Well I’ve had no books in the post this week ,well that strictly isn’t true I had a parcel come today but I have to get it redelivered .So this week it’s two second hand buys I have brought this week .The first is the The Pianist by Wldayslaw Szpilman I saw the film by Roman Polanski of this book and at that time thought I ‘d A. like to read the book at some point and then B. Rewatch the film as I seen this online to stream I will be reading this soon then watch the film again .The second book is a favourite writer of mine the late Tomas Eloy Martinez an earlier book The Peron novel ,I have reviewed Santa Evita and purgatory by him on here before ,so I had this also on a list of books to read ,a mad cap look at Peron on his 1973 return to Argentina ,this book also nicely fits into Richard’s Argentinian and Uruguayan reading challenge from September .What books have you got this week ?
30 Aug 2014 5 Comments
26 Aug 2014 5 Comments
Zone by Mathias Enard
Original title – Zone
Translator – Charlotte Mandell
Source – review copy
There is only one thing a writer can write about: what is in front of his senses at the moment of writing… I am a recording instrument… I do not presume to impose “story” “plot” “continuity”… Insofar as I succeed in Direct recording of certain areas of psychic process I may have limited function… I am not an entertainer…”
Well I was aware of this book from when it came out in the US from Open letter books a few years ago ,it was on my list of books to buy in London at some point .So when new UK publisher Fitzcarraldo editions (You have to instantly love a publisher that call themselves after a Werner Herzog film haven’t you ) were publishing this as one of their first two titles ,I was pleased to get sent a copy of this and their other title the memory theatre which I have also read and shows a publisher boldly mixing challenging fiction with cutting edge non-fiction .Mathias Enard is a french writer who currently lives in Spain ,he has published eight books so far this is one of two to be translated into English .This book won the Prix de Livre inter and the Prix Decembre in France .It has been called the book of the new century by one french reviewer .
I read Tsirkas drifting cities ,without really understanding it ,without recognizing in the scheme of the shadowy figures in his pages my own steps as an international informant .
I choose this small quote as an example of books mention in the novel which they are many ,this book is one I really want to get my hands on and read myself !
Zone is the story of a train journey taken by one man Francis Mirkovic he works for the French intelligence service ,he is travelling from Milan to Rome on a train .But the journey just forms a backbone to the book a Francis nears his final gold which is to deliver a briefcase of files on the activities of people with in the Zone ,now the zone is a region from Spain to Lebanon and from former Yugoslavia to north Africa .Now this book is set twenty years ago and uses the Balkan conflict as a springboard to an alternate reality in the past one where the conflict span out of control and drew in the surrounding areas from Palestine to north Africa ,making a lawless region full of arms dealers and petty warlords .Well Francis has the worst of these people in his files and is willing to sell them to the highest bidder .As the train moves through Italy we see through Francis thought how this all happened the unravelling the past distant and far distant ,books upon books from the Iliad (a book this is compared too given its journey and drifting nature ) , true incidents in the 90’s ,his own family history his mother was Croatian ,so he was involved from the start in the unravelling of the Zone .Does he sell the case and what will happen when he does ?
I burrowed into The Zone without passion but also without disgust, with an increasing curiosity about the dealings of the wrathful gods ,patiently in my armoured tent .
Another passage how he got drawn in by The zone .
Now as you can tell this book is one of what I call a snake of a book twisting turning and can always rear up and bite you and I was bitten this is a book that deserves a wider readership ,to show what we may be have been missing in recent years in English language literature .Now I must admit the first writer that came to mind when reading this book was Burroughs ,easily because naked lunch is set in a fictitious area roughly North Africa called the Interzone by Burroughs .But also the way Enard twists the recent past to make an Alternate past is something Burroughs frequently did in his books my favourite Burroughs book cities of red nights is rather like this book twisting through time using the real and surreal to draw a character through the past .Pynchon of course is another writer ,but all said and done these have all been mentioned in other reviews what else can I say about this book ? Well I look back through all the french novels I have reviewed through this blog 43 books a good slice of French fiction in the last few years to find if this is a one-off or if I had touched any book similar in style to this book and yes partly Where the tigers are at home sprung of the blog another twisting novel that mixes past and present real and surreal although different in a lot of respects both show that french publishers seem more willing to take chances on long books both weight in at over 500 pages ,plotless books both have vague plots but are more formed of stories within stories twists within twists ,both have won prizes in France this shows maybe the way forward with the girl is a half-formed thing sounding like a similar style of book to these where plot and the everyday convention of what we view as a novel is thrown out of the window for books that challenge and draw us in as readers .would you like to see more challenging books coming out in English like this one ? Also must admit I love the homage in the cover to Joyce’s ulysses original cover .
