New year new plans into year three of blogging

Well 2011 has drawn slowly to a close here I’ve been away from blogging over Christmas to spend time with family .but am now ready for next year I ve decided to avoid challenges this coming year as I felt they distract my reading as I tend to find it hard to stick to them as I m a flighty reader , whether later in year this may change but at moment I just want to feel free in my reading again ,I be more careful with review choices next year as I feel ive been pigeonholed as a bit of a crime lover which I am but my main love will always be lit fiction And mainly fiction in translation especially those books that get overlooked or we re missed when they came out  .Plans I ve set down so far thou for next year  are – the shadow Asian reading and Judging which I m enjoying ,henry green week which is at the end of this month ,shadow IFFP reading and a Spanish Language fiction month at some point in the year ,which is enough as I start to try to get my rhythm back with blogging ,book reading target well I managed 132 books again like it was in 2010 last year (can see how far behind I fell with my reviews in last few months ,as I enter the third year of blogging regularly I feel I found my niche in the blogging world  now and have now got my own style of blogging, which suits me .I feel three to four post a week which is the level I want to be posting at and need to clear backlog of books unreviewed .I added twenty new countries to the blog this year and read from books from fifty different countries ,slightly less than last year but new countries are getting hard to find and I wanted to add some depth to places and felt I did that I ll do the same next year .

Londoners by craig Taylor

I won this just before Christmas on twitter  and was intrigued by it and london in general as a northern and proud of it , who has only visited London on half a dozen occasions I wanted to see if this book by Craig Taylor, who is also  the editor of seven dials magazine would give me an insight into what it is to be a Londoner and is there any peace in the madness as it seems to the outsider .Craig spent over seven years interviewing people from all walks of life on what effect London has had on them and what they do every day  .The book is loosely organised in sections following an arc of arriving in london too what happens every day the people how entertain, feed and look after us whilst there and ultimately the people who see us into then next life .these range from pilot that bookends the book arriving at the airport and leaving as he puts it moving away from all that life in the city .

But london has cross winds .Nothing’s stable .Nothing’s set it can be tough work too. if it is rough you might duck into grey cloud pilot

Kevin Pover on landing in london but this nugget seems to sum up London a bit as well .

I loved Taylor’s style of interviewing letting people chat and obviously editing it into little nuggets and gems and getting rid of waffle whilst still keeping the feel of every person via the grammar and use of language .I felt like I spent seven years on a tube train every day talking to a different person or in a pub for seven years .Craig has done for modern London what the mass observation project did in the second world war ,captured it like a fly in amber  for all time .Some of my favourite people in the book where the Pakistan currency guy that had marfan syndrome just because he had that as a tall thin man this syndrome was often mentioned to me as something I may have due to my build and shape , till my mum took me for tests and I hadn’t it but his story remind me of that time .

I also has some problems with my health .Some eye problems .I had retinal detachment -I have a genetic reason for that ,Marfan Syndrome ,which makes me tall and causes eye problems . karman Sheikh currency trader talks about his health problems a syndrome I was suspected of having but didn’t .

The funeral director that show the cosmopolitan nature of London has led to him working with people in Poland and Nigeria on a regular basis even opening a branch in Nigeria as he was shocked at the facilities .

I went into one mortuary and there were bodies lying on the floor at various stages of decomposition when they’d not kept up the payments .

The ambulance man talking of delivering babies here there and every where also the fact he delivered babies of all races and every one is the same when it come to child-birth .this book is the best non fiction book I ve read all year and one everyone should read I think .

Winstonsdad books of year

Well I have spent a long  time thinking  of this year’s best books  and finally got down to ten books which I must admit two of which Ive  not reviewed on blog yet,so here we go  in no particular order –

Down the rabbit hole  by Juan Pablo  Viilalobos  – A young Mexican  boy wants a pygmy Hippo and his dad is a Mexican drug baron,so he might just get it . This book is a glimpse of  another world that of the drug cartels . A wonderfully crafted novella from a new publisher .

Tomorrow Pamplona by  Jan Van Mersbergen – I still amazed at Laura’s translation of this book how well she kept the maleness of the voices so well and I love the story of men at a crossroads in their life .As they head to the annual Bull running in spain .

Parallel stories  by Peter Nadas Is maybe one of the true epic books of the 21st century ,ok it has a lot of sex but also you feel the dirt and grim of everyday communist life in eastern europe through the eyes of his characters within its covers .

Phantoms of Breslau by Marek Krajewski  A dark atmospheric crime novel set in post world war Poland ,I love his use of language and the way he brings Breslau to life .The best crime novel I ve read this year.

