Mirror , Shoulder , Signal by Dorthe Nors

Mirror, Shoulder , signal by Dorthe Nors

Danish fiction

Original title – Spejl, skulder, blink

Translator – Misha Hoekstra

Source – personnel copy

This was the second book I read after the longlist was announced on th train home from london book fair is where I read this book although only a few weeks ago it seems an age . I was in two minds about this one first I had read some great Scandinavian female writers in recent years . But Dorthe Nors first books was rather hyped when it came out and I am always wary of hype . So this short novel was one of two books I brought in london yes even after two pushkin press weeks i rarely get books sent by them shame . So this is hype or not hype

He pointed to the spot on her throat where they were supposed to imagine her breathing had gotten blocked. He did the Hemlich on her , his fingers up in her face, inside her collar up and down her arms.At one point he put her into a stranglehold, but that wasn’t the worst of it . The worst was when they had to do the exercises themselves. It was humiliating to be placed in the recovery position by a boy of eighteen,It also made her dizzy .

At the driving school Of folkie she has to do first aid and a nod to her balance problem

the story follows Sonja , I must admit now I have been thinking about the book today I actually connect a bit with Sonja more than I did when I read the book she is like me in her mid forties . But unlike me her relationship she is a translator (another odd connection !! lol ) and her partner a fellow translator has left her he is translating a big star of Swedish crime fiction !thou she finds this crime fiction overly bloody at times  so she tries meditation and she is now trying to reconnect to her sister and also like me I have just decided to start driving . She has two instructors thou they won’t even let her change gears yet , she is their oldest pupil . Then add to this she is drifting in her m ind ot her past maybe in a way retracing those steps she took that lead her to where she is now . This is a woman in a sot of modern mid-life crisis that isn’t a crisis she has lost her connection to the world with no partner and no family tie she is drifting .

Sonja’s come to a standstill in front of her mirror .A  short while before, she was on her way through the bedroom , sandal in hand, when she caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror on the inside of her wardrobe. It looked as if kate were standing in the wardrobe . That’s weird , she thought. Kate and I never resembled each other, So She stepped over to the mirror to have a proper look.

Kate’s got two sons and her husband Frank.When they’re in Copenhagen , they make a beeline for Tivoli, but other wise they go around  trying to disguise the facts that they’re from Jutland.

Sonja thinking on the sister she has no contact with now .

I initially really didn’t get this book , but since I read it .I have grown to like to Sonja is hapless in a way more of a character that is in a classic comic works by the likes of Wodehouse . The way she is hapless in her various quests to reconnect to her sister  no joy , driving her instructors holding her back and even her job she get pain typing and hates what she works on at times . This is bare of lot more a link series of adventures rather like the cuisine that has swept Denmark in recent year where everything is local but is the also cut back so everything in the meal is just enough to give ut taste and not to many tastes . Like the other Danish novels I have read by Pia Juul and Helle Helle plot is twisted this is a midlife crisis stripped to the bare a woman struggling to get balance , even she has an inner ear problem meaning that this is both actual and literal balance she is struggling for in her own life .A quirky fun novel about struggling to be middle aged and with no one !

 

Black Moses by Alain Mabanckou

Black Moses

Black Moses by Alain Mabanckou

Congolese fiction

Original title – Petit Pimen

Translator – Helen Stevenson

Source – review copy

As I limp on trying to get through the man booker list , well that said I am reading the last book on the list and just have my reviews to write-up . Today i catch up with the latest from one of the most featured writers on the Blog Alain Mabanckou  widely regard as one of the best African writers of his generation called Africa Samuel Beckett . this is also the third book he has had on the short and longlist for this and the old independent foreign fiction prize. So to  Black Moses

Back on the platform again , still with hid escort of wardens , Dieudonne Nguoulmoumako launched into grand-orator mode, explaining how we were the builders and protectors of the scientific socialist revolution. On his jacket , just above “where his heart beat” as some people put it, gleamed a badge with three letters on : CWP . You had to get up really close tp read , in small writing under the letters : Congolese Workers Party

The Orphanage under communism and their leader

This follows one boys coming of age story in the Congo of the 1970’s , like many other places in africa at that time the country had swung to the left and fallen in with Communism , like many regimes of the time this was just an excuse for a man called Ngoulmouako and his henchmen to try to run the orphanage where our Hero Mose lives and what follows here is a modern twist on the orphan made good story that made so many great books from Charles dickens , it’s not Oliver twist  or pip no Moses has it hard but he is in the town of Point-Noire the colourful town that has been at the centre of most of Mabanckou fiction Moses gets help from Maman fiat 500 whom he tells her he is called little pepper , part of his robin hood fantasy (I love this name classic Mabanckou) the mistress of the local whore , who finds him a job as a docker and tries to help him out he spends time with her  and the girls.he gets in many scraps with his group of friends as they hang out with Mamans Zairian girls  Then the world start to turn dark Maman disappears the girls are forced out as there is a drive for girls just from Congo as they are driven out we see the dark side of the regime .

