Shadow IFFP SHORTLIST

Tomorrow see’s the official independent foreign fiction short-list comes out .So we decide to announce ours today as with last year we choose to read as many if not all the 15 long listed books from the 2014 list and we have reviewed them my fellow jurors David ,Tony reading ,Tony messy ,Jacqui (who has been guesting on all or blogs ) and Bellezza .SO we have read ,given scores and dissected this years long list.We have yet again made a short-list of our own from the 15 books on the list just to show the strength of the list and how it can be viewed by different readers  .Its been a journey from Japan ,china ,Iraq ,Germany ,Spain among the few stops .We tackled connect story collections ,memories of Russian youth ,a family waiting for a husband to return ,a son following his fathers footsteps and a stories around the ten commandments .SO after all that we look at the book ,the translation and the long lasting nature of the book for the first time it is hard thing to say but we can try and sense if a book will hang around or just disappear from view .so with out further a do I present the shadow IFFP SHORTLIST ,we will choose our winner from these six books .

The infatuations by Javier Marias .

the infatuations

A women’s journey with a couple she see’s evry day at a cafe ,it shows the difference in what we view and what is real .

My review 

Brief loves that live forever by Andrei Makine

Brief loves that live forever

A russian youth partly remembered in a collection of short stories ,touching in points .

My review 

The Sorrow of angels by Jon Kalman Stefansson

the sorrow of angels

An eerie tale of 19th century Iceland where reality and myth seem to cross .My review this week

The Mussel feast by  Birgit Vanderbeke

the mussel feast

A wonderful insight into an east german family as the wall is falling .But where is the father ?

My review 

A Man in Love by Karl Ove Knausgaard

A man in Love

Part two of the Epic my struggle we see Karl in the book struggling with the early years of fatherhood .

My review

The Corpse washer by Sinan Antoon

The Corpse Washer

A son tries to escape his father’s life with art but the war in Iraq and his mother being ill draw him back to being a corpse washer .

My review

Well that is our list ,you will have to wait to tomorrow to see what matches up with the Official Iffp list .

Which of these six have you read ?

 

Nagasaki by Éric Faye

nagasaki Éric Faye

Nagasaki by Éric Faye

French fiction

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 ?

 

Look who’s back by Timur Vermes

Look who's back

Look who’s back by Timur Vermes

German fiction

Original title – Er ist wieder da

Translator – Jamie Bulloch

Source – Review copies

There are times a book published elsewhere in the world gets noticed before it is even translated this is one such book it cause a storm when it was published in Germany ,and me with my finger just on the pulse really hoped it had a uk publisher pick it up so when those lovely folks at Maclehose said they had brought the rights and the rising star of translation from German Jamie Bulloch had been given the task of translating the book I knew it was going be great .Timur Vermes was born in Nuremberg to a German mother and Hungarian father he has written for various paper in German and also ghost-written a couple of books .This is his first novel .

The boys gathered around me , but kept a certain distance .After affording me a cursory inspection , the tallest of the youths , clearly the troop leader ,said :

“You alright ,boss ?”

Despite my apprehension ,I could not help noticing that the Nazi salute was missing altogether .I acknowledge that his casual form of address , mixing up “Boss” and  “Führer “

Just after he wakes up and talks to a group of boys he still thinks it is 1940 something .

 

Well to the book Look who’s back ,now from the cover on the top you may already have a clue what the book is about .We meet Hitler but not in 1940′s German no he has woken up in the middle of Berlin in 2011 .Now he has to adjust to modern Germany .At first people see him as a bloke dressed as Hitler maybe from a party the night before,as Hitler slowly gathers that he has been brought forward sixty plus year his beloved fatherland as he sees it now is in a state of trouble .So he decide to try to regain power but as he thinks he is starting to be taken seriously .People actually think he is a very clever satire act ,but as it unfolds they laugh but the laughter stops with the more he says .As he become a star on You tube with his rants and views .Bur what do the modern extreme right make of him ? Will he ever accept a German run by a women ?

My supporters were fewer in number than ever before .And,mein Gott , there had been times in the past when they were in terribly short supply .I have a clear recollection of that occasion back in 1919 when I paid my first visit to what was still then the German worker’s party : seven people were present .

He starts small again in the present but remembers the past .

