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 !!!!!

The Hundred Brothers by Donald Antrim

hundred brothers

The Hundred Brothers by Donald Antrim

US Fiction

Source – review Copy

Donald Antrim is a name that I’ve had on the very edge of my radar to read ,for a number of years .He is often mentioned as a post modernist writer,as I have really enjoyed the other writers from the post modernist Cannon I have read and am always keen to try new ones .I felt I would like  Antrim’s work .So when these two new reissues from Granta dropped through my door I was happy to finally get the chance to saviour his work and that is what I did saviour him .Donald Antrim is an American writer who lives in New York ,he published his first novel in 1993 this the hundred brothers was his second book .He contributes to the New Yorker and lives in New York.He was on the twenty best writers under forty list published in the New Yorker in 1999 a list that included people such as Saunders ,Foster Wallace,Diaz and Lahiri  to name a few  .

My brothers Rob ,Bob ,Tom,Paul ,Ralph ,Phil,Noah ,William,Nick,Dennis,Christopher,Frank ,Simon,Saul ,Jim,Henry…………………..(so on ) all born on the same day,the twenty-third of May ,though at different hours in separate years .

The strange brothers gather together .

So to the book The Hundred brothers is a story of a meeting of Hundred brothers ,well actually ninety-nine as one can’t make it .They have come together for annual meeting of the brothers  and to have a meal and do a yearly ritual .Doug is our guide to this hectic group of brothers  he seems one of the saner brothers .We get told via Doug who is who ,the blind brother ,,the depressed brother ,the recovering addict ,botanist and so on .This is a strange bunch ,as the night progress chaos and madness start to descend on them .The brothers almost represent a cross-section of america .We also see what happens when people are overshadowed by a domineering father ,The brothers all seem to have a bit of something missing that thing that controls people in everyday life have ,how will this night end will the be 99 brothers ?Whose is the dog that keeps running through the room ? how many Doug’s have there been ?

Other brothers converged in a circle ringing the fighters .No one butting in ,yet ;experience has proved that it is best to let physical disputes resolve themselves on the spot ,rather than interrupt and create additional frustrations and the lasting grudges that accompany smoldering tensions – unless the peril of injury .

A fight breaks out between the a pair of brothers .


The hundred brothers is one of those books it is hard to pigeon-hole ,like most of the other post modern books I ve read it seems to transcend usual fiction genres .After reading it I was struck by the brilliance of Antrim he writes novels that feel like Barthelme short  stories  that have been given a course of steroids to pump them up too a novel  .I felt this book would make a great episode of the Simpsons it has a mix of wit and darkness they capture so well sometimes .It did in fact  remind me a bit of the episode where Homer was given a magic hammock that meant he could clone himself and he did ending up with endless slight copies of himself .Which bring total chaos to Springfield when the pack of Homers gets on the loose in Springfield ,rather like the brothers on the lose in the big hall .The other thing I was reminded of is the film by Luis Bunuel the exterminating angel where a dinner party descends into chaos as the guest are trapped in a room .There is a great intro by Jonathan Frantzen where he picks out the wonderful line “I love my brothers and I hate their guts “.Very apt we can’t choose are families can we ?

Have you read his books ?

Every Seventh wave by Daniel Glattauer


Every Seventh Wave by Daniel Glattauer

Austrian fiction

Translators – Jamie Bulloch(Leo) & Katharina Bielenberg (Emmi)

Original title Alle sieben Wellen

Source – Review copy

Now ever so often you read a book , the first in a series of books and you then  can’t wait to read the second part .This for me was the case with this book it is the follow-up to love virtually ,which was one of my favourite books of recent years and struck a chord with the romantic in my heart .Since the last book came out Glattauer has had another two vols of his articles for der standard and a novel.So as I write this having just listen to the Radio four version of this book ,which featured David Tennant as Leo and Emila Fox as Emmi here is a link to the Iplayer where it will be for a week .The earlier version of the first book appears to be available on you tube from links I saw earlier on twitter .

Subject: Query

Good evening ,Mr systems manager .How are you? Quite chilly for March , don’t you think ? Still after such a mild winter I don’t think we should be complaining .Oh yes since I’m here ,I’d be grateful if you’d answer a query .We have an acquaintance in common .His name is Leo Leike .Unfortunately I appear to have mislaid his current e-mail address .Would you be so kind and possibly …? many thanks

With my warmest virtual wishes ,

Emmi Rother

Emmi at the start when Leo still not there talking to herself in e-mail

So we are back to the story of Leo and Emmi .Last time Leo had ,left to go to america and had stopped using his Email account and all Emmi was getting is a systems manager message saying the email account was no longer in use .So the books opens and it is a few weeks later Emmi tries to e-mail then six months still no reply barring the system manager reply .Then lights are observed in Leo’s old flat and guess what she e mails to say so and no System manager reply hopeful she then gets a reply from Leo ,he is back and thus starts this strange e relationship the e-mail start slowly and cautiously .Whats happened in between ? who is Pamela ? what happened between Emmi and Bernhard her husband since Leo left ? All these questions get answered and what the hell does the title mean ? Well I suppose I can give that away whilst e mailing on Holiday Emmi Tells Leo about an old saying on the island where she and Bernhard are having a Holiday that every seventh wave that hits the shore is a bigger and stranger wave than the other ones.

Subject : A stranger 

For an hour I’ve been deleting chunks of e-mail in which I’m trying to describe what I thought of you at our meeting .I can’t seem to collect my impressions .No matter what I write it sounds banal , clichéd

Leo tries to absorb their first real meeting …….

As you can tell I love this book and would hate to give away too much to you as the reader  I think it is a book that every romantic person should read and discover what happens for themselves .Yes there are relationships hurt because of Leo and Emmi but at the heart of the book is the courtship a dance so to speak .We again see Glattauer using e mails to give life again to the epistolary novel .We also see a change in the dynamic the last book saw Leo as the main one pushing the romance this time the tables are switched it is Emmi that is the driving force trying to turn the virtual in to the real world romance  .Yet again the couple behind the translation have worked wonders by giving Emmi and Leo ever so slightly a male and female voice in English  as they translated each character .For me I was so reminded of Amanda  and myself’s romance we meet online and lived apart and used to text a lot so I got the times when Leo said it is hard to tell what mood Emmi was in by Email alone it is .I also thought the way he brought the novel to an end so suited to this story .

Do you have a favourite romantic book ?

The Eleven by Pierre Michon


The Elven by Pierre Michon

French Fiction

Translators Jody Gadding and Elizabeth Deshays

Original title Les Onze

Source  Review Copy

Pierre Michon is one of the most highly regarded writers in France raised by his mother ,he studied literature at Clermount -Ferrand ,he then decide to join a travelling theatre company travelling .He entered the world of Literature at the age of 37 with the book small Lives ,a collection of interlocking stories looking at eight lives  also published by Archipelago .This book the eleven is his twelfth novel  and even thou it is a short book at just 97 pages it is one that Michon spent fifteen years working on .It won the French Grand prix prize from the French academy .

We know he was born in Combleux in 1730.
It is just upriver from Orléans with its visible church towers, and
it bathes gently on both branches of the Loire. Overhead of course
are those French Poussinian skies, which he rarely painted, and from
one steeple to the next following the levee the length of the river,
those islands, willows, rushes where as a child, one would have loved
to hide, and the sudden flights of birds. The Loire carried boats at that
time: and it is because of the boats, and what carried them, that the
creator of The Eleven was born on the shores of the Loire.