Anyway, what’s your name ?

“Little Pepper …”

She looked surprised :

“What kind of a name is that ? You must have a real name , like everyone else?!

When i didn’t react she sighed “Never mind, we’ll call you that ! My name is Maman fiat 500!

She took out a ten thousand CAF franc note and held it out to me .

Here , Little Pepper , that’s for you, buy yourself a shirt and a pair of horts ,what you’re wearing looks like you live in a cave , for good sake !”

Moses and Maman meet for the first time

 

This feels like a writer loving his homeland , after his last book which saw Alain return for the first time in many years to his home town of Point Noire , which is the setting for the novel , I feel this maybe is part of a story he heard on his retutrn that he has woven into a tale of growing up in the town on a different path to his own Moses is a take of the orphan story rather more like artful dodger with his gang of friends and then there is Maman story , her story is almost like the Harlots Progress  as her girls follow the path and rise and then fall like in Hogarth’s etchings  as with Mose is maybe like tom in the rakes progress series of etchings , even to the end where we see mose is in a cell in a prison for the criminally insane . He has revived the classic orphan tale in a Congo under the yoke of communism where the bad take control .

Fever dream by Samanta Schweblin

 

Fever dream by Samanta Schweblin

Argentinean fiction

Original title – , Distancia de rescate

Translator – Megan Mcdowell

Source – Personal copy

Now this was the first book I read after the longlist came out as it was the one we may have called in I feel if it hadn’t made the longlist. Samanta is another from the granta list of the best Spanish language writers under 35 that came out a few years ago , I wish they would do a few more of these books for other languages that list has produced some of the best books I have read over the last few years and Samanta is one of the names of that list I had want to try long before I actually got to this book .

They’re like worms

What kind of worms ?

like worms , all over

It’s the boy who’s talking , murmuring into my ear. I am the one asking questions.

Worms in the body ?

Yes, in the body

Earthworms ?

No, another kind of worms

It’s dark and I can’t see.The sheets are rough, they bunched up under my body. I can’t move , but I am talking .

The opening lines leave the question why is the sheet rough on Amanda is she even alive ?

The english title is maybe more to the point of what this book is the spanish title means rescue distance , which in itself is a question where as the english title is Fever dream and that is just what we have here . Two people in a hospital room the first Amanda she lies waking from a fever or in a fever and beside her is a boy , not her son David he is trying to guide her in his own young way , she talks of worms around her he gets he to try to rec all what exactly happened to get them there .Then earlier Amanda in her dream talks to Carla about her son that fell ill six years earlier Also called David .We also see a bleak land that of Patagonia , this land where the Gauchos still farm like they did years ago but is this also a sign of how the world she lives in has changed recently ? Amanda story is one that has very few answers to us as the reader more questions which even thou this book is only 150 short pages it has me two weeks later think about what it is all about ,

How can it not be ? That’s the story we need to understand

No , that’s not the story, it has nothing to do with the exact moment. Don’t get distracted.

I need to measure the danger, other wise it’s hard to calculate the rescue distance . The same way I surveyed the house and its surroundings when we arrived, now I need to see the green house, understand its gravity .

When did you start to measure this rescue distance ?

It’s something I inherited from my mother. “I want you close ” she’d say to me . “let’s stay within rescue distance .”

The spanish title explained her in a detached conversation from Amanda .

This is a very unsettling book that has echos of so many thinks , I do wonder myself if it is just one person with two voices , is David a soul that Amanda meet when she was at the hospital before with her own child , like the landscape she lives in is he a shepherd to guide either one way or the other to the light of life or to the light of being with a daughter she may have lost . Maybe this is like the sixth sense or the film the passenger where those that are dead never really accepted  that they are like Bruce Willis or Anne Hathway in both those films need to be guided to the other side . The book to me has a feel of Beckett in a way Amanda and David detatched voices remind me somewhat of Vladmir and Estragon waiting in a room somewhat in limbo trying to get from one place but waaiting for some to guide them. Amanda voice at times remind me of the way Beckett wrote in something like Not I her life tumbles out of her at a great speed , this is wonderfully drawn out in Mcdowell’s translation . For me this will make the shortlist and may just make our shadow shortlist.

Judas by Amos Oz

 

Judas by Amos Oz

Israeli fiction

Original title – שיצא לאור ב

Translator Nicholas De Lange

Source – Personnel copy

I’m back and reviewing the first of the books I have been reading for the Man booker longlist I hope over the next few week or so to get most if not all the books reviewed before the shortlist although this year we will announce ours a little later as this year we have all had more books to read than other years . First up is the second Israeli book on the longlist I had reviewed the first by David Grossman  before the longlist was announced . This is a book by one of my favourite writers and one I had purchased before longlist as I have reviewed Amos Oz twice on the blog and both were translated by Nicholas De Lange who in fact strangely messaged the blog about the book Days of Ziklag which forms a small part of this novel as one of the main characters .

A woman of around forty-five, she held herself erect and moved around the room as if well aware of her feminine power. She was wearing a plain light coloured dress that reached her ankles and a simple red sweater. Her long dark flowed softly down on one side of her neck to land on the mound of her left breast .Beneath the hair nodded a pair of large wooden earings .Her clothes hugged her body

Atalia captures the young mans eye at first sight when he comes for the job with Wald

Shumel is a young man who is trying to finish his degree but unable to do so quits and just as he is about to leave sses a job for a student on a board at the university , he applies for this job which is to take note and write down and be a partner in speaking to an old man Gershom Wald , he starts talking with the young man about his life and his own life , he sparks a light in the boy who had gone out and the is the story of Judas what was his person , a difficult story and the way history has viewed him this is done through a number of books that he has read Oz lists the books in his notes about the book. The book is set in the sixties and adding to Shumel life at the house is the third member of the household Atalia she is the former daughter in law of his son who cares for the older man  , but capture the eye of the younger man she is 45 , but looks younger and her father was also connected to the begining of the state , which is a main thread in the book as we see how the old man admired David Ben -Gurion  calling him the most exalted person of the war and even now , meanwhile Atalia whose   late father was one of the few to question the tactics of the time by David Ben-Gurion as he was a the heart of the regime at that time  , this time and the outcome of the decisions these men made is  strangely is also the time that is covered by Days of Ziklag which follows one of the army groups on the ground . as the young man gets closer to the older woman .

Gershom Wald was convinced that Nestor never existed and that there had never been any converted preist, but that all these foul texts were written by narrow indeed little Jews because they were afraid of the attractive power of christianity and trued to exploit the protection of Muslim rule by attacking the figure of Jesus while sheltering safely beneath the cloak of Muhammad

Shummel disagreed:,” but the Polemic of nestor the priest shows a certain acquaintance with the world of christianity , a knowledge of the gospels , familiarity with christian theology

Wald just loves to argue it is what keeps him going so he will always take the opposite side .

This book is all about how the man Judas is seen , but not just him anyone that does what he did and could be viewed one way or another , even who was Jesus a christian or a Jews ! , this is a really interesting field and one that the two men discuss as the older man tries to spark the interest lost in the younger man also whilst Shumel falls for the older man ex daughter in Law . As ever the translation by Nicholas De lange is very readable and he had said he would love to translate the epic days of ziklag one of the best Hebrew novels  of all time , we got the first book by its writer S yizhar. This is a thought provoking book and for me one of the best of the list I have read so far .

 

Hi I m back from a week from hell

Many of you are aware i just had a week from hell my Mum had been ill for a while but three weeks ago end up in Hospital intially for a few days but over time her liver was in failure due in part to a genetic condition , even then she was due to go to be assesed for a new liver in a month or so , we got a call from my aunt who had been there with my mum saying she was worse than we knew so My brother and I went a week last friday and saw how ill she was and planned to come on the weds but by sun she was in ICU which time Duncan and I went everyday a six hour return journey to see here and then on weds last week she lost her battle , even know I feel numb and books have been far from my mind i did manage to read Black mose and part of the Unseen so keeping track with Shadow Man booker duty . I hope to get my reviews done in time but this year I am taking a back seat on the prize for this year . I am thankful for all the nice messages everyone left me on facebook . I am taking it a day at a time at the mo ,still not sunk in .

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