The son by Andrej Nikolaidis

the son Andrej Nikolaidis

The son by Andrej Nikolaidis

Montenegrin fiction

Original title –  Sin

Translator – Will Firth

Source – Review copy

I’ve reviewed the first book in this what is a lose trilogy of novels by Andrej Nikolaidis .He is a well-known figure in Montenegro where he is quite outspoken at times and is firmly a writer that likes to give his opinions over .He also kindly wrote a piece for this blog on his love of Thomas Bernhard .He said to his publisher this book was more influence by Bernhard than his first novel the coming .

April is the cruellest month , according to Eliot .But he never lived on the Montenegrin Riviera , and his fellow citizens didn’t rake in the wealth by renting out rooms .He never saw tourist arriving in his peaceful town like hordes of Huns and turning it into a giant barbarian amusement park

I loved this line ,as I want to go to Montenegro on holiday at some point and be one of the hordes .

 

Well given the fact that we know in part this is a book that is influenced by Bernhard ,we can see it straight away as we meet our narrator he is a writer and is unnamed .We meet him on one evening in his life as he wanders round Ulcinj partly the setting for Nikolaidis earlier novel .We follow him through this night as he wanders the city but also interacts with numerous folk along the way a piano student from Vienna ( another nod to Bernhard I think as his book about Glenn Gould the great Canadian pianist  is set in Vienna ) this man has quit piano and become a Muslim . a preacher also crosses his path .Also refugees from Kosovo ,I loved this part I spent a summer in Germany in the mid 90’s working in a factory with a couple from Kosovo so this brought back memories of that time . Add to this the Son of the title is struggling in his real life and his father blames him for his mother’s death and we have a dark evening of guilt and the past of this city itself slaves that made the city initially  and communist past echoes around the narrator .Also a good dose of drinking this is a novel that grabbed me as a reader .

My mother cursed the day she bore me .She was in hospital in Podgorica ,melting away before my eyes as uterine cancer ate her up from the inside , she literally de materialised as the emptiness of her womb spread like the expanding universe ,and disappeared into that void like light is devoured by a black hole

Powerful and touching lines here .

Well I loved this as much as I loved The coming for me Nikolaidis is the reason I read translation ,voices like his make reading books in translation a pleasure .Had I not loved Bernhard works and his unique narrators would I have been able to see his influence on Nikolaidis the narrator her could walk of the page of a Bernhard novel but this isn’t just an homage to Bernhard we see the last twenty years of modern Europe ,very much  the balkans  ,the refugees from Kosovo are a great example of the times their country and recent history sums up the history of the Balkan conflicts religion and Serbia at the heart of it .There is also a dose of almost dream like drifting into the past ,almost like you have had a few drinks as yoy read add to this Andrej has added a playlist to the book I include one song he listen to while writing this book Steve Earle John walker blues (I love Earle since hearing copperhead road as a kid )

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Russian stories by Francesc Serés

russian stories

Russian stories by Francesc Serés

Spanish fiction (or russian !)

Translator from Catalan Peter Bush

Translator from Russian Anastasia Maximova

Original  title Contes Russo

Source – review copy

Fransesc   Serés is a Catalan   writer he studied fine art and Anthropology at university ,after this he became a writer he has publish over ten books of novel and short stories in Spain and has also produced a number of stage works . He is also a professor of art history and a Russophile .

Consequently , if it weren’t for this confession of mine , nobody would know that Elvis Presley gave a concert in Moscow’s red square.

Yes , you heard me , a concert in Red square in 1958

It was one of the many demonstrations of strength the superpowers made during the cold war .A stupid one , but it was ,at the end of the day , a demonstration of strength .

Well imagine if the King had played in Moscow .

