winston’s round up was it a mad march here !

Well we’re three months in to 2011 and like last month I ve been very stop start with blog and reading but managed to get these read –

  1. A rift in time by Raja shehadeh (Palenstine)
  2. Cheating at canasta by William Trevor (Ireland)
  3. The tree and other stories by Abdallah al-Nasseur (Saudi Arabia)
  4. Monsieur pain bu Roberto Bolano (chile)
  5. Blood sister by Alessandro Perissnotto(Italy)
  6. Pinball 1973 by Haruki Murkami (Japan)
  7. While the women are sleeping by Javier Marias (Spain)
  8. Berlin Alexanderplatz by Alfred doblin (Germany)
  9. Monsieur Linh and his child by Philipe Claudel (France)
  10. The particular sadness of lemon cakes by Amiee Bender(U.S)
  11. The possessed by Elif Batumann (turkish/US)

In middle of

  1. tigers wife by tea Obert
  2. Cloudstreet by Tim Winton
  3. Ten stories about smoking by Stuart Evers
  4. Kamchatka by Marcelo Figueras

hope finish these this week then got most of Independent foreignfiction prize longlist to read ,also one from the 12 to watch list a chilean novel and a novel set in cyprus .so with longer nights be reading more hopefully

Year to date –

31 books bit behind my plan for 140 this year but 2 more than this time last year so doing well .

Favourite –

A book I waited to get my hands on and was happy I did !


Whats your favouite translation ?

I m wanting to do a 100 best translation list ,I ve seen various hundred best  list but not seen one solely of translations  I ve a lot ideas for  books to be on the list  ,but thought I d throw the floor open and take suggestions .I often get ask for suggestions where to start with world lit so thought a list of hundred books would be a great starting place for readers .So what have been your favourite books from round the world ?


Berlin Alexanderplatz by Alfred Döblin

Source – Library

Translator – Eugene Jolas

Alfred Döblin is probably one germany’s greatest writers he was born in the in later 1880 he lived in berlin as a youth,studied as a doctor and served as a doctor during first world war ,he had an interest in psychology and philosophy and was very influenced by James Joyce ,this book was first he wrote after reading Joyce .

Berlin Alexanderplatz is set in the area of Berlin around Alexanderplatz ,which was a working class part of the town ,the main character is Franz Biberkopf a small time criminal who at the start of the book is released to the dark world he left to go to prison ,he deals with other criminals prostitutes .This isn’t the  world of Isherwood’s Berlin no this a dark threatening world ,Franz is a man caught in the system but wanting to escape ,the book is full of the everyday life news ,posters from the street mentioned we discover his inner turmoil .the book is not in chronological order you dart but this isn’t as jarring as other books like this I ve read .Another criminal Reinhold an acquaintance of Franz but a much nastier and more criminal man altogether a bad influence on the naive Franz that leads to dark consequences .

Thus Franz Biberkopf ,the concrete-worker ,and later furniture-mover ,that rough ,uncouth man of repulsive aspect ,returned to berlin and to the street ,the man at whose head a pretty girl from a locksmiths family had thrown herself ,a girl whom he made into a whore ,and at last mortally injured in a scuffle .

the close of the first of nine books that make up Berlin Alexanderplatz

This book isn’t an easy read, but are modernist novels ever ? ,it made me think as I read Doblin does such a good job painting this dark seedy world .He worked in the streets he described after the first world war so I imagine Franz is a mix of people he saw or treated over that time he worked there ,this is a clever study of the human soul and what happens when it is drawn the wrong way ,on the surface Franz is a healthy man hard-working but Naive and easily lead and maybe without a true moral code .I was recommend this book by F C Delius the German writer when I ask him to recommend some German books he had enjoyed and had influenced him on twitter late last year .The book was translated by Eugene Jolas she was a friend of Joyce and translator.The book has been made into two films the second a 15 hour tv series by Rainer fassbinder in the 80’s considered his masterpiece ,I must watch this at some point .

Have you read this book ?

do you like modernist fiction ?

