The capital by Robert Menasse

The Capital

 

The Capital by Robert Menasse

Austrian  fiction

Original title – Dia Hauptstad

Translator – Jamie Bulloch

Source -review copy

Robert Menasseis an Austrian writer. He studied German studies, philosophy and political science then after that he lectured in Brazil. He published his first novel just as he left Brazil. Since returning to Europe he has written a number of books which have He have recurring theme loneliness and alienation. What he also sees as the growing antisemitism in the German-speaking world.  He has been translated into twenty languages this book won the German book prize and is considered the first book to look at Brussels as the capital of Europe. Menasse moved to Brussels in 2010 so he could be part of a man-made world that is the EU.  I reviewing this as part of Blog tour tomorrow is David 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fenia Xenopoulou hd started off in the Directorate-General for competition. The commissionor, a Spaniard, had been clueless. But each commissioneris as good as theor office and she had stood out as an outstanding element of a perfectly functioning office. She got divorced. She had neither the time nor inclination to have a man sitting in her Brussels apartment every second- or later every third or fourth- weekend, or to visit him in Athens and listen to him gossip about athenisan sociey and puff on cigarettes like a caricature of a noveau riche. She had married a star lawyer and ended up throwing a provincial solicitor out of her aprtment!

Fenia is a high flyer after the her first post but then this jobs tests her.

The Captial starts with a Pig on the loose in the city as part of a protest about exporting pigs to China. A greek eurocrat Fenia Xenaopoulou’s is given a new job in the dread directorate-general for Culture is ask to do a celebration for 50th anniversary of the EU an idea. She spends time thinking of what to do and comes up with the idea of Auschwitz . Elsewhere we see David an elderly man move into a nursing home he is a Holocaust survivor who last saw his parents on a train to Poland. An economist Professor Ehart is in Brussels from Vienna trying to sell his Utopian view of the way Europe should move forward. Elsewhere we see an inspector and a Polish hitman circle each other. The is so brilliant piece of observation like when Fenia is given the job and one by one the other people around the table in the group to decide the big part leave with just her left to sort it out. Then a piece that said every Austrian politician says the love the book “a man without qualities”. I could see Thomas Bernhard laughing at this quote.

But I’d like to run through it with you, minister. The personal questions, suchas your favourite boo.

What do you suggest?

It’s a traditional in Austria for politicians to ment the man without qualties. You can’t really opt for a lesser work. And living authors are stictly taboo. People don’t want living authors.

Alright then, Let’s be good Austrians. The man without qualties.Kreisky loved that book as far as I recall.

And sinowat, Kilima and Gusenbauer.

Only socialists ?

I was remind of that desert island with David Cameron that seemed as thou it was done by comittee to appeal to a certain type of people.

We stand 40 odd days away from pulling the plug on us being in Europe. This isn’t a book by a Euroskeptic writer no this is a book about the madness that is the city and the world of the Eu, yes it is a huge monster but at its heart is the principles it was born in that is a greater Europe and yes Auschwitz is a mad choice to celebrate it there but in a way Menasse choice of there is at the heart of what his book is about and that is the divergent route we now face as people in Europe that is moving forward together or get caught up in a far-right xenophobia anti-semetic view of Europe we see it in every country and Maybe yes in looking back at what happened in the Holocaust in this tongue  in cheek way is an eye-opening way. Brussels is the capital of chaos in a way from pigs on the lose bizarrely pigs in  Europe is a recurring theme in the book. This takes satire and the nonsense that follows it in a place like the EU and uses it well I was remind of the pig in the English film A private function which like this also had a celebration at its heart and a pig being kept the secret then on the loose. Another tale of how twisted bureaucracy can get. Read David’s  and the other reviews this week for this book coming out.

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Now,Now, Louison by Jean Fremon

Published on 24 September 2018, paperback original with flaps, 180x120, 115 pages

Now, Now, Louison by Jean Fremon

French Fiction

Original title – Calme toi

Translator -Cole Svensen

Source -personal copy

Jean Fremon is a French gallerist famous for promoting a number of the best-known artists of the 20th century including the subject of this book Lousie Bourgeois also the likes of David Hockney and Franci bacon are just a few that have been through his Leong gallery over the years. His writing is described as cross-genre and a mix of art history essays and fiction he has written a couple of long books like this based around the artists lives the book is a mix of his years of knowing Bourgeois for more than thirty letters and personal accounts of her.

