Fear and Trembling by Amelie Nothomb

 

Fear and trembling by Amelie Nothomb 

Belgian fiction 

Orginal title – Stupeur et tremblements

Translator – Adriana Hunter 

Source – Library

Loving you is driving me crazy
People say that you were born lazy
‘Cause you say that
Work Is A Four-Letter Word

So change your life
There is so much I know
That you can do
Come and see …

I choose one of my favourite song by The Smiths work is a four letter word as it caught in part this book .

I decide a month or two ago to start adding a few books by writers I have enjoyed in the time I have been blogging ,to add depth to blog and to the list of books read ,so I read Amelie Nothomb’s The character of rain  three years ago and had a time want to try more of this talent Belgian writer ,this book like the character of rain is another book set in Japan Amelie Nothomb ,lived in Japan and was born there  in Kobe .The title of this book is a reference to how the average citizen should have felt when greeting the Emperor of Japan .

Miss Mori was at least five feet ten , a height few japanese men achieved .She was ravishingly svelte and graceful despite the stiffness to which she, like all Japanese women , had to sacrifice herself .But what transfixed me was the splendor of her face .

She was talking to me ,The sound of her soft voice brimmed with intelligence .She was showing me some files , explaining what they contained , and smiling. I was dimly aware that I wasn’t listening to what she was saying .

Amelie as she says is transfixed by Miss Mori on their first meeting .

The story of this book is a fiction Amelie going to work for a large company in Japan the Yumimoto corporation ,she has managed to get a job for a year with them .initially it is great she loves the way she is greeted by the people in the company ,but then she is put under the perfect Miss Mori .This is the point that things start to go wrong for the young Amelie ,because she just cannot do anything right ,she has hit the brick wall of Japanese etiquette and the way things are done .She eventually she her self doing less and ,less as every task she is given she seems to fail at in the eyes of the task perfect Miss Mori ,Amelie is also strangely attracted to Miss Mori and the way she is .Amelie ends up with one job sorting the toilets on the 13th floor of the building a toilet that just she and Miss Mori use ,even this she isn’t very good at in the eyes of Miss Mori .

I SPOKE RARELY in my new post , not because it wasn’t forbidden but because an unwritten rule stopped me .When your job is as dreary as mine was the only way of preserving your honour is by remaining silent .

Amelie on her last job the bathroom attendant .

What i loved about this wonderfully short novel is the humour that is there from the clash of cultures ,the western ideas of Amelie cut no way with Miss Mori .Miss Mori leaps of the page as a perfect example of a women in business in Japan she has to be better than the men beside her and above her this is what drives her perfection and in some ways the way she treats Amelie .Miss Mori has her own problems she is turning thirty in the new year and this is traditionally the time a women in Japan is expected to be married .Like character of rain Amelie Nothomb has a great way of casting an outsiders eye on Japan without turning it into a joke and a freak show that so many times happens when we view how Japan works .I felt Miss Mori could have been one of the figures of love from a Murakami novel ,she is just so perfect or tries to be .Amelie at one point imagines her and Miss Mori’s position as similar to that of David Bowie and Ryuichi Sakamoto in the film Merry christmas Mr Lawrence .

Amelie -san

CONGRATULATIONS

-MORI FUBUKI

I added this as it is the last lines a letter Amelie received just after her first novel came out from Miss Mori .

Have you a favourite book by a Belgian writer ?

Winstons books poseidon and confessions

Well two books arrived at Winston towers this week .

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The first is from an old favourite writer ,the Dutch genius Cees Nooteboom ,his latest book from Maclehose is called Poseidon letters ,it is a selection of writing he has written for year to Poseidon on his return to his spring home on Minorca .I actually have finished this book and it is something special any fans of the works of  Sebald will love this one .

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The second book as you can see is a huge book Jaume Cabre book Confession one of the most respect Catalan writers ,the book follows Adria Ardevol as he turns sixty and looks back on his memories before he loses them but also over the role evil has played in the last five hundred years of history .the book won ten awards in Spain .

