John and George the dog who changed my life by John Dolan

John and George the dog who changed my life by John Dolan 

Memoir

Source – review copy

King went a-runnin’ after deer
Wasn’t scared of jumpin’
off the truck in high gear
King went a-sniffin’
and he would go
Was the best old hound dog
I ever did know.

Old king by Neil Young source 

I had planned to write the review for this wonderful memoir the day Winston fell ill and al that happened since it has taken till today where i have felt like talking about this book .I have said in the past one of my guilty pleasure is memoirs of dogs or about dogs and owners .So John Dolan’s book is one of those books .John Dolan had spent many years homeless when two things changed his life ,a dog called George and a rediscovery of a love of drawing .He has now had a number of sell out art shows and is  making a living as an artist .

It was the winter of 2009 when George came into my life , and I was living alone in a temporary council bedsiit above a newsagents ,down the road from the tower of london .I’d been fortunate enough to have been there for two year on and off ,which was about the omly good thing I had going for me .I was struggling in just about every way a person could struggle .

The opening chapter of John and George .

George is staffy ,as you see on the cover he is a very pretty staffy and his life and John’s meet at just the right time .George was a dog that had a rough start and end up in John’s flat via a couple he knew that were looking after him for someone else .John had this small flat but for years had been struggling with living on the streets and drug habit .George was a timid fellow when he meet JOhn and JOhn didn’t know what to do with a dog but really thought he had to do what was best and take care of George .So they started their life together john start to draw again and drew the area of london he was in Shoreditch and of course George .He started to sell these pictures to passers-by ,one of these passers-by happened to been the owner of an art gallery that ask John if he would want to do a show ,from their the art and pictures sold well ,the project involved using one of John’s images of Shoreditch skyline and getting well-known street artist like Roa ,broken fingaz and sever’s .

“You can’t come back here ,” Gerry said

he was staring me straight in the eye ,like he really meant business .I had walked out of prison with a small carrier bag of belongings and taken a train straight to Presidents house .I kne Dot and Gerry wouldn’t exactly be hanging out the bunting ,but i had definitely not been expecting to be turned away flat like this .

John’s family story is a complex one of secrets .

The  book is more than the story of George and John it is the story of John’s life how do you end up homeless and on drugs ? well like John’s story it isn’t one big event it is a series of small events that over time wear someone done together with growing up in a family where there was a big secret that effected John  .I was touched when John talked about the effect George had on his life ,I could really connect with this feeling Winston came in my life at the right point .The power of dogs to do good in people’s life is what shines through the book ,George story as well is one of why people who treat their dogs right are important ,his life hadn’t been ideal before he meet John ,he was on the verge of being wayward and uncontrollable ,but John’s love and time made his life better than it ever was .Well that’s it I am already holding back the tears as I think if my boy Winston and our story .

IMG_1190

one of my boy I did with a photo app

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And a wonderful drawing by John of his boy George .

Have you a favourite dog or even cat book .

Solar plexus by Rustam Ibragimbekov

Solar plexus ( A Baku saga in four pars ) by Rustam Ibragimbekov

Azerbaijan fiction

Original title -Солнечное сплетение

Translator – Andrew Broomfield

Source – review copy

Our house, in the middle of our street
Our house, in the middle of our

Our house it has a crowd
There’s always something happening
And it’s usually quite loud
Our mum she’s so house-proud
Nothing ever slows her down
And a mess is not allowed

Our house by madness seemed a rather good choice for this book -source 

Well when i receive the email to review this book ,I jump at the chance it isn’t often these days I get to add a new country and writer to the list of book from on this blog ,so a chance to read a book from Azerbaijan is a real treat .I hadn’t heard of Rustam Ibragimbekov ,but he has been well known in Russia and then Azerbaijan for his film making ,his father was an art historian ,Rustam went on to study in Azerbaijan and then in Russia where in Moscow he studied cinematography .He then start writing films and tv scripts ,his best known film is” White sun of the desert “,a cult film ,that has been shown to Russian cosmonauts just before they take off for a number of years .

He barely caught glimpse of her in the gloom of the entrance : two quick strides up two steps at a time , and she disappeared completely round the bend in the staircase .He was no longer afraid of being noticed.He wanted to get another look at her ,before listening to her rapid steps .

Alik follow the girl from the drama group .

