Canzone di Guerra by Daša Drndić

Canzone di Guerra

Croatian fiction

Original title – Canzone di Guerra

Translator – Celia Hawkesworth

Source – Review copy

When I heard that Susie had decided to publish some of Dasa back catalogue those books that had come out before her success with Trieste. I was very excited as many of you may know I did meet dad at the old IFFP award when she was shortlisted in 2013 this brief meeting we spoke maybe for half an hour maybe a bit more I was shocked she had read the blog but she was one of these people that this blog had given me chance to meet people I would never come across in my every day life in fact when ever I have doubts about this endeavour to cover world literature and books in translations, which is quite often it is those moments like meeting dad that spur me on. she was a writer that need to be read she saw what was over the Horizon even when we meet she saw the tide of the right was over in the distance and as she had done in her books she has always used the past as a way of highlighting the future. Her we have a woman tracing her own families past but also that of the culture she is from.

There is a Lot of literature about pigs, there is almost no genre of the written word into which pigs have not worked their way. They are found in science(Veterinary, biological, medical) in literature (essays, poetry, belles-lettres), not to mention film and painting. As far as life is concerned, here too, in our everyday life, pigs are all around us, and their destiny in the development of civilisation and technology is increasingly bizarre. The bizarre destiny of pigs is our reality

Even an intro on the section about pigs makes you as a reader think (for me I was remind of the film A private function set in the aftermath of the war in England that had a big at the heart of its story)

This book is made up of a collection of factual and fictional stories that at it heart sees the main character in the book Tea Radan a single mother who many years earlier had relocated to Canada to Toronopte as she tries to look at the emigrant life and those in the country around her. (Dasa had some interesting thought on Canada in the after word there is her description of Canada not the most favourable and full of what I remember of her when I met her that mind) She blends things like Pigs as animals to keep and how they effect society from how we keep them how they were Kept in Tito’s Yugoslavia. What we make of the pigs.This leads Tea to her grandfather a man that like to write to Tito ( I always interested with how Tito’s influence over those post – war years loom large but what at the heart of this book is the two events at the start of Tito reign which is the aftermath of the holocaust and we she in typical Dasa style as she shows how those that we involved with the events. of the holocaust escaped the war an we see how they came to Canada (It is hard to accept the dream of free Canada and then we see events like those that on a ship in 1939 that went from place to place as those on board lost hope) I love this as hot is so much of Dasa the person it is about what makes us tick but also she shows us about what has been and what is to come. It is about being lost in your own life and but also lose of identity.

In the course of the last four years, Sara and I have undergone three migrations. A lot of books have been written about migrations about leaving one’s country, about exile, some very stupid, propaganda, some very intelligent. But all those books state clearly that migration is both dying and being born, that it is a very complex phenomenon, hard to comprehend for anyone who has not experienced it.Our arrival in Rijeka from Belgrade, where I had spent forty years of my life and Sara almost all nine of hers, did not fundamentally from our arrival in Toronto.

The truth of being in Exile described so many times in literature !!

I as always find it hard to describe this as it isn’t a liner novel,  is a documentary novel ( a book of lives shown in pieces a mosaic of a world and lives) in the style of writers like Kluge (I could have said Sebald, but for me it is nearer Alexander  Kluge in the way she like to keep hitting at the spot and that is the spot of a warning this book is over 25 years old but in a way is more relevant now with a new wave of refugees from Ukraine we see how previous  waves of those trying to escape war have suffered in what is the real treatment of refugees and the way we portray how we treat refugees this gap is what is at the heart of the book.Those people caught ion those situation from those involved and trying to escape the holocaust and the aftermath of World War Two to those in the 90s trying to escape the horrors of the Yugoslav wars. At the heart of this is Tea ( a thinly veiled dasa) her family that were effected by both these events and the question of what makes us and what is our story. I mention Kluge as he brilliant in his use if  vigenettes and sometimes footnotes like this book does . In his book 30th April 1945 a book about that day when Hitler shot himself and what was going on around the world at that exact moment. Well this takes that moment the tatters of the war and west the aftermath this is that event taken out in one thread from before the event the horror of world war two to the present which now is 25 years ago ( or is it !!!!) because as we see here those events recalled in the past look so much like the future and that is what made Dasa one of the most important writers of her generation as she never turned to be popular or to be linear or to be easy no she told the truth, she saw what was coming as she had seen it so many times before but unlike others hadn’t a sort of cultural amnesia of the past or even a rose coloured glove of the past no this is the truth this is a written like Hogarth in his depiction of the world she lived in  or Goya in his disasters of war Dasa showed us a world warts and all one we want to look away from but one we should really look straight on at !! Have you a favourite book from Dasa ?

