The flying creatures of Fra Angelico by Antonio Tabucchi

The flying creatures of Fra Angelico by Antonio Tabucchi #

Italian Fiction

Translator – Tim Parks

Source review copy from Archipelago books due out next month 

I m on a break but this came my way from his American publish , great fortune as the book I d ordered from my library hadn’t turned up in time for Caroline’s Antoino Tabucchi reading week  .This is the second book I have read by the late Italian writer .Antonio Tabucchi was a professor of Portuguese literature and language .He spent six months of every year in Lisbon in the later part of his life and is well-known in Italy for his translations of the great Portuguese writer Fernando Pessoa ,whom Tabucchi came across in the late sixties and then studied Portuguese to understand him better and also translate his work into Italian .Tabucchi himself  published over twenty works with novels ,short story collections and Non fiction .He maybe sums himself up best in this quote .

“Literature for me isn’t a workaday job but something which involves desires ,dreams and fantasy “

Well to this his latest book  The flying creatures of Fra Angelico , it is a collection of stories ,made up letters and pieces  and seems much more than its 128 pages .The title story which is  also  the first in the collection is about a group of strange creatures oddly coloured and shape that start to appear one by one in the garden of Fra Angelico (Fra Angelico was a 15th century friar and artist ,he is well-known for his depictions of christ .He was also sainted by the late John Paul the second ).Any way one of the Fra’s , then seems to be able to talk to these creatures .

Fra Giovanni looked at him and felt sorry for him and muttered: “You’re overtired.” The creature looked back with his big moist eyes, then closed his eyelids and wriggled a few feathers in his wings: a yellow feather, a green one and two blue ones, the latter three times in rapid succession. Fra Giovanni understood and said, spelling it out as one learning a code: “You’ve made a trip, it was too long.” And then he asked: “Why do I understand what you say?” The creature opened his arms as far as his position allowed, as if to say, I haven’t the faintest idea. So that Fra Giovanni concluded: “Obviously I understand you because I understand you.” Then he said: “Now I’ll help you get down.”

Fra Giovanni chatting to the creature .

An odd story with religious overtones where are the creatures from and what do they mean ? One  of those short stories that leaves you with a head full of questions .Then we have a group of made up letters clever and witty the king of Portugal asking a famous artist to paint then  saying what he would love in the painting  ,made me laugh ,another is a couple of letters from Tabucchi to an Indian writer that he met in Indian about his book the Indian Nocturne one of his most famous books ,also on why people from the west come to India and the Indian said there were two sorts of people .I won’t tell you what types they are  you’ll have to  buy the book and find out .Then back for a few shorter stories a couple having a meal ,is all it seems  was one that grabbed me a clever story where not is all it seems .then the last story is maybe another pointer of Tabucchi as a person. A discussion on the number of undertakers in Lisbon ,which it appears is 16 pages of the yellow pages for that city and why this may be so  .This leads to the Portuguese term Saudade .

They are practising Saudade. Try imitating them. Of course it’s a difficult road to take, the effects are not immediate, sometimes you may have to be willing to wait many years. But death, as we all know, is that too.

the closing lines of the book

The closing lines maybe some up the book it has a feel of sadness ,death and secrets at times ,also a feel of his beloved Portugal where he spent so much of his life .I feel Tabucchi is playing with his writing styles in these little gems  almost trying different styles for his novels ,but far from being throwaway they show a master of his art at work . He is often overlooked as an inventive writer for the likes of Calvino .I’ m remind of a cabinet of curios  my grandparents had full of odd little pieces of  ,silver ,ivory ,wooden carvings as a kid I would keep asking to look in and feel and ask about the pieces and this is like that it is a book that I will go back to reading (well pdf for now but I will get the book ) as I feel that it is a collection that will stand numerous rereading and always give you something new as a reader  .

Have you read Tabucchi ?