Loook who’s back is part of the continuing German looking back at the war years and figures involved in the war years ,this started a couple of decades ago with films like Europa ,europa ( a film following a Young Jewish boy who joins the Hitler youth to avoid the death camps ) ,Stalingrad ( a group of German soldiers get cut off from the troop and stuck in the deep Russian winter )  then of course Downfall .Now Timur has tackled modern German as  viewed through the eyes of the past and how often have we wondered what the  leaders of the past would make of the present .What would Churchill make of modern Britain is one thing I wondered ? Also the part I like is how Hitler is now viewed as a figure of fun by the modern German public what was once his true power the rant speech is now just surreal to a modern German public .It also shows how we view people in Modern media his rise now is because he is viewed as a clever satire ,but isn’t ,but people just think he is pulling the wool over their eyes .Vermes has tackle something that at times is still at the heart of modern Germany ,how did the past happen and could it happen again ? Jamie also really caught that voice of Hitler well .

Do you have a favourite satirical novel ?

 

The Iraqi Christ by Hassam Blasim

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The Iraqi Christ by Hassam Blasim

Iraqi fiction (Short stories )

Translator – Jonathan Wright

Source – Personnel copy brought on Kindle

Well to another short story collection from this years IFFP longlist .Also the second Iraqi title from this years list .Hassam Blasim is some what of radical figure in Arabic fiction as the stories he writes are Genre bending to say the least .Hassam Blasim Fled Iraq in 2004 when he had made a  documentary film about the Kurdish area of Northern Iraq ,since then he lived in Finland originally a film-maker he has since made four more films for a Finnish film company .He also start writing at the same time ,this is his second collection to be published the first the madman of freedom square ,mad the Iffp longlist four years ago .

We were meant to camp in an old girls’ school and some of the soldiers decided the best place to spend the night was the school’s air-raid shelter. Daniel the Christian picked up his blanket and other bedding and headed out into the open courtyard. ‘Of course, Chewgum Christ is crazy,’ remarked one of the soldiers, a man as tall as a palm tree, his mouth stuffed with dry bread.

The opening of the title story of the collection The Iraqi Christ .

I said Hassam was a radical figure ,it is more his style of writing in this collection we move from the Iraq was in the title story Iraqi christ ,we meet Daniel the gum chewing soldier as he fights in the war He is one of the few christian fighting alongside his comrades  .Elsewhere we travel into the utterly surreal in a story like dung beetle a man or is it a man talking to a doctor in Finland but his is from  Iraqi  ,as he spouts out to the doctor .Drama post war in the Green zone living in the   post war Iraq with the westerners .More traditional sounding stories like A thousand and One Knives ,an obvious play on the most famous Arabic story One thousand and one Nights .Elsewhere a crossword setter is driven to the edge as he is haunted or more possessed by one of the victims of a bomb he narrowly missed .

Doctor, I can identify my feeling at that moment as a desire to kiss, to stand in front of the station gate like the people who give out free newspapers and adverts, to stand in the way of people in a hurry and to stop them to kiss their hands, their shoes, their knees, their bags. And if they allowed me to bare their arses for a few minutes, to kiss them too. Excuse me, madam, can I kiss the sleeve of your coat? Please, sir, accept from me this kiss on your necktie. Kisses for free; sad, sincere kisses. And very often, doctor, I don’t just want to kiss people, I want to kiss the vestiges they leave on the pavements: kisses for cigarette butts, for a key that an old woman lost, for the beer bottles the drunks left behind last night, for the numbers on discarded receipts; kisses that combine the maternal instinct with lust, as day and night are combined in my head.

A passage from my favourite story in the collection the dun beetle .

I read Tony’s review the other day he compared some of these stories to the Magic realism of Marquez ,he has touches of that ,for me other writers leap to mind my favourite story in the collection was the dung Beetle ,which for me had huge echoes of classic mittel European short stories .There are other bar room stories a man returns from the bar to find a wolf in his room then it is gone when awakes ,this could come from the pen of the grand masters of short fiction Italo Calvino or Borges .The collection shows a writer that obviously loves short stories and loves playing with the form as a writer himself .I felt this is a collection of a writer that has big things to come in the future ,the stories in this one vary from sublime to surreal but maybe jar to much of the collection in comparison to the other collections on this years IFFP longlist .I will be reading his next collection for sure as I can just see Hassam Blasim getting better over time as he works through his obvious love of short stories and writers of short stories as he develops  his own twists and style even more .