Winstons score – ++++A On of my all time favourite books already along with her other books

The people Opposite by Georges Simenon

The People opposite by Georges simenon

Belgian  fiction

original title – Les Gens d’en face 

Translator  – Sian Reynolds

Source – review copy

I am as you may know a huge fan of simenon both his crimes and no crime works which over the last decade or so Penguin has been bring out in new translations. I have reviewed 11 from the books that have. come out so far and my intention is to try over time read all the books Penguin has brought out from him a long term project for me not a race as I find myself reviewing two or three a year from him and I do have a couple on my shelves. But was happy when I was asked if I was interested in reviewing this which is an early book in his writing life being written in 1933 and is also for Simenon a political book it came after he had a trip to Stalins Russia in 1933 and came back and wrote this book.It was originally published in seven parts so there is that pacing of a serial work.

The only newcomer present was Adil Bey, and he was so recent that he had arrived in Batumi that very morning. At the Turkish consulate, he had found a single official from Tbilisi holding the fort.

The official, who would be leaving again that night, had brought Adil new along to the Italian consulate, to introduce him to his two colleagues.

Adil is the new boy in the town.

The book was written on his return and what we get is the Stalinist Russia caught in a small Black Sea port and we are introduced to the New Turkish consul AdilBey who has been sent to the port town which is a multi cultural place. But he feels out of place  and why did his previous consul turn up dead and why did thethe other Turkish staff disappear back to his base as soon as he appears. there is a sense of poverty the town, even thou it is near the oil rich fields of Russia. Adil is alone in this town and so when his Russian secretary appears Sonia she has been sent to help him and this sparks Aldi how falls for `Sonia and gets obsessive around her as he watches her in the room opposite his office.But is she trying to tempt him ? we see the two grow close but there is always a sense of more to this relationship she lives with her brother a member of the GPU( the state police). The action slowly unwinds you cans see where this relationship is going and it isn’t going end in wedding bells and roses !!!

This girl, Sonia, could hardly be more than eighteen years old. She was a slip of a thing, with a pale face, fair hair and light blue eyes, yet she had a calm and self assured strength that panicked the consul. The door had remained open and he walked over to watch, as she told the crowd to leave.

She was standing very upright in. the middle of the office, pen in hand, and speaking Russian, without raising her voice but gesturing to stress what she wanted. Since the woman nursing the the baby had remained sitting in her corne, she walked straight up to her, removed the child from the breast, and buttoned up the woman’s blue herself

His initial meeting with Sonia his secretary when she arrives you sense his wonder at this young woman.

For me has caught what must have been the soviet world at times where everyone at some point seems to be spying on one another. It has a slow burning as we see the two grow closer I was remind of the relationship in tinker tailor soldier spy with Ricky and the Russian wife there is always a sense that this isn’t going be a good outcome. He slowly unfurls their relationship but then you figure there may be more to it than first meets the eye this is of course Stalin’s Russia and there is the under running current of fear and worry in the book and the way people act at times.It also capture a lonely man a women in a situation that is caught between love and duty. I liked this book it is different to his other books but he is very good at what makes people tick at times and he has caught that here the way the characters although obvious show how the system was and also the effect of a system like stalinism on those inside it and also coming into it from the outside was there a similar Sonia figure that maybe caught Simenon eyes when he was on his trip too Russia. There is an intro where he does say a bout his time in Russia. I do wonder  how ,such pop Adil is him in disguise as he wrote this straight after his return. Have you a favourite Simeon or book in Soviet Russia written from someone that visited Russia at the time ?

Winstons score – A a solid afternoon read that deals with Stalinism through the prism of two characters one inside and one outside the regime.


Sunday Chat oops I had nine days off and didn’t read much or blog

I have been off the last nine days the plan was originally to blog but it is the first time off together Amanda and I have had off at the same time I was off sick for two half months but I did very little going here and there so I was ready for this time we decided rather than go away we would visit family and have a day in York. We visit both Amanda’s parents then I went to visit were my Mother ashes we spread then We had a day in your mid week. We had a great short break a few years ago in York. It was nice to be able to drive up and back in the day asx I grow more confidence in my driving We went and just wander we visit a lot of the tourist must does in outr last visit and a wander coffee and cakes and trying to find some books there was a Amnesty bookshop on my last visit but it had gone but I visited the waterstones , both the Oxfam’s and Ministergate  books by which time with the other times we had brought Chocolates, some prints for when we move house.

The books are , How the Wheel Becomes It! Anthony Powell

Is the book Anthony Powell wrote after his huge Dance to music of time cycle of novels, I saw this and thought as it very small it be a good taster before reading the twelve books of the cycle.