Winston’s library books and a couple of second hand books

IMG_1933Now I have decide to keep my weekend book posts for the new books I get sent or  have brouight myself  and in between times do posts on second-hand finds and library books ,I have borrowed ,I love he library but often return books unread as ,I get caught up in the new book rat race ,so i decided this visit to borrow four books by writers I have read before .

Blind willow ,sleeping woman by Haruki Murakami – I read this about six years ago ,just before I started the blog and saw it today and decide to include it as the books by him I have so far on the blog are all novels and this is a short story collection .

3 Arched bridge by Ismail kadare -I review his latest book , the twilight of eastern gods and whilst writing that I looked at the ones I hadn’t read by him and this was one of the ones that was top of that list as it follows the building of a bridge between the Balkans and europe ,I was reminded of the pyramid by him .

By night in Chile by Roberto Bolano  –  I hope to get all his books on the blog over some point so a political satire ,and with the Opus Dei in it so another to the list of his on the blog I hope .

Fear and trembling by Amelie Nothomb – I read character of rain a few year ago , and said then I did like to read more books by Nothomb so this short novel is the next one I have found .It follows a fictional version of her self spending a year in Japan .Also makes a change from Simenon who has been my main Belgian writer this year .

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I also called in my local Oxfam shop and found these two -

Eucalyptus by Murray Bail – well choose this for two reasons the title and cover caught my eye and the second reason was Michael Ondaatje on the cover as he is a writer whose book I have enjoyed so I thought i give this a whirl and handy for australian reading month 2015 .

In filtration by Yehoshua Kenaz – I have enjoyed a number of hebrew novels based in the time around the foundation of Israel so this is another and one that I hadn’t heard of before .

What books have you got from the library recently ?

 

The insufferable Gaucho by Roberto Bolano

the-insufferable-gaucho-978033051062201

The insufferable Gaucho by Roberto Bolano 

Chilean fiction

Original title – El Gaucho insuferible 

Translator – Chris Andrews 

Source – library

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have you read Bolano ?

The art of killing well by Marco Malvaldi

The art of killing well

The art of Killing well by Marco Malvaldi 

Italian fiction 

Original title – Odore di chiuso

Translator – Howard Curtis 

Source – Review Copy 

Politeness and civility to visitors is one of the things masters and mistresses have a right to expect, and should exact rigorously. When visitors present themselves, the servant charged with the duty of opening the door will open it promptly, and answer, without hesitation, if the family are “not at home,” or “engaged;” which general same thing, and might be oftener used with advantage to morals.

Miss Beeton on visitors seemed apt for this book source 

Now I feel awful ,I met Marco at the more bloody foreigners  lunch earlier in the year .Marco is from Pisa  , he has written a guide to his home city .He is a crime writer and Chemist .He has a series of crime novels the Bar lume series and this is a new series .Marco is a fan of cooking and cook books this is how he came up with the idea for this story .This book won Isola d’Elba Award and the Castiglioncello Prize.

Arrived safe and sound at the castle of Rocapendente .

The castle is beautiful , but the interior strikes me as unusally devoid of furnishings , although it may be the sheer size of the rooms and staircases that gives me that impression ,

as far as beauty of appearance is concerned , even the servants are well suited to the castle .

From the diary of Pellegrino Artusi ,just after he arrived on the friday for the weekend .

The art of killing well is the story of Pellegrino Artusi man Italian nobleman that had enjoyed many cooks in his time and was shocked at the time to discover no one had written the recipes used down .So he set of round Italy collecting the best dishes of  Italian cooking ,which he intended to write as a book for himself and his friends any way he did and the book snowball till the book  became a staple of most upper class and middle class families in the late 1890’s ,a sort of Italian miss Beeton .Well the art of killing well is an imagine incident in Pellegrino’s life ,we meet him just as he has finished his travels around Italy and has chosen to take up an invite from a Baron to sample his chef and finish writing his book oh and the chance to hunt Boar .Anyway a body turns up in the cellar the family butler  .Pellegrino feels he has the talents via his nose and knowledge of food and cooking to find who the killer is before he strikes again and kills the baron .Will he find the killer in time ?

” Thank you m Barone .I must ask you all to be patient for a moment .I have just made a preliminary examination of the body of Teodoro Banti ,as a result of which I find myself unable to issue a death certificate “

The doctor tells them the dead butler is actually murder .

Well imagine this now book now it is like Gordon Ramsey does crime or Jamie oliver invesigates .Of course there has been one cooking detective I know off and the was Henry crabbe in the tv series pie in the sky .But Pellegrino was the orginal Chef ,the best known of his day ,this is a book about smells and taste and how they can help solve crimes .This book is a clever turn on the amateur detective ,of course a cook has skills to be a detective ,like in his other series where the main character is a barista in a coffee shop .So if you want a slice of upper class Italian life in the 1890’s  and a weekend  murder mystery ala country house style ,this is the book for you ,I really hope Marco chooses to  writes again about Pellegrino and also includes more of the recipes like he did in the back of this book .Have you a favourite amateur detective ?

The story of a shipwrecked sailor by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

shipwreck sailor

The story of a shipwrecked sailor by Gabriel Garcia Marquez 

Columbian non fiction 

Original title – Relato de un náufrago

Translator – Randolph Hogan 

Source personnel copy 

Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.

Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.

From rime of the ancient mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge  source

Well this is a book hung over from Spanish literature month that I didn’t get time to review ,which is a real shame as I had want to include the two non fiction books I had read by Marquez for Spanish literature month  .Marquez worked as a journalist most of his life .He started as a journalist he was a member of the Barranquilla group a group of Journalist ,philosophers and writers based in the city of Barranquilla  in Columbia .This group was also featured in his novel one hundred years of solitude .Now to this book based on the true story of a Columbian sailor .

At six o’clock the destroyer began pitching violently .Luis Rengifo was awake one bunk below me .

“Fatso ” he asked me ,”Haven’t you gotten sick yet ? “

I said no ,but I admitted I was worried .Rengifo ,who as I said was an engineer -very studious and a good seaman explained why it was unlikely that something could happen to the Caldas in the Caribbean

How untrue this was !.

 

In 1955 a crew of eight set sail on a Columbian navy destroyer Caldis ,that has spent time in the US .The book sets of with a crew that maybe had partied too much when in America and a lot of stuff on board they shouldn’t have ,so when they hit a storm in the middle of the Caribbean ocean ,the crew and items they were returning to Columbia with all end up in the sea .Now the Navy searches and finds no one .But actually Luis Alejandro Velasco ,he managed to grab stuff and make him self a raft ,he spent ten days drifting on the ocean in which time he drank little ,manage to wrestle  fish from the sharks around him ,also kill a gull which he didn’t eat (can’t blame him I have a friend that grew up in the wilds of highland and shot regularly and once shot and tried a gull which he didn’t like one bit ) .Any way he manages to drift to land which luckily for him is actually his homeland of Columbia  ,he is brought back  to the city nursed back to health and given a heros welcome ,this is the point where his path crosses with Marquez who likes his story and decides to write this book to keep it for prosperity .

Hunger is bearable when you have no hope of food .but it was never so insistent as when I was trying to slash that shiny green flesh with my keys .

After a few minutes ,I realized I would have to use more violent methods if I wanted to eat my victim .

Velasco struggle to find food to eat .

This is a good old adventure yarn ,but far from being fiction it actually happened Luis Alejandro Velasco did spend ten days at sea ,he did suffer but like any true hero he had to fall t o rise and be honoured .As I read this I wondered if Yann Martell had read this .I think he did in some ways this is rather like a blueprint for A life of Pi but if Marquez had written this as a novel it would have been near Martell’s book I do wonder if in some way if life of pi was a way to see what happens when you add magic realism to a shipwreck story .Velasco story is of course like other stories Crusoe (based on the real life Alexander Selkirk from Lower Largo in Fife ,I used pass his statue on the way to my Gran’s every year ) which Defoe wrote and spawn many similar stories in what are known as Robinsonade fiction books about  a shipwrecks and sailors  from William Golding with Pincher Martin to Umberto Eco with the island of the day before  and also life of Pi .The actual book cause Marquez a lot of trouble due to the way he told the story of the contraband the ship was carrying and he had to actually leave Columbia for a while he also hand the writes to the book to Velasco in Spanish ,but kept the translation Rights himself  ,even thou Velasco tried to sue for them ,but then later made up with Marquez .Have you read this or have a favourite Robinsonade story ?

The portrait by Willem Jan Otten

the-portrait_300dpi-280x430

The portrait by Willem Jan Otten

Dutch Fiction 

Original title – Specht en zoon

Translator – David Colmer 

Source – review copy 

 

I think images are worth repeating
Images repeated from a painting
Images taken from a painting
From a photo worth re-seeing
I love images worth repeating, project them upon the ceiling
Multiply them with silk screening
See them with a different feeling
Images
Images
Images
Images

Images by Lou Reed and John Cale from their album Songs for Drella about Andy Warhol

When I was asked to review this award-winning Dutch book from scribe ,I was pleased as Scribe the Australian publisher has not long moved into the uk market and has over last few years found some gems in translation ,like David Vogel ,whose books have been on my radar for a while .So The portrait or in its Dutch title Specht and son ,is the fourth novel by Willem Jan Otten ,he is also a well-known poet , playwright and essayist in his native Holland ,he has won a number of awards including two for this book ,the most prestigious being the Libris literature prize a Dutch language prize whose previous winners include Harry Mulisch ,Hugo Claus and JJ Voskull .

I admit to remembering virtually nothing of the moment I was finally brought .It was a nondescript man ,smallish ,in a dark-blue army-disposials coat and paint splashed shoes .He had wide ,avid eyes but I didn’t really see them wile the transaction was taking place .

The canvas is brought and taking tom wait at the studio .

So the portrait ,is an unusual book as the narrator of this book is a canvas , we see the story unfold from its point of view  .The book starts at the end as a man walks in the snow  towards a fire   ,then we go back in time and this canvas is waiting for what it calls the creator to use it  .The creator is an up and coming young painter known for his realistic paintings of people .He has been hired by Specht who is a rich and powerful man who could help the creator become better known  he has asked the creator  to make a photo of his late son into a painting like his other painting and breath life into it , to save  his  own life  .So as the creator starts to cover the canvas we start to find out who is being painted on him ,is it Specht’s son or something more sinster  what is their relationship ? What happened to this young boy ? Who is Specht why was he in such a rush for the painter to create this painting for him ?

Specht had sat down again .

I actually only have one question , he said

His voice ,which had been very quiet the whole time had become virtually inaudible .

Do you also work from death ?

Specht ask the creator does he paint from death and the canvas gets its chance to come to life .

Now this is one of those books that just goes at a pace when you start reading it ,at points I had to keep saying to myself this is just a canvas as the narrator as it’s  jumps of the page ,we see its waiting as the creator ,choose other canvases before it  until the big job he has been destined to be used for comes in .The book has a slightly Moral feel to it almost as thou the story of Specht’s  son is a wider story of lost children everywhere .I read in a Dutch interview I translated online that Otten has convert to Catholicism with his wife in the 90’s and this book was picked as an example of literature reflecting Christian  values and morals  the ClO 15 list ,which also features a book ny his wife Yvone van der Meer  the list shows the literary merit Christian literature can have .Know I can see you shaking your head and I am not a big fan of overtly Christian books ,I can say this isn’t you can read into it that it is but also just read it as a story of a painting being made and the young bo is in the painting a journey through a life of a canvas  and it’s subject .Also another readable and faultless translation by David Colmer  .Have you a favourite book about artist and paintings ?

Twilight of Eastern gods by Ismail Kadare

twilight of eastern gods

Twilight of the Eastern gods by Ismail Kadare 

Albanian fiction 

Original title –  French title- Le Crépuscule des dieux de la steppe

Translator David Bellos from the french translation of  Jusuf Vrioni

Source  – review copy

“Light is meaningful only in relation to darkness, and truth presupposes error. It is these mingled opposites which people our life, which make it pungent, intoxicating. We only exist in terms of this conflict, in the zone where black and white clash.”

