Good old London town for IFFP NIGHT

Well as I said on last post I went to london on thursday ,so mid morning on Thurs I caught train to St Pancres ,I arrived just after on and was met by Simon from the blog inside books but also a good friend I speak to every day on twitter ,We went and had a coffee and I check in my hotel ,whilst Simon return to work .I planned to meet again at London review book shop to have a look at books and grab a coffee .

This is former poet laureate Sir John Betjeman he is in st Pancres station ,he led a campaign to keep its wonderful Victorian facade ,the pub is also called after him .So after checking in and changing into my suit I decide to head towards the LRB sim had said just head down and across from where I was so I did ,but I must not silly me I forgot to bring an umbrella and was caught in to huge down pours on route but as I stumbled turn here and there on my way to LRB  I noticed I was near Lamb Conduit street which is where Persephone books are .

This was near by a nice blue plague ,so I went and visit Persephone books whose books I ve really enjoyed ,I knew I d like to get the Irene Nemirovsky book they published last year ,the short story collection Dimanche .I brought it and some lovely postcards ,the lady that served me was very helpful ,if a little surprised it was a man buying the book for himself .so avoiding another rain shower I hit the british museum and turn down Bury Place home of the LRB ,I went in and started scanning the huge shelves of books ,almost dribbling at the titles ,I saw as I went up and down twice but had promised my self to limit my self to three books whilst away .So i found two I wanted the first was waiting for the wild beasts to vote by Ahmadou Korouma ,the Ivorian writer that Frank Wynne said was his best translation ,the second book was Juan the Landless by Juan Goytisolo the highly acclaimed spanish writer the older Helen lane translation .So book brought

I got a coffee and was meet by Simon again and Rob of Rob around books and his wife ,this was a real thrill the two people who got me into blogging via their blogs ,we all chatted away for a good 45 mins,I did notice they had a display of Peirene books in the cafe which was great ,before Rob his wife and myself decided to make a move to the RIBA headquarters on Portland place where the Independent foreign fiction prize was being held we arrived and grab a glass of the tattinger champagne that was there as they’d sponsored the event a little nervous I sat and after a bit we heard the art council tell us how important the prize was and introduced  Boyd Tonkin the chair of judges and as we were told a man with untouchable knowledge on fiction in translation ,Boyd told us how strong genre translation was at moment mainly due to Nordic crime ,but still need our support for more literary fiction in translation to see the light of day ,he then ran through the books up for prize then the moment came ,I want Kamchatka ,Rob loved Visitation ,but no it was Red April by Santiago Roncagliolo the Peruvian was the youngest ever winner he came up .

He read from the opening of the book in wonderful English ,he then thanked people ,I was struck by one phrase he said ,this win is for the 70.000 people that died in Peru during the troubles .Then it was back to the drinks after during the prize I tweeted and got a tweet from the ladies of Peirene ask where I was so I found Meike and Maddy and spoke to them this was lovely although I trod on Maddy’s foot twice with my huge feet ,I also meet Rosie Goldsmith from BBC but she has also started the European literature network as a follow-up all year round to the yearly European literature night A site and idea worth following she has real passion for literature in translation .It was  a great day I walk back to my hotel with Mr & Mrs rob ,I made some great friends got to take part in a great event and got some great books ,Thanks to Nikesh at booktrust who set this up and to Rob Simon Meike and Maddy who made it a wonderful day there .

The INDEPENDENT FOREIGN FICTION PRIZE 2011 shortlist round up

I m off tomorrow to attend the prize giving for this years IFFP 2011 sponsored by Booktrust,I ve read five of the six shortlist books ,but was unable to get the sixth in time due to a library bloop ,but will weight up each  chances of winning –

The Museum of innocence by Orhan Pamuk  translator Maureen Freely – The longest book on the list ,an epic tale of love class and that feeling of total togetherness with one person .It could win due to its epic scope and heartfelt writing .

If it was an english book it would be lady Chatterley lover ,also about love and class with a flip in gender roles thou .

The sickness by Alberto Barrera Tyszka  translator Margaret Jull Costa – A novel involving three people and illness real and imagined ,also father and son relationship ,an interview with him here ,it should win because sickness isn’t often touch so well in fiction

If it was an english book it would be north and south a novel that also touches on dying and parental relationships .