I am a fan of Yales Margellos world republic of letters series and had seen both of these being read by the Ukrainian writer Serhiy Zhadan so when I saw them both I decide I get them both.


The Plain in Flames by  Juan Rulfo

I reviewed his book Pedro Páramo 8 years ago and remember that he had written much else but there is this over collection of his shorter fiction. Which after I post this pic on twitter I discovered is one of two translations of this collection

CHARCOAL SKETCHES by Henyrk Sienkiewicz

He won the Nobel I knew this and took a chance as I would love to work through the Nobel winners over the years at some point.

A modest selection but all I could carry. after the trip to York the old car need a clean as it was raining on the way up to York so next day we gave the car a wash and we then head to My dads and we had a day around the cotswolds which was nice  as my dad hadn’t been there much the last few years and enjoyed show Amanda and I where we could go next time we down we visited Stow on the wold , Broadway and its Tower and then chipping clapham (which is very near Burnt Norton which T S  Eliot wrote about in Four quartets). So all in all time and a bought of toothache which meant a visit to the dentist and a tooth out this last week meant I read very little and also blogged very little.But I am in the middle of four books

They are Ninth building a tale of growing top in cultural revolution first as a boy in Being then in the countryside . Then thirsty sea a woman past and present unfold over the course of one day. Toung beast art play is an Italian crime novel the first in what may be a series that follows three detectives as a body is discovered in a World War Two mass grave that has a modern parts on the bones so who put the body there and who is the body !. Then Thomas Mann I plan to read all the books of his I have which is most of them over the next couple of year I have read some years ago but not got any books by him on the blog io also have Colm Tobin’s book The magical which is about Mann. I was so excited when one of my tweets was mentioned on The mookse podcast for there short book episode they mention stones in the landslide if you don’t listen to them go listen to them.Talking `podcasts I like Simon Thomas podcast although he has a very different taste in books to me he is currently reading a novella a day this month on his blog. I looked through my shelves and would enjoy trying this some time.I will return this week I have had a great week with Amanda it has been great spending quality time together. What have you been up to recently ?


That was the months that were March and April 202


  1. Tomb of Sand by Geetanjali Shree
  2. The Land of Short sentences by Stine Pilgaard
  3. Happy stories mostly by Norman Erikson Pasaribu
  4. Heaven by Mieko kawakami
  5. The book of mother by Violaine Huisman
  6. After the sun by Jonas Eika
  7. Paradais by Fernada Melchor
  8. More than I love my life by David Grossman
  9. Burning grass by Cyprian Ekwensi
  10. Phenotypes by Paulo Scott
  11. The New men by CP Snow
  12. Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck
  13. Contempt by Alberto Moravia 
  14. The emigrants by George Lamming 
  15. After Midnight by Irmgard keun

I missed Marchs round up just embarrassing how few books I reviewed I am reading more than ever but in march my reviewing slip and I reviewed just 6 books mainly from the booker international list I just wasn’t in a reading or reviewing mood  this follows  a long time off work with stress that start in Feb.That has only seen me return to work in the last ten days after a couple of months any way  enough about that I have a job that  has a lot of stress so sometimes you need a break. I am onwards and upwards and actually  am feeling less stress and roaring to face my 50s and so new challenges on the blog.I feeling more like blogging as  march has carried on I felt the old rhythm returning and also my own passion has returned I cover most of the booker internationals list books I am just wanting to read a wider variety of books in translation a lot of backlist and older classics the rest of the year with of course a few new titles. The books in the last few months Have taken me to India ,Brazil, Nigeria, Indonesia , France , Barbados , Germany, Israel, Mexico, Denmark, Japan, Us and Uk so I read a book from every continent over these two months I think I loved most of the books I read for me the reading highlight was 1954 club I love these clubs based around a year twice a year and the four I read this time had all been on my shelves for a good while.I am looking forward to the rest of the year and now a lot less stressed if anything the best for a long time.

As for a few stats there hasn’t been any new countries these months. The was also no new publishers. I have read 42 books so far this year I’m aim to read 120 books this year and am on course. I have reviewed 31 books so far this year.

Books of the month


I loved the book of mother for me this is a perfect example of French Auto fiction a daughter paints her. other warts and all in a book that captures a woman whose spirit swung from tot to heart warming her ;life was of extremes.


Edited in Prisma app with Thota Vaikuntam


It was much closer for my march read book of the month as thew four books I read for club 1954 were all great books and any other month would have been a book of the month but this book has been so hard for me to review as I love it so much the subtle tale and the way it flows with its word play and the fact it captures a world not often told of an older female and at that an older Indian female add to that a realistic trans character you have a great book one of my all time favourite books.

