The Late Monsieur Gallet by Georges Simenon

the late monsieur Gallet

The late Monsieur Gallet by Georges Simenon

Belgian crime fiction

Original title –  M. Gallet décédé

Translator – Anthea Bell

Source personnel purchase on Kindle

“Above all , don’t lie to yourself .The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him , or around him ,so loses respect for himself and for others ,and having no respect he ceases to love “

Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Earlier in the year I reviewed the first reissue from Penguin of Maigret and now move on to the second book in the series having already read the following two in the series as I try to read the complete Maigret series as Penguin release them one a month for the next five plus years .I ‘ll dispense with the usual bio as I’ll just end up doing it time and time again ,if over time I find exciting titbits about Simenon I’ll pass them on .

Émile Gallet, commercial traveller, home address Saint-Fargeau, Seine-et-Marne, murdered night of 25, Hôtel de la Loire, Sancerre. Many curious details. Please inform family for identification of corpse. Send inspector from Paris if possible.

The Late Monsieur Gallet ,sees Maigret is trying to unwind the history of a man who has been found dead in a hotel room and Maigret is sent from Paris to find out more  .On the surface the man Monsieur Gallet seems a commercial traveller ,that is married .But as we delve further into his life he has been transferring funds from the people he works for .Then it turns out he may not be whom he sees and it takes Maigret back 18 years , when this Monsieur Gallet swap his name with another Monsieur Gallet .But someone found out this had happened and had been bleeding him dry .Then the man had fallen out the day before with his late son Henri .Then what have the late man’s neighbours to do with his death ?

‘That’s of minor interest now,’ said Maigret. For all this was obviously to do with the swindle on which Gallet had embarked. The pink file had provided him with information on that subject, as well as several phone calls to the owners of châteaux and manor houses in the Berry and Cher areas. At some time or other, probably three or four years after his marriage, and one or two years after his father-in-law’s death, Émile Gallet had decided that it would be a good idea to make use of the old documents relating to the Le Soleil material that he had inherited.

This book sees Maigret first looking at the family then into the late mans wider life.It then turns on what may have been on a note ,why the man was taking the money from his firm .Also what did he know .We don’t learn a lot more about Maigret as a character he ,we see him frustrated at times ,by what seem a simple task of going and sorting a body in a dead hotel room fall apart .Gallet and his journey is an interesting case a man who isn’t who every that knows him now thinks he is .I wonder if  he had read Agatha Christie  as for me it bares a few traits to her story Murder on the links ,which also involves a change of identity at the core of the story .Of course it goes without saying the new translation is flawless as it would be by Anthea Bell one of my favourite translators .So where next well we go to a hanged man and Maigret goes to Holland .

Jacqui review the infatuations by Javier Marias

the infatuations

The Infatuations by Javier Marías
Translated from the Spanish by Margaret Jull Costa

When someone tells us something, it always seems like a fiction, because we don’t know the story at first hand and can’t be sure it happened, however much we are assured that the story is a true one, not an invention, but real. At any rate, it forms part of the hazy universe of narratives, with their blind spots and contradictions and obscurities and mistakes, all surrounded and encircled by shadows or darkness, however hard they strive to be exhaustive and diaphanous, because they are incapable of achieving either of those qualities. (pg. 310)

When something happens in life, how do we ever know if someone is telling us the truth, that their version of events is accurate? Or do we just have to accept the impossibility of ever knowing anything (or anyone) for sure? These questions are central to The Infatuations, the latest book by Javier Marías.

The novel is narrated by María Dolz, a woman in her late thirties, who works for a publisher based in Madrid. Every day, María has breakfast at the same café where she sees a married couple who also take breakfast together on a daily basis. María can see how much this handsome man and woman enjoy each another’s company, as they talk, laugh and joke ‘as if they had only just met or met for the very first time’. María never speaks to her ‘Perfect Couple’ (as she thinks of them) but simply seeing them together and imagining their lives lifts her mood at the start of each day.

One day, the couple (Miguel and Luisa) are absent from the café; at first María assumes they have gone away on holiday and, deprived her morning fillip, she feels a little bereft at their absence. Later, she learns from a colleague that Miguel has been stabbed repeatedly and murdered by a homeless man in what appears to be a tragic case of mistaken identity. In fact, María had already seen the newspaper report of the murder (coupled with a photograph of a man lying in a pool of blood) without realizing that the victim was the husband from her Perfect Couple.

