In the Dutch Mountains by Cees Nooteboom

in the dutch mountains

In the Dutch Mountains by Cees Nooteboom

Dutch fiction

Translator –  Adriene Dixon

Original title In Nederland

Source review Copy

Well I’ve cover his short stories before now and Also have an Interview with Cees Noooteboom  here on the blog ,he is the best known living Dutch writer and someone frequently mention for a Nobel Literature prize .This book is a reissue of his   1984 Novel and this one book is probably the  most perfect piece of writing I have ever read ,but also shows the Plaudits given to Nooteboom are due .This is one of two books Maclehose have reissued the other being Rituals which I hope to read soon .I would also suggest reading the Intro by Alberto Manguel .

I am a foreigner ,but I still remember it all ,and I don’t intend to keep quiet about it .My name is Alfonso Tiburon de Mnedoza .I am inspector of roads in the province of Zaragoza ,part of the ancient kingdom of Aragon ,in spain .In my spare time I write book .As a student I spent some years in Delft on a scholarship to study road and bridge building ,and I might as well say at once that the nortern Netherlands have always inspired me with fear ,a Fear that demands a capital letter .

He was touch by his time in Holland .

In the Dutch mountain is The story of a writer retelling a classic fairy tale with a new setting .The writer is a Spaniard Alfonso Tiburon de Mendoza ,he works in the Zaragoza region of spain as a road inspector ,he is a failed man ,he has been writing ,but has never sold many copies of his book but every week he goes to a schoolroom and sits behind a kids desks and writes ,the story we join him on  his   retelling of the Hans Christian Anderson story the Snow Queen ,he has alter the name of the two main child characters too Kai and Luicia they are circus kids  the setting is now in Holland  the mountains of Southern Holland  , where Alfonso  spent some time years ago ,as we follow the story we also follow a bit of Alfonso life as we see the kids revisit  the fairy tale of  the snow queen as through the eyes of Alfonso .

Camino ,carretera, way ,street,road .It has always intrigued me that in Dutch the word weg ,way also means absent .In Spanish el camino is not only the road but also Journey .

I love how words can have dual means elsewhere myself .

This is what reading books in translation is about for me discovery and different approaches , I ve read books before about writers ,and them taking part in the writing process .But none have touched the mark as well as this one did  he really caught the whole process .Alfonso is the perfect embodiment of the failed writer, he has it all in his head but seems to have failed over time  in conveying it in what he writes ,through him we see how he is using a classic tale to try to spark his own writing but also use his own life to add to the fairy tale .A short book 150 pages it seems much longer (a cliché I know but its hard to say anything else its a real gem ) .I have books I know will stick with me for the rest of my life after I have read them for example rings of Saturn by W G  Sebald or Wonder by Hugo Claus , Now I ll be adding this book to that list .Nooteboom also tackles what a fairy tale is a Alfonso takes apart a classic tale and rebuilds it in his own version we get an insight into what makes a great fairy tale and that is the parts of it not the story more what the story in its parts tell you .

Have you read this book ?

What was the last book you read that you knew was going to stick with you ?

Oh Sweden ! Oh Israel ! by Stephan Mendel-Enk

Oh-Sweden-Oh-Israel

Oh Sweden ! Oh Israel ! by Stephan Mendel-Enk

Swedish fiction

Translator – Michael Lundin

Original title – Tre Apor

Source – review copy

Stephan Mendel-Enk ,is a Swedish Journalist and writer ,he is best known in Sweden for his soccer Journalism ,were he writes for the leading Swedish Soccer magazine Offside .He has also published a non fiction book on Violence  and being male  .He has  also worked in Radio  and the leading Newspaper  ,Oh Sweden ,Oh Israel is his début novel .The original Title is three apes I wonder if this is a reference to the three monkeys hear no evil ,see no evil ,speak no evil and how this relates to Jacob the main character in this book .

Next to the sofa in the living room was a piano .The opposite wall was covered by a brown bookcase .There were hundreds of books on the shelves .Colour photo books from when Israel celebrated its twentieth ,twenty fifth ,thirtieth and thiry-five anniversaries .One self with titles such as The Arab -Israeli Conflict and the Arab Israel wars .

The shelf at his Grans house show how drawn they are to Israel .

