July /august round up

Well I missed July’s wrap up of reads so you’ve a bumper edition this time .I ve read a few more english and american books in last two months than normal, but will be back on translations for next couple of months .So here is the list of what I ve read in last couple of months in no particular order –


  1. Phantoms of Breslau by Marek Krajewski (Poland)
  2. The violins of Saint Jacques by Patrick Leigh Fermor (England)
  3. Vox by Nicholson Baker (America)
  4. Three men in a boat by Jerome K. Jerome (England)
  5. Half blood blues by Esi Edugyan(Canada)
  6. Vile bodies by Evelyn Waugh (England)
  7. The tears of autumn by Charles Mccarry(America)
  8. Dart by Alice Oswald(England)
  9. Down the rabbit Hole by Juan Pablo Villalobos(Argentina)
  10. Until thy wrath be past by Asa Larson (Sweden)
  11. The stranger’s child by Alan Hollinghurst(England)
  12. U&I by Nicholson Baker (America)
  13. Ashes by Sergios Gakas (Greece)
  14. All the lights by Clemens Meyers(Germany)
  15. Good offices by Evelio Rosero (Columbia)
  16. The manual of darkness by Enrique de Heriz(Spain)
  17. The milkman in the night by Andrey Kurkov (Ukraine)
  18. I the supreme ny Augusto Roa Bastos (Paraguay)
  19. Corrections by Thomas Bernard(Austria)
  20. Exiled from almost everywhere by Juan Goytisolo(Spain)
  21. the sense of an ending by Julian Barnes(England)

So that is it 21 in two months taking the total for the year to 85 books which is exactly same as August last year .I ve read lot english books but going be posting them in between translations reviews for a while .Off the books read the Phantoms of Breslau and down the rabbit hole were my huge favourites .I read three longlisted booker of them the stranger’s child was just my favourite .What you’ve read recently ?

plans for next month well I m reading very short novellas next couple of weeks to give me things to review whilst I make my way through the 1100 plus pages of Parallel stories from the end of the month and I think it will take a month to read with some other books thrown in .What are your plans for September ?

The milkman in the night by Andrey Kurkov

The milkman in the night by Andrey Kurkov

Ukrainian fiction

Translator – Amanda Love Darragh

Andrey Kurkov the ukrainian writer is probably best know for the first of his Penguin books death and the penguin which I reviewed a while ago here  ,he has written 13 novels and a number of children’s books in his time .He is well known for his dark humour and satire .

This his latest book in translation ,is yet again set in and around the capital  of Ukraine Kiev .Yet again like in death and the penguin the main character is a middle-aged man .Semyon a body-guard by day , he is married but has starterd to sleep walk every night ,and appear with his clothes in a mess every morning ,his wife doesn’t believe he is sleep walking so he asks his friend to prove this is the case and he find as out he visits a women every night  .Elsewhere Irina a single mother sells her breast milk to a strange variety of characters .We also have a politician Gennady a man who is on the rise with influence post orange revolution ,his is a double edge character thou good and generous but also easily cuts people off .Elsewhere the is Dima an airport security guard at Borysil airport with his sniffer dog , who finds and then  steals a case contain a mysterious drug ,the maker of the drugs we also meet at the start as he is murdered ,oh and then there is fluffy the cat as well .

 ”  Fluffy ! Fluffy ! ” Dima heard the voice of his wife ,Valaya .He had been trying to sleep .”fluffy ! where are you ? ”

Just the he heard from outside the familiar unpleasant snarling of the neighbour’s bull terrier ,which went by the name of king .Dog and owner were equally objectionable .Instead of taking the dog for a walk its owner would sometimes just let it out in his front yard ,whereupon it would make a beeline for Dima and Valay’s front yard and do its business and chase their cat Fluffy if he should happen to be nearby -before retreating to its own territory .

Dima’s home life early on in  the book .

Now as you see this book has a number of smaller stories making it up into a whole the stories do cross at points during the book ,its like the film short cuts or Magnolia  where we dash in and out of the lives of people as we view a cross-section of Kiev from the rich to the poor single parent ,families and even the pets make appearances  here .Kurkov,s talent is keeping you interested in the vastness of the work with out making you feel you have to take notes to keep up , every twist and turn the stories of their lives gets more comic ,in some ways this could be fraiser (us tv show) as scripted by Anton Chekov  it has the feel sometime like Frasier the characters get caught up in a comic moment from one action .This will appeal if you liked death and the penguin, but the again  if you though death and the penguin a little to surreal to read maybe this one will appeal  more, it is tinged with surrealism but not as much .This book made me laugh and made me cringe at times .The translator is different from his earlier books I prefer This translator to the earlier one for some reason can’t put my finger on it just seemed more straight forward .