Other none reading things-

I took a rabbit hole of you tube a lot this year I even had thoughts of blogging but now I’ve decided that this is my main aim to blog I just haven’t the confidence in myself to vlog there are some great vlogs out there I may do a post on the ones I loved one day but at moment my two favourites are better than food and leaf by leaf. I just didn’t watch a lot the last couple of months that has stuck with me. I did watch Cinemania which I had watched years ago the tale of a group of New Yorkers that just watch films all day every day often 6 or 7 a day. I also watch a number of the early carry on films on Brit box.Amanda and I spent a weekend in Stratford upon Avon which was a great break and just what I needed as it was with family we cruised the river I brought some books and we had some great food.

The Month Ahead

I am back reading Multiple books I just want read as many books as I can these days so this seems be a way of adding more pages a day anyway I have Archipelago week from the 9th I have a couple of books to read for that other wise it is the last off the booker list I haven’t read then it will be a mix of old and new I am reading Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann after that I have a book by Emile Zola lined up as for new books I am just reading The people opposite Georges Simenon most political novel.  then I have the first Chinese novel from Hanford star. I just feel it is onwards and upwards from here. What are your plans for the next month or the rest of the year ?

After Midnight by Irmgard keun

After Midnight by Irmagard keun

German fiction

Original title – Nach Mitternacht

Translator – Anthea Bell

Source – library

I got this as I reviewed  Child of all nations by her last November and fell in love with her writing style which seems to perfectcly captures the world of being just an adult and her again the narrator is 19 Santa we are drawn into her world. This was the first book keun wrote herself after she went into exile from the Nazi regime herself as some of the novella parallels her own decision at the time to flee Germany. it also mixes the  actual events at the time such as Hitlers visit. which is set in the late 1930s follows what happens after the day Hitler visited Frankfurt  as we see the change of attitude sweeps over Germany at this time after people her him captures the country just as the madness that lead into the descent to war is just happening.

Gerti called for me at noon today, because she was going to buy a pink blouse and wanted me to come along to the shops and tell her which suited her best. Even Lisa says I have good taste in clothes, and people are always wanting me to knit them sweaters. Actually I can knit fast, and well. If I really do marry Franz, I can always earn us a little money by knitting. How ever, here in Frankfurt I’ve been moving in circles which are quite different from anything Franz is used to. I mis with high-class, rich, intelligent people here. Franz wouldn’t know what to say to them

I loved how even thou it is nearly 90 years old Sanna at times is so now.

Our narrate is Sanna she has lived with her aunt for a time but when some of the view she says about the way some of the Nazi leader talk it means that it has a knock on effect when those near her aunt and her cousin that she has feeling fall call in the police so she moves to Frankfurt to live with her half brother Alois and his wife in Frankfurt with his wife that is an artist this is also where she connects with Gerti whom has a fallen for a Jewish boy all this happens whilst we see the views of those around them harden as Hitler is due to come to Frankfurt and speak. what we see is the world she knows shrinking as those she is friends with either start to think about leaving or become entranced with the rhetoric of Hitler. Alois her brother is already at odds as his books have been banned and when she sees the effect on there wider circle of friends like Gerti’s love dieter there comes that time to decide what to do stay or go. the last few chapters also introduce an older character as they decide what they are doing.

But politics is in there air even the Ladies these days. Gerti says she supposes it’s something if you find one without a lavatory attendant who expects you to say “Heil Hitler” and wants ten pfeninigs into bargain

And now, suddenly, Gerti is weeping bitterly =, because she didn’t see Dieter Aaron today. So I have to comfort her. Why does a girl like Gerti have to go falling love with a banned person mixed race, for goodness sake when there are plenty men around the authorities would let her love? Its hard enough to know your way around the rules the authorities lay down for business, as we all know, ban be very tricky organised- and now we have to know the rules for love too

This captures the slowly creeping changes in the world but shows how hard they hit

What she does so well her is uses Sanna eyes a young woman just wanting to be a young woman at the time. Some of the bits I love is the usual teen things she is trying to do but then sees the events of the time stopping or changing what they can do.we then see how this chain of events is impacting on her life from having to leave her aunts to the time in Frankfurt when the attitudes of those around them changes as views become juxtapose and the way forward is split into accepting the status quo keeping quiet and not being able to be yourself. the other option is to flee and go into exile this actual series of events follows much of the decisions that Irmgard Keun followed herself. Her books were banned like Alois books were at the time. She also linked to actual events at the time which was Hitlwers list to Frankfurt when he spoke at the Opernplatz. It also captures the way German was changing and how some never spoke up and others used the way things were for other reasons like the events around her Aunt where was it what she said or the fact that she was falling for her cousin. Have you read her books where should  I go after this one ?

Winstons score – + b It captures the times well as the country is on the tip of entering war and the horrors that followed through a young persons eyes.

