Suicide by Édouard Levé

SUICIDE-edouard-Leve (1)

Suicide by Édouard Levé

French Fiction

Translator – Jan Steyn

Source – personnel copy on Kindle

Édouard Levé is a writer I wanted to read for a while ,one of his earlier books appeared on the BTBA the american equivalent of the IFFP  .He was a self taught artist ,who after visiting India became a photograph ,he published  a good number of books of his photographs and laterly he wrote four books in the last four years of his life ,this being his last book for ten days after handing in the manuscript for this book  Édouard Levé himself committed suicide ,this makes this book one that leaves you as the reader questioning was it ,is it a final note on himself ?

You used to read dictionaries like other people read novels .Each entry is a character ,you’d say ,who might be encountered on some other page. Plots many of them would form during any random reading.The story changes according to the order in which the entries are read.

from the first section and alsomaybe how you could read this book .

Well that said this book has an unusual style ,I felt the first of the two sections was like an epilogue ,we see a friend looking back twenty year after a close friend committed suicide ,these remembrance ,afterthought ,what happened next are short to the point .We see a man’s life told in what happened after he died ,his friend tries to piece together the point that he decide to do the deed and the points that lead to the dead and also the outcome of the dead .What is the lasting effect of one death to suicide on those around him ?As I say the book in a way seems about-face because the second section is composed of poems ,lines written by the man himself in the time leading up to his suicide .But for me this work as I had one fixed idea on the first section the second person point of view ,with the strong use of you every passage has “you” at the end of it ,almost accusing as in why did you ? But also enquiring you as opposed to me why did you ?.

Traps seduce me

Liars fool me

Informers horrify me


The baroque sickens me

The Gothic chills me

Novels enlighten me


Red irritates me

Black moves me

White calms me

The second section is very much the man’s point of view on life as you see .


This book showed what can be great when someone from a different artistic field moves into writing .There is a strong sense of the abstract ,as much as we feel we know this man ,we don’t ,we know he is married ,but don’t know where he came from what he is like other than the scare facts we are given .Also Édouard Levé keen eye for detail ,from his other artistic field is evident ,keenly observed little gems ,such as a gesture ,an eye for the here and now of what happened .I also felt the book could be seen as two case the first the case why he shouldn’t have committed the suicide even thou he did ,his friend saying your life was this that and the other ,what you did ok some of it wrong ,but on the other hand  some of it was good .The other half the second section is the case for why he did it from his own words, I was this ,I was that .Almost like the Damon Hirst piece lets eat outdoors today ,where we see a fly born on rotting meat and then fly into second half of the piece to ultimately die in an electric fly killer .This concept of two halves rings true in this book .An earlier book of his yet to be translated has caught my eye a book describe 500 books not written but he would like to write almost a crossover into conceptual art .This is what I feel this is as much as a work of fiction it is a work of art to complex to paint or photographs one man’s life the reason why and the suicide but able to be caught in words .Of course I imagine for years to come the main discussion will be on his own suicide and the timing of the book it is hard to avoid this as it is so timely ,but if he hadn’t would it been viewed as more of a conceptual art piece as a book one odes wonder .

Have you read Édouard Levé?

Thomas Bernhard Reading Week July 1-7

Well I ve been in a lull post IFFP I love projects so the fact his books have recently been reissued Faber finds means they are readily available to us all .I’ve old masters on my tbr pile and will be adding a couple to my kindle .Thomas Bernhard is a writers writer ,his books are challenging full of ideas in arts people and society in general he has long been a favourite with me so I hope if you join in you too will grow to love his words .


London day Old friends and new IFFP 2013

Well I got up early on Monday to catch the 8:59 train to London ,strange as I sat on the platform reading Skylark by Dezső Kosztolányi which saw the heroine of the novel Skylark go on a journey via train .So I left Chesterfield and just over two hours later and only Ten minutes late I arrived .To meet my old friend simon from the blog Inside books ,we had a great couple of hours having a coffee in Welcome institute talking books ,marathons and family .We then head to central London Simon back to work ,myself off to meet Susan the owner publisher of Istros books ,I’ve reviewed a number of books in the last couple of years from this new publisher and was really keen to meet Susan .we chatted books ,blogging ,book prizes .I also got the in side track on a great book from Bulgaria that they are hoping to publish in 2014 ,if you like the wit in the book by Deyan Enev I read a couple of years ago this one is in the same vein it seems .