Raja Shehadeh Interview with the voice of Palestine

I was lucky enough to ask the award winning Palenstine writer and Human rights Lawyer  Raja Shehadeh ,about his current book and its main character his Ottoman uncle Najib ,also his views on the current situation in the wider Arabic world .He was the 2008 Orwell prize winner .

1.      What do you think your Uncle Najib would make of the current  situation in the Arabic world ?

Najib was a man of the people who believed in people’s power. What is now taking place around many of the Arab countries exemplifies this. He would have felt confirmed in his belief that people can win freedom if they work together against those exploiting and oppressing them.


2.      What would have been different if people like your uncle had been listened to more at the turn of the century pre-1948 ?

It is uncertain whether he could have rallied enough support to turn the tide. It is just as possible that those countries and movements behind the change were just too powerful to be stopped in their tracks by any degree of resistance from such prescient people like Najib.

3.      I’ve recently read the 1948 novel Khirbet Khizeh by S. Yizhar and wondered if there was a Palestinian novel that gave the other side of the story written, set at the same time ?


What immediately comes to mind is Elias Khoury’s novel published a few years ago, Gate of the Sun.

4.      I got a real sense of the warmth of people around Lebanon and Palestine and wonder why this is not portrayed in western media as much?

Western media has by and large assisted in sustaining the negative stereotype of the Arab. But there is also the fact that it is only the shocking and horrific that makes it to the news bulletin and not the tranquil and warm which is manifest in abundance amongst Arab society as in many others.


5.      What are your feelings on the current wave of freedom/liberation sweeping the Arabic world ?

The most significant change that occurred is that it brought renewed hope and cured many of the young of the debilitating cynicism that can so often lead to horrible consequences when it infects the new generation.


6.      How do you think the current activities in the Arab world will  effect Palestine?

They will have a tremendous impact by shaking forever the status quo that has enabled the suffering of the Palestinians to continue with impunity with one disaster following another, always deemed justifiable and necessary to prevent worse evils. Many of the assumptions and fears that were used to hold together this shaky world of the Middle East have since been found to be exaggerated and often the creation of autocrats who propagated them to help them hold on to the reins of power.


7.      Your personal history has been tinged by sadness; how do you remain so positive and poetic?

I find writing to be therapeutic. I believe authors have a duty to help create new and better realities by first imagining them and whenever possible turn the “stuff of life” into poetry.


8.      Which Palestinian voices in literature should we be reading?

Suad Amiry, Murid Barghouti, Adania Shibli and Fadi Joudah.


9.      What are you currently working on?

A work of non-fiction based on my diaries that tries to make sense of the developments of the past two years.



Thanks to Raja and Jazz and the people at profile for this interview .I shall be review some other Rajas other books and another book from a Palenstine writer by Profile books.










While the women are sleeping by Javier Marias

Source Library

Translator Margaret Jull Costa

Javier Marias is one of Spain’s top current writers his your face tomorrow trilogy is considered on fo the best spanish books published of recent year ,Javier ran away to paris at a young age ,translated English books into Spanish and taught Spanish literature at Oxford university.I did have your face tomorrow from library last year but was unable to reach it in time and read it so had to return it un read ,so saw this slim collection of short stories from the various points in his career   which is his most recent translation .

the stories all centre strange and unnatural ghost stories an homage to the English ghost stories in some ways ,the title story follow a large voyeuristic man  watching different women on the beach in their bikini’s   then his steady descent into darkness and shadowy world  ,in other tales a butler recounts an incident involving the lady of the house ,another tale is told by a dead man ,some one meeting the double in another .There are stories set around the world ,a lot involving english people Marias is well-known for his huge love of england .these range from the late sixties to mid nineties so show the breadth of Marias writing

It is quite possible that the main aim of ghosts ,if they do still exist ,is to thwart the desires of the mortal tenants ,appearing if their presences is unwelcome and hiding away if it is expected or demanded .

opening of one of the tales a kind of nostalgia perhaps

Now this book is only 128 pages long and contains ten tales ,what did I learn from it ? well Marias definitely likes england and the english there are enough characters thrown through these tales to mark him out as a Anglophile ,His pace is slow even in these shorts the pace is slow almost like watching Barcelona play gentle passing the ball or in this case slowly build the stories every time .One story has a made up bio of an English writer Lord Randall , which is a bit like Bolano another Spanish language writer and one of my favourite themes in writing ,made up writers bio just imaging the books that don’t really exist .    A great intro to a writer I want to get to know well in the future .the translation is by Margaret Jull Costa who has won awards with her other translations of his work

Have you read him ? if so what to try next ?