The Emigrants by George Lamming

The Emigrants by George Lamming

Bajan Fiction

Source – Personal copy

When I looked at the list of books for this roll of the club which is 1954 (Well I’m lat I reviewed three last week but I still had two to et finished and review and this is the first of those two)I really wanted to try and read books from my shelves as I have a habit of just going and ordering from the list when it comes out then forget the books and miss reading them so I decided collect what I had which was a fair few about 8 books and this was one of them and I had long wanted to review a few books from the wind rush writers whom George Lamming was part of in fact he may have been the first writer from the Caribbean to have put across that experience of coming to Post war Uk and how art felt . This book follows a group of men from all over the Caribbean on a boart to the Uk.Lamming initially taught English in Trinidad then he head to teach at a boarding school in England , he was also a broadcast on the show Caribbean voices a show that gave window to those first wave of writers like Lamming himself , his good friend Sam Selvon and Derek Walcott. This was his second book and focus much more on the experience of the emigrant.

The voices warmed to a rich peal of laughter and the Barbadian found no support for his correction. He raised himself and started with a feigned indignation down towards the Grenadian who on no occasion seemed willing to offend. The others laughed, enriching their banter about the small islanders. An altercation followed between the Barbadian and the Grenadian in which enumerate3d the virtues of his own island. The men hoisted themselves from the bunks and watched the adversaries who were not inclined to make any concessions

The boat can be weighted at time as people from the different islands clash

The book tries to capture a group of Emigrants as they travel on a boat from the Caribbean to the Uk this is the same journey the writer took himself in fact he was on the same boat as sam elevon when they came to the Uk there is Collis a writer how tries to see what is happening in proportion eight up what awaits them. Then we meet Dickson he is a teacher but he is a nervous character and sees the fear ahead of him and what may go wrong he is a real glass half empty type of person.Higgins a man with his dreams is happy to be going after see his paths blocked . As we see them head the narritve moves and gives the various feel of these and other character then we see what happens when they finally get there when the real England hits the version of England they all have had in the minds. As we see Higgins start to suffer as that intial optimism falls away. Then Dickson worst fears happen. We see what happened to many as they tried to settle in these large cities and a world that is so much different to there own.

When the strange man returned to the dec k it was highs who saw him first. He stood alone looking across the sea wondering what he should do next. He had found no real contact with the sailor, and he thought out certain way of approaching the West Indians. He scratched the back of his head, trying not to look in their direction.Higgins kept his head down thinking. He seemed to feel the strange man bewilderment, and his sympathy became more urgent. The men watched Higgins and wonder what was happening.The strange man couldn’t bear to be alone much longer. As the ship grew nearer the next stop which was England, the need for company became greater.

The boat draws closer the tense is there you can cut the air as they say.

This is a book that has a myriad of voice in it what he has tried to do is capture the Caribbean experience from every angle I this character but a lot of it is that list dream that feeling of how different the dream of Britain that they had is brought crashing to the ground when they step off that book he was a fan of Jouyce it seems and in part you c an see that here, Anthony Burgess was a huge fan of Lamming called him one of the best we have. This is a insight into a journey and experience that many people from the Caribbean took including the writer himself it is about the wanting of a better life the chance being able to Emigrate can bring but it also captures the woes and worries of this experience as well. it had a style I enjoyed it was jarring at times but I felt it worked as we jump in and out of these characters near the end we focus more on a few of the characters. It shows how hard it can be to leave behind all you know this should be a wider read book in fact all the wind rush books as they give a sense of perspective on the experience which although 70 years ago is still happening now with people want a better life !. Have you a favourite book from the Windrush generation of writers ?

Winstons score – A voices of the past caught in time of the wind rush experience

Contempt by Alberto Moravia

Contempt by Alberto Moravia

Italian Fiction

Original title – Il Disprezzo

Translator – Angus Davidson

Source – Personal copy

I haven’t read Moravia in years in fact when I thought about it how long ago it was it must have been twenty five years ago and as I have a lot of his books on my shelves when this showed up as a possible title for the 1954 club it seemed time to read him I had planned an unsuccessful Italian reading month and planned to read him years ago but that failed so I grasp this chance to read the best known post war writer from Italy , well his best works all came after the war.He was the master of examine the relationship behind those middle class doors getting to the heart of what makes relationships and men and women beat. He won most of the major prize in Italian fiction. He also was married to the great Italian writer Elsa Morante he also had a relationship with Dacia Marani so he was at the `Heart of the Italian literary scene. A lot of his books were also made into films this was as well By the Great Jean Luc Goddard I haven’t seen the film I watch the trailer and hope to catch it at some point as I like Goddard work.