Next stop was my favourite bookshop in London the London review bookshop  ,well only one  I’ve been to next time I hope to make it to a couple more bookshops .I had arrange to meet Henry ,he was one of the first book pr to follow me and has been at different publisher and is now at One world I was told about there forthcoming books ,they don’t do much in translation but have some very interesting sound Persian books coming out in the next year .I did buy three books as three is my limit be quite easy to break this in the LRB it has a wonderful selection of translations from around the world it would be very easy to get Carried away anyway I picked up these gems .


Cosmos and Pornografia by Witold Gombrowicz

Ever since I read the diaries by him I’ve been want to read more of his works ,so this double collection is a perfect choice ,I will save one of these two for Polish lit month .

an episode in the life of a landscape painter

An episode in the life of a landscape painter by Cesar Aira

I have had Cesar aira on my list of people I need to read for a while so there where a number at LRB ,I choose this as I had seen a couple of positive reviews for this one .The story is that of a painter in 19th century Argentina inspired by Humboldt he paint the scenery .

istanbul was a fairy tale

Istanbul   was a fairy tale by Mario Levi

Heard this was coming out last year but yet to see a review and Epic Turkish novel about being Jewish in Istanbul over three generations and the middle of the 20th century .

Then after some refreshment I head to RIBA the home of the IFFP prize night ,I enter was amazed to see Andres Neuman chatting with Nikesh from booktrust so I entered the main room and saw Katharine from Maclehose she introduced me to  Daša Drndić  the Croatian writer ,I had earlier been talking to Susan from Istros about Daša Drndić ,she had told me the Croat version of Trieste has the list of Italian Jews killed during world war two printed on pages that can be taken out ,so when she passed it round Jewish book week and people removed pages this made the book unstable ,this Daša Drndić says shows how unstable society is when we lost all these people .Anyway we spoke on the nature of literature ,how some books we both like Nadas and Krasznahorkai missed the cut off for shortlist ,does this mean us, English readers maybe aren’t use to such complex themes and subject matters .Then I spoke to Frank Wynne I’ve meet Frank the previous two years and he was a judge this year ,knowing he could say nothing I only asked how many times he had read short-list he said four to six times and he had read most in translation and their original language .Then I meet Joanna the publisher of Stork Press ,some one I have spoken a lot with on twitter and via emails ,she is a lovely person and we spoke about books ,how we could raise the profile of her books and books in translation (any ideas welcome I will pass them on to her ) Then we gathered to her the announcement .The head of booktrust spoke about the wonderful Reader project and how it had got people who wouldn’t normally read books in translation involved ,they had chosen  Trieste as their winner .Next came Boyd the chair of the judges he highlight the merits from all the judges on the different books ,then mention the judges had want to mention on book not the winner but a book that deserved merit ,the book was Andres Neuman Traveller of the century ,great choice couldn’t agree more a wonderful book ,that shows what I love about books in translation ,inventive ,challenging ,pushing the boundaries and rather unlike anything in English .So on to the winner ………. The detour by Gerbrand Bakker ,we all clapped and Gerbrand and his translator David Colmer went and accepted the prize . her is Gerbrand and David  winning the prize .

IMG_1029    Here is a recent interview I did with him .Then we returned to the party ,I got to chat to Christopher Maclehose about blogging ,he feels we should have some reward for our efforts ,the fact we are filling the ap from old print media book reviews .Then I got a huge hug and great chat with Andres Neuman ,whom I have spoken with on twitter ,I was amazed he knew me ,he told me he has two more books in the pipeline to reach us in English ,a collection of short stories and another novel .The I head of with Joanna , Susan ,Danielle from Europa ,Simon from Peter Owen ,someone from Telegram to a local pub for a drink ,then a dash for the train and back to my everyday life .But I do have a wonderful project to work on thanks to Susan and made some great new friends and meet some great old ones ,also meet Mark Thwaite a fellow blogger and net guy for Quercus /maclehose ,Stuart Evers ,Nikesh ,Alan Bowden a feloow blogger .

Dads in London


Well A quick word from me Winston Dad has gone to London today ,Mum is looking after me ,he is seeing the Independent foreign fiction prize being awarded tonight and meeting his good friend Simon in the day .So here is a song about London dad and I like very much .

Shadow iffp winner 2013

We started off in March with sixteen titles, the cream of the fiction in translation published in the UK last year. After a hard month of reading, thinking, discussion and cursing, the list was cut down to six by the offical panel – which is where we parted ways.

