Welcome to Spanish Lit Month

Well it’s here July  tomorrow and I’m excited to see what books every one has chosen but if your still struggling for a book to read for Spanish language lit month ,I ve a few tips here to help my co host richard has done two posts of book lists .the first has 200 books that have been picked on various lists  the second had a further list of 100 plus books from classic to the modern age from spain and latin america .

Right another great port of call is the complete review Michael the guy behind complete review has many more reviews of spanish fiction here  and Latin american fiction here .Mostly modern but it has best selection of Latin american fiction I ve seen .

The site for new Spanish books available to be translated is a great site to see what is happening in Spanish .Nick Caistor and Stefan Tobler advise on here two  people I know are trustworthy .

Then I ll give you five to read from my blog

1.Don Quixote –


This is the head water of all modern european fiction we may think use in the english speaking world got the ball rolling on the novel no its  this book has it all ,meta fiction ,playful story lines ,History and oh the mad don and his faithful friend .

2 Three trapped tiger G Cabrera Infante

The cuban Ulysses the call it but actually it is very different it has a very cuban feel you can feel a jazz beat as your read about a day in Havana just before the revolution .A lost classic this one .

3 I the supreme by Augusto Roa Bastos

Another classic of latin american fiction ,the story of a 19th century dictator in latin america echos of the present in the past image ,controlling the media and writing your own history still go on in the present day

4 Kamchatka by Marcelo Figueras

One of my favourite books of recent years ,the dirty war seen through a young boys eyes .It is touching and entertaining  and with a believable child narrator .

5 Exiled from almost everywhere by Juan Goytisolo

He is the wonderful master of spanish fiction I ve read a few but this only one since I ve blog a wonderfully wacky tale that maybe needs a wider audience  . As does Juan he may win the Nobel one day soon and if you’ve not read him you’ll kick your self .

Oh and needless to say Borges is a must read anything by him is going make your reading life a little brighter .

Amsterdam stories by Nescio

Amsterdam stories by Nescio

Dutch fiction

Translated by Damon Searls (he also select the stories in the collection)

Nescio was the pen name of J H F Gronloh ,he was a succesful Dutch businessman a director of the Holland – Bombay trading company ,he wrote in his free time and used the pseudonym  Nescio is a Latin phrase meaning I don’t know he published very little,as he want to keep his writing secret . But is so highly regarded in Holland that his collective works were named in the Nrc’s best dutch novels top ten at number 8 and was the only collection that was in top ten all the others were novels .I first heard of him maybe twenty years ago in a dutch bar when I was out visiting the Dutch city Nimwegen which was near where I lived in Germany for a time .I had completely forgotten about him til I read Trevor’s post at Mooske and Gripe  I knew it had finally hit us in English .So  I picked a copy up for Iris on books Dutch Lit month as it seemed a great choice and is my first venture into pre ww2 dutch fiction .

So the collection is made up of 9 pieces of Necio’s writings , his three best regard pieces are in the collection .The freeloader a story of a Koekebakker the narrator ,the mean of this name in dutch is silly bungler and by the title you meet the other character in the story Japi he is a man who really want to do very little in his life to say this story is only 31 pages long you get a lot for your money it is rather like stones in the landslide ,where a life is compacted into a small space but without feeling like it has .Japi would be a slacker these days ,but like many of the original Gen x’s they turn into successful businessmen .After reading The freeloader I feel this is maybe the most autobiographical of the piece in the book as thou he was looking back on a point in time he lost at some point .The other two well-known stories in the collection  are Young titans is similar to The freeloader except a larger group of men they feel like same idea of a story but worked in two different way .The other really well-known story is Little poet a piece Nescio was inspired to write by a little girl he knew ,he then gave her the story to read but he said she didn’t get it ,this was the longest story in the book and could almost be counted as a Novella .The other piece later in the book have a feel of the war coming and being there .But I did get really struck by some lines in Insula dei (island of god in latin ) .That mention in it  Nimwegen a dutch city where I spent many a great weekend out (this is the German spelling as I lived in germany near it for 18 months I always use this spelling ).

Chateau to the gardens .Its like the view from westerbouwing but everything is bigger ,and instead of Nijmegen with its little hills you have start of the alps ,far away and hazy .And the Rhone in the landscape ,and lots of trees ,lots of pointed poplars ,fields in many different shades of grey ,and little house ,grand but as the same time flowery and charming ,now and then a train in the distance .reminiscent of Montferland sometime ,of the view from the hotel there ,the Cleve towers could be mountains opposite .

Loved this poetic passage  but also mentions where I lived in germany Kleve .

So Nescio was he worth the 20 year wait yes he was ,he fell into that band of writers I love from Maugham here in the uk of human bondage Philip is rather like some of the characters in these stories  ,Hamsun hunger the starving or struggling man a character that also appears in Paul Leppins Blaugast  and Walser (also published by NYRB ).The tales of wayward manhood ,growing up ,drink and bohemian style sometimes failing sometimes going the other way and becoming a success ,He is a master of what may be called  neo realism  taking what the likes of Balzac and the French in the late 19th century did to the next level .He also  evokes an Amsterdam that is the city of the foot and wandering round it ,those dark nooks that may know be something else but then were cafes dens of chat and thoughts and dreams .Brel wrote a song about Amsterdam you feel this is the city he was describing expanded out  the rough character are a back drop in these stories but this is a city that has more to it than we know .

Have you read this book ?

Olympic torch in chesterfield

Our day with the Olympic torch in Chesterfield 29th June 2012

Well I taking a post away from books today ,as it was a special day in Chesterfield today the Olympic torch made its way through our town  and local area .Amanda my darling wife  really wanted to see it  go past .So I got the day off work and we then poured over the route through chesterfield and decide to stand near our town hall be a good idea as it is on a nice straight road  and big pavements so we wouldn’t get squashed .