Red april by Santiago Roncagilo translator Edith Grossman  – the past horrors effect a present day crime in Peru ,a hard-hitting and no holds barred novel,it should win because its sheer honesty about his homeland .

If it where and english book it would be This is hard book to match but John Mcgahern seems to touch on Ireland’s terrorist past in some of his books .

I curse the river of time by Per Petterson translator per Petterson and Charlotte Barslund ,like the sickness touches a parent dying but now it is a strong minded mother and a son wanting and needing answers ,it should win as it beautifully bleak like his other books and so insightful into family .

If it was in english book it would be the art fair David Lipsky ,another mother son relationship that is strained .

Kamchatka – Marcel Figueras  translator Frank Wynne Harry and his brother the midget on the run in 80’s Argentina ,this should win as Harry is one if not the best child narrator I ve ever read a warm and touching book .

If it was an english book it be black swan green ,two great narrators and similar times on in uk and Harry was in Argentina .

Visitation -Jenny Erpenbeck  translator Susan Bernofsky -I ve not read this but have read Old child sop ,she should win as she has a fable like talent as a story-teller ,thus I can’t compare to an english book .But this is the favourite .

My tip Kamchatka !

Marcelo Figueras winstonsdad talks to the IFFP SHORTLISTED WRITER ,

I m very happy to bring you a interview with Argentina writer Marcelo Figueras short listed for Thursdays Independent foreign fiction prize 2011 .Thanks to Frank Wynne his translator who mention my interview with him to Marcelo and he said he would be happy to be interviewed as well .Here are the answers .

1.How did you get into writing?

I always wanted to be a writer. Since I was even younger than The Midget! I started with short stories that I copied, illustrated and labelled as ‘novels’ and sold to family and friends. Then I tried to write and draw comics as well. My father still keeps one of those pages (a ripoff of a Burne Hogarth character called Drago, in fact) in his study. And afterwards I pestered my teachers, who in turn read my stories to my poor colleagues at school. They were all extremely kind, and never crushed my one-man industry. And with minimal variations, that’s what I’ve been doing ever since.

2.What gave you the idea for Kamchatka?

I was consciously trying to write a story about what we in Argentina call The Dark Years, or The Iron Years: the period between 1976 and 1983, ruled by our last military dictatorship. Most of the stories I knew back then about that particular time (not many novels, mostly films) were unbearable, and repeated the same pattern ad nauseam: romantic young man / woman, his / her involvement in politics, that leads to kidnapping, torture, death and the inevitable coda at the law courts. And I wanted to write about the other horror, the one that the rest of us, who were not kidnapped but still were victims of violence of another sort, have endured.

3.What are your memories of the time?

My memories are a mixed batch. On the one hand, I was the typical boy on the verge of adolescence: shy, introspective, living in a bubble made of books music comics TV and movies. I played Risk a lot. I watched The Invaders. I enjoyed Houdini, the movie with Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh, but rejected its sad, sad ending. I fell in love every day. I danced alone. But on the other hand, I lived in fear. I knew nothing about what was happening, my family had always been apolitical. In spite of that, I sensed something awful was going on: it was everywhere, even in the air, atoms of fear mixed with oxygen and nitrogen. That was one of the main ingredients of the military Junta’s perversity: they tried to keep the appearance of normality, Buenos Aires’ streets were calm and orderly (and filled with policemen), as if nothing out of the ordinary was really happening. But people were being kidnapped in the dark, locked in dungeons, tortured and killed, and their bodies hidden in massive, anonymous graves or dropped into the sea. So something wicked was indeed happening. And my nose picked it up somehow. Even when I reached my teenager years, I was afraid of going out to the streets at night. And if I saw a policeman out there, I retraced my footsteps and avoided him. I still knew nothing about politics, but in some strange way I gathered that being young and inquisitive, I was definitely the enemy for the guys in blue.

4.How much of harry’s character is based on yourself he seemed so real?

Given that Harry was more or less my age, it seemed natural to lend him most of my experiences: the public school and then the religious one, my father, my mother (The Rock!) and my little brother (The Midget!), Risk, The Invaders, my love of books and the rest. I had a bit of a temper, too. And as I answered before, my experience of living in fear also became quite useful.