At the time when I first met Battista, I found myself in an extremely situation, and I did not know how to escape from it. My difficulty consisted in my having that time acquired the lease of a flat, although I had not the money to complete my payment for it and did not know how I should get the money. We had lived Emila and I, during our first two years, in a large furnished roomie a lodging house. Any other woman woman but Emil would perhaps not have put up with this provisional arrangements, but, in the case of Emil, I think that, by accepting it, she gave me the greatest proof of love that a devoted wife can give a husband. Emilia was, indeed what is called a born housewife.

The two need money hence he takes the screenwriting job

The book is about a couple Riccardo Molten he is one of these young writer that thinks he is the next best thing but he has end up as a screenwriter on a film that is an adaptation of the Odyssey and he is married to the Beautiful Emil but she is maybe what would now be called a wag as she tries to escape her past or as he calls it her ancestral situation. So she likes the best things in life and this is how  Ricardo end up with the scriptwriting gig, to keep her with a made and with her sports car. The story follows the making of the film which he is doing for a producer called Battista whom early on spends time alone with his wife after they go in her car and he is left to follow and gets held up. Then on another occasion Emil sees Ricardo kiss his secretary. This sets up the story as it is one of mistrust as we see a marriage fall apart as one man seems to set it on a course to split.s this Happens Riccardo sees parallels in his life and the film Odyssey he is making.He is a sensitive soul that is baked in the sun as the film is made and things start to get worse as The director ask for to much in the film they are making.

As Came into y own street, I was again seized with perplexity; Emila was certainly not at home, and I , in that new flat which now seemed to me not so much strange as actively hostile should feel more lost and miserable than I should in a public place. For a moment I was almost tempted to turn back to go and spend that hour and a half in a cafe. Then with a sudden providential reawakening of memory, I recalled that I had promised Battista, the previous day, Tobbe at home at that time, so that he could telephone me and arrange an appointment. This would be an important appointment, because Battista was to speak to me at last about the new script, and to make concrete proposals and introduce me to the director

Later on he is less sure of Emila where is she.

The novel came about partly as his own marriage was in trouble. The Main thing I felt as I read the book was that old say as you sow, so shall you reap this is a classic case of the problems being in the n=mind of the main characters and getting blown out of proportions. along side so clever framing devices like the film , the subject matter of the film.I used the term baked in the sun as this is how the book felt it is a pressure cooker of a marriage ready to explode if there isn’t a gentle release.Another interesting choice for the 1954 club. it is well plotted with the four main character the husband and wIfe the film producer and as I haven’t mentioned the director Rheingold a man that makes unrealistic expectations on Riccardo around the film m and how it is to be made. This is a dissection  of a marriage it is pulled apart with a cold eye and you can see a man writing about his own as he writes around this fictional couple. Moravia portrays what it is like to be in the middle of this all as not is happening. Have you read anything by Alberto Moravia ?

Winston’s score -+B An insight into a marriage falling apart based on the writers own marriage failing.

Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck

Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck

American fiction

Source – personal copy

I am on to the second choice for this weeks 1954 club and I go to America and John Steinbeck . I have long been a fan of Steinbeck I like of Mice and men at school and then in may 20s I read a few more then I decided to slow down and leave some for the rest of my life so as I turned fifty the other week it seemed right to cover him again in fact it was 2010 when I reviewed the Pearl from him here so maybe it is time to read a few more of my tar from him this jumped out as it was the follow up to my favourite book from Steinbeck Cannery row.What Sweet Thursday(the title is a reference to an old names for the days of the weeks so it is sweet Thursday after Lousy Wednesday and before Waiting Friday ). As we catch up with Doc  after the war as he returns to his home on cannery Row and sees a changed row but in some ways it is just  the same

Doc was philosophical about it.He whiled away his free hours with an unlimited supply of government alcohol, mad many friends and resisted promotion. When the war was over, doc was kept on by a grateful government to straighten out certain inventory problems, a job he was fitted for since he had contributed largely to the muck-up . Doc was honourably discharged two years after our victory.

Doc returns a couple years after everyone else

It opens and says how the war had an effect on Monterey and cannery row in either small or large parts this include Doc who was drafted as a sergeant in a vd section. He’d left an old friend in charge of his western Labs but when he returned he found it run down covered in mildew. he then discover the shop owner opposite we has changed but Mack is still there and they drink. what follows is Doc settling back into the row and seeing how the world of the row has change slightly since the end of the war. then a few chapters in we see Suzy arrive on a Greyhound bus her arrival which sees her end up on the row and at the Bear house where people notice doc seems to like here and this leads to them teaching her to drive and try to get her and Doc together bring him  some happiness but there is more to Suzy and we see what happens.

