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 ?

 

 

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

 

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

The Mahé circle by Georges Simenon

 

 

The Mahe Circle

The circle by Georges Simenon

Belgian fiction (Roman Durs)

Original title – Le Cercle des Mahé

Translator – Sian Reynolds

Ah wanna tell ya ’bout a girl
You kno, she lives in Apt. 29
Why… that’s the one right up top a mine
Ah start to cry, Ah start to cry
O ah hear her walkin
Walkin barefoot cross the floor-boards
All thru this lonesome night
And ah hear her crying too.
Hot-tears come leaking down
splashing thru the cracks,
Down upon my face, ah catch’em in my mouth!
Walk’n’cry Walk’n’cry-y!!!
From her to eternity!
From her to eternity!
From her to eternity!

Well this is Nick cave song about obsession with a  neighbour source  

The first non Maigret novel ,I’m review here is the first to be reissued from the other type of fiction Simenon was known for his Roman Durs (means hard novels – they are more complex in the storylines than his other books and often darker ) .As it is Nobel week I decide to look at Nomination database that is on the Nobel site to see if he was ever nominated for the nobel prize it shows he had 6 nominations up til 1963 which is as far as the database goes up to so it looks like he may have had more in the years after that .

“She is dead isn’t she ?”

The eyes of the girl in the red dress were still starring at him through the darkness and he hesitated to answer the woman ,who went on :

“The last hour , she was trembling all over , I had to hold her … sweating too … bad smell  … I can still smell it on my hands

The woman dies just as the doctor gets there to see to her .

 

The circle is the story of one man  Dr Francois  Mahé  and his obsession with a women ,after he caught a glimpse of her this is on his holiday with his family on the small island of porquerolles of the southern coast of France , whilst their he also attends to a dying women as he is called into help whilst fishing with some local men .He returns home ,but then he drags his family back for the following three summers as he has a growing sense of attraction to this younger women Elizabeth  even getting a young family member to start trying to date her .

Already last year , she was much changed .She had still been wearing the red dress, as she was even this year , it was as though the dress was growing with her .And she was still just as thin , but her breasts had formed and now showed through the fabric

The girl has grown more into a women over the years he has visited the islands .

Well this is different to Maigret , there is a very sparse nature to Simenon’s story we only get what is need , he is never one to over load his writing with too much detail .The story could be viewed as one man’s mid-life crisis in a way , Francois is a man who has reach a point in his life he is a doctor ,has kids and a life ,but at some point he wants a different life .That is the main point of the book it is the battle of Francois  between the life he has and the life he sees on the small islands , worlds classes apart its a dark look at what happens when a rich chap looks over the other side whilst on holiday , I was reminded of the film Shirley Valentine , where a housewife falls in love on a greek island ,well imagine if that film had a male and was made by David Lynch and you have the Mahe circle , love here is really obsession , this obsession is also mirror in his obsession to catch a certain fish in the book .The island leaps of the pages at time , but all that sun and easy living as it seems isn’t all it is cracked up to be .

Bilbao – New York – Bilbao by Kirmen Uribe

Bilbao – New York – Bilbao by Kirmen Uribe

Spanish Basque fiction

Original title – Bilbao – New York – Bilbao

Translator – Elizabeth Macklin

Source – Review copy

I wish I was a fisherman
Tumblin’ on the seas
Far away from dry land
And its bitter memories
Casting out my sweet line
With abandonment and love
No ceiling bearin’ down on me
Save the starry sky above
With light in my head
You in my arms
Woo!

