The red notebook by Antoine Laurain

The red notebook by Antoine Laurain

Original title – La femme au carnet rouge

Translators – Emily Boyce and jane Aitken

Source – Review copy

She drove her mother’s car, ’twas a 2cv
I was most impressed by her casual dress
I was most impressed
Inside her rented room colored deepest blue
I suppose we found some kind of happiness
To fill the emptiness
We were simply wasting precious time
Hiding from the cruelest summer sky
She took her mother’s car to get away from me
Heaven knows that i, I can sympathize
Oh I can sympathize
For we were never close if the truth were told
All we ever shared was a taste in clothes
Oh we were never close

I choose another romantic Lloyd Cole an early song 2CV  obviously a slight link in the title  to france as well .

 

Well another visit to france today .This is the second book by Antoine Laurain , I have reviewed here on the blog .The first The presidents hat was a real hit with me when I read it . Antoine Laurain has written five books and collects antiques .His books have translated into many  european  languages . There is a short questionaire with him on the Gallic books blog .

Laurant had never opened a woman’s handbag . He hadn’t opened his mother’s when he was a child and he hadn’t opened claire’s either . Occasionally he had been told , ” Take the keys from my bag ” or “There’s a pack of tissues in my bag ; you can take those . He had not touched a handbag without explict prior authorisation , more like a command that only vaild for a very limited time .

How this made me smile , I think most of us men have similar a expereience .

So The red notebook is similar in  premise to the presidents hat . Again the story starts with a lost item . This time it is a hand bag , unlike presidents hat the finder of this bag doesn’t know who the bag belongs too . The bag is in the hands of laurent Letellier a bookseller , when he finds  the bag  outside his shop .Having been lost when it’s owner was attacked in that spot  .He looks through the bags contents and comes across the red notebook and a few other items .One of these items is a signed novel by Patrick Modiano   . But none of these give a clue to the bags owner . So Laurent reads the notebook and through its content is drawn to its lady owner . what follows is a journey through the notebook and it;s notes .Along the way laurent meets the recent French Nobel winning writer Patrick Modiano . Can this notebook lead laurent to this women he has fallen for without even meeting . The charm of this story is a shy is guy trying to discover this women that to him seems very interesting .

He paused . Laurent stared at him . Only Patrick Modiano could tell you he didn’t remember the woman he had met in the street then immediately go on to give you a description that would have delighted any police force in the country .”Thank you , ” said Laurent in a low voice .

Had pick a line with Modiano in as it shows his respect in France that Laurain include him in this book

I was charmed again by this writers fiction .It’s not very lit , but has the same charm as you find in say the french films by Tati . What we see is one mans journey through Paris to find one woman . Along the way Laurain pays homage in a way to Modiano  both by putting him in the book as a character .But also the style of the book is in a small way  an homage to Modiano a detective novel without being a detective novel .This book is a perfect holiday book or train journey book . I love a book that leaves me with a smile after I have put it down . Sometimes we all need something that is both a page turner and fun to read . I really can’t wait too Gallic hopefully publishes the next book by him .

 

Limonov by Emmanuel Carrere

Limonov by Emmanuel Carrere

French fiction

Translator – John Lambert

Original title – Limonov

Source – Personnel copy

 

I dreamed I saw Phil Ochs last night
Alive as you and me
Says I to Phil, “You’re ten years dead
“I never died”, says he
“I never died”, says he

The music business killed you Phil
They ignored the things you said
And cast you out when fashions changed
Says Phil, “But I ain’t dead”
Says Phil, “But I ain’t dead”

The FBI harassed you Phil
They smeared you with their lies
Says he, “But they could never kill
What they could not compromise
I never compromised”

I choose this Billy Bragg lyric  as it was like this book a singer paying tribute to another singer . As Carrere had done with Limonov .

Well he almost made it onto the blog a few years ago . As I had a tip his last book may have made the iffp longlist I read it . But it missed longlist and had to return to library before I could review it . So this time I got his book as a gift from family . Emmanuel Carrere is a French writer and screen writer . He has been writing since the early 1980’s , he has had a number of his books translated and made into films . He won the Prix renaudot for this particular book . His most famous book is like a French version of in cold blood  . A  book called the adversary  , which saw him in contact with a serial killer in France . This book was also made into a film .

This dandyism is also what he likes about Jazz musicians his new friends so idolizes . He has no affinity for music , and never will . But he does start reading again . He’d stopped at Jules Verne and Alexandre Dumas ; now he starts again with Jack London and Knut Hamsun , the grand vagabonds who plied every trade and embellished their novels with these experiences .

Limonov growing up in the Ukraine , growing as a reader .

Limonov is a hard book to pigeonhole . Is it a novel or is it a biography ? You see it is the story of the Russian writer Eduard Limonov . Now if you had to pick a writer to write about . Eduard Limonov life is a perfect choice . From his early years in Russia through new York , Paris and Serbia .We see him returning to the Soviet union just as it starts to fall apart . Limonov himself at this point becomes involved in the politics of the falling apart Eastern bloc .First in Serbia , whom he supported at the time the Serbian war was happening . Then he returns to Russia and becomes involved in their politics . As he supports the far right National Bolshevik party .

Pawel Pawlikowski is a Polish born British filmmaker  with whom I share many interests, and whom I’ve run into several times while writing this book . He made a moving documentary about the last months of Venichka Erofeev’s life  – remember , the hero of the Brezhnevian underground  . Poverty- stricken , destitute , alcoholic , and ravaged by cancer , Erofeev cuts a figure that Limonov would judge without pity but which had me in tears .

Strange read this the day after Pawlikowski won the Oscar for the best foreign film .

I was reminded of another French writer Frederic Beigbeder . I have reviewed two of his books . One of which The french novel was  a tribute to Carrere own novel the Russian Novel .(according to Beidbeger tribute site in France ) . Eduard Limonov is an interesting subject for the book . His life has seen him move from one side to another on the political spectrum . It has also seen him travel the world in Exile . This is the life of a writer .It is in his early years you see Carrere attraction to Limonov . A shared spirit as a reader , he loved French fiction Limonov Verne and Dumas were his heroes  growing up . But in a way Limonov is also the perfect flawed character . His later life has seen him involved in the far right Russian nationalist party . A strange event during the reading of the book was that Ida won the Best foreign film at the Oscars . The director of that film crops up in this book .I was also left want to try Limonov’s book has anyone read him ?

 

Be back til then here is some music I’ve been listening too .

Sorry I decided to length my blogging break a few days more after I was given the all clear to type a lot , but I decide to wait a bit longer .But  now have a sizeable backlog of books to review as I am up to book 24 of the year .So till I get back hopefully on Thursday I’ll share a few recent songs I’ve been listening too .

The sons of bill latest album has been compared to classic REM in some magazines , but to me it has classic americana roots .

He has been around a while this is his second collaboration with the great Mark Lanegan dark and moody as you’d expect .

Last not so much as a band but a film Frank I watched recently partly based on the great Frank sidebottom who also wore a large paper mache head .Maybe fassbinders best performance .

How have you all been ?

Winstons IFFP and shadow IFFP

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Well its been an annoying few days for me at winston towers I did reblog and then remove an advert for people to join the shadow jury  for IFFP .Which I had started  in 2012 , but it served to confused people to who was running the jury so I have  decided to share running the jury with Tony from Tony’s reading list from now on , he has far more admin skills than me and has actually taken part in every shadow jury .This will free time for my new project with Lisa  from Anzlitlovers  .The Winston’s iffp which I will be doing every year from now , in which we will pick four or five past winners or short listed books (mainly female writers as there hasn’t been a female winner ) for the prize , over the years Lisa and I hope to build a back list of reviews for all the books that have been on the IFFP prize list .We choose now to start this as it is the 25th anniversary of the prize this year .So the first five books we have chosen are .

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1990 Blue ribbonOrhan Pamuk, The White Castle (Turkish, Victoria Holbrook)

1994 Blue ribbonBao Ninh, The Sorrow of War (Vietnamese, Phanh Thanh Hao)

2004 Blue ribbonJavier Cercas, Soldiers of Salamina (Translated from the Spanish by Anne McLean)

2007 Eva Menasse, Vienna (German, trans. Anthea Bell)

2009 Celine Curiol, Voice Over (translated by Sam Richard from the French)

So basically I’ve given my self a lot of books to read over next few months but I am in the middle of a big reading high (never sure what would be opposite to slump so i just say a high lol ) .Also had chance to work with two bloggers I really enjoy .The Winston’s IFFP list is a good snapshot the first winner , one from Europe , one from Asia and two shortlisted female writers make a nice mix for our first Winston’s IFFP .Be back before the end of the month with my guess of this year longlist  , a few more reviews to go up yet .So there will be a lot of IFFP love from this blog .

The books I got the day I slipped

 

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Now I was actually in town on Saturday to take my books back to library and fetch some more which I just fetch out of the bag today maybe last library books for a couple months from town so what did I fetch starting with the Bolano after returning By night in Chile I couldn’t resist another so choose a short story collection .There is a couple of his stories I’ve listen to in the New Yorker fiction series and I really have enjoyed them so decide to try this collection .The book of fathers by Miklos Vamos caught my eye as it was a historic novel with folk tale and parable roll into an epic sounded great and I love a new writer to me .The anarchist banker is a collection of stories for Portugal which for me is the one country in Europe where the blog is very weak for its size . Then the third Valerio Varesi novel in the Commissaro Soneri series I have the second book on my shelves and reviewed the first a few years ago and want to catch up with this series .

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Also here today is White Hunger by Aki Ollikainen a tale of famine and a farmers wife that sets off for food in far north of Finland .Lucky four of these five books are quite slim so cam be held in one hand as I’m having to read and type this post on hand may just be book post not review for a week or so tile adjust to cast on arm and typing .
What books you had received or got recently ?

Ouch

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Well as many of you may have seen on Facebook and Twitter , I had a bad slip on the ice on Saturday .I decided to venture out as the snow and ice we had was melting away and didn’t seem that bad .I managed to get into Chesterfield changed my library books but then walk down to a department store I like too see if they had any bargain jeans in the sale and crash bang wallop I went down extending and landing on my left arm .I was so lucky some kind member of the public game walk me too shop saw the first aid came but as they said it be a while for an ambulance so this kind soul gave me a lift to a&e .I was seen had x ray next think called into a separate room Mr Allen you’ve dislocated your elbow we are going have to sedate you and put  it back in place and you gave to sign this now I’d spoken to Amanda just thought I’d badly bruised it and I’d maybe have some pain relief and go home .So I rung Amanda and let her know she had to maybe come up and help me home .So the next thing was some drugs in my arm some one touching my arm and next thing waking up with my arm in a cast .I’m back today hoping it won’t keep me off work to long and I may get more use of my hand as I’ve had to type this one handed on my phone app .I’m having to read off my kindle as I can use it one handed to read .

The 3 arched bridge by Ismail Kadare

 

 

The 3 arched bridge by Ismail Kadare

Albanian fiction

Original title Ura Me Tri Harqe 

Translator – John Hodgson

Source – Library book

On the way to your brother’s house in the valley deep
By the river bridge, a cradle floating beside me
In the whitest water on the bank against the stone
You will lift his body from the shore and bring him home

Oliver James washed in the rain
No longer
Oliver James washed in the rain
No longer

Oliver James by fleet foxes is a nice match to this traditonal fable story .

Well yesterday saw me review  a book by Roberto Bolano today I’m reviewing Ismail  Kadare another writer whom has featured a number of times on this blog , I have reviewed three of his book before now .Kadare is one of the names often mentioned as a potenial Nobel prize winner .

As expected , the news of the bridge to be built over the Ujana e Kepe spread rapidly ,Bridges had been built now and then in all sorts of places , but nobody remembered any of them causing such commotion .They had been built with virtually not a word of comment , to the muffled sounds of hammers on wood

The bridge is built but keeps falling down why !

This rather like an earlier novel I reviewed by Kadare the pyramid  which is also  set in a past , although  this book is not as far back as the pyramid .The book  is set in  the 14th century .The book is based on a legend /myth of the region about a castle being built , for this book  thou Kadare has changed the castle to a bridge that connects the then split up into tiny regions Albania to the rest of Europe via this bridge .Which keeps being destroyed  , also the men working on the bridge keep falling ill , is it by the ferry men or is it something else happening , the people start sing songs about the bridge and the ferry men also a tale of a castle like the original tale that Kadare based this book on  and it is decided that a sacrifice  is needed to save the bridge but whom ? Who will be willing to let them selves be killed to have a bridge built , the victim face is remembered in plaster on the bridge .All this is narrated to us by a monk Gjon .

A few days before the final work on the bridge , one of the foreman’s two assistants  , the fat one , fell ill with a rare and frightening disease : all the hairs on his body fell out . They shut him in a hut and tried in every possible way to keep his sickness secret , but there was no way it could be concealed .

Another worker falls sick , as they try to get the bridge built .

Rather like the book the pyramid which I have also reviewed  , I felt this maybe more than it seems on the surface  which is an Albanian folktale retold with a few changes in the story  a bridge instead of a castle .No to me this is more a book of its time  which is the mid seventies  , than a story of something that happened over five hundred years before that .I feel the book , which was written in 1976 , maybe shows the events in Albania at the time using the myth and legend to maybe show the isolation of the Hoxha regime of the time , maybe the bridge falling is the way he kept Albania separate from Europe .I feel the sacrifice maybe eludes to what he felt at that time , what people had to do to get the bridge built (or the links and more open regime in Albania ) .I do prefer these books that have been translated directly from Albanian and like in places that John Hodgson has manage to keep a traditional feel to the piece of old songs and words used by Gjon

have you read any books by Ismail kadare ?

By night in Chile by Roberto Bolano

 

 

By night in Chile by Robert Bolano

Chilean fiction

Original title – Nocturno de Chile

Translator – Chris Andrews

Source – Library book

 

I dreamed I saw St. Augustine
Alive as you or me
Tearing through these quarters
In the utmost misery
With a blanket underneath his arm
And a coat of solid gold
Searching for the very souls
Whom already have been sold.

I choose  a Dylan lyric I dreamed of St .Augustine a song that is about Augustine of Hippo who wrote about Guilt and evil !

Well another year another Bolano  novel on the blog .I intend at some point to get all the books by Roberto Bolano  on this blog, for now  this is the seventh book by him I have reviewed on this blog .I’ve mentioned lots about Bolano before so , lets just say its twelve years since he dies and we are nearing the end of his books being published with just two more to come out in English one of those still to come out in  Spanish , that being  the  mysterious Diorama to come out .But the last on the list out in spanish is Little Lumpen novelita which came out in US late last year , no UK date I can see at the moment  .

I am dying now  , but still have many things to say .I used to be at peace with myself .Quiet and at peace. But it all blew up unexpectedly ,That wizened youth is to blame .I was at peace .I am no longer at peace .There are a couple of points that have to be cleared up .

The opening lines as he decides to write his own story on this one evening .

By night in chile could maybe called his stab at a modernist novel in a way it is a single piece told in one long paragraph by a priest  whom writes this all in the course of one night .who is also a poet Father Sebastian Urrutia lacroix , who is under the impression this is going to be his last night on earth so is writing the tale of his life down .A life of a poet and a priest , but of a nearly man  , a man who touched greatness in his life he knew Pablo Neruda , the great poet of Chile .But what we see is how his life also got caught up in the politics of Chile at the time the shift from the Allende regime to the stricter and ruthless reign of  Augusto Pinochet .The latter of which he ends up teaching , about communism .Added to this he is a member of Opus Dei what comes across is an embittered man who is so twisted by who he is inside it all comes pouring out on to the page over the course of this  one night as he thinks he is dying  .

Then I took a train to Turin , where I visited Fr Angelo , curate of St Paul of Succour , who was also versed in the falconers art .His falcon , called Othello  , had struck terror into the heart of every pigeon in Turin  , although as Fr Angelo confided in me , Othello was not the only falcon in the city ,

I choose this on a whim to quote just because H is for Hawk won the Costa just as I was finishing this book the other night !

Now I’ve been a bit vague as this is only a short novella and I’m not wanting to give too much away as ever the main character is a poet ,which I have found is the case in most of the novels by Bolano .The book is far more political than the other books I have read by Bolano , it is a lot more about , his homeland and the events that happened in the country in his youth .It is worth noting at this point , Bolano himself spent time in prison , which he describe in a story , but was it a story it seems as thou he may have been at Mexico at that time according to other reports .I love the mystery around his own life at the time .But what comes across in the book is that in some ways Lacroix is the juxtaposed of Bolano , some that stayed , some that worked with the regime , some one that was a poet as well .But by this time I feel Bolano viewed himself more as a Novelist than a poet , so unlike Lacroix , he had started to see success .Add to this Falconery as a hobby , years spent in Europe and an Opus Dei  side story in a way .At the start of this review I called this a Modernist Novel for me this was an attempt by Bolano to maybe do a Woolf or Joyce so to speak  an homage to their style in some ways I was most reminded of Mrs Dallowway in a way as it isn’t just one evening but also the course of a life in one book .

Have you read this or any shorter Bolano books ?

Letters to Poseidon by Cees Nooteboom

 

 

Letters to Poseidon by Cees Nooteboom

Dutch non fiction

Original title -Brieven aan Posiedon

Translator – Laura Watkinson

Source review copy

The hollow light is still on the fields
Where the winter has warmed
And the snows have drained away

And the hunter’s cry is still on the air
As the bullet flies home
And the heart that’s pierced with it

Still is racing
Still is racing all alone

The silver shoals of the light in the deep
Brush the glittering skin
Where the great, dark body writhes

And the trembling jaw
The unfathoming sounds of leviathan, bound
As his heart, though weakening

I choose Leviathon bound by Shearwater as my lyric for the book as it comes from an album that combines sea, birds  and myth in the songs source 

Cees Nooteboom is a  name often mentioned on this blog , I have interviewed him a number of years ago  and also the translator of this book  Laura watkinson .Well I have also  reviewed Cees books twice before in fact, so this is the third thread of his writing I’ll be reviewing as i have previously reviewed the novel In the dutch mountains  and the short story collection The foxes come at night  .So now I move onto a travel book of his , that is more than a travel book it is really a musing on life , art , history and the world we live in .

You are a god , and I am a man .That is however one looks at it , the state of affairs .But perhaps I might be permitted to ask you something  I have always wanted to know. What is a human being to the gods ? Do you despise us for being mortal ? or is the opposite the case ? Are you jealous because we are allowed to die ? Because your fate is , of course , immortality , even though we have no idea where you are now .

From Poseidon II , of course we never know the answer but we have to ask !

Letters to Poseidon is one of  those books that is very hard to pigeonhole as it is a collection of letters that Cees has written every year to a muse that of Poseidon (Greek god of the sea ) to protect his Menorcian home every time he leaves these are 23 slices of musings from the great Dutch writer  that are divided into a sections .A lot of the musings start from a conversation that he has with Poseidon that is about how the god has been viewed and represented in history .Also musings on items , events even nature .This is one of those books that is hard to describe as a whole as it is a mosaic of pieces rather like one of those photo mosaics with Poseidon being the big picture but lots little pictures on every subject under the sun making this picture up  .

At around midnight , here in a Germanic winter on the edge of the alps , I see him again , Orion , the blind hunter , the moon man of the mountains , Poseidon’s son , the most beautiful man there ever was , lured into the bed by the insatiable Eos , the drawn , who was tormented by unflagging lust as a punishment when Aphrodite caught her in bed with Ares , the god or war .I know Orion from winter nights in Amsterdam , when I see his shape above one of the canals .

from a piece called Orion , I know Orion as well he is one of the few constellations I can remember in the nights sky so have also seen him many a night as well .

Now I’ve been vague about the book and I don’t know why it isn’t a vague book , list a dam hard one to pass over its sheer brilliance fully .The nearest to it would be Sebalds work it has same feel of a mind at work musings become digression become little stories or thoughts even a mix of pictures like Sebald had .Leopardi would another writer that this book has reminded me of is Zibaldone by  Leopardi Nooteboom is exploring ideas the idea of sea and the nature of Poseidon , rather the same way Leopardi constantly muses of the way language evolved , Nooteboom exams how even now we view the god of the sea .Now this book yet again shows me Stu why I always highlight Cees Nooteboom as a potential Nobel winner as he has such vast skill , I really need to try his poetry next I think or hope his first novel which he mentioned in the interview as one to read published .I’m just sorry it took me a few months to review this book as it is one I feel most readers of this blog will get something from .

Have you read Cees Nooteboom ?

Shadow DSC prize winner

 

Well we have managed to read between Lisa ,Tara and myself to read all the shortlist and in the end had read forurteen books between us at least two or us had read the shortlised books.Not bad as we decide only just before christmas to do a shadow jury .Next year we will be more on the ball .

 

Shortlisted Authors:

  • Bilal Tanweer: The Scatter Here is Too Great (Vintage Books/Random House, India)
  • Jhumpa Lahiri: The Lowland (Vintage Books/Random House, India)
  • Kamila Shamsie: A God in Every Stone (Bloomsbury, India)    
  • Romesh Gunesekera: Noontide Toll (Hamish Hamilton/Penguin, India)       
  • Shamsur Rahman Faruqi: The Mirror of Beauty (Penguin Books, India)

So we weight up the list which for me was very strong a couple of writers quite well known , one truly epic novel , one new name to me at least and a short story collection from a writer I really like .So i just managed to finish the fifthn book last night and have two more to review , so thankfully the winner we choose was a book I have reviewed .

the mirror of beauty

We have chosen the Mirror of beauty for the first shadow DSC prize and it is the Epic The mirror of beauty by Shamsur Rahman Faruqi .I had this down as a favourite when the list came out as I had read the book before it came out here back in 2013 when the book had come out in Inida  here is my review .The book takes the life of the  mother of the poet Dagh , his mother Wazir Khanam life touches many in Mughal indian and we get a slice of the world at this time is this epic novel .We must also mention that it was run close in the shadow jury by Noontide toll  , we just felt this was maybe a book that lasts longer in the readers mind and soul .

have you read any books from the list ? would you like to take part next year?

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