Polish Literature Month June 2013



I ve been planning this for last six months since reading Witold Gombrowicz Diaries and deciding that A. I needed to read more Polish literature B. we all need to maybe know a bit more about this hidden gem of European literature and C. There has been some great books from Poland published in the last year or two .


So what is coming up ,well next week I have a give-away for ten books that has been kindly offered by Joanne at Stork press 5 of Madame Mephisto by Am Bakalar ,which was the first book written by a female writer from Poland in English and 5 of their novel Illegal Liaisons by Grazyna Piebanek ,Also Joanne has written me a piece on publishing Polish literature in English .I’ve also a piece from Magda who is the head of Polish Literature at the Polish Cultural Institution . I’m also contacting a number of translators for suggestions of books and Translations they have made from Polish .I hope to have a great list of books for every one to read between now and June .Here is my fist suggestion on I will be reading as well –

stone upon stone

Stone Upon Stone by Wieslaw Mysliwski 

 A badge – I have been working on a badge for Polish literature month but haven’t quite done one I’m happy with so hope to have one in a couple of weeks when I ve work a bit more on it .So every one can have one for post and sidebars in time .

Twitter – I will be using a hashtag for the month and all posts it will be #plm13 ,so if everyone could use it before and during the month it will make finding post much easier .

polish-food from Love warsaw,co,uk

Cooking – I will during the month be cooking a traditional Polish dish ,I will post a the start of the month A list of ingredients then in the last week be doing a cook along via twitter and posting the results here on the blog .

Film – I will be choosing a film to watch during the month ,I ve not quite decide which but will be doing a post on Polish cinema and the choice of Film for everyone to watch .


Drink – I will also be trying some polish Beers and spirits to do a post on what to drink .

As you see I want June to be a month we all get Polish .Its important I feel as a recent report showed Polish is now the UK’s second Language .But if you ask the average reader to name a Polish writer they may just mention one but not many more so lets all get to know Polish literature better .

The dream of the Celt by Mario Vargas Llosa

dream of the Celt Mario Vargas Llosa

The dream of the Celt  by Mario Vargas Llosa

Peruvian Fiction

Translator – Edith Grossman

Original Title -El sueño del celta

Source Library

Just other two yyears ago after he had won the Nobel prize for Literature I reviewed his novel the bad Girl which I enjoyed ,this is his latest book published in Spanish in 2010 ,this translation was published last Year and done by the Wonderful Edith Grossman .Mario Vargas is easily the most well known name from Peruvian fiction this book is his 15th novel in a career that dates back to 1959 and the start of the Latin American Boom .

When in Liverpool with his cousins ,Roger sometimes conquered his timidity and Asked Uncle Edward about Africa ,a vontinent whose mere mention filled his head with Jungles ,wild animals and interpid men .

The first time we see the draw of Africa on Roger Casement

This book focus on the well Known Irish nationalist figure Sir Roger Casement ,I say well-known before I read the book I knew he was associated with Ireland had been executed by the british and he was part of some sort of scandal .So to the book Yes Roger Casement was from Ireland and the book takes you through his youth there then to time spent in Africa ,Peru and the amazon basin then back to Ireland .The book is about a man’s journey  Form Idealist , British Diplomat to Disillusioned ,humanitarian and Irish freedom Fighter .We see  this youth In Ballymena (just thought mention this it isn’t a large part but my step mother is also from this town in Northern Ireland ) he is a quiet and quite shy young man growing up much different to the figure he later became ,Then in his late teens  joining the British government as a diplomat . Where he ends up being sent to Congo ,where he see the horrors of the dying embers of the slave traders and How the white Europeans treat the natives ,whilst in Congo he meet two well-known figures in History ,the Explorer Sir Henry Morton Stanley and the Novelist Joseph Conrad .Then he is sent to sort out and report back on a dispute in Peru involving the Local tribes of Indians Seven in all and The rubber company .The Indians have decided they need more rights ,because we see people whip and mistreated for not following the company lines or doing what was expected .Following all this he returns to Ireland where his views on his own home land and nation have changed radically and he ends up on the Gaol waiting to be killed  .Well  a lot as you see ,oh and he was gay and tend to like younger men than himself (rather well handle by Llosa it is easy to make this the main theme of the book ,which it could but this is a book on the wrongs of Empire really ) at a time when this was against the law .

O what has made that sudden noise?
What on the threshold stands?
It never crossed the sea because
John Bull and the sea are friends;
But this is not the old sea
Nor this the old seashore.
What gave that roar of mockery,
That roar in the sea’s roar?

The ghost of Roger Casement
Is beating on the door.