Not bye more TTFN

I hastily published a post earlier and maybe put down wrong my thoughts I just need a break for a while I ll be back soon I’m just mentally drained at moment and felt my efforts were poor recently sk a frw days away will recharge my mind and soul I hastily wrote earlier post as I tend to I shall return soon and continue the fight for translation an inspiring others and myself to explore world lit that little bit more

Pimp my book the Patagionian hare in pictures

Claude Lanzmann A life his biography the Patagionian hare  translated by Frank Wynne

Jamilia by Chingiz Aitmatov

Jamilia by Chingiz Aitmatov

Kyrgyzstan fiction

Translator James Riordan

source review copy

Chingiz Aitmatov is the best known writer from Kyrgyzstan.He grew up in a time that his homeland became part of the soviet republic ,he himself held many post in the soviet system and was also a Kyrgyzstan diplomat  after the fall of the soviet system all round Europe and was one of the most respect post war soviet writers  and this is his best known book .It is only a short novel and was waterstones book of the month last month so is easily available to pick up so if you’ve seen it in store I hope this review may want you to pick it up as it is a book that will linger with you long after you have put it down .

perhaps it was because from childhood Jamilia had herded horses with her father and ,being his only child ,she was both son and daughter to him .She worked doggedly ,with a mans temperament .She got along with the other women,but if anyone treated her unjustly ,she would swear like a trooper :it was not unknown for her to grab someone by the hair the odd time .

seit describing his sister-in-law Jamilia .


Jamilia is only 96 pages long but hell a lot happens in those pages .Set in a small village in the neither regions of the old soviet union (more than likely Kyrgyzstanalthough never mention as there ) we see a village through the eyes of seit the younger brother in-law  of the title character Jamilia .Now anyone that follows this blog will know I have a real soft spot for books set in villages as I feel villages are the same the world over the same characteristics and type of people live in villages the world over the names may be different from place to place but the  characters you meet tend to be the same towns and cites tend to be different but every village has it’s stereotypes the world over  .Anyway this village is focused on Jamilia she is the village beauty married her husband is away at war ,she is the sort of girl who turns boys head and is in the dreams at night .The other character we see through Seit’s eyes is Daniyar a sullen man with some disabilities but with a heart of gold .AS the book unfolds we see these three do a dance Seit watches how this young man Daniyar slowly makes his sister-in-law fall for him just by being a decent chap .all this set against the working s of a collective farm in the soviet era .The husband of Jamilia is away fighting on the front ,but is and ever-present figure in  the book in the background .So who does Jamilia choose ?

But if a person who ,like Daniyar ,keeps to himself and takes no part in the village’s everyday affairs ,then he will simply be ignored by some,whilst others will say condescendingly ,”he does no harm nor good to anyone let him be ,poor soul ,he’ll survive .

Seit describes Daniyar shortly after he arrives in the village from the war


This book reminds me at times of the book cold mountain set during the american civil war  another story about a couple separated by war although the tract of the stories  are different it is still about the people left at the home front .This is a love story simple told observed through another eyes as you see Jamilia fall for Daniyar .I think the reason Aitmatov was so respected in the soviet period is this isn’t a book against the soviet system of collective farming  or for it .No  its a book about people and even thou in the distant Kyrgyzstan it is a universal story ,you could see this happening in a village in Wales or the peak district during the war and that is the mark of great fiction a book that is universal .The respected  french writer and member of the academie Goncourt Louis Aragon called it the most beautiful love story in the world and I agree with him so if you want an evening away and to see people falling in love this is the book for you .

Have you read this book ?

Do you have a favourite love story ?

What Book Blogging means to me

Third day of book blogger appreciation week and todays topic is what does book blogging mean to me .Now this is a tough one I don’t really like to turn the spotlight on myself as a blogger ,as I feel well know I m not the best .My grammar is poor and maybe I could do with more depth in my reviews I feel in the three years I ve blogged thou my writing has improved .What I feel I bring to blogosphere is passion ,raw passion for world literature and translation 85% of the books on the blog are translations and many haven’t been covered on other blogs  .The blog has help me promote so many books and translators that I love .I ve connected with other bloggers with passion for world literature tonyGary ,Mark  and Max .I also made bloggers that only once in a while blog about translation to remember to put the translator down as well as the writer .Bloggers I really admire that I ve connected with people like Simon , Lisa  ,Sue and Simon .But for me the best thing of all is actually meeting fellow bloggers face to face like I have Rob ,Simon and Mark having a coffee and chatting books ,for a book bore like me these are the only ones I can really let rip about books with is my  fellow blogger .I ve also started some great meme’s,on  twitter every thursday runs #translationthurs hashtag to tell everyone what books from round the world you have been reading and it  has been up and running  for a couple of years now and gets a fair number of people joining every week  .Earlier this year I held the first Henry Green week as he is my favourite modernist writer  ,which went really well and gave Henry Green some much-needed limelight round the web .Then with Richard I hosted Spanish language literature month which we will be doing again in January as it is very hot in the summer where Richard lives .so blogging has helped a middle age man find a purpose for himself .I just hope I ve made some people want to step out side the normal reading and maybe try a translation every now and then if so I feel I’ve done a little part to promote literature in translation .As I say not great one for talking about my self sorry if this isn’t the best post but I leave you with a great song about books

