The Boy from Aleppo who painted the war by Sumia Sukkar

the boy from Aleppo who painted the war

The Boy from Aleppo who painted the war by Sumia Sukkar

British fiction (based in Syria )

Source Review copy

Well when I got an E Mail from Maddy who I have met a couple of times saying that the poetry Publisher Eyewear publishing was to publish its first fiction novel I couldn’t say no when I read the blurb on Sumia debut novel .Sumia is a young 21-year-old writer of Syrian – Algerian ancestry ,she grew up in London .

Mama died when I was 11.I miss her .She always told me I should be good and go to university to show people my paintings .I can’t wait to go to university .My classmates say I belong to the special needs class and not university .They are stupid and wrong , says Yasmine .I don’t like meeting new people , so I won’t speak to anyone in class at university .

This passage captures Adams world view so well I feel .

Well I’ve been hoping a novel would appear from the Syrian conflict and this is the first I have come across I know a few have been written in Arabic ,but haven’t yet been translated .The Syrian conflict was all over the British news as it started but has faded away from the headlines ,which is a crying shame as people are still suffering .Through this novel you get an account of the war for the every man of Syria .The novel focus on a family in Aleppo which as many of us that followed the horrors of the conflict was one of the main places hit by the Regime .The family is three brothers one of which is Adam ,he has Aspergers syndrome and it is his story there is also his Older sister Yasmine who is devoted to her younger brother .So as the war rages around them we see the family struggle to eat and get on with every day life ,the neighbours disappear and Adam takes in their cat .Adam seems the war through his Aspergers a detached view free of emotion so we as the reader  have to paint the world he sees into its full horror  .But he does paint the war and he use colours to show how it affects him and his feelings rather like Synesthesia we see the changes each chapter heading  is related to paints and painting .WE see the family try to keep together and the love between a brother and sister ,the lengths she would go to keep her brother safe .

“What’s wrong ?”

“Where’s … where’s …”

“Yasmine ?”

“Yes!…Yes!”

“She’ll be back soon ,just don’t think about it ”

“Khaled I miss Yasmine ”

Adam miss Yasmine when she is taken by a group of soldiers .

This novel captures the Syrian  conflict so well  ,we see the chaos at times ,But also the despair it can cause a family .As Adam  views the war he says nothing wrong boys are on the street ,not knowing they are involved in the fighting .Adam view of the world is like a play with the direction for the actors on how to feel and act out the scenes removed ,we see the world not through a vision of this side or the other or love or hate or pain or grief no Adam looks at the world  like it is a film or a news report thus we as the read through what isn’t said what is in-between the words written ,we  see the true  horrors of the war .Syria need to be in the foreground so we can help the people like Adam and Yasmine .

Have you read a book based in Syria ?

The inflatable Buddha by Andras Kepes

Kepes The Inflatable Buddah_coverW

The inflatable Buddha by Andras Kepes

Hungarian fiction

Original title – Tövispuszta

Translator –   Bernard Adams

Andras Kepes was educate in Europe ,Latin america and the middle east as he grew up .He  the wnet on to  study  to get a  degree in aesthetics  and then studied further in the US .He then he  became from the 1980’s onwards a well known figure on Hungarian tv as an interviewer of figures connected with the arts world  he is like a Hungarian  Melvyn Bragg.He has written a number of books ,this is his first to be translated into English .

He was a great fan Isri , and his unreserved enthusiasm rubbed off on him .This particularly because even in elementary school David had done Isti’s homework for him .It didn’t bother David at all that the teacher gave him a worse mark than Isti. “Comes of being ” Jewish Isti would say patting David’s face ,and they would laugh together .

Even early on David being Jewish was noticed by his friends and what it meant to some .

The inflatable Buddha or as its Hungarian title translates  as thorn bare. It follows the life of three boy growing up ,through the 20th century in Hungary ,as the back cover says an experience that has been more than others have in their entire history .So the story starts when the boys are young in the 1930’s .Pal , Isti and David form a close bond early on and then as they see the war come on as they are an upper class boy working class boy and  Jews as the war appears on the scene they find there lives separate and bonds broken then after he war they drift apart but some how keep in touch eventually all arriving back in the childhood home .Meanwhile the country of their birth is tumbling through tough times we see how the events of the Hungarian uprising of 1956 affect the three now men and there young families ,the tough times after that due soviet crack down .Then how the changes after the fall of communism and the new freedoms and how they effect people .A wonderfully well crafted tale of how Hungary in its own way has been involved with most of the Major events of the 20th century and how it effect three boys that became men ,husband ,fathers  they all at some point left and then returned to their home town  which is own by the Baron of the village  .