A few months later, María sees Luisa at the café again, accompanied this time by her two young children. After a while, the children depart for school leaving Luisa alone and María decides to offer the widow her condolences. She soon learns that Miguel and Luisa had also noticed her at the café; indeed they even had their own name for her, the ‘Prudent Young Woman’. Luisa is keen to talk, so she invites María to come to her home that evening where María meets the intriguing Javier Díaz-Varela, one of Miguel’s closest friends. Although María doesn’t see Luisa again for some time, she bumps into Javier purely by chance during a visit to the museum and the two become lovers. As María continues to see Javier, she learns a little more about his relationship with Luisa and uncovers other information which causes her to question Javier’s true motivations and desires…and these discoveries cast a different light on events and circumstances surrounding Miguel’s death.

What Marías does brilliantly in The Infatuations is to use the events surrounding Miguel’s murder to weave an elegant meditation addressing fundamental ideas about truth, chance, justice, love and mortality. There’s a philosophical, meandering, almost hypnotic quality to Marías’s writing. His extended sentences seem to capture a person’s thought process by giving us their initial perceptions or ideas, often followed by qualifications or even an alternative theory. And he softens the boundaries between thoughts and speech, too; once immersed in the middle of an extended passage, it isn’t always easy to tell whether you are listening to a character’s inner reflections or observing their conversation with another. This technique might sound a little confusing, but it isn’t at all; Marías pulls it off with tremendous skill and style, and Margaret Jull Costa’s translation is simply wonderful.

During this meditation, Marías offers us reflections on a number of existential themes. For example, how we cling to the dead, feeling ‘an initial temptation to join them, or at least to carry their weight and not let them go’; how the dead should never come back, however much we would like them to; how an unexpected or a particularly dramatic death can dominate our memories of that person, almost stealing part of their existence from them:

You could say that those who die such a death die more deeply, more completely, or perhaps they die twice over, in reality and in the memory of others, because their memory is forever lost in the glare of that stupid culminating event, is soured and distorted and also perhaps poisoned. (pg. 75)

Marías is particularly insightful when it comes to grief and how the death of a loved one affects those who remain. In this passage, María Dolz observes Luisa’s daughter, Carolina, with her mother in the café. It’s almost as though mother and daughter have swapped roles as Carolina tries to look after Luisa:

She kept one eye on her mother all the time, watching her every gesture and expression, and if she noticed that her mother was becoming too abstracted and sunk in her own thoughts, she would immediately speak to her, make some remark or ask a question or perhaps tell her something, as if to prevent her mother from becoming entirely lost, as if it made her sad to see her mother plunging back into memory. (pg. 41)

And the following passage on grief reflects some of my own experiences following the sudden death of my mother (many years ago now). There’s no finer example of why The Infatuations resonates so deeply with me:

And so, sooner or later, the grieving person is left alone when she has still not finished grieving or when she’s no longer allowed to talk about what remains her only world, because other people find that world of grief unbearable, repellent. She understands that for them sadness has a social expiry date, that no one is capable of contemplating another’s sorrow, that such a spectacle is tolerable only for a brief period, for as long as the shock and pain last and there is still some role for those who are there watching, who then feel necessary, salvatory, useful. But on discovering that nothing changes and that the affected person neither progresses nor emerges from her grief, they feel humiliated and superfluous, they find it almost offensive and stand aside: ‘Aren’t I enough for you? Why can’t you climb out of that pit with me by your side? Why are you still grieving when time has passed and I’ve been here all the while to console and distract you? If you can’t climb out, then sink or disappear’. And the grieving person does just that, she retreats, removes herself, hides. (pg. 64-65)

I loved The Infatuations (its Spanish title is ‘el enamoramiento’ – the state of falling or being in love, or perhaps infatuation). It’s intelligent, thought-provoking and superbly written; one to savour and revisit in the future. I don’t want to say very much more about the novel’s plot or Miguel’s death, but Marías sustains an air of mystery and ambiguity through to the finish leaving María Dolz to contemplate: ‘the truth is never clear, it’s always a tangled mess.’ (pg 326)

The Infatuations is published in the UK by Penguin Books. Page numbers refer to the paperback edition. Source: personal copy.