Frnacesc Serés happen in his love of Russian literature this lead him to coming  across a unmined wealth of lost , writing that hadn’t seen the light of day outside Russia .He gathered together 21 different stories from five new to us in the west  writers spanning the history of modern Russia .We start in modern Russia Ola Yevgueniyeva born in 1967 writes about Putin’s Russia stewardess contrast their world and the places they go and how their world is changing .Also a wonderful story of a chess match between an old gent and a young girl almost showing the change in modern Russia from the older player to the younger player .Then we move back through time with each subsequent writer .The next writer  Vera-Margarita she evokes the soviet past story of red square mentions of Lenin and Stalin .Then we get to Vitali Kroptkin and my favourite story Elvis Presley sings in Red Square ,did you know that Elvis had song in Red square in 1958 well he had new KGB files show ,a fun look at what could have happened had the King played in Russia .Then  we have Aleksandr Volkov he wrote of the post world war two soviet regime also how bizarre the state could be at times given the story about Voromians ,I liked this because it was just them remove the name and it is at heart of a number of incidents involving separate races with in the soviet sphere .The last writer Josef Bergghenko takes us to a pre world war two soviet times .

Voromians are pleasant , the odd one even looks at her as if he regonises her . one couple are called Var and Mirtila , like so many they ask her where they will be taken .She can’t think what to reply

A group that have been moved by the purges .

Sounds wonderful doesn’t it well it is amazing to discover these unknown writers ,ha nearly had you no the book is entirely made up by the writer francesec  Serés it is an homage to soviet writing but also a look into maybe what might have been written .He manages to pull it off with great style each writers piece do seem as thou they are from a different voice they are completely from the hands of Fransesc  Serés he has playfully mixed styles of contemporaries of the figures he is writing about so you get sense of these writers writing in their time echoes of kafka the fun of Bulgakov  .A book for fans of Russian literature but also the likes of Borges .I also discovered an interesting interview here it is in Spanish but comes across reasonably well via google translate .

German lit month 2013

I was so pleased when yesterday Caroline and Lizzy announced German lit month 2013 .this year there is a change with male and female weeks .I have been saving all my German translations since last year so have a good number built up ready for review more than I thought as I grabbed books for pictures I have nine of the books pictured already read . So here are the female books I’m hoping to review

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As you see it’s a broad mix of books and as with the last two years I’m reviewing a Herta Muller .I’ve also a Christa Wolf on order from the library and hope in next few days hope to add a few more female names as Lizzy and Caroline noted last year saw more male German writers reviewed than Female I maybe didn’t help as I am more drawn to male voices and writers in my book choices as the picture of what male German books I have show

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I wanted to include two by German language writers this time I haven’t review before they are Uwe Timm although not so well known in English is a huge writer in German and Peter Handke who I’m still shocked I’ve not reviewed before as his books I have always enjoyed since he wrote parts for one of my favourite films wings of desire .
What book have you in mind for German lit month 2013 ?

Let the games begin by Niccolò Ammaniti

let the games begin

Let the games begin by Niccolò Ammaniti

Italian Fiction

Translator Kylee Doust

Source – review copy

Now I must admit this is my first novel by the italian writer Niccolò Ammaniti ,I have had I’m not scared sat on my shelves for a couple of years .But when I was offered the chance to review this book I jumped at the chance the mention of satanic cults ,intoxicated supermodels ,olympic athletes and man eating Hippos how could I say no at time I not the wasn’t enough hippos in fiction but strange enough two books in the last twelve months have had hippos in down the rabbit hole and the sound of things falling both had hippos in ! maybe we are on the brink of Hippo fiction .Anyway back to Niccolò Ammantiti and Let the games begin .Niccolò Ammaniti studied biology but didn’t finish his degree ,he moved onto writing he published his first novel in 1994 and has since written six novels had his books made into a film .He won the prestigious Strega prize in 2007 .Let the games begin is his fifth novel .

Fabrizio Ciba was forty-one years old ,but everyone thought of him as a young writer .That adjective , frequently repeated by newspapers and other media had a psychosomatic effect on his body .Fabrizio didn’t look older than thirty-five .he was slim and toned without going to the gym .He got drunk every evening but his stomach remained as flat as a table .

MMM is this the young-looking Niccolò  making a point about people calling him young a lot ?

Let the games begin follows a number of different characters Fabrizo Chiba a Novelist ( to me he was  a writer trying  to live down a huge novel when young  ala Salinger but italian he is well-known for one book more than his others ) ,he is also a little up himself .Then there is Sasa Chiatti a multi millionaire property guy that has a mansion Villa Ada where a lot of the book is set and has invite a group people including Fabrizo ,A satanic cult leader called Mantos  leader of the wild beasts of Abaddon and a model that was a Satanist that has since convert to the Catholic church ,add in a collection of wild animals and you have a recipe for some real moments of madness and dark with .What happens when a writer and a cult leader meet ? All meeting at the Villa Ada .

Sasa Chiatti had built marshland , river and quicksand and committed himself to repopulation the park .He had brought from neglected zoos and abandoned circuses of the eastern european countries bears , seals , tigers , lions giraffes , foxes ,parrots cranes ,storks macaques , Barbary macaques ,hippopotamus and piranhas , and he had scattered them throughout the one hundred and seventy hectares of Villa Ada .

He want it to be like when he was a boy and came with his mum to go round Vila Ada .

I loved this book it may all sound outlandish a sot of modern take on the exterminating angel a look at what may be considered the modern elite where it isn’t class that gets you place it is celebrities .Maybe it is ,I felt it capture the madness and bizarreness money and power can bring to people the thing is Vila Ada Chiatti world isn’t far removed from the world Michael Jackson and others have built round them selves .I can also see Chiatti as maybe the embodiment of all that Silvio Berlusconi politics and personnel life style stands for there is a message against excess her and wonderful with behind the message .One for anyone that likes a little madness in the fiction .

A century in translation

Well I’ve been inspired by Simon from stuck in a book who for a second time in 2014 is doing a century of books challenge reading a book from very year of the 20th century well when he announced it herehere .I had a think and decided I would like to try and do the same with books from around the world so I been busy looking around the net and think this will be possible there is a vast amount available as e books if you spend time looking pre 1950 .I’m looking forward to this as it feels like a return to what I did when I started blog before getting on the new book hamster wheel and hat is bringing the best of the world I could find myself to you my readers so in the next two years I’ve given myself two years as I feel some years will be hard to find every year will be the publication year of the book in its original language .so in the next year names like Roberto Arlt,Armando Palacio Valdes ,Horacio Quiroga ,luigi Pirandello ,Henri Barbusse ,Rene Bazin and Osmau Dazai to name a few will be featured as I show how literature around the world developed over the 20th century ,

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The devil’s workshop by Jáchym Topol

Devils Workshop

The devil’s workshop by Jáchym Topol

Czech Literature

Translator Alex Zucker

Original title  Chladnou zemí

Source Revew copy

Jáchym Topol is Czech writer his father was a playwright and dissident .This meant  Jáchym Topol wasn’t allowed to go to university ,so he wrote lyrics for his rock band during the 70’s and 80’s .He also spent time in prison due to some of his writings before the communist system fell in Czech  .When the 1989 revolution happened ,he wrote the newsletter for the movement that went on to become a well-known magazine in  Czech republic .He still lives in Prague he has written a number of novels and pieces of non-fiction .

Visit the Devil’s workshop the European monument to genocide ! Arthur declared in a booming voice ,pouring everyone another round of Vodka .

How the book got its title .

So the Devil workshop follows an unnamed narrator that grew up in the town of Terezin ,this brutal imposing town was a Nazi prison during the second world war .He had left ,but is drawn back by an Uncle Lebo  and a bizarre plan to turn this town into a sort of Disneyland of the holocaust as his uncle has seen what has happen to other historic sites like this and the money that has been drawn in  .There are plans to drastically change the town and to remove the buildings from the Nazi era  and the narrators uncle feels the town should be kept and the history built on and is a way of drawing money back to the town  . Now the plans to open an attraction happens and they open some sort of tourist attraction to the towns past ,this leads the  narrator  to flee he decides and  arrives in Belarus and then he finds out they want him to do the same as he did in Terezin to a place the call the Devils workshop .A case of history repeating and him feeling it all beginning again .

