Dead Lake by Hamid Ismailov

the dead lake

Dead Lake by Hamid Ismailov

Uzbekistan fiction

Orginal Title - вундеркинд Ержан

Translator – Andrew Broomfield

Source – Review Copy

All children, except one, grow up. They soon know that they will grow up, and the way Wendy knew was this. One day when she was two years old she was playing in a garden, and she plucked another flower and ran with it to her mother. I suppose she must have looked rather delightful, for Mrs Darling put her hand to her heart and cried, ‘Oh, why can’t you remain like this for ever!’ This was all that passed between them on the subject, but henceforth Wendy knew that she must grow up. You always know after you are two. Two is the beginning of the end.”
― J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan from Good reads

 

I don’t need to tell you how much I look forward to the three books and theme every year from Peirene Press ,so here we are in the year of coming to Age it is the first of three book this year ,written by Uzbek Journalist ,poet and Writer .He escaped in 1994 from Uzbekistan to the Uk .He has since worked for the World service and he has published a number of book which have been translated into various European languages .His books are banned in his Homeland .

Anyway , I was standing at one end of the carriage , gazing out – for the fourth day already – at the deary, monotonous steppe ,when a ten or twelve-year-old boy appeared at the other end .He held a violin and suddenly started playing with such incredible dexiterity and panache that at once all the compartments doors slid open and passengers dowsy faces appeared .

Is it a young boy thou ?

The Dead lake (a title for UK edition the Russian version is called prodigy Erjan ,But I prefer our title because it captures what the book is about Yerzhan the main character of the book enters the Dead lake and his life is forever frozen by the one short act .For this is the soviet hinterland and the pollution caused by the Nuclear industry in the Kazak  countryside .Yerzhan is a musician that plays the Folk violin ,he is in love with his neighbour’s daughter .So we see what happens when a boy on the Cusp of manhood has it whipped away from him after swimming in  the dead lake and stays the Boy we meet him before during and after this when as a man in his mid twenties he hasn’t aged a day and is now a man in a boy’s body .

The water was dark Blue , its own blueness added to the blueness of the sky ,Yerzhan saw his own reflection as a vague blob .His eyes had grown tired from uninterrupted galloping ,with nothing but yellow steppe flowing into them .

The first sight of  The dead Lake .

Now of course ,I read the review in the guardian and Gunter Grass Oscar comes to mind ,but I was also reminded of  F scott’s Benjamin Button for the story is partly a story of Love lost a point when love might have been but due to one growing old and the other staying for ever you this love can never be .Also music is a big part of this I’ve not listen to Uzbek Music but have heard a number of Ukrainian and Russian Folk music over the years so have an Idea and Of course this is maybe the one Job left for Yerzhan as a musician where size doesn;t matter ,Then there is the other side the Post Soviet Fallout of Pollution , Atomic test sites etc ,etc .We here so little of this but according to figures mention it effected 200000 people in the soviet era in just Uzbekistan ,shocking figures really .So is it going to be another bumper year from Peirene press ,well yes Meike has turn up trumps  again .

Have you a favourite Soviet or Post Soviet era book

 

Mission London by Alek Popov

missioon London Cover Alek Popov

Mission London by Alek Popov

Bulgarian Fiction

Original title –  Мисия Лондон

Translators – Daniella and Charles Gill de Mayol de Lupe

Source – Review copy

Why, why, why? Because it’s all logic and reason now! Science, progress, chip-chip… Laws of hydraulics, laws of social dynamics, laws of this, that and the other… No place for three legged Cyclops in the South Seas… no place for cucumber trees and oceans of vine… no place for me!

From Quote NET baron Munchausen

Susan at Istros books is doing a great job bring wonderful new books from the Balkans and surrounding regions ,here she has brought us Alek Popov a rising star of Bulgarian fiction ,Alek Popov he got a degree in Bulrgrian Philology from Sofia university , he has worked as an editor ,also as cultural attaché to the Bulgarian embassy in London for a time .He has written 11 novels and was elected to the Bulgarian academy in 2012 for creative arts .Mission London is his first novel to be translated to English and is also a successful film .

“Your Excellency !” Robert Ziebling exclaimed , from the very threshold of this office .”I cannot begin to express how delighted I was to receive this invitation “

The managing director of famous connections seized the Ambassador’s hands and proceeded to shake it fiercely .