Isti had been to Budapest only twice before the wat and now looked in amazement at the destruction wrought on the city , the houses disembowelled ,their  spines of their roofs broken and the bridges which hung crippled and wrecked , into the Danube ,it was as if he saw his own deformed leg everywhere .

The post war world needed to be rebuilt .

Well I read Parallel stories last year which thou narrative is  a more complex take on Hungarian and east European history during the 20th century  ,but this book has the feel of being a more  personal  take on the times  than  the Nadas book was and for me it worked better as a novel about being Hungarian during the 20th century on a personnel level  rather than being viewed as a part of the whole story .The three boys are a good cross-section of Hungarian society and show how some fall ,some rise and some had to escape Hungary during the 20th century .But above all else what  comes out of the book ,is the bond of friendship and how it can survive those changes no matter what .

Libra by Don Delillo JFK 50TH

libra_first_ed

Libra by Don Delillo 

US fiction 

Source – personnel copy 

Well today is the 50th anniversary of the shooting of JFK and I have chosen two books to remember or mark the occasion this is the first that I did read a year or so after it came out in 1988 the year of the 25th anniversary.Don Delillo is probably alongside Paul Auster my favourite American writer. I have read most of his books and even read his huge Underworld twice I loved it so much ,If you fancy try that book Jackie and a few others have done a read-along that starts in two weeks .Don Delillo grew up in an Italian part of the Bronx , New York .He has written more 15 novels . 

Earlier that day a young man walked into the outer office at Guy Banister associates in New Orleans .Delphine Roberts was at her desk typing a revised list of civil rights organizations for Banisters files .The young man stood patiently waiting in jeans with rolled cuffs two days stubble on his chin .

Oswald in Guy Banisters office where he also meet David Ferrie both big character in the film JFK . 

Well Libra is a fiction account of the life of Lee Harvey Oswald the man who shot JFK .from his early life ,joining the marines ,his journey to Russia to become a defector  where he met and married  his Russian wife Marina and then his return to the US with his wife  .Then he settled in Dallas after spending time in New Orleans working for the Free Cuban Movement and pro Castro causes .He finally start working at the book depository in Dallas where he Shot JFK from .Now he comes across as a strange man , almost outcast ,a man who  is never really part of anything a man who has communist leanings ,but he  can also be  easily be swayed by others it seems .The book has a similar feel to the film JFK by Oliver stone that did actually come out a few years after the book ,but isn’t based on the book and actually the book is far more in-depth and connects the dots a lot more in regards to Oswald’s life .

Well it is fifty years to the day ,since the events in this book The death of JFK at the hands of Oswald .So reading this book brought the events of that day and what lead to the assianation ,things like the Cuban crisis ,JFK personnel views .On the other side is Oswald this guys life is strange to say the least a man who was not once but twice a traitor ,the first time is his decision to escape the Us and to become a Soviet citizen ,where he is suspected of giving away secrets to the U2 spy plane .But even after doing this he returns to US and has no real action taken against him and has his wife allowed to be with him .He even appears of TV as a communist .I still wonder who he was Delillo has lifted the lid on his life a bit more in this novel but Oswald is still one strange man and his history just in my mind seems very strange .The book is of course a novel so what is real and what is made by Delillo mix but we get a real feel of the man and the times he lived in .Also a look at what drove this man who shot the president ,almost like he is destined to do this one thing as he gets more and more desperate .

Have you read Delillo ?

What are your thoughts on JFK and the Assassination ? 

The lost honour of Katharina Blum by Heinrich Böll

The lost Honour of Katharina Blum  or how violence develops and where it can lead  by Heinrich Böll

Original title – Die verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum oder: Wie Gewalt entstehen und wohin sie führen kann

German fiction

Translator – Leila Vennewitz

Source – personnel copy

A couple of years ago I review the German Nobel laureate Heinrich Böll best known book billiards at half past nine .Böll  he refused to join the Hitler youth as a boy took an apprenticeship as a bookseller before becoming a full-time writer aged thirty .He was chairman of German PEN for a long time and then he chaired International PEN .He won the nobel prize in 1972 and passed away in 1985 .His book were mostly reissued in english a couple of years ago by Melville house .

Inquires into Blum’s activities during the four days in question progressed nicely enough at first ,and it was only when attempts were made to gather information about that sunday that they were brought up short

On the Wednesday afternoon Blorna personally paid Katharina Blum two full weeks wages at 280 marks per week ,one for the current week , the other for week to come

The reportage style of Böll writing in this book

 

The lost Honour of Katharina Blum ,follows Katharine Blum ,she gets drawn into a tabloid sensation after meeting a man at a party who it turns out is a bank robber  and she becomes the target of the newspaper “der zeitung “( this is thinly veiled version of the German paper der bild a sort of German  version of the sun ) .She is called a whore ,a communist sympathizer as she sees her private life torn apart by the paper and gets hate mail just for knowing one man . this leads her agreeing to do an interview with someone from the paper and now a couple of hours later she is at a police station giving this statement to the  police about recent events in her life  .What happened during that interview ? We see the story of her recent life unfurl .