Having chosen four of the same titles as the official panel, the Shadow Panel (Tony, Lisa, Mark, Gary and myself) opted for two others to complete the full half-dozen, and then set about deciding which was to take out the prize…

Our road took us on a long journey through many times and lands. We spent a bizarre time in an ever-shifting, nineteenth-century German town, working on translations and kissing the local girls. We moved onto a dark exploration of Communist-era Hungary (and an even darker examination of human souls…). We went for walks around the rainy city of Barcelona, and then flew off to Dublin for a Bloomsday jaunt. We witnessed an extraordinary dinner party in Albania – and its consequences ten years on. We followed a boy from the Siberian wilds on his trip to Helsinki and watched as he encountered civilisation in all its forms. We fled to Wales (seeking some solitude) and shared a woman’s house – but not her secrets…

Then we came back to earth with a bump. There were discussions, disagreements, grudging acceptance, and then a decision…

Our choice for the winner of the 2013 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize is:


Dublinesque by Enrique Vila-Matas

(translated by Rosalind Harvey and Anne McLean)

My review of Dublinesque

Congratulations to the writer and translators – Dublinesque is a great book, and it would be a worthy winner of the real prize. So, can it do the double? We’ll find out very soon…

Eurovision of books 2013 what to read from the final

Well tonight sees the 2013 Eurovision competition ,I see this as a good chance to do a Europe wide reading guide suggesting a book I’ve read ,A book I want to read (in some cases just this I ve not read books from all 25 countries ).Our entry is from Bonnie Tyler this year ,some I just remember for a huge hit she had in the 1980’s so shall we start I.


Well I ve 25 books under review on the blog from France .I ve chosen is an older review the book is Piano by Jean Echenoz .A very odd book about a man with time running out on his life .

piano jean echenoz

piano jean echenoz

On the radar well there is 2011  Prix Goncourt which I know is being translated into english as we speak .L’art francais de la geurre (the french art of war) contriversal but follows the french in indo china ,I was reminded of the scenes added to apocalypse now with the french in Vietnam .

Lartfrancaisdelaguerretonight’s song from france is L’enter et moi sung by Amandine Bourgeis .


I ve unfortunately not read a book from Lithuania .here is an overview of Lithuania literature I found

So on the radar is this book  The Dedalus Book of Lithuanian Literature  Author/editor : Almantas Samalavicius due out soon to me seems a good place to start .

lithuanian literatureThe song from Lithuania tonight is Something sung by Andrius Pojavis


I have yet to read a book from Moldova .so here is the wiki list of writers from Moldova

So it one for on the radar for Moldova is the piece a year of reading read .I m sure in time we will see a couple of Moldova novel appear in english .there are a short piece in each of the best of European fiction collections as well to try

best european fiction 2010

best european fiction 2010

Moldova song is Omie sung by Alioan Moon


I have at least read Finnish literature there are 7 Finnish books under review on the blog. The human part by Kari Hotakainen ,seems a good choice a women sells her life story and it is rewritten very much one for this modern world .

untitledOn my radar this one isn’t hard it is the next Peirene novel .Mr Darwin’s gardener by Kristina Carlson .Its describe as under Milkwood in Kent and at mr Darwin’s house .

darwin_web_0_220_330The finnish song for tonight is Marry me by Krista Siegfrids


Well the most recent review on the blog seems a great choice for Eurovision Night Lost luggage by Jordi Punti covers part of Europe as four half brothers from four countries meet for the first time .

Jordi-Punti lost luggageOn the radar I think the recent Manuel Rivas novel is one that I will be reading soon .All is silence is about three friends growing up .I have previously read Riva’s carpenter’s pencil it is one of 10 books under review on the blog .

all is silence by Manuel RivasSpains song for tonight is Contigo hasta el final sung by ESDM


Well  this is an easy one for me my choice has to be wonder by Hugo Claus one of my all time favourite books a man driven to the edge in post war Belgium by shadowy groups  of neo Nazis .one of three books from Belgium under review

WonderOn the radar well an old one but   one I love George Simenon, that Nyrb books are slowly reissuing his books and many available second-hand he wrote so many not even his own estate knows how many as he used many names to write under ,even once writing a book in a bubble over a couple of days .

dirty snow

Belgium’s  song for tonight is Love kills by Robert Bellarosa


I ve just one book from Estonia under review but it is a very good one Brecht at night by Mati  Unt follows the German writer Brecht as he escapes from Germany to America as he spends time in Estonia and Finland on route .