When a girl named Suzy got off the greyhound bus, she looked up and down the street, fixed her lipstick, then lifted her beat-up suitcase and headed for the Golden Poppy restaurant. Suzy was a pretty girl with a flat nose and wide mouth. She had a good figure, was twenty-one , five-feet five, hair probably brown(dyed blonde), brown cloth coat, rabbit sin collar, cotton print drsss, brown calf shoes(heel taps little run over), scruff on the right toe.She limped slightly on her right foot. Before she picked up the suitcase she opened her brown purse of simulated leather.In it were mirror, comb with two teeth missing.Lucky strikes, matchbook that said “Hotel Rosalie, San Francisco , half a packet of peppermint life savers. eighty five cents in silver, no folding money, lipstick but no powder, tin box of aspirin, no keys

Suzy arrives but she is a little down on heel her self


I loved cannery row the way Steinbeck caught those with no hope so well and made us feel pathos with them as characters so with Docs return after the war we capture those years between the end of the war and the baby boomer years. As we see how the war years has made some people not return and other let go and other come to the row. I said when I reviewed Simenon book set in America three bedrooms in Manhattan has a parallel in another way it follows a man falling from bed to bed and this is the row trying to find Doc a woman. Then Enter Suzy newly arrived from San Fransisco  and we see what happens when Suzy and Dc are pushed into trying to start a relationship. But as ever the `row has a nasty twists and turns to their lives.Steinbeck is great at conveying those lives on the edge of the society those we don’t always see in other books the gritty underworld of those just getting by where needing a microscope as a man of science shows how tough life is for even Doc. But what also comes across the brotherhood of the Row when Mack tries to teach suzy to drive or the way the rally round to try and get doc and Suzy together in air to help there friend feel whole.Have you read Steinbeck have you a favourite book by him ?The second stop on this weeks 1954 club and next we will be off to Italy.

Winstons score – A a gem of a story a great follow ups to Cannery row.

The New Men by CP Snow

The New Men by CP Snow

English fiction

Source personal copy

it is the 1954 club this week I have a pile of books I hope to get over the week but I start with this from the writer CP Snow I had long wanted to start his stranger and brother series of which this is one so when it was announced the 1954 club I looked at the various list around the net and discovered that this was on the list of books published that year. I looked at the book blurb and yes it is part of the series but seemed to be a self constant story. CP snow was a writer that tried to connect as he called it the two cultures of Art and science here is a book that is an example maybe of that idea as it is about science in a way as it follows two brothers as they are involved with the search for atomic fission which is what powers Nuclear power but also is used in atomic weapons. a group of scientist from Cambridge try and make the discover in the early 40s

Martin gave a friendly, sarcastic smile. I went on. He met each point on the plane of reason. He had reckoned them out himself; np one insured more carefully against the future. I was telling him nothing he did not know. I became angry gain.

“She’s pretty shallow, you know. I expect her loves are too”

Martin didn’t reply.

“She’s bright, but she’s not very clever”

“That doesn’t matter to me” He said

“You’d find her boring in time.”

I”I couldn’t have done less so up to now”said Martin

The book like the others in the series revolves around the life and times of the Elliot brothers here we see them get the chance to be involved int he search for Atomic fission. The book opens as the two brother meet and Martin has a new lady friend he introduces Lewis to his new lady friend but when Lewis dismisses this lady as unsuitable and says his brother will bore of her over time the two fall out. Then Martin as he says in the meeting with Lewis is starting to look at fission and he is called to a group in a small village called Barofrd near Warwick to study and try and perfect the research. in what is called Project Mr Toad as the group splits up into a couple of teams doing slightly different things he decides to try and reconcile with his brother and get him to join him at Barford.What follows is the journey in try to discover but also a side story of maybe someone spying. As part of the project connects with Nuclear weapons.The story is about the morals of what they did as well as s=what different characters in the book around the brothers see as the moral rights and wrongs

Though Hector Ross had left me in suspense about his intention, I did worry much. Despite our mutual dislike I trusted his mind, and for a strong mind there was only one way to open,

Thus Luke, in the midst of disapproval, got all he asked for, and went back to playing his piano. There was months to get through before the pile was refitted. He and Martin had set themselves for another wait.