Pinball 1973 by Haruki Murakami

Source – Library

Translator Alfred Birnbaum

Now this is a book I jumped for joy when I got from Library on an inter library loan from Manchester ,it is Murkami’s second book and the second part of the rat trilogy the others being the first hear the wind sing and the last part wild sheep chase .Now this book, like the first part is only available in Japan in english translation as Murakami has never let the rights be issued world-wide ,so what is it about .

The book is classic Murakami or what we now call his classic style ,the ,main character and narrator a nameless lonely man in his twenties works as a translator and his friend the rat ,we follow the narrator during a obession with pinball he starts playing late a night a relationship with a pair of twins called 208 209 by the narrator ,this obessin=on leads him in the end on the quest for a lost machine ,elsewhere there are references to themes that crop up in Murakami’s others books ,wells for one even couple mention of hard-boiled eggs but maybe I was looking to hard the book is gentle a man struggling with the real world ,he looks back on his student days a dead girlfriend ,yet another event Murakami use in his other books .

By the time I broke 150,000 ,winter had really set in .There I d be alone in the freezing deserted games center ,bundled up in my duffel coat , muffler  wrapped around my neck up to my ears grappling with the machine .

the narrator talking about his obsession .

Well what did I think of this book it was a great insight into what madeMurakami the writer he is now this has parts used in other books and in some way maybe this narrator is nearest Murakami the man ,I did miss Jay Rubin’s translation style thou a certain zing you get from his work withMurakami particular with the more recent books were they have worked together for a number of years .Not to take away from Alfred Binbaum ,who lives in Japan and has translator a number of other books and teaches creative writing at the moment in Japan ,he does a great job but the tie between Rubin and Murakami isn’t there .Murakami use lots of references to music and film stars of the time which gives it a very personnel feel ,only music missing was the who which I kept hoping to see because he must have listen to pinball wizard at some point whilst reading this book .Why this book yet to have a UK publication is beyond me it is a sign post on the road to the writer Murakami is today .



Grass calls in the translators

I listen to the BBC world service program The strand which feature a piece on the third volume of Gunter Grass auto bio /bio /fiction trilogy .The first two parts being peeling the Onion and the box .Now the third part  Grimms Wörter. Eine Liebeserklärung or in english Grimm’s Words: A Declaration of Love ,is a book in the form of a dictionary /bio involving Grass the Grimm brothers .Now this book is virtually untranslatable due to its layout and how its alphabetical layout also follows the story of grass and Grimm brothers .So grass called all his translators to meet him and be challenged to translate this book .Grass has always worked with his translators this led to the new tin drum translation in 2006 as grass felt the original cut to much of his original book, .Now he is want the translators to use their life to translate the book in to their languages ,now it seems as thou only the Dutch and Danish translators will be doing so as their languages closet to german ,there was no mention of the english translation sure one of our talented german translators my take up the challenge .

But this led to a question is the some books that can’t be translated ?

Blood sisters by Alessandro Perissinotto

Source -review copy from Hersillia press

Translated by Howard Curtis

This is a debut in English for the Italian writer Alessandro Perissanto ,He gain in a degree in semiotics but had many jobs whilst studying and eventually end up as a professor in Turin ,he had previously worked in multimedia .