On the radar well Dalkey Archive have a couple more books from the late  Mati Unt I so enjoyed Brecht at night I will over time be trying those ,this is the next one that appeals to me is the Diary of a blood donor a retelling of the Dracula story .

diary of a blood donorEstonia’s song for tonight is Et uus saaks alguse by Brigit


Belarus is another country I am yet to read a book from .

On the radar is this collection from Dalkey Archive called Voices from Chernobyl by Svetlana Alexievich .This collection follows the aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster

voices from ChernobyklThe song from Belarus is Solayoh sung by Alyona Lanaskay


Malta is another place I ve yet to read a book from.

A year of reading read the book happy weekend by Immanuel Mifsud here is her review 

coverhappyweekendMalta song for tonight is Tomorrow song by Gianluca


Well back to places I’ve read books from ,although I do view russia as a bit of an Achilles heel for me in Europe but of recent books I read from Russia it is this one I remember best .The new Moscow Philosophy by Vyacheslav Pyetsukh set over a weekend end a flat become vacant as an old women dies set in today this book has its routes in classic Russian literature .

the new moscow philosphyOn the radar well there is one writer I have on my radar big time I ve read one book so far the Light and the dark by Mikhail Shishkin a love affair told in letters over time and distance .Also have his other book Madienhair on my tbr pile .


Russia’s song for tonigh is What if sung by Dina Garipova


I’ve  21 books under review from Germany .The most recent seems apt for tonight ,The Mussel feast sees a Germany family sit down for an evening meal ,but this is also just as the new unified Germany is beginning .just as the title for this yearts Eurovision is” we are one ”

the mussel feastOn the radar is the comic German novel currently being translated Er ist wieder da ,a satire that imagine what happened if Hitler returned to modern Germany .


Germany’s song for tonight is Glorious sung by Cascada


I ve not read any books from Armenia

so on the radar I found this book  Armenian Golgotha by Grigoris Balakian a book about the Armenian genocide .

aremnnian golgothThe Aremnia song for tonight is Lonely planets sung by Dorians


Well I have read quite a few Dutch books .My recent favourite has been Amsterdam stories by Nescio ,a collection of short stories in and around Amsterdam a businessman imagines what his life might have been had he chosen different paths .this is one of eleven books under review here .

Amsterdam-StoriesOn the radar is the book mention in an interview as it is one I hope to see in English and this is J. J. Voskuil,’s Het bureau ,the office a  seven novel cycle following thirty years in an office .

bureau_0The Dutch song for this year is Birds sung by Anouk


Well I do have a Romanian writer but Herta muller is more often counted as german ,but her books are set Romania ,of the few books by her I’ve read I suggest starting with Nadirs her short story collection it is short and isn’t maybe as intense as her novels tend to be .

nadirs herta muller

One book that is one my radar by a writer still in Romania is The Fifth Impossibility: Essays on Exile and Language (Margellos World Republic of Letters)  by Norman Manea ,he was expelled from Romania in the sixties ,a collection of essays following his life .


The Romanian song for tonight is Its my life sung by Cezar

United Kingdom

Well to us, as Bonnie Tyler is Welsh I ve decide to choose a Welsh novel that just happens to be a translation .The life of Rebecca Jones By Angharad Price .Follows a family in a valley ,we meet Rebecca and her three blind brothers .


Well I m not doing a on the radar for the UK as there are lots of blogs dealing with English fiction that know a lot better than be what to read from the UK .

Our song is Believe in me by Bonnie Tyler


I’ve read four books from Sweden of those I m going suggest a Non-fiction Title Stieg Larsson my friend by Kurdo Baski ,a fellow journalist a good friend of the later thriller writer ,lifts the lid on his crusading Journalism ,he was a fierce anti fascist as well as a great thriller writer .


Next up for me from Sweden I think will be the new Roslund and Hellstrom  called Two soldiers it is about the gang culture in Sweden and stars Ewert Grens that was a character in the earlier book by them I read Three seconds .

two soldiers roslundThe Swedish song for tonight is You sung by Robin Stjernberg


Well I ve mention Satantango a lot so I will pick the epic Parallel stories by Peter Nadas , here as my choice it starts with a dead body and takes you through life in Communist Hungary .One of the most extraordinary books in translation of recent years and showing how wonderful  Hungarian fiction is .

parallel stories hardback cover

On my radar is one I ll be reading this week in fact be reading it on Monday on my train journey down to London ,The book is Skylark by Dezső Kosztolányi a book that follows a young girl in 1900 Hungary .

skylark by Dezső KosztolányiHungarys song for tonight is Kedvesem sung by Byealex


Not much Choice  on the blog Denmark I have only read one title from there and that is The Murder of Halland ,the longlistee for the Independent foreign fiction Prize this year .Follows a wife as she copes with the her husbands death .A interesting new angle on the crime novel .