My review is here 

Every promise by Andrea Bajani

every promise Andrea Bajani

Every promise by Andrea Bajani

Italian fiction

Original title – Ogni Promessa

Translator – Alastair McEwan

Source – Review copy

When this dropped through the letter box last year I read the blurb and in a way didn’t grab me ,I loved the cover but as happens it fell down the TBR pile to the other day I decide to pick it up and had missed the quote on the rear of the book from Antonio Tabucchi ,which is a writer I love so who is Andrea Bajani ,well he was born in Rome and moved round Italy growing up finally end up in Turin ,where he is both a journalist and writer he published his first novel in 2002 .this is seventh novel and won the Premio Bagutta prize in italy one of italy top literary prizes .

Yet we made love and no child came along .It was our we fell to the ground every month and broke in two ,and by dint gluing it together again it couldn’t be fixed anymore .The first months had been normal ,going down the whole route evry time , getting past menstrual cycles without wondering about anything , nopt even thinking about it ,just making love because we couldn’t do anything but searc for each other under our clothing as soon as we were close .

Maybe the lack of a baby coming was the start of their problems .

Every promise is the story of a man coming to terms with himself and the world around him Pietro the man in the story starts the book with his partner Sara leaving him ,we later find out she is expecting a baby to another man but still is very close to Pietro mother .Add to this Pietro does what most men in this position do he becomes a bit of a layabout and lets his live become a mess .Now around this time an old man who had fought in Russia during the war Olmo appear ,this leads Pietro  going to Russia himself but also this leads into another story his mother’s father ,his grandfather Mario a man who had problems with hios family after the war and had also been in Russia during the war has died .

Olmo asked me if everything was still there in Russia ,he said it like that ,with a little anxiety in his voice , as if he had far from home and had sent someone to check things out .

Russia holds many secrets but also truths for Pietro .

Well that gives you the bare bones of the story and that is it ,this book has many a twist and turn and more than one thing going on .When I started it I found myself doing that thing of flicking back to check what was happening  but most of all the story is of a man who has to lose everything to discover who he is by leaving his homeland and see the world through different eyes and his home in a new light and also what happen in his families past  .I am shocked that I have discovered yet another wonderful Italian writer Niccolo Ammanti , Pietro Grossi and Davide longo and Andrej Longo are  Showing what appears a rich vein of younger Italian writers coming through slowly as ever to us in English .This book links love ,loss ,secrets ,family ,death and life so well with a vulnerable but fun edge to his writing Andrea Bajani shows what it is to be a modern Italian man by looking at the past and the present to show the future  .This is one of those books that have slipped under the radar and maybe shouldn’t have .

Have you a current Italian writer you like ?

The people in the photo by Hélène Gestern

the-people-in-the-photo

The people in the photo by Hélène Gestern

French fiction

Original title - Eux sur la photo

Translation by Emily Boyce and Ros Schwartz

Source – review copy

Hélène Gestern is a French writer she is based in Nancy in France is a teacher and researcher at a laboratory studying linguistics   .She is also on the editorial committee of a literary review magazine dedicate to autobiographical writing .Her interest are photography and cats .This is her first book to be translated to English.

                                                              Ashford ,25 march 2007

Madame / Monsieur

I have only just read your advertisement ref 248 .22o in the Libération of 12 February

I believe I may have some information concerning the person you are inquiring about :I am convinced it is my father , who often used to spend his summers in Interlaken .I am enclosing the photocopy of his Geneva Tennis club membership card from the 1960′s ,which I have found among his papers .You will see his photograph on it

Could you tell me how you obtained his name and why you are seeking information about him

Yours faithfully

S.Crusten

The first letter to Hélène from Stéphane that starts their journey .

 

The people in the photo is an epistolary novel .The book starts when    Hélène an archivist discovers a photo of her late  mother and two men the photo was taken in 1971 at a tennis tournament in Interlaken .Armed with this info she puts an advert in the French newspaper Libération with the names on the back of the photo and is shocked when she gets a reply from Stéphane a swiss biologist that is based in Kent ,he believes it is his father is one of the two men with Hélène’s late mother .This is the basis of the book the letters that follow try to find out what happened between the parents at the time ,try to get to the bottom of how Hélène’s mother died .

                                                    Paris , 17 Febuary (email)

Dear Stéphane

As if you had to ask ! I will yes ,as molly bloom would say , come with you to Geneva .And we can stop off to see Jean on the way back : I’m dying to meet him .Did the nurse tell you exactly what happened ?

