Henry Green Week jan 23 – 29 2012

After a conversation on twitter this afternoon about Henry Green and the fact that not enough people read him .I decide lets do a week for him in January .I think he is maybe one if not the best pre war English writer .He is probably best known for loving his 1945 novel and his brught young think novel party going .

here  is his wiki page 

Sebastian faulks on him in the guardian 

Have you read him ?

What book will you pick ? 


Purgatory by Tomas Eloy Martinez

Purgatory by Tomas Eloy Martinez

Argentina fiction

Translator – Frank Wynne

I read his Santa Evita a mythical magic realism tale based around the life of Eva Peron early on in the blog and have Tango singer sat on my shelves so when this arrived from Bloomsbury I was excited even more so when I saw it was one of Frank Wynne’s translation ,for me one of the best translators  in the world and certainly when in comes to complex fiction like this .

So Purgatory was Tomas last novel and the fact that in part it is narrated by a north american based Argentina writer as Tomas Eloy himself .The story is centre on Simon and Emilia these where husband and wife, when thirty years earlier in the seventies at the height of the disappearances in Argentina by the Junta .Simon disappear whilst doing his job as a cartographer .Now thirty years later his wife Emilia walks in a bar and sitting there is Simon ,but he hasn’t aged a day ,is it him or a ghost that never really gets answered but as the story progress Martinez jumps from the events leading up to Simon disappearance there married life ,their work as cartographers ,also what was going on around them .We also her Emilia talking to the writer in the modern day about her life and Simon .Also the outside world of the world cup of 78 which was held in Argentina ,Orson Welles    and UFO  all crop up along the way .

Simon disappeared in Tucuman at the beginning of July .The days were mild and the nights frosty .He and Emilia had been sent to the Tucuman by the automobile club on an easy mission , virtually a holiday .They were to map a ten kilometre stretch of an invisible route – nothing more than a dotted line on the map to the south of the province .

in this quote it seems ok til you read it closer .


Now this story is layered the title is a give away to the subject Purgatory and even this has many faces ,Emilia unable to properly move on with her life after Simons disappearance as she has been in limbo like many wifes of the disappeared  ,has maybe by see him purged this feeling  from her life .Argentina its self maybe after a time of not looking at what happened during the time of disappearances and now is maybe  just recently is able to face what happened during that time of the junta .I ve seen this in a number of recent Argentina novels I ve read Kamchatka and open secret to name two  .Also Martinez who at time he wrote book had cancer and maybe this book is his way of purging what happened at the time as well he saw many thinks at first hand and at a distance as he was a journalist at the time .The story mixes what happened with fiction so well and also how it affect everyday Argentina’s .Again Martinez shows his ability to use magic realism to make reality even bolder than before .A fitting testament to his writing life and a great job as ever by Frank bring it to English.

Have you read Martinez ?

What are you listening to Wednesday ?2:54 a new band

Dolce Bellezza start this meme a couple of months ago but I keep missing it but now I bring you a new british band that I ve just found and want to share 2:54 are a london based band formed round two sisters this song is there debut single scarlet and so reminds me of the early ninties band curve that I loved at the time .I always think everything new these days has echos of what has come beofre .

Ordained by the oracle by Asare Konadu

Ordained by the oracle by Asare Konadu

Ghanaian Fiction

When Kinna announced Ghanaian lit week I had just read this novel so I put it to one side and decided to review it for Ghanaian lit week .Samuel Asare Konadu was born in 1932 ,he worked as a reporter and for the Ghana information services ,in the mid sixties he studied traditional customs ,he also started a publishing venture Anowuo book ,how publish some books in the sixties to success .

SO what is Ordained by the oracle about well we follow Boateng ,he is a successful trader in a the Elmina (a coastal town in the south of Ghana ) ,he is a modern man dealing in the modern world in his day-to-day life ,his wife is in hospital dying it turns out ,now she grew up in a small village and via her grandmother ,has mor belief in the old tribal ways of life .So when Dora the wife dies ,Boateng decides to follow his wifes wishes and to sp[end forty days and nights wife his wife’s body .So with his wife he returns to the village his wife is from and then  spends the forty days and nights with the body.As he does this he reflects on his life and his wife’s life also the people they know .he is helped by people in the village as he spend the forty days and nights .AS he starts to putting things in order in his mind having the time to just think and dwell

Boateng found his sleep after two nights of keeping awake .He thought in the first few hours of the life that faced him without his wife ,but the company he had in the presence of the guide took away the fear that gripped him .When he was locked up with his dead wife .The room they now occupied was a few yards from where Dora  lay in state .

Just after the forty days .

Rather like tail of the blue bird by Nii Ayikwei Parkes ,this book deals with the clashing of to worlds the old village tribal world of Dora and her grandparents that she spent time with when she was younger ,and that of Boateng his modern world and him wanting to turn his back  on traditional ways .These meet when the modern world in the form of the modern Hospital his dying wife is in can’t keep her alive ,so this sends Boateng down a path of rediscovering the past and the values he was in trouble of losing .Konadu writing is poetic and he keep the pages turning with shortish economical written  chapters ,your never left with endless pages of unnecessary writing .The feeling is this is Konadu own world he is describing ,he himself was born in southern Ghana .I think this is a real lost gem of african writing it was part of the early African writer series no 55 an earlier work by him is no40 also in the first series of the African writer series  .It was first published in 1969 .

