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

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