Have you read Hassam Blasim ?

Exposure by Sayed Kashua

Exposure

Exposure by Sayed Kashua

Israeli fiction

Original Title - גוף שני יחיד

Translator – Mitch Ginsburg

Source – Personnel copy brought on kindle

 

Sayed Kashua is a well-known figure in Israeli ,he publishes a regular column in an Israeli newspaper .He is also the writer behind the hit comedy show Arab Labour which has been a runaway success in Israel .Exposure is his fourth book .I’ve found a clip of the title actually full episodes are available on you tube it is a sitcom following Arabs and Israelis living together .

He looked at his watch and saw that the store would be closing in ten minutes. He already knew which book he was going to buy: he had seen it reviewed in that week’s

paper, had spotted it on the shelf, and knew that after a quick walk through the classics he would return to it. As he browsed, The Kreutzer Sonata caught his eye and he remembered that his wife had asked him once, as the resident expert on books, whether he’d ever read the novella by Tolstoy. The lawyer had been surprised by her sudden interest in books and she explained that The Kreutzer Sonata came up in class whenever her professor discussed Freud. He pulled the book off the shelf and walked over to the new-books section, where he picked up Haruki Murakami’s most recent novel. “I’d like this one gift wrapped, please,” he said, handing Meirav the used copy of The Kreutzer Sonata, adding, “my wife’s studying psychology and she’s been nagging me forever to get her this book.”

The lawyer buys the book in question .

Well the show is a good starting point for the book although the book isn’t comic ,but touches a lot of the same ground and the is identity in Israeli from both side Arab and Jewish .The book is formed of two stories that unfold side by side the first is the story of an Arab lawyer .but he is a high-flying lawyer trying to escape from his Arab background and get accepted in the mainstream Jewish life as a lawyer . The lawyer  by chance finds a copy of Kreutzer  sonata  by Tolstoy a book that his wife recommend to him  to read in this second-hand book he discovers a letter in Arabic that appears to have been written by her wife to the books previous owner of the book. the previous Yonatan is the link to the second story ,but back to the first he of course now want s to find out from his wife who this was and why she wrote the letter .The second story is about a young Arab man Amir  struggling to get work ,then finds himself working as a carer at night looking after a young Israeli who is called Yonatan ,Amir starts to look into this young man’s life his likes and dislikes .Takes things like his camera and then decides he could become Yonatan ,so is he the one in the first story ?

Well the book is as Tony put it is very easy read and it is but it tackles a lot of subjects close to the heart of Israeli and to some one like Sayed as he is an Arab Israeli that is their place in modern Israeli ? How close can they come to be a full part of Israeli life without taking Amir’s path and stealing an identity or the Lawyer (we never get told his name )  where he has really sold his soul to be where he was and of course the first story on its line of marital betrayal  , jealousy could be a spin on the Tolstoy story which Thou I’ve not read it is about a marriage ,a wife’s betrayal and the husband in that book kills his wife .(an  aside to this is I had said I will get this book by Tolstoy next time I see it and low and behold last week I brought a second-hand copy a little bit of a deja vu moment .) .I feel this is very much an IFFP book as it tackles issues but also is one that serves well as a book group book with many points to dive off from about it .This was the third book by Kashua to be translated to English another book apart from this one had been on the longlist for the IFFP .

Have you read him

 

A French Novel by Frédéric Beigbeder

a french novel

A French Novel by Frédéric Beigbeder

French Fiction

Original title  Un roman français,

Translator – Frank Wynne

Source – From Translator

I have reviewed Beigbeder before I reviewed his book about 9/11 windows on the world ,so when Frank sent me this after I mentioned it on my IFFP longlist post as I thought it would be one that would in fact should make the cut .Beigbeder is somewhat of a character ,he was arrest in 2008 on the night his older brother ( a successful and well-known french businessman ) was made a member of the French la legion d’honneur ,this book follows that arrest in a brilliant piece of Autofiction about his childhood viewed from the cell on that night .Beigbeder is also working with VW on a new car .He  is dating a 18-year-old Russian ,if only our writers were so interesting as him  .

