The Buddha’s return by Gaito Gazdanov the 700th book review

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The Budha’s return by Gaito Gazdanov

Russian fiction

Original title – Vozvrashchenie Buddy

Translator – Bryan Karetnyk

Soure – library book

Well today I return back to Pushkin press fortnight with last but one of the books I read for the week I had two books by Gazdanov to choose from this and The spectre of Alexander Wolf , as the later is a personal copy  i decided to read the one from the library . Gaito Gazdanov , fought with the white guard in the civil war and after that he managed to flee to Paris where for many years he was part of the émigré lit scene there as well as being a taxi drive at night his work was well admired by Maxim Gorky . His first novel appeared in 1930 he wrote a number of books this was written in the late 1940’s . His works were never published in Russia in his lifetime .

I died . I have searched long and hard for the right words to describe what happened , and , convinced that none of the usual , familiar terms will do , have finally settled on one asscoiated with what seems the least imprecise of realms : death. I died in the month of June , at night, during one of my first yers abroad .This however, was far less remarkable than my being the only person to know of this death, the only one to have witnessed it.

The opening passage our student or is it , has he died or did he dream it ..

 

This is one of those odd crime novels that is more about the people involved in the story. The novel follows a student that is in a state of dreaming the world away , so much that he has trouble splitting his dream world from reality . Our story is told by someone who appears already dead as he describe falling of a cliff. A second body of a billionaire turns up and then we have a missing Buddha statue that is worth a small fortune that has disappeared . The statue owned by a russian that had been in the war and an Officer Pavel .,So did the other russian student kill the first man and what has the narrator to do with it is he the student , if so why does he talk about his own death !! . But is this maybe all part of the students dream we are never sure . This is full of classic noir touches and a large nip of existentialism .

 Then this calm man sank into total silence , which he did not break during the course of those three days that passed I awaited the next interrogation, at which – if i were to believe him – such incredible things were to occur.We were given food twice daily ; at first I was unable to eat it, as it was so disgusting.Only on the third day I managed to swallow a few spoonfuls of some clear-grey liquid and a crust of poorly baked bread .

Is it a breakthrough after three days or the fact the prison food is so bad he will be too weak to hold up to it again !

this is a quirky book , I had a sense and was right when I read it was originally published as a piecework in a russian magazine in the late forties . the novel has ups and downs like you do in the classic piecework where you are left on the edge for next weeks story . The is also a sense of entering a world of Kafka in a way a surreal world of a man being arrest for a crime , but this called all be that mans dream . Then we also have a fellow Russian that has come and become a buddhist and lose his Golden Buddha , which stuck me as a classic piece of setting for a noir story of the time , the Maltese falcon for example to turn the story into a caper somewhat . I liked this book it is quirky enough to suit my taste for crime which is books that take a sideways look on the whole  crime . This does it mixing Ex pats  , Noir Paris ,  two dead bodies  one a billionaire and oh yes a gold Buddha . Oh and a small point this is my 700th review on the blog !!

Tremor of Intent by Anthony Burgess #Burgess100

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Tremor of Intent by Anthony Burgess

English fiction

Source – personnel copy

Well today sees the 100th anniversary of the nirth of Anthony Burgess. You may ask why  me the translated fiction fan likes Burgess so much. Well like many young men of my generation his Clockwork Orange was part of those books us boys read back in the day, alongside brave new world, on the road , naked lunch , the naked and dead etc well I did read clockwork orange .But I feel Burgess really didn’t hit me to I read Dead man in Deptford around the time it came out in 93 I was really grabbed by him and read everything I could get my hands on at the time which was maybe half his books . But as this year loomed I had tried to get back and read more by Burgess I decided to buy all the books I haven’t got so far I have all his novels bar three early books one of those is changing hands for 300 pound , m/f ,man of Nazareth and beard roman woman. that said I have 27 novels by him to start reading as with Dead man in Deptford which has a spy twist in it I decide to read Burgess only outright spy novel.

“This damnable sex, boys – ah you do well to writhe in your beds at very mention of the word. All the evil of our modern times  springs from unholy lust, the act of the dog and the bitch on the bouncing bed , limbs going like traction engines , the divine gift of articulate speech diminished to squeals and groans and panting .It’s terrible, an abomination before god and His Holy Mother

The two lads are taught this at school , how can Hiller ever be like Bond !!

He wrote this as he found the spy novels of the time lack a sense of humour in them , so he decide to redress the balance with this book. The hero of his book is Dennis Hiller a spy sent to try to bring back a scientist that has defected. Roper the man who has defected is an old school pal . The two like Burgess himself grew up North and in a catholic school this is where the pair met . But also left Hiller scared so i=unlike Bond say he suffers Catholic guilt every time he make it with a woman and is remind of his teacher at school .So he arrives on the cruise where he has to try to persuade Roper to change his mind and not join a cruise , there is a woman Miss Devi a femme fatale  and a teen girl for him to contend with a and the Huge and mysterious mr Theodorescu , whom sound like he was a missing Bond villain a huge balding man who smoked cigars .This is more tension missed chances than action of the bonds say. This is a cat and mouse cruise through the Med as we see if Hiller comes back or was he meant to !!