Seven anonymous postcards , handwritten with “crude ” sexual propositions that in one way or another all included the words “communist bitch”

Four more anonymous postcards containing insulting political remarks but no sexual propostions .These marks ranged from “Red agitator ” to “Kremlin stooge ”

The fall out of what of Katharina Blum life in the papers .

 

The style of this book is like a police report or a bit of reportage we get a detached feel on the events in Katharina’s life and what lead to her agreeing to the interview and how she meet the man ,whom dragged her into the presses eyes .Amazing this book to say it was written in the 1974 before the modern scandals and rise of the modern celebs that have been caught in the media spotlight  ,Katharine blum reminds me of many people who have been in the  UK papers over the last few years people who have  gotten  caught up in a big story by chance  or accident , like the landlord of a recent victim of a killer  who saws his life invade by the papers by just being her landlord or the woman that hid her child .Katharine story is a bit more than theres in the end but we see how far some can be pushed by the tabloids and the prying eyes .For a book that is nearly thirty years old I would say the themes and style of Böll writing is still relevant today as much as ever .He captures what it is to have your life fall apart it seems .A small work that packs a punch above its weight .

Have you read Böll ?

The Loser by Thomas Bernhard

Thoams Bernhard the loser Faber Finds

The Loser by Thomas Bernhard

Austrian fiction

Original title – Der Untergeher

Translator – Jack Dawson

Source – personnel copy on Kindle

Well I couldn’t take part in German Lit month and not review  a book by Thomas Bernhard could I ? I had read this for Thomas Bernhard week I did earlier this year but held it back for German lit month .I have mention quite a bit about Thomas  Bernhard and his life in my previous reviews and pieces all found here .This is the Fifth book by him I have read and review on the blog  .

The teacher’s child ruined my Steinway in the shortest period imaginable, I wasn’t pained by this fact, on the contrary, I observed this cretinous destruction of my piano with perverse pleasure. Wertheimer, as he always said, had gone into the human sciences, I had begun my deterioration process. Without my music, which from one day to the next I could no longer tolerate, I deteriorated, without practical music, theoretical music from the very first moment had only a catastrophic effect on me. From one moment to the next I hated my piano, my own, couldn’t bear to hear myself play again; I no longer wanted to paw at my instrument.

Bernhard, Thomas (2013-02-21). The Loser (Kindle Locations 65-70). Faber & Faber. Kindle Edition.

Now The loser isn’t very different to the other books I have read by Thomas Bernhard .It is told in the form of a monologue a recollection of two mens life and the event before ,during and after a meeting with the world-famous pianist Glenn Gould .We never get told are Narrators Name as he recounts how he and his friend Wertheimer they are both studying Piano at Salzburg .They are invited to see Gould play the Goldberg variations and are to say the least blown away bu this mans talent ,more than any one they know or have seen play .This revelation brings the two men to the edge and we see how for a long time after they try to discover a new way as they now see the music they loved isn’t worth as much .The narrator left music to become a philosopher  .The other Wertheimer is drawn into a dark spin of suicide and a life falling apart .

If I hadn’t met Glenn Gould, I probably wouldn’t have given up the piano and I would have become a piano virtuoso and perhaps even one of the best piano virtuosos in the world, I thought in the inn. When we meet the very best, we have to give up, I thought. Strangely enough I met Glenn on Monk’s Mountain, my childhood mountain.

Bernhard, Thomas (2013-02-21). The Loser (Kindle Locations 97-99). Faber & Faber. Kindle Edition.

Well as you see this has all of the traits you would expect from a Thomas Bernhard Novel a narrator ,art in this case classical music ,life’s falling apart .Now what makes this stand out a bit is the inclusion of Glenn Gould ,he is a real figure and his life could almost read like a Bernhard novel .I must admit I am not a huge Classical fan but among the few Albums I do have is Glenn Gould Goldberg Variations which I got after seeing the film thirty short films about Glenn Gould in the nineties .

I advise if you haven’t seen it try to next time it is on tv or on stream somewhere .This book is less bile filed than say the woodcutter is similar in style the monologue is very like the woodcutter in the way it recounts past events .But this book is more about loss ,loss of a dream ,loss of direction .The German title is actually a word that means more than loser meaning one that goes under ,almost like in the Stevie smith poem these character are in a sea of music and are drowning after seeing Gould  and this book is them waving at us .

Have you listened to Glenn Gould ?

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