My only hope ,as I embark on this diving expedition , is that writing can rekindle memory , literature remembers what we have forgotten :to write is to read within oneself .Writing reawaken memory ;it is possible to write as one might exhume a body .

I loved this how true this is what great writers do .

So I’ve set the scene we meet a writer called Frédéric Beigbeder on the night his brother is honoured and he is there  getting drunk ,when later that evening he is arrest for sniffing cocaine and ends up in a Paris cell .He begins to think what brought him to this point and he feels he can’t remember his childhood but as the night wears on he remember his younger years and the France of his youth from the music ,shows to his parents their lives .He also recalls his parents past Their parents the writers Grandparents that he never meet but had effects on both his parents and like a newtons cradle had an effect on him and his brother .What is painted is a childhood that is full of the 70′s fance ,his parents get divorced and both meet new partners in his father’s case many new partners .His brother Charles a rival and at times friend ,he notes early on that his own father hadn’t spoken to his own brother for years and wonder how this effect their relationship .You grasp that he is trying to discover himself in this French police cell .

The only names from my childhood I remember are those of the girls I loved and who never had the faintest idea : Marie-Aline Dehaussy , the Mirailh sisters , Clarence Jacquard ,Cecile Favreau ,Claire Guionnet ,Michele Luthala ,Beatrice Kahn ,Agathe Oliver ,Axelle Batonnier …I think most of them dated my brother ,but peroids and places get mixed up ..

I loved he remember the girls more than the boys in his childhood .

Well as you see the title of this book is suited it is very much a French novel .Although Autofiction isn’t a French invention it has flourished in France and here Beigbeder has shown how you can make your own childhood into a novel ,what do we remember of our childhood ? , for me it glimpses at time the shuttle launch whilst staying with my dad at my aunties house ,my brother biting his tongue run on top of an old fire engine on a family holiday ,dungeons and dragons  on tv and my friend Steve loving the show ,spangle sweets .Could I stitch these into a novel ,well no. But here is what Beigbeder has done .I’m a few years younger than him but touchstones in this book,TV shows music ,running his hands through his father’s music collection and even his parents divorce are all events I could connect to my own life .I also felt he caught the France of the time ,this is the time  Citroen DS,  ,Pompideu and then later Mitterrand. A huge change in France post 1968 which Beigbeder grew up in the nearest book in english I have read would be something like Black swan green by David Mitchell  .I still don’t know how it missed IFFP longlist for me it is a novel by one of the best living French writers .

Have you read Beigbeder ?

The Corpse washer by Sinan Antoon

The Corpse Washer

The Corpse washer by Sinan Antoon

Iraqi fiction

Original title -  وحدها شجرة الرمان

Translator – By the writer himself

Source – Personnel copy on Kindle

Sinan Antoon is and Iraqi/American writer born in Baghdad to an Iraqi father and American mother ,he lived and studied English in Iraq  .Before moving to the US in 1990 where he gained a Phd in Arabic and Islamic studies from Harvard .He is currently an associate professor at Galltain school in New York .He has written five books and also made a well-known Documentary called  About Baghdad.

If death is a postman, then I receive his letters every day. I am the one who opens carefully the bloodied and torn envelopes. I am the one who washes them, who removes the stamps of death and dries and perfumes them, mumbling what I don’t entirely believe in. Then I wrap them carefully in white so they may reach their final reader— the grave.

Very poetic thoughts at times as they look after the cities dead .

 

Well this was the one book on this years IFFP I didn’t see being there ,but that said one I was pleased to see on the list as however curates the Yale imprint ”  THE MARGELLOS WORLD REPUBLIC OF LETTERS” has rather good taste from the other two books I have read from the list Diary and Blindly .So to the book the corpse washer is set in the Shi’ite community and follows Jawad who at the beginning of the book is working with his father as a corpse washer following the Islamic practice of Ghusl ,were a body needs to be washed in the correct water and shroud  in the Kafan ,as soon after some one dies .Now young Jawad has his own dreams he wants to become an artist  so he leaves his father and goes to follow his dream of art becoming a sculpture .But as  he is studying and then the gulf war and Saddam leadership becomes more manic ,his father dies ,his mother becomes very ill and the family rack up cost in her care so Jawad life goes full circle and in the middle of the violence yet again becomes a corpse washer telling us the horrors of conflict as he washes and shrouds the bodies of the dead .As war brings Jawad so many more stories and bodies to clean and shroud .