The dodgy Pr man meets Varadin

So Mission London follows the new Ambassador at the Bulgarian embassy , this guy  Varadin has been thrust from nowhere really to this prestigious job as a stepping stone for a bigger political career   .Now the problem is he has some hard tasks to try to do for his bosses back home ,The wife of the current prime minister wants to meet the queen for a banquet .This leads him to a dodgy pr firm ,he meets a Princess Diana double  Katya ,whom he employs first as a cleaner then when he discovers she is the Diana double things take quite a strange twist for her and Varadin .Then there is the hunt for food for the meal ,the chef he wants swans but through a Russian Mafia connection ends up with ducks stolen from the royal park that the police can track .Add to this the keeper of the ducks ,Russian Mafia bosses and a fake queen .A story that will have you laughing and cringing at Varadin’s  life in London .

Dale pulled out his mobile and called Ray Solo head of security

“Ray ” he said weakly ,”I’ve cause to believe something terrible has happened …”

“Whats wrong ?” Ray’s voice sound stressed .

“My ducks have disappeared ” sobbed Dale “My little duclings !”

The ducks are stolen from the Royal Richmond Pond to go in the ovens at the Embassy .

Now I loved this one it was a book I started put to one side and then Last weekend decide to start again and read it in a couple of sittings especially after watching the trailer for the film .As you see in the trailer the book is rather like A Bulgarian take on a guy richie film ,multiple plot-lines ,bending the real world just enough that it is absurd but believable .It also is a remind of the Humour in Bulgarian lit  ,I have come across before in the other book from Bulgaria I have reviewed here circus Bulgaria by Deyan Enev , a dark mix of satire and black humour that is similar in this book .If you like the greats of British Political satire television you will love this book it is one of those books that every turn sees another disaster around the corner another near miss  .Another gem from Istros books .here is the trailer for the film .

Have you a favourite Bulgarian read ?

The Truth about the Harry Quebert affair by Joël Dicker

the truth about the Harry Qubert affair

The truth about the Harry Quebert affair by Joël Dicker

Swiss fiction

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 ?

Spanish Lit month 2014 Marquez week

spanish_speaking_countries_flags

Well it has been two years since Richard and I .hosted the first Spanish lit month and now we are back so this July ,join in with all literature translated or written in Spanish .Like last time we have chosen two readalong books the first is Three trapped tiger by Guillermo Cabrera Infante this is Richards Choice ,I will be rereading and rereviewing this one as I had read it and review it a few years ago and Loved it he earns his title as the Cuban Joyce my review

three trapped tigersThe second readalong book is the tie in to Marquez ,as I want the last of the four weeks to be dedicate to books By him and also with influences  from Gabriel Garcia Marquez our second readalong book is News of a Kidnapping by Gabriel Garcia Marquez .I had promised to do a Marquez week and with recent events it seems a great time to remember one of the biggest stars of the Spanish writing world .

news of a kidnapping

We hope you join in picking some of the great books past and Present written in Spanish .Near the time I will do a post about great books of Spanish and connect to some lists for inspiration for every one .

Catching the old how to adding depth to my blog and a new site from english pen

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I love translation as every one knows ,but part of the problem with me and the blog is constant thinking I think most days about how to do this that and the other .Mainly just way to improve how and what I blog ,one of the main thing I feel is lacking is depth in the content I have reviewed a lot of books in translation but the coverage tends to be in the last five years .I constantly feel there is gaps ,no Albert  Camus ,One Jorge Luis borges story ,One Umberto Eco novel ,a couple of Grass ,not enough African fiction in Translation  and so on and so on the list is virtually endless as is the job of this blog .It’s great reading the Current but for this to work as a real resource I need to add depth to the books under review ,so I need to start adding a few reread books  in my reading pile  and plundering my piles of second-hand buys  in an attempt to build a canon of world lit fill in my gaps in reading ,form a network of how literature has evolved world-wide how book a in say Argentina has had a visible effect on book b from Iraq say ,in building this knowledge and connections here it will make a better resource ,that said I struggle to avoid new reads ,a point I was discussing with Dan from Utterbiblio the other day but as this year I seemed to be reading a book or two more a month ,I will try to fit these older books in .My question is how do you avoid the shiny and New and do you endlessly by books and then have them on shelves for months and months ?

In other news English pen has launched a new website on books in Translation called world bookshelf in partnership with Foyles here ,A number of the English pen associated books mentioned on the site can be found here under review .Like The ravens to name one ,it also has a blog attach to it with post by translators ,the first post is about the rise in translation ,the small rise we as readers need to help climb to an acceptable level of books published in translation ,for me 4.5% isn’t enough we need to get folks reading the wonderful books on this site and out there and let publishers know they can translate more .

Jacqui review the infatuations by Javier Marias

the infatuations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My review is here 

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 ?

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