Well Oh Sweden ,Oh Israel follows ,Jacob a boy  who is on the cusp of manhood and we follow his life in the run up to his Bar Mitzvah  ,this is a classic coming of age novel .But then throw in Jacob is Jewish and his parents are about to split we have another couple of angles to move this above the mundane everyday Coming of age fiction .So Jacob struggles with who he is like most teenagers ,but with the fact he is part of the small Jewish community in Gothenburg  ,to say the  least of this Community ,is quite traditional the elders in it are mainly people who had escaped the Nazi during world war two they tend traditional views ,so his parents spilt has caused sparks as his mother has started to see a Man who isn’t Jewish  .Then we hear of how they should be New York type Jews and this is all 1987 and the first Intifada is happening in Israel so Jacob is stuck in little old Sweden just wanting to be a normal teen with all this going on in the background this leads to may and laugh and revelation .

She was from the soviet Union.I thought Soviet Jews were exciting .They had to suffer forcible incarcerations in mental hospitals ,work camps and police violence ,For one year in Hebrew school we’d had the Jews of the Soviet Union as our theme .Bewfore we broke up for the summer hoildays we stage our interpretation of the Dymshits-Kuznetovs hijacking affair in the meeting hall .

Jacob like the Girl Zaddinsky ,she came from Russia to Sweden ?

Well this has a huge vein of Jewish humour through it ,I was remind I not got to this last week when I watched the Woody Allen Documentary on TV ,Allen’s great line on growing up was this “what did you want to be when young ? Old !”,that same irony and at time self loathing and worry is rich in Mendel-Enk words  that conjure up the small community with in the large city and also the troubled family  ,tales of a mess up Circumcision ,leads to woe to his forthcoming Bar Mitzvah celebration .The nearest English writer to him is early Jacobson one can see echoes of the Gothenburg of Jacob and the Manchester evoked in some Jacobson novels.What we have is more than a coming of age novel but also a culture clash novel he is caught between being Swedish and being Jewish ,torn between his parents also caught to whom he is as a person   .The book is short only 140 pages  and packs a good punch for such a short book .

Have you a favourite book by a Jewish writer ?

Summer reads in Translation my choices

Well the last few weeks have seen a few Summer reading recommendations in the weekend papers .A discussion the other week after the rather banal Guardian one lead to a question of doing our own well ,I’ve let the dust settle and chosen a few translations that are out now or due out in the next month or so .

the walk

The walk by Robert Walser

Now Serpents tail has issued some more great stories from the ever-growing in reputation Robert Walser .This collection is meant to bridge the gap between the earlier works and the later Microscripts .I ve read his Berlin stories that I ll be reviewing for German lit month and all I’ll say now he is worth trying for any one wanting to fill in gaps in German lit inter wars .

let the games begin

Let the games begin by Niccolo Ammaniti

I m reading this myself at the moment ,it has a dark wit and some bizarre storylines and as I said when I first heard about this book we don’t have enough books about man eating hippos !! out next month

Mariusz-Czubaj-2137-Cover-136x208

21:37 by Mariusz Czubaj

A polish crime novel by the Lovely Joanne and her Stork Press ,we meet Profiler Robert Heinz as he tries to track down a killer of two young men with the number 21 and 37 written on them ,also please note this is on offer on Kindle at the moment .

russian stories

Russian Stories by Francesc Seres

21 stories from relatively unknown to the west Russian writers ,we see modern Russia through the eyes of various girls in and around St Petersburg ,then go back further through each of the five writers in the collection to get a unique insight into Russia past and present .

the son Andrej Nikolaidis

The son By Andrej Nikolaidis

We spend the evening with an unknown narrator as he wanders round the city of Ulcnj ,The narrator a writer is at the crossroads of his life his wife is gone ,he has fallen out with his father and during this evening we see him take his life apart and also the place he lives .Very Bernhard at times this one and a real gem from Istros books .

parrots Flippo Bologna

The Parrots by Flippo Bologna

I ve reviewed this already here ,A great comic satire on Book prizes and writers .

Other titles on my radar

These are books already out I’ve them ready to read hopefully over the summer at some point myself .

All is silence by Manuel Rivas

The infatuations by Javier Marias

Man in love by Karl Ove Knausgaard

Every Promise by Andrea Bajani

Leaves of the Banyan tree by Albert Wendt

leaves of the banyan tree

Leaves of the Banyan tree by Albert Wendt

Samoan fiction

Source – personnel copy

When Lisa  of anzlitlovers announced Indigenous writers week AI wanted to find something unusual ,I search and searched and eventually found Albert Wendt a Samoan writer of German heritage ,Leaves of the Banyan tree is considered his best book ,it won the New Zealand book of the year in 198o .He has taught at various universities around Fiji and Hawaii ,has now settled in New Zealand .He was made a companion of New Zealand order of Merit in the queens Honours in 2013  .

Although the arrival of the papalagi had brought changes to the bush they too had been slow .Even when men used more efficient Papalagi tools the bush sooner or later crept back over their feeble clearings ,The tempo of change had quickened in Tauilopepe’s own lifetime ,But out of the recent attempts to conquer the bush only Malo ,the first Sapepean to realise the rich profits to be made by using Papalagi implements and knowledge ,seemed to be succeeding .

Tauilopepe sees how he could make the leaves of banyan work

 

So leaves of the Banyan tree ,is the name of the book but also a plantation  started by the main character in the book Tauilopepe  ,that during the book is started in Samoa’s sapepe island  .The book is a family saga that of Tauilopepe and his family  ,we meet him as a youngster now time frame isn’t mention a lot til later in the book when we find out about Samoan independence which was in 1962 so the book starts in the 1920’s it far to say .We are on the island of Sapepe we see Tauilopepe grow into a man and take a wife then have a son the second part of the story follows the sons story ,we see how Samoa copes with its new-found freedom .A lot of the story revolves around family  Tauilopepe has a desire to break the shackles of being Samoan ,he wants to rise and be equal  by the Papalagi (the people of white European origins that still tend to hold the power in Tauilopepe time ).But in doing so over time his family falls apart and he maybe loses who he is as a person .

I am a product of my own imagination .I am also as another writer has put it ” a product of our times” .A product of history and whole movement propelling our country towards an unknown future ,or shall I say ,I am the future .If I am evil then our whole history has been drifting toward evil .I cannot feel what other-worlders feel because I am free of that world ,I won our little game because of that and because of the time and place .

Tauilopepe nearing the end looking back on what his life has been .

Now to me Samoa meant the rugby team ,I knew very little else about this small pacific island and its people ,so Wendt’s  book opened a door into a new world .Wendt beauty is the fact he has kept the book, real with  the use of a lot of Samoan words like Papalagi ,Lavalava (the traditional dress in samoa ),tatau (a type of tatoo ),siva (a dance ) and so on the is a welcome index of these words at the end to check the context of them .What he has is a classic view of a world in Flux Samoa is struggling to catch up with the outside modern world ,this is mainly viewed as New Zealand ,Tauilopepe is an example of how some could tackle this new world ,but his is also a cautionary tale of how to tackle this word ,as he lose his sons .The Samoa painted is a world of traditional values trying to cope in a modern world ,will these families so close for so long survive ,will the age-old traditions survive  ,even will Samoan ,with the outsiders using English ,Samoans going to New Zealand to study .I’m surprised this book isn’t better known as Wendt is a talented writer ,I for one will be downloading his other books over time .

Have you a favourite Indigenous novel or book from the pacific ?#

ilw-2013

The Parrots by Flippo Bologna

parrots Flippo BolognaThe Parrots by Flippo Bologna

Italian fiction

Translator – Howard Curtis

Original title I pappagalli

Source – review copy

Well as I said when I review my prizes by Thomas Bernhard it was strange to have another book I read at same time about Lit Prize .Flippo Bologona Second book the parrots to be  translated to English is the Book in question .Flippo Bologna has written two novels and a number of screenplays his début novel also published by Pushkin How I lost the war won the strega prize ,he has also won a foreign press golden globe for his screen play for the film the world is yours .

Don’t be deceived by the fact that he’s in his pants and T-shirt on a terrace in Rome on this bright spring Day .The young man is a writer ,a writer at the beginning of his career ,so he won’t be offended if we call him the beginner(it’s what everyone calls him anyway ) That’s what he is because he has written and published just one novel ,but one that hits the bullseye .

Sound familar hey !!

The Parrots is a satire on the Lit prize process for three writers ,we never know there names the are simply known as the beginner ,the writer and the old master they have each a book up for the big prize .We follow there lives from the day the short-list is announced to three months earlier, then a month before  ,week  before,  the day before  and on the day the prize is given.we also get a post-mortem four months after when the dust has settled and that last shock in the book has fully sunken in .The three embody different stages of a successful writers career ,so we meet The Beginner ,he has let the fact he is up for the prize go to his head ,The Writer he is successful as a writer, but his personnel life is a real mess at the moment ,then there is The Master ,this guy is in the twilight of his career and is revered by people .Then add into the mix , a mysterious Black parrot ,a death ,wives ,girlfriends and publishing folk .We have a wonderfully comic mix .The publisher on twitter compared him to Amis ,it so long since I ve read Amis a writer whose best years have been and gone for me  ,so I wouldn’t compare him to Amis as this is only his second novel and it is hard to say how Bologna will grow as a novel writer ,as he seems to also have a great screenwriter career as well ,for me  this is a good satire on arts Culture and how it can effect perfectly ordinary people .