I’ll be waiting for you at the flat on Friday .You know the way ,but you’ll need th new magic number b220

A tender kiss

Hélène

AS you see they draw closer over the course of a year of writing to each other .

Now the book is an exploration of find out the secrets that can be kept from kids by their parents .The two main characters each in turn discover more about their parents than they wanted .The choosing of the epistolary form shows that even given the change from letters to e mails it still shows how the tension can be built from mail to mail as these two uncover the long-lost secrets of the past .Each some how finds out where they came from ,discover what problems can happen when there parents may have had a liaison in the past and what does this mean for the two of them now because although they have been drawn together by chance they actually start to like each other as the go on the journey of discovery .Photos play an important part in the book Hélène Gestern brings the pictures in this book to life in the prose as we see the family snaps of the two pass and the past come alive .This is one for loves of family secrets it is full of them ,loves of photos and if you are like me and see a picture and build your own narrative around it this is one for you ,how often have you found or seen a picture and wonder what happened then and what happened at the time ,also a book for the fan of the epistolary form .I will soon have a q&a with Hélène Gestern .

Have you a favourite epistolary novel ?

Ekaterini by Marija Knežević,

ekaterinfrontcover_50b7770928f02

Ekaterini by Marija Knežević,

Serbian fiction

Original title –  Ekaterini

Translator – Will Firth

Source – review copy

Well another book from last years backlog of read and unreviewed books as I try to clear the backlog, so  I get to another of the Istros books Best Balkan book 2013 ,this time it is the Serbian writer Marija Knežević she studied at Belgrade university and the in the US ,worked in Serbian radio ,she has published a number of books in various styles of writing poetry ,essay ,short fiction and novels .She was included in the best european fiction 2012 for Serbia .She has also won a number of book prizes in Serbia .

Where is he ? Why is he late ? All right , I always come a little early just in case , but he should have passed by already ,like every other day .How did he look ? Is he going to come ? Is he going to give me a piece of chocolate today too ?

The start of a chapter grandmother when Ekaterini was waiting for her fathers return from the great war .

Well Ekaterini is a novel about women in the Balkans ,about moving through places ,about longing ,about a quest to return home .As you see a complex book that deals with one women journey from Greece to Yugoslavia as it was then and the history of the 20th century she saw .The woman is Ekaterini the title of the book she is as Greek women that falls in love with a man from what is now Serbia and follows him home to Belgrade and she makes a life with him this is before the second world war ,the we see how her and her two young daughters cope during the second world war .The change fortunes as the war goes one way and the another the two leaders Hitler and Stalin ,the post war period of Socialism and of course the great leader of Yugoslavia Tito then post Tito to the falling apart of Yugoslavia .Ekaterini always dreams through out her life of returning to her home in Thessalonike .The story is told by her granddaughter who greatly admired her grandmother .

Visiting her grave is like going for a walk for me .They say Lesce cemetery is a real “fresh air -spa” .Sure enough ,I alway come back from the cemetery feeling refreshed ,in a mood such as only intoxication with oxygen can bring

Ekaterini granddaughter the unnamed narrator of the book visiting the grandmothers grave .

Well the book is described as the reverse  story of the myth  Odysseus of course instead of Odysseus going and fighting in the wars it is a female Ekaterini a modern-day take on Penelope  that takes the journey not to fight but to show the other side of a conflict and that is the home life ,what is it like to bring up a family against this backdrop ? what is it like to be a women instead of a man and miss your homeland .I love the fact that Susan the publisher of Istros books keeps turning up gems like this one .Yet another book that for me shows the importance of books in translation .They take you to another place ,see the world through another eyes and like this can twist what we known as Greek myth into a greater myth of the Balkans and switching what was the male narrative of the original to a modern female narrative .

Have you a book you’ve enjoyed that is a modern  retelling of a  myth ?

The castle of of whisper by Carole Martinez

The Castle of Whispers

The castle of Whisper by Carole Martinez

French fiction

Original title – Du domaine des murmures

Translator – Howard Curtis

Source – review copy

Carole Martinez is a rising star of historic fiction in France this is her second novel .She is a middle school teacher ,she began writing during maternity leave nine years ago .This her second novel won the Goncourt Lyceens in 2011 ,previous winners are Phillippe  Claude and Andrei Makine .The prize sees twelve books read by 2000 students and they choose the one they like .

in the year 1187 , Esclarmonde ,damsel of the whisper ,resolves to live as an anchoress at Hautepierre , confined until her death to the sealed cell built for her by her father against the walls of the chapel that he erected on his lands in honour of Saint Agnes ,who was martyred at the age of thirteen for having accepted no other bridegroom than christ

How esclarmonde end up a damsel of whispers .