Beauty and the Inferno by Roberto Saviano This book typifies  non fiction at it best from a writer that is fearless these pieces range from the trivial stories of footballers to the deadly serious with pieces on the environment , all written in Saviano’s wonderful prose style

Kamchatka by Marcel Figueras -This is  my favourite south american book this year in what has been a good year for Argentina fiction ,a little boy on the run with his parents in the seventies that dark time in Argentina  and the best of a number of books about this time that came out this year .

Khirbet Kizah by S Yizhar is  the first of his two masterpieces to  reach us  English his epic follow-up to this due out sometime in the next few years ,this book follows a battle in a small Palestine  village from the view of the Israeli soldiers doing the mission.

I was born there ,I was born here by Mourid Barghouti  yet again his poetic prose bring his homeland to life ,not with angry voices but with quiet words showing the everyday to him that seems outrageous to us .A must read for anyone that wants to know the Palestine side of the conflict

Glorious  Nemesis by Laidslav Kilma another gem turned up by the wonderful twisted spoon this follows a man haunted by an old women he saw briefly and its driven him mad and to poverty.

New finnish grammar by Diego A book about language , memory ,learning who you are .This by a man who is found and assumed to be finnish by the contents of his bag .I was told about this at the Iffp by the Nick Lezard of the guardian and finally read it last week this maybe just nudges book of the year.If push comes to shove .

So that is that all of my books of the year are translations ,it what has been a great year for translations .

What was your translation of the year ?

If your on twitter hashtag it with #translationthurs for all I will rt them all .


Glorious Nemesis by Ladislav Klima

Glorious Nemesis by Ladislav Klima

Translator Marek Tomin

Czech Fiction

Ladislav Klima grew up in Bohemia in the late part of 1800’s and early part of 1900’s expelled for his views on church and state from his school he lived hand to mouth in the later part of his life making money doing short-term jobssuch as a shoe shiner or in hotels .In fact  most of his work was published after his death at the age of  50 in 1928 from tuberculosis .This is the latest to be brought to english by The czech based publisher Twisted spoon .

When I read the pitch for this book from the publisher ,I knew it would be a book I loved ,as I have  a great fondness for pre world war two central European fiction from likes of Kafka ,Leppin ,Zweig and so on this book falls firmly into this group of writers  where they question life and social standing and what it is to be human .saying that this  is a short novella of a 123 pages and also includes a number of special commissioned Illustrations for the book by the Czech artist Pavel Rut ,the whole book is wonderfully package with a striking cover that uses the virgin mary /two sister motif    .The book is the story of a young man Sider, he is 28 ,and whilst on a holiday in the Tyrol. He comes across two women on a black cliff these are sisters Errata and Orea .The are dressed in red and blue which happens to be the colours of the Virgin Mary ,he falls in love with these women and this sets the scene for the  story ,as he is  always returning to the place where  he saw them  first and he sees echoes of them even after the women have gone and even died .I m remind of other books of the time and think this fits in as we watch Sider descend into madness as he treads a line between the real and unreal ,this book touches many things over its short length philosophy , religion ,love and longing also the Czech tradition of the ordinary turning into the surreal and  absurd as Sider see thinks that aren’t there and meets various people .

Finally ,the older women ‘s eyes regarded him .She said something to her companion .Now their conversation became livelier …. and then the younger of the two looked intently at Sider for a long time ,for an almost indecent length of time .He was the first to avert his eyes .

Sider gets a close look at the women as they descend towards him .

I love the quote from the recently departed Vaclav Havel” Klima almost always shocked ” I can see how Klima has influence figures like Havel and Haki also quote it’s that czech thing of walking the line between the everyday and the unusual  motifs in both writers work ,and how easy it is too become obsessed and then mad because of obsession. As ever another triumph from Twisted spoon as they continue to unearth the hidden gems of central European fiction for us to read in English .This book can easily sit next to a Zweig or Kafka .Here is Complete reviews take on it 

What is your favourite Czech novel ?


Failing at challenges and can you help ?

Last year I signed up for a few challenges that appealed but as year went on I failed at them terribly ,so for 2012 I l be doing no challenges in fact I ll just do the odd thing here and there as I try to get my failing blog back on the rails I ve neglect winstonsdad of late .In part due some ill-health ,wanting to spend more time with Amanda and my own laziness but when I spoke last night and realised I had 20 plus books unreviewed Ive decided I need to get a routine going so in  2012 I want to get a better routine with the blog and this is a question to you all especially those who post regularly  HOW DO YOU DO IT ? any tips are welcome I have been writing a post at a time but not sure if this is best way maybe a day and write a few at a time would work what do you do ? Do you like challenges ? where am I going wrong ? I am a butterfly reader I like jumping from place to place and very disorganised .so any tips and advice be more than welcome  thanks as from jan I want get back to regular posting .

