Hate A romance by Tristan Garcia

Tristan Garcia was born in 1981 (so very young ) ,his parents are teachers .He studied Philosophy and is a published writer on philosophy .This book is his debut.He has also worked on french television .He currently teaches at the university of Picardy .You can find out a little more about him via an interview here from bomb magazine 

I read the blurb about this book when I got it from library as it was one of the books on the list that had dropped under my radar  so intrigued me as to why I’d missed it when on the surface it would be a book I d read .Hate a romance is a story of four people and follows them from late teens through growing up although Leibo is older than the other three They are three men and one women in the early 80’s .This as an idea for the book  made me thing of two things. When I read it the first as AIDS is mention was it going to be a'” french Line of beauty “Hollinghurst novel set in 1980’s also about the gay experience at the time also we a good chunk of politics like this book .The other thing that sprung to mind was this life the tv series that had a Gay character but also young hip people at the heart of it ,also at times they used have state of the world discussions which this book has also conflict between the gay and straight characters as this does .So who are these  four – Will

Will never understood what happened ,though he worried and worried about it .Something occurred between them something scandalous and wrong…,

from first chapter that describe Will a bit .

Now will and Doume end up as really close the sort people you can’t separate as they fall in love on first meeting  .But Doume is a trouble man at the time he advocates having unprotected sex early on in the AIDS crisis .He also struggles as his best friend changes over time .

Dominique Rossi had alway looked handsome in a mature way ,responsible and lightly chiseled .The trouble was when he was twenty it didn’t suit him .He had to wait to look his age .

I love thought of Moume having to grow to look right I remember people I grew up with looking wrong then right when older .

We find out about these two via Liz an art journalist and the main narrator of the book she knew these two men and Jean Michael Lebiowitz her professor and Doume best friend she is the link between them all .As she meet will and introduced him to Doume and Leibo .So that is how it starts we find a twisted web of love politics ,aids ,backbiting as love does turn to hate as in the title .We see Liz watch these three men grow up .

I loved this in parts it has a choppy style shortish chapters ,almost a non fiction style ,but it has been described as a good example of the Roman A Clef style of fiction where real life crosses over into fiction .So these must be people Tristan has come across at some point on the paris arts/culture scene So has first hand knowledge of the people who may be the characters as the review for this book in the guardian revealed the real people who the characters maybe based on names aren’t two different to the real characters .I also think his other job as a philosopher has a large part to play with the way the book is maybe more about concepts and how people react to certain situations the main ones in this book are love ,betrayal and the Aids crisis oh and maybe a bit about the attraction of Leibo as he seem to move more to the right during the reign of Mitterrand .My only quibble was it maybe need fleshing out a bit at times also could have  been double the length .He won the well-known french prize the prix de Flore which has a number of well-known earlier winners including Michel Houellebecq .

WHat did you think of this book ?

Do you like books in the Roman a clef style ?