The castle of whisper is set in 12th century France ,a young women  ,the fifteen year old Esclarmonde is due to marry a rather unworthy Knight that has a wandering eye .She decides to turn her back on this marriage and join the Church much to her fathers dismay and she  becomes a mistress of Christ .She chooses to use her dowry for her entry to the church  instead of her marriage and builds a stone chapel where she entombed herself  in a cell ,the years pass and she can only contact the world via a small gap .She has become a link between the world of now and the dead ,her words tell what may happen ,the whispers of this place change the outside world .A world gripped in violence and the crusades are taking part .

My father had not yet put in an appearance outside my cell .In the autumn ,he had taken a second wife ,a young childless widow not much older than myself .whom I had often glimpsed since her arrival at the castle .her name was Douce ,and she smiled at me whenever she passed the maple .

What will the new stepmother bring into Esclarmonde life ?

I have struggle with historic fiction in the past ,I must have been the only person not too enjoy wolf hall ,so it was with nerves I decided to read this as it was another book set in the middle ages .But was surprised to find I liked it Martinez is a poetic writer ,she shows the transformation of the young girl to a woman in the walls of a church .I enjoyed the series on the TV in the  eighties Robin Hood ,which like this novel drift at times into the world of mysticism ,Esclarmonde and her castle of whispers are a French take on the same themes touched in the TV series ,people tended to believe in the other world ,worlds more than they do now .Gabriel Garcia Marquez is mentioned on the back cover  from a review ,I agree she has the same way of making the extraordinary seem less so the world isn’t so surreal as Marquez does in his books .The castle of whispers is about the power of men and women to battle the world in different ways one with love the other with violence .How faith can make people change and grow .

Do you have a favourite historic writer ?

The infatuations by Javier Marias

the infatuations

The infatuations by Javier Marias

Spanish literature

Orginial title - Los enamoramientos

Translator – Margaret Jull Costa

Source – library book

I have read two other Marias before this one ,I reviewed while the women are sleeping a couple of years ago and late last year read a heart so white ,I enjoyed both and have before that i have tried to read the huge your face tomorrow trilogy but never got to it as I never get chance to have the library books out long enough to get to them .But after hearing this mentioned as one of the favourite books of last year by Three percent podcast .I decided with the Independent foreign fiction prize looming in the background I review this before a heart so white .Javier Marias has been writing for forty years he started translating Dracula scripts for his uncle a well-known Spanish film director the infatuations was his latest book in Spanish published in 2011 in there .

The last time I saw Miguel Desvern or Deverne was also the last time that his wife , Luisa saw him ,which I ,on the other hand was a preson he had never met , a woman with whom he had never exchanged so much as a single word .I didn’t even know his name ,or only when it was too late

The opening lines of the book ,now doesn’t that draw you in?

 

I had been meaning to try this book , since it came out  last year partly due to the great black and white cover ,I’m not a huge one for mentioning covers but this one is a just come and look and read me cover ,anyway back to the book it the story of a women Maria Dolz  who works in publishing ,she sits every morning in a cafe and watches a young couple that also frequent the  same cafe ,she is an imaginative person and dreams about these two then one day she finds out the husband of the couple has died  after seeing a picture of a man who has been stabbed in a newspaper .This draws her into a sort of mystery and what is the wife doing ,when she turns up with some kids and they are fetch by another man .What is happening ? why did he die ,who is the new man ?

“Once the sentence had been  heard ,it was Athos who turned to her and ,as master of ceremonies , said : “Anne de Brueil , countess de la fere , Milady de Winter ,your crimes have weried men on earth and god in heaven .

one of many literary links in the story ,Maria does work in publishing .

