man on the move by Otto De kat


Otto De Kat is the pen name of publisher and literary critic Jan Geurt Gaarland ,he has written a number of other novels in dutch ,this is the second of his books translated in to english from dutch this translation is by Sam Garrett that has worked previously on Geert mak and Tim Krabbes books ,he won the Vondel award .Man on the move’s story revolves around rob a young man who can’t wait to escape his home land of the Netherlands ,and heads south to South Africa in search of adventure and fortune in the mines of South Africa ,but this is 1935 and huge movements are under foot around the world and are going to drag Rob in to them as he joins the Dutch army and meets a friend Guus a fellow dutch man ,as time  moves on Rob gets drawn in to the dutch conflict in the East Indies ,end up in Japan Manila then Back in South Africa ,along the way Rob loses Guus and thinks back on this lose and his upbringing in Holland .Rob never seems to be able to settle .

Johannesburg bore no resemblance to the place where the great adventure had begun .solider of fortune Ha!Soldier of luck , solider of destiny ,solider of fate : take your pick.soilder perhaps ,but fortune and luck had dragged their feet and fallen to far behind .soldier of fate ,ill-fated soldier ,ill-equipped in any case .

Rob returns to South Africa after being in the army.

Otto De Kat has written A wonderful work on an area of the second world war that is often overlooked the dutch involvement in the pacific war ,they had colonies all over mainly Java thou that was attack ,see this through robs eyes was eye-opening he shows you what comradeship is in the friendship and lose of Guus .In some ways you would say that Rob suffered what is now called post traumatic stress post war ,he wanders the world never settling ,like a boat that has lost its moorings and is adrift on the sea of life .This book is very like the writings of the great Dutch writer Slauerhoff who also wrote about constantly moving in the inter war year of the 20’s and 30’s .The book was publish first by Machlehose press in hard back and the Paperback is out on Quercus this week


the score for this book is the wonderful wandering albatross they never settle and wander the globe a bit like Rob

Tv book club (translation alternatives )


The tv book club started again on sunday and yet again has no translated books in the list so I ve looked at the books on the list and choose world lit titles some classic some new . that have similar themes or characteristics to the chosen books .


Now the help is set in the south of the us in 60’s about a women raising children ,Now weep not child Thiong’o debut novel set in Kenya deals with the change in colonial rule and  and a young black boys struggle to better himself ,time wise books set similarly ,both books are about people struggling in an unjust society one in us the other in Kenya .

The reunion by Simone van der Vlught (the man who disappeared)

The man who disappeared ,is about a wife who is searching for the truth about her husband who is accused of a crime and how much she knew him ,now the reunion concerns Sabine and her friend from school Isabel who disappeared whilst at school ,a school reunion makes Sabine want to find out what happened to her friend .

The frozen heart by Alumdena Grandes (the legacy) –

Erica in the legacy goes to her grandmother’s house and unravels family secrets and histories ,Now in frozen heart a women turns up at funeral and opens the secrets life of the man being buried ,going back to the civil was in spain and second world war frozen heart is an epic spanish novel .

the Castle in the Pyrenees by Jostein Gaarder (the bed i made )

The bed i made follows Kate who has to escape an obsessive love .Castle is about two lovers coming together after thirty years apart ,as with most Gaarder books this book makes you think about place time and ultimately love ,as you see a couple remember what made them love one another .

My name is red by Orhan Pamuk (stones fall)

I loved stones fall when I read it last year ,Now chosen My name is red as it has mystery elements ,historical facts in the vein of stones fall like Pears Pamuk is a wonderfully vivid writer .

patience stone by Atiq Rahmi (Ellis Island )-

Ellis island is about Elie a Irish girl who is went to the us a and then had to return to rural Ireland and adjust to the change of life that she seems to have outgrown .The patience stone follows a wife looking after her comatized husband discovering freedom of thought and dealing with her place in the world ,put these together as they both seem to be about women that glimpse a bit of freedom .

Running by Jean Echenoz -(The devils acre) – 

The devils acres follows Samuel’s colts secretary and a involvement in murder ,I choose running as it is also a fictionalized account of  a famous figure in this case the runner Emil Zatopek I read one of Jeans other books and love his style so sure this is a winner .

beside the sea by Veronique Olmi (the weight of silence ) –

The weight of silence seems a powerful story about two girls disappearing and not being heard from and people being under suspicion .well beside the sea involves two children and their mother ,this too is a powerful and touching story .

Now this choices are subjective and in a lot of case very tentative links to tv book club summer reads list but ,as Lou reed says if you want to take a walk on th wild side give some of these a whirl along side the summer reads and see what you think  ?

Beside the sea by veronique Olmi

Veronique Olmi has written numerous books and plays beside the sea (Bord de mer ) was her debut novel and won the alain fournier prize in france ,this is her first novel to be published in english ,the story follows a unnamed mother with her two sons Kevin and stan(these are the names in the french version and not anglianized).