5..Do you like strawberry nesquik?

I loved chocolate Nesquik, that dark brown powder that you mixed with milk. And as the Midget, I loved it most when it had little, crunchy chocolate bubbles.

6.What does being up for the independant foreign fiction prize me to you?

Being in the longlist for the IFFP meant already a lot, and the shortlist was sheer Heaven. Even if I don’t win, being between the six best novels written in a non-English language is quite a prize in itself.

7.What does being translated into english mean to you?

It means a lot. English is my second language. Most of the novels I read are in English. (And when I say most I’m not embellishing: 98 % is a conservative figure in this respect.) And many of my all-time favorite writers are English: from Shakespeare to Dickens, from Graham Greene to Martin Amis, from Joseph Conrad (well, sort of English) to David Mitchell. Learning English was the only thing my mother really forced me to do, when I desperately wanted to drop out citing well documented exhaustion. I was a really good student, so I thought deserved a break… that luckily, my mom didn’t give me. So I’m really grateful to her. And this modest recognition in the country she admired so much feels to me like poetic justice, given that she encouraged me so much and that she died so, so young. (Not as young as Harry’s mother, but…)

8. Do you ever feel burden by Argentina ‘s glorious writing history?

I don’t feel burdened. Argentina has a great literary tradition (Robert Arlt, Borges, Cortázar and Rodolfo Walsh are amongst my favorites) that wasn’t really helpful at the time of creating Kamchatka. Because for the most part, Argentina greatest writers tend to escape from emotion, embracing stylishness and formal exploration instead. And Kamchatka without emotion would have been a table with only two legs. So I reached my hand to the masters of the form, starting obviously with Dickens. He is the one who taught me that children are more resilient than grownups. Or, to put it in the words Lillian Gish says at the end of The Night of the Hunter: “Children are man at his strongest. They endure and they abide”.

9.Which of your books would you like to see next in English?

I would like very much to see La batalla del calentamiento translated. Because it has many things in common with Kamchatka (emotions being one) but also some fantasy: a giant, a girl with magical powers and a wolf that speaks Latin (that’s me repaying my debts with Europe’s fairytale tradition), mixed with some heavy stuff taken from real life and Argentinian history from the recent past -as in Kamchatka too.

10. Which do you enjoy most fiction writing or script writing or do the two overlap?

As the frogs in Kamchatka, I deem myself amphibious. I need literature and movies to survive. One’s a solitary way of creating; the other is more of a group endeavour. And I like it the most when I can mix both in the right proportions as in a good Martini. (Shaken, yes, but not stirred!)

11.Which Argentina writers should we be watching for?

Mariana Enríquez, Samantha Schweblin, Sergio Olguín, Félix  Bruzzone.

12.What are your favourite books and writers?

Don’t get me started. I’ve mentioned some of them. I would add: Melville, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Salinger, Saul Bellow, Michael Ondaatje, John Irving, Cormac McCarthy, Alan Moore… Do you need more?

Red April by Santiago Roncagiolo

Source – library

Translator – Edith Grossman

Santiago Roncagiolo is a peruvian writer ,grew up in the city of Arequipa ,his father is well-known political analyst in peru ,which meant he lived for a time growing up in exile .He has lived in Barcelona  since 2000 ,due cleaning jobs at first then spots of writing for papers like El Pais ,red april is his first novel to be translated into English.he has so far written five novels ,and he has one of his books filmed in spain .

Red april is set in the year 2000 in the small town of Ayacucho ,during holy week a serial killer is found to be on the lose ,this is at the time peru is just coming out of an extreme regime and  the terrorist group shining path .This leads to suspicions growing through the town .The government send a man from lima to investigate the crime and find the person committing the crimes .this man Felix gets tangled up and finds people that he is talking to die as the lines between the past and the present blur ,people s connections to the past come to light and he struggles to get to grip with what is happening .He finds the past is still ever-present in people’s thoughts .Also is the shining path still operating even thou the government says it isn’t these are all questions that need answers .