Like all children I was very curious and would pester Father with questions about his work, but he said he’d tell me all about it later when the time was right. I would accompany him when I was old enough. “It’s too early, focus on school.” Ammoury had started helping Father when he was fifteen and started to wash at eighteen, but my father never allowed me to go inside his workplace. He wanted to keep work and home separate. When I used to ask Ammoury about work, he never gave me satisfying answers; these were matters for grown-ups and I was still a child.

I loved visiting my father factory as a kid didn’t we all do this ?

Now I found this maybe the most powerful book I have read so far from the list and knowing the IFFP it will be a good contender for a winner Jawad is a man caught in the vicious circle of failed dreams he glimpse another life ,he wants more than his father but in the end maybe sees what his father didn’t in their job when he returns to it .When the story is washed clean it is a universally themed story of father and sons ,foiled ambition ,family ,war and losing a dream .A modern tragedy maybe ,War story maybe ,but for me most of all one mans struggle Jawad he could be compared to characters from a dickens novel or even an older version  Billy Casper where Jawad’s art is like Billy kestrel and escape a dream of a better life .

Jacqui reviews Ten by Andrej Longo

ten Andrej Longo

Jacqui is back again to review Ten for the Shadow IFFP Jury

Ten by Andrej Longo
Translated from the Italian by Howard Curtis

Andrej Longo’s Ten consists of a series of hard-hitting short stories set in Naples. Each story takes one of the Ten Commandments as its theme and we see regular working-class people struggling to get by in the face of temptations and challenges that come their way.

In the first story we meet a teenage boy who wants to keep his head down and stay on the right side of the tracks. But he gets caught up in trouble during a night out with his girlfriend, the consequences of which will set his life on a different trajectory. Another story centres on a talented singer who becomes too ambitious and greedy. We follow his rise and fall into a life of drugs and debt – in the end his only way out is to become a guinea pig, thereby enabling his dealer to test the safety of each batch of coke:

I get off at the terminal. I lean on the wall to stop myself from falling and drag myself to where there’s an open space. I sit down in the sun or the rain, it’s all the same to me, and I wait, leaning against a pillar, like the others. I wait for them to bring the syringe, already filled, look for a vein that still has room, and put the needle in. And they wait to see the effect it has, and whether you live or die. (p. 34-35)

The mafia are never very far away — to the fore in some stories, in the background in others — and we see how people have grown accustomed to living their lives under this shadow:

Maybe Ricardo was right. Maybe like he said, to avoid asking myself too many questions, I’d stopped taking any notice of what was happening around me, the mountains of rubbish in the street, the murders, the bag snatching, the parking attendant who asks for money even when there’s a meter. I’d got used to keeping my eyes down to avoid trouble, paying so that I could drive my lorry in peace, without them slashing the tyres or breaking the windows. Maybe it was it was like he said but I didn’t want to admit it. (p. 113)

All this might sound rather grim, but some of these stories capture moments of love and longing. In one of my favourite stories from the collection, ‘Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy’, a woman longs to spend a Sunday with her husband but is unable to because her man can only find work in Rome. He returns on a weekly basis, but always Tuesdays, never at the weekend:

We’d been living like this for thirteen years. Seeing each other only on Tuesdays. Just so we could pay the mortgage and provide for the kids as they grew. But now the mortgage was almost entirely paid off. And the kids were grown. They were working now, making a living for themselves. I know there’s never enough money. But I could look for a job. Anything. Just as long as he came home in the evening and slept in our bed. Just as long as we could spend one Sunday together every now and again. Go for a stroll somewhere, without counting the hours, without feeling that time was slipping through our fingers. A Sunday together like everybody else. (p. 50)

Longo is a critically-acclaimed writer of short stories as well as pieces for the theatre, radio and cinema. When he isn’t writing, Longo works as a pizza-maker in the city of Naples and he draws on his understanding of the city to great effect in this collection. He takes us through the backstreets and clubs of the city, into the homes of its inhabitants and in doing so gives us a real sense of the place, its culture and social landscape. Knives and guns seem common place here and it’s an environment where kids and teenagers often have to grow up ahead of their time to survive.