I love Marias and will read all his books translated over time ,if there is a reading version of slow cooking he is it the prose he writes isn’t flashy ,the action plot isn’t a hurtling train no this is like a slow cook the senses ,mind is seeped slowly and gently into finding out what had happened to the couple .We discover that what Maria saw and thought she saw isn’t really what she saw .I was reminded of the way Maria gets drawn into this Murder and the web surrounding of the Woody Allen film Manhattan Murder mystery which saw a character played by Diane keaton sees her neighbour maybe kill his wife ,this book remind me of the fumbling into a deeper mystery .I also loved the way he used the character of my lady from the three musketeers as someone to compare the wife too .    We see a lot about life ,death and what drives people. I loved his style of writing ,yet again his books are like a slow drift down the river ,there is no hurrying in his writing it needs to be savoured .

A meal in Winter by Hubert Mingarelli

a-meal-in-winter

A meal in Winter by Hubert Mingarelli

French fiction

Orginal title – Un repas en hiver

Translator -Sam Taylor

Source – review copy

Hubert Mingarelli is a French writer ,he left school at 17 joined the navy and saw the world travelling around the Mediterranean and pacific .He took up writing in the late 1980′s and published his first book in 1992 .A meal in winter is his first book to be translated into English  .He won the Prix Médicis a major French lit prize in 2003 for an earlier book .

As usual , he gave us what we asked for ,and we left the next morning – Emmerich Bauer and myself ,We went at dawn before the first shootings .That meant missing breakfast ,but also meant not facing Graaf who would be filed with hatred we went over his head .

The three set off after getting the ok

I read this book one evening last November and was struck by it’s sheer power in the fact it is a simple story but with lots of power on the moral nature of man .The book has just five main characters they are three Nazi solders sent by their commander  not Lt Graff  there intimidate boss , to fetch a runaway Jewish boy / young man and a Pole they meet whilst doing this . The story starts when the three solder are sent out in the deep winter to recapture an escape Jew and deal with him as they see fit .The man has escaped but due to the weather and the place they are ,he hasn’t got to far but far enough for them all to get stuck , and is recaptured by the three .they then decide to take shelter and seek something to eat at the farm house ,then they are joined by a  very anti Semitic Pole .This simple meal and what happens during it may change the five men caught in the very deep winter of middle Europe .Each questions the actions .

The Pole seeming unwilling to stop staring at the Jew and his peeled-back lips expressed a sort of satisfaction .Bauer demanded .”what’s got into you ? “

The Pole ,looking at Bauer ,quickly said a few words before his gaze swung back to the storeroom .And then he spoke in the universal language of Malice ,his head nodding maliciously .

The Pole shows his colours to the three men .

This book is short as I said at 138 pages long and not the biggest hardback ,but for what it lacks in size and length it makes up for in style ,this book is from the pen of a talented writer sparse is the story but deep as well .We see how the soldier did this to escape shooting ,the Jewish boy is almost like a mute witness but at the centre of it all an unnamed young man that is the target of the Pole when he arrives in the narrative .But for the soldier catching him is easier than killing others which is what they had to do .Moral questions are ask by all what forms values like a lot books that maybe focus on the German side of the conflict you see the different values of the men and when faced with someone truly anti Semitic ,they begin to question there own views .I review another book from this time yesterday from Hanna krall I felt these two actually suited being reviewed in consecutive days different styles of writing this sparse to the point no drifting the other drifting and full of the war ,this is just five people .

Do you like sparse narrative books when done well ?

Chasing the king of hearts by Hanna Krall

Chasing_the_king_of_hearts_small

Chasing the king of heart by Hanna Krall

Polish fiction

Original title - Król kier znów na wylocie

Translator –  PhilipBoehm

Source – Review copy

Hanna Krall is a polish writer born in 1935 in Warsaw to a Jewish family she survived the second world war in hiding ,but lost many member of her own family .After the war she graduated in Journalism and started working for the polish magazine life of Warsaw and moved around working a a literary manager ,before becoming a novel writer in the 1980′s since then she has written nearly twenty years .this book was published too much acclaim in 2006 in Poland .

She’s right ,too there he is ,second row ,first card on the right – the king of hearts next to him the six of hearts ,which means a trip .Of course those three of spades are a bad sign .Terenia explains ,but even that’s not so tragic : you should be getting news any day

from chapter with title of the book and also a card reading of what may happen to Izolda .