Walking in Kerouac’s boots my wild years

If you’ve not seen yet  finally a film version of Kerouac’s on the road is finally being made after more than 20 years of false starts it reaches our screens in the summer .I first heard of Kerouac as a fourteen year old when my friend Andy loaned me some Doors music, but also Jerry Hopkins AND Danny Sugerman’s wonderful biography of the Doors lead singer Jim Morrison “no one here gets out alive “.early on in the book  Jim’s  describes his reaction to reading “on the road “and how it led to him following the rest of the Beat group of writers figure such as William Burroughs ,.Allen Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti .So me as bookish young teen and in some ways looking for something to mean something to me , made my first move it to the world of the beats  he’d read and got a copy of Burroughs’ naked lunch I know not the best first choice but I lapped it up in a couple of days and then moved on to On the road and lived in Jack’s footsteps and his friends as I found out the book is as much about Kerouac’s real life at the time .At this time I had a very tense home life I don’t get on well with my stepfather and there was a constant sense of unease at my home.So these books gave me great escape but also as Jim and Jack had both hitch-hike I start missing college and hitch-hiking round firstly in Cheshire and Manchester as I spent my days escaping the impending doom of coming home at night to an unsettled feeling at home I found beauty in the world whether it seeing the world moving or a bird  or plant as I waited for a ride .I became a more open person due to this as Hitch-hiking forces you to talk to the person  who has  picked you up .Well this  carried on even after I left and moved to Northumberland to live  with my father. I read more and more Burroughs and Kerouac thanks in two ways to the newly opened Barter books in Alnwick where I lived and the wonderful stock Alnwick library which even thou a small Library  had a number of William Burroughs books so cities of red night ,nova express and others fell through my hands as I tried to live as a beat in a small way ,drinking, seeing the world  , writing poetry (bad poetry looking back but loved typing on an old typewriter I’d been given ) and maybe in some way trying to  escape impending  adulthood in a way , this I did till well in my twenties and managed to  reached Germany as I still had wanderlust and now a romance , had a ball with my German girlfriend seeing different places and cultures first hand was something I’ll never regret  .I know look back and have fond memories of what one small book has brought to my life and also a tinge of sadness as it must be over ten years since I read a beat writer but with a new collection of william Burroughs letters out by Penguin this month I feel a summer dive into some beat writing is called for ,I m sure I said that two summers ago but this summer I m going get on the road again anyway in my mind as I know have a wonderful home life with my dear Amanda and Winston ,so the need to run has gone some what .I ll leave you with the trailer for on the road .

Alice by Judith Hermann

Alice by Judith Hermann

German fiction (short stories)

Translator – Margot Bettauer Dembo

Judith Hermann is from Berlin ,she grew up there studied German and philosophy ,work at German newspaper as an intern after that .The got a grant from the Berlin Academy of art to live in Alfred Doblin house ,she then published her first collection summer-house ,this Alice is her third collection and is darker than her earlier works .Judith Hermann is part of the new wave of female german writer like Julie Zeh AND Jenny Erpenbeck .Alice made the longlist for the independent foreign fiction prize and is from the new press The Clerkenwell Press  first collection which is an imprint of Profile books .

So what is Alice about well it is a collection of five short stories ,rather like the collections from Kauzo Ishiguro and Cees Nooteboom in the last couple of years these are theme stories but also all contain the same person Alice ,the theme is death  so maybe it is a composite novel of interlinking stories ,but these two recent short story collections sprung to my mind straight after reading the book .We see how Alice is effected by these deaths and the deaths are of people she is connected with the first few are friends ,some she really isn’t that close to then by the fourth story Malte her gay uncle and lastly her own husband and how she deals after he suddenly died  .I must admit I wasn’t overly bowled over by this collection ,I found the first there stories very similar in tone Alice was there some one died ,the writing is beautiful but I felt the first three stories were very similar in tone and feel also other than place Alice as the heroine ,friend and a little bit about her as a person ,as the first three men die ,Misha is dying zweribruken with his wife and children Alice is there to help ,then a couple she vaguely knows in Italy invite her to stay  and lastly a friend in berlin as he knows his death is impeding planning out what happens during and after his death she visits him and his wife  .

The last time she visited richard and Margaret she’d brought peonies at this same stand ,having first thought about it for a long time .Seven peonies please ,and don’t add anything ,an uneven number a superstition ,five were to few and she didn’t have enough money for nine .

Details is something Hermann does well like this thought on buying flowers .