But you, you love spiders. They’re beautiful, they’re clean, and they manage to simultaneously both quick and calm.They wait, motionless, in corners, never flustered, never obsessive, never hysterical; they’re serenebeings, holding themselves apart. With an animal patience. And they destroy various things that make life unbearable, such as flies and mosquitoes. Ah! the mosquitoes in Easton! how we could have used a good herd of spiders ! and it must be said the take good care of their young. Ypu watch them, in the garden , in the attic, on the stairway, in the basement.

I loved this description of spiders she hit the nail on the head I don’t like spiders but they have there uses.

Fremon has tried to enter Bourgeois world and describe her life in short burst a mixture of her inner monologue glimpse of personal history and the artist she has seen or heard about. There is another thread that is called the spider book. I most remember her as the spider woman from the Tate exhibition a number of years ago where her giant spider sculptures rose in that huge space frighting visions that both scare and intrigued me as a person like a natural version of HG wells martian invaders walking the space. Family life things like her mother passing is captured when her mother was the only person she felt secure with. A mixture of art antidotes like Duchamp visiting an aviation show and the outfall of that. Her visiting controversial exhibits like Serranos works which include the work Piss Christ where he mixed bodily fluids and religious symbols like Bourgeois who had to defend the use of sexual imagery in her own work over the years. Then the spider book which has facts she finds over the years about spiders. A mix of styles of writing makes a mosaic of a great artist that lived here.

You don’t sleep. Insomnia has always been your friend, though it’s a stormy friendship, it must be said. When the children still lived with you, you would wake them up in the middle of the night. Simply because yoiu were the only one not sleeping. Now that you no longer have anyone to wake up, you ponder, you draw. In the morning, there are drawings everywhere, on the bed, on the rug … Jerry picks them up .They’re called insomnia drawings.They are cries, letters of love or of pique

One of the glimpse and the art she made when she didn’t sleep here is a glimpse at them

I knew a little about her life I saw the Tate show an interview with her at the time. Her first love was maths then art Jean Fremon builds a wonderful tone to her voice and the way he uses inner monologue the glimpse of her life on a personal and artistic level. It is a biography more an art piece itself what he has done is take her life break it into small piece and build a mosaic image that has a small glimpse of her life from her Exile in the US the loss of her parents to small everyday glimpses. slowly build a picture of this artist an impression an abstract view of her world it is an unusual style of writing compelling I read it through twice and each time found little gems in the short choppy paragraphs that range from a couple of lines to a few pages. I choose this as one of a few books I’d buy pre Man Booker as it fits my criteria of what prize-winning translations should be that is fresh, different, challenging to the reader, small press this is the sort of book we only get due to those small presses and those that run them, in this case, it is Les Fugitives which is bringing the best of French writing to use.

Any means necessary by Jenny Rogneby

 

 

Any Means Necessary

Any means necessary by Jenny Rogneby

Swedish crime fiction

Original title – Alla medel tillåtna

Translator – Agnes Broome

Source – review copy

I don’t often take crime novels but something in Jenny’s bio grabbed me I like a writer that has maybe trodden the same path as there characters so when I saw that was she had studied criminology and worked as an investigator in Stockholm the same as Leona the lead character. Now if that wasn’t enough she was in a Swedish pop group cosmo4 that in there time was an opening act for Michael Jackson. She was also adopted as a baby from Ethiopia. This book is the second in a series but I had no feeling that I had to read the first book in the series to read this it managed to stand alone.

He adjusted the heavy belt strapped around his hips, relieving the pressure from the steel cylinders that made the waistband of her trousers chafe against his skin. The wire connecting them to the detonator shifted outside of his right trouser leg. He grabbed the trigger. Squeezed it hard. His hand was damp. Sweat? He didn’t know,

The only thing was the mission.

His final mission

One push of a button and everything would be over

The opening lines as the bomber does the unthinkable and blows himself up.