Chasing the king of hearts is a story set during the second world war story ,it is a Jewish second world war story ,it is a jewish second world story of what happened to many Polish and other Jewish people during the war .This book is about one women surviving the horrors of that time ,this book is her story Izolda Regenberg .Her story as told in this book is a collection of vignettes   editorial piece ,articles the novel is a series of glimpses into Izolda and her life ,her great husband Shayek ,we follow them and all the people around her  in her life as they enter the ghetto .We glimpse the ever opening doors of horrors at the war and what it has brought them too .Izolda hides but ends up in many a tight corner as she tries to escape from the war and the Nazis ,but she ends up getting caught up and ends up in Auschwitz but will he love save the day as it was foretold near the start in a card reading .The novel is also litter with pictures that help you picture the people and things mentioned so well .

After all ,I carried him inside me ,like you carry a child is it my fault ? is a pregnant woman guilty for having a belly ?

The closing lines of the book as Izolda looks back .

I liked this book last year when I read it but left it to review it  and as I feel it is going be a strong contender for this years Independent foreign fiction prize 2014  I decide to do it today .The book is a very different novella it is very polish in that I mean it is firmly rooted in the polish reportage style of writing .The little choppy chapter keeps you as a reader at the edge of your seat as you follow the bits of Izolda life but also the greater world around her ,bit she does remind me of scenes from Schindlers list where one women visits Schindler as she is hiding but want help for her family ,another thing I was remind of is the german film Europa ,europa the true story of Solomon Petrel a German jew that pretend to be a Nazis to survive the war .I was so touched by Izolda feeling about suriving it mus have been so hard to have been a survivor of this horror.Yet again Meike from Peirene  has shown even the field of holocaust fiction can be enriched by wonderful books like this .

Have you read this or any other books around the Holocaust ?

The last day of a condemned man by Victor Hugo

the last day of condemned man Victor Hugo

The last day of a condemned man by Victor Hugo

French Literature

Orginal title  Le Dernier jour d’un condamné

Translator – Christopher Moncrieff

Source personnel copy

Well I want to add more depth to the blog over the next couple of years so Victor Hugo is a great choice for this .Victor Hugo was the best known writer of his generation ,he started as a poet and then later developed into novelist he is of course now best known for his novels now ,especially Les miserable and The hunch back of Notre-Dame  .This book was his first novel it also includes the short story Claude Gueux .

Why should what I write here be of use to other ,stop judges from judging ,spare unfortunates ,innocent or guilty ,the agony to which I have been condemned ? What’s the point ? What does it matter ? After my head has been cut off ,what is it to me if they cut off other people’s ?

The narrator wonders why he is writing about his last day

This book is about what it says on the cover and that is the last day of a condemned man ,we met the narrator Unnamed ,we don’t know how he got to be waiting for the guillotine .What we do know is the room he is in the prison and prisoners around him ,what happens on the day of an execution .He is visited by the priest .The narrator comes across a stoic you sense he has fear but is doing his best to bury not to near the end he breaks down and appeal to the crowd for a pardon ,he is driven to this after he has met his daughter earlier and she seems to forgotten her father .The second part of this book is the story of Claude Gueux ,which is a true story of a prisoner ,that due to something happening when he is in  prison  for five-year  ends up  sentenced to death ,a heart-wrenching  book that shows how one simple mistake that is the cause of a death ,it also the intolerance of prison authorities sometimes  .

The man stole .I don’t know what he stole or where he stole it from .What I do know is that  the outcome of this theft was three days ‘ food and heat for the women and child and five-year in prison for the man .

From Claude Gueux a man who stole for his family but end up dead as he fell out with the prison authorities during those five years .

Well I had read hunchback years ago in my teens but  something makes me think it was an abridged version (as it never stuck in my mind a lot as abridged books sometimes do as they cut the soul from some books )which is why I hadn’t maybe got round to Hugo .He was from the romantic movement of writers but this book is more a social justice piece Hugo was against the death penalty and wrote this book to show people how it felt to be on death row .I was reminded at times to the film from the Dead man walking where we see how this narrator described his world and last day at times was very similar too Sean Penn’s characters last day ,the talking to the priest ,the last meal ,the last visit with family and the final walk to the end .Hugo was an influence on many writer ,I can see a huge connection to Dickens another writer that used his books to show the social woes of his day  .So I will try him again soon .

What is your favourite book by Victor Hugo ?

 

Previous Older Entries Next Newer Entries

July 2014
M T W T F S S
« Jun    
 123456
78910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
28293031  
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,491 other followers

%d bloggers like this: