I m on Booktrust blog

Any one that follows me on twitter Knows I m about most of the time and chat a lot with people .This is how I got be on The booktrust translated fiction blog page ,as part of the IFFP coverage I tell how I started reading translated fiction HERE

Cheating at canasta by William Trevor

Source – personnel copy

William Trevor without doubt in my humble opinion is the greatest living short story writer .he has won numerous awards and has been nominated for the booker prize on five occasions without winning a shocking oversight .He lives in Devon ,since the 60’s .His stories often touch on the outcasts and edges of society .

This collection of short stories was published in 2007 .if there is a theme to this book it is maybe loosely cheating ,a man in an italian cafe cheats at canasta ,a mechanic cheats some Spanish  tourists out of money for a repair  and in another a man returns to his home village from England as he felt cheat out of his inheritance ,but also a huge dark secret that he needs to see the priest about !Trevor wonderfully spins the human condition with all its foibles .We also touch on the very darkest people in society a paedophile on the lookout for a victim is a very harrowing story ,we also meet street gangs .These stories show that even thou he was nearly eighty when he wrote this collection ,he still has the finger on the pulse of  everyday life .

He was a shabbily dressed man ,almost everything he wore would having been abandoned by someone else .He had acquired the garments over a period ,knowing he intend to make this journey -the trousers of what had been a suit ,brown pin-striped ,worn shiny in the seat and at the knees ,a jacket that had been navy-blue and was nondescript now ,the khaki shirt he  wore an item once of military attire .

a bit from men of Ireland as Prunty returns to Ireland

As the quote shows Trevor has a great eye for detail .Like the other books by him I ve read I love his stories he always surprises me ,which is a real talent .all the stories in the collection are strong enough to stand alone which is good oft in collections by other writers there are a couple of what might be called in music terms filler tracks .this is like Bob  Dylan’s blood on tracks or Neil young harvest 100% wonderful from start to finish but also a collection that be great to visit again .I read this few weeks ago but held it for Mel of the reading life Irish short story week

Have you read Trevor ?

Who is your favourite short story writer ?

The tree & other stories by Abdallah al-Nasser

Source – library

Translator – Dina Bosio and Christopher Tingley

Abdallah is one of the most well Known Saudi writers outside Saudi Arabi ,born in the fifties he studied Arabic literature in his native Saudi ,he then lived in the us ,and has been an editor of a number of magazines around the world involving Arabic culture .He currently lives in london and is editor of the quarterly magazine Al Thaqafiyah .

The tree is a collection of short stories ,mainly based in Saudi ,but others are based in Scotland and US ,now these stories do what great Arabic short fiction does and that is show life ,like a fly caught in amber catching a unique moment or series of events perfectly .The main story the tree is a clever story about old and new clashing and what happens when people stick to closely to tradition.A new hospital was due to be built but an old village tree was in the way ,so it was built elsewhere.

A year later , the people were passing by the tree on their way to the hospital .One thing had certainly got bigger – the graveyard to the west of the tree .In time the tree was standing in the middle of the graveyard .

the closing lines of the title story the tree .

Abdallah has a great wit ,and a natural talent for satire.It also captures the clash of cultures in Saudi the old and new and how they sit and sometimes smash into one another . elsewhere we see a man discovering the in workings of a factory ,people’s disappointments at what there doing and what they could do .There is a story set in Loch Ness about a couple of people who meet one dark night in that spooky place .The book itself is short at only a hundred and twenty pages .There are over twenty stories so it is a book that can easily be read in an evening like I did .Like other short stories from Arabic world  I ve read in the last year or so ,these stick with you and make you think of a different world to my own .

Do you like short stories from Arabic ?

Have you a favourite Arabic writer ?


Here is the longlist I got one from what I predicted at weekend .