Murder of Halland

On my radar well this is a hard on I must admit I know very little about Danish fiction but have had Peter Hoeg the woman and the ape on my tbr pile for a long time .A story following the connection of a wife of a scientist and a 300lb ape .

the woman and the apeThe Danish song for tonight is Only teardrops sung by Emmelie de forest


I have one choice for Iceland Sjon and two books I review by him so Ill pick the whispering Muse .The tale of Vladimir a first class bore that runs a magazine about fishing .As he takes a voyage with what may be the reincarnation of one of Jason and the Argonauts crew .

Whispering Muse

On my radar is a wonderful short story collection from Comma press The stone tree by Gyoir Elfasson a very Icelandic collection of stories .a school boy goes to a chess competition ,sister reading a book .

stone treeIceland’s entry for Eurovision is Ég á Líf  by Eythor Ingi


I not read a book from Azerbaiijan

Here is a year of readings post for Azerbaiijan .I hope there is so more books from here soon this one seems very interesting .A love story set against the backdrop of modern Azerbaijan .

ali and nino

There song for Eurovision is Hold me by Farid Mammadov


I ve read two books from Greece this one seems quite apt set in modern Greece  Ashes by Sergios Gakas .an actress , African family and the landlord all drawn in by a fire .lots of tension and a very noir feel .

ashes sergios GakasWell I’ve just finished a great novel from Greece called What lots wife saw by Ioanna Bourazopoulou it won the Athens prize in Greece .Set in a dystopic future a Crossword setter is trying to find out where a addictive salt called purple salt comes from .

whats lot's wife saw by Ioanna BourazopoulouThe Greek entry for Eurovision tonight is Alcohol is free sung by Koza Mostra feat. Agathon Iakovdis


I ve review two books from Ukraine both written by Andrey Kurkov .I have to pick the classic Death and the penguin ,a man ends up with a penguin and is writing obituries for men that seem to keep dying ,Very dark satire .



I am currently working through another Ukrainian novel The raven by Vasyl Shkliar set in 1921 we follow the Ukraine’s as the try to stop there country being taken over by Russia . Based on Kgb reports of the time Shkliar is one of the most outspoke writers from Ukraine .

raven Vasyl ShkliarThe Ukraine entry for tonight is gravity sung by zlata ognevich


Well I have reviewed 20 books from Italy ,I could choose Italo Calvino or The leopard ,but I decide on the recent collection I reviewed Ten by Andrej Longo .As one of the stories involves a singer .

ten Andrej LongoOne on my radar is my next Italian read Italian  Outsiders stories is a collection of short stories .that was  originally published in Italian newspaper and features the likes of Carlo Lucarelli ,Roberto Saviano and wu ming to name three .

italian outsider storiesThe Italian song for tonight is L’essenziale sung by Marco Mengoni


Well The book of the moment is the epic My struggle the six part fictionalized autobiography of Karl Ove Kanusgaard  This is both my choice and on my Radar I ve read part one death in the family Karl Ove growing up  and am not awaiting part two  a man in love the story of his early romances from My library .

Death in the Family, A


The Norwegian song for tonight is I feed you my  love sung by Magaret Berger


I ve not read anything from Georgia

But Dalkey archive have published a book of contemporary Georgian fiction which feature   work by Mariam Bekauri, Lasha Bugadze, Zaza Burchuladze, Teona Dolenjashvili, Guram Dochanashvili, Rezo Gabriadze, Kote Jandieri, Irakli Javakhadze, Davit Kartvelishvili, Besik Kharanauli, Mamuka Kherkheulidze, Archil Kikodze, Ana Kordzaia, Zurab Lezhava, Maka Mikeladze, Aka Morchiladze, Zaal Samadashvili, Nugzar Shataidze, Nino Tepnadze, and David Dephy.

georgian fiction


The Georgian song for tonight is Waterfall sung by Nodi Tatishvili and Sophie Gelovani


Well finally we reach the end and Ireland ,which I never read enough from recent years having read a lot in my youth .I choose a William trevor of the two Irish stories I ve review but Cheating at canasta is maybe how Uk has fely about Eurovision cheated but I don’t it is great fun I hope you have enjoyed this trip through the books and songs off Europe and Eurovisiong 2013 .

cheating at canastaI won’t suggest any books as lots of great blogs with Irish lit on I suggest Kim of reading matters .My next read will be next year when I plan to read an review all of joyce over next couple of years .