Stu has already talked about how this collection illustrates what great short stories can do; they give us a slice of the world as we glimpse people for the briefest of moments. One of the things I liked about these stories was their directness and raw honesty. Longo’s prose is quite stripped back but he quickly creates a sense of tension and atmosphere as he pulls us into these individuals’ lives.

I also liked the shifts in tone, mood and pace across the stories. We experience flashes of violence, situations with a pulsating sense of urgency, but there are times when the pace shifts down a gear as characters reflect on their regrets, their hopes and fears.

One of the reasons I wanted to get involved in shadowing the IFFP was to discover exciting examples of world-lit with a real sense of place, fiction that vividly captures the voice and the essence of a specific location and/or culture. And that exactly what Ten delivers.

Ten is one of three collections of short stories longlisted for this year’s IFFP. The other collections are Revenge by Yoko Ogawa and The Iraqi Christ by Hassan Blasim (and one could also argue that Andrei Makine’s Brief Loves That Live Forever reads as a series of interlinked stories). As for Ten’s chances in the IFFP, I’m at the halfway point in reading the longlist so it’s a little difficult to tell at this stage…but it’s an excellent collection of stories and one which I’m very glad to have discovered.

Ten is published in the UK by Harvill Secker.
Source: personal copy

My review of Ten 

Dead stars by Alvaro Bisama

DeadStars_kindlecover_FINALflat_300x400-225x300

Dead stars by Alvaro Bisama

Chilean fiction

Original title - Estrellas muertas

Translator -Megan McDowell

Source – Review copy

I said when I reviewed Zenith hotel that so far in 2014 I had read two stunning books ,well this is the second one .Alvaro Bisama Grew up around Villa Alemana .He studied Playa Ancha university before coming a columnist after university .He also started writing .He also got a master’s degree from university of Chile ,where he worked on the website Mariano Aguirre alongside Alejandro Zambra ,also with Zambra he was on Hay festival Bogotá 39 of the best 39 writers under 39 .he has published seven books including four novels .

We’d be down in the port ,at Hesperia ,cafe 8.30 .Talking about whatever .She’d be chain-smoking ,and I  would shred the skin of my lips with my teeth .Those nervous habits were all we had left in those days .

Opening both sat at a cafe ,waiting when they read the paper .

Dead stars ,strangely enough starts of a bit like Marias The infatuations in a cafe ,it is the end of a relationship a couple is using the cafe every time they visit there lawyers to finalize the details of their divorce .Anyway one day they are sat there reading the paper when they discover an article mentioning Javiera  a women they both knew when they were studying .Now in a rather Proustian moment we go back into the  history to the early  post -Pinochet years of the 90′s  and this couple when they first  meet at college discovering them selcves ,Chiles past and forging their own ways and Political views ,that at a later date will have a big impact on each of them  .How there lives all intersect in a backdrop of Grunge ,pink music ,drink and drugs and drug addiction .They remember what happened along the way til the point their respective lives split .

She said it all comes back at once ,it all comes back so suddenly .The photo opens the door .My memory is the room .

The proustian moment of remembering where they both met and the story began .

Now I was thinking of something to compare this with and the way my mind works the first thing that struck me was a piece of art .the Simon starling piece Shed Boat Shed ,where he took shed and this was the couple at the start of the book ,then made the shed into a boat and that like this book is a journey into the past is a voyage of discovery .Then we get back to the present and like the rebuilt shed in the piece it isn’t quite the same .I feel that covers the book well it is about rediscovering ones self  ,a collective past and also a country struggling with a violent past and the fallout due to that ,these quiet unknown years after pinochet when the shadows are still there but people don’t always see them ,not til they are sat looking back  .It was also nice to be reminded of some of the music of the time and to discover some artist I  didn’t know or remember .Bisama is one to watch and great on Ox and Pigeon the small electronic publisher to finally bring one of the brightest hopes of Latin American fiction to us in English .

Jacqui reviews Brief loves that live forever IFFP 2014

Brief loves that live forever

Brief Loves That Live Forever by Andrei Makine
Translated from the French by Geoffrey Strachan

When the IFFP longlist was announced in early March I was excited to see this novel amongst the contenders. While I haven’t read any of Andrei Makine’s previous books, I know Stu rates this author very highly, so I was eager to get to this one.