23 Aug 2014 15 Comments
Well another week and three book have arrived at the house during the week a great selection .A writer whose two previous book I have really enjoyed ,A book from one of my favourite places to read books from Finland and lastly a favourite publisher that has a second book out .
Forever yours by Daniel Glattauer from Maclehose press ,I have reviewed the two previous book by him both also translated by Jamie Bulloch Love virtually and Every seventh wave were creavtive connected novels on love in the modern age a new take on the epistolary novel .Forever yours seems to take obsession and love itself as its main subject .
Rabbit back literature society by PASI ILMARI JÄÄSKELÄINEN from Pushkin press A novel I had my eye on for a while as Pushkin as you all know is a publisher I love ,so to get sent this is a real bonus , plus its from Finland which to me is a favourite and much overlooked corner of European literature and to see a couple of bloggers and a review I trust mention in the press sheet made this tale of a women that has been invited to join the elite Rabbit back literature society ,only to find there is more than it seems to be ….
Clara’s Daughter by Mieke Ziervogel . Last and most important I got sent Meike’s second novel ,I am so happy as Meike is the force behind Peirene press .I want to read Magda her first book ,but this second novel is set in North london and is a story of a daughter and her overbearing mother .We see how they end up living together and sorting out there relationship .
Which of this appeals to you or have you read ?
28 Jun 2014 3 Comments
Meat space by Nikesh Shukla
Source – review copy
The machine does not isolate man from the great problems of nature but plunges him more deeply into them.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Read more at
Now I don’t read many British writers ,but when the chance came round to review the second novel by Nikesh ,I jumped at the chance as I really enjoyed his first novel Coconut Unlimited I reviewed it .So I must first say I have met Nikesh on a couple of occasions before I review the book .
The first and last thing I do everyday is see what strangers are saying about me .
I pull the laptop closer from the other side of the bed and press refresh on my inboxes .I have a google calendar alert that tells me I have no events scheduled today ,an assortment of twitter and Facebook notifications ,alerting me to 7 new followers ,a favourite tweet thanking someone for liking my book ,an invite to an event I’ll never go to ,spam for play and guardian jobs .#
The opening lines of Meat space
Meatspace is a term in the internet world for the real world .The story is the tale of a few months in the life of Kitab Baisubramanym ,he is a guy whom life is at that point where it’s about to implode or explode .His long-term girlfriend has left him ,he has just lost a job for writing a book on the firms time .So he has come to live with his brother Aziz .He has alll this time on his hands and being a modern man he has descend into the rabbit hole of the internet and ends up doing the think many of use has done and search for a doppelgänger the namesake online and in his case he finds one chap in the US that shares his name and the next thing he knows is this chap turns up at his door and this leads Kitab into a world of madness both online and offline as this doppelgänger is a little of the rails .As they descend into a world of swingers and sex .
The perfect CV – Google
kitab Balasubramanyam – Facebook
Hayley Bankcroft – Google images
[104} – twitter
The start of each chapter starts with the search history of Kitab .
