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 .


As Ghana play today and hopefully get through to the next round I ask Kinna who lives in Ghana to do the Ghana writers post for me ,many thaks Kinna and best of luck for the black stars .

World Cup of Writers – Ghana


I’m Ghanaian by birth and so I’m quite familiar with the writers of my country.  I will discuss some of my favorites. I consider Efua Sutherland as the mother of Ghanaian writing.  She was a dramatist and her plays, Edufa and the Marriage of Anansewa, are masterpieces and quite representative of African drama.  Then there is Ama Ata Aidoo, a novelist, dramatist and poet.  Aidoo’s books include Changes, Our Sister Killjoy and No Sweetness Here. All really good. Her play, Anowa, is an excellent exploration of Ghana’s role in the Slave Trade.   Next, Ayi Kwei Armah, the novelist.  His novel, The Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born is also a favorite of mine.  I also like the works of Kojo Laing.

Among the ‘younger writers, I love the works of Nii Ayikwei Parkes – his latest book is Tail of the Blue Bird. Amma Darko, who in Faceless, explored the plight of street children in Ghana.  Others include Mohamed Naseehu Ali, his book The Prophets of Zongo is a good read. I know of two writers who write mysteries/crime drama, a rarity among African writers.  They are Yaba Badoe, her book is True Murder.  The other is Kwei Quartey and his book is Wife of the Gods.

World cup memories – 

 Ghana’s national soccer team is known as the Black Stars.  Although, we’ve been quite a force on the African continent, the country qualified for the FIFA World Cup in 2006. We played well and managed to get out of the group stages into the round of 16.  The most memorable game was the final game in the group against the United States. Ghana won the match 2-1.  Unfortunately, we faced Brazil in the round of 16 and were sent home. 


world cup or writing nigeria

Sorry been a while since posted one of these ,Englands poor start has put dampers on world cup a bit .


The most well-known Nigerian writer is probably Ben Okri a huge favourite of my self famished road is a true masterpiece of african magic realism ,now there is also Biyi Bandele that i am just reading he is based in the uk his Burma boy follows a young man in the second world war in Burma and a Nigerian N.C.O sergant ,I ve also Kachi A Ozumba on my T.B.R pile ,I ve also enjoyed Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche her collection of short stories thing around the neck .T.M Aluko has also written a number of books also Ogail Ogali has written a lot of books ,I feel Nigeria as the largest country in africa population wise has loads of stories to tell us in the future .

World cup memories –

I first remembered them in there first world cup in 94 in the usa ,a great team that managed to qualify for last sixteen after beating Bulgaria and Greece in qualifying ,they had star striker daniel Amokochai ,who later played for Everton in the premiership ,I remember their great goal celebrations ,In 98 they knocked spain out in group stages ,also had Tarbio west playing a huge defender with wonderfully coloured braids .

i m linking this to Amy reads Nigerian challenge .

The twin (dutch title it is quiet) by Gerbrand Bakker

The detour by Gerbrand Bakker

Dutch fiction

Translator – David Colmer

Source – Library

This was Bakker’s début novel ,he has written piece for magazines and is a fully qualified gardener ,writes for the green Amsterdam ,the twin was he debut novel ,in his native Netherlands he has also a collection of stories from his blog and newspaper stories ,also a second novel june .This his debut is set in Platteland of north Netherlands an area of mainly farming and sparsely populated we join Helmer a farmer in his fifties with his father upstairs knocking on death’s door ,Helmer starts to wonder about his life ,his departed twin brother Henk and his future whilst still running the families small farm we find what made him stay and his brother leave the farm and how he settle in the community and made friend with visitors to the farm yet has always felt tied to the family farm whilst his brother had the chance to escape their family life .

Mother was an outrageously ugly woman .Someone who who hadn’t known her would probably consider the photo on the mantlepiece laughable : bony , pop-eyed farmer’s wife with thrice yearly hair does her best to assume a dignified pose .I don’t laugh at the photo she’s my mother .

Helmer describes his mother .

Bakker has written a wonderful tale of families lost dreams ,but also hope Helmer is a man who has lost a life but may have a chance to live .The scenery is wonderfully described you get the feeling of isolation and strangeness of platteland ,a bit like Norfolk or southern Scotland a place with isolated farming communities that have people who are almost caught out of time at times like Helmer is he seems a character from an earlier ages someone out of sync with the modern world but wants to live in it more than he had done .Bakker use;s certain items well the Opel Kaddet is like the means of escape from home at time and the Bosman windmill is like a giant winder dragging him back to the farm ,you get to see this world so well .The book has just won the Impac award in Dublin ,it also been shortlisted for the best translated book award from three percent .the book has been translated by David Colmer .


A dutch cow ,the setting is farming the are in the story a lot and like a brown cow story is very pretty .

Nazi literature in the americas by Roberto Bolano trans chris andrews

Bolano saves my reading block

Now last year when I read my first two Bolano books I knew I d started a wonderful journey with a truly unique writer ,Bolano grew up in Chile but then became a traveler of the world spending time in Mexico and eventually settling in Spain with a wife and Children ,his life has already become the stuff of myth so what is real and what has been elaborated on his hard to say so at least to say he died age 55 from liver problems ,He wrote a few time and mention in interviews his love of Jorge Luis Borges

The territory marking my generation is one of rupture. It is a highly rupturist generation, a generation that wants to leave behind not only the boom but what the boom has generated, which is a generation of very commercial writers. It is the territory of parricide on one hand. And on the other, it is the territory of the Borgesian. One must investigate every fringe, every path that Borges has left behind

Read more:

 the argentine master of the surreal now this book is an homage to the master ,the book consists of a number of short chapters ,then sub grouped in to groups each describing a different imagined writer with ultra right leaning ,this serve as as a perfect vehicle for describing the latin american history of the times ,and also the influx of people escaping the second world war and their influence on the literature of the second half of the 20th century ,we start with writer that have been directly involved with the german nazi party ,either promoting them in south america or going and fighting alongside the germans in germany and being feted for doing so  Then people post war that still want to keep alive the dreams of aryan nations ,through the upheavals and revolutions of the 60 and 70s with figure like Pinochet and Peron lingering in the background ,the skins culture of california is also touch on ,and latterly the link between football hooligans and the right-wing politics much echo in europe by books like the football factory and its ilk ,Bolano fills out the books these people have written just enough to make them seem real enough ,like Borges Bolano uses real events and imagined characters to weave the turbulent history of latin america and also latin american and european relations during this time .Theis book although a few years old still feels current there is a recent news story in peru about a character in tv program shows that racism and right-wing attitudes are still prevalent in latin america .Bolano was often at odds with writers of his own generation feeling they we re to influenced by the boom generation of Marquez and the other latin american boom writers  and not enough by Borges and the earlier generation of latin american writers ,this book is testament to what he said ,although not as acknowledge as 2666 or savage detectives it is maybe the best representation of what Bolano liked to read and the writers that influenced him .

winstons score –

like a anteater you get to digest this book in small chunks ,also Bolano ripped apart modern latin american lit like a anteater with a ant hill .

the inheirtance blog tour questions with Peter Stephan Jungk

The other week i was asked to take part in the blog tour for Peter Stephan Jungk new book in english the inheritance ,I ask to ask Peter some questions here are his answer my review will follow next week .
1. Why did you choose to set inheritance in south America ,had you visited the places mention in the book ?
yes, i know the places described in the novel rather well: caracas and panama. they are very different from one another, surprisingly different, considering how close they are geographically. venezuela seems terribly harsh and unwelcoming, panama quite the opposite.


2. the themes in the book seem tireless greed and deceit ,was this intend ,as the book could have been set at any point in the last 500 years ?
i’m afraid  greed and deceit will remain themes humanity will live with for as long as humanity exists. the intention was of course to show how ruthless one becomes when money is involved, even when family ties or close friendships are involved. money and greed can kill family bonds and friendships. 


3 .Your father was a famous writer how has this effected or influenced your own writing ?
he had no influence on my writing whatsoever, but don’t forget robert jungk was purely a non-fiction writer. his influence on me was tremendous as a personality, his values, his way of seeing the world. but not re. literature or writing.
4. I know your a fan of the writer Franz Werfel and wrote his biography is he a big influence and can you tell us briefly about him as he is not so well known in U.K ?
werfel interested me in the first place for his biography, his life torn by history, growing up in prague, living in vienna, france, fleeing to america. his marriage to alma mahler, his conflict with judaism. not so much his writing. although i find two novels quite amazing: “the 40 days of musa dagh” about the armenian massacre in 1915/16 and his strange science fiction novel, completed a few days before he died: ” star of the unborn”…


5 .the character of Konrad Krishman seemed to have another story to tell about his escape from Germany may you return to him at some point ?  
no, i never ever even want to even think of this wretched character again, ever!


6. How closely did you work with Michael Hofmann on the translation ?
michael is a dear friend and i trust him completely. as soon as i read his translation, i felt that very, very little needed to be done.


7 Is there Plans for any more of your wonderful books to be translated ?
thank you for your compliment! 4 of my other books are translated into english so far:

– shabbat – a rite of passage in jerusalem, times books, new york, 1983

– franz werfel, a life torn by history, weidenfeld & nicolson, 1991

– the snowflake constant, faber and faber, 2002  
– the perfect american, other press, 2004, will be adapted as an opera by philip glass in 2013

the rest of blog tour dates 

The Truth About Lies 14th June

Wormauld: a Life in Books and Music June

Winstonsdads Blog 17th June

A Common Reader 18th June

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June 2010


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