Beside the Sea by Veronique Olmi

beside the sea 1

Beside the Sea by Veronique Olmi

French fiction

Original title – Bord de mer

Translator – Adriana Hunter

Source – review copy

I can live with the sky falling out from above
I can live with your scorn, your sourness, your smug
I can live growing old alone if push comes to shove
But I can’t live without my mother’s love

I can live flying round at an impossible pace
I can live with the bad etiquette that’s falling on this place
I can live with anything you’ve got to throw in my face
But I can’t live without my mother’s embrace

A sons love of his mother Sun kill Moon song I can’t live without my mothers love  , but what happens when a mother has despair at her sons and her life !

can it really be five-year I said to myself a couple of months ago , when I decide to revisit the first three books from Peiene press .They’ve been publishing books in translation as long as I’ve been running the blog and they have provided in that time some of the most thought-provoking books I have read .So back to the book beside the sea seems to be a favourite book from Peirene still after five-year among people who have read their books .I maybe the first time round wasn’t as grabbed as many readers were but this time I felt a greater connection to the book .

When they were both asleep it was hard for me .The talking started all on its own in my head , I hate that , thinking is a nasty piece of work .sometimes I’d rather be a dog , you can bet dogs never wonder what their place in life is or who they should follow , they just sniff the air and its all recorded , in there for ever .And they stick to it

The mother starts to think over night as her boys sleep

Beside the sea is the story of a mother and her two sons , on the surface we seeing them going on a holiday , maybe out of season but to the seaside as the three of them arrive on a bus late in the evening and find a hotel to stay in  . The mother is unnamed but her two sons are kevin and Stan , she is a single parent we are told little bits about how she had the boys and what the boys are like  at home and together how the older brother watches the younger brother and looks after him .But throughout the book this time you get a  sense all isn’t right  with the mother and the thoughts in her head .This time I read the book noticing a lot more little things that lead up to the end moment of the books ,when the mother makes a decision that will affect her and her boys for the rest of her life !

I dreamt of the sea , I remember , of Stan running towards the sea , into the sea , but not drowning, and me with no words left to call him back …  Where was Kevin ? I don’t know , I could feel him but not see him , it was like the sea was only there for Stan and two of them understood each other so well tht it couldn’t hurt him .

She pictures the boys beside and in the sea .

Now I have yet again in the summary of the book , I’ve  not mention the big event in this book because for me if someone hasn’t read the book its like when we told people who hadn’t seen the sixth sense at the cinema what had really happened to Bruce Willis .But in reread the books the clues are there through the books in the thoughts and way the mother talks about her sons .At the time of the first reading I had read a lot less French fiction but now five years on this book is easier to place in the French cannon .The way French fiction can explore emotions and actions maybe even thoughts that a writer has had and never carried out  , but where these actions and thoughts  could lead so one of the first French novels on this blog becomes the 51st French book on the blog .In my original review I mentioned Kitchen sink drama as an English equivalent of this  book , but now years on maybe this book is nearer the sort of film Ken Loach would make there is a real natural feel to the prose ,but because Olmi obviously knew what was going to happen at the end we get little bit thrown through out the story that point us when we get to the main event in the book .I also think this is a book that would have more of an impact if you are a parent yourself , I’m sure many people have felt the despair that this mother feels about her sons .

Have you read this book if not why not ?

The tango singer by Tomás Eloy Martínez

 

The Tango Singer by Tomás Eloy Martínez

Argentinean fiction

Original title –  El cantor de tango

Translator – Anne McLean

Source – personnel copy

Will they marvel at the miracles I did perform
And the heights I did aspire
Or will they tear out the pages of the book
To light a fire

With the rain on my face
There is no place that I belong
Did you forget this fucking singer so soon?
And did you forget my song?

The last two verses of the song The singer by Nick cave remind me of Julio in a way .

 

Well I’ve left it till near the end to finally join in Richards Argentinean theme writers of doom event for last three months of 2014 .I finally choose another book by a writer whose two previous books I have reviewed here and enjoyed .Tomas Eloy martinez I have reviewed on the blog  Santa Evita and Purgatory  , two books  for me that  rank among my favourite books from Latin America so I’m surprised it took me this long to get The tango singer which has sat on the shelves for a good few years .Martinez was Journalist and academic as well ,being a writer , he passed away in 2010 .

