For bread alone by Mohamed Choukri

This is my second read for the arabic summer reading challenge it is Mohamed Choukri’s the first of his trilogy of autobiographical novels ,Chourki lived a lot of what is in for bread alone ,having himself lived on the streets of Tangiers as a child .on its publication in 1966 it was banned in morocco ,til 2005 when it was finally published . so the book starts with Mohamed’s poor family deciding to move to Tangiers in search of a better life ,as their is a terrible drought and starvation where they are .

My mother kept telling me : be quiet .tomorrow we,re leaving for Tangier .there,s all the bread you want there .you won’t be crying for bread any more once we get to Tangier .

so the family set of ,and things don’t go well along the way the young Mohamed loses siblings and has to deal with his tyrannical father and when they reach Tangier he is drawn in to the seedy side of the cosmopolitan city ,end up in a world of petty criminal and lady’s of the night  .this is the start of a downward spiral for the young Mohamed .His brutal father beats on of his siblings to death .Mohamed eventually ends up in the arms of the law and prison ,which turns out to be his redemption as he discovers the written word and that there is more to life than what he has already seen ,

My little brother never had chance to sin .All he did was to live his illness .the old man who had helped to bury him told me : your brother is with the angels .has he become an angel  perhaps ? And I what shall I become ? A devil ,most likely .They say the little ones are angels and the big ones devils ,and it,s too late for me .

The end of the book you sense Mohamed has grown .

This book is simple written as a straight narrative ,in place Mohamed ‘s story remind me of Dickens stories you get the same sense of a large city having a dark underbelly and a dark underclass of people .He also wonderful transports you to the Tangiers of the time ,a real melting pot of a city with ex pat french and spanish arabs ,Berbers and others .In places this book is brutal ,Mohamed had a hard life but in the end you are given hope .Paul Bowles worked alongside Chourki on this translation ,as you’d expect it is fluid Bowles is a great writer himself and did a great job on Mohamed’s book .The book is published by Telegram book .

Winston’s score –


a camel ,there stubborn born survivors ,and a essential in north africa still ,very like this book ! 

this is part of the arabic lit challenge.


Here is a wonderfully bookish song by the wonderful divine comedy ,Neil Hannon is a wonderful song writer and writes very bookish Lyrics ,this list song is very clever .

also remember to start reading your don Quixote next monday for windmills of the mind readalong .first discussion 2 weeks today on 26th july .

bright young things summer

I ve decide to bring some 1920’s and 30’s joy in to my summer reading and read three classics of  the era I ve ordered them from library so just have to wait they are –


I ve read other Waughs this was Waughs first novel and is set in the heart of the bright young thing scene and follows paul pennyweather from heady days in Oxford to a teaching job in Wales and also his involvement in boilnger club .


Henry green is someone I ve been meaning to get too for a long time , party going is a book about a group of bright young things caught in a hotel where the action all takes part in his day Green was Waughs greatest rival ,but in the last decade has fallen out of favour ,this is considered his best book .


This is the second part of his twelve novel cycle a dance to the music of time ,last summer I read the first part of the cycle question of upbringing ,so again I join Nick Jenkins this time he has left school and uni ,now enters society in the late 20’s

A slight change from usual books but I do love english classics so be a nice summery read for me

The last brother by Nathacha Appanah

Nathacha is an india born Mauritian writer she currently lives of the coast of Madagascar on a small island ,The last brother is her debut novel and in france won the FNAC fiction prize .she has written 3 other novels also winning prizes for blue bay palace ,see start as a journalist in her native Mauritius before in 98 going to france where she has worked in print media and radio .The last brother is set in the middle of the second world war we join Raj a young boy who has lost his brother distant from his hard-working father ,looking for friends and a way to deal with the loss of his brother meanwhile David arrives with 1500 Jews that have been deported from Palestine in their search for the promised land ,they arrive in Mauritius ,this is where Raj and David meet both have suffer loses and quickly they form a bond and become each others brothers so to speak ,David goes on the run from the prison camp ,where it happens Raj’s father is a guard the two boys escape through the tough swamps and landscape ,David not being in the best of health struggles .The book is a wonderfully poetic book and at just 200m pages long is what I call a weekend book one I read last saturday in a day ,Nathacha has done a great Job highlighting the plight of the people who didn’t make the promised land .

Then David made a very curious gesture .He plunged two fingers into the earth ,the laid them ,all covered in soil against his breast and ,his hand upon his beating heart said ERETZ .My mother began to weeping softly ,because she herself had probably understood that he was speaking of the promised land .

Raj sees how much the promised land means to David .

Told through Raj’s eyes you get a childlike view of the world where he is unconcerned with borders country’s and border ,just in his friend and brother David ,This book is one of the most touching books I ve read .The translation by Geoffrey Strachan is seamless as you’d expect from him .Raj and David will live with me for a long while ,the scenery of Mauritius as well .

I picture that blond child again ,his magnificent long jumping ,his good-natured face silhouetted against the sky and the foliage of the trees ,the red parakeet perched on his golden hair and I tell myself that in a minute I shall recount David’s story to my son ,so that he .too, may remember .


the ending of the book !

If you’re looking for a powerful and thought provoking read instead of a supermarket holiday read I d put this on the top of your list !!!!!! .the book is in hard back FROM MACLEHOSE PRESS



book blogger hop

Hi all this is second blog hop I put down for I mainl review translated fiction on the blog ,look forward to meeting some new bloggers as I hop around blogs ,all the best stu and winston .

favourtie book – rings of saturn W G Sebald

winstons books

well not had many books at winston towers last week or so but have got few new additions to the ever growing pile .

First off is this bitter leaf it is by Chioma Okereke she is originally from Nigeria ,and has nearly won to competitions for unpublished novels ,this is her debut novel published by virago ,it was sent to me by the lovely Sarah at bookrabbit ,the book revolves round life in a village called mannobe and the people who live there ,their loves ,loss and being a parent .Sounds really good .

the second is from library a book been waiting few weeks for it is Christos tsiolkas ‘s the slap a wonderful book from australia ,the book centres on a bbq in a suburb and the out fall of a man slapping a unruly youngster ,the book is told from 8 points of view .I heard Tsiolkas interview and discovered that it was partly based on a real incident .it will also count to global reading challenge I entered 🙂 . This may be on booker list as well .

now this was from my local book sale Brink is a writer I am not very familiar with and on this edition there isn’t a lot of info about this book ,I now he was very influential  in the anti apartheid movement ,so it be a voyage of discovery .

I read beautiful screaming of pigs earlier in year ,so want to read more Galgut as I enjoyed that so much this book follows the death of a minister and the murderer assumes his identity and is found out and pursued by a captain of police across the veld .This was also from book sale ,can feel a small challenge for myself got three nice books from south africa so may read them all together and compare and see what they all sat about south african writing .


the castle in the pyrenees by Jostein Gaarder

Jostein Gaarder is a Norwegian intellectual having studied theology at Oslo university and for a short time taught philosophy and in recent years has done a lot of human rights activism in the 90’s he had a runaway success with Sophie’s world his book about Sophie discovering the world and philosophy by a selection of letters ,now in this his latest novel to be translated in to english ,he returns to that style in a way but embracing modern form of e mails this time the two main characters are two lovers that have spent time apart for 30 years or have they ? .they discuss their relationship and what has happened in the intervening years of the lives of Steinn and Solrunn ,as they talk they discover each others take on why they spilt and spent the time apart before this cyberspace reconnection .There are many questions fired between the pairs as they chat away the title comes via the mention of a painting by Magiritte of a huge castle floating in the sky like an image from a film by Hayao Miyazki . this picture is mentioned in the book ,the book is set mainly in and around Norway the lakes and Oslo as the couple remember where they went and at times visits afterwards to the same places with new partners or alone .

You haven’t changed much .And that’s good too ,Steinn .There’s something boyish and fresh about your stubbornness.But perhaps your ‘re blind .Perhaps you’re narrow-minded and short-sighted .

  Do you remember that Magritte picture of a huge lump of rock floating above the ground – I think it had a small castle on top .You can’t have forgotten that picture .

they remember the castle in the pryenees picture that gave the book its title .

Well as ever with Jostein Gaarder you are left with more questions than answers after reading the book ,he has a wonderful way of making you think of what if ,how about that ,it struck a chord with my own life ,have spent time in the past questioning past relationships to see if I could untangle what went wrong or as is suggest in parts in the book are we on some pre ordained path with a greater force guiding us ? .This is a book I ll reread at some point to get the full measure and see if after a passage of time it has the same effect on me .This is an example of where metafiction tricks work loads small stories with in the complete story .If you loved his other books this is right up there with them and is also a great introduction to his work the book has been translated by James Anderson .


Duck billed platypus because as a kid I went whats that when I saw pictures and you do the same with the book question what we are and where we are ?


my bbaw post

After some thought I decide to enter book blogger appreciation week entering most eclectic blog so here are my posts –

  1. my review of peirene NO 1 .
  2. one my new fav writers bolano .
  3. one my arab lit challenges
  4. poetry with Ida Vitale
  5. my favourite world cup writing post

so there is my little entry for best eclectic

and for writer interviews I m entering this one –


Now I know two aren’t writers but think they give whole feel of books and publishing .

many thanks to people who said I should enter ,thanks good luck one and all .

behind the scenes with meike the publisher of peirene press

I asked Meike if she could answer some questions about peirene and setting up this vibrant new press that publishes novels under 200 pages in translation ,right up winstonsdad street ,I ve already read beside the sea and will be reading stones in landslide this month .So here are Meike’s answers and thanks very much

1. What brought you to Britain and to publishing ?

I came to London in 1987 to study Arabic and Arabic Literature at the School of Oriental and African Studies. After my MA I worked for the publisher Routledge and then went into Journalism, working for Agence France Press in Paris, Reuters and FTTV in London. In my spare time I’ve always loved reading. Speaking four languages allows me to read from many different cultures. Over the years I have become acutely aware how little foreign literature is read in the UK and so I decided to set up Peirene to make a difference.

2. How hard was it to set up Peirene press ?

I registered Peirene as a company in May 2008 and in February 2010 I published the first book. So it took nearly two years to get the show on the road. A lot had to fall into place. I had to build relationships with publishers abroad, acquire the first texts, obtain a design, create a website, find printers, hire editors and  proofreaders, locate a distributor, sign up sales reps, establish a network of reviewers and of course set up the Peirene Salon – a very important part of Peirene Press as I am very keen to build a community of booklovers.

 3. What writers do you enjoy ?

I love the writings of Sylvia Plath, the German Ingeborg Bachmann and the Brazilian Clarice Lispector. I also read a lot of Philosophy: writers from the 19th century  such as Nietzsche and Kierkegaard together with contemporary French female philosophers such as Julia Kristeva, Luce Irigaray and Helen Cixous. As for modern English writers, I like Anne Enright and Angela Carter (well, not so modern any longer)

 4. You have chosen to use French flaps and nice paper for the books was this to make the books stand out ?

Books are objects and I wanted to create nice, affordable objects that feel luxurious when you hold them in your hands.

5. Having read beside the sea ,I think its a real gem why do you think that it and stones in landslide were overlooked before now ?

In general, UK publishers shy away from short books. I don’t understand their reasoning as I believe that to complete a good book in a couple of hours can leave you with a beautifully satisfying feeling. 

In addition, with Beside the Sea I believe publishers were worried about the controversial subject matter. They didn’t want to cause a stir

With Stone in a Landslide it is most likely that no publisher or editor had actually read the book as very few English people speak Catalan. I was lucky because I came across the German translation as soon as it was published three years ago.


6. What future plans have you ?

I am very aware that the first three Peirene Books, Beside the Sea by Veronique Olmi, Stone in a Landslide by Maria Barbal, and Portrait of the Mother as a Young Woman by Friedrich Christian Delius, are “female” texts – female protagonists epitomizing female experiences. Two of these books are also written by women. I therefore decided to make 2011 Peirene’s Year of the Man – Male writers expressing male views of the world through male protagonists. First title for 2011 will be “Next World Novella” by German writer Matthias Politycki – a clever love story about a man who takes life at face value and a woman who is more interested in the life after death. The next book is a Dutch “road novel” by Jan van Mersbergen, “Tomorrow Pamplona” about two men, a boxer and a family man on their way to the bull run in Pamplona. Very Hemmingway indeed. And last but not least a fantastic, bizarre, Kafkaesque collection of Austrian short stories by Alois Hotschnig, “Maybe This Time”.

7. How hard is it to get funding for the translations ?

For each book I have to acquire the translation rights first before I can apply to the relevant Cultural Institute for translation funding. So far I was lucky and always received some support. However the money varies hugely – anything from 25% to 90% of the overall translation cost.

8. As someone who reads mostly translations myself ,I d love to know how you pick the translators for the books ?

Before commissioning a translator, I ask for a sample translation of the first 1000 words of the text, so I can see if the translator has understood the rhythm and voice of the book. However, sometimes a translator approaches me with a translated text. This was the case with Adriana Hunter who translated Beside the Sea and Tess Lewis who translated Maybe This Time (Peirene Title No 6). In both cases the translators loved the text so much that they made the translation in their own time.

Unfilmable books ?

To tie in with Don Quixote read along I been research things Don Quixote the last few weeks and Have rewatched Lost in La Mancha the documentary about Terry Gillans abandon version of Don Quixote which he is finally make and releasing next year this brought me to what people call unfilmable books ,Now midnights children had been mentioned as a unfilmable book and is just in filming ,with lord of the rings done to great success but may be not sticking to the whole book by choose certain bits ,and Tristram Shandy made as a film with in a film oh how Laurence Sterne would have liked that ,although some of these films don’t work .The unfilmable books are getting made .I think life a user manual is impossible to film !


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July 2010


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