The book opens when a man blows himself up outside the parliament building in Stockholm. Now he managed to survive this bombing. Now he is facing Leona as she tries to find out if this man is just a loner or part of a wider plan of terrorism. This is the main story but we also have a side story of Leona own life she is in a piece she has family problems but even more than that she owes a lot of money to a gangsterArmand and he is breathing down her neck to get all his money back as soon as possible. Now Leona is a clever officer and streetwise she start to give training to other criminals to avoid getting caught but this is merely her way of finding a group of criminals to pull a heist she has in mind to finally get the monkey off her back. Meanwhile, she is still under pressure from her new boss at work that is pushing her to find out what the man called Fred in the hospital was doing. She walks a tightrope leading to explosive ends!

It was Monday morning and I had forced myself to go to the hospital. I had to wrap this up, This was going to be my last interview with Fred Sjostrom. After that I wouldn’t have to deal with the sterile walls, the hospital smell, the tubes and the machines.

Fred had claimed he wanted to tell me everything, but I wasn’t about spend hoursdragging information out of him. He had been given plenty of chances already

I had to setr a camera so that I would finally be able to show Alexander , once and for all, that my sitting in his room, listening to the threee words an hour he deigned to squeeze out, was indefensible waste of taxpayers money.

Fred talks but it takes time and also shows how long a case can take to put together.

Well as I said Jenny had been a police investigator so the inner workings of Leona as she works to find out what happened. Now the other side  Of Leona as the character the mastermind behind getting a group of criminals to do a heist I feel is maybe using character she had met during her years in Stockholm and using them in small parts here. Leona is maybe a classic anti-hero you want to dislike her for what she does but find it hard as in some ways she has her heart in the right place. The book maybe follows on from what happened in Stockholm in 2010 where there was a suicide bomber blew outside the Norwegian broadcast building in Stockholm which was the first Islamic attack in the Nordic countries so we aren’t sure if it is that or a local lone wolf and then we have her other life that shows even police officers have lives outside of their job. Leona has money problems I think this is a carry on from events in the first book but also maybe has the most out of the box idea in her heist idea. A crime tale with two great storylines and an interesting lead character imagine if Morse or Holmes had turned to crime to fund the drink and drug habits they may have been the same in fact I’m sure Holmes mused that he would have been the best criminal had he gone down that path and Leona is the same her savvy and knowledge means she stays steps ahead.

Resistance by Julián Fuks

 

ResistanceJulian.jpg

 

Resistance by Julián Fuks

Brazilian fiction

Original title – A RESISTENCIA

Translator – Daniel Hahn

Source – personnel copy

I now move to Brazil and a Brazilian writer that was born to Argentina parents like the character in his novel Julian Fuks was on the list of Granta best Brazilian novelist in 2012. He has worked as a reporter for Folha de S. Paulo and a reviewer for the magazine cult. He has published three other books before this one, this was his fourth book and won a number of book prizes Oceanos prize for literature in Portuguese, Jose Saramago literary prize and the Anna Seghers prize. This follows a different path to some of the other books I have read set around the 1970s and Argentina with child Narrators. Kamchatka and talking to ourselves both set at the same time feature the family on the run this book is set slightly later as the family has now settled in Brazil.

My brother is adopted, but I can’t say and don’t want to say that my brother is adopted. If I say this if I speak these words that I have long taken care to silence, I reduce my brother to a single categorical condition, a single essential attribute: my brother is something, and this something is what so many people try to see in him, thios something is set of marks we insist on looking for, despite ourselves, in his features,i in his gestures, in his acts.My brother is adopted, but I don;t want to reinforce the stigma that word evokes, the stigma that is the word itself made character.

The opening lines of the book see the main narrator talk about his older brother and his adoption.

As I said this book has a child narrator it is Sebastian the youngest child in this family his parents had to leave Argentina as they saw their friends that we also in opposition to the regime at the time disappearing here and there so they decide to run with the oldest child in the family Sebastian older brother they had Sebastian and his Older sister when they settled in Brazil . There were also children have disappeared that is what might have been Sebastian’s brother his mother may have given him away. This we discover as the book unfolds. What he thinks is his family isn’t at times as pictures of the time and what he is told by his parents don’t ever quite match up they never seem to fully settle in there home and his older brother is a troubled soul they talk about Winnicott his theories around adopted children. His parents are both psychoanalysts  There is a strong undercurrent of sadness in this book the feeling of what it is to be born into an exile family never home at home and never able to get home.