A louis Aragon quote seem fitting for Kadare as a writer in general ,source

Now the other day when I did my Nobel round-up for this year I did miss one name of knowing I had this on my pile of books to be reviewed that of Ismail Kadare .Kadare is the best known Albanian writer with nearly twenty of his books translated into english already .i have reviewed Fall of stone city and The pyramid  .Kadare has won all the major book prize around the world barring the Nobel ,he studied at Maxim Gorky Literature institute ,originally at that time he was a poet ,then wrote short stories eventually publishing his first novel in 1963 ,he left Albania as an exile in 1990 ,where he said” the writer is the natural enemy of dictatorship ” .Twilight of the eastern gods is about his time at the Maxim Gorky .

In Moscow Literary circle I had indeed heard a lot of talk about suicide .I shared with her the most interesting pieces of gossip that were going around .She listen without responding .Suddenly it occurred to me to tell her about Fadeyev’s treatment in the Kremlin hospital .

Some of his fellow writers fell before they had really started !Fadyev was one that Kadare studied with that did .

Well twilight of the gods is rather like the fall of stone city was and takes part of Kadare’s own life and fictionalized it .The time is 1958 and the young Kadare is in Moscow studying at the Maxim Gorky (this is a writers workshop like the well-known ones elsewhere ,but obviously with a twist they were wanting a soviet twist on the writers work ) ,when the news filters through that Boris Pasternak has won the Nobel prize ,earlier the young writer had been hand pages of this Banned  book ,why had he won this bog prize  .Why was this book of his banned ? Added to this is the writers at the Gorky ,the wanting of them to follow a style of Realistic writing ,one of the writers ,a French writer who was in love with the soviet system , Louis Aragon ,I have mention before as he championed Chingiz Aitmatov whose book Jamila I reviewed  another writer from the Maxim Gorky not at the same time but he wrote in the style they wanted a social realistic style .Then there is a growing tension between the writers own country Albania and the Soviet regime ,Hoxha the Albanian leader saw the soviets become to liberal .Then there is the last part of the book the city Kadare capture fifties Moscow so well where in some ways there is still a glimmer of light but behind closed door things are very different .

Even if she were to revert to her former friendliness ,to the particular variety of benevolence that most Russian babuskas exhibited towards foreign students ,I would never forgive her coldness she had shown me earlier .

I just has use this bit for the word Babuskas ,such a great word .

Now what can I say ,I  feel  Kadare is  a writer ,I can’t get enough of every time I read a book by him (Hence I tend to buy his one at a time every few years to ration them ) ,you feel he is one that had taken part of what he learned at Maxim Gorky ,but took it further this is realism ,but real realism ,the book originally came out in French in 1978 ,so he was critical while still in Albania and about one of the few regimes to still help Albania the Soviets ,brave moves indeed .Another way to view the book is a coming of age novel ,a writers coming of age surrounded by the cream of the writers in Soviet and soviet satellite regimes The young writer starts to see himself as a writer ,but also gather thoughts that he would later use in his books yes the is hints at thoughts ,ideas that he had since wrote about  in his novels .Although in his canon ,this is a minor book ,for any other writer this would be seen as a major book ,a writers coming of age written so well .Have you read Kadare ?

 

Choices for The Argentinian and Uruguayan lit of Doom

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Well on Saturday I mentioned on Saturday my joy at finding The Peron novel for Richards Argentina based lit challenge from now to December .So I decide to share some choices I have to try from first up along side Te Peron novel is Hopscotch a book I want to have on the blog at some point as it is Considered Julio Cortazar’s masterpiece and a great piece of Experimental fiction .Now the rest of my choices are on my kindle so first up

Cesar Aira triple pack of novels

I already Had an episode in the life of a landscape painter the new direction version ,I have since downloads Ghosts and the Literacy conference from the Penguin collection pictured above I haven’t read and these three short novels will be a great intro.

the planets Sergio Chefij

The planets by Sergio Chejfec ,a novel set in seventies Beuno Aires from Open letter the us publisher .

the mad toy roberto Arlt

Now another classic of Argentinianlit Arlt debut novel follows a criminal that operates on the streets of Beunos Aires .

I have a few others to surprise you with ,are you joining in the challenge ? I hope to get two read amonth for the next three months (set bar lower than usual as I’ve a backlog of reviews and tend to go OTT with challenges )

 

 

Winston’s books no post but !

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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 ?

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