Kurkov has done a podcast for Vintage I ve not listen to it yet but here is the link 

winstons coffee

Well its sunday I ve just done my BBAW links for my nomination .I ve had a busy week at work ,but that said I managed to get a bit of reading done all said ,I found a new crime writer I love the Polish writer Marek Krajewski his Eberhard Mock has been a revelation to me ,Krajewski is a master of description so I feel I ve spent a couple of days in 1919 Breslau not 2011 Derbyshire which is good the weather has been terrible here this week.I went to town yesterday with Amanda and pick some books up from Oxfam and a half price copy of the new Julian Barnes which is longlisted for the Booker prize .Amanda went to Bakewell yesterday so we had some Bakewell tart for our supper last night ,the original tart is so much tastier than the other ones you can buy from elsewhere in the country .so that’s been part of my week ,I m keeping  an eye on the hurricane and hoping people are safe.

How has your week been ?

winstons post – the event of the decade

Rarely do I get really excited about a book and a writer but this book and its writer deserve to be shouted about ,this is the latest book from the hungarian writer Peter Nadas ,it took him 18 years to write the three volumes that make up parallel stories and it has taken the translator Imre Goldstein 5 years to bring the book to english .It is 1152 pages long so is one of the longest books in translation .The book covers post war eastern europe from end of war the Budapest uprising in 1956 to the fall of the berlin war .I think this book is probably going be the best insight into living behind the iron curtain in fiction .Its told through a number of characters from Germany , Hungary,with its main focus on two families one German ,one Hungarian there is a in-depth interview with him about the book here .The book is due out in November I will be reviewing it then over three days as three books that make the complete book .I feel this is a strong contender for the 2012 Independent foreign fiction prize as a book of this scale rarely comes round .  I think it’ll take a month for me to  get through the book .

What do you think ? 

The manual of darkness by Enrique De Heriz

The manual of darkness by Enrique De Heriz

Translator – Frank Wynne

Spanish Fiction

Enrique De Heriz is from Barcelona ,this is second novel in TO be translated to English ,a best seller in his native spain when it came out .He is also well-known as a Translator of books from english into spanish .

The manual of darkness at it heart is the story of Victor Losa we follow him over the period of a year at the start of the book he is a well-known Magician who has just been named the worlds best magician ,just as this happens he is struck down with blindness a huge moon like white spot in his vision ,the early part of the book deals with his initial reaction to this and also we have two other narratives one about his father who was a bit odd a scientist that loved keeping ants  nd seeing how they live .The other narrative is Victor tracking the history of a Victorian pickpocket called Peter grouse he finds this out via his mentor Mario Galvan they also discuss a myriad of other subjects .As the book unfolds , we see that the chance tha Victors sight is going to return is very slight ,so he seeks to help via a helper from ONCE ( the spanish equivalent of the RNIB in the uk )   Alicia helps Victor learns about how to cope in a unsighted world ,in the latter parts they are vignettes of famous blind people as we see how they coped with there sight loss .In the end victor starts to come to terms with his new life .

such a small degree of hope is like a minuscule balcony in a poor man’s home .Perhaps it looks out towards the bleak north ,perhaps it is not large enough even for one miserable chair and perhaps ,over time serves only to house three empty flowerpots that upon a time contained something living .It extends the space of the apartment only in the mind of those who live there .This is its meagre function ,and even if it succeeds in this it is a miracle ,Victor spends little time nurturing this vain 0.2 per cent of hope ,and whole days mony of them ,regretting that it will not come to pass .

Victor had been told he had 0.2 per cent chance of full vision

Where do I start with this book ,well at his heart is Victor he is a man who has gone from the top to the bottom of the world  in a second as he lost his sight ,but he copes in a way as he learns new things as he once spent a lot of time learning new tricks ,also a link back to when his father told him ants are deaf  he links this own blindness also an either or situation of which is worse condition .The book does what a lot of modern Spanish fiction does and that is make you think beyond the story into your own life and those around you .I suppose the nearest comparison would be the works of Carlos Ruiz Zafon  like his books this is a book that has many different levels to it .As ever Franks translation is well executed .

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