No one knew why Martel performed in such inhospitable places , without charging a cent .At the end of spring of 2001 there were lots of clubs , theaters , bars and Milongas in Buenos Aires that would have welcomed him with open arms .Perhaps he was ashamed of exposing a body mercilessly abused by illness day after day

Julio just plays in dark corners of the city that are hard to follow .

The tango singer follows the story of Bruno Cadogan , who has been given the chance as a student to go to Buenos Aires to study .But he is happy because he has become gripped by Tango singers and he has heard of one such singer from the city Julio Martel , who has never been recorded singing and doesn’t really do concerts more turns up and starts singing never announced. His voice is considered the best Tango singer ever .So Bruno arrives in the city and is hunting to see this old man sing , but along the way we find out Julio story how he became such a star and how sad is life is .Add to this Bruno is a bit of a literary romantic so wants to see the city of Borges , the story Aleph by Borges gets mentioned quite a lot as a reference point maybe for Bruno own journey through the city and finally meeting this mysterious singer .

A few days after arriving I visited the house at 994 Maipu street where Borges had lived for more than forty years, and I had the sensation that I’d seen it somewhere else or , which was worse , that it was a scene destined to disappear as soon as I turned my back .

Borges crops up a lot in the book his ghost still seems to haunt both the city and Martinez in this book .

I love the layer Martinez builds in this book as we take its twists and turns  .Julio and Bruno are like two planets orbiting  around the city of Buenos Aires and Borges is like the sun of the centre of the  city and eventually these two planets will eclipse one another .Oh I can be a little abstract at times, this book is  really an ode to a city warts and all , to the writers and singers that live with in that city .Martinez builds the tension as Bruno gets closer to Julio but also in the dark past of the city makes this feel like a thriller at times .I would picture this book making a great film the young man on the quest to find the old sage of a singer . Martinez manages to capture the good and bad of a city which he spent some time in but he had lived many years in exile and this feels more about the city he remembered than the city at the time the book is set .If you have read any other of his books I’m sure you will love this one and if you need an introduction to him this is maybe a good one to start with as it has bits of each of the other two books I’ve read .Well can’t see it be too long before I read The Peron novel by him .

Have you a favourite book about music or singers ?

The whales in Lake Tanganyika by Lennart Hagerfors

 

The whales in Lake tanganyika by Lennart Hagerfors

Swedish ficion

Original title – Valarna i Tanganyikasjön

Translator – Anslem Hollo

Source  – Personnel copy

 

Africa land for preachers gold
Land for everybody young and old
The place that holds for some bright future,
But for others the future tend to torture
Ma’ Africa.

What went wrong with your brains?
You kill each other you destroy human dignity
People of Africa lets stand together
And make it the land of hope!

I want to tell everybody about myself

ma africa by One giant leap featuring  The Mahotella Queens & ulal maybe captured the book a bit .Africa is a character in this book .

One of the things I love about shops like Oxfam that seem to get donate quality books is looking through the shelves and finding books that I’ve never heard off , and in this case titles that gr
.ab me .Lennart is a swedish writer , but had spent time in the Congo as a kid as his parents were missionaries .He is a literary critic as well as a writer , he has written twenty plus novels in Swedish .This looks to be the only one of his books to be translated into English in the late 1980’s , yet another Oxfam Chesterfield gem !

“My name is Stanley . Henry Morton Stanley  I am a correspondent for an american paper , the New York herald .Its manager , young James Gordon Bennett , jr has sent me out to lead an expedition into the heart of Africa .I am offering you the position of third man – you would be the third white man in the expedition .

Stanley offers Shaw the chance to join him .

The book follows Stanley’s journey through Africa( I keep saying africa as it is how it is described in the book it actually congo we are in )  to find David Livingstone .We are told the story by one of the other two white men that went with Stanley on this Quest to find Livingstone , John Shaw a drinker and ex sailor , but someone who has been in Africa a while and has let the place and people soak into him as a person and lets it still give him wonder he loves what he sees the wonders of the nature around him  , but in may ways is maybe a weak man who is in  love with world  around him .Then we see Stanley through his eyes this brash american has come to tame africa , has no time for customs or Shaw at times .This shows what is a well-known moment the meeting of  Stanley and Livingstone , through another’s eyes .But also shows the way westerns view on Africa  at the time . We follow the two men all the way to they meet Stanley .