And food .She copied the idea from the Krakow Ghetto ,so tasty crunchy pizza that Lea and the aunts began to bake in our kitchen became known as Ghetto pizza .The secret ingredient was a light dusting of terezin grass ,a season that didn’t exist anywhere else .

A quite horrific idea really I read this and did worry what the secret ingredient would be

Now this book took  Jáchym Topol over twenty year to work on and finally get right .I can see why it took so long it is like trying to balance something on the point of the needle and get the different parts in balance ,the past not just the Nazi past but also the communist past .The value of history is a place of blood and brutality right to make money from ? The need to remember what happened as well .Also the feeling that maybe us in the west have some how forgotten what happen in places like Czech and Belarus during the wart and also after the war .Oh damm I making this sound bleak it is but also there is large chunks of humour in it that bleak gallows humour that situations like this sometimes need ! I was drawn into this world of trying to forge a future and not forgetting the past of ghost and the present it is one hell of a book .I felt  Jáchym Topol had handle it all so well it was easy to make this book into something unsuitable about the subjects it covers but no  Jáchym Topol had got the tone just right and Alex zucker has done a subtle translation on this book .

Rhyming life and death by Amos Oz

Rhyming life and death Amos Oz

Rhyming life and death by Amos Oz

Hebrew Literature

Hebrew  title חרוזי החיים והמוות (רומן

Translator – Nicholas De Lange

Source – library

Well I ve read a number of books over the years by Amos Oz I have one under review here ,the Iffp book from 2012 scenes from a village life  its hard to sum up Amos Oz he is probably the best know Hebrew writer of his generation he has won a number of large national and international awards ,his name is frequently mentioned as a future Nobel literature prize winner .he has written 27 plus books in his time covering both fiction and Non fiction .His book have been translated into 36 languages .

These are the most commonly asked questions . Why do you write ? Why do you write the way you do ? are you trying to influence your readers ,and if so how ? what role do your books play ? do you constantly cross out and correct or do you write straight out of your head ?

The opening lines the writer talks about what he may be asked tonight I was reminded of the Peter Kay line about talking to taxi drivers and what we say .Been busy etc .

Well Rhyming life and death is set on one evening in the mid eighties in Tel Aviv ,we meet a writer ,we are never told his name .But it is his story an evening in his life we follow him from a literary event ,and earlier before the event in a  cafe and then to wandering in  the night .The story drifts from the actual events of the evening to the imagination of the writer as he tells himself tales from the world around him  .As we see him answering mundane questions and deeper questions in between the questions he images little stories for the people in the crowd .Then to a cafe where he starts imaging and giving a name to a waitress that is serving him ,he calls her Ricky and sketches a life for her  with himself .He also  turns two gents on another table in the cafe , into a pair of henchmen working for a gangster .These flights of fantasy he has a carefree and full of that middle age  groaning for what life could have been .

While he caresses Rochele he closes his eyes tight and tries to recover lost ground by visualising the outline of Ricky’s underwear , the asymmetric line of her knickers that was visible through her short skirt and caused him so much excitement earlier in the evening ,before the literary event .

The writers thoughts can be racey at times .

I was reminded at times when I read this book  of  the world of Dennis Potters works particularly the singing detective the Lead character is very like the lead character in the singing detective is also a writer and  a daydream .It’s easy to see the writer as Oz himself he was in his mid forties when the book is set .The beauty of Oz is his ability to change styles between books and still keep the reader its easy to write similar books and live in a comfort zone as a writer but Oz never does .I think Oz answers the question Why do you write that is mention on the first page of the book by showing how his imagination works using the unnamed writer as how he maybe uses his skills to construct stories out of the every day .Also I was made to think if a writer at an event looks out and writes tales about the people in the crowd ,Have I ever been noted and written or has any of us ? A short book from Oz but a highly enjoyable one .