Now I am a later come to the tech age I didn’t get my first laptop til seven years ago and ever since have felt like I’ve been playing catch up or at least get it ,I still don’t fully get the net but everyday seems more as thou I do .Now that said Nikesh is a child of the net this book is what it is like to live and breathe the net to tweet ,tumblr ,Facebook and get it .Kitab is the Everyman of the net ,but he hit that rabbit hole like in Alice he pressed the return button on something he shouldn’t have .The wit and realism drips of the page ,Nikesh is one of the funniest writers I’ve read in recent years .Now I was remind the time I read Fever pitch for me Nikesh has done for the net here in this book the same as Nick Hornby did for football and that is put on paper the Everyman experience of something .SO if you love the net and want be laughing and crying at times ,this is the book you need to read ,Nikesh missed the costa with coconut unlimited ,but this should be a prize winner ,if there is any justice out there ,daring new and funny .The book comes out 3 july .
19 May 2014 2 Comments
Chewing gum by Mansour Bushnaf
Source review copy
“No matter how much time passes, no matter what takes place in the interim, there are some things we can never assign to oblivion, memories we can never rub away.”
― Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore via goodreads
Mansour Bushnaf is a well-known figure in Libya ,this is his first book in English ,he has been writing since the 1970’s ,his writing end up with him spending ten years in jail during the Gaddafi regime , apart from novels he is also a well-known playwright .Here he is on the bbc talking about the lack of reading and books in Libya due to the recent regime .It is also the first of a new venture in publishing from Darf publishing , a name connected with publishing Arabic literature since the 50’s .
At this point in the story , Mukhtar finds himself face to face with the statue which become central to his life and our story
Just after Fatima left him .
Chewing Gum is actually a very unique book one that I’m pleased to have been sent it has an unusual narrative style as it is told in little vignettes .At the heart is the story of a man Mukhtar , he has seen the love of his life walk away from he was Fatima walk away and we see how their lives twist and turns in the ten years after this as they are from different places ..The other thread of the story is a crazy craze for chewing gum that arrived in Libya in the 80’s as they started to import it from first turkey ,but as the book moves on you see it come from other places as the connections of Libya with the world changes over time .Then there is a statue from the time Italy ran the country that also is symbolic of past events and also the present day .All of this takes place in one part of town ,so what you see is a cross-section of the country in one small place .
The gum , in brief , became , everyone’s obsession.But the actual enjoyable act of mastication remained a privilege of the few one of which ,without doubt ,was our heroine .
Fatima caught up in the gum craze that swept Libya
This is one of those books that long after you’ve put it down you think did that represent this .Now it is a story of lost love ,a man pining at one point Mukhtar is compared to the statue having stood or appeared to have stood in the same place looking down the street at the way Fatima left .Now you could see that as the lifetime of Libya and the years stood like a statue being the years under Gaddafi ? Now the chewing gum is a motif for the outside world and how it connected to Libya over the time ,but also like the Statue, the act of chewing gum is also a way of passing time ,also like Gum it loses its taste maybe Libyans lost the taste of the regime long before they overthrew it or in the gums case throw it a way .What Bushnaf has tried to do is use the gum craze and get people involved academics ,the regime ,shopkeepers and use all these to explain the times .As I said this is a book that you have to read to get it is one that just doesn’t fit easily into a box ,it isn’t like another book from Arabic I’ve read (I am under the belief it is written in English will be translated back to arabic by the writer at a later date ) .Also I do love the simple retro styling of the cover .
18 May 2014 11 Comments
The truth about the Harry Quebert affair by Joël Dicker
Orginal title La Vérité sur l’Affaire Harry Quebert
Translator – Sam Taylor
Source – review copy
It was love at first sight, at last sight, at ever and ever sight.”
― Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita via goodreads
Well in the UK ,you bound to have seen this about it has been really pushed by Waterstones book shop here , which is good to see so often translated fiction doesn’t get the front windows or main tables in book shops .So to Joël Dicker ,he is Swiss writer ,he was born and schooled in Geneva ,he went to Paris to study for a year after school ,then returned and completed a degree in law in Switzerland ,he has always written this his first book has been a runaway success in Europe .it won the Prix Goncourt des Lycéens Grand Prix du Roman de l’Academie Francaise prizes .
“He wrote that book for that girl , Marcus .For a fifteen-year-old girl .I can’t leave the plaque there .That’ not love – it’s disgusting .”
“I think it’s more complicated than that ,” I said .