Then Stanley got to his feet again slowly .

“Dr Livingstone . I presume “

The old wretch barked a little laugh but then looked terrified again ..

Those famous words left Livingstone bewildered it seems here .

Now in some ways part of this book can be dated , but maybe inline with the way people spoke and view the world at the time and at times the speech used by Shaw and Stanley would be very offensive now .It also shows that one event remember the meeting can be viewed differently when seen  from another’s eyes .Lennart spent time in Congo which is of course where the actual meeting took place .Shaw was on the expedition with Stanley but  had left before he found Stanley so the part of the book where he sees the meeting is imagined .What we do see is Stanley maybe a brutal strong-headed man set on finding this man .Shaw is a softer figure a broken man in many ways but one in total awe of all that surrounds him .I was reminded of books like the secret history of Costaguana , a book that also tells another tale of colonial life all bit in latin america but the is parallels in how westerns treat the native folk .Well a gem from Sweden brought second-hand a real one evening book to read but you find yourself in 1870’s Africa in the deepest jungles struggling to find a missing Scottish man .A great way to spend an evening .

Have you a favourite books set in 19th Africa ?

Harraga by Boualem Sansal

 

 

Harraga by Boualem Sansal

Algerian Fiction

Original title – Harraga

Translator – Frank Wynne

Source – review copy

Out of my Algeria
they made the prisons taller
than the schools.
They sullied the nocturnal roots
of the People,
the serious Tree
of the remote Berbérie…
They denied the certainty of our Land,
they tore apart Islam, its color,
its fantastical tribes, even the shame
that makes them live.
They denied the Vital Fire, our Flag
They exiled the humble joys of our huts
slow at the return of corn…
Blind! Blind!

Well I had hope to get this book last week as it is one I feel we all need to read .Boualem Sansal  had a government job in the  early 2000’s til he start complaining about the government , his books since then have been critical of Algeria in particular how the vast money made from Oil is being spent and in this book womans rights .Boualem Sansal still lives in Algeria as he says the his country needs artists to pave the way to peace and democracy .He has won many awards and written six novels .He is one of the strongest critics of his country’s regime .

This is how a whirlwind sweeps into your life .Nothing absolutely nothing in my past led me to suppose that one day i would open my door , open my life to such mayhem .I opened the door because that’s hat you do when someone knocks , you answer .

Lamia just after Cherifka arrives at her door and the effect she has on her life .

Harraga is the story of two women , Lamia , who up to now had lived a quiet life behind the wall of her house , just living in her own world and Cherifika a 16-year-old unmarried pregnant girl arrives in the middle of the night at Lamia ‘s door , she was sent to her by Lamia brother Sofiane .Sofiane is also the inspiration  for the title the only member of Lamia family left alive he is a Hararaga , some one trying to escape Algeria for Spain across the sea .Meanwhile the two worlds of Lamia nad Cerifka start to clash , Sherifka is having to lay low but is struggling to do this in a way she is  a new woman wanting to be equal wanting to be heard but this is dangerous for a girl with child that is unmarried could be killed for Honour .This is what Lamia is trying to do ,whilst seeing the world anew through this young girls eyes making this meek woman who maybe is an example of what woman have been in Algeria she gets stronger .As the two woman adjust to each other and the world outside .

Cherifka is bored .I’ve noticed that she’s become less voluble , less frivolous , she is brooding , preoccupied serious .I scarcely recognised her .She is like a caged bird that has forgotten how to sing , to splash in its bath , to hop and skip for joy – a joy it can scarcely remember , one too distant and to fleeting to gladden the heart .

Lamia sees how being held up in the house is affecting Cherifka , these lines remind me of the lines of Maya Angelou in a way .

This is in some ways a classic odd couple story , the pair Lamia and Cherifka in some ways to me reflect the two faces of woman in the modern Arab world Lamia has hidden herself and in her own way is a romantic living behind a wall in her own world with ghost but not really living as she has settle for the life she has .Cherifka is the modern girl wanting to live , having a boy before being married , wanting to be seen and heard in a world where woman should really be meek like Lamia .Boualem Sansal has lifted the veil on being a woman in Algeria , but not just that through Sofiane and his trying to leave Algeria he has shown the problems in the country a country rich in its own world with oil money but only for the few .Then there is the house and the city t,the house has itself been part of Algeria and its history and through these two woman is seeing another turn in the country’s history .I know Frank the translator really hopes this book gets a wider readership because its writer has a voice that needs to be heard , silenced  in his own country even here this book hasn’t really got the coverage a work of its quality and insight needs .

