The street kids by Pier Paolo Pasolini

The street kids by Pier Paolo Pasolini

Italian Fiction

Original title –  Ragazzi di Vita

Translator – Ann Goldstein

Source – review copy

Pier Paolo Pasolini is best known now as a filmmaker now and even the subject of a film of his own life  . Passolini was one of the leading lights in Italian cinema and also in writing during his time , unfortunately his life was cut short. I am pleased Europa editions had decide to do a new translation of his debut novel that at the time it came out cause a storm due to its subject matter of the kids on the street of post war Italy.

It was a very hot july day. Riccetto, who was supposed to take his first Communion and be confirmed, had gotten up at five ; but, heading down Via Donna Oilmpia in his long grey pants and white shirt, he looked more like a guy going out in his sunday best to pick up girls along the Tiber than like a communicant or a soldier of Jesus . With a group of boys like him , all in white shirts, he arrived at the church of divine providence, where at nine Don Pizutti gave him communion and at eleven the bishop confirmed him .

Maybe the first step on the road to being a man in Italy is being confirmed into the church .

The story follows a group of street kids in those chaotic post war year in Italy , well Rome Riccetto is a street boy but he is turning into a man and this is the story of that time when a boy becomes a man. The story is how this one boy and his friends try to get their world seen by the greater world . These boys steal to get by in their world , like steal chairs and then spend the money on food to get by but as they steal they also end up sometimes getting stolen off in turn. Then there is also the other part of boys becoming men and that is the sexual side , this sees them visiting ladies of the night with various results. This is a story of a tough world told by those inside it  and how hard it is to grow up in this world.

Discouraged, and displaying their discouragement with a sneer, the three delinquents sat on the parapet: Lenzetta was lying down, stomach up, with his hands under his dusty neck, singing, Riccetto sat on the edge with his legs dangling; only Alduccio was standing, leaning against the all with his hip and elbow, his legs nervously crossed.He was the only one who didn’t seem bored, who was awaiting events with some hope.

The gang are growing and trying to get by but also have many a fall along the way .

This is a book that is considered a classic of its time and it is it needs to sit alongside the likes rome open city the great post war master piece of Italian cinema , as a piece of neo realist art describing the post war struggle of Italy and it underclass that as is shown in the book was largely unknown as is shown by the boys wanting to get people to see them rather than turn the other cheek , there world is one that is maybe older than the one around them it is a world of thieves and a warp sense of honour among thieves  is maybe more from the world of a dickens novel. The main characters could almost be from Oliver Twist or even maybe part of Grass post war Danzig from the tin drum trilogy .

The Eskimo solution by Pascal Garnier

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The Eskimo Solution by Pascal Garnier

French Noir fiction

Original title – La Solution Esquimau

Translators – Emily Boyce and Jane Aitken

Source – review copy

I can’t believe that four years have flown since I first came across Pascal Garnier , when Gallic books sent me the first of thew late writers books and actually in the line of his publish” romans “(novels )the first .)I have reviewed four of his books before here is a link to the reviews. I have found his books funny and dark at the same time he had a very black humour that is all of his own. It safe to say every time a book o his drops through the letter box it is a treat.

Louis’s mother took all her medication for the week in one go on Monday morning so that she could be sure she wouldn’t forget. That was he best day of the week . She laughed at anything and nothing,spent an hour staring at the pattern on her waxed tablecloth, moved her knick-knacks about and invariably ended up embarking on a complicated recipe for which she only possessed a fraction of the ingredients. At eight O’clock, she collapsed in a heap for at least twelve hours .

Now this is a strange story that is set in Normandy a writer has taken a small cottage after an advance from his publisher he has taken to finish a novel he is writing. Now the novel is narrated by a man called Louis, and louis has a job and that is riding the world of Older people first he starts of with his own family member his mother and then spreads his wings and starts to help his friends with their relatives. with their older family members . Now the serial Killer Louis has been written in turn by the writer Louis and people around the writer louis of a certain age are also dying . Has his writing seep into the world or is he really Louis and a killer not a writer .

Ever day at the same time I go up to my study, read over these pages and ask myself,” What’s the point of writing a story I already know off by heart? “I’ve explained it to so many people that the tiresome formality of putting down on paper is about as exciting to me as opening the TV guide to discover The longest day  showing on every channel. In an ideal world I’d sell the story as it is, in its raw state, to someone who had some enthusiasm for writing it.Or didn’t but would write it all the same.

Louis with his story he knows so well maybe to well as it seeps into his world as he works on it himself .

This is one of the books that make you think as the lines between the real and written world blur for one man. I was reminded of the film stranger than fiction where Will Ferrel is a character in a book but doesn’t know it so is louis a character or the writer or one the same ?This as the novel moves on is harder to tell as the lines between them blur . What is being talked about and done by Louis  is  Seincide(killing the elderly )  as it is called is also what the title refers to this is where the Inuit used to place old people on the ice to float away and die .Many cultures have myths or old customs around killing the old and of course there is a number of books and films about it as well like Logan’s run where 30 is the oldest people can be or the novel wanting seed by Anthony Burgess which tackles over population and has various solution.,I feel this maybe was a writer playing with an Idea of real and written life blurring . He maybe could fleshed it out some more but, it is the usual length of his books which makes me wonder did he writer for a certain reader as I find his books can be read in an evening and keep ypou think all the next day and more in many cases. Another in the late writers Cannon and on his french wiki page it seems there is a number of other books still to come out .

Knowledge of Hell by Antonio Lobo Antunes

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Knowledge of hell by Antonio Lobo Antunes

Portuguese fiction

Original title – Conhecimento do Inferno

Translator – Clifford E Landers

Source – personnel copy

Well I can’t quite remember when i first heard of Antunes as a writer , I think it was back with an interview with Frank Wynne years ago. well the years went by I tried for a copy from the library they had one but it was a missing book. Then I had at times tried and failed to find him in book shops, but he seems to only be on shelves of larger waterstones or the LRB and then his books  seemed to have fallen behind what ever caught my eye that month. well a new shelf space at the new house has allowed me to bargain shop. Any way back to Antunes he was a psychiatrist and served in the portuguese army during the Angolan war he start to write a number of years after the wars, he mainly focused his early novels on the war years and its aftermath. This was his third novel.

The sea of the Algarve is made of cardboard like theater scenery, and the english don’t realize it: they conscientiously spread their towels on the sawust sand, protect themselves with dark glasses from the paper sun, stroll enthralled on the stage of Albufeira where public employees disguised as carnival barkers, squatting on the ground, inflict on them Moroccan necklaces secretly manufactured by the tourism board

The opening lines on leaving the Algarve Antonio Lobo Antunes is going home to Lisbon

There is almost a Borges type mirror to this story of a man driving home from his holiday in the Algarve back to Lisbon. Where the  narrator is working in the mental institution with the damage of the post war era of the Angolan conflict where he talks to those who suffered during the war. This si the journey home but almost like going back to hell as the spiral down the journey. As we see how the narrator who is also called Antonio Antunes like the writer himself struggles to control his role as listen helper and in a way god to those he is trying to heal.But he like many in his position is getting scared by those he is healing so the sadness falls as the near he gets to the centre.

I’ve never left the hospital, he thought as he received his change from the gasoline, observing the guy from whom the face, the gestures, the voice of Mr Carlos were slowly disappearing, the same way a smile dissipates in an old picture art the beach, or the acacias dissolves in the pale fog of October, as colourless and mute as the animals in dreams.Mr Carlos was slowly diappearing the employees were cleaning the windows of the station wagon in circular movements using a kind of sponge

he repeats the phrase I never left the hospital in this chapter as his mind wanders and he is remind of the hospital on his return journey.

This book is third in a trio of books he wrote on the Angolan war and its aftermath from the point of view of being a psychiatrist. I said this was like Borges with a mirror this is a reflective image of the writer himself but one with flaws like those old mirrors that twisted and bent the reflection in the light. I instantly got what everyone said about Antunes being a great writer , I don’t get the Faulkner comparison myself but there is a longing in his writing that almost sums up that portuguese word Saudade but a twist form of it a longing for what has happened not to have happened a sort of wishing the past away and want to remove the scars of a dark part of his country’s past. The wars in Angola were among the most brutal of african independence as Portugal struggled to keep a foothold in Africa. Have you read Antunes ?

Chester and Chest infections

Well I said last week I had a cough well it turns out it was a chest infection and I have to ride it out as it is viral  ,I’ve been off work this week on holiday which is lucky as I hadn’t felt up to work last couple of days I worked the last week. I had no real plans this week other than meeting my mum in Chester for the day as it is halfway between us. Which was a lovely day even if I cough too much.I enjoyed seeing my mum and showing Amanda a new place.

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There is one of the most famous sites of Chester the clock , it was strange going there as it was more than twenty years since last time I had been and on that occasion we had seen the band the Damned wandering around the city. This event strangely echo when a punk with a full pink Mohican passed us as we had a coffee. Anyway like all book bloggers a new city is a chance to visit a book shop but I am a fan of Oxfam so I choose there and found this three books

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I have long wanted to find a few Saul Bellow books to read having read herzog and the dangling man years ago and this set of two from the same Penguin series was a great find , especially as Bellow described the character in Henderson and the rain king the nearest to him as an actual person . Then I found this gem from Ukraine

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The Odessians follows three families through the 20th century described as a beautiful and evocative story and a timeless message of hope . Well I hope as I’m now taken lots tablets to help clear my chest infection I may in the next day or two be able to catch up on some reviews and reading . How are you all what you been up to recently ?

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Summer blues

Since I moved earlier in the summer I’m finding my reading time has vanished some what  sure it is a small bump but I’m enjoying evening in our new sofa with Amanda and add to that I’ve a terrible cough which has given me a headache by the end of each day which is one of my usual reading days. That said I have been enjoying my first Antonio Lobo Antunes one of a few Portuguese writers I have lined up books from . Do you have a dip in reading in the summer or at any time ? 

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