“And I think you should keep your nose out of this , Marcus .You should go back to New York and stay far away from all this “
Marcus is told to leave the Harry Quebert affair alone .
So what is the book about ,well it is told in two main time lines the first is in the summer of 1975 ,when the character of the title Harry Quebert is spending the summer in Somerset in New Hampshire ,finishing a book which he feels will cement his places as one of the best writers around his book the origins of evil is maybe more than it first seemed .During this time he befriends a young girl Nola Kellergran .Now she disappears at the end of this summer this brings us to the other timeline .For 33 years ,later her body is discovered in the yard of the house Harry Quebert was staying in that summer and she is holding a copy of Harry Quebert manuscript.This is where we meet Marcus Goldman ,now he is a writer just starting his journey as a writer and was taught by Harry Quebrt so he decides to go to Somerset and find pout what really happened and prove that the man he knew so well isn’t the killer and get him free as Harry Quebert now sits in Jail .Along the way the Life of Nola Kellerman isn’t as simple or clean as it once seems as Marcus uncovers more and more about the men she was involved with that summer and what she was really doing .Does he find the killer ,does Harry walk free and what about the two books Harry’s and Marcus’s about Harry’s case ?
The masterpiece I had so desperately wanted to write …. Harry had written it .He had sat at a table in a diner and written words of absolute genius , wonderful sentences that had moved the whole country ,taking care to hide within his work the story of his love affair with Nola Kellergran
The Origins of Evil was Harry’s masterpiece and the book he was writing that summer .
Now this book is great for a début but you do feel after finishing it a good edit and maybe a few changes would have moved it into that instant classic band .But that said it is a wonderful Homage to all things America now Maclehose have gone with a Hopper painting for the cover here and yes this is the america of Hopper and Rockwell .What Joël Dicker has done is taken parts of recent American culture and mixed them so we have part of Twin peaks Nola Kellergran is rather like Laura Palmer in that the more the book unfolds like in the tv show twin peaks the more we gather she isn’t what she first seemed .Part Stephen King that New England and the small town of Somerset could have walked out of a king novel .Part Cold Case drama now I could pick one shpow out but there is a number of shows and books about Cold crime case solving Marcus Goldman is the classic writer turned detective .Part Lolita how many men were attracted to this young women ? Now this book also struck me as part written for a film or tv series ,now that isn’t a bad thing is it ,I mean stephen King has done it for years ,so keep your eyes out for a version of this for a film ,I would love to see a great director get this book in the hands of the likes of David Lynch or Wim Wenders it would really bring out the darker side of the book out .So I look forward to seeing what Joël Dicker does next ?
02 May 2014 2 Comments
Charlie Chaplin’s Last Dance by Fabio Stassi
Original title – L’ultimo ballo di Charlot
Translator – STephen Twilley
Source – review copy
Men fear death, as children fear to go in the dark; and as that natural fear in children is increased with tales, so is the other.
Fabio Stassi is a Rome born Italian writer ,that grew up in Scilly .He start writing whilst working in Rome in oriental studies ,he would write every day on his trip to work .He has so far written six book ,this Charlie Chaplin’s last dance is the first to be translated to English .The book its self won the prestigious Italian book prizes Premio campiello , prize Cielo D’Alcamo, Award Alassio Hundred Books and Premio Leonardo Sciascia Caves Racalmare .
Death : enough,it’s getting late.
Man : Wait ,not yet .I’ll .. I’ll make you laugh ,it’s the
only thing I know how to do
Death : No one has ever made me laugh ,
Man : I will .I’m sure of it watch this .
Charlie gets a glimmer of hope from death as he has never laughed before .
The plot of Charlie Chaplin’s last dance is really in the title of the book ,we meet Charlie Chaplin at the time is probably the most famous person alive on christmas eve 1971 , he is 82 years old but a father very ,late in his life and he gets a visit from Death his time is up .Charlie has been waiting thou he was told this would happen in 1910 by a fortune-teller so is ready to face death .But no Charlie wants ,more time so they strike up a bargain ,death will give him an extra year if He Charlie the greats comic of his age can make him death laugh .So Charlie manages after a few times ,so he has another year and so this carries on as death keeps to the same bargain if Charlie can keep him laughing on christmas eve every year .In-between Charlie starts to write down his history and life for his son to read when he grows up .From his humble beginnings in London on the Vaudeville stage ,to his earliest days in America struggling to get by .To the big breakthrough in Hollywood in the silent film era , then his marriages the decline of his career and his final years
Corsier-sur-Vevey 24 December 1977
Dear Christopher James ,
This evening will mark my eighty-eighth Christmas .Once again ,I will spend it with my family , and the story I am about to tell is my gift to you .I know that I owe you a debt I cannot settle .You’re my last child barely fifteen years old , conceived when I was more than seventy you will grow up without me .So now I need to hurry , to pass this on to you , before the news of my demise sparks a global uproar .
Charlie tells his life in a letter to his son .
Fabio Stassi has cleverly mix his childhood love of Charlie Chaplin ,he says in the back of the book since he was a boy and first read Chaplin’s autobiography ,he has reread it through out his life .He has taken the bones of that book and chucked in a mixer with Ingmar Bergman’s Seventh seal and may I say the humour of Death from the teen comedy Bill and Ted’s bogus journey which of course saw death have a sense of humour and also play a mean double bass (although he doesn’t in this book ). Then he came up with a witty take on a man trying to avoid dying and looking back on his life .Also we see Charlie Chaplin match in his reason for wanting to live on ,in what is said in this article about the top five regrets of the dying .This is a fun book ,by a writer I hope gets more of his books translated if they are as fun as this one .
05 Apr 2014 11 Comments
Nagasaki by Éric Faye
Original title – Nagasaki
Translator – Emily Boyce
Source -Review Copy
Be warned I have had to give away a major part of the plot to review this fully .
Éric Faye is a French writer he studied at Lille university in Journalism after that he worked for Reuters the news agency ,before in 1991 deciding to become a writer ,his early books deal with writer like Ismail Kadare and fictional meetings with these writers .This book was his 22nd book and won the prestigious grand novel prize of the French academy .
That day , I was feeling a little under the weather , so I came home earlier than usual .It must have been before five when the tram dropped me in my road with a shopping bag over each arm .I rarely get back so early during the week , as I went inside I felt almost as if I was trespassing .That’s putting it a bit strongly, and yet …
Shimura feels something is odd on the second page .
Now when this book dropped on the doorstep ,I imagined it being a book about the second world war ,of course with the title Nagasaki .But no it is set in the modern city of Nagasaki ,what Éric Faye has done is taken a news story ,this one had passed me by at the time .Anyway the story follows a Japanese man Shimura he is an office worker ,so as is the case in Japan he spends long hours working .But at home he has started noticing things ,just little things a jug of juice seems to have less in and then other bits vanish .So he decides to mark bits and yes things are disappearing ,so the next step he does is to set a webcam up and whilst at work he checks this webcam placed in the kitchen at his house and sees an older women in his kitchen .Naturally he contacts the police and the women is arrest ,the second part of the book we find out how this women end up in his house ,her tale of woe and being left homeless and without any one is heart wrenching and the way she found this house saw he was out most of the day so they shared the space without knowing they were sharing the space for actually a year before he gathered she was there .Both exit this event and situation changed .
My stowaway was fifty-eight ,I read ,two years older than me ,I had thought her a bit younger when she appeared on my screen .As for her surname , it was common as mine .She had been unemployed for a long time ; so long , in fact ,that she was no longer entitled to state benefits.
The woman is a sorry case really .
I found this reportage style fiction amazingly fresh , Éric Faye has taken a small news story and turned into a human story about the people and the emotions behind the headlines .I was reminded of the Korean novel Please look after mother ,both show how even in these ultra modern cities there are people who get left behind that fall through the cracks ,that just can’t cope with the modern world or as in the case get broken by the world they live in .It is one of those books that for days after you put it down you are thinking how did he miss someone living there for a year ? What drives someone to hide in a house ? For me this would be a great choice for a book club it short so every one should read it ,but it has so much to discuss after you read it and to wonder what you would have done in the situations .I would love to see this turned into a two person show with Shimura and the women .