 

Have you a favourite book from Algeria ?

The tower by Uwe Tellkamp

 

The tower  tales from a lost country  by Uwe Tellkamp

Original title – Der turm Geschichte aus einem versunkenen land

German fiction

Translator Mike Mitchell

Source – review copy

Daniel: When the child was a child, it was the time of these questions. Why am I me, and why not you? Why am I here, and why not there? When did time begin, and where does space end? Isn’t life under the sun just a dream? Isn’t what I see, hear, and smell just the mirage of a world before the world? Does evil actually exist, and are there people who are really evil? How can it be that I, who am I, wasn’t before I was, and that sometime I, the one I am, no longer will be the one I am?

Daniel the angel from Wings of desire seems  to be fitting as it is set just at same time as this book from the other side of the wall .

Well its a nice long book for German lit month today , The tower is an epic novel that won the German book prize in 2008 .The son of the a doctor he grew up in Dresden ,was studying medicine , but he then had to spend time in the East Germany army as a tank commander just before the wall fell in East Germany , he was draft into the army after he was considered political unreliability by the east german authorities .He published his first novel in 2000 , but it wasn’t til the tower came out he found real success .The book was made into a two-part tv series in Germany that was one of the most watched show of recent years when it was on German TV .

Anne took Meno and Christian to one side “.I think we should give it to him afterwards  , when there’s just family . I don’t know a lot of guests very well ; I don’t want it made public .Agreed ?”

Richard made a short speech of thanks .His final words brought a grin from Christian and Ezzo .”gut now , colleagues and friends , eat your fill .”

At the birthday party they are careful when giving gifts that maybe be considered wrong in the eyes of the east german authorities .

The tower follows the years before the wall fell in East Germany , we shown this through one families story .The Hoffman family in the tower region of Dresden ,  the parents like the writers own work in medicine .The son Christian , wants to follow in his fathers footsteps and become a doctor , but to do that he has to do his military service in the NPA (National People’s army ) .Whilst doing this he struggles to adjust to military life , sees a comrade die , he ends up getting the blame for this and spending more time in the army and in prison .Whilst at the start we see his father turning 50 and coping with the system in east Germany and practicing medicine .Then there is Uncle Meno Christians uncle , considered a member of the elite intellectual as he had studied in Moscow , he was to become a scientist , but in the end became a writer ,he is part of the literary elite and tries to put forward the truth in the way that is allowed .As he and his fellow writers struggle to write and get published .

Meno went to Leipzig book fair every year .Philipp put him up for those days and continued to do so after Hanna and Meno had separated , for the two men felt a liking , a quiet respect , for each other , what Hanna had once called ” a kind of awkward friendship “

Meno staying with a writer friend Phillp londoner , thought to be Thomas Kuczynski according to the German  press .

Now its hard to sum up a thousand page novel .The tower had been on my radar to read since it won the German book  prize  and in English since Frisch brought it out in e-book  , but then it was also brought by Penguin which is lucky I like my ebooks but struggle to read long books on my kindle , been trying to read another thousand page german novel on it for a while , but never got that far .Anyway when this dropped through the door at the beginning of the month I was determined to read and finish it in time for German lit month .Epic is a word for this Tellkamp has tried to catch the fall of East Germany , through a thinly veiled story of his own life , From the father and working in East Germany , to Christians own story in the army ,.The uncles story of trying to be a writer in east germany .We get all this in a number of styles of writings diaries , first person narrative ,third person narrative and a lot of stream of consciousness  writing .What we get is like a collection of little piece snippets of their lives  of these family members stories brought and tied together to get the story of a country falling apart and also the inner tension of East Germany a country built on mistrust .He also used uncle Meno to discuss writing in east germany  a number of the people in his circle have since been worked out by German Journalist to be specific writers of the time .Well for me this is the best book about life in East Germany just before the wall fell , that said I not read much wolf but for the whole picture I can’t see a better book  to celebrate 25 years since the wall and east germany Fell .

Have you a favourite Epic book in translation ?