  • Beside the Sea by Veronique Olmi; translated by Adriana Hunter (Peirene Press), French
  • To the End of the Land by David Grossman; translated by Jessica Cohen (Jonathan Cape), Hebrew
  • Red April by Santiago Roncagliolo; translated by Edith Grossmann (Atlantic Books), Spanish
  • Kamchatka by Marcelo Figueras; translated by Frank Wynne (Atlantic Books), Spanish
  • The Sickness by Alberto Berrera Tyszka; translated by Margaret Jull Costa (Maclehose Press), Spanish
  • Fame by Daniel Kehlmann; translated by Carol Brown Janeway (Quercus), German
  • The Secret History of Costaguana by Juan Gabriel Vasquez; translated by Anne McLean (Bloomsbury), Spanish
  • Visitation by Jenny Erpenbeck; translated by Susan Bernofsky (Portobello Books), German
  • Lovetown by Michal Witkowski; translated by W Martin (Portobello Books), Polish
  • Gargling with Tar by Jachym Topol; translated by David Short (Portobello Books), Czech
  • The Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk; translated by Maureen Freely (Faber), Turkish
  • Dark Matter by Juli Zeh; translated by Christine Lo (Harvill Secker), German
  • I Curse the River of Time by Per Petterson; translated by Charlotte Barslund with Per Petterson (Harvill Secker), Norweigan
  • Villain by Shuichi Yoshida; translated by Philip Gabriel (Harvill Secker), Japanese
  • The Journey of Anders Sparrman by Per Wastberg; translated by Tom Geddes (Granta), Swedish

This year’s longlist .from book trust .

well I ve only read two ,some othes I have mentioned on other post .I ve two more hopefully winging there way in the post to me.Hope read some more if time .

What do you make of the list ?

what was your favourite translation last year ?


My Gran A book lover and teacher

As this post goes up I m up in Scotland at My Grans funeral ,she had a love of books ,was a English teacher .From my Richard Scarry book as a small child through books on Irish Myths ,Saki ,Heyer and even Lord of the rings .There were many books I first saw and found out about at Gran’s .My greatest memory thou is drinking soda steams from glass bottles on a beach in Donegal whilst we made peat fire as a kid this was wonderful as we toasted our soda farls on the fire .

winstons coffee its IFFP LONGLIST WEEK

This week see’s the Independent Foreign fiction Longlist week ,this year the Award has been taken over by the Booktrust ,they have a site dedicated to translated fiction .Last yeas was a strong year in Translation I thought ,a number of new publishers and some strong books from established publishers make it a hard call who will be on the list but here are a few I ll pick –

Beside the sea by Veronique Olmi

A heartbreaking story set in the french seaside of a mother and her sons .

The inheirtance by Peter stefan Jungk

A tight tale of a man trying to get his inheritance in south america

The weekend by Bernhard Schlink

A man faces his red army faction past over the course of a weekend .

The Patience stone by Atiq Rahmi


A women faces the horrors of life in Afghanistan.

Stones in a landslide by Maria Barbal

A young women in the Pyrenees we see her life over a space of 130 pages .

The snowman by Jo Nesbo

The new Steig Larsson ? a series of murder in Norway and a world-weary detective .

The last brother by Nathacha Appanah

A unkown piece of Jewish history in Mauritius as two boys grow close .

These are a few I liked last year here is last years longlist and winner .

Boris Akunin The Coronation (translated by Andrew Bromfield from the Russian) Weidenfeld & Nicolson

Ketil Bjørnstad To Music (Deborah Dawkin & Erik Skuggevik; Norwegian) Maia Press

Hassan Blasim The Madman of Freedom Square (Jonathan Wright; Arabic) Comma Press

Philippe Claudel Brodeck’s Report (John Cullen; French) MacLehose Press

Julia Franck The Blind Side of the Heart (Anthea Bell; German) Harvill Secker

Pietro Grossi Fists (Howard Curtis; Italian) Pushkin Press

Elias Khoury Yalo (Humphrey Davies; Arabic) MacLehose Press

Jonathan Littell The Kindly Ones (Charlotte Mandell; French) Chatto & Windus

Alain Mabanckou Broken Glass (Helen Stevenson; French) Serpent’s Tail

Javier Marías Your Face Tomorrow, Volume 3: Poison, Shadow and Farewell (Margaret Jull Costa; Spanish) Chatto & Windus

Yoko Ogawa The Housekeeper and the Professor (Stephen Snyder; Japanese) Harvill Secker

Claudia Piñeiro Thursday Night Widows (Miranda France; Spanish) Bitter Lemon Press

Sankar Chowringhee (Arunava Sinha; Bengali) Atlantic

Rafik Schami The Dark Side of Love (Anthea Bell; German) Arabia Books

Bahaa Taher Sunset Oasis (Humphrey Davies; Arabic) Sceptre

The winner was the Twin ,a well deserved winner .

What books do you think will be on the list ?

(If i don’t get back today it’s because I m travelling to Scotland ,will answer all comments ASAP )


The character of rain by Amelie Nothomb

Source – Library

Translator – Timothy Bent

Amelie Nothomb is a prize-winning Belgian writer ,she was born in Kobe in Japan and lived in Japan til she was 5 she learnt some Japanese whilst there ,she has had numerous books translated into in English .I ve enjoyed her other books before blogging so really look forward to this and it didn’t let down .

The book focus on Rain a child ,her thoughts as she approaches her third birthday .This is a time the Japanese think think children are gods til the age of three  the Okosma or lord child  .Now this is why I wanted to read this book in particular to compare at some stage to room to see who had caught a child’s voice the best .Now Rain has a wonderful voice, if a bit adult at times and also very funny at times ,she explains how she says mama as her first word and then quickly  has to say papa as she sees dads disappointment that it wasn’t his name first , her brother her sworn enemy ,you she how wonderful the world can appear to a two and half-year old and might I say how down hill it can be from when you reach three .There is a great scene when friends of the parents come with there little boy Hugo ,who Rain initially likes but then he makes friends with her brother ,this is like a first heartbreak but wonderfully funny ending at the same time .

Hugo was a serious and reserved boy .He had made a good impression on me until the moment he went over to the enemy -my brother .The two boys became inserable .To punish him I decided not to name him Hugo .

A first heart-break maybe …

The book is obviously based  partly on her own life ,rain is a child of a Belgium family living in Japan ,this book deals with growing up in a foreign land  been spoken to in two languages ,near the end of the book rain discovers and is fascinated with water ponds river rain .This is a very Japanese way at looking at the world a culture than loves the changing seasons and elements .I love rain she so jumps of the page and became a precious two and half-year old in my head .

Have you read any of her books ?

Do you like books set in Japan by non-Japanese writers ?

voices of palenstine and Arabic world

Yesterday I reviewed Raja Shehedeh book A rift in time ,I love fiction from the middle east and north africa so I thought I give you some starting places to find out more about this vibrant writing .I hope you find these helpful firstly a book .

Beirut 39

Which was a tie in publication fromthe hay festival last year it feature stories novel extracts and poetry from 39 writers under 39 from all over the arabic world a great look at who is hot in arabic writing at the moment .There are three great Palenstine writers here if you want to follow on from reading Raja


arabic literature is a blog written by a Egyptian ,it feature news and interviews from the arabic world and also had a summer reading challenge last year with a wonderful list of books by the good and the great of arabic literature  .A blog worth following


The uk based Banipal specialize in abraic fiction ,I have read a few of there books and they always choice suprising books ,they also do a magazine of new writing three times a year .

the cario based American university of cario press ,the majour publish of arabic translations in English .

Profile and serpents tail in the uk publish a number of books including Raja’s back catalogue .

So here is a few places to start reading ,do you have a favourite book from the middle east ?


A rift in time ( travels with my Ottoman uncle) by Raja Shehadeh

Raja Shehadeh is a Palestine writer ,lawyer and human rights activist ,he studied in London ,his father was also a lawyer .He was one of the first people to accept the need for a two state solution to the Arab /Israeli conflict he also found the Al -Haq human rights organization  which monitors human rights in Palestine .he has published a number of other books in 2008 he won the Orwell prize  for his book Palestine walks .