Have you read a novel based on a real life news event ?
21 Mar 2014 8 Comments
The fencer L’escrimeur by Ayala R
Source – review copy
I was caught by the description of this book and by the writers bio ,when I was sent email about the book ,plus must admit always been beguiled by Fencing as a sport .Ayala R Finished studying at Stanford in the US ,then moved to the Europe he has lived in six different countries and speaks four languages .He was a competitive fencer and a tango Argentina dancer ,he currently lives in Vienna .
Every time Francis put on his mask ,it stopped being a sport to him and turned into something real :as real as it had been at the time when people used to demand satisfaction after witnessing their honour and pride compromised and thus blood needed to flow in order for offence to be washed away .
From the first match of the championship .
The fencer follows the story of Francis A man at the top of his sport fencing .He is competing in the world championship as the book opens the book unfolds on three levels the first is a progression through the rounds of the championship describing each match how Francis manage to win the moves used and opponent ,the second strand we meet Francis the man outside fencing in the present he is a man who has everything in some ways has nothing .We discover how he got to this point in his life in the third strand of narrative and that is the one of him and his brother growing up an overbearing father the sort that wants his child to be the best at the sport and thwarts his other dreams along the way as he loves playing the piano and would have loved to be a pianist .Add to this Francis has a brother whom like his self fell under his fathers huge desire for a champion in fencing and the honour that would come with that but unlike Francis his brother Germain stayed with the father not like Francis that broke loose but maybe as we see in the present maybe to long .
Francis and his brother had just been children when their father had decided that they were to learn the discipline of fencing .That was also the time when he had a fencing hall built inside the mansion because ,for him ,no fencing club in the region was good enough for his own flesh and blood .
How his journey began along side his brother as his fathers search for them to win “the big one”
I loved the novel Between clay and dust by Musharraf Ali Farooqi a novel about wrestling but also tackles similar ground to this book about the struggle to get ahead in a sport but also the fallout from such achievements can bring to the people like Francis involved in the sport .We also encounter father son relationships and sibling relationships ,what we do to make our fathers proud ,but what happens when we feel we fall short of the high bar some fathers can but on their sons .We see also the love and rivalry between brothers which can ultimately drive one to the edge .Then there is the man himself there is often a feel to excel in one area of life or as a person can lead to a loss in another area of a person’s life and Francis is a perfect example of this .Ayala as a former fencer himself he captures the matches through the book so well you feel the adrenalin rush of each round ,the skill ,moves ,tactics and what it feels like to win a fencing match .It made me want to put on a fencing mask and have a go .All set along the background of the cities of Europe .The book has it’s own website here
Do you have a favourite sport linked book ?
05 Mar 2014 5 Comments
Well after a bright start in January to my blogging year my blog went of the rails slightly last month ,but I had Amanda in hospital thankfully she is ok now and near the end of the month I have used the last of my holidays for 2013/4 so have actually just done not a lot and recharged my batteries but now start to wind back up with the Iffp longlist out in a little under a week I need to review and catch up on books I may have to read for that .but last month I managed to read 11 books and reviewed 8 books also had Pushkin press fortnight which I loved the fact so many people joined in celebrating a publisher I love .I also had a great interview with Hélène Gestern q& a .Also added the Blogging meet up in June in Sheffield
Polychrome by Joanna Jodełka poland
Oliver VII by Antal Szarb
Every promise by Andrea Bajani Italy
Journey into the past by Stefan Zweig austria
the break by Pietro Grossi Italy
Amok and other stories by Stefan Zweig Austria
Death in Pont-Aven by Jean-Luc Bannalec france
The late Monsieur Gallet by Georges Simenon Belgium
A french novel by Frederic Beigbeder france
Pigs foot by Carlos Acosta Cuba
Dead star by Alavro Bisama Chile
I ve already read two great books in march and am looking forward to reading the new Andres Neuman novel and doing Shadow Iffp post .What are your plans for March ?