Axolotl roadkill by Helene Hegemann

Axolotl roadkill by Helene Hegeman

German literature

Translator Katy Derbyshire

source review copy

Now Helene Hegeman is the voice of a new German generation of writers this her debut novel she wrote when she was just 18 she had already caught the eye in germany via her blog .It has caused a storm of controversy when it came out in Germany  ,even more when it was found out she had sourced some of the passages from another book on the berlin club scene .Any way she isn’t the first to use other writers work to help there book or the last I would imagine .So what has the voice of generation zero got to say ,this the first real digital generation grown up in mobiles and computers as thou they where part of them .

I grew up wild and I want to stay wild .It’s 3am and my partied-out body is sitting in a taxi ,submerged or death in its role as a victim .The driver telling  me about his son,who left his wife after ten years ,and about his own wife ,who is cheating on him ,and about god ,with whom he claims to have a pretty good connection .

From the forward and haven’t we all had these taxi rides ?

The book is the story of Mifti she is young in fact I picture her as the same age as Helene Heggmann ,as part of this feels like Heggmann has written about her own life in a way she was from a broken family and her mother died  .Anyway back to Mifti she is the youngest in a family by a long way all her siblings have grown up and left home and she is the last one at home and is a very rebellious teen . She has a huge problem with her mother that seems didn’t want Mifti well in Mifti’s eyes .So she discovered her most private thoughts have been read by her mother in her secret diary and descends into a scene of drugs clubs and sex .We see this through her own eyes and also via e-mail ,also each chapter is the title from a song or programme almost giving you a soundtrack to the book .How will it end .Did her mother want her ? Well these are all answered in the book .But I will give you one answer and the is the title of the book an Axolotl is a small amphibian that is popular as an exotic pet to keep because of its strange look and almost smile like face .Yes Mifti tuns into one in the course of the book .


Now this is a coming of age book,part of me had to draw my forty-year old self back to my own late teens and early twenties  to see if I could associate Mifti and the answer is yes ?(I always like to do this for coming of age although I have come of age would I like to do it now or then is what I always look to compare ) I could see her life ,in a way had  echos of my own, ok I never club in a big city that often  but I went of the rails a bit drank partied more than I should have done  and railed against my parents .Mifti is maybe a little  more extreme than mine, but I feel  her life would ring true with most modern teens .As for Hegeman borrowing parts of the books from other books or mixing it as she calls ,ok she should sort this before people discovered it ,but the book doesn’t read as thou it is stitched together and as she has grown up in an age of dance music which on the whole tends to sample and mix together other people’s work into something new .I feel this is the first in what maybe a great new voice in german writing but time will tell it is an accomplished debut by a young writer .She has also raised is this maybe the way fiction could go like dance and other media boring from other people’s work could we see Joyce’s books brought to a modern Dublin ?

Have you read this book ?

Do you see a future in people mix other people’s books ?

The dinner by Herman Koch

The dinner Herman Koch

Dutch Literature

Translator Sam Garrett

Herman Koch is  fairly well known in his homeland of the Holland ,as he is a tv producer and also an actor in the dutch show Jiskefet a humourous  sort of satire show  that ran for a number of years on dutch television .He has also lived in both russia and Finland earlier  in his time .The dinner was his sixth novel ,he has also published short stories and a collection of newspaper columns .