The book centres on Anna Pavesi a psychologist ,that receives a call to come and look into the death in what seems a hit and run of Patriza by her half-sister Benedetta.Well anna is short of money and takes the challenge and heads of from her home to the surrounds of Milan .Now she has to dive into Patrica’s life see who she was and where she worked ,as we follow anna we grasp what may be clues or red herrings .A big question Anna needs to answer who was visited Patrica in the Red lancia Fulvia ? ,maybe this leads to the murder maybe not .She meets Anna’s boss a man full of chat and trying to show how good an employer he is but is he trying to hide something then there is Marco that Anna ends up sleeping with ,but was he involved .there is also the prostitutes near where the hit and run will they talk ,also a large SUV that might be the car that killed Patrica .

Please ,Patriza was my cousin .The person who knocked her down got away and they haven’t caught him .Please I beg you

“I didn’t see anything,but if you come tomorrow morning about seven you’re sure to find Alina .She has red hair very red hair .She might know .”

Thank you ,thank you very much .

Anna questions a prostitute near were the hit and run happened .

Now I really really like Anna and Alessandro’s writing style and the translation by Howard Curtis ,whose previous translation I ve all enjoyed he seems to keep the flow of the prose so well .This is classic crime fiction with a modern Italian twist Anna Pavesi is Miss Marple in tight jeans and forty years younger ,with a dose of Italian style thrown in there is a group of suspects and a good dose of red herrings to keep you turning those pages to the end and a wonderful finish ,Alessandro use modern world , modern cars mention Anna use’s a mobile also Italy’s modern problems like prostitution, which I like to see in a modern book this book was first published in 2006 in Italy ,now the book ends with the glimmer we might meet anna

in a few weeks or a few months I’ll get a call from someone who’s spoken to Benedetta ,someone who thinks I’m a psychologist who specialises in searching for missing persons .

on last page maybe Anna returns who knows ?

This is the second book from new Italian crime publisher Hersillia press ,a publisher worth keeping an eye on by this book ,as with the BBC Italian noir programme earlier this year ,crime fiction is thriving in Italy at moment .


Now it is prize season starting the IFFP LONGLIST first ,the shortly after the Orange longlist and today the Miles Franklin longlist in Australia .This set me thinking what other prize there could be what prize would I give ? Well I had some ideas ,maybe a book MOBO’S or a african booker prize or a world booker .But not sure I always have loads ideas ,so I ask you all what prize would you like to see and judge ?

Monsieur Pain By Roberto Bolano

Source – library

Translator – Chris Andrews

Roberto Bolano the Chilean novelist ,poet and thinker ,died in 2003 ,he lived in spain and Mexico as well his homeland Chile .His older books are all currently being translated into english this was published in spain in 1999 .

Monsieur Pain of the title is Pierre Pain a mesmerist and reclusive figure ,he is trying to get to help the Peruvian poet Cesar Vallejo who is suffering due to constant hiccups ,all this on a backdrop of paris in 1938 ,shadowy Spaniards stopping him seeing the patient .there is a sense that pain isn’t altogether with it himself a man lost and caught up in a bigger situation .I sense Bolano is playing with character here Pain is different to other narrators in his other books he isn’t a poet or a south American and at times this shows .other ways this has classic Bolano traits a dying poet ,the chaos of looming war ,like the child murders in 2666  is a catalyst for the drama .he also intwines the spanish civil war .

“did you speak with the Spaniards ?”

“Were they Spaniards ?”

“I believe so,” I said rather uncertainly .”Did you speak with them ?”

“A little .They were knocking at your door for a long time ,it must have been around nine .You are a heavy sleeper,Monsieur Pain”

Monsieur Pain talks about his first meeting with the Spaniards that cause him such trouble .

The book is short at only a 130 odd pages ,I like the ending where we find out what happened to the characters after the book it had echos of Nazi literature in the Americas .This was maybe my least favourite of the books of his I ve read but it still has his wonderful poetic prose style ,you get the feeling this is Bolano playing with his style trying out a different style ,this story is more straightforward narrative wise we don’t have the twist and turns of his other books .I describe this as his rubber soul book ,like the beatles it was mid period in his writing but seems like a writer wanting to break the mould a bit like the beatles in rubber soul ,the start of his true creative output .The translation is smooth but Andrews has done most of the Bolano books ,this is published by Picador in the uk and New directions in the Us .

Have you read this book ?

Do you like Bolano ?

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