This must be her boss , Mt Theodorsecu . He was nobel fatness; the fat of his face was part of its essential structure, not a mean gross accretion, and the vastly shapely nose needed those cheek-pads and firm jowls for a proper balance,..The chin was very firm.The eyes weren’t currants in dough but huge and lustrous lamps whose whites seemed to have been polished .He was totally bald , but the smooth scalp – from which a discreet odour of violets breathed – seemed less an affliction than an achievement, as though hair was a mere callow down to be shed in maturity.

The Villian is straight out of a Bond script , a sort of man like the Beast from fantastic four .

This is a tongue in cheek take on a spy novel . He want to change the dry books of say Le Carre,  so Hiller is flawed character  not from OXBridge , but deeper in a way  and unlike Bond isn’t easy with woman due to his upbringing  and for me this is of course the bit of Burgess I like for me he was the first writer I knew that was Northern but with out shouting I am Northern he grew up in the Manchester the same time as my own grandfather in those inter war years he like my grandfather is from a working background his father a piano player and tobacconist , my own great grand parent was a builder my grandfather trained to be architect but at night in the day he work with my grandfather on the build sites sort cleaning brick putting up walls etc so I imagine the two must have crossed paths at some time , not sure they ever did but for me Burgess is after his childhood and teen years he travellled , translated books ,wrote music and was a linguist which all connect him more to this blogger so watch out over the next year we will be travelling the world of Burgess .he is my pile to work through .

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The mystery of the three orchids by Augusto De Angelis

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The mystery of the three orchids by Augusto De Angelis

Italian crime novel

Original title – Il misterodelletreorchidee

Translator – Jill Foulston

Source – Library

Well I do the second from Pushkin Vertigo series tonight and this time we are in Italy and one from the classic Italian series of Giallo novels those old yellow bound books that also sparked the films . Augusto De Angelis started of writing a spy novel inspired by the writing of Joseph Conrad and then a few years later he wrote his first crime novel after that he came on Inspector DE Vincenzi as his main character in fifteen novels , he even was made in the 1970’s to a tv series by the Italian broadcaster RAI .

Slowly and cautiously , she approached the bed .This was a big mess , and on the day of a show too. Why , though had Christina O’brian fainted in her room with a man’s body on her bed when she should have been down in the showrooms watching the models and studying her clients reactions ?

Madame Firmino could now see , below those wide-open eyes , the rest of the dead man’s face. A handsome youth, almost a boy, with fine, perfectly regular features. Long black hair thrown back and naturally a bit messy now .

The first murder victim in the bed as a show went on and with an orchid by him what does it mean .

The book follows a series of Murders the first is at a fashion house .The victim is found with an orchid now DE Vincenzi  is there a body on the bed upstairs at a Milan Fashion house . The owner of the fashion house Christina is acting oddly , he ex husband is also there but why . is he still there as another body and Orchid turn up. then De Vicenzi  is not a clue man no he is one of these detectives that sees the whole  thing as a puzzle of psychologically to be broken up and assembled as he goes from here to there .

De Vincenzi saw the body, Christina and the orchid. By now he was used to seeing bodies and women – how many inquests had he racked up, each with at least one body and always lots of women ? – but less used to seeing orchids though he loved them quite a bit more

So her stopped to look at the flower for longer and with greater pleasure. An  unnatural flower made of flesh, born of rotting slime , grown in a tropical atmosphere

Why an orchid these exotic flowers are always hard to grow  and keep

This isn’t a complex crime ,their isn’t a lot of too and froing no, this is a simple plot .I was reminded of those great american  crime radio dramas where the crime is all wrapped neatly up in half an Hour . Philo Vance is mention on the cover , but I was thinking  some one like rocky Jordan for the exotic nature like that it felt ,more like Milan set via america than Italian milan  or Inspector thorne  as a straight forward crime solver in mould of Vicenzi  or Maigret  from those forties dramas which of course came out of the pulp fiction  rather like the start of the Giallo series which was mostly american crime novel . There is also the fact that De Angelis at the time he write the book was falling very foul as being seen as an Anti fascist by the fascist Italian government of the time . Like the Italian crime novel of the time I have read I will have vengance by Maurico De Giovanni , which also owed much in its writing to American pulp fiction also set in the 30’s in Naples instead of Milan the setting for this book , both have the undercurrent of fascism creeping into there world .

