be a man
He is the genius of the Carpathians
He’s running checks on his mother’s womb
He’s gonna be reborn real soon

Ciao, Ceaucescu! Ciao, Ceaucescu! Ciao, Ceaucescu!
Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye, goodbye!

Blues for Ceausescu from the irish band Fatima Mansion source

Now I missed this off the end of my women in translation selection,which was a shame as it is one from one of my favourite female writers Herta Müller ,the German nobel prize-winning writer ,she grew up in Ceausescu Romania ,most of her books revolve around that regime and time .I have reviewed Nadirs ,The passport and Hunger angel before on the blog .Her books are always richly textured .

I’ve been summoned .Thursday at ten sharp .

Lately I’m being summoned more and more often ten sharp on Tuesdays ,ten sharp on Saturday ,on Wednesday ,Monday .As if years were a weak ,I’m amazed that winter comes so close on the heels late summer .

The opening lines as she catches the tram to another appointment .

Now appointment is classic Herta Müller ,we follow a young women  who works as a seamstress ,she is on a tram to an Appointment to see the secret police about an integration .She has done this a number of times before as she remembers the times before she has been to this same place ,also her family and friends .Her rural up bringing ,her childhood crush on her father ,to moving to the city .Along the way we see her friends and family all affect by the strict Ceausescu regime ,some have died some are badly damaged and every one is affect .So why has she been called into see them this time ,she has sneakily been sowing secret messages in the linings of  suit she has been working on ,these messages are marriage proposals for any Italian male that might happen to feel them in the suit and find it and her give her and escape from all this  .Does she turn up for this appointment today .

For a whole week ,when summer came and people began running around in short shelves ,Paul and I were suspicious of a man who to this day walks over from the shops every morning at ten to eight ,empty-handed .

You end up trusting no one in a regime like this .

Now this book  is rather like Kafka as we never fully know where or what the name even is off this unknown young women .In the tradition of Kafka there is a large feeling of menace in this book and being under the thumb but never quite sure why  .The young womans previous visits to see the interrogators ,she has been so much she is even given a kiss on the hand when she arrives one time by one of the ,very sinister and creepy .The book is like her other books rich in the detail of everyday life the world jumps of the pages ,the secret sewing she does ,the friends family she has lost her previous visits all bring the brutal communist Romanian regime to life  ,what is it like living under a totalitarian regime where you trust no one and have no idea what tomorrow will bring for you ,The original  German title which basically translates as “Today I would prefer not to met ” says something more than the uk title ,which I felt it  has been given to give a Kafka feel to the book as his novel titles were also short and ambiguous .I ‘ve just land of green plums left to read of her books already translated ,so lets hope she has some more published in English translation soon  .Have you read Herta Müller ?

Choices for The Argentinian and Uruguayan lit of Doom

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Well on Saturday I mentioned on Saturday my joy at finding The Peron novel for Richards Argentina based lit challenge from now to December .So I decide to share some choices I have to try from first up along side Te Peron novel is Hopscotch a book I want to have on the blog at some point as it is Considered Julio Cortazar’s masterpiece and a great piece of Experimental fiction .Now the rest of my choices are on my kindle so first up

Cesar Aira triple pack of novels

I already Had an episode in the life of a landscape painter the new direction version ,I have since downloads Ghosts and the Literacy conference from the Penguin collection pictured above I haven’t read and these three short novels will be a great intro.

the planets Sergio Chefij

The planets by Sergio Chejfec ,a novel set in seventies Beuno Aires from Open letter the us publisher .

the mad toy roberto Arlt

Now another classic of Argentinianlit Arlt debut novel follows a criminal that operates on the streets of Beunos Aires .

I have a few others to surprise you with ,are you joining in the challenge ? I hope to get two read amonth for the next three months (set bar lower than usual as I’ve a backlog of reviews and tend to go OTT with challenges )

 

 

The blue room by Hanne Ørstavik

blue room

The Blue room by Hanne Ørstavik

Norweigan Fiction

Original title – 

Translator – Deborah Dawkin

Source – Review copy 

oh i miss the kiss of treachery the aching kiss
before i feed the stench of a love for a younger
meat and the sound that it makes when it cuts
in deep the holding up on bended knees the
addiction of duplicities as bit by bit it starts
the need to just let go my party piece

A excerpt of Disintegration from The cure

Now when ever I get a new book from Peirene press ,it is going to be quality and a touch different from the usual books  ,now this time  Meike has chosen a Norwegian novel ,one That isn’t”Karl ove” no this  book is from Hanne Ørstavik one of the most respect female writers in Norway .She was born and grew up in the north of Norway ,moving to Oslo age 16 ,here big breakthrough came in the 90’s when here Novel Love won plaudits and was voted the sixth best Norwegian novel of all time  .This book is her first book to be translated into English .

I cannot get out .Something must have happened to the lock .I’ll have to wait until mum comes home from work to help ,me .Everything was totally normal when I went to bed last night .It was late I dropped straight off to sleep .

The opening lines as Johanne finds the bedroom door locked .

The blue room is the story of a mother and daughter .Johanne the daughter is in her mid twenties ,she has fallen head over heals for a man Ivar .Now Johannes mother is very protective of her daughter when Ivar appears on the scene telling her to wait not give herself to this man .Then there is a chance Johanne to go the US with Ivar .This is the point where the books open one morning just before she is due to leave Johanne wakes and tries to get out of her room to find her door locked too .Now this sets up the story as we drift from her in the room ,to the past as she meets Ivar and follows what her  mother did trying to work out what had happened to make her mother take this drastic step .Now we also see a sexual awakening in Johanne with Ivar ,as she discovers her self as an erotic women and fantasies about love and lovemaking .

Some guy who works in the university canteen ,I said .His name is Ivar ,but I don’t really know him .We’ve only talked briefly before today ,although he has worked there since the beginning of term .

She spotted Ivar at university she told her mother .

Now this is my last but one choice for women in translation month and a great choice ,because as a publisher Peirene published a good number of female writers most of which are first time translations  for the writers in English ,Now this book is timely in a way we had a number of case of people being locked in rooms being found the last few years and of course room ,but the actual being locked up is more a staging for the story of a young woman’s sexual awaking and what that causes also what it arouses in the Johanne and her mother .Mother and daughter relationships is something I’ve not read much over the years so reading this was a new experience for me  one I should maybe try more .but is the story  right ? Are we getting the full picture ? now we just hear Johannes views and thoughts of her life  up to this point but is she telling us the truth as her mind is drifting her there and everywhere .Then there is the mother daughter relationship that is unusual ,why is her mother the way she is with her  ?  a change from Karl Ove and his growing up to have a brief glimpse of  a woman growing up in Norway Another gem from Peirene one I will be rereading at some point maybe after I have read Meike’s own book about a mother daughter relationship Clara’s daughter that is coming out soon .Have you read this book ?

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