Lost Luggage by Jordi Punti

Jordi-Punti lost luggage

Lost luggage by Jordi Punti

Spanish fiction

Original title -MALETES PERDUDES

Translator – Julie Wark

Source – review copy

Jordi Punti is one of the rising voices in Catalan literature ,born in 1967 ,he moved to Barcelona to study  philology ,then went to work for a publishing house in Barcelona ,where he has worked translating writers such as Pennac ,Nothomb and Auster .He also writes poetry and in the newspapers regularly as well as novels and short stories .Lost luggage is his first book to be translated to English.

If we’re going to make progress we Christopher’s now need to return to carrer to Napols The first time we four brothers met in Barcelona , incredulous,suspicious and still dumbfounded by the revelations . Cristòfol showed us our fathers Mezzanine flat .

They start on their quest for Gabriel .

Well lost luggage as a title has a double meaning, the first comes from the main figure in the book. Gabriel a truck driver ,he was an orphan and went into trucking with his two friends he knew growing up ,after he left the orphanage .They literally on every trip the took in the truck around Europe, lost luggage  a box  Would disappear and the three friends divide them up all this was during the reign of Franco in Spain dark days indeed .The second meaning is lost luggage is what Gabriel left behind ,this is how we are introduced to him via his first son  Cristòfol the Spanish son and until this point when contact by the police that his father has gone missing ,he hadn’t seen him in 20 years ,he doesn’t know him to well has disappeared .This leads him to met three other  men called Christof, Christophe and  Christopher ,they are his half brothers his father had whilst trucking  .And are from Great Britain , France and Germany .So they meet not til this point,they were  unaware  of one another’s existence to this point  .All the more than they only have  slim facts from  their  respective mothers told them about Gabriel so the go on a quest to find him and learn about him .Along the way they become the Christopher’s like one and did his father ever got to Italy ? all this and more we find out .

Gabriel had learned to pace his relationship with his three equidistant women and three sons and ,like a good plate spinner ,he seemed to keep his cool .Of course ,the rules of the game were in his favour :he had his base camp in Barcelona ,where he lead a bachelor’s existence and ,thanks to removal work ,went to visit his famlies from time to time .

Gabriel described as plate spinner sounds right not easy what he did .

Well this book when it arrived reads like a headline from one of those women magazine” shock horror I discover my three half brothers with the same name “

the sort of thing you think oh no. I don’t want to read that .But no this is not that it is funny ,dark and at heart of this book is about how a moment of discovery can change the course of four lives for ever .We also get to the bottom of what motivate Gabriel to have these four children and why have they all got the same name ?Why did he run away from them ? Under all is the meaning of being lost whether boxes ,sons ,father ,mothers and living under Franco .Not overtly political we sense the wrongs of Franco regime .Punti as a Catalan a language that until after Franco wasn’t taught .This book is hard tom place in the cannon of Spanish fiction I ve read I think I need to read Monzo another Catalan writer to compare him too ,Like one of my favourite Spanish writers the Basque writer Bernardo Atxaga ,Punti shows how different the writing can be in Spain Catalan is language that developed separately to Spanish and one that seems to have a strong voice in its fiction if this book is anything to go out .

Ten by Andrej Longo

ten Andrej Longo

Ten by Andrej Longo

Italian short stories

Original title Dieci

Translator – Howard Curtis

Source – review copy

Andrej Longo was called Andrej after a character in War and peace ,he studied in Bologna .Before writing he had worked as a lifeguard ,waiter and  cook .He published his first book in 1992 ,Ten is his fourth book ,it won the Prize Bagutta in Italy .He  has also written plays and  for radio and television .

I used to have dark, smouldering eyes and a tenor voice .and when I sang people got cold shivers even if it was forty degrees .At first I sang in church ,during the mass ,or else at christenings ,and at Christmas and Easter .They used to say I was an angel sent from heaven ,nobody in the neighbourhood had ever heard a voice like that before ,with that voice I had to be an angel of God

the opening of the story thou shalt not take the lord thy god in vain ,a singer has high hopes .