The legend of the Holy drinker by Joseph Roth

 

Image of The Legend Of The Holy Drinker

The legend of the Holy Drinker by Joseph Roth

Austrian fiction

Original title – Die Legende vom heiligen Trinker

Translator – Michael Hofmann

Source – Library book

 

I’m so sorry
I know exactly what you mean
Tired of being devilish
Sick of being wicked
Habitual, and untrue
Another starting over
Although it is the ending
I send regards to you
Standing on the steps
Steps of the cathedral
Watch the summer fade
Just trying to get to somewhere
Trying to get just anywhere
And I know it ain’t my day

On the steps of the cathedral by the mighty Mark Lanegan seems match this book his lyrics full of god and drinking source 

Well I had planned to read a few books by Joseph Roth for the week for him this German lit month but as ever time and other books caught up with me so I only got chance to read the shortest one I  got hold of but really enjoyed this Novella .Joseph Roth served on the eastern front in world war one , then became a Journalist on left-wing papers after the war .He was married , but his wife suffered mental illness for most of their marriage so was in a sanatorium .He published his first novel in 1923 , but it wasn’t to the early 1930’s and The books Job and The Radetzky march that he found real fame .Roth himself was a drinker ,this book was his final book .

On a spring evening in 1934 a gentleman of mature years descended one flights of stone steps that lead from the bridges over the Seine down to its banks .It is there that , as all over the world knows and so will hardly need reminding , the homeless poor of paris sleep or rather spend the night

The man who gives Andreas the money , finds him under that bridge

The legend of the holy drinker follows Andreas , a vagrant former coal miner , that because of a number of misfortunes he had become a down and out .But in the book we see this man get a number of pieces of good fortune starting with the mystery meeting with a man who gives him 200 francs .That he promises to ive back  via a statue of Saint Theresa of Liseux to give to a certain priest .The first thing Andreas uses the money for is  to go for a drink with it going straight to the nearest bar , but this leads to  a meeting with former friends , lovers lead him down a path of not giving the money to the right person  , moving in different circles we see the older version of Andreas shine through the man he used to be ,we also find out how he end up on the street after going to prison. Finally then there is a strange younger woman  called Theresa .But is all this long-term can one escape one’s fate ?

He woke up very early in the morning .Caroline was still asleep .A solitary bird was twittered outside the open window .He lay there for a while with open eyes , no more than a couple of minutes .During those minutes he was thinking .It seemed to him that not for long time had so many remarkable things happened to him as now ,in the space of this single week .

Andreas thinks about good fortune , but is it really ?

Now this was his last book , is Andreas in some part Roth I don’t know , he seemed from his bio to be struggling with drink and ,maybe this story of a man nearly redeeming himself was in some part what he wanted .Are we all haunted by our past ? Can we escape our past ? Are we doomed to repeat the same mistakes ? These are all questions one is asking one’s self whilst reading this book .Maybe Andreas is a wider figure the lost hope and dreams of many a man , but then given a chance to escape it .Is human nature to be repeat of what we were , can we break the cycle Andreas is maybe Roth trying to discover a way through his human nature but the world around him , this was 1939 Roth was a jew living in Paris maybe this is more a tale of some one looking for redemption .I know I musing on this one but it’s that type of book a fable like feel to his prose and a gentle wit and carefully drawn lead character makes me feel there is a lot more to this one than first appears .I also love the woodcut art that is at the start of each chapter .

have you ever read a book that leaves you with a lot of questions after reading it ?

Barbarian Spring by Jonas Lüscher

9781908323835

Barbarian Spring by Jonas  Lüscher

Swiss fiction

Original title – Frühling der Barbaren

Translator – Peter Lewis

Source – review copy

For two hands, of stone and of thyme
I dedicate this song.. For Ahmad, forgotten between two butterflies
The clouds are gone and have left me homeless, and
The mountains have flung their mantles and concealed me
..From the oozing old wound to the contours of the land I descend, and
The year marked the separation of the sea from the cities of ash, and
I was alone
Again alone

A verso of the Poem Ahmad Al-Za’tar by Mahmoud Darwish , seems to fit the feeling of this book .

 

Another novel from switzerland for German lit month and another from Haus publishing( I love the cover of this book a very german looking cover sparse just what is need on it )  .Jonas  Lüscher was born in Berne , and studied Philosophy , getting a master’s degree first teaching , since then he also did some work alongside the well-known philosopher Michael Hampe .Barbarian spring is his first novel it was shortlisted for the swiss book prize and longlisted in the German book prize .