Let’s be clear about this .The small publishing company that issued The Master’s books was a fully fledged publisher with a back catalogue that brought out at least ten to fifteen titles a year .

I thought this sounded familar those one great writers that move to smaller unknown presses .

I start to think about the terms of these writers are given then wondered is this maybe the same writer competing as thou they are three different people ? when is a writer is at his best ?  when you’re the master is everything you write good ? when can your own life be taken over your actual writing life ? These were all questions I ask ,I imagine writers in each of the places the beginner well there are a lot young writers that seem a bit full of it! ,if you know what I mean .Given we live in a celeb obsessed age our poor English writers aren’t celebs much to my dismay as sure they are much more interesting than our current crop of celebs .The master is a writer I imagine with the cover baring”his best since ….” and a book that was written decades ago is mention but there is always hope .Another think I was reminded of is the classic Italian painting by Giorgione called the three philosophers that featuring  a trio of men one young one middle-aged ,this was painted in 1509 and similar pictures to this  crop up after this one with the three ages of man as a theme  .

Do you like novels about writers

An Armenian Sketchbook by Vasily Grossman

An armenian sketchbook

An Armenian Sketchbook by Vasily Grossman

Russian Non fiction

Translator – Robert and Elizabeth Chandler

Original title – Dobro Vam

Source – Review Copy

Pleased to get this from Maclehose , as I’ve dabbled with life and fate  but never got far  into it and sat  finished the book .So this was the first full book I have  read by him .Vasily was born to a Jewish family in Ukraine ,he reported during world war two  this formed many of the views that he put in his great Novel Life and fate , he was a respect  journalist as well as a novelist .He sadly died four years after the journey he took in this book .

In October 1960 Grossman had submitted the manuscript of Life and fate to the editors of a soviet Literary Journal ,It was the height of the Khuschev’s “thaw” and Grossman seems genuinely to have believed that lif and fate could be published in the Soviet Union ,even though a central theme of the novel is that Nazism and Stalinism are mirror images of each other .

Just before he went to Armenian from the intro to the book

An Armenian notebook follows a Journey Vasily Grossman took during 1960 ,he was out of favour in a way his famous now book Life and Fate had been stopped by the soviets .So he had decided to take a chance and work on an epic Armenian novel that required a  better translation .So he head to Armenian ,one of the thrills in getting this is my own Knowledge of the region is very scant .So Grossmans simple clear prose brought to life this remote stone cover land and it quite unique people ,as we follow his travels .So we get to see each person he meets in little sketches about them and their life gently build a wonderful picture of the folks he meets .Armenian is a place that is caught between Asia ,Europe ,Russia and the persian world ,this leads to a very interesting mix of people .Vasily him self wasn’t in the best of health when he wrote this but still managed to inject a good deal of humour to his words .He is also fair in his observations,the  fact is  he has that great Journalistic skill of good journalistic writing in not being biased the best writing of place leaves it to the reader to make their minds up and this he does well here ,it would have been easy for Grossman to have made this book seemed very anti soviet to make this place seem as thou it was an out laying region with out anything good from Communism but it didn’t. He also made me want to read the book he was translating ,I never read a book from Armenian so if any one knows if it is available in English let me know .

A second day passed ,and a third .The new arrival ceased to think of himself as an exotic parrot in the mountain village .Now the people he met were beginning to greet him .And he was greeting them back .

He already knew many people : the young women from the post office ,the man at the village shop ; the night watchman – a melancholy man with a rifle ,two shepherds ,the old man who looked after the thousand-year old walls of the Kecharis monastery

Grossman is drawn into a remote villages life

So what did I discover ,well a writer of Non fiction I love Grossman is such a beautiful and clear prose writer it is hard not to fall in love with his words and use of words .,He manages to catch the place as a whole the people ,nature ,building and even the feel in the air (if you know what I mean I always feel every place you go to have a spirit about it something in the air that you can’t quite put your finger on ,this he manages to capture ).The sadness of Armenian he talks about the link the Armenian feels of the horrific event in 1916 and the Jewish massacre during world war two .  My favourite parts where around his village to a remote Mountain Village ,as all follows of this blog will know I have a great love of villages  as they say so much more about people than big cities do .