Brief Loves That Live Forever comprises of a series of eight episodes set within the context of Brezhnev’s Soviet Union; each of these vignettes could be considered a short story in itself, yet they are connected by the same narrator looking back on specific moments in his life.

The book opens as our unnamed narrator recalls walking home with friend, a dissident by the name of Dimitri Ress. Ress, a dying man in his mid-forties, has experienced a sequence of imprisonments primarily for attacking the totalitarian regime and railing against the charade of National parades. During the walk Ress seems keen to steer our narrator towards a particular route; by so doing they encounter a woman and young boy as they emerge from an official car. Ress turns away and it seems as if there may be some connection between him and the couple. As our narrator recalls this encounter with Ress it seems to spark memories of other days in his youth — moments of tenderness, fleeting glimpses of beauty and love — and it is these transient moments that endure and resonate most strongly in his life:

What remains is the pale patch of a dress, on the front steps of a little wooden house. The gesture of a hand waving me goodbye. I walk on, drawing further away, turning back after every five paces, and the hand is still visible in the mauve, luminous spring light.

What remains is a fleeting paradise that lives on for all time, having no need of doctrines. (p. 91)

From this point onwards Makine uses this theme to lead us through a series of experiences in the narrator’s life, all of which touch upon brief snatches of love, compassion or grace. We see a young girl desperately searching for a grandmother whom she has never met; a grief-stricken young woman mourning the passing of her husband; an elderly couple of seeking shelter from a storm; a lover immersing her face in a bouquet of flowers. Here’s our narrator recalling this moment in their affair:

She comes in, kisses me, sees the bouquet. And asks no questions. She quite simply leans forward, buries her face in the subtly scented halo of flowers, closes her eyes. And when she stands up, her eyes are misty with tears. “They smell of winter,” she says. “We met in December, didn’t we…”

That night there is an unaccustomed gentleness in the way we make love, as if we had found one another again after a very long separation, having suffered greatly and grown old. (p 131-132)

These moments also offer glimmers of light in our protagonist’s world, forming the greatest defence against the grim reality and hollow emptiness of the Soviet system. The encounters are played out against the backdrop of the political development of The Soviet Union from the 1960s to the 1980s and representations of the totalitarian regime are never very far away. Early in the novel we see our narrator when, as a young boy, he becomes trapped within the imposing entrails of a grandstand used for parades:

Sunk in the torpor of a condemned man, I saw I was in a vast spider’s web spun from iron. This three-dimensional trellis was everywhere…My terror was so profound that, within this prison-like captivity, I must have glimpsed a more immense reality concerning the country I lived in, whose political character I was just beginning to grasp, thanks to snatches of conversation here and there… (p.36)

There are other symbols of the Brezhnev-era regime too; the leader’s imposing face, an authoritarian gaze beneath bushy eyebrows on a vast hoarding on the façade on a railway station (p. 98) and an enormous sterile apple orchard, an example of a Potemkin village, Soviet style (p. 139).

Brief Loves That Live Forever is a wonderful novel studded with beautifully haunting images, many of which are almost certainly set to drift through my mind in the days to come. Stu, in his review, likened the experience of reading this book to looking through a collection of old sepia-tinged photographs and how these can evoke memories of the past…and that’s very much how it feels for me, too. While each episode could work as a short story in its own right, they build and come together to form a more powerful, more resonant whole. And at the end of the book we come full circle and return to our narrator’s memories of Dimitri Ress, where we learn a little more about his past, causing us to reflect on our impressions of events and themes introduced in the first chapter.

There’s a melancholy, almost meditative quality to Makine’s writing, and in this respect I feel it shares something with Javier Marias’s The Infatuations (also longlisted for the IFFP). Such elegant writing, too; everything seems to flow effortlessly, from Makine’s prose through to Geoffrey Strachan’s sensitive translation.

While I’m only halfway through the IFFP longlist this is one of my favourites thus far; a strong bet for the shortlist, I feel.

Brief Loves That Live Forever is published in the UK by MacLehose Press.
Source: personal copy.#

Many thanks Jacqui here is my review of this book 

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