Preising was all set , then , to exchange the fogs of midland Switzerland for the balmey Tunisian spring .He swapped his customary tweed jacket and Burgundy cords for a houndstooth jacket the colour of egg nog and a pair of chinos with sharp creases ; in all honesty, he found this ensemble ludicrous , but his housekeeper had laid it out ready for him and he was afraid of offending her by spurning it .

I was reminded of Frasier this is just the sort of thing he would do they worry about it .

Barbarian spring is really a double meaning in its title , the first being an older word for the Arab world and the Arab spring , the second and main one is the spring of a group of people who should know better that become barbaric in the face of the Arab spring happening around them .The story is the story of Preising a Swiss industrialist and rather like  a swiss version of Frasier or Niles from the programme Frasier as he is very picky in his ways .We meet him on route to a wedding of two friends from London they are getting married in a resort in Tunisia that has been built-in an Old Berber town and made into the height of western opulence as a hotel the couple haven’t spared any expense the bride arrives in her wonderful dress on the back of a camel  .The marriage goes ahead , but even as Preising is arriving for the Marriage you sense not all is right in the world around them .Add to this the crash in the markets  in London where the couple are from at this time as well .We have two groups living on the edge and a group of overpaid rich people getting  caught up in the Arab spring .

Sitting in the shade , Snaford started talking about the niceties of the Berber village societies and the role played by women , and preising , who’d read a bit about native peoples , chipped in from time to time .

Preising and one of the guests talk about the natives , but see the world from a western view .

Now this book is a story of what may have happened but what could have happened of course the two events in the book the Arab spring and the Market crashes happened a different times but what Jonas does in the book is imagine them happening in a future event and how this has a knock on effect on the Couple , their party and Preising .But also the people in the Resort around them those everyday Tunisians .This of course leads to the darker side of human nature taking hold not just survival but also what happens when there are no rules for everyone and effectively we are all on the same level for once caught in  a storm of events .Also certain scenes show one world smashing into another like a luxury coach crashing into a group of camels , in one way the part in the coach unhurt and the family that own the camel destroyed by this one event .Short but thought-provoking fiction , using an outside eye on recent events like the market crashes and Arab spring make for an exciting and different debut novel .

have you read any books about the Arab spring ?

A price to pay by Alex Capus

9781908323736

A price to pay by Alex capus

Swiss fiction

Original title – Der Fälscher, die Spionin und der Bombenbauer

Translator – John Brownjohn

Source – review copy

To answer a question
It’ll probably take more
If you’re already there
Well then you probably don’t know
Well we were the people
That we wanted to know
And we’re the places that we wanted to go
It’s hard to get hold of
And hard to let go
Always something we look for
From the day we were born
Instead we’re the people that we wanted to know
And we’re the places that we wanted to go
Yeah we’re the places that we wanted to go
We’re the places that we wanted to go

The first verse of people as place as .. by modest mouse seem to match this book a bit source

Another book for German lit month , today I bring a book from Switzerland .Alex Capus is French swiss writer , he was born to a French father and Swiss mother in Normandy in France , spent his first few year in Paris , then moved to switzerland where he studied in Basel at the university .Working as a Journalist then and editor ,his big break through came in 1994 with his first book by 1997 he had developed a style of writing he is now known for using a Classic narrative style .What I like about Alex Capus is in one writer he maybe sums up this blog a bit of europe all mixed up in one  .He has previously been longlisted for the German book prize .

I like the girl .It pleases me to picture her sitting in the open doorway of the rearmost carriage of the Orient Express with the glittering silvery waters of lake Zurich gliding past her .It could be early November 1924 .I don’t know the exact date .She is thirteen years old , a tall , tin , rather gawky girl with a small but deeply incised furrow on her nose .

Opening lines the young Laura on her way through Europe on the Orient Express .

This book follows three lives Emile Gillieron , Laura d’Oriano and Felix Bloch over the course of 15 to 20 years , we first meet them as they all wait on a station platform in 1924 in Zürich , this is the only time the three of them are together what follows in alternating chapters is the journey to the second world war .Emile is a budding draughtsman who gets drawn into Forging is at the station to scatter his father ashes , but then gets drawn into ,making fake relics , is actually considered the greatest forger of his age  whilst in Greece .Laura is a singer on the music hall , moving to italy and in the end becomes a spy for the allies in the second world war  a sort of world war two Mata Hari .lastly is Felix is a physicist that becomes a member of the  Robert Oppenheimer team that made the Nuclear bomb who also after the second world war won the Nobel prize for his work during the wat  .We follow each life from that meeting on the station to each ones end .