If I had to give a definition of happiness,it would be this :happiness needs nothing but itself ,it doesn’t have to be validated .”all happy families are alike ,each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way ” opening sentence of Tolstoy’s Anne Karenina

Paul just as him and his wife Claire arrive at the restaurant

Now when the Dinner arrived I was a bit worried ,when I see it mention in comparison to the slap a book which I hated ,anyway safe to say after reading it yes the bare bone is maybe  along the line of the slap , something happens a turning point like in the slap ,but here it is two boys not one and this turning point is a lot more serious than the slap was .The book was based loosely on an event that happened in 2005 in Barcelona here is the report of the court case from el pais  

Everyone ,of course ,had noticed the Lohmans arrival .There was even what you might described as a stifled tumult around the lectern :no less than three girls in black pinafores were fussing over Serge and Babette ,the manager was hovering around the lectern too

Paul watching his successful brother arrive for their dinner


SO we meet two sets of obviously worried parents ,the book is set out like the dinner they are about to have so we get five main parts Apretif ,appetizer ,main course ,desert and digestif .the two couples are brothers and sister in-laws .Paul and Serge the brothers although brothers as the meal unfolds you see they have different values and reasons for their sons doing this act the meal starts with a lot of simple chatter about films and the times but always a sense of the real reason they are there  .Part  of  me feel although this book is about one small incident that is very violent and maybe like similar crimes in the uk can be used to highlight a change in moral standards a sort of the youth have gone wild as we often see headlines in papers like the daily mail .This book is maybe that discussion using the two sets of parents as the different values that can be found in modern holland ,one being more liberal and the other saying that kids should be drawn more into line and this is the reason this act happened Paul is a teacher and his brother is an up and coming politician ,whose career hangs in the balance because of this act his son and nephew did .This is all seen through the less successful brother eyes the over the top meal and his brothers airs and graces .I was reminded at times of Frasier and wondered if this had happen to him how it would be handled ,because under it all is the black satire that Koch made his name with in  the past a look at modern morals and manners ,also the changing face of youth .I found this a challenging book that makes the reader think about what you would do and as at some point in the near future I hopefully be a father as we try for  a child I maybe for the first time wondered what I would do if my child did this and like the couples the answer to that question is very hard .

Have you read this book ?

Did you like the slap ?

BBAW 2012 Favourite blogs

Well it’s that time of year and it seems to have come around quickly this year when it is the annual book blogger appreciation week ,this is the third I ve been involved with of the five years it has been running and this time there are no awards ,which I feel is better as the awards seem to add a feeling of whose best to the week when it should be what we do well and what we can all bring to the blogging table .I ve let the blog slip lately but hope now I ve wi-fi and a better shift pattern at work for blogging to be back this winter to the blog I was a while ago .Any way too todays task and it is the yearly favourite blog question I ve picked blogs other year I ve loved and will this time but different ones as I feel some blogs I ve mentioned a few times on the blogs and others I love I ve never really mentioned .so here we go .

Tony’s reading list

Tony has been around longer than me ,we have fairly similar tastes in books and he took part in the first shadow IFFP I ran earlier this year .I love tony mix of books he mix classics and translations so well but also reads a lot of books in the original language .

Beauty is a sleeping  cat 

Caroline is such a busy blogger she runs film and war book monthly meme’s and is also doing a Antiono Tabucchi reading week in a couple of weeks I hope to take part if my library ordered book arrives in time .Caroline covers mostly European lit and lots books she reads are new to me when she reviews them .

1streading blog 

I m not sure of the bloggers name here ,but they covered a lot of this years IFFP list and also a lot of other translated fiction and are a new boy on the book blogging scene .There reviews are more in-depth than mine ever could be ,if you’re not following you should try too .

Reader in the wilderness 

Judith is based in Canada and she reads a number of german books and in october is doing the first Bernhard Schlink reading week which I am looking very much forward too .She also cover a number of modern american and Canadian writers .

Gudruns tights 

I love Anbolyn she has commented on my blog with her earlier blogs ,she reads lots classics and female writers which are two areas I don’t read a lot from  so she is my go to blog .Most recent writer she made appeal to me was Barbara Pym which when I next see a second-hand book by her I ll be buying .

September 2012


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