Solar Plexus is four short novella length stories that track the course of a family in the capital city of Azerbaijan Baku in one building  and friends  we follow four genrations stories throughout the 20th century .The action focus on the peroid of 1940 to 1990 and four stories from those years we follow three genrations from 27 Shemakhinka street and the courtyard with in this address and the people hat live with in the courtyard .We open with Alik and his family ,Alik is involved in a drama group ,well he really likes one of the women in the drama group .Then we move on to Marat’s story he works at the quarry ,then we follow the Rectors story as he sees to the people round him .the last story follows the courtyard and its folks as a whole as they head toward Azerbaijan become a country once again as the Soviet union falls apart .

The first feeble but unanimous impulse we all felt when we emerged ,exhausted from the militia station was go straight home .But in 1992 Baku still retained some of the qualties of the real Baku ,and from out of nowhere we were suddenly surrounded by a gang of young men shouting in delight ,led by two twenty-year-old giants – Marat’s sons .

Near the end the sons and grandsons of the original families see Azerbaijan free again .

 

After reading about Rustam’s film and tv career ,well he is well-known for his talent at mixing tragedy and comedy together .The stories in here are a personnel glimpse of everyday life in Baku through the eyes of these families that are so different but due to the fact they share a courtyard interact with each other every day .The world outside is seen the end of world war two ,the Soviets taking charge ,the bad years of Stalin ruling with the purges ,but also we see how they slowly try to take over Azerbaijan making it more Russian than Azerbaijan . A wonderful mix of romance and comedy .We then glimpse how the people and country as a whole start to believe in the fact they could once again become a separate country as they saw at a distance what was happening in Moscow and elsewhere in the Soviet Union

Have you a favourite book from one of the former Soviet countries ?

The insufferable Gaucho by Roberto Bolano

the-insufferable-gaucho-978033051062201

The insufferable Gaucho by Roberto Bolano 

Chilean fiction

Original title – El Gaucho insuferible 

Translator – Chris Andrews 

Source – library

Amazing travelers, what fantastic stories you tell!
What a bottomless incurvation to your eyes.
Show us the streaming gems from the memory chest
The mirroring beads of anecdote and hilarity. We’d also
Like to think it possible to combat the tediousness of these bourgeois prisons.
We’ll stretch the canvas, prepare the paints and brushes
Willing to take a month or even a year to make ourselves great.
What have you seen?

Baudelaire The voyage ,i loved this I read it after it was mention in the essay Literature + illness  = illness

Well this book is another hangover from Spanish lit month ,I have reviewed five of Bolano’s books before on the blog ,with Trevor over at Mookse and gripes doing a 2666 readalong ,that I am thinking about doing as a reread .I have said much about Bolano over the other post on him .I am slowly reading through his backlist and we are getting to the end of his books coming out in English with just two more it seems to come out .So it’s to insufferable gaucho a collection of Bolano’s short stories and a couple of essays .

Many years ago I had friend Jim , and he was the saddest North American I’ve ever come across .I’ve seen a lot of desperate men .But never one as sad as Jim .Once he went to Peru – supposedly for more than six months ,but it wasn’t long before we saw him again .The Mexican street kids used to  ask him , what’s poetry made of Jim?

Jim a short story of a sad man and poet in mexico

The stories cover a Vietnam vet coming to terms with his life ,Jim the vet in question  is a typical Bolano character ,he has escaped America and is trying to make his way in Mexico city as a poet , but not really getting to far .The we have a tale of an informer called police rat .But for me the story that really hit home was Alvaro Rousselot’s journey ,a tale that sees the title character who is an Argentinian writer having to go to France to find someone who is illegally make films of his books without his permission to find the man Morini that made a film lost voices that is so much like his own book solitude but get lost at times in France and he doesn’t speak French . The two essay in the collection are interesting the first seems to have been a lecture that Bolano gave at some the subject was literature and illness how the two interweave , using the poem which I quote from in the first section as part of the essay illness and French poetry .

What can Sergio Pitol , Fernando Vallejo and Richard Pigla do to counter the avalanche of glamour ? not much .They can write .But writing and literature are worthless if they aren’t accompanied by something imposing than meer survival .Literature ,especially in Latin America , and I suspect in Spain as well ,means success ,by which ,of course ,I mean social success :massive print runs :translation into more than thirty languages

The trouble of finding  identity and breaking out in Latin American literature .

I read this about two months ago and was a bit humdrum about it but since then I have thought about bits of the stories in this collection and rather like a wine ,this book tastes better with time away from it .The collection has lots of parts of Bolano as a writer that I like his poets on the edge with Jim .In police rats the story is formed from out of a sister of one of the characters in a Kafka story .Then the essays are a nice little taster too his non fiction writing ,I have his huge collection Between parentheses ,which over time I have been dipping in and out of .The second essay is a quick look by him at Spanish and Latin american  lit at the time it was written and is an interesting look as some of the writers he mentions like Pitol are just reaching us in English ,deep vellum are publishing this highly acclaimed Mexican writer .This would serve as a good starter for any one that has read Bolano and maybe want to get little nibbles of him as a whole as the stories cover the range of his writing from mexico ,to magined writers and non fiction ,not filling to me as a huge fan but it gives you a real feel of him as a writer .

Have you read Bolano ?

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 ?

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

the-portrait_300dpi-280x430

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 ?

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 ?

 

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 ?

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 ?

Someday we’ll tell each other everything by Daniela Krien

someday we'll tell each other everything

Someday we’ll tell each other everything by Daniela Krien

German fiction

Original title – Irgendwann werden wir uns alles erzählen.

Translator Jamie Bulloch

Source – Review copy

Despair and Deception, Love’s ugly little twins
Came a-knocking on my door, I let them in
Darling, you’re the punishment for all my former sins

I let love in

source Nick cave’s Let love in ,did Henner let love in was he ready ?

Time is running short for women in translation month I ‘ve three books left to put up for the month here is the first a German novel from one of my favourite publishers Maclehose .Daniela Krien was born in Jena in former East Germany  ,then lived in Lepzig ,she has been a scriptwriter for a number of years for a German film company that make films about artists .This was here début novel and won high praise in Germany for it use of  Powerful language it also was a best-selling German  Audiobook .

 Henner truly is a handsome man .I realised that when he was in the shop :a hulking body that moves powerfully , but with fine facial features .He has deep-set ,expressive eyes surrounded by small ,dark lines ,and a hint of bitterness around his mouth ,although when he smiles it disappears completely .You can’t tell he’s a drinker .

Maria first time see really sees Henner as the young women she is now .

Now it is 1990 the wall has fallen in Germany and slowly east is meeting west ,this story is the story of that summer .But this is in the hinterland of East Germany in a sleepy back water town .Maria is a 16  year old that is enjoying her first real summer of freedom .Now next door to her parents farm lives Henner a hard-drinking man ,that has many dogs and a reputation for being a womaniser.Now I have no need to say any more really .But it’s not as you may think ,no Maria is the one that falls for the rough unkempt Henner and starts to make moves for him .Henner responds as this affair grows it starts to cause Maria problems at home what will she do ? How does Henner really feel for Maria ? . where will they all be when summer is over ?

Shortly before midnight I leave Henner’s house carrying my case .As a goodbye he takes my head in his hands and plants a kiss on my forehead .Then he puts his index finger to his lips .I nod,perhaps not distinctly enough ; i sense that his eyes on my back lack their usual certainty .So I turn and repeat the gesture he was looking for .

The affair has to be secret at first .

I initially wasn’t keen on this when I was sent it from Maclehose something about the cover said a female read (I know I shouldn’t think this but I did ) .But I was sure there would be something in it I would like as Jamie whose previous translation choices I have always enjoyed .I am so pleased I looked past the cover on this one .The book is a reverse of what on the surface you imagine a 16-year-old girl and forty-year man would be and that is the Man seducing the younger girl .Maria is a great character a rebellious dreamy  teen want to shake the shackles of her family ,she is dreamy and sees Amour Fou in Henner .Yes this is a tale of passion ,passion for the wrong man but she sees more in him than maybe Henner sees in himself  .A summer romance but more than the average summer romance no this affair  is a raging forest fire of a romance and both may get burned in the end if they don’t control it .All this and in the background little hints at the joining  of east and west Germany ,one could almost say this relationship is rather like the joining  of the two  Germany’s  Maria as west German  young dreamy and in love and Henner broken ,stumbling through his life as East Germany .Have you a favourite book about romance desire or passion ?

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