Well it could only be the song Fishermen blues another hymn to being a fisherman from The Waterboys -source

Well I originally set out to write this review a month and half ago and then saw the book wasn’t out yet , it was a book i read and just wanted to write about and even after a month I still feel the same .This novel was a real event when it came out in spain as Kirmen Uribe is seen as one of the brightest stars in Spanish/Basque writing .He grew up in a small fishing village an hour from Bilbao ,his father was a trawlerman , Kirmen started out as a poet and has done spoken word performances to music in the past ,this novel was his debut novel and won the Spanish literature prize in 2009

Fish are always growing .Not us , we start shrinking once we’ve reach maturity .Our growth stops  and our bones begin to knit together .The person shrivels up .Fish , though grow until they die .Faster when they’re young , and as the years go on more slowly ,but fish always go on growing

The world of the fishing village is like men grow n and now shrinking , unlike the fish they catch

So Bilbao – New York -Bilbao , is a novel that to me as a reader was like getting really into the head of a writer for the first time , the plot follows Kirmen Uribe as he takes a flight from Bilbao to New York , whilst on this flight we see Kirmen drift into his own world ,his families world , he is in the middle of writing a novel about three generations of a fishing family , the family in the book is his own family from his grandfather to his father , uncles  and their years as trawlermen , the folklore of being a fishermen , his own life , the progress of the flight .

A monster , a monster that roars .In the old Irish legends Rockhall island is called Rocabarragh .The rock that roars according to Celtic tradition , the third time the rock comes to light ,it is said , the end of the world will be at hand .It’s visible only in the summer , in winter the waves cover it ,until they’ve hidden it completely

I love the small snippets of fishermen folklore we see in this book .

Well that is all I’m giving you plot wise  on this  book as I feel it is one you really  have to discover yourself  .For me this book is almost in words, the working of the inner mind of a writer we see how Kirmen could have used all  that is in this book , the  memories ,folklore and dairies  to write another  novel ,an interesting novel within a novel or is the novel he was writing in the book I  am reading the book ? or is it another book at some  later point I as a reader will meet from him  .Is the kIrmen Uribe  in the book the KirmenUribe that wrote book ? What we see in the book is a real hymn to a dying world the world of his father and uncles ,the dying world of small trawler men in the Basque region .The world he writes about reminded me of the people I knew in the small fishing port where I worked twenty years ago .The world isn’t just dying the people in the world are looking beyond the boats , but also looking back at the boats ,as the world of small boats supporting families giving them a living is dying out as this sort of fishing is being driven out by bigger boats with smaller crews and thus less work in the small communities around the ports where these boats were based , this is the world we see in Kirmen’s book is  not quite gone but disappearing quickly .Th e other thing that comes across in the book is the sea , fishermens respect for the sea ,the folklore they build around the sea ,man being drawn to the challenges of the sea-going in boats round places like St Kildas ,were the world comes down to man against nature so much and although he is flying over this world maybe trying to escape it he in his own way as a writer is still drawn to this world , as thou you can’t escape the shadow of ones own past .I’ve not read any book that has touched me in  so may ways such as this book has , having  lived around fishermen for a few years and also spent a lot of my youth around the small fishing ports of the East Neuk in fife , spending my summers with my gran doing the fishing boat trail learning about the fishermen and their lives ,I admire Kirmen’s longing for this world at times .Kirmen Uribe cast his own net not a real net no a net of ones mind a drag up memories poetry and a truly unique book for us as a reader , I hope Seren discoveries the publisher publishes his other novel ,either that or I may have to teach myself Spanish to read it .

What was the last book that left you totally knocked back ?

 

 

The search warrant by Patrick modiano

 

The Search Warrant (eBook)

The search warrant by Patrick modiano

French fiction

Original title –  Dora Bruder

Translator – Joanna kilmartin

Source – personnel copy

 

it’s a mystery to me, the game commences
For the usual fee, plus expenses
Confidential information, it’s a diary
This is my investigation, it’s not a public inquiry

I go checking out the reports, digging up the dirt
You get to meet all sorts in this line of work
Treachery and treason, there’s always an excuse for it
And when I find the reason I still can’t get used to it

Dire straits private investigations struck me as a great song to match this book .source

Well every year when the nobel betting starts a couple of names that are vaguely familiar but haven’t read or in some case have read but before I blogged crop up in the betting for the winner .Well this year Patrick Modiano is this years writer I’ve not read and a quick check of my library only showed three of his books but in French ,so I brought the only English version of his books available on kIndle .Patrick Modiano is a French writer born to an Italian father and Belgian mother , he toured with his mother who was an actress growing up , with his brother ,but his brother did age ten , all hos early books are dedicated to him , patrick Modiano in his writing life has won every major prize in French literature including the academy prize and the prix Goncourt .