Kevin wanted his pyjamas ,his hotel pyjamas ,the ones with Mickey mouse on on them , and its funny how it reassured him putting them on ,they smelt like home , he said  .Well its really worth the trouble taking them away !I thought , but the smell cheered me up , too, it smelt of my washing powder and of damp ,the smell of my little boy ,I put my head against his neck ,necks are the softest bit on a child .

early on in the book staying at hte hotel by the seaside .


 On a trip to the seaside in the usual french fashion in summer when the hoards decamp from the city to the coast ,staying at a small hotel ,they spend day by the beach and on amusments mother taking good care of the boys but there is always a sense of some forbodding may be the mother is to careful ,the real world is a scary place,the book is narrated by the boys mother a lady that as the story unfolds over the 110 pages get more unbalenced leading to the shocking climax of the book .This is the first of the peirne titles no1 .In what Mekie the publisher calls movie books a book short ,yet touching at the same time ,so the reader can sit and read within  a couple of hoours ,it would also make a great commute book I d imagine small easy for a jacket pocket or small bag ,now this story is like a film from the kitchen sink era of films in the late 50 and 60 ‘s ,ordniary life but with extraordniary events happening within those lives .Also the french film le boucher has a similar feel to this novel ,first off everything seems ok the main charcater seems ok on the surfacebut like the mother in this book hides a very dark secret .the lack of detail like the mothers name actual setting dosen’t stop this story flowing off the page ,the beauty of the writing is in the description of the boys and the mothers internal fellings . Amanda my wife wants to read this book too which is nice she mainly reads true life books .


Here are some of the latest books i have got or been sent –

Santa Evita and The Tango Singer by Tomas Eloy Martinez ,now been wanting to read Martinez for a while ,the tango singer his last book follows one man’s journey through Buenos Aires in search of a famous tango singer that has never been recorded this leads to numerous interesting encounters en – route i got this in Sheffield on friday then today saturday was at book sale and got Santa Evita a telling of Eva Peron story I m hoping this is less saccharin than the musical and I get to find out more about this famous woman .

Dirty Havana Trilogy by Pablo Juan Gutierrez set in Havana’s consider a dirty realism classic in this book we experience the underbelly of this city it vices ,sex and drugs .

The land of Ulro by Czeslaw Milosz ,Milosz won the nobel in 1980 this is a prose piece about Poland and Lithuania the instytut ksiazki describes it as a intellectual and literary autobiography .this was a book sale bargain

Death in  Bordeaux by Alain Massie ,this is from Quartet ,the first of a trilogy we join inspector Lannes in the second world war Bordeaux france in the grips of the Vichy regime a homosexual man is found dead ,then another Lannes has to tread carefully to find the killer

Yalo by Elias Khoury

Elias Khoury is one of the foremost living Arabic writers originally from Lebanon ,his has taught widely at universities in the US ,His fist novel was Published in 1975 ,His books are mainly about his homeland and its political systems and struggles .YALO was publishes in 2002 in arabic and translated by Humphrey Davies .We met Yalo a young man under arrest by the Lebanon police authorities for a suspect robbery and rape on his love Shireen ,as it opens he is under integration to unnamed integrators ,we get to hear his sad life story over and over ,it dribbles ont in dream and nightmare like snippets what lead him to committing the crime he is accused of we follow the from start to finish ,your are left to really decide what happens and are given an insight in to the brutal tactics used by the police ,also how suppressed Yalo was growing up within a worn torn city and on the back streets of this city .The only bright spot in his horrendous life is a short amount of time he had spent in Paris but even then he is on the run and had to be rescued to get back to Beirut by an arms dealer .Now a review of the book it is compared to Kafka and yes it is like a modern “the trail” complete with twist sub plots ,dead ends and constantly twisting story of Yalo seems very real thou . but with a full 18 rating ,this confessions is drawn out by blood and bruises.

Yalo didn’t understand what was happening .The young man stood before the interrogator and closed his eyes ,which is what he always did .He closed his eyes when facing danger ,he closed he closed them when he was alone ,he closed them when his mother ….on that day to the morning of 22 december ,1993,he closed his eyes involuntary .Yalo didn’t understand why everything was white .

The opening of Yalo where your straight in the heart of the story .

This book highlights the brutality of the Lebanese police and the political system .Khoury has always court controversy with his ability to lift the lid on his homelands many and complexed stories and politics ,a country that spent many years war-torn and still has to come to terms with it especially in the book which is set in the early 1990’s ,this is an engrossing but not an easy read but you reap the rewards of finishing it ,a modern Arabic classic .The book is Published By quercus and is out in paperback earlier this year .

this is the first of my summer arabic reading challenge..

Winston score –

Rattler live in hot places twists and turns and packs a hell of a bite Just like Yalo .

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