I just wasn’t  very inspired by this collection ,I m not sure if that is at moment or it’ll be one of those books that six months down the line I ll go yes I get it  totally and what Judith Hermann was trying to do . As an insight into death and coping with it’S aftermath it is well written the way every one copes those stages of grief  as something I ve dealt with via work for over twenty years  I struggled to connect with Hermann’s vision and using  Alice as the motif through the stories   thou we do see her interact with the dying , bereaved and her own grief  ,she never leaped of the pages as a character for me to connect with .I felt she was just there to drive the stories not be built on as a character in herself  I know it is come in short stories for us to know little of the character other tha the situation we meet them in ,I just felt Alice’s character maybe need some more filling out .I must admit Dembo has done a wonderful job in translation as Hermann’s writing is beautiful in parts she has a real eye for details that was enough to keep me going to the end ,in parts remind me a little in the skeleton prose of Carver and Cheever  .Those thin slices they brought to life so well  ,in this case it is death we’re dealing with but unlike carver and Cheever Hermann just hasn’t hooked this reader yet .I will try her other books at some point .Oh I must admit this is strange my first slightly negative review but that is beauty of reading a longlist like the Independent foreign fiction prize you get to try books you may not normally try out  books out of your comfort zone and this book fell into both these categorises

Have you read this book ? 

The history of the man in black by Oliver goldsmith

I going try to go through a few irish short stories for Mel of reading lives irish short story month .I was born in Ireland myself co down in the north and my family has a history on my father’s side going back over 300 years in Ireland ,so irish literature is something I read when young with frequent visits to family and friends meant I want to learn more about Ireland .But in the last ten years I ve read less and less so I chosen a few short stories and may try a few novels later this year after my IFFP reading .

so to the story it is told by a son his father was a poor member of a well to do family he had joined the church as a youngest son in Ireland at the time this was normal in middle class families the first son would inherit the second join the army and the third the clergy ,well his son wants some money as he dislikes his families poverty we see how he goes about it in this very short story of four pages ,it does capture a part of Ireland that was in existence for many years .All so shows how quick one could fall from well to do to poor in Ireland in the 1700’s

My father ,the younger son of a good family  was possessed a small living in the church .His education was above his fortune and his generosity greater than his education .

Opening of this short story .

Oliver Goldsmith was a Anglo irish writer alive from the 1720 to the 1770 .he grew up in Ireland went to trinity college in Dublin then went to london after college where he became a member of the club,the exclusive dining club run by Samuel Johnson and Joshua Reynolds ,they meet every two weeks and discussed art and writing .

This story is in my 10 volume collection the worlds thousand best short stories .

Dream of ding village by Yan Lianke

Dream of Ding Village by Yan Lianke

Chinese fiction

Translator Cindy Carter

Yan Lianke Is a chinese writer now based in Beijing he has a degree in literature he grew up in the Henan province  of  China that this book is set ,this book has been long  listed for the independent foreign fiction prize and was also earlier this year shortlisted for the Man asian prize ,unfortunately I didn’t get to it on my man asian shadow group but had been kindly sent a copy by mark and was happy when it appeared on the IFFP list .I first heard a brief interview with the writer last year on a podcast and was struck by the story which I hadn’t heard much of in the uk press at the time  .

The dream of ding village is maybe a misleading title maybe the nightmare would be a better title for the book .Ding village is a village  of just three streets in the Henan province a region in the central china .This book follows the village after the plasma economy that happened in the region between 91-95 this is where people were asked to give blood for money ,over 40% of the people who gave blood due to poor hygiene conditions ended up getting aids ,it is estimate by 2003 1.2 million people had died in the region due to this .This book is a small part of that story told through the eyes of a young boy as he sees the begin during and end of his village whilst they gave blood and what happened as the village then started dying .I was struck when I first heard this story why it hadn’t reached the headlines here in the uk so many people suffering and dying was horrific .

The silence is intense .Yet even in absence of voices or sound .Ding Village lives on ,choked by death ,it will not die .

these few words on the first page struck me hard .

Xiao the young boy who is the main narrator in the book .his family encapsulates what happened in the village and may have caused what happen.  His grandfather is the most respect man in the village ,he is involved in the local school he is keen for the locals to all give blood raise money for the village and themselves ,His son Xiao ‘s father is the man who deals with the blood for the people involved in the plasma collection for the Government he is the bloodhead and is fueled by greed  .So as the villages gets sick they seek revenge as the story of how this strange disease came into their village ,they need a scape goat and this is our young narrator he is poisoned .by the rest of the village .