The photo doesn’t say what I want it to say, the photo doesn’t say anything. The photo is merely his soft face in the middle of a shady veranda, his eyes looking at me through the potographer’s lens, those eyes that are so light, that hair smottjerthan I could have imagined- his childish beauty that perhaps I envied. Hi headis tilted to one side as though he were asking something. but I knowit’s not for me to make up what it is .

The picture he discovers tell different tales of his parents past than he had been told by them.

I enjoyed this book it is a highly personal book one senses that Fuks himself must feel some of what Sebastian tells us of his world. Like the two books, it has a strong childlike nature to his view of the world as he ponders over the old photos he finds questioning what he is seeing in the way we do when we are children. Fuks has said in interviews he is a writer that doesn’t know how to make things up. It is only recently that there have been a number of books about this dark time in Argentina and the effect on those like Fuks that are the children of those who managed to escape. But then there is also Sebastian’s brother adopted and his mother that died and never really knew him but he managed to escape but is forever scarred by this. Another gem from Charco press that produced a couple of my favourite books last year have brought out another strong voice. Have you read any of Charco Press books yet?

Agnomia by RÓBERT GÁL

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Agnomia by Róbert Gál

Slovakian fiction

Original title –  Agnómia

Translator – David Short

Source – Personnel copy

I had ordered this book last year as the description of it grabbed me as it was One long, unbroken paragraph, blending, memoir, fiction and philosophy. That description grabbed me plus when I read an interview by Frank Garrett with Gal about his use of Aphorisms in his books. Gal has lived in New York, Brno, Berlin and now Prague all these crop up in this book. He has had two earlier books translated to English this is his third book to be translated to English with a fourth to come out this year, Gal has said of his writing he writes in condensed form, in fragments, in aphorisms, and in blocks. This book is 70 pages long and follows a writer called Robert Gal from New York back to Europe.

We’re in New York, she repeats, and the words reflects states of different worlds like cannabine wafts of neat tomorrows from dug-up todays.We need to pinch ourselves to believe. She’s looking at me with that serpentine gaze of a young Prague intellectual who has come to New York at her parent’s expense to seek analogies between this and that and to talk twaddle. There’s a pile of books on the desk from which she would be forever copying out bits and pieces. Once she took me to a pseudo-intellectual hellhole to meet some feminists. The whole ambience had me feeling quite sick.

I remember night in Germany in the late 90s like this before the internet when the books we read mattered more than titbits of books.

The book opens as Gal is the lone Slovak in a group of Czech and Slovaks in 1993 where he met Eugene at a party a brief encounter but he tells us about riding pillion with a girl there discovering complete works of Stravinsky, Schoenberg and Beethoven stories like Mike Patton who encourage people that spat at him in concert by telling them to spit more. that drift into a female photograph doing nudes and a sid story of Kant pissing on the stage. Time is intersped as we drift forwards and back marks like Yeltsin’s death music he liked such as John Zorn’s Six Litanies for Heliogabalus a piece that features Mike Patton a sort of looping back in time. Too see Zorn play live his self the Zorn connection is one that rings true about this book.

an, say, a Slovak, as a Slovak, feel democratic anywhere other than in Slovakia? And this leads consquently to other questions, which , once one has mentally posed them and immediately answered them, lead to a gradual appreciationof why most citzens of small, insignificant countries remain struck in them as if there were no other option.It isprecisely in small and insignificant countries that we encounter writers who take it for granted that hey are reproducers of reality, but why reality needs to be reproduced rhey don’t reveal. Claiming – as we do -that reality shouldn’t be artistically reproduced but produced, we also should probably seperate “Work of art” from “art” .

Here he hits the nail on the head about his homeland and the place in the world but also maybe his voice is a new one that needs to be heard .

Zorn is an avant grade experimental saxophone player that has overridden genres in the styles he has chosen to play over the year and this in the Narrative form is what Gal is trying to do. We talk a lot about the current rise of Autofiction. But for me, there has been another slow rising style of writing that has been around but that last few decades has been growing a genre-defying sort it has its leader in a writer like Sebald, Bernhard, Magris even earlier Emil Cioran. In recent times books like river and Panorama all do similar mixing memories of a time, dreams and places into one narrative that is about what is being for one person where it is a trip to the center of Europe or a river remind one of another river and time. Here Zorn and his singer of choice Patton link from Prague to New York many a similar link her in Gals work that mixes his experiences with small philosophies on life. This book is like free form Jazz drifting unprepared startling and compulsive reading. Another challenging writer from Slovakia I have read three books from there in the last few years they are showing literature finally coming out of the shadow of Czech literature with a new twist on the Mittel European work that like Bernhard is sometimes just thrown on the page in one long paragraph.He has a good website here .

Have you a favorite Slovakian writer?

 

The spirits of the earth by Catherine Colomb

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Spirits of the Earth by Catherine Colomb

Swiss-French fiction

Original title – Les Esprits de la terre

Translator – John Taylor

Source – review copy via Tranalstor

II was contacted by John the translator of this novel as he felt it had fallen out of sight and shouldn’t have done. I agree as it is a clever little modernist novel. Catherine Colomb was orphaned when she was five and grew up in her grandparent’s house in the canton of Vaud where she spent most of her life. As it is elegantly put on her french Wiki page between old families and the parks, castles, lake, and vineyards of the region. Her four novels were all set in this region THis book came out in 1953.

In the hallways of Fraidaigue, one will henceforth have meet up with the dead Abrham attending to his transparent affairs while running into his mother whose head is topped off with some snowy construction, his sister isabelle surrounded by her suitors, and his deformed brother Ulysse pressinf a black marble inkpot against his chest with his dwarfed ar, . And Uncle Cesar? where Uncle Cesar ? HIs dear nephew has just fallen from the cornice and vanished !

This from the opening page remind me of Manderley and also I wondered if the name Ulysse was a nod towards Joyce ?

The book has a great intro by the translator himself that talks about Catherine life and the book the book has echoes of her own life as it has a lot of death and loss in it like she experienced at an early age. The book is set in two homes owned by the same family an older brother Cesar and his sister Zoe and two other brothers Eugene and Adolphe. The two brothers have been happily Married for a while and each lives at the families two properties. Fraidaigue John explains in his intro this means cold water and is the lakeside home of the family they also have Masion d’en Haut the families country estate. The book is a modernist work that follows these four lives and the deaths that happen in these families like their parents and nephews. It follows the family mainly through the eyes of Cesar a man that lost his closest friends when young and the world he lives in is filled with both the living and the ghost of those he once knew. He should be the head of the family but is just wandering the world as a victim.

Meanwhile, with the coming of spring, a strangely feverish Cesar was leaving the Masion d’en Haut and looking forward to seeing the naked pale purplish earth of the first vineyard; standing at the bottom of the Avenue, Melanie, watching him vanish, she placed her hand on her tumultuous breasts, squattering in front of the emerald green faience stove, all sisterlyaffection done away with and dressed in the white gown of insane women, Zoe was warming her fingers, with their overgrown nails, for the last time that season. When Cesar leaves. this means winter has given way, that the osier bushes are reddening at the edges of the stream, that the whole world is taking on the smell of th stables and manure

The world she knew so well is shown through how Cesar lives his life moving through the seasons from place to place never settling.

This is a high modernist novel in a way in his intro John says she was often compared to Woolf I can see this there is part of a world-changing like in Mrs. Dalloway where we see a woman look back over an evening over her life and the changing post world war. In this case, we see Cesar a man caught out of time drifting between the worlds of the living and dead. I’d like to suggest another writer I think inspired her maybe Du Maurier for me she often used her local Cornwall and Vaud both have the feeling of places caught out of time. The house in this book reminds me of the way Manderley is described in Rebecca the ghosts of those they have known is clinging to the walls of these houses. There is also the menace of what happened in these houses before in both books. John has done a poetic of her words he is mainly a Poetry translator and this shows how he has kept what at times are fragile narratives of a world between the living and dead.A touching and challenging read that has the reader wondering where they are for long after they put the book down.

Have you read this book or any other Swiss list books from Seagull books ?

That was the month that was Jan 2019

  1. My name is Adam by Elias Khoury
  2. The wicked go to hell by Frédéric Dard
  3. Among the lost by Emiliano Monge
  4. The sound of waves by Yukio Mishima
  5. Katalin Street by Magda Szabo
  6. The last summer by Boris Pasternak
  7. Sometimes I lie and sometimes I don’t by Nadja Spiegel
  8. Soviet milk by Nora Ikstena
  9. A long night in Paris by Dov Alfon

So I managed 9 books under review this month nine countries including one new one country in  Latvia. No new presses this month. My reading started in New York and then Palestine. I then took a few nights in a French prison with an undercover cop and a spy put who was who. Then I joined some Mexican people smugglers that live in hell like world then romance in Japan. WOrld war two and one in the next two novel one about the falling out of the Nazis and the second world war on a single street in Budapest and then a man goes to his sister and remembers the last summer before world war One. Then female stories from Austria. Then Last years Peirene about a woman and her daughter getting by in a small rural time in exile in their own country. Then a modern thriller in Paris from a former special service and editor of a national paper.

Book of the month

Katalin Street

Katalin street by Magda Szabo something about the voice of the characters and the way it showed the effect of the war on one small piece of the world and the three families that were once so close end up all over the place living and Dead. The children show the world in the eyes and their friends as there positions change through the years.

The month itself-

I’ve decided to give a monthly recap of small life events and other things not book related. This month well today was my first day of driving in real frosty conditions I still nervous for the first snow drive. I also managed my first motorway drive when I visited my father the other side of Birmingham and had a good hour and a half on the motorway.  I’ve been driving two months and have done 1600 miles in my little silver car. The month saw a return of a couple of old tv  series on to tv. The first Sliders a sci-fi series that saw four characters travel to parallel earth this is similar to other shows like Quantum leap which came before this show saw someone  travel in their own life in this show the premise was what if things like the wild west lived on or the Soviets took over or you were a star. Then the other another retro show Rumpole of the Bailey were we see Leo McKern as the Poetry quoting a fan of the Q edition of the Oxford book of English verse a picture of a world maybe gone now. He plays the down at heel barrister hero of the underdog and working criminals. McKern playing of him is like Bretts Holmes Suchet Poirot or Guinness Smiley one of those actors that defined the character making it hard for anyone else to play him. Although there is a new series on the radio has a new Rumpole in the form of  Benedict Cumberbatch . Now a snippet of Music and I have been listening to a lot of the go-betweens a later comer to them I saw a great documentary on Sky the other day that follows the history of the band over the years to the sad loss of one of the two lead singers.

What has your month been like?

A long night in Paris by Dov Alfon

A Long Night in Paris

A long night in Paris by Dov Alfon

Israeli fiction

Original title –  לילה ארוך בפריז

Translator – Daniella Zamir

Source – review copy

I was sent this and usually maybe not into thrillers. As a youngster, I read more thrillers my father is a huge fan of the genre so growing up there was always a thriller around to read if I want. In recent years the only thriller writer I have read in English is Le Carre being a huge fan of the BBC versions of his smiley works in the 80s  I have read his books from time to time so when Dov Alfon work was compared to that of Le Carre it made me want to read it then when I saw Alfon himself had served in the 8200 unit on top of that had been editor of Ha’aretz the leading Paper in Israeli I knew this book would be one that was relevant and true to life.

Nine people witnessed the abduction iof Yaniv Meidan from Charles de Gaulle airport, not including the hundreds of thousands who watched the security camera footage once it had been posted online.

The intial report of the French police described him as ” an Israeli passenger, approximately twenty years old”, although a week earlier he had celebrated his twenty fifth birthday. His colleagues described him as “Mischievous”, some calling him “Childish”. They all agreed he was “Fun-loving”.

The opening chapter and the sense of how far info goes is caubght in the line about the camera footage !

A night in Paris opens when a young man a marketing man for a software company disappears with a woman in a sexy red dress after arriving at harle de Gaulle. Then another passenger from the same flight happens to disappear from his hotel room. The French police assign Commissaire Leger to sort the case. But also on the same flight, the two arrived on is the new head of 8200 unit Colonel Zeec Abadi Like Alfon that wrote the book is from Tunisia and had family in Paris he is on the way to visit his mother so he contacts his deputy in Tel-Aviv  lt Oriana Talmor to try and get info on the victims and what is happening to lead to the third side of the story a bunch of Chinese commandos sent and using the woman in red to get hold of certain people in the hold of certain facts. As the night goes on the bodies pile up and even in Tel-Aviv the deputy has trouble after falling out at a meeting and then she is subject to an attempt to be rape only saved by the fact she is very good a Krav mag. A long day will Zeev get to the kidnap victims back.

Oriana hoovered above Paris. She knew it was Paris because she could see the Eiffel tower below, and Abadi was waving to her. She landed softly beside him, like tinker bell. She wore a short, peach-coloured dress but she was not cold; it was a beautiful day with as blue a sky as only a dream might conjure. She asked Abadi weren’t supposed to be in uniform. Abadi said no. He was wearing a three piece suit but had fins on his feet; he told her they were going diving into the seine to find Rav Turai Yerminshi’s body and that she was dressed prefectly for the mission

THe two in aParis search for the second kidnap victim as they aim to search the river!

I like this it has a wonderful flow t the tale it is told in 120  short chapters each a little tale in itself as we wind our way around Paris and find out what is really happening it has some great thriller touches Zeev the main man has a touch of Bond and Smiley maybe more of the Smiley side the 8200 unit collects data and codes and is the leading technical unit of its sort in the world. That is what Alfon has caught this is maybe a new line in the thriller with China as the enemy. We also see technology and information as the new currency in the spy world. The place is something that is covered well here Paris is a great backdrop to the night of action here as we move around the city’s arrondissements. Every main character in a thriller needs his back team and in Oriana, he has a modern woman that has sharp wits and is his only ally at this moment.So all the box are tick for a great thriller add to that black suit Chinese commandos with heat seeking bullets you have great thriller it has been sold to make both a film and Tv series in Israeli. This is what Steve Jobs would have written as a thriller or Bill gates this is the modern thriller for the tech age where what we think and the information is paramount.

Soviet Milk by Nora Ikstena

Soviet Milk by Nora Ikstena

Latvian fiction

Original title – Mātes piens.

Translator – Margita Gailitis

Source – review copy

Rather late getting to this one as I await the first title from this years Peirene selection I looked back and last year I hadn’t reviewed one of there books which is a great shame as I have covered most of there books from the first three in year one. Anyway, this is written by the Latvian writer Studied in Latvia then moved to New York to finish her studies. She on her return to Latvia set up the Latvian literature centre and started writing herself she has published over twenty books and has had two translated into English this is her first novel translated to English she also has a short story collection in English life stories is available still.

I don’t remember 15 october 1969. There are people who swear they remember their birth. I don’t. It’s likely that I was well positioned in my mothers womb, because the birth was normal. Not particularly long, or particularly short, with the last contractions coming every five minutes. My mother was twenty five, young and healthy. Her mental state, though was not so healthy, as I learned later.

I do remember , or at least I can picture, the golden, tender calm of October, alternating with forebodings of a long peri=oid of darkness. It’s a kind of boundary month, at least in the climate of this latitude, where seasons change slowly and autumn only graduallly gives way to winter.

The opening liunes as the daughter remembers the autumn month but not her own entering to the world!

I read this first last year and struggled to get into it and thus left it unreviewed but when stuck the other day with a feeling of nothing grabbing me I’d started half dozen books and got thirty pages in and lost interest. But this time I was really grabbed by the voice of the daughter describing her mother and then got the book the nameless narrators tell the stories in flipping narratives the daughter born in 1969 both mother and daughter born in the same month twenty-five years apart. The daughter growing under the Brezhnev regime her mother never feed her on the breast leading to her hating milk. Milk is a recurring motif in the book. The relationship is strained the, mother a tough woman in her story we see how she ended up in a small town a doctor but not allowed to [ratice in the field she studied which is birth and is a researcher on the effects on woman when she tries to help an abused wife and is banished because her husband was a ranking Soviet figure to be a simple country GP all this is told in her story the daughter only sees her mother now a broken woman she struggles to be herself her mother loves western books reads the poorly type books those Samizdat works will these two ever get what they want from their lives and even get to leave the village.

The river was warm as milk. Only late at night could it providerelief from the sweltering heat. The days felt interminable; the short night brought the balm of darkness. At the end of July the ambulatory centre was closed for a month. I began a long, lonely, senseless time. I lay naked in my shadow-filed room,trying to kill the nights and days.

A use of milk her as the description of the river.

I loved the unnamed narrators as their tale is not just a personal story but the tale of the whole under a regime where people could see their dreams destroyed in a single moment. The common theme in Peirene books over the years of the mother-daughter relationship, in this case, is even given a third fold as the state in Soviet times view its self as a mother and the milk they feed some of its citizens was bitter at times leads to  motif of milk from the mother not feeding the daughter milk  but to the daughter not having milk at school the theme of milk is recurring I felt a comradeship with the daughter not drink milk my whole life I get the hatred of this pure white liquid that maybe like its Soviet regime isn’t pure or white is just an emulsion of fat and water very apt for the regime !. I enjoyed this and it was a great intro to Latvian fiction as this is my first book from Lativa having reviewed books from the other Baltic states  I know have the last one covered by this book. It does what it says for the series and shows who even thou the two are at home they aren’t as there home is a  world they can’t get to under the soviet shackle.

Sometimes I lie and Sometimes I don’t by Nadja Spiegel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes I lie and Sometimes I don’t by Nadja Spiegel

Austrian short stories

Original title –  Manchmal lüge ich und Manchmal nicht

Translator Rachel McNholl

Source – personal copy

So today I move to a rising star of Austrian fiction Nadja Spiegel. She has won a number of prize for her prose, spoken word and poetry. This was her debut collection and came about when she went to Dublin for the first Irish European literature night for Austria where both the publisher and her translator discovered he flash fiction prose style. As her translator puts it her style is like that described by the Irish writer Eilis Ni Dhuibhne it is more poetic than the novel, more suggestive, dealing more in metaphor and symbolism. Ni Dhuibhne believes natural short story writers combine the sensibilities of poets with those of novelist, and I believe that this is very true of Nadja Spiegel.

She said she knew it would end. She said Lets just run away. Then she said nothing. That was on the Monday. We said nothinfor so long that I couldn’t tell where my body ended and hers begin.

She said she knew how it would end, when it would end. I have a few images of her, nothing else , just the memory of her smell:

Caedamon and seasame

I was remond of Maggie smith talking about the bed of Lentils see remembered in her romance with a grocer like Malika’s family spice shop.

there are twenty short stories in this collection some are from a mere few pages to longer other stretches to ten pages. But they are all that many call flash fiction. Where we have a quick flash into life. The narrators, on the whole, are female voices young woman that find themselves in tough places. But in others we see a narrator talk about falling for the new girl a plain girl  Malika she has a romance with a popular girl Linda the girls family own a spice shop a short romance and an ending that remind me of Alan Benett’s talking voices. Another told by a third voice about a boy younger than here Elias and another girl Lisa younger than Elias a tale of a budding romance or was it as the last line of this story is also the title of this collection sometimes I lie and sometimes I don’t. An inner view of modern Austria through female eyes. A glimpse into the lives of late teens and early twenty-year-olds worlds.

In school on Monday a girl throws her water bottle up in the air and catches it with one hand, takes a bite out of an apple and sens a squrt of juice flying. The girl is pretty, Lisa is her name, and she has a boyfriend by the name of Elias. The thing about names is : there’s one more letter in Elias, an e more than there is in Lisa, and the girl laughs and sweeps back her hair, and is Elias is the extension of Lisa and lisa is there within Elias.

Elias is not the kind of guy who falls in love, he only loves, for instance.

Elias has fallen in love with me says Lisa, and sometimes Lisa’s right and sometime’s she’s not.

I’m happy for you both.I say

and sometimes I lie and sometimes I don’t

The story of a romance in the story Lisa Elias and me also has the colllections title as it’s last line .

The stories are vibrant short bites that left me as a reader at times wanting more the problem with flash fiction is they can be too tempting at times they are like a Thorntons selection box once you open you well I just have to have a couple at a time and this is the case here I read the collection in an evening like a voyeur of this modern Austrian lives glimpse behind the curtains of the lives from people in ruts to budding romances. All told with a bittersweet and humourist view of the world. Nadja hasn’t quite the bitter view of Bernhard of her homeland but she fits nicely with the likes of Linda Sift where she also showed how to get by in another view of modern Austria  and even Jelinek in romances starting I reviewed woman as lovers and there is a similar detached nature to the world in that book that flows in these stories as we just get the merest glimpse of there worlds. A new voice and an interesting short collection from an interesting writer. Have you a favorite European short story writer?

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