We got there early picked our spot and then waited a hour but it was great fun  as there was a brass band on the town hall balcony and the local school kids where there and kept spirits up as they were cheering and flag waving for the hour plus  wait .As we waited in the crowd we spoke to the people next to us that had come from Derby as their son was going to be a torch holder and the spot we had chosen to stand at was his point to run with the flame so we knew we chosen the best spot .But then disaster struck twenty minutes to go the heavens opened I d only my summer jacket on so dear bless her Amanda ran to the nearest shop with umbrellas primark and came back just as if just for the torch the rain eased off and wonderful blue sky appeared  as if just in time for the torch to come past .But we have a nice union jack umbrella for next time it rains .

And then the torch-bearer bus went by and George the torch bearer that was going to change his torch by us was there ,looking wonderful cool in his 2012 get up and holding very carefully his torch .All of us around just cheered and stared in wonder at it .

So we then saw the sponsors lorries go past and unfortunately my dear Amanda missed out on the freebies they were handing out ,but at least we’d got a great place to see the flame go past .So the as we followed tweets from dear Rob of robaroundbooks as he followed the live feed of the Olympic flame relay . We the heard the roar of the crowd as the torch got nearer .Then it was there for us to see .

So In a little over three weeks when it appears on the TV in the opening ceremony I can say to Amanda as we watch it we saw that .I was pleased we choose to watch it ok we got a bit wet but end up feeling part of something bigger and now I m looking forward to the Olympics even more .

Have you seen the flame ?

Raid and the Blackest sheep by Harri Nykanen

Raid and the blackest sheep by Harri Nykanen

Finnish crime fiction

Translator – Peter Ylitalo Leppa

When I was contact by Diane a Us based pr about this publisher I was very happy I ve read a number of the books you’d call nordic noir .But among them had never read any from Finland and with the other Finnish novels I d read I was sure the crime fiction from there would be very different so I had two from Ice cold crime arrive this the first I read is by Harri Nykanen ,he used work as a crime reporter in Helsinki ,he describe his books as viewing the underworld through the eyes and rules of the criminals .This is the fourth book in the raid series after the first three were written there was a very succesful tv series made in Finland that at the height of the show it was watched by twenty percent of the population .I found a trailer but its in finnish but from watching it you get the feel of the series .

So to the book Raid ,I don’t like joining books in the middle of series but it wasn’t til I started to write-up this review I found out it was the fourth book in the series .So it stood up well by itself ,Raid is a hitman but he is a quiet character in the book ,I was remind a bit of the saint by Leslie Charteris ,a bad guy but with a moral code as that is what Raid seems to have .The story is a road movie in a book .Raid has been hired by Nygren a large figure in the criminal underworld to drive him around the north of Finland as Nygren is facing a race against the clock to sort some untie threads in his life .We start at a church were we have to deal with a crooked preacher ,on the way Nygren meet friends and enemies as he tries to put right what he once did wrong (sorry paraphrased  that line just from quantum leap ) .There is a second storyline that is a Detective lieutenant Jansson this is a 50 year rotund balding with his marriages on the rocks ,he has had a run in or two over the years with Raid and wants to pin something on him this time  .So we see the two  storylines  the police and criminals getting close as Jansson follows Raids path via local police reports of people Nygren has dealt with in the past  .

Nygren was approaching sixty .His face was lean and furrowed with an inch long scar at the left corner of his mouth ,With his blond hair combed straight back to the nape of his neck,Nrygen looked almost boyish .The expensive watch on his wrist topped of his stylish attire .

Nygren as the book open sleeping in the back of the car with raid.

What I enjoyed about this book is the feel of it gritty ,a bit more masculine than other nordic crime books I ve read and also the way Nygren had flipped  the storyline round .So the main drive of the book is the viewpoint of the criminals as they head round north Finland sorting things out .Raid is a character I could read again and again ,I can see why he has become a real star in Finland he is a bad guy you like ,ok he kills people but only the  right people the truly  bad people ,he is a quiet guy but one that is loyal to whoever is paying him in this case Nygren as he need Raid to make sure he gets all he needs to get done in the race against time .I said he remind me of the saint I meant the saint is a character that walk line of morals  was he good or bad he helped people I also felt raid had the same air of mysery simon templar had .My one big qualm with the book is it cover I find rather non de script and   it does this wonderful book no real favours .So if you like to read a criminal viewpoint on nordic crime with a dose of action and drama this is the book for you .

Have you read any Finnish crime novels ?

Doctor I’m stuck in a world of English and US fiction can you help ?

I had this idea a couple of years ago for a book clinc and never did anything with it then Kim from reading matters mention a similar thing ,so I gone back to think about doing it more seriously this time ,its two years on and my knowledge base has expand on world literature in that time ,so I now feel I can do this probably .so like any doctor I ll be the translation doctor ,you come to me with a book you’ve loved in english and I ll go away and give you a prescription of a book in translation that may not be the same but will have similar themes so if you tell me what the book was about and maybe the themes in the book you liked and I ll put the time in and recommend something that touches the same themes or plot or if your very lucky both .

I ll give and example that isn’t really mine I must admit it is one that Meike from Peirene press frequently gives for reading the wonderful beside the sea and that is that is you loved the book room by Emma Donoghue ,you will see similar themes in this book .

Another from me would be the books of Roger Deakin ,his style is very similar to the German writers W G Sebald’s  book rings of Saturn I feel if you loved his  books you will get on with Sebald’s prose as they have a similar style .

So help get this start either leave a comment on a book you loved or e mail me and I try and help out otherwise to get ball rolling I just make up the first few books submitted .

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