“Felix ,eight years ago ,if I went out they would kill .Not now .The dammm terrorists killed my mother ,they killed my brother ,they took away my sister so the damm solder could kill her afterward .since the president took office ,they haven’t killed me or anybody else in my family .You want me to vote for somebody else ? i don’t understand why ?

Felix faces people’s pasts as he tries to find the truth .

This book isn’t one I would normally choose as I m not huge fan of  thrillerish books but as it was on the Independent foreign fiction shortlist ,I thought I d give it a whirl and as Llhosa was the only over peruvian writer I d read I thought  d like to try one of the younger generation of writers post -latin american boom writers ,I like Santiago’s honesty about his homelands dark recent past and tackle it well using the present and a crime now unconnected to the past as a way to address the distant past .Felix is a great character like the typical outsider he sees thinks different and also has an open mind but he does get involved far to easily ,he has an eye for the ladies and this makes him vulnerable at times ,as he starts his relationship with a young women called Edith that isn’t all she seems at times .The book is gruesome in places as we see the actions that happen during the conflict on both sides the tremendous loss of life and the shattered life’s left behind mothers without children ,children without parents .I was reminded at times of Bolano in the style of writing and the way he use the story to tackle the past .the book was well translated by Edith Grossman as IO would expect she does a lot of latin american literature .

Have you read this book ?

Do you like books that tackle difficult subjects ?

Tarantula By Thierry Jonquet or the skin I live in

Source – review copy from serpents tail to tie in with the film coming out .

Translator – Donald Nicholson-Smith

Thierry Jonquet was a french writer ,he grew up in Paris and studied Philosophy at university ,His books were part of the well-known French book collection ” the black series “,the  collection of novels all have a noir ,feel tarantula was one of these ,Jonquet said he his main source of inspiration is the daily newspaper a treasure trove of anecdotal evidence of ,in his words the barbarity of life .I feel he does this in this book it is a little extreme in places but not too much to make it far-fetched .Thierry died in 2009 aged 55 .

The story is two tales that start separate and end up classing into a shocking stand-off in the end .The first tale is of a Parisian Plastic surgeon called Richard Lafargue ,a successful man ,but also a dark character that Keep his wife Eve locked up naked sometimes in a bedroom ,only letting her out dressed in very revealing and sexy clothing to go to parties or to perform sexual acts with people as he watches her voyeuristically get his kicks from this via a one way Mirror .He also has a secret operating theatre in his basements this is where he performs operations that he wants to keep on the hush-hush .He seems like a man who has it all but has lost his way and end up in a very dark place .

“Get yourself ready,” ordered Lafargue .”they won’t be long now ”

Eve opened a closet and undressed .first putting her own clothes away ,she proceeded to dress in long black thigh boot ,black leather skirt,and fishnet stockings ,She made herself up ,using whited face powder and bright red lipstick ,the sat down on the bed .

Eve gets ready to perform for her Husband as he sits behind the mirror .

The second trail follows a bungled robbery and the man committing it Alex barney ,we see him on the run after killing a cop ,also he needs to find a new identity this leads him to Larfargue ,they have met in passing through the book ,he ends up at the house stuck in a great stand-off between the three ,from which there lives will change .

Alex Barny rested on a camp bed in an attic room .He had nothing to do ,except wait .The chatter of the curadas in the garriage was an unrelenting racket .Though the window Alex could see the crooked silhouettes of olive trees in the night ,forms fixed in bizarre poses .

We’re introduced to Alex .

I love noir and Novellas ,so read this short book it is only 120 pages long in an evening it packs a hell of a lot into those 120 pages .Thierry shines a light on the dark corners of the human soul and how even the most professional of people can have darkness in their characters ,Eve is trapped ,she loves richard but is trapped by richard performing for him .Richard has trouble having sex so makes eve perform also likes the danger of performing secret operations .Alex is criminal and like a runaway train through the book on a course for a huge crash .The book was sold to be made into a film by Pedro Almodovar ,he read the book when it came out and want to film it over ten years .Now the film the skin i live in has just come out at this years Cannes festival the storyline in the film is far removed from the but the main thread is there the relationship between surgeon and wife ,renamed Robert legard and Vera in the film Robert is played by the well-known actor Antonio Banderas .

Have you read French Noir ?

Do you like Pedro Almodovar films ?

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