Ten is a collection of ten short stories that are based around the Ten commandments and set in the working class underbelly of Naples .The stories all in theme follow the actual commandment the are based on .A singer tries to become more than he is which is a wedding singer release and album but then starts on a slippery slope of decline in his fame and starts using drugs (this one remind me so much of those singers caught up in the reality shows in the uk and how sometimes there dreams turn sour ) this story was used to illustrate the commandment thou shalt have no other god .So we see a man on the run with his son  for the commandment thou shalt not Kill .A man in a Ferrari is killed by three men to demonstrate the commandment Thou shalt not covert thy neighbours property .

Tell him now ,I thought .But it wouldn’t come out .

Tell him now.But I didn’t say anthing .

“How old are you ?” He asked.

“Fourteen next month “.

“And what could possibly be upsetting you at the age of fourteen “?


I took a deep breath .

“I’m three-month pregnant “I blurted out .

The priest sigh

“Who’s the baby’s father ?”

A young daughter has something to tell but who is the dad ?

As you see compelling stuff ,I was reminded of the other great Italian writer of the underbelly of Italian Life Leonard Sciasscia  his Scilly is here replaced by Naples ,I read wine dark sea  by Sciasscia and was reminded of those stories in these stories,as they are  not exactly to do with the Mafia ,but they show the violent undercurrent than can run in so many large Italian cities especially in the poorest parts of these cities. they are t he same people  that, crop up in the true life stories of both Petra Reski and Roberto Saviano .These stories also show what great short stories can be and  that is a slice of the world, with  a bare frame-work of facts and  how the characters are  ,but we see people lives for the briefest moment .So we meet the parents want a better life for their kids ,the brothers standing up for one another ,a daughter with a huge secret .And through these Naples comes alive in these pages not the one you see on the holiday shows or the umpteen travelogue shows their seems to be on tv these days ,no this is the Jeremy Kyle ,ASBO kids  ,chav of  italy  .We see the real town and yes  it is scary and wonderful painted in Longo’s words and yet again a wonderful translation from Italian by Howard Curtis surely one the hardest working translators around .

Have you a favourite Italian novel/ short story collection  that displays the underbelly of Italy ?

Woes of the True policeman by Roberto Bolano

woes of the true policeman

Woes of the true policeman by Robert Bolano

Chilean fiction

Original title Los sinsabores del verdadero policía

Translator Natasha Wimmer

Source – Library

Well as all of you that  have followed this blog for a time,will  know Bolano is one of my favourite writers and this is the fifth book I have under review here  and the ninth in all I’ve read by Bolano ,this one comes from the works he was working on when he died that were left on a hard drive .So although I loved this book like I have most of his books I do wonder if it was as he want or just fragments strung together .

According to Padilla ,remembering Amalfitano ,all literature could be classified as heterosexual , homosexual or bisexual .Novels ,in general were heterosexual .Poetry on the other hand , was completely homosexual .Within the vast ocean of poetry he identified various currents .

A controversial argument opens the novel

The “Woes of a true policeman ” has Bolano written all over it ,firstly settings First Spain then Mexico us border .Characters in this book where in earlier works ,they feel at times like Bolano intend this as a stand along read to 2666 maybe even a prelude to that book .The Characters are the Lit professor Oscar Amalfitano ,although in 266 he is described as more gay and is also a professor of philosophy not literature in that book .We also recounted the German writer Benno Von Archimboldo ,where we see his works describe as some works through the books he wrote this is the connection to the first man Oscar because he once long ago translated on of Archimboldo’s books .Add in forged paintings ,some dark situations and a  touch of humour you have the makings of what might be a third epic to sit along 2666 and Savage detectives ,because Bolano had spent the best parts of twenty years working on this book .

Works of J.M.G Archimboldi (Carcasanne 1925 )


The enigma of the cyclist of the tour de france – Gallimard ,1956.

Vertummnus – Gallimard ,1958.

Hartmann von aue – Gallimard 1959.

Sam O’Rourkes search – Gallimard,1960 .

Riquer – Gallimard,1961.

Railroad perfection – Gallimard,1964.

The librarian – Gallimard,1966.

The endless rose -Gallimard,1968.

The natives of Fontainebleau -Gallimard,1970.

Racine -Gallimard,1979.

Doctor Dotremont-Gallimard,1988

The list of novels and in the following section we find out about these imagined books .But aren’t the titles just wonderful .