C90 memories

Well today is the first national Cassette store day .I still have a few cassettes about and both the hifi’s in my house can play them ,so its a shame we haven’t a record shop here to join in .So I decide to share a few cassette memories .I got my first cassette player when I was about 12 a toshiba twin deck in red with four band radio it led me into a world of buying albums but also recording tracks I loved on John Peel at night .So I will share some fond memories of five songs from that time .

19 – paul hardcastle- This was my first album the album was called Paul Hardcastle it had a number of dancer track than this one but it was this song that made me buy this Album .This song was so big that summer and one of the first big purely from sample hits .This song maybe also made me wonder about poltics and life given it subject people dying young due to war .

Some people -The Farm .Before there huge change in direction with Alll together now and the baggy influence on them the farm where a left leaning  indie band and thanks to my friend Jamie I got into them and there live tape I brought from their fan club was one of my favourites in the summer of 1987 .I loved the tone of these early songs they had a bittersweet quality that they never quite matched later on .

Suedehead – Morrissey well anyone that new me in 1988 would have known me as a huge Smiths fan even down to a trade mark Quiff ,Levis and specs I never really needed  .So when I heard  John peel played this weeks before its release on single and I got it down that night I was listening to it till it wore out .Also my favourite video by Morrissey as I like him had a huge James Dean fan thing going so him wandering round  Dean’s home town was great .For me his music gave a shy boy a world to fall into ,one that felt he knew me and I knew him .

Mercy seat – Nick Cave and the bad seeds – This was maybe the first time I ventured outside what my group of friends listen to after hearing this the first single from the album on the radio .I went to Beatroute in Congleton( my all time favourite record shop a mecca for a budding indie fan ) where I lived and brought this album on tape .for the next two years it was probably my most played tape .by this time I had been given a brand new my second Walkman this was a tiny one from boots not much bigger than my tapes with auto reverse and a graphic equalizer so seemed the bees knees to the 16yr old stu .

The way the world is by Pale saints

1990 and this album was that summer favourite a warm and memorable summer ,maybe one of the lesser known bands from the shoegazing movement .I always found this album The comfort of madness near prefect album for drifting on sunny days .That Christmas saw my first CD player arrive so even thou I still had tapes brought tapes they became less important barring old mixes of songs II had made featuring most of the songs mention here .

What are your tape memories ?

 

Beneath the Darkening sky by Majok Tulba

beneath the darkening sky

Beneath the darkening sky by Majok

Australian / Sudanese fiction

Source Review Copy

Beneath the darkening sky was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Book prize .Majok Tulba grew up in Southern Sudan as he says on his website his village was by the waters of the White Nile .When he was nine soldiers from the Sudanese Armed Forces came to his village looking for recruits ,Majok was as it happens an Inch shorter than an AK-47 stood up which was the mark they used to measure up child solders ,he finally fled Sudan aged 16 got a Visa and settled in Australia .He is married with children now and writes and runs a charity and likes to highlight the plight of people in his homeland .I would say have a look at his personnel website which is rather good for a writers site

I think about my last sight of home .Mama and the younger ones clinging to her skirts .Her teeth were chattering .She wasn’t whimpering or crying,she was just trembling with her mouth half-opened and her eyes staring into emptiness of space ,and then she turned and stared into my eyes

Obinna last sight of his home and Mama

 

Now what would happened if the Nine year old Majok was actually a couple of inches taller when the solders came to his town .Well that is the basis of Beneath the darkening sky ,Obinna is a happy nine-year old when the book opens dreaming of entering primary 6 at school .When his village is over run by soldiers ,They cause damage in the village ,also kill a number of people , then start looking for who to take and its Obinna and his older brother Akot ,This leads the two boys into a dark world were one goes one way and another another Obinna ends up being called Baboons arse  .The story follows the brothers as they struggle to cope with the violent life of the solders ,rank and respect is gained by how many people they killed ,how many women they’ve raped this is a brutal world .How will it turn out ?

From the first ,we had to learn revolution songs , but our morning runs included a different kind of song – not about the revolution and the glorious new world .

A farmer’s daughter tried to run from me 

So I shot her once ,right in the knee

I dragged her into the long grass 

And then I F****d her pretty ass

The violent nature of the solders and their world even makes it into their songs .

Well short and sweet description ,I want you to read this one .As many of you that read the blog will know I usually wait a few weeks before reviewing a book to let it settle  in my mind ,but this book is one , that just needed me to jump ,up and shout about it to you all .But be aware this is a book about a violent world and thankfully Majok has chosen not to sugar coat the pill here ,no a couple of times I almost throw the book away out of sheer horror at what I was reading ,  but then Majok  is a wonderful compelling storytelling writing didn’t make me .I hate the term Page turner because it is such a cliché ,but I  did finish  this book in two sittings . This book does more than news pictures can do ,it brings you down on the ground as we see this horrific world through the eyes of a sacred nine-year old .Majok Tulba is a writer to watch .A heartbreaking insight into the dark side of the Sudan conflict .

The man with the compound eyes by Wu Ming-Yi

man with the compound eyes

The man with the compound eyes by Wu Ming-YI

Taiwanese fiction

Translator – Darreyl Sterk

Original title –   複眼人

Source Review copy

I was pleased to get this as I’ve not read a book from Taiwan before so always love finding out about new cultures and writers .Wu Ming-Yi is a writer and artist ,he studied Marketing and Chinese literature at university .He has written both fiction and non fiction titles ,he has written a number of non fiction titles on butterflies .This is his first Novel to be translated to English.

The people of Wayo Wayo thought the whole world was but a single island .The island situated in the midst of an immense ocean , far from any continent .As far as island memory reached ,the white man had once visited the island ,but nobody had ever left and brought back news of another land .

Atile’i island home is very isolated .

Now I am not a big reader of speculative fiction ,so the style of this book was unusual to me .It is set in a near future as a toxic disaster ,caused by to much rubbish has lead to strange occurrences in the oceans of the world  has hit the worlds oceans .In Taiwan Alice ,she is a professor has recently lost not just her husband but also her son .Finds a man who has been brought in on the tide of rubbish and junk that arrive on the seafront by her house .This man is Atile’i he has just come of age in his culture turned 15 and was as the second son of his family ,he has to leave his island home of Wayo Wayo  and has wound up in Taiwan .These two then set out to become friends struggling to get to know one another at the start but slowly getting there .Atile’i sets out with Alice to follow what happened to her husband and her son by following a trail on a mountain they took  her husband had taken before he died .

Alice wanted to grieve for the victims but couldn’t feel anything .Over the last ten years ,there had been more and more earthquakes and floods .

Alice had seen a lot through her eyes and in her life .

This book is quite unique Wu Ming-Yi has a  unusual voice ,this book at its heart is a plea to us all to take better care of our planet .I read a piece about how it came to us in English because his publicist really pushed it and a book mentioned that was similar to it was Life of pi and I loved life of pi ,yes this book has that unreal world feel Atie’i feels like he is from another place his ,a different culture he had to leave his island as a sacrifice to the sea good ,but as the strongest of his friends in sailing and swimming just managed to survive .He remind me in a lot of ways of Pi from life of Pi .Alice was a women in despair when she found him ,This is so much a story about love ,loss not just in a personnel sense but also on a global scale ,the disaster that features in the book ,is a warning to us all .I was also reminded of footage of rubbish from the tsunami that has been up around the pacific actually shows how interconnect we all are  .Also music plays a part although they struggle to get along the two are drawn together over time by music .A  must read for readers that like something of different from the usual European fiction .I must admit the cover is also my favourite cover of 2013 

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