Thus I came to learn that Dora Bruder and her parent were already living in the hotal on the boulevard Omano in 1937 and 1938 .They had a room with a kitchenette on the fifth floor , the level which an iron balcony  encircles both blocks .The level with ten or so windows .Two or three give on the boulevard the rest on to the Rue Hermel or , at the back the Rue Simpion

When I revisited the neighbourhood in on that day in 1996 .I noticed that the rusting shutters to the two end fifth floor windows overlooking the Rue Simpion were closed ,and that on the balcony outside there was a collection of miscellaneous objects ,seemingly long abandoned there .

The past meet the present all the time in this book .

The search warrant , is the story of Patrick Modiano and his looking into the life of a young Jewish woman Dora Bruder , he first comes across her name in an old Newspaper  report from 1941 .Something in the report is familiar from his own childhood and he decides to find out all he can from official records about this fifteen year old girl .As the story unfolds Modiano finds more and more this young girls life and his own have crossed although he never met her , his father had been in the same places and done things at the certain times ,  that crossed over with Dora’s life at the time  ,  such as the time  she enters a convent in an attempt to escape the Nazis , the life is told in glimpse of files of the time and then Patrick going to these places at times as well .He follows the French police reports of her as they search for this girl .

I track down Ernest and Cecile Bruder’s  niece .I talk to her on the telephone .The memories which she retains of them are those of childhood , at once fuzzy and sharp .She remembers her uncle’s gentleness , his kindness .The few details which I have noted down about their family come from her .She has heard it said before they lived in the hotel on the boulevard Omano , Ernest Cecile and their daughter Dora had lived in another hotel a street off the Rue des Possoniers .I looked at the street map , and read her out a succession of names .Yes that was it the Rue polonceau .But she has never heard any mention of Sevran nor of Freinvile , nor of the westinghouse factory

Discover the past of Dora’s life and her family .

The origin of this book came from Patrick Modiano and another writer talking about the nature of memory .The book reminds me of the saying any one person in the world is only six people removed from any other person in the world  .The story of Dora Bruders  is one of a sad life , and ultimate  early death in Auschwitz .At times  in this book , I was reminded of Sebald and his style of writing ,Modiano is very much a character in his own book something Sebald did a lot in his fiction  , his past becomes  intertwine with a girl he never meet but only discover via a small piece in a newspaper a sort of detective story without a crime just uncovering the past bit by bit .Now is this a book from a Nobel winner in waiting , I’m not sure I really have been bowled over by Modiano’s style and will be looking out for his books second-hand it looks like Harvil published him here in the UK, I imagine in Christopher Maclehose’s time there it seems like a book he would choose to publish in English .

Have you read Modiano ?

Parfuums by Philippe Claudel

Parfums

Parfums by Philippe Claudel (A catalogue of remembered smells )

French memoir 

Original title – Parfums

Translator – Euan Cameron 

Source – review copy

 

Nightswimming deserves a quiet night

The photograph on the dashboard taken years ago,
turned around backwards so the windshield shows.
Every street light reveals a picture in reverse
Still it’s so much clearer

I forgot my shirt at the water’s edge
The moon is low tonight

source R.E.M nightswiming is a bit like this book part remember parts of are youth ,the good bits .

I knew after enjoying his novels previously ,I would love his memoir and that the style would be uniquely different .Philippe Claudel has written nine novels ,made a number of films and he has won nearly every major award in French literature and also the Independent foreign fiction prize in the UK , he currently teaches at the University of Nancy , which is also in the Lorraine ,where he has lived and through this book you get a real sense of how rooted in the region he is .Now I’ve decide to break with the usual form of my reviews and combine my own life and talk a bit about the book I was so touched by how Philippe had used smell to evoke memories from his past .I ll use a few examples he used and combine them with my own life .

Gauloise and Gitanies

Now philippe says how you are either a smoke of one or the other in France , remember his uncle Dede , that smoke Gauloise and how the smell and smokers of this cigarette tend to be from a certain class and then Gitanies he remember that the priest smoke them and that seemed the sort of people who smoked them  he does mention cigars but I also have smoke both these brands and it isn’t the memory I’m mentioning .Now for me smell  remind me of my Dad very much not these but for him Cigars during my childhood he smoke cigars , the whole thing of the little cutter to take the tip-off ,the leather carrying case and the smell all remind me of my childhood holidays ,even to this day I smell cigar smoke and think of my dad and those days .

Campfires

He remember trips camping in the summers whilst at boarding school , the whole experience squash , games involving clues .Even how the fire prepared at the start of each day becomes a clock for the day in those endless summers marking the days moving by .Now for me i was remind of peat fires and my gran ,we would travel when I was very young into Donegal liberate some peat along the way then have poatoe cakes with chese on and strange mix of soda stream drinks we had chosen before we went out .Then the smoke is a strange pinky grey colour and smells unlike anything else in the world .

Suntan lotion

He thinks about his mum who smooth him in it and was in a constant panic about the young Philippe getting sunburnt , so much he had to wait to mid afternoons to meet his friends til the sun was less fierce in the sky .My stepmum jumped to mind for me not because she was like Philippes mum now the suntan lotion she used to use was a special one for tanning more that had a real coconut smell ,not the usual suntan lotion it made me think of the hot summers we had abroad when younger .

Acacia

His childhood summer again ,him with his good friends on bikes or playing games ,with the smell of Acacia petals from the tall trees that gave them shade as they cycled along ,also throwing the clusters of flowers into oil to make scented oil .Now for me a plants smell is two geraniums and tomato plants both of these make me think of my grandparents home by the seaside ,the smell of geraniums that grew in the porch a heady sickly flowery smell , then at the back in the greenhouse the smell of tomato plants but also the taste of those tomatoes grown taste like no other tomatoes ever do .

Coffee roasting

His first taste of freedom as a young 19 year-old in Nancy ,going out every day from cafe to bars , but also than discovering how coffee is roasted the smell of roasted coffee .Now anyone that knows me will know ,I only drink proper ground coffee and have done for most of my life living by myself , but coffee remind me now of my Amanda we have coffee a lot not being big drinkers we tend to have a coffee and cake at a coffee shop one of our favourites has a shop to buy coffee and tea attached and a wonderful smell and great selection of coffees my current favorite is one called tiger stripe rather nice with their cakes as well especially the victoria sponge that is just perfect .

Well that is the idea there are 63 vignettes of Philippe claudels life and I’m sure like me as you read along you will drift into your own past .For me smells often remind me of the past and since Proust onwards smells and taste have driven writers ,but few i think have taken it as far as philippe and used it just to tell his life in part .

What smells remind you of the past ?

The Vatican Cellars by Andre Gide

9781908313690

The Vatican Cellars by Andre Gide 

French fiction 

Original title – Les caves du Vatican 

Translator – Julian Evans

Source  – review copy 

 

FBI Team Leader: It’s an interesting setup, Mr. Ross. It is the oldest confidence game on the books. The Spanish Prisoner. Fellow says him and his sister, wealthy refugees, left a fortune in the home country. He got out, girl and the money stuck in Spain. Here is her most beautiful portrait. And he needs money to get her and the fortune out. Man who supplies the money gets the fortune and the girl. Oldest con in the world

From the film spanish prisoner by David mamet  from imdb 

I have long been a fan of Gallic books ,they publish a wide range of books from France from crime  to lit fiction in translation ,so there discussion to start doing some classic French writers is great and where better to start than with Andre Gide ,one of the most well-known names in 20th century French literature .Born in Normandy he grew up in isolation really ,he started writing at age 21 .He is best known for his books Strait is the gate and the Immortalist , this book came out a few years after that just on the outbreak of world war one .Gide influence the next generation of French writers Camus and Satre in particular .

In 1890 , in the papal reign of Leo XIII , the reputation of DR X—- , a specialist in rheumatic diseases , persuaded Anthime Armand-Dubois , Freemason , to travel to Rome .

“What?” his brother-in-law , Julius de barglioul exclaimed “You’re going all the way to Rome to get your body look after ! I hope that when you get there you’ll realise how much sicker your soul is !”

One family heads to Rome .

 

Rhe Vatican cellars is the tale of French upper class society falling victim to a band of Con men called the Millipede .The story follows three families Armand-Dubois family live in Italy Anthime has recently convert to become a Christian after he has a miracle cure ,meanwhile in Paris His wife sister  Marguerite and her husband Julius sister  ,he has recently written  a book and are movers in the Literary world of Paris , the third family Amedee who is Julius sister anyway these three families end up as a target for the millipede who want them each to give them 20,000 francs as they have 140,000 to help free the real Pope Leo XIII as they make them believe that the Pope there now is a fake Pope .Along the way the is some sex and comic turns .

“To have lost a pope is a frightful thing ,Madame ,there is no doubt about it . But even more frightful is a false pope ! Because to conceal its crime – what I am saying  – to inveige the church into pulling itself apart and fatally weaken itself ,in place of Leo XIII the lodge has installed on the papal throne who knows what puppet of the Quirinal .

The crumbs of the fake pope and why it happened are sowed .

Now this book when it arrived I knew the plot somewhat as it is a classic Scam , called the Spanish prisoner ,where the dupe is lead to believe that some one has been change and replaced with a double or variations on that theme .I would suggest if you like to see a modern version of the scam watch the David Mamet film Spanish prisoner (a very underrated film ) .So this book has been out print for 25 years is a good choice for a reissue and new translation .For me yes it has a strong theme of god and the church ,but also at points is quite brilliantly blackly comic ,I think one of the reason it hasn’t been popular is the plot is at times quite drifting and it is easy to lose where you are ,a few times I had to turn back a couple of pages and check I had it right Julian Evans is very good with older books I am halfway through his translation of Foundling boy another book from Gallic books I am reading .I had read Gide once before about 20 years ago  and have  couple on my shelves to read ,I think it may be a bit less time between his books this time .

Have you read Gide ?

Indigo by Clemens J. Setz

Indigo by Clemens J. Setz 

Austrian fiction 

Original title – Indigo

Translator – Ross Benjamin

Source – review copy

 

Just like watching the detectives.
Don’t get cute!”
It’s just like watching the detectives.
I get so angry when the teardrops start,
but he can’t be wounded ’cause he’s got no heart.
Watching the detectives.
It’s just like watching the detective

We not only watch the detectives but join them in this book ?

I have been vaguely aware of Clemens J Setz ,I had seen his name on a few German book prize list over the last few years , so when this book arrived from Serpents tail I was delighted to be able to try what seems to be one of the rising stars of German literature .Studied at Graz ,after university ,he went on and became a translator ,then a writer and poet ,his second novel the frequencies was on the German book prize shortlist (the German version of the booker prize ) ,he has also won Leipzig book fair prize .Indigo is his third novel and his first to be translated into English .This novel was also on the german book prize shortlist .A quick taster for German Lit month .

The wonderful inner peace , the first in a long while ,dissipated immediately when he stepped out of the building .Twenty-nine years on the planet and in all that time probably four hours altogether of perfect peace .During the years at Helianau it had been no more than three minutes ,Not counting sleep

Robert tatzel just as he is set free into the world ,free from Indigo .

Indigo ,is a book with two main characters A maths teacher named Clemens Setz and one of his former pupils Robert Tatzel .The title refers to a kid that in 2007 appears in children that affects any adults that get near them with severe headaches ,nausea and vertigo .Clemens is teaching at the time when the children in his class that catch this Indigo condition.Clemens tries to discover what has happened to his pupils ,but is meet with brick walls and the loss his jobs  .They are driven of in a strange type of mask .Then a number of years later one of these pupils Robert tatzel who with age has grown out of the Indigo condition is reading a paper when he discovers that his former teacher Clemen Setz had been on trial and acquitted for a brutal murder .

Acquitted in a trial for the violent death of a man from Romania .Kept his dogs in a dungeon for years . severe abuse .Death by slow flaying .Prime suspect Setz free as of today .The family of the victim , a small picture .people standing there sadly .In recent years mainly a science fiction novels ,a turn away from literature .Currently living as a freelance writer near .

captions from picture Robert finds about his old teacher .

Now that is the basic story ,but this book is a wonderful German take on Post modern fiction , that through these two stories we almost join these two men as they try to discover what has happen in both case ,why were the children taken ? what cause the Indigo ? Why did Clemens Setz end up in a trial for murder .We meet a mix of files, letters, book reviews , news  stories , clippings and pictures  as the two men try to discover fifteen years apart what happen to the other ,almost like a snake trying to eat its own tail it coils and coils ,making this one of those books that is hard to pin down .It’s a real journey through it ,I was reminded at the times  of  writers  like Pynchon or even Perec  both of whom like Setz here tried detective fiction of one sort or another in their time . There is an inventive hand in Setz writing with all the documents letters etc add a dimension that I haven’t seen done as well recently Strene did it first and Dos Passos did it in his books ,even BS Johnson in some ways but Setz for me made this feel like I was detective alongside them ,I ‘m sure each reader like me has their own take on what happened and why because we can all read into what we see from our own lives ,this make this unusual and unique book and new voice in German lit .

 

Chronicle of a death foretold by Gabriel Garcia marquez

Chronicle of a death foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Columbian fiction

Original title Crónica de una muerte anunciada

translator – Gregory Rabassa

source – personnel copy

 

When you’re sad and when you’re lonely
And you haven’t got a friend
Just remember that death is not the end

And all that you held sacred
Falls down and does not mend
Just remember that death is not the end
Not the end, not the end
Just remember that death is not the end

When you’re standing on the crossroads
That you cannot comprehend
Just remember that death is not the end

Nick cave version of death is not the end rather apt as death is not the end or the beginning of this book .

Well this is the last but one  of  the Marquez books I read back in July for marquez reading week .I choose this book for the week as it out of all of Marquez’s works of fiction , because it seemed to mix both his fiction and his journalistic style of writing as it recounts a murder in Small town of Santiago Nasar  .

Nor did Santiago nasar recognize the omen .He had sleep little and poorly , without getting undressed,and he woke up with a headache and a sediment of copper stirrup on his palate ,and he interpeted them as the natural havoc of wedding revels that had gone on until after midnight .

The morning after and in a way the morning before so to speak .

 

The chronicle of a death foretold as I said above is different in some ways to his other fiction as it is told in a more formal journalistic style of writing ,the story is of the killing of Santiago nasar , whom runs a successful ranch ,which he had inheirted father and still lives there with his mother and their servants ,we meet him on the day his is going to die .On this day as well a wedding is taking place the wedding of Angela Vicario ,she is due to marry a man who has come to find a bride ,find a virgin bride indeed ,so when after the wedding hew finds his new bride has already been with a man ,she is returned to her family and her brothers try to find out how has been with their sister …. Any way Angela who wasn’t in love with the man she was due marry at the time but had fallen for him during that day ,she wrote to the man Bayardo san Roman everyday for the following seventeen years at which point he returns with all these letters but he hasn’t ever open one ,of course in true Marquez style the book ends with the actual killing .Meanwhile her two brothers have had to leave town .

Bayardo San roman , the man who had given back his bride , had come for the first time in August of the year before : six months before the wedding .He arrived on the weekly boat with some saddlebags decorated with silver that matched the buckle of his belt and the rings of his boots .He was was around thrity years old

Bayardo arrived looking for a bride .

 

Well I said that this wasn’t like his other books when I choose it but actually after I had read it I  found many traits in this story that we have seen in his other books , families and honour are a recurring theme in his books from 100 years of solitude onwards .Lost love and longing for a former lover well enough said I think this has been in most of Marquez;s fiction Angela’s longing is maybe different as it is a women longing a man where as in most of the other books it is a man longing for the women .Then there is part of this book that harks to his other career as a journalist in the way the killing is recounted ,it has a crime report feel at times to it .Then we have the way the story is told in a non linear style that i have encountered in other books by Marquez where the story is a Rubik’s cube you don’t fully see the story till you make the last move the same is true of this book you don’t fully get this till the last pages .

have you read this Marquez ?

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