All these little worlds the second collection from fiction desk

Earlier this year I reviewed Rob of the fiction desk first collection Various Authors here .So when a few months ago (sorry for delay Rob) I was asked if I want to review the second in this quarterly series of anthologies ,I said yes as known Rob via twitter for a few years and I really trust his judgement at picking the stories for the fiction desk collections .

SO this time we have nine stories in this collection two of the writers that had appeared in the first collection also appear here Charles Lambert and Jason Atkinson .The collection like the first isn’t themed which I like I m not a huge short story reader but when I do read a collection I prefer it to be like a i pod on shuffle you never know what is going to appear next and this collection is like this .One minute your with a family as the put something strange in a fish tank .Then you’re at school where the is strange thinks going on due to a new dress code being brought into force .As ever I ll focus on a couple that caught my eye the first is one by Mischa Hiller called room 307

He took a drink of his beer and looked up to see a women in a pinstriped trouser suit come into the restaurant  .She was on the mobile phone and carrying a leather briefcase on a strap over her shoulder .The two businessmen stared at her like they’d never seen a women before.

Callum the main character in Mischa Hiller’s room 307 sees a women .

The story is about Callum he is  a businessman  away on a business trip when he meets a women called Susan and they chat and get on there is a spark ,he is married thou .The story has a thriller edge to it that slow telling of the story building the tension to the end as we find out who Susan was is she really his wife ,just a random women or something more sinister .this story for me does what great Short stories do with the bare facts a man in a hotel we have his name not much else.but as you see the scene with this women unfold you are there with him as it happens and that is what great short stories should do make you feel in their setting straight away as it is like  a butterfly only there for a short period of time .The other story I really like was Jagger’s and crown by James Benmore .

According to this mornings paper ,I am meant to have died sometime over the weekend .Go and buy a copy of the mail if you don’t believe me ,I’m on page 36 .

Kevin Crown reads of his own death .

Now this story shows another face of short story’s the mini epic ones as Keith crown reads of his own death he was part of a comedy double act ,I pictured some of the acts we used to see in the late seventies early eighties on british tv cannon and ball ,Les Dennis and Dustin gee so on (if you are not from uk maybe google them and you’ll have an idea of what I m,mean ) so this shock that he is thought to have died makes him look back over his working life with Sonny Jaggers from his first array as a solo act then he  meeting Sonny and the rise of them as a double act but then like Icarus all things that maybe fly to high fall to the ground and so it happen to them so in  the space of 22 pages we see a man’s life wonderful stuff and as rob noted on the top of the story Keith crown seems very real .

Last time I compared his collection to c86 so in the same  vein I m going to say this is like a this mortal coil album and Rob is like Ivo Watts Russell sticking together a collection of fresh talent to make a little gem .Below is a list of the stories plus links to Rob’s site where you can order a subscription .



The wandering Falcon by Jamil Ahmad

The wandering Falcon by Jamil Ahmad

Pakistan fiction

Man Asian longlist 2011

Jamil Ahmad has spent his life as a civil servant and working closely in the tribal regions of pakistan near the Afghan border ,working closely for nearly fifty years with them .This book he had written over years and it was sent by a member of his family for a short story prize  and end up being publish as it was in a novel form

Now wander falcon is set in that area of tribes that is now part of Afghanistan , Pakistan , Iran,part of which Robert Byron visit in the thirties in his book the road to Oxiana .THE book is told from a child that is found abandoned as his parents had broken tribal rules and had run off but he ends up alone in the desert , as he grows up ,in this sometimes harsh part of the world  .But this isn’t a book that is harsh on these people the one thing that shines through is the writers love for the region and the people living their .Now as a western a lot of what happens in the book can seem harsh when we see it on the news but when read here in context by some one that knows the people so well it comes across as  part of there society and tribal tradition .So we follow Tor Baz the abandon boy as he grows to be known as the black falcon  as he is adopted by one leader but then as he isn’t of that tribe wanders like a falcon hovering around the tribes ,this happens through nine chapters that in their own way are little stories that make up the novel as a whole with just Tor Baz appearing all the way through the book  and deal with various parts of his life . The book is set from the 1950s  before russia got heavily involved in Afghanistan thou they are mention also how the tribes got involved in the second world war .This is also the time before  the Taliban were not about .Even though it is in that time as the story of tribes and the warriors in them and the women unfold you feel this could be any time in the last five hundred years as the rich tribal traditions are so interwoven into the people Jamil describes it is imbedded in  there DNA this way of life  .

His hair gave credence to his tale .Even his eyebrows and eyelashes looked like freshly fallen snow clinging bravely to a cliff face .But then his energy and vitality seemed to belie his claim as he led his nomadic tribe ,year after year ,on their second migration from the afghan highlands .

A tribal leader sadar Karim Khan Kharot or the general described .