Have you read this book ?

A new site for archipelago book

Well it’s always nice when a publisher you like makes a real effort to improve the user experience on their site and with the new just launched site from non profit publisher Archipelago books they have spent time it seems make it a great user experience I ve a few of their books under review I advice you to take a whirl round the new site here

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My prizes an accounting by Thomas Bernhard

my prizes Thomas Bernhard

My Prizes an accounting by Thomas Bernhard

Austrian non fiction

Original title Meine Presie

Translator Carol Brown Janeway

Source personnel copy

Well I am running late these days I was meant to have posted this last week but I’ve had a lot on at home and not been able to thinking to write posts .But I’ve decide to just sit today and try to write a post about this short work by The great Thomas Bernhard .The book is made up of nine pen sketches of events or reasoning’s about the events surround the nine major prizes he won during his writing career .Now as one imagines there is a lot in here for such a small book .

I picked the best-known gentleman’s outfitter with the descriptive name Sir Anthony , if I remember correctly it was nine forty – five when I went into Sir Anthony’s salon ,the award ceremony for the grillparzer prize was at eleven ,so I had plenty of time .I had intended to buy myself the best pure-wool suit in anthracite ,even if it was off the peg ,with matching socks ,a tie ,and an arrow shirt in fine cloth striped blue and grey .

If only getting all this was so easy .

My prize starts at the first prize he won the Grillprazer prize .We see how he describe thinking two hours before the show maybe a suit might be required to attend so he rushes to buy a suit for the event visits a well-known shop but actually a simple task is harder that it first seems  .Elsewhere we maybe gather some real insight into why he hates the arts in Austria so much for when he wins a later prize the Austrian state prize for literature ,we gain an insight that he had asked for money at an earlier date and been turned down by them .I could easily pick bits up from each of the pen sketches of the prize-winning but that for me would spoil the joy of you as a reader discovering this little gem and in turn supporting a small publisher as it is published by Noting hill editions a specialist in non fiction .We also get three of his speeches for winning city Bremen prize ,Austrian state prize and the largest prize he won the Georg Buchner prize which is a German language prize .Needless to say reading between the lines in these we can see a lot of bile and also just about that wry humour .

Honoured ministers ,honoured guests ,

There is nothing to praise ,nothing to damm ,nothing to accuse ,but much that is absurd ,when one thinks about death .

We go through life impressed ,unimpressed ,we cross the scene ,everything is interchangeable ,we have been schooled more or less effectively in a state where everything is ,mere props but it is all in error

the opening words of his Austrian state winning prize .

Well this happen to sync  nicely with another book I was reading at the same ,that I had  been sent by Pushkin press called the parrots by the Italian Flippo Bologna ,  that follows three writers in the build up to a big book prize that they are up for, so it was quite interesting comparing the fiction  story of writers up for prizes and the factual version of these accounts .I feel thou short  this book ,we do get a lot of clues to what made Bernhard the man he was ,yes he hate prizes ,but needed the money to carry on living as a writer .So he was caught in a catch 22 situation ,in not really like the whole prize system but having to take part to make a living .His often frank words a refreshing we all see the prize system from the outside and I have been lucky to have been to three prize nights ,have spoken to writers but to get Bernhard’s insight into this is amazing he really is a writer that doesn’t .But we do see other parts giving so money he won to a charity .A shock as well he did really like one of the prizes ,now I won’t say which but he did go to Hamburg to see it given out .

Do you like writers writing about the prize process ?

Authors and translators

Author’s and translators is a new blog to me I’ve seen it mention a couple of times around the web .It brings authors and Translators from around the world with interviews about the art of translation .Thanks for English pen for remind me about this great blog Authors and translators blog

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Thomas Bernhard in Person

Well in the run up to Thomas Bernhard week I decide to watch a couple of things on You tube .I always love to place and see the writer as a person .So with my basic schoolboy German I watch these .First is a documentary with Bernhard talking about why he writes .

The next piece was a staging of Letter Bernhard had written over the years to his German Publisher Siegfried Unseld .I beleive these are in process of being translated into in english .

The German paper Die Zeit had this to say about this book

 

»Great cinema, a publisher and his pugnacious author write one another. And themselves. Correspondence as Fight Club.« Florian Illies, Die Zeit

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