Felix Bloch never set eyes on the girl in the Orient Express because she didn’t get out in Zürich .That November afternoon .Laura d’Oriano travelled on via Basel to Belfort , where while Felix Bloch was calling at ETH’s enrolment office and Emile Gillieron waiting for his steamer in Trieste

The three crossed paths for just a brief second of time .

Now these are actually three real people , we don’t know if they actually meet but what Alex capus has done is throw three people with relatively unknown stories around the second world war and see what lead to their part in the war .I was reminded of the jesuit saying show me the boy I ‘ll show you the man , show us the young people on a station , We find out their lives here and how the war effected them .Capus uses alternate chapters to tell the stories , sometimes the paths cross after the first meeting but not quite .The original title shows more about the book which translates as the The forger , the spy and the bombmaker , which of course is all three of them .Capus has been compared in German reviews to both Delius and Grass both of whom like Capus use the second world war as a main part of their fiction .The three characters show how people’s lives can have a knock on effect and how we may think we are on one path but a slight shove or chance meeting may lead your life in a whole different path .Fate is out their for all of us and we never know where it will take us .

Have you a favourite novel based on a real person ?

The Chef by Martin Suter

 

The Chef by Martin Suter

Swiss fiction

Original title – Der Koch

Translator – Jaime Bulloch

Source – Review copy

 

I can change the world
With my own two hands
Make it a better place
With my own two hands
Make it a kinder place
With my own two hands
With my own
With my own two hands
I can make peace on earth
With my own two hands
I can clean up the earth
With my own two hands
I can reach out to you
With my own two hands

with my own two hands a love song by Jack Johnson , reminds me of what Maravan made with his own two hands source 

Well its been a quiet German lit month here on winstonsdad , I’ve chosen a bestseller from Switzerland .Martin Suter started out as a copywriter , working for one of the best known ad agencies in Basel for twenty years ,before setting up his own company .He also has a well-known coloumn in a monthly magazine in Switzerland .He got his breakthrough novel in 1997 , small world which was made into a film .The cook is his seventh novel .he spends his time between Spain and Guatemala now .

By the time  Andrea left that evening she had been initiated into the aphrodisiac secrets of milk and urad lentils , saffron and palm sugar ,almonds and sesame oil ,saffron Ghee and long peppers , cardamom and cinnamon , asparagus and liquorice ghee .

The food describe at times makes you mouth water and you Andrea discover the power food can have .

The chef  is the story of two former restaurant employees , their former restuarant was one of the best known in Zurich to the fact its chef was a well-known , but after the financial crash lead to job cuts . So  Maravan the Tamil who was the dishwasher and Andrea the beautiful waitress find themselves without a job .The pair discover that Maravan , is actually a wonder in the kitchen , he learnt to cook back in his native Sri Lanka .But the food he cooks is more than food it has almost magical powers in the love department , as the people who eat it seem to be given added sexual powers they discover this after Maravan cooks one of his meals for Andrea and she falls for him after eating the food he cooks .This leads to the idea of starting a company cooking for couples and becoming partners in the buisness  .As the business grows we start to find out a little more about Maravan’s life before he came to switzerland ,where he shouldn’t be .They also grow and some of the people he is dealing with are shady seling arms this leads them into a underworld .

“The dirty stuff “

Andrea understood immediately what he was saying , but asked “what dirty stuff “

Maravan paused .

“If someone rings and wants ,you know , sex dinners .As far as I’m concerned you can say yes “

“Oh that .All right , I’ll take that on board , anything else ?”

“Nothing.”

As soon as Maravan had hung up ,she looked for the number of the caller who had asked about the sex dinners ,she had noted it down , just in case .

They decide to move their business in a new direction using the special qualities in Maravan’s food .