Corentin  early life and origins described

So the Eleven the title is taken from a painting a fictional painting that was supposed to have been painted during the height of the French revolution .The Artist Corentin is brought in to compile a painting the one of the title the eleven ,this  title refers to the eleven members of the  committee of .WE see how this painting was made from a number of angles ,we learn of the artist ,how he came to do the painting his thoughts whilst he is painting the paint ,the people in the painting .First Corentin this guy is a man who rose through the society he lives in, due to his talent as a painter .He rises  from his humble beginnings in Limousin region a rural area of France  .The committee well to mention a couple of names -Robespierre and Saint – Just two names that even I had heard of in regards the French revolution  .The struggle of Corentin in how he is to portray these men on the canvas with his feeling for them and how they want to be shown on the canvas .He is also comission to paint before this the mistress of louis XIV . So we see where his conflict comes from

Can you see them, Sir? All eleven of them, from left to right: Billaud,
Carnot, Prieur, Prieur, Couthon, Robespierre, Collot, Barère, Lindet,
Saint-Just, Saint-André. Unchanging and erect. The Commissioners.
The Great Committee of the Great Terror. Four point thirty by three
meters, a bit less than three.

The painting described and who starred in it

Corentin is maybe a representation of a number of artist that probably painted during the French revolution and how they maybe struggled at times with the art and the subjects they were painting   .Well as you see this is one of those French books that is very French(that sounds wrong ,I  mean in a publishing context ) I  can hardly see a British publisher taking a chance on a slim book about a fictional painting and painter  that has very little happen in it yet so much this is one of those books that makes you think .I was reminded at times of the Robles novel I read last year ,as this book has the same feel of themes on top of themes a web of ideas ,The eleven is rereader a book that I ‘m sure you get more from after every time you read it .The main theme is of course the connection between art and politics ,well the power of politics and politicians.I mean how often do we see the dictators round the world surrounded by images of themselves painting sculptures  .Also how often has art been used to capture a moment in time , I mean some of the most famous paintings from France  that I remember are paintings that fall in that category The raft of the Medusa being one of them also Delacroix liberty leading the people an image also from the French revolution  .We see the turmoil of the artist doing these paintings of these figures who hold the power but have let the power get to them .

Have you a favourite novel on art ?

Link to the publishers site .

Train To Budapest by Dacia Maraini


Train to Budapest by Dacia Maraini

Italian Fiction

Translator  Silvester Mazzarella

Original title Il treno dell’ ultima notte

Source personnel copy

Now Dacia Maraini is a name that always seems to be in the top ten when the odds for the Nobel literature prize are mentioned every year so when before Christmas I saw this in my local Oxfam I decided it was time to try her .So Dacia Maraini is an Italian writer her mother was a Sicilian Princess she was an artist and art dealer and her father was an Ethnologist and mountaineer ,The family fled Fascist Italy but end up In a camp in Japan til 1946.They return to Italy and Dacia lived with her father and was educated in well-known Florence school .She started writing age 27 in 1963 ,she had been married before that but was at that time living with the well-known Italian writer Alberto Moravia whom she spent time with til his death in 1983 .Well longer than usual Bio but I felt after reading her Wiki entry she has had a really interesting life .

How can that stone child have survived in that Ghetto ? Would he have had the strength to survive ? Was turning to stone a way of holding on ? And what if ,after all ,he had made it ? A boy has his life before him and it isn’t easy to break stone .

Amara musing after reading a letter from Emanuele

So to Train to Budapest well this is a novel of stories and two main plotlines ,mix styles and genres .So to break it up the main character in the book is Amara she is an Italian Journalist ,we join her on the train to Budapest she has been ask to write about the growing divide that is happening between east and west Europe post world war two  .This is 1956 and the Budapest itself  is heading to is itself heading to trouble as the brief freedom that is flourishing there is looking troubled .The reason that Amara took this job to write about Budapest is the second main plot of the book and that is the other main character in this book and that is Emanuele who was a friend of Amara when she was growing up they had both lived in Florence, then Emanuele family had gone to Vienna and this fallen foul of the Nazis .Emanuele story is told via the letter he had written to Amara during this time so you see the changing face of Austria the fact they have to wear stairs then can’t go here and there and then they are moved to The Ghetto the ? Well I leave that you to find out but at a point the letters to Amara ended and she is taking this journey to find out what happened to her friend  after that point and the people he knew and she did via the letters .Then you add to that a lovely half Jewish man that she meets on the train who’s  job sees him stepping in to be the father for people at weddings .Amara own war memories are mixed in as she take the journey things she will never forget .She also meets someone wanting to print letters from the Russian front .Will she find out what happened to her soul mate ?

The future opens before her like a precious flower touched by the first ray of the sun but still frozen on the branch ,Because spring is not yet here and the sun has deceived her .

The closing words so poetic .

Well this sounds complicated I can see you saying that but it works ,it is great musing on the world war two and how it affect just individuals not nations people also the echoes of the present (well 1956) Budapest and the situation in the Ghetto and for the Jews a sort of comparison of Communism and Fascism  ,with neither coming out on top .The pacing of the book works the sort of feeling of a train journey that feel of moving through the book but not  knowing you have done so .Dacia Maraini shows why she is a frequent Nobel favourite to make something so complex so easy to read and to stick with you long after I put the book down is very hard to do .This is one of those books you think why isn’t it better known it should be it is better than some similar books with less complex themes .

Have you ever read her books ?

Do you have a favourite Italian writer?

Necropolis by Santiago Gamboa


Necropolis by Santiago Gamboa

Columbian Fiction

Original title Necropolis

Translator Howard Curtis

Source Review Copy

Well I had a load of long and complex novels last year but two I had left to mull over in my mind before reviewing .This was one the other being Laszlo Krasznahokai ‘s Satantango .So Santiago Gamboa is considered one of the rising stars of Latin American literature .He studied literature at Bogotá university before moving to Europe and settling in Paris where he furthered his studies studying Cuban literature .He published his first novel in 1995 aged 30 ,this Necropolis is his seventh novel and his first to be translated into English .The book won the  Premio La Otra Orilla award .

Dear writer ,in view of your work ,we have the pleasure of inviting you to the international congress on biography and memory (ICBM),to be held in the city of Jerusalem from 18 – 25 may

part of the invite that starts and is the framing device for the story .

So Necropolis is a novel is  about an unnamed Columbian  writer,who has been struggling for a couple of  years with his craft of writing and illness .But he is very intrigued when he receives a very strange offer from the ICBM (International Congress on Biography and Memory ),Now at first he wonders why but it seems legitimate so he says he will attend ,even thou he hasn’t in his mind written anything overtly biographical .So he sets off from his base in Rome to the conference which happens to be in Jerusalem.So he receives a copy from the ICBM OF attendees at the conferences and it is far to say apart from one man who also comes from Columbia like the writer these people have little in common .So we go to the conference and we see the first speaker talk this is mixed with our narrator as he meets his fellow delegates and listens to the talk by Jose Maturana ,this is about a church he became involved in and the collapse of this  cult like church and how the main man one Walter De la salle disappeared  .Next think is this guy turns up dead and we have what maybe a murder or a suicide ? then the action moves away from this to the other people and there stories at the conference an Italian  porn star ,a businessman who has been trying to deals with the Farc ,( a terrorist group in Columbia )  and a pastor each of these stories we hear are about fifty pages long  finally we return to find out what happen to Jose and was it murder ?

  The life story I am about to relate is a harsh and sometimes even macabre one, so I hope there are no young people in the room ,There are situations that the inexperienced or the innocent may find disturbing .I’m not sure on the conferences policy on this ,and I shall certainly go ahead and tell my story anyway .But it might be a good idea to check at the entrance that all members of audience are of legal age just for today .

Sabina telling her story to the conferences

Well that is  brief description of  this.It is very hard to grasp without getting  to in-depth with the story or stories .This book has a feel of ambition about it and scope .The book is set up really as a collection of stories and a murder story ,it has a feel rather like those classic tales of literature .In  a number of reviews I saw The Decameron is mentioned as one such  collection ,but I felt Canterbury tales could also work as the book is set round the conference it is a framing device like the trip the pilgrims took,  these people have been drawn together  at the king David hotel too essentially tell their stories .The tales we are told by the delegates are about love ,sex ,good and evil . Ambitious as you can tell ,it works and one feels the could be a number of other stories come from this one book in the future . Santiago Gamboa has assumed the mantel of writers like Marquez and Bolano .

Have you read this book ?

Do you have a favourite latin american work of fiction ?

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February 2013


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