It was during this wait I had my first intimation of a different kind of secret. one of the security branches had begun asking questions. They had some evidence( so it seemed though the muffled hints) that there might be a leaked

The later part of the book follows this revelation around the brother and the project

Now this is part of a series and in the middle of the series it seems but for me it did work as a standalone story of the two brothers and there journey from initially falling out the both getting involved in Mr toad as the project is called (I just loved the fact the project was called mr toad). Snow used a mixture of real facts around the discovery of fission.He also question the outcome of some of the research which lead to the Atomic bomb in a small part. Snow worked in the government around the time the part involving government officials and parts of the government feels very real in the way he portray it. The project is set in  Barford is an actual village in warship in fact I was very near it this weekend when I was away but didn’t get chance to pop and take a pic of the village sign. The rest of the series is around Lewis Elliot. I will hopefully read the other in the series. I chose this as my first for Club1954 as it  made me finally get to snow and this series I had listen to him on Desert Island disc when he was on in the in 1975 here is a link to that episode. I felt I had to read him and also the idea of science and art working closer together appeals to me and I’m sure he’d liked books like Benjamin Labatut  When we cease to understand the world a recent book (see what I’ve done there manager o link to a book in translation). Have you read anything from CP Snow ?

Winstons score – A a lost gem of English lit

Phenotypes by Paulo Scott

Phenotypes by Paulo Scott

Brazilian fiction

Original title – Marrom e Amarelo

Translator – Daniel Hahn

Source – personal copy

Now I am back on the long listed books for the Booker international. This time it is a book from Brazilian writer Paulo Scott. I thought I had reviewed his earlier book nowhere people but I hadn’t when I looked back so this is the first book I have reviewed by him he studied public law and taught it for a number of years, he was also involved in student politics and was involved in the re-democratisation of Brazil. He has now written six novel and seven collections of poetry. This book use the tale of two brother to put under the spotlight the question of race in Brazil which is something I hadn’t know a lot about or thought much about.

I was an important researcher into the so-called hierarchy of skin colours on pigmentocracy and its logic in Brazil, on the perversity of colourism, on compensatory policies and their lack of understanding among Brazilian elites, that I’d advised NGO’s in Brazil, in Latin America and the rest of the world, that I’d consulted for Adidas, oh yes that’s right , Adidas the famous German-founded company making High performance sportswear, the man was foolish enough to emphasise, as if that were the high point of my biography, and did consider interrupting him, saying like hell did I ever consult for Adidas, That I’d merely acted as intermediary for an agency that did advertising for them

This was how he was introduced but also shows how facts can be twisted and rewritten so easily.

The novel focuses on Federico and his brother Lourenco. They have a father who is black and mother that is white.The brother  have a huge difference in the skin tones and are different Federico is much light in his skin tone than his brother he could pass as white as the book opens we see him in his late forties as he is the last member of a government appointment committee that is dealing with quotas in High education as he is introduced in the opening lines we see how much he has done but also maybe a bit up himself as he complains how they talk about him getting his name wrong a small project with Adidas that they seemed to think more important but as the project he is involved with grows he starts to question what is happening he grew up in Porto Alegre and hadn’t much been touched by race mainly due to his light skin tone and the fact he hadn’t been touch  by racism as much. But when events from within his own family and the fact that som thing that happens with his brothers family makes him question the nature of race but also how absurd some of the solutions to this problem can be and how maybe a software program isn’t the answer. This is a novel that asks to question the hard question of race and also look under the skin of a nation.

It isn’t a gremlin match day, but it’s the eve of the eleventh, the last day on which let December the Gremio team won the Intercontinental cup, the Toyora cup, the day on which, every month the Gremistas, en masse, go around in the club shirts to commemorate the historic victory. As it’s Friday, it’s not surprising to see a group of friends won’t be able to meet up in the Saturday marking the occasion in advance at domestic barbecues, in restaurants, in bars, on the streets

1983 was there greatest moment the home team of Porto Alegre not much to do with the story but I am a huge football fan so I like this celebration of that moment even after decades.

I enjoyed parts of this novel and in places not many I didn’t it felt as thou the message was more than the story at times.  I didn’t connect with, but the story it was telling is an important one and maybe in the use of a family it tackled it the best way as we see how the tone of the skin of each member of the family and also how they are viewed this is the question at the start does race effect the chance but then how do you deal with it the is a section where the program is mention then a fellow member of the group talks about skin tone as thought it was like the myriad of paint tones. What he is trying to do is lift the lid on the question of race in Brazil as Daniel explains in his after word this is hard to convey from one language to the next as it is a lot about the language used and maybe this is what is missed but I am not sure I like it in parts and others it wasn’t grabbing me. This is one I may reread at a later date and see if I connect more with it but in parts this is great the opening draws you in `and things like the discussion of the software has a touch of the comic at times. Then the family events around Federico niece grabbed me. race is a hard subject to tackle and for me a white male a hard subject to write from my perspective but I can see how hard this subject and how to make the system fairer is hard to tackle as it is so complex and this is an interesting insight into it. Have you read any books that try to tackle this subject.Have you a favourite novel around race ?

Winstons- score B a brave book about race

Previous Older Entries

May 2022


%d bloggers like this: