an idea for scoring books

I m not a fan of star 1 to 5 on books ,myself i tend to score things 4 or 5 myself on good reads because i see merit in most books even if i haven’t enjoyed them as much as i wished i had .So i had a radical idea for describing books that is using animals ,mad but if the book is lively and quick to read I’d say it was a cheetah ,slow but interesting maybe be a sloth ,epic but memorable would be an elephant ,for example what people think ?

How do you score your books ?

please note this was my idea !


Neighbours -the story of a murder by Lilia Momple

Lilia Momple

Notes –

Lilia Momple is from Mozambique she trained in social services before becoming a writer she has written a number of novels ,her main influence is her grandmother how told her stories ,with fragile heros .she has lived in London and Brazil ,she was also  head of the Mozambican writers union .

The book –

The story follow three house in a village during an evening and the morning ,there is a backdrop of the new state of Mozambique finding its feet after being a portuguese colony ,as we travel round the house we find out about family histories disappointing marriages ,traitors, abuse and secrets . Narguiss is a quiet woman that wants a quiet life but has a number of issues in her life a husband that wanders .Dupont a guy that has a secret and seems to be easily lead ,this leads to a thrilling climax as worlds collide and actions have to be done .all this and the intrigue of south Africans trying to unsettle the fledgling Mozambique .

From the small verandah of her flat ,Narguiss is once again contemplating the sky where contrary to what the moulanas say must be ,not even a trace of the moon can be seen .It is clear may sky dotted with stars of such intense brightness that they give the impression of being very close by ,But Narguiss can see nothing of the moon and this makes her feel disappointed and uneasy .

The opening chapter – Moulanas -means islamic priest .


My view –

I love this story it had parts ,I like the end of empire new countries finding there feet ,village life which i think is the same whether its set in the world ,it shows us how similar we are in character .Lilia has a real way of telling stories ,you can see how her grandmother’s influence her story telling and the link to the oral tradition of stories .If you like a tale of family and intrigue this will be up your street .

Garden of silica by Ida Vitale pt1


Ida is from Uruguay and considered one of the leading female voices from south america ,she has won the Octavio Paz prizes for her poetry ,she lived in Uruguay til 1973 and since in exile first in Mexico then U.S.A. ,this collection on salt is the first of her works to be translated ,she started writing poetry in 1949 and still writes ,she was part of what was known as the generation of 45 that included a number of brazilian poets ,where they drew on surrealism and symbolism . this first post is about the early poems in the book .

A poem quote –


standing on the serpents box ,

the queen ,lifted by the angels

or demons,goes behind the sorcery .

A trail of pins has opened for her

so she may dance on their tips……..

the opening of Queen sphinx .

My view –

The opening few poems in this collection,show Ida’s sparse use of language like a branch whittled done to make something fine and wonderfully fragile at the same time ,there is a bit of surreal /magic realism you would expect from a south american poet /writer ,there is also a feeling of the domestic world of a female talk of kitchens a list of a daily routine imagined as a poem .A recurring theme is labyrinths ,the desert labyrinth ,the island labyrinth .this collection is part of salts earthwork collection  ,the book has been loving translated by the two translators Katherine Hedeen and Víctor Rodríguez Núñez and you feel the spirit of the original work without any chunkiness ,that you sometimes find in translated poetry .

Next time i ll bring the middle section and see if mexico influences Ida’s poetry .

75 Penguins for penguins 75th


This year is penguins 75th birthday ,the idea of Allen Lane who wanted to provide cheap books for the masses ,the orginals where 6pennys ,very cheap at the time and had the design classic orange /white /orange strips ,On the picture i feature a row of different strip designs the earliest is my 1940’s George Bernard Shaw ,I ve try to use all ages of books from 50’s onwards .This year to celebrate penguin has brought out the decades series using a group of designs with connections to the choosen decade ,my favourite in picture is my 3 vol Proust as i have yet to read it .

Habe you a favourite penguin ?

the labyrinth of solitude by octavio paz

Notes –

Paz was one of the greatest writers from mexico he wrote numerous novel and poems ,he was also very active politically during his life and commented on numerous latin american and spanish causes during his life .He was awarded the nobel prize for literature on 1990 and is only third mexican to win a nobel and only nobel laureate in literature .this book is considered his masterpiece .

The Book –

The book is a journey through in a number of different chapters what it is to be mexican ,it examines the mexican psyche ,the history ,there are a number of recurring theme that keep appearing like spain ,indian culture and the Catholic church ,Paz weaves the story with the mexican nation being describe as though they where a person and what are characteristics that are common to all mexican like often a mixed heritage of native indian and spanish family background .how spain running lead to the revolution and the beginning of the mexican state and the laws of the stat regarding education etc ,the church’s influence over everyday life and the state as a whole ,also how the church has adapt to the mexicans as a people .the is lots of mysticism like the journey of being mexican like the ancient quests of labyrinths and how every mexican has this deep well of solitude at the core .

Any contact with the mexican people, however brief ,reveals that the ancient belief and customs are still in existence beneath western forms .These still living remains testify to the vitality of the pre-courtesian cultures .and after discoveries of archeologists and historians  it is no longer possible to refer to these societies as savage or primitives tribes.

the opening of the fifth chapter .

My view –

Paz has encapsulated what to be a mexican is here and it is wonderful reading the history views perception of mexico ,mexico has always fascinated me a country of vast contrasts in class on the edge of the richest country in the world the politics ,chaos of its capital ,I heard that Martin Amis said China and Japan are going to be the new literary centres but i have a feeling mexico has something to tell us all the vast metropolis of mexico city is sure to stir up many amazing stories in the future and as a book to give you a start on the track of mexican lit this has been a great help for me into this vibrant and diverse country .The edition i borrowed from  library was in 1967 ,in later versions a 10th essay was added to the 9 orginals ,this essay dealt with a massacre in 1968 that lead to Paz resighning as an ambasador for mexico in India where he had spent a lot of his later life ,this edition was translated by lysander kemp and was the first translation available .

world cup of writers -Slovenia

The writers –

Now ,I have read one Slovenian writer to my knowledge and that is the political thinker Slavoj Zizek his first as tragedy the as farce ,I ve look round the net found a couple of other book reviewed by the complete review the Cartier project byMiha Mazzini and also mocking desire by Drago Jancar .Ljubljana the capital of Slovenia is world book capital this year a link here to translate first page of the site . there is a list of more books on the site .There is a few new writers to me I ll be looking up and reading in future .

Learn Slovenian

Ljubljana � World Book Capital 2010

The world cup –

Slovenia as a separate country is a relatively new country having been part of the former Yugoslavia ,their other world cup appearance was in 2002 when they got knocked out in the group stage my main memory was the talents of their star player  Zlatko ZAHOVIC a playmaker in the typical Balkan playmaker role of Boban or  Prosenscki in the past .


A beat gets the beat

On twitter the other day on the book chat/writer chat #litchat was about writers having other talents ,well next day i remember an album from 1990 that featured the beat legend William S Burroughs and the hip hop group beatnigs that became disposable hero of hiporsay and then spearhead .I had this album as a fan of beat writers in my teens William S Burroughs was a master of the cut up technique of avant grade writing .This poem /song is very powerful and even more so with Williams sombre tomes reading it over the beat of the music .

alphabet of the night by Jean-Euphele Milce


Notes –

Jean is a Haitian writer born in 1969 this is his debut novel ,he currently lives in switzerland in self-imposed exile ,he studied linguistics in Haiti and later taught Creole literature he also founded a literary magazine lire Haiti(read Haiti) .

The book –

the book follows jewish shopkeeper Jeremy Assael who is homosexual and has a partner Lucien ,the book starts of with the shop opening and the precautions they have to take to safe guard them selfs ,Shortly after this Lucien is killed in front of the shop by a corupt police man after vengeance against them .This sends Jeremy on a journey around Haiti in search of answers to who he is ,what his place is whether its in Haiti or in exile ,Jeremy wants to find a long-lost school friend who he thinks may have the answers too these questions .he heads to talk to the holy people of this island a voodoo priest and a revered bishop ,he dances with old ladies and we see the everyday life of Haiti unfold in front of our eyes .

The dawn brings me its first tints in changing swirls of colour .Port au-Prince always wakes tp find its cries ill-expresseds sorrows smoothered by a pall of smoke .Rising up from the ground ,hopes destroyed by the daily struggle for survival hangs over a place that has lost all sense of being a capital.

the opening of alphabet of the night .

My views –

This book evokes the obvious tension of Haiti ,of course it has been in the news with the earthquake recently ,but you sense on every page the menacing atmosphere of the country ,yet its spirit to get by no matter what troubles face its people ,we also discover the dilemma facing many people in the third world whether to flee and try to establish a new life in the usa .Jean Euphele is an exciting writer and a new voice for the region .

Links –

Jean on the earthquake in Haiti

Cafe Europa life after communism by Slavenka Drakulic

Slavenka Drakulic

Notes – Slavenka lives in Sweden and is married to a swedish national ,she is one of the most respected Croatia writers and journalist ,she lived in Croatia til the early 1990’s .She has published a number of novels and other books of non fictions .she worked on a newspaper and magazine in Zagreb from 1982 to 1992 .

The book –

The book is a collection of short essays on the Balkans mainly they range from historic to personal and tell how Croatia mainly but also the other Balkan country’s cope post communism the book was written in 1996 ,the story slavenka tells are wonderful ,the first follows the changes of names in Croatia post communism how things change to Europa instead of the communist names ,elsewhere there are story’s interconnect about the period in the second world war when Croatia side with the germans her father a Croat joining Tito partizans the effect this had on him ,a interview with a former camp commandant from that period who still felt he’d done nothing wrong .and Slavenkas trip to Israel and the fact she was one of the few Croats to travel there but also the questions of Croatia’s role in second world war .there are some funny tales like running round wien (vienna) trying to buy a vacuum cleaner and get the shop to give them a receipt for 99 dollars as that is the max they could take in with out duty .There is also the tale of Tito ‘s wife that still lives in Serbia but doesn’t have id ,pension and lives of state charity the accept she is there but don’t acknowledge the fact .and my favourite is a tale set in london where Paddy Ashdown is in a conversation with the Croat president of the time Tudjman where he ask Tudjman about the future of the region and is drawn a map of what Tudjman see’s and what in the end did happen .

Since her husband’s death ,Tito’s wife Jovanka Broz has lived in a villa in Dedinje surrounded by bodyguards .With their permission she goes out on rare occasions she doesn’t not own the villa ,but she doesn’t pay rent for it ,either .How could she when she doesn’t even get her husbands pension? Jovanka Broz enjoys Serbia’s state “charity”,although it is forced upon her .

from story Who’s afraid of Tito’s wife .

My view –

I so enjoyed this book ,i ve always had an interest in the Balkan’s ,since i worked in a factory in germany in early nineties with Serbs,Croats ,Bosnians and kosvions the tale’s the told made my hair stand on end and also made me think ,this book does the same and brought back memories of that time some of the oddities of the communist world and the strong nationalism of the time ,this book is like a fly caught in amber ,it has wonderfully caught a period of great changer in the Balkans ,it makes you laugh ,cry and think in equal measures which is no mean feat .

independant foreign fiction 2010 winner

indy 2010 winner

the winner of the independant foreign fiction prize 2010 is    the brodeck’s report by   Phillipe Claudel  translated by john Cullen .all the winners were praised by Boyd tonkin ,the winner was announced by Kirsty wark this evening .this is a dark post warcrime novel is dark and  kafkaesque book that has been a firm favourite with bloggers ,and was a not the tv book club pick earlier in the year .

the forethoughts about this book by my good blogger friend robaroundbooks

well done  MacLehose Press on the win .

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May 2010


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