That is the point what came first as you read this book ,This or 2666 one imagines Bolano spent the last twenty years of his life working this book together and at various points used it as a spring-board to other books namely 2666 ,but the section with the Bibliography of Benno Von Archimboldo also remind me of his great book on imagined Nazi writers of Latin america ,Nazi Literatures in america and father daughter relationships are something else I ve read in other books by Bolano .So although at times this books jumps and you can tell or feel it is a little unpolished or is it just  Bolano playing with the novel as a form ,in Antwerp the are huge gaps that are left for you as a reader in Nazi literatures in America there isn’t a linear narrative ,so it is hard to say what stage the book was in .I’m sure some of you are going well just look up I could but that would spoil my fun .I wonder what else is on the hard drive is this a bottomless pit like the Pessoa trunk seems to be ? With still a couple of books to read from Bolano I feel his place in Latin American fiction is yet to be decided .He took chunks of fellow writers the dedication at the front is to Manuel Puig and Philip K dick now Puig in his work  I have always seen ,but from my reading of two Dick books twenty years ago I can see him as well that uneasy sense of place (I know sci-fi don’t fall back in horror I have also read fantasy in the past ) .As we read more from the next generation the Likes of Neumann ,Pron ,Luiselli ,Enrique and et al will show his lasting legacy .

Have you read this book ?

Do you have a favourite Bolano ?

Sidewalks by Valeria Luiselli


Sidewalks by Valeria Luiselli

Mexican non fiction (essays /travel)

Original title Papeles falos

Translator Christina MacSweeney (Nooteboom intro by Laura Watkinson )

Source review copy

When you see a book in the forthcoming season from a publisher you often cross your fingers and hope you are chosen to review it and that was the case (I know I could ask but not one for this if any PR folk read this and would like me to request books more I will just let me know ),Faces in the crowd by Luiselli was one of my books of last year and one I have mentioned to a number of people as a book to try .So when this dropped through my door I was pleased to be reading her wonderful writing again and also to sample her non fiction style .

Joesph Brodsky (1940-1996)

Searching for a grave is ,to some extent ,like arranging to meet a stranger in a cafe ,the lobby of a hotel or a public square ,in that both activities engender the same way of being they’re looking at a given distance ,every person could be the one waiting for us ,every grave could be the one we are searching for .Finding either involves circulating among people or tombs ;approaching and scrutinizing their retrospective features .

The opening paragraph sums up the search for his grave so well .


A  mark of how good this book is ,for even thou it is a short book, it has managed to get a wonderful forward by the great Dutch writer Cees Nooteboom(worth reading especially as Laura has translated it ) .The book is a collection of  ten  essays mainly on travel .WE move from her home land of Mexico cycling round mexico city ,sharing a smoke with a guard late at night in her current home New York and my favourite wandering a Venice graveyard in search of the grave of Joseph Brodsky .Brodsky and Flaneurism is a sort of thread through this book .The original Mexican title False papers maybe alludes to an earlier Mexican books by the like of Alfonso Reyes .

I, who have rather fruitlessly attempted some of these thing ,now have the joy of being an offical resident of one of the most literary of cities ,though neither through the blessing of a graceful pen nor the fidelity of the muses .And ,worse still not even through the sweat of my brow and fist ,but beacuse of a terrible …..

Valeria talks about how she got where she was in the very last section and her ending up in New York .

The book is similar at times to the her début novel ,The link between past and present she used to such great effect is again in evidence especially when she wanders the grave yard and pass other poets writers and thinkers in search of that great sage of Venice Joseph Brodsky .A sort of surreal Mexican take of the Flaneur  instead of a city of the living we wander a city of the dead using the graves as signposts to the writers grave she is seeking out .Strangely in a later  essay ,this signpost motif is repeated as obviously wandering a city short vignettes are sparked by the sign post she passes so we  see a stop  sign connecting Rousseau and Walser,a pedestrian crossing the poet Salvador Novo .A new stopping point on the world-wide journey of the Flaneur and psychogeography as a writing style all the names we associate with this scene are mention Starting with Rousseau through Walter Benjamin (whose epic unfinished arcades project I am just slowly working through my self ) ,Brodsky who watermark itself an ode to Venice has brought Valeria herself to Venice to write and ode to him and the dead of that same city ,through Sebald and in the last piece a mention of herself .

Do you have a favourite book from the Flaneur oeuvre ?

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May 2013


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