Dear Reader by Paul Fournel

Dear reader by paul Fournel

French fiction

Original title – La Liseuse

Translator – David Bellos

Source – Library book

Well we enter the second week of Pushkin Press fortnight with a quirky french book. Fournel is a culture icon in France , he has worked in publishing and has written a number of novels he is also the secretary and president of the Oulipo , the french writing collective whose members include Italo calvino , Georges Perec and Harry Mathews te later with whom Fournel wrote a book with. he has also been a cultural attaché in London and Cairo .

The big boss , Monsieur Meunier , told me too ..

“Is that what he is called ?” Meunier ”

“Don’t you know him ?”

“only too well ”

So you know, He told me to bring you this ”

“This being what , precisely?”

“Er, it’s a reader, A kindle , an Iclone .One of those gizmos He said he’d put all your weekend manuscripts on it, it would take a weight of your shoulder.Do you want me to show you ? Look it’s like a screen with all your manuscripts on it .They’re on your genuine wood style virtual bookshelf.One tap and they open . There’s a heap of them . you’ve never going to get through all that in two days !Look this is how you open a book .”

Dubois get his device to read his scripts on instead of good old paper .

This book is an ode to books in a way , this age of e readers we meet an elderly french publisher looking back at Robert Dubois , is looking at the present this middle aged man is struggling to get up with the modern world of e books  and how his younger colleagues dress and talk ,  whilst struggling with the tech he looks back at a life in the books in france and even further a field with a piece about publishing in England. . So what is the constraint on this book in line with him being a member of Oulipo , that was to make the book that couldn’t be c hanged .His view was that in the future what the reader will interact with the written works they are reading so the works will be fluid .

I’ve set aside tomorrow morning for what I consider to be the finest bookshop in Europe: Mr James Daunt’s establishment in marylebone . It’s got a modest exterior but inside turns into a labyrinth. Yopu go from room to room and pass on section to another . Nothing but dark wood, stairs , gangways and books – all as English as its leather armchairs.Adele is daydreaming in the long room on the lower floor that constitues the travel section .daunt is a courteous host and takes me on an owner tour

His favourite bookshop is one of the great bookshops of London

This is both quirky and an Ode to the written world I was reminded of other books about reading and books. Thank you for not reading by Dubravka Ugresic , her book like this laments the changing taste of readers in her case the celeb world of books , in fournel book interactive books and reading may be on the way . Then there was Dublinesque by Enrique Vila-Matas  another publisher looking at the changing world of books as he take a pilgrimage to Dublin maybe to bury the modern book  and publishing like Dubois struggling with the move towards e-books .This is work on the paper of books and what that means , for books aren’t just the book but the art work the item themselves as it is pointed out here you can’t keep notes on an e-reader screen can you !!

What  is your favourite book about Publishing you have read ?

Winstons books some New arrivals a epic Basque novel

Well its been a good first week of Pushkin Press fortnight, I reviewed Four books and I was so pleased to see my fellow blogger joining in with there own choice. Well a break for the weekend and some new books at Winston’s tower are here –

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first up two from Alma  Death on credit is a later novel by the well-known but controversal French writer Louis Ferdinand Celine , a story of a doctor taking in the poor and darker sides of Paris . Then we have Cheese about a Clerk in a cheese company that makes a slight over order leaves him with tens of thousand of cheese to get rid of and he hates cheese him self this seems like a great comic work .

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Next two from Daniela of Europa Jerome Ferrari is a writer I have twice visit on the blog with where I left my soul and The sermon on the mount , which won Prix Goncourt like his earlier books this book takes a look at good and evil in the world here in pre war Germany . The is the first book since we maybe know his wife is Elena Ferrante , but Domenico Starnone was also thought by some to be the writer of the books , he is a fellow neopoltian  writer a story of a marriage also worth mentioning  this is translated by Jhumpa Lahiri .

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Next to Holland and a Dutch debut novel about Van Goch that tries to go behind the man and discover what he really was like. An interesting idea as we all have ideas of what he was like .

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Next the first of a number of books from Maclehose as part of a new series celebrating writing from around the world for their first ten years. Bella Donna is the latest from Dasa Drndic the Croatian writer , I have reviewed her two previous books Trieste and Leica format . Belladonna finds a man in old age trying to work out how we got here from what happened in the past the madness of the world we live in that has left him a true intellectual struggling. I’m looking forward to this as I really like her writing style and the way she picks apart the  world .AS I said last week I want to do some event for Maclehose tenth anniversary and for the fact they have been a support of my blog for a long time .

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Jacob the translator of this book contact me , the book follows a long lost story The Major refutation is a lost book about a voyage that didn’t find a new world and came back to tell the truth.

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Last but not least I treated myself to this epic basque novel that follows a couple through the decades from the fire and passion of trying to be independent then setting into their every day lives a look at what it is to be Basque .

 

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