Grandpa knew everything now .it was as if everything now .It was as if everything my dad had done laid out before his eyes .While my dad was leaving the village ,Grandpa was hurrying back .

The patriarch the grandpa learns what his greedy son did .

The story shows the problems in modern china ,the drive from arable farm culture to a new modern world cost so many there lives .This book in the way it confronted a disease tearing a community apart remind me of Camus plague ,I read it many years ago but the feeling of how people move on after something like this happens and the reaction of people during a crisis like this .A local village near me is famous for losing most of it population due to a plague Eyam also a basis of a novel by Geraldine Brooks ,like Eyam where one person was to blame for the out break , in Ding village it is one family to blame for the outbreak in many in  the village eyes .It shows how families can be torn apart by money and misguided loyalty .Yan lianke has brought this shocking incident to our eyes without being over dramatic ,showing  the rural life of china torn apart by aids ,a disease which china had denied the had in the 80’s .I m not really got hang of chinese fiction but this book is another step towards opening the door to the fiction that is only going to grow in coming years .

Have you read this book?

Now I am 40

Now I am 40

I can get wishful for my youth

Now I am 40

I can go oh and eh when I stand once in a while

Now I am 40

I can say it wasn’t like that in my day

now I am 40

I can happily buy clothes at m&s

now I am 40

I can say what is that noise

now I am 40

I can admit I not read every book I want to

now I am 40

my life begins

now I am 40

I cansay its the new 30

now I am 40

I may listen to what people say .

As you see I turned 40 yesterday ,I want to try and find the serious books I may have missed those gems of literature that have passed me by can you help  what can you suggest because

now I am 40

I can ask for help with books


Professor Andersen’s night by Dag Solstad

Professor Andersen’s night by Dag Solstad

Norwegian fiction

translator – Agnes Scott Langeland

Dag Solstad is a Norwegian writer he has published over thirty books in Norway ,from novel ,short stories and plays  .His debut short story collection spiral came out in 1965.  he has won a number of prizes including the prestigious Nordic council literature prize .he is also known for writing books round every world cup he has written them on the last five world cups .In his early days he was a Maoist communist  this was reflected in his early fiction his more recent books have all been more to do with existentialism and philosophy ,that he has written in recent years  .This is his third book to be translated to English the previous two have both made the IFFP long lists in 2009 and 2007 .Although this is translated by a different translator Agnes Scott Langeland  than the earlier two .

Professor Anderson night is a short novella about an academic  in his fifties ,who whilst putting his decorations for Christmas .When he looks  out of his window he sees a murder  by a young man on a women .Now when I saw that  on the fly-leaf  I like you all ,my mind jumped to the great Hitchcock film “rear window” in which James Stewart see one of his neighbours kill his wife ,well  that part is the same but this story goes off on a different  tangent Professor Andersen is a man in his fifties an academic ,he initially seems dazzled by the crime he is frozen about what to do and he doesn’t report it to the police.

“It is odd that I don’t call the police ” He tought it was still not too late .Even if they won’t believe me , claim that I am drunk or whatever they may say .

professor Andersen is in inactive after the murder he has seen .

so as the festive season happens we see the professor starting to unpick his and his friends lives apart as he wonders how they all got where they were .we  see him at dinner parties were the concerns are what wine is served with which meat  and if so is it the right wine,also the ebb and flow of academia as his friends are mostly academics like himself  .This book is an insight into men in the fifties the insecurities  ,lost dreams Professor Andersen is a lonely man who is how he caught the murder like James Stewart character in rear window a man driven to boredom and loneliness this made him want to glimpse into windows around him and see people living a normal life   . This book is a perfect piece of existentialism like Kierkegaard said” what am I to do ” this is what happens to the professor how did he not do nothing that is the main question in his head .

They had rakfisk as a starter and the main course was grouse .beer a chaser of Aquavit were served with the rakfisk ; a spanish red , a good Rioja with the grouse .

this made my mouth water and I learnt that Rakfisk is a fermented fish

But like all good questions ,it is brought into sharp  focus, when he is faced with the man he saw doing the murder in a sushi bar he happened to wander into due to boredom.They stirke up a conversation with this younger man ,maybe this is a another point from existentialism as Professor Andersen has this man’s freedom in his hand .

This book falls in the Nordic tradition of writers like Knut Hamsun and Jostein Gaarder in bring philosophy into literature .This book examines what a man is and does in later life and all that  in less than 200 pages punchy dryly funny .I found this book one of those you’ll tell people about when they ask for something short but meaningful .Also those interested in why we do what we do in life ? This is another of my shadow iffp reads

Have you read this did you like it ?

Shadow Man Asian prize winner 2011

‘An amazing enterprise’ – David Parker, MAN Asian Prize Chair director

‘Please Look After Mother’ wins ‘Shadow’ MAN Asian Literary Prize 2011


‘Please Look After Mother’ by Kyung-sook Shin (pub. Weidenfeld&Nicolson, UK/Aus; Knopf, US) has won the ‘Shadow’ MAN Asian Literary Prize for 2011.


‘Please Look After Mother’ was the stand-out choice of a team of bloggers from across three continents, who reviewed all twelve of the titles originally longlisted by the official MAN Asian Literary Prize jury.


The ‘Shadow’ jury described ‘Please Look After Mother’ as ‘a heart-warming story of family’; ‘a deceptively simple novel’;  and ‘a splendid work of literary fiction.’


Chair of the ‘Shadow’ jury, Lisa Hill of ANZLitLovers.com, said: ‘It is testament to the quality of this year’s long- and shortlists that our decision was not unanimous, but ‘Please Look After Mother’ clearly prevailed overall.’


The ‘Shadow’ MAN Asian Literary Prize is entirely independent of the official MAN Asian Literary Prize, whose winner will be announced on Thursday March 15, and of MAN Group. The ‘Shadow’ Prize is intended to highlight the main Prize by broadening the discussion about the long- and shortlisted titles via the social networking community. Links to all ‘Shadow’ jury reviews and interviews can be found via http://goo.gl/LGyw4


The ‘Shadow’ jury comprised: ANZLitlovers.com; matttodd.wordpress.com; whisperinggums.wordpress.com; readramble.wordpress.com; me ; eleutherophobia.co.uk



Logo © Matt Todd. For queries about this press release contact: mark@eleutherophobia.co.uk

Next World Novella by Matthias Politycki

Next world novella by Matthias Politycki

German fiction

Translator – Anthea Bell

Matthias Politycki is one of the most succesful German writers of recent years having published twenty novels and some poetry collections .Shocking this is his first book in English !!.born in Karlsruhe he has won numerous awards ,recently on board ship as a writer in residence on a cruise ship .he is also a huge real ale fan .

Now I quickly tweet with Matthias last year when the book came out I then read the book,but got stuck on reviewing it always intending to get round to it but some how it fell from my review pile ,then when the IFFP longlist was announce I remembered I need to review it .Well my main problem first time round was how to describe the book but like every good book coming back and glancing through it months later you go oh yes and oh that .So what is next world novella about it is a story of a couple on is alive the other has just died although you could say in hind sight she maybe died before that .the couple Hinrich schepp a sinologist ,now we discover he recently had an eye operation and as his sight improved his eyes reopened on the world .Doro his wife another academic working on manuscripts .She is the one that has died and now we Hinrich who has found her looking through this manuscript .

Schepp almost reached towards the manuscript to put it some where dry then only to embrace Doro ,warm her perhaps put her to bed .

this manuscript will change his life .

Well as he reads he sees something different the notes his wife had been writing in the margins form another story that as it unfolds he sees it  is his story ,his wife knew what he was up too (don’t they always my Amanda knows me better than me ) .This shocks him there in later  middle life .He had an affair with a younger women a waitress in a bar he went to after his eye operation .This man like Hinrich has had bright hopes but hasn’t seen them through and it turns out the Doro an equally talent women gave up her chances academic stardom to be with Hinrich .

As you see this is a book where the point of view shifts what was real at the time wasn’t what is thought hidden wasn’t and Hinrch had missed it all but I must admit as a man we do sometimes miss simple things(although I ve never had an affair I tend to miss things I done that upset Amanda don’t we all ?) .I think that is why I struggled to review this first off although Hinrich life isn’t like mine at all I can see faults he has and faults .I maybe found that hard to deal with first off sign of a good book .This book also has a number of motifs a painting of a lake and the after life as Doro was obsessed with the afterlife when she was alive maybe she is living it via Hinrich reading .I was also reminded of the film Last year in Marianbad a bit that film is about a man who thinks he met a women the summer before but the women says she hasn’t that is a bit like the fact that Hinrich saw his life one way but in Doro’s eyes it was different  This book would make A great book for a male book group and might I say as I know Matthias like his ale this would be on to discuss and have a drink other at the same time .I’m pleased this of all the year of man Peirene press books made the longlist of IFFP .A very gentle translation of a book that is subtle and clever by the wonderful Anthea Bell .

Have you read this book ?

The silver bridge by Paul Michael Francis

The silver bridge by Paul Michael Francis

Greek American fiction

Paul Michael Francis is Greek – American writer he was raised between Greece and American .He is the great-grandson of a former Greek prime minister .He has studied psychology and Literature ,he has acted and ghost written three screen plays .The silver bridge is his debut novel .

Well whenever I get a book from Quartet I look forward to it there is something about their choices that always surprise so when I got sent the pitch for silver bridge I had a think said yes and now pleased I did .I sat down one evening and picked it up .Many of you may know I’m a bit of a romantic and this book is perfect for a romantic bloke like me as it is a love story ,not the soppy sort that a women may write (sorry sure the are many soppy male writers) .No this is realistic love story ,but also much more than that it is a modern tale of life and celeb .This is like being inside an ok story with out the pap .So hope to the story I think it is about two people and then the people around them the first is Pavlos he is the lead singer of a post grunge band called Pavlos ,over the course of the book I had him in my head as a mix of The lizard king Jim Morrison and Eddie Vedder with a chunk of Mediterranean charm thrown in well he is a pop star on the up but with his own Demons .

He gripped the microphone in one hand and a bottle of Jack Daniel’s in the other as he prepared to start the show.His sweated brow and dilated pupils hinted that Jack wasn’t his only substance of choice that night .Hell ,why should this night be any different from the others ? Pavlos was almost glad that Karma had never hit the big time .

Pavlos from the first chapter .

Then there is Claire Davies she is a rising star of the acting world ,she remind me of claire danes ,maybe it was the name and the fact she was a star very early in her career  when she did” my so-called life ” THE fictional Claire has just been named for a big  acting prize the golden globe ,but she has a troubled life this time unlike Pavlos its a pushy overbearing mother .In fact the day after I read this I was flicking through the tv channels and caught a bit about parent and kids that come to Hollywood and stay at a certain hotel and when I heard a couple of mothers on that show I saw that Claire mother wasn’t so far removed from the real world .

When she was only fifteen ,Dianne forced Claire into surrendering her virginity to a sleazy Persian producer three times her age .He was rough with her ,caring nothing for the fact that it was her first time and ignoring the complaining about the tears she shed as he coarsely screwed her .

Dianne the mother from hell .

Well you can imagine what happens when these two souls in trouble meet there is a spark between them .This spark takes the pair from their home in Hollywood to Pavlos childhood home on the Greek Islands where you see a different side to the pair and also how a simple unwound life can have effect on people .It was nice to see Greece portrayed in a positive way as it comes across in the book there has been so much about their troubles lately we forget how beautiful the place is and the people who live there .I can see this making either a fluffy bug blockbuster rom com with the likes of Russell Brand as Pavlos ,but I d love an indie film of this with maybe a rock singer like Dave Mathews  made by the director of sideways or so  .Do they make it well get the book and read it .

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March 2012


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