Now I don’t usually read blockbuster novels in English , the books you may call airport books , but as I read just translation these days we come across these books from time to time Suter is a big star in Europe ,his books have been made into films .His novels from what I read tend to have like this one a social justice message behind them from Maravan’s own story to that of his friend from Ethiopia  , a bit of love and a bit of crime .I can’t really match it to an English writer as I say I don’t really read blockbuster novels .but that said I was reminded of the thing Stephen king does in his books and that is the sense ,Suter seems to have  an eye for this book ,possibly becoming a film .In fact the film version of this book is out in the next few weeks in German-speaking world .Entertaining quick read , that has a little bit of everything thrown into the mix , culture clash , cooking , love ,sex ,crime and murder , also a detailed description of the financial events around the world as the crash starts to happen .We also get the recipes that Maravan cooks .

Have you read a bestseller from around the world that has been translated into English ?

Raw material by Jörg Fauser

 

Raw Material by Jörg Fauser

German literature

Original title – Rohstoff

Translator – Jamie Bulloch

Source – review copy

 

 

In Berlin, by the wall
you were five foot ten inches tall
It was very nice
candlelight and Dubonnet on ice

We were in a small cafe
you could hear the guitars play
It was very nice
it was paradise

You’re right and I’m wrong
hey babe, I’m gonna miss you now that you’re gone
One sweet day

Lou reeds Berlin maybe one best sound track songs to this book source

Jörg Fauser was a huge name in the underground literature culture of Germany when he was writing , Grew up in Frankfurt , but then he lived in squats around Europe Istanbul , Berlin and even North Africa as he tried to live life ,like the  Beat writers that he so admired .He was greatly drawn to the Beat writers of America admiring the cut up style of Willam Burroughs and also the hard-boiled crime of the likes of Hammett and Chandler , he wrote a number of crime novels that were well received at time and a have been published in English .He also tried his hand as a song writer .But this book isn’t a crime novel , no it’s the full on vision of a man as a writer at the time Fauser was a writer .His lead character is indeed an alter ego of him .

As they didn’t rake enough with their five storeys , the hotel owners had put another structure on the roof ,The view was overwhelming , as were the heat in the summer and cold in the winter .But for two marks a day we could enjoy the same panorama for which tourists would have shell out twenty or fifty times as much .And we could get ours on credit

Living cheap seeing the blue mosque from a makeshft home on a roof in a hotel in Istanbul .

As I said Raw material is the story of a writer Harry Gelb , he happens to follow the same path as fauser did in his life , living in Istanbul and then Berlin .what we see is a man who loves the beat writers and the lifestyle in the books trying to live out this lifestyle in europe living on rooftops in Istanbul writing in oilskin notebooks about his life their , then a return to Germany to the bohemian Berlin and trying to get noticed publishing Magazines .All the time ,  meeting girls drinking taking drugs .All the time writing and trying to find someone to publish his masterpiece Stamboul blues .Harry tries to get noticed but is thwarted at every turn it seems , his book is great every one says so but it is maybe to modern for the time .He also falls for many women along the way .Bur does get to meet one of his hero’s Burroughs as he tries to make it .

I was on my way – and how! I tried to explain to Burroughs that I’d been a junkie myself for four years , and in my report I also wanted to write about how one could get off the gear .Burroughs had managed it with apomorphine .Apomorphine was unknown in Germany .That’s why i was here .He lit another cigarette .He smoked filterless senior service chain-smoked them ,

“What sort of stuff did you take ?”

“Oh , opium mainly .”

“What raw opium ? You didn’t take it intravenously did you ?”

“Yes I did .”

“Young man ,” Burroughs said , with the hint of a smile , “you must have been out of your mind .”

Harry gets to interview both his and Fauser’s  own hero William Burroughs .

What we see in this book is a side of German life that isn’t always been shown in LIterature in translation , I was luckily enough to catch on to the very tail end of this life when I lived in Germany twenty years ago , a life of small pubs , people meeting and doing arty thing seeing small bands going to make shift clubs .This is the same world that gave us the great film directors like Wim Wender and Rainer Fassbinder ,we see the Berlin that also had the likes of Nick Cave and David Bowie making some of their greatest records at the time .In Harry Gelb , we see what life was like for Fauser the ups and the downs the dreams and disappointments of the world he lived in .Fauser story is sad he died under strange circumstances aged only 43 having a life similar to Harry his character doing meaningless jobs and writing underground magazines and trying to break through to be a big writer like his Hero’s .Fauser also wrote songs I found this on you tube by Achim Reichel who he wrote songs for .

 

Have you a favourite writer from the Counter Culture side of German life ?

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