Diary of the fall by Michel Laub

Diary of the fall by Michel Laub

Diary of the fall by Michel Laub

Brazilian fiction

Orginial title - Diário da queda

Translator – Magaret Jull Costa

Source -review copy

“Any life is made up of a single moment, the moment in which a man finds out, once and for all, who he is.” Jorge Luis Borges

Now I have been saying for a while on twitter Brazil is going to be the next big breaking place to read books from ,with the Granta Twenty best young novelist from there last year and the world cup and Olympics both happening soon all eyes will be on the world’s seventh largest economy  .So this is one of two books from Brazil by bigger publishers I’ve been sent since the turn of the year .Michel Laub the writer of this book was on the Granta list ,he was born in Porto Alegre and lives in Sao Paulo ,this is his fifth novel and the first to be translated to English .

In the final years of his life , my grandfather spent the whole day in his study .Only after he died did we find out what he had been doing there , notebooks and more notebooks filled with tiny writing , and only when I read what he had written did I finally understand what he had been through .

The notes of the grandfather found after he died .

 

So Diary of the fall reminded me so much style wise of HHhH it follows that choppy short paragraph style that made HHhH one of those books that you read in a sitting or two .The book is in a form of a Diaries and notes  ,undated but the story moves on as we read passage by Passage ,The story is told by A grandson and involves him ,his father memories  and Grandfather guilt of being a survivor .The story is almost a three ages of man story but things are very twisted ,The narrator the grandson is looking back on an incident that happened when he was at school ,how it has affect him this incident is a similar starting point to novel the slap When he was at school that change one of his fellow pupils life forever  .Then there is the father a clever man but in the process of losing his memory and memories to Alzheimer’s  try to capture them all in the notes he writes .Then there is the Grandfather he survived Auschwitz and is racked with guilt about what happens and is trying to forget by writing it .

The majority of Alzheimer’s patients are aged eight or over .My father belongs to the three per cent or so aged between sixty and seventy-five ,and to the minority whose symptoms are diagnosed at a relatively early stage

His father finds out when he has chanced to remember his life before like the sands of time it runs out of him .

 

 

The big question in this book is why do we write ,to work out ? ,to remember or to forget .What our memories do they make us what we are ? As with the quote at the start of the review this book is made of a point when a man became a man or a point when a man lose being a man or when as Primo Levi said  in his poem survivor

Stand back,

leave me alone,

submerged people,

Go away.

I haven’t dispossessed anyone,

Haven’t usurped anyone’s bread.

No one died in my place. No one. Go back into your mist. It’s not my fault if I live and breathe, Eat,

drink, sleep and put on clothes. Levi is mention by the Grandfather As a fellow survivor he too try’s to find words but also use Levi’s words to try to work out what happened there to him and those he knew .I said this was a Story of three ages of man but in one family  but this is three ages of man if written by Francis bacon another person who loved three imagines in his many triptych’s in each way maybe these are all version of his paintings the grandfather a screaming pope trying to find a way out .The father is one of those blurred faces trying to remember his face and who he is at the same time .and the son is Christ held by what he did in the past .I loved this one I look forward to starting my next novel from Brazil and seeing where that one takes me

Have you a favourite Brazilian novel ?

A woman’s story by Annie Ernaux

A-Womans-Story

A Woman’s story by Annie Ernaux

French fiction

Original title – Une Femme

Translator – Tanya Leslie

Source – Review copy

Sometimes you get set a book like this one ,I was asked if I wanted to review this one and said yes ,half and half wherever it would be one for me ,but I always feel a few more female writers in translation on the blog is a welcome thing and also a surprise gem is great  ,which this book was .Annie Ernaux ,started writing in the mid seventies ,but really hit her stride in the mid eighties with the book La Place ,which won the Prix Renaudot in 1984 ,this book saw the writer turn the light on herself (and we thought Knausgaard was new ) .This is very much a book in the French Auto fiction style ,with the writers life as material for their  fiction .

It’s a difficult undertaking .For me , my mother has no history .She has always been there .When I speak of her , my first impulse is to “freeze ” her in a series of images unrelated to time – “she had a violent temper “

As annie starts to unpick her mothers past and her own childhood ,

A woman’s story is the story of a mother and daughter ,Annie Ernaux is the daughter and the book starts as she leaves the home here mother was lived into until she dies .As Annie starts to process her mother’s death over the days and weeks that pass she tell us her story and her mother’s story .Her mother had lived most of her life in the same village never moving far from there .Her daughter couldn’t at the time understand this but now looking back now see her mother was more than the sum of the part she saw and knew .It’s a heartfelt story of how we try to not be our parents and maybe hate what they are but in the end they are more than they seem .

After a while , she grew accustomed to her lifestyle , channelling her energy and her enthusiasm towards looking after her grandsons and helping to clean the house .She wanted to relieve me of all the household chores .

In later life she doted on her grand-kids.

This book is a perfect example of what simple writing can do well and that is drag you into a world ,there are no fireworks of style or over the top description .Because it didn’t need it this is like an unplugged session in music the writing stripped to the simplest style as the clarity of the narrative draws you as the reader in .This is the book equivalent of Bon iver or Laura Veirs confessional heart wrenching stuff .Annie Ernaux Talks about her in this book Giving birth to her mother and she does ,she makes her mother leap of the page ,this women from a large family the same as her father ,married but stayed in the same village ,but after her marriage with her husband built a business ,this maybe effect her childhood ,but now looking back the daughter can see how much more her mother working and giving her a great start ,that she didn’t see at the time ,then the doting grandmother and the end of her life .This reminded  me in some ways of Stones in a landslide ,my favourite book from Peirene press as it did what that did so well as well and that is bring a life to life  on the page ,but not in a huge tomb ala Proust or Knausgaard .Well done to Quartet for bring this back out lost gems like this need to be kept alive in print .

Have you read this book ?

Ethos of winstonsdad

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When I started winstonsdad a little under five years ago it was a journey for me of discovery .I had read a lot translation over the years but had maybe not travelled enough in my reading or been faring enough ,so I set forth on the first few years trying to challenge myself and have read loads of books from lots of countries but this last while I’ve struggled with ways to give back to the community of translation but I often feel outsider still , then I’ve discovered what is he pint of this ok my job is to get new folks discovering what’s point in preaching to folks that already know the secret of fiction in translation and the secret is there is no secret really don’t let them tell you there is now it’s the same as everything there is books out there in translation for every one so if it’s a name or a feeling of being alien I. The world you are reading don’t feel that it’s not like that . My ethos is too gently push folks in the direction of translation I have said this before in an earlier post .I’m always full of ideas and will be trying to put some of them into place another reading week later in year for Gabriel Garcia Marquez is one for sure I want to do get people to see more than the two most famous books but even if it is just reading them it small steps .2015 is a way away but I really want to push a year of translation and know folks are very keen on this and will be starting work behind the scenes up too 2015 .Another big project is reorganising all my reviews into categories so stories about war ,families , villages , towns , love ,struggle , issues and alternate worlds (ie magic realism, oulipo ,surrealism or books that just don’t fit a niche so easy ) .I want my blog twitter feed be a friendly helpful place for the reader wanting to challenge or discover the world of translation .A place of discovery where I transfer the seed of my passion to all to grow their own passion .anyone with suggestions idea , willing to help contribute is welcome as I am wanting the blog to grow from 2015 onwards to something bigger for all .

Comfort reading what do you do ?

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Well I’ve been off work sick the last few days hence no iffp shortlist and no reviews .I just can’t face writing a long post at moment .Much is same with books I was reading a Clarice Lispector my darling Amanda had brought me for my birthday but am struggling to find the concentration to get fully into it so luckily I was sent Maigret four and five by someone at penguin and have started number four as it’s not very taxing to read and is like a comfy slipper after read the first three in the series already this year .I tend to do this when not well or if going to hospital with Amanda I always read a Waugh book as his gentle at times satire lifts my mood .Do you have any such habits when you are feeling off colour ?

Shadow IFFP SHORTLIST

Tomorrow see’s the official independent foreign fiction short-list comes out .So we decide to announce ours today as with last year we choose to read as many if not all the 15 long listed books from the 2014 list and we have reviewed them my fellow jurors David ,Tony reading ,Tony messy ,Jacqui (who has been guesting on all or blogs ) and Bellezza .SO we have read ,given scores and dissected this years long list.We have yet again made a short-list of our own from the 15 books on the list just to show the strength of the list and how it can be viewed by different readers  .Its been a journey from Japan ,china ,Iraq ,Germany ,Spain among the few stops .We tackled connect story collections ,memories of Russian youth ,a family waiting for a husband to return ,a son following his fathers footsteps and a stories around the ten commandments .SO after all that we look at the book ,the translation and the long lasting nature of the book for the first time it is hard thing to say but we can try and sense if a book will hang around or just disappear from view .so with out further a do I present the shadow IFFP SHORTLIST ,we will choose our winner from these six books .

The infatuations by Javier Marias .

the infatuations

A women’s journey with a couple she see’s evry day at a cafe ,it shows the difference in what we view and what is real .

My review 

Brief loves that live forever by Andrei Makine

Brief loves that live forever

A russian youth partly remembered in a collection of short stories ,touching in points .

My review 

The Sorrow of angels by Jon Kalman Stefansson

the sorrow of angels

An eerie tale of 19th century Iceland where reality and myth seem to cross .My review this week

The Mussel feast by  Birgit Vanderbeke

the mussel feast

A wonderful insight into an east german family as the wall is falling .But where is the father ?

My review 

A Man in Love by Karl Ove Knausgaard

A man in Love

Part two of the Epic my struggle we see Karl in the book struggling with the early years of fatherhood .

My review

The Corpse washer by Sinan Antoon

The Corpse Washer

A son tries to escape his father’s life with art but the war in Iraq and his mother being ill draw him back to being a corpse washer .

My review

Well that is our list ,you will have to wait to tomorrow to see what matches up with the Official Iffp list .

Which of these six have you read ?

 

A song for sunday an all time earworm

I don’t often do a song for sunday as other bloggers do but as I’m rather tired today I decide to share an all time Earworm ,that I sing (well more improvise lyrics for and have done for at least the last 15 years since first hearing it on snub tv I think in mid 90′s any way the song is by Wolfgang press and is called cut the tree ,a song that I think once you hear stays with you .

 

Nagasaki by Éric Faye

nagasaki Éric Faye

Nagasaki by Éric Faye

French fiction

Original title – Nagasaki

Translator – Emily Boyce

Source -Review Copy

Be warned I have had to give away a major part of the plot to review this fully .

Éric Faye is a French writer  he studied at Lille university in Journalism after that he worked for Reuters the news agency ,before in 1991 deciding to become a writer ,his early books deal with writer like Ismail Kadare and fictional  meetings with these writers .This book was his 22nd book and won the prestigious grand novel prize of the French academy .

That day , I was feeling a little under the weather , so I came home earlier than usual .It must have been before five when the tram dropped me in my road with a shopping bag over each arm .I rarely get back so early during the week , as I went inside I felt almost as if I was trespassing .That’s putting it a bit strongly, and yet …

Shimura feels something is odd on the second page .

Now when this book dropped on the doorstep ,I imagined it being a book about the second world war ,of course with the title Nagasaki .But no it is set in the modern city of Nagasaki ,what Éric Faye has done is taken a news story ,this one had passed me by at the time .Anyway the story follows a Japanese man Shimura  he  is an office worker ,so as is the case in Japan he spends long hours working .But at home he has started noticing things ,just little things a jug of juice seems to have less in and then other bits vanish .So he decides to mark bits and yes things are disappearing ,so the next step he does is to set a webcam up and whilst at work he checks this webcam placed in the kitchen at his house and sees an older women in his kitchen .Naturally he contacts the police and the women is arrest ,the second part of the book we find out how this women end up in his house ,her tale of woe and being left homeless and without any one is heart wrenching and the way she found this house saw he was out most of the day so they shared the space without knowing they were sharing the space  for actually a year before he gathered she was there .Both exit this event and situation changed .

My stowaway was fifty-eight ,I read ,two years older than me ,I had thought her a bit younger when she appeared on my screen .As for her surname , it was common as mine .She had been unemployed for a long time ; so long , in fact ,that she was no longer entitled to state benefits.

The woman is a sorry case really .

I found this reportage style fiction amazingly fresh , Éric Faye has taken a small news story and turned into a human story about the  people and the emotions behind the headlines .I was reminded of the Korean novel Please look after mother  ,both show how even in these ultra modern cities there are people who get left behind that fall through the cracks ,that just can’t cope with the modern world or as in the case get broken by the world they live in .It is one of those books that for days after you put it down you are thinking how did he miss someone living there for a year ? What drives someone to hide in a house ? For me this would be a great choice for a book club it short so every one should read it ,but it has so much to discuss after you read it and to wonder what you would have done in the situations .I would love to see this turned into a two person show with Shimura and the women .

Have you read a novel  based on a real life  news event ?

 

Look who’s back by Timur Vermes

Look who's back

Look who’s back by Timur Vermes

German fiction

Original title – Er ist wieder da

Translator – Jamie Bulloch

Source – Review copies

There are times a book published elsewhere in the world gets noticed before it is even translated this is one such book it cause a storm when it was published in Germany ,and me with my finger just on the pulse really hoped it had a uk publisher pick it up so when those lovely folks at Maclehose said they had brought the rights and the rising star of translation from German Jamie Bulloch had been given the task of translating the book I knew it was going be great .Timur Vermes was born in Nuremberg to a German mother and Hungarian father he has written for various paper in German and also ghost-written a couple of books .This is his first novel .

The boys gathered around me , but kept a certain distance .After affording me a cursory inspection , the tallest of the youths , clearly the troop leader ,said :

“You alright ,boss ?”

Despite my apprehension ,I could not help noticing that the Nazi salute was missing altogether .I acknowledge that his casual form of address , mixing up “Boss” and  “Führer “

Just after he wakes up and talks to a group of boys he still thinks it is 1940 something .

 

Well to the book Look who’s back ,now from the cover on the top you may already have a clue what the book is about .We meet Hitler but not in 1940′s German no he has woken up in the middle of Berlin in 2011 .Now he has to adjust to modern Germany .At first people see him as a bloke dressed as Hitler maybe from a party the night before,as Hitler slowly gathers that he has been brought forward sixty plus year his beloved fatherland as he sees it now is in a state of trouble .So he decide to try to regain power but as he thinks he is starting to be taken seriously .People actually think he is a very clever satire act ,but as it unfolds they laugh but the laughter stops with the more he says .As he become a star on You tube with his rants and views .Bur what do the modern extreme right make of him ? Will he ever accept a German run by a women ?

My supporters were fewer in number than ever before .And,mein Gott , there had been times in the past when they were in terribly short supply .I have a clear recollection of that occasion back in 1919 when I paid my first visit to what was still then the German worker’s party : seven people were present .

He starts small again in the present but remembers the past .

Loook who’s back is part of the continuing German looking back at the war years and figures involved in the war years ,this started a couple of decades ago with films like Europa ,europa ( a film following a Young Jewish boy who joins the Hitler youth to avoid the death camps ) ,Stalingrad ( a group of German soldiers get cut off from the troop and stuck in the deep Russian winter )  then of course Downfall .Now Timur has tackled modern German as  viewed through the eyes of the past and how often have we wondered what the  leaders of the past would make of the present .What would Churchill make of modern Britain is one thing I wondered ? Also the part I like is how Hitler is now viewed as a figure of fun by the modern German public what was once his true power the rant speech is now just surreal to a modern German public .It also shows how we view people in Modern media his rise now is because he is viewed as a clever satire ,but isn’t ,but people just think he is pulling the wool over their eyes .Vermes has tackle something that at times is still at the heart of modern Germany ,how did the past happen and could it happen again ? Jamie also really caught that voice of Hitler well .

Do you have a favourite satirical novel ?

 

The Iraqi Christ by Hassam Blasim

download (1)

The Iraqi Christ by Hassam Blasim

Iraqi fiction (Short stories )

Translator – Jonathan Wright

Source – Personnel copy brought on Kindle

Well to another short story collection from this years IFFP longlist .Also the second Iraqi title from this years list .Hassam Blasim is some what of radical figure in Arabic fiction as the stories he writes are Genre bending to say the least .Hassam Blasim Fled Iraq in 2004 when he had made a  documentary film about the Kurdish area of Northern Iraq ,since then he lived in Finland originally a film-maker he has since made four more films for a Finnish film company .He also start writing at the same time ,this is his second collection to be published the first the madman of freedom square ,mad the Iffp longlist four years ago .

We were meant to camp in an old girls’ school and some of the soldiers decided the best place to spend the night was the school’s air-raid shelter. Daniel the Christian picked up his blanket and other bedding and headed out into the open courtyard. ‘Of course, Chewgum Christ is crazy,’ remarked one of the soldiers, a man as tall as a palm tree, his mouth stuffed with dry bread.

The opening of the title story of the collection The Iraqi Christ .

I said Hassam was a radical figure ,it is more his style of writing in this collection we move from the Iraq was in the title story Iraqi christ ,we meet Daniel the gum chewing soldier as he fights in the war He is one of the few christian fighting alongside his comrades  .Elsewhere we travel into the utterly surreal in a story like dung beetle a man or is it a man talking to a doctor in Finland but his is from  Iraqi  ,as he spouts out to the doctor .Drama post war in the Green zone living in the   post war Iraq with the westerners .More traditional sounding stories like A thousand and One Knives ,an obvious play on the most famous Arabic story One thousand and one Nights .Elsewhere a crossword setter is driven to the edge as he is haunted or more possessed by one of the victims of a bomb he narrowly missed .

Doctor, I can identify my feeling at that moment as a desire to kiss, to stand in front of the station gate like the people who give out free newspapers and adverts, to stand in the way of people in a hurry and to stop them to kiss their hands, their shoes, their knees, their bags. And if they allowed me to bare their arses for a few minutes, to kiss them too. Excuse me, madam, can I kiss the sleeve of your coat? Please, sir, accept from me this kiss on your necktie. Kisses for free; sad, sincere kisses. And very often, doctor, I don’t just want to kiss people, I want to kiss the vestiges they leave on the pavements: kisses for cigarette butts, for a key that an old woman lost, for the beer bottles the drunks left behind last night, for the numbers on discarded receipts; kisses that combine the maternal instinct with lust, as day and night are combined in my head.

A passage from my favourite story in the collection the dun beetle .

I read Tony’s review the other day he compared some of these stories to the Magic realism of Marquez ,he has touches of that ,for me other writers leap to mind my favourite story in the collection was the dung Beetle ,which for me had huge echoes of classic mittel European short stories .There are other bar room stories a man returns from the bar to find a wolf in his room then it is gone when awakes ,this could come from the pen of the grand masters of short fiction Italo Calvino or Borges .The collection shows a writer that obviously loves short stories and loves playing with the form as a writer himself .I felt this is a collection of a writer that has big things to come in the future ,the stories in this one vary from sublime to surreal but maybe jar to much of the collection in comparison to the other collections on this years IFFP longlist .I will be reading his next collection for sure as I can just see Hassam Blasim getting better over time as he works through his obvious love of short stories and writers of short stories as he develops  his own twists and style even more .

Have you read Hassam Blasim ?

Talking to Ourselves by Andrés Neuman

download

Talking to ourselves by Andrés Neuman

Argentinian fiction

Original title – Hablar Solos

Translator – Nick Caistor and Lorenza Garcia

Source – Review Copy

Well I was so pleased to be sent Andrés second book to be translated into English as his first book Traveller of the century was one of my favourite books of 2012 .Andrés is one of the biggest stars of Spanish language fiction ,he has won a lot of the big prize from the Spanish-speaking world and was also on the IFFP last year .

The I start to sing , and my mouth gets bigger .It makes Dad laugh to see how happy I am .But Mum doesn’t laugh .

I’d been pestering them about it now for ages .Every summer .They always said the same thing .When you’re older .I hate it when they say that .I picture a long line of kids with me at the end .This time they argued ,not out loud .

I feel this captures the whole picture of what each is telling them selves in this novel .

Talking to ourselves is a novel made up of a trio of voices ,a family the father Mario is dying of cancer and want to take a road trip with his son Lito .Left behind trying to fathom out what is happening to her husband is Elena .Now Mario and Lito are on the road with Pedro their truck father and son ,Lito is so excited as he has want to see the places he has heard of over the years but til now he hasn’t be able to see that said his father wants this trip with Pedro to be his sons memory of him .Now at home the mother of the family is seeking solace in the arms of first book and then the doctor that has been treating her husband ,as she worries how it will all end .

I was going to say he drives me wild .But besides being cheesy that would be in accurate .It’s more like ,with Ezequiel as a pretext ,through his body ,I had allowed myself to go wild .His healthy young body ,Distant from death .

As I write this I Despise myself ,but sometimes Mario’s body disgusts me .Touching it is as difficult for me as it is for him to look in the mirror .

Elena struggles with her husband’s Illness

Now I described this book on twitter as a bit like the blind men describing an elephant proverb as the three narratives describe different thing ,like the proverb Lito story is a road trip with his dad ,he hasn’t noticed how ill his dad is .Mario journey is to make his young son remember him and Elena is to find solace .But like the proverb each is seeing something different in the present their own spin .At heart of this is how families deal with their tough times how often do we shield those nearest us from the truth ? How often like Elena in times of trouble do we seek Solace in the wrong places ? And like Lito as a kid how often do you miss or just not see the bigger picture ? I also said on twitter each narrative is the person holding a mirror to their soul ,rather like Borges each is finding their soul whether on the road or in the books they are reading ( There is a list of the books mention in the book at the back of the novel ) .I am a huge fan of Andrés  (I have met him and found him one of the warmest and approachable writers I have ever meet ) ,Did I want another Traveller of .. ,no I have always found the writers I love, are  like this book take different journeys on every book  they writer .It takes real courage to make every book different from the one before ,I feel this is what Bolano also saw in Andrés when he made his famous quote of the 21st century belonging to him and his blood brothers .Andrés has tackled cancer and dying in a family with out drifting into overly sentimental tones and given the family as a whole real voices of what real people would do in this situation .

Have you read any of his books yet ?

 

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