A rift in time starting point is Raja researching his family background and coming across his uncle Najib ,which he didn’t know a lot about but an interesting and unique man appear from the mist of time .A character that Raja decides to follow almost a hundred year later .Najib was a writer,journalist and  romantic guy ,who was  very critical of certain decisions that were taking place in the Ottoman empire around the time of the first world war ,mainly their decision to join that war but also a worry about the growth in the region around what would be modern Israeli .This lead to Najib facing the death sentence and going on the run around what is now Lebanon ,Jordan ,Palestine and Israeli .A lot of the small villages that his uncle visited were wiped out in the 1948 war  .so we travel meet the locals and Raja does a wonderfully poetic job in showing Najib experiences and his own along the same route .He builds up the tension as Najib runs out of places to hide ,but to find out if he gets caught and what Raja discovers I suggest you read the book .

In planning the route of his escape ,Najib had not been hampered by the political borders that many Palenstines are not allowed to cross today .Under the Ottomans on the eve of the first world war there is no administrative unit called Palenstine.Hafia ,acre ,Safad and Tiberias were part of the Beirut sanjaq (an administrative subdivision of a Vilayet or province) .

Raja beginning his Research into his uncle Najib’s  escape from death sentence .

I enjoyed the evenness of Raja writing it is so easy given the situations in the area to get bog down in facts figures and most of all the politics of the region ,these are touched on but don’t drive the story ,which is heartbreaking at times ,touching at others the loss villages and a colourful past due to the wiping out of so many villages in the late 20th century .

here is a Guardian interview with Raja

Raja is currently in the UK you can catch him here –

Friday 4 March 2011 – 6.30-8pm, FREE http://www.mosaicrooms.org/raja-shehadeh/

Raja Shehadeh:A Rift in Time-Travels with My Ottoman Uncle
Raja will be in conversation with British-Palestinian filmmaker Omar Al-Qattan.
Places are strictly limited, please RSVP 020 7370 9990, info@mosaicrooms.org
A.M. Qattan Foundation, The Mosaic Rooms, Tower House, 226 Cromwell Road, London SW5 0SW, UK

Saturday 5 March – 10:00

BBC Radio 4 Excess Baggage – Raja Shehadeh talking to Chris Wilson


Sunday 6 March – 17:00 Jewish Book Week


A Rift in Time – Raja Shehadeh interviewed by Jo Glanville

Tickets £10. To book in advance go online http://www.jewishbookweek.com/2011/a-rift-in-time.php Or call 0844 847 2274

Jewish Book Week, Royal National Hotel, Bedford Way, London WC1 0DG

Monday 7 March – 18:00

Glasgow Aye, Write! Festival


Venue: Mitchell Library, Glasgow G3 7DN
Tel 0141 287 2999
Cost: £8/£6

Febuary round up and march plans

I ve let foot of the pedal so to speak this month not blogged a lot or read a lot ,also a family bereavement  this last weekend knocked me for six .I hope to get back to full steam this month .so last month –

  1. the gospel of anarchy by Justin Taylor (us)
  2. Death and the penguin by Andrey Kurkov (Ukraine)
  3. The falafel king is dead by Sara Shilo (Israeli)
  4. The children of rain by Amelie Nothomb (Belgian)
  5. Saplings by Noel Streatfield (UK)
  6. Next world novella by Mathias Politycki (German )
  7. Flypaper by Robert Musil (German)
  8. The queens necklace by Italio Calvino (Italy)

Well that’s 8 books not a lot but I’ve not had time last month with work and family time .

That brings total to 20 this year .

March plans

I ve two projects to get off the ground the village reading challenge and men’s book reading list ,so be working on them .I m doing a week near end of month for the penguin mini classics as I ve now seven to read from round the world .

Next Newer Entries

March 2011


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