Have you read this book ?

What is your favourite Ghana book ?

Parallel stories by Peter Nadas

Parallel stories by Peter Nadas

Hungarian fiction

Translator Imre Goldstein

When I was asked earlier in the year to review Parallel stories I said yes, no problem and when it fell on the doorstep all 1100 plus pages of this modern epic I thought have I made a mistake ,but no I decide to set aside a couple of weeks to work my way through this modern masterpiece ,I finished it a few weeks ago but struggled with how to review it how to pay justice to Nadas vision and scope this book is deep and so multi layered it is hard to sum up with out drifting of into the individual and multiple story lines in this book so I then had to think of a different way of conveying the book and then it struck me the other day when I said in my thoughts how do you cover a master piece then it hit me describe the book as thou it was a piece of art using loose ideas and AI d be able to catch the spirit of the book .

Scene –

Well Nadas has sat down and drawn time from the centre point this is 1956 and 1961 two turning points in Hungary’s modern history in the context of this book the first the revolution that the russians so violently crushed ,the other is set in the bathhouse in Budapest where the three main characters that feature in the book talk about the city all have shady pasts and form the main body of the book .Nadas expands the lines out to recent history be it in Hungary or Germany and back to pre world war two and how this effect the Hungary on the fifties and sixties in this way showing how the events that happened in these two years happened and how the affected the future like a newtons cradle as what happened in 38 or 44 having a knock on effect via these two years to the modern world .



the sketches are the outlines of the three main characters there are a number of others but the three main ones are Hans von Wolkstein his mother was german and had a dark link to the Nazis regime in the war ,Agost from a connected Hungarian family his father served in a number of posts for different governments in Hungary and the last and maybe the darkest character is Andras Rott he is a spy and has very dark ideas .Like a spider’s web these three characters connect to most if not all of the people involved in the stories whether it is there parents stories or the lovers or lovers families all the little vignettes that make the most part of parallel stories connect to the three main stars of the narrative .

For a moment she thought Agost has gone mad .That he’d really lost his mind …..

and she would have loved tp love – no, worship his ankles ,his wrists hi every part ,his cock and every little bone in his body ,even impalpable things like the curve of the arches of his feet ,she adored him .

Agost future with about him .



Well this is a post modern book and like a classic post modern art the rule book of writing has been thrown out ,we drift from crime ,through highly erotic prose and into political drama oh and if you want any indication as to when people are talking forget it Nadas isn’t a fan of quotation marks but it is no harder than Ulysses in that regard .This book is like a collage of different styles that may on the surface seem chaotic , but as you work your way through they all seem to drop into place and in some ways the jarring styles works and yes it jumps from sex to the political but hey doesn’t real life a lot of the time ?


well when I first thought of the way to describe the book like art ,two things came to mind and that was Goya’s spanish french war pieces those horrific torture sketches and the art of Francis bacon ,like bacon Nadas takes the formal eastern european history especially hungarian history , which is the frame of the book like Bacon used the pope image or the crucifix but like Bacon Nadas has taken a personal view of these matters and yes here it is sex, sex and even more sex .This book is littered with sex ,good ,bad and downright vile sex but this is the flip people with no real freedom they find freedom in sex so that is what Nadas describes the end of book one is a novella length chapter that follows one grandiose act of sex between Agost and his future wife .So like the bacon at first you are a little scarred of the images but you then look beyond the picture to the painter and the same is said of Parallel stories Nadas describes the act of sex so well in places he must have had some practice whilst writing the book also the lexicon of rude parts is used to the max her bodily parts are described and over described at times .The connection to the Goya is politics how it plays a part war and conflict, from the nazi regime and the aftermath of that to communism and its faults .The Budapest revolution and lost freedom but how that one event affect the three main characters .

His black shirt and black pants ,wet with other mens urine and filthy with their sperm ,stuck to his back ,chest ,bottom and thighs they clung to him ,adhered to him like a skin ,white-hot with shame .

a scene from book two to give you an idea of the sex content of the book .



The final painting –

Well Parallel stories isn’t going to be to every ones taste to say the least it is not an easy read it needs time having read 2666 and Don Quixote in the last couple of years does it stack up against them yes long books tend to drift and diverge and this does maybe more than 2666 but not as much as Don Quixote .Is it gonna stand the test of time yes in my opinion it seems to lift the veils on the personnel lives of post war eastern Europeans more than any other book I ve read has this takes you in the bedroom even into the toilet more than you may want to know but sometimes you need a little uncomfortable in your reading not everything is comfortable in the world and nadas reminds you of this time and time again .It took Nadas eighteen years to write this book and Imre Goldstein a further five to translate her work on this book has made it accessible to the English reader Hungarian is a very hard language to translate from and she has done a sterling job here ,this is a strong IFFP contender and helps Nadas Nobel claims even more .

Have you a favourite Hungarian writer ?

Do you like post modern fiction ?

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