John Bull has stood for Parliament,
A dog must have his day,
The country thinks no end of him,
For he knows how to say,
At a beanfeast or a banquet,
That all must hang their trust
Upon the British Empire,
Upon the Church of Christ.

The ghost of Roger Casement
Is beating on the door.

Instead of a second quote I choose to put two verse of the W B yeats poem about Casement which is also quoted in the book

So I suppose like me reading this book on the blurb , the first name that came to mind with this book Is Conrad ,Yes it is similar settings but this is more a view of the natives downfall through a European eyes that Conrad’s books are ,I was also reminded of the recent novels by Bernardo  Atxaga  seven house in France  which I review  here and other book dealing with  the horrors in the Congo at roughly the same time as this book .Another book Ithat sprung to mind was the last but one book by Juan Gabriel Vasquez which I also reviewed on here The secret history of Costaguana another book which set in Latin america and based on a Conrad novel .Vargas has tried to show through one man the wrongs of empire and also how empires are able to fall .The horror of the treatment the locals around the world is eye-opening to you as a reader ,but also to Casement and lead him down a new path seeing these horrors .

Have you read this book ?

Where I left my soul by Jérôme Ferrari

where I left my soul Jérôme Ferrari

Where I left my soul by Jérôme Ferrari

French Fiction

Original title – Où j’ai laissé mon âme

Translator – Geoffrey Strachan

Source Review copy

Now sometimes you read a book love it but it unsettles you in some ways ,this is what happened with Where I left my soul ,I read it late last year ,but decide to sit on it and let the book settle in my mind as  it is quite a powerful book that unsettled me but one that I feel people need to read  .Now one has to admire Christopher Machlehose and his team for yet again getting a great book out for the writer to then win a major prize Jérôme Ferrari latest book in France last year won the Prix Goncourt ,this book had won four  literary  prizes in France  and one of my tips for this years IFFP .Jérôme Ferrari is a rising star of French fiction , by day he is a philosophy lecturer ,he has live in Corsica and Algeria and is currently professor of Philosophy at the French school in Abu Dhabi .So to where I left my soul .

He sat facing Tahar .

“We won’t touch you ,you know ”

“I ask no favours ,Capaitaine .I’m ready to receive the same treatment as my Comrades ”

“It’s not a favor .It’s nothing to do either favors .It’s a matter …. a simple matter of Logic ,you see .You can’t denounce yourself ,can you ?

The first exchange between the Capataine as Strachan has chosen to keep him from Tahar’s view and Tahar .


For the book Ferrari has chosen Algeria where he has lived before ,but to an earlier and more turbulent period in the country’s history and the year  is 1957 ,this falls in the middle of the war for independence from france .the setting is a french army camp and the interrogators have got a Algerian freedom fighter Tahar an idealistic  man willing to do anything for his country and willing to face the consequences is the rebel leader and called” the Pure  ” .The French are represented by two main characters Captain Degorce   he is an older French solider that has been impression and interrogated himself and was also impression in Vietnam ,Then the is the younger Lieutenant Andreani also served in Vietnam with the captain ,but this man has a very vicious streak .What follows is a tale of three men and what war makes people do and except as being caught .The events in the book take part over three days as we see what happens between the three men and how they end up there  .

Your contempt does not matter any more  than mine ,mon capitaine ,it is powerless against the force of this love I have never managed to eradicate from my heart ,for it has been rooted there like a weed ,full of vitality ,and I know nothing will eradicate it .

powerful words from  Tahar near the end of the book

The heart of this book is beliefs truth and how to stay human in war .Thou set in 1957 during what is regard as the most violent and hard-fought war of the 20th century the war of independence of Algeria .The title is even a play on the mind of you as a reader as who has left their soul? ,who has soul?  ,who hasn’t  it ? and maybe can a pure soul be defeated ?.It’s a story of three men and how even thou the captain and Tahar are from different sides and he has seen what the lieutenant has   to the man they call Tahar the Pure .Ferrari has said he want the book to show” the moment we open our eyes to Horrors ” and this is what trouble me I have read accounts of torture before but something in this book had touched me .But it is a timely remind of the fact that eye for an eye tactics in war ,don’t really work and when we casually use words for torture it is maybe remove the effect on the people being tortured and also those doing it in the long-term .One is remind of the main times you hear of torture on the news at present it is sryia but as the book shows it is a harrowing experience .

Have you read any books set during the Algerian war ?