Jamil as shown in this passage has a poetic turn of phrase but the book is a simple narrative but done to perfection there is no need for clever writing as what he is writing is the world he has known for most of his life ,you feel he’s meet Tor Baz young men that drift these worlds due to fate and his parents bad luck at break rules  and also  tribal leaders ,but also the women come through not a the veiled weak figures that we sometimes see when this region is describe but a strong-willed females who are trying to make the way in a harsh male world in a harsh unforgiving part of the world .It’s fair to say I loved this book it was refreshing to read something that felt like a real portrayal of the tribes men not just our western view of them .

This was my review for the Shadow man asian judges Lisa has also review it very differently to my review

euro 2012 literary posts and some help

Well I sat down on Friday evening to watch the draw for euro 2012 (european football championship) .So as the numerous ins and outs of the draw were explained how each team was put in each bag and how when the matches are to be played decide .So I sat there hoping our draw would be easy and looking forward to next summer and yet again living the dream of an english victory .So as I did two years ago I m going to tie up a number of posts in june to focusing on each country and the team and writers from each country and my memories of the teams playing . I did same two years ago with some of the world cup teams in 2010 .I want to use this as a way to get men reading and boys ,As a shocking stat   today from the literacy trust in the uk showed  that an estimate 3.8 million children don’t own a book ,I know from other such surveys that most of these will be young boys that will grow up to be young men that don’t interact with books so again I m using football of a way of promoting literature in translation and books in general in a fun way .Using football pics and players names to help get people there via google search for these terms  .So I was fairly happy with our draw and felt we did about as good as we could with the middle in competiveness of the groups  as one group fairly easy group A and one very hard group which is group B ,well enough of the football talk, here are the groups –

Group A




Czech Republic

Group B





Group C



Republic of Ireland


Group D





So maybe if the FA in the uk could hand the English players a Steig Larson ,Andrey Kurkov and Jean Echenoz novel and Kids watch could see Rooney or Wiltshire reading them and asking why and they could say it is to help the players learn about the teams there playing  and maybe we could start a debate on books and reading around our players and the young kids watch could be inspired to read like their hero’s where doing ? Anyway my question for some help is some choices from Croatia ,Poland and Ukraine that you may have read ,I ve read a few from each but would love some extra books and writers to include in June .Also on reading european fiction may I mention Rose city readers European reading  challenge  for next year to get you in the mood .I d like to wish my readers from round europe all the best I know some of you may have been disappointed with draw .

where the devil can’t go by Anya Lipska

Anya Lipska is a journalist and lives in london this is her debut novel.She is married to a pole .

I like the concept of this book when I received a e-mail from its publicist Louise ,I often wander around my local supermarket which now has a section devoted to polish food and we also have a polish deli ,so a book set in the uk in the polish community seemed like a really interesting book to me .The book’s title is part of an old polish proverb about a women being often the cause of trouble ,I asked Anya on twitter about this and she said it fitted the main character Janusz Kiszka to  tee .He is an older chap a figure-head in the community ,The sort of  come to guy the man who knows everyone and every thing so when he is asked to find a missing young polish  girl by a priest ,this one event leads him to his own past as he returns to his native Poland and faces his own ghosts ,a dead body or two , a perky female police detective Natalie Kershaw ,she  is young and full of get up and go .She is a a new young detective  in what feels like a very male police force world and has  Janusz in her sights as he keeps cropping up in the case of a girl found by the river Thames .All this has repercussions in Poland in the upper reaches of Polish politics .

She followed him as he moved up the side of the bed .He bent over the girl .”No obvious injuries” he said eyes flickering impassively over the splayed body .

Kershaw notice a fuzz of underarm stubble beneath the girls out flung left arm – a detail so personnel it made her feel uncomfortably like a voyeur .

A body in a hotel room as Kershaw sorts this case .

I like my crime novels that break the mould or have well crafted characters and this book seems to have achieved both ,the narrative stream is told in alternating chapters by Janusz and then Kershaw this is clever as you see two pictures  of what is happening ,but then over time these picture merge and the true course of events becomes clear to the reader .The other strength in this book is Janusz he is like a fish out of water a pole in the uk ,a man with secrets ,but also not the most politically correct guy he is a bit of a misogynist ,he has a girlfriend but their relationship is in limbo a bit ,the way he talked and dealt with women took me back to the noir of the thrities and  forties ,he is like a modern Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe .Also you find out how he end up in the UK and also a bit about Poland in the Eighties and life under the communist state .I also loved the fact that early on I had to google as they described eating various Polish dishes ,so next time I m in the supermarket I may know what are on the shelves .So if you want a page turning winter crime novel that has something a bit different about it this may be the book for you .

Here is a interview with writer 

and Anya Lipska site

This is an e book her is the link to it on amazon 

December 2011


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