Seven Years by Peter Stamm

seven years peter stamm

Seven Years by Peter Stamm

Swiss fiction

Translator – Michael Hofmann

Original title – Sieben Jahre

Source – Library

Well Peter Stamm is one of those writers that has been on the edge of my radar and wish list for a for a few years now and after reading this has jumped to writers I want to complete .So Peter Stamm studied various subjects as diverse as English ,business information (?) ,psychology and Psychopathology ,He had worked in a psychiatric ward as and intern after this  .Before becoming a freelance Journalist and then on into writing in his early thirties .He has won number of prizes in Switzerland ,Seven years is his tenth novel and the seventh to be translated to English .

Meet Ivona ,said Ferdy .She’s from Poland .This is Rudiger ,and this -is Alexander .He was standing behind me ,I had to almost vertically look up at him .Have a seat said Ferdy .The women put her glass down on the table and next to it her tissues and her book ,which was a romance novel showing a man and a women on horseback .

Their first meeting and maybe a subtle hint at what is coming .

So Seven years is a spin on the old seven-year itch story ,a phrase that has been coined by Psychologist as the time a couple that has had a monogamous relationship is likely to stray and to  have an affair .So the couple in this book are Alex and Sonia ,they are described as a sort of trendy  hip middle-aged couple into the hip things  and image they are both Architects ,on the hip edge of this Sonia loves the works of the Franco /Swiss architect and urbanist Le Corbusier .So we she her going her and there to see his buildings .  So it is a shock when the third part of what becomes a love triangle in this book is Ivona she is a rather dull plain women from Poland that had come into Alex’s life a number of years before he started the affair with her then and we are being told how it happened  .What develops is a very strange and almost awful relationship Alex like the fact that Ivona is the total opposite to his wife and when she tries to make her self more appeal he makes her stay the same ,she top him appears as an object a thing he has to use not often as a person .Whilst his wife is going on about a new house and this and that .This happened in the past and is told with a cold tone at times giving an insight into Alex as maybe an emotional devoid man.

I had known her body in all its details .The heavy Pendulous breasts ,the rolls of fat at her neck ,her naval ,the stray black hairs on her back ,and her many moles .I knew how she smelled and tasted .How her body responded to touch ,I knew it repertoire of familiar movements ,but when I saw Ivona sitting there ,I had to acknowledge that I din’t know the least thing about her , that she was a complete stranger to me .

Sonia was a conquered land in Alex’s eye and Ivona was a woman of mystery .

I was looking forward to this on a number of levels I had heard how easy Stamm is to read ,he is the book took me a day and a half to fly through but then kept me thinking about it for the next week or so which was the other thing I had heard was  that Stamm is a writer that lies with you long after you have put the book down ,and yes he does .The other thing I really like is the fact it is a Hofmann translation I have always found his translation to be top drawer clean and unfussy style  ,with real sense that it isn’t a translation .So Alex and Sonia what do I make of them they struck me as very much like a typical English couple in the age group and tastes something of the yes they’ve read the books , like the right films but at the heart of the couple is a real void all the things in the world can’t make up for the fact they are quite shallow and really uninteresting people at the heart of it  I was reminded very much of the women from the film of Nick Hornbys High fidelity Charlie played by Catherine Zeta Jones ,who John Cusacks character describe her and her friends as being some one you like to be with but when you there with them you realise  they are actually quite vacant people   .Where as Ivona the Christian book seller is described as dull woman  but the more the book goes on the more she leaps off  the page .A real tale of love ,lose and marriage told with a subtle and careful tone by Stamm.

Have you read this book ?

Which Stamm would you suggest next for me ?

What’s happening in Translation

tapas_platter from spain for uk web site

I often come across some great bits via twitter ,internet and sent to me via e-mail .I decide that recently there had been enough to do a post so here we go here is a tapas of translation news from around the web –

A call to arms to publishers to translate more –

The lovely ladies at Stork press have written a wonderful piece over at Publishing perspectives about people translating more to English ,but also making these books seem more accessible to the everyday reader .This is similar to my angry post the other week .Here is the piece .I feel if we all make an effort to promote books in translation demand will grow .But I will yet again point out that publishers have to try and work with readers not against them !!

A modern Ukraine classic comes to english for the first time –

Kaylna Language press is publishing the book Black Raven by the Ukraine writer Vasyl Shkliar .Set in the 1920 about an uprising against the soviets in Ukraine this book sold 100,000 copies in Ukraine .Here is an interview with the writer .A link to the publishing site .

New site for Pushkin Press

The publisher Pushkin press who recently got new owners have revamped their website it’s not quite finished but it looks rather impressive so far .I ve reviewed a number of their books so it is great to see their new site looking so good and new style looks very eye-catching .

A new publisher seeking help

Anomalous press has had a journal about translation for a while now . But is now looking to start publish books so have run a kick-start project so if you live in the us you could maybe help a publisher in translation start !!!!!

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