Ekaterini by Marija Knežević,

ekaterinfrontcover_50b7770928f02

Ekaterini by Marija Knežević,

Serbian fiction

Original title –  Ekaterini

Translator – Will Firth

Source – review copy

Well another book from last years backlog of read and unreviewed books as I try to clear the backlog, so  I get to another of the Istros books Best Balkan book 2013 ,this time it is the Serbian writer Marija Knežević she studied at Belgrade university and the in the US ,worked in Serbian radio ,she has published a number of books in various styles of writing poetry ,essay ,short fiction and novels .She was included in the best european fiction 2012 for Serbia .She has also won a number of book prizes in Serbia .

Where is he ? Why is he late ? All right , I always come a little early just in case , but he should have passed by already ,like every other day .How did he look ? Is he going to come ? Is he going to give me a piece of chocolate today too ?

The start of a chapter grandmother when Ekaterini was waiting for her fathers return from the great war .

Well Ekaterini is a novel about women in the Balkans ,about moving through places ,about longing ,about a quest to return home .As you see a complex book that deals with one women journey from Greece to Yugoslavia as it was then and the history of the 20th century she saw .The woman is Ekaterini the title of the book she is as Greek women that falls in love with a man from what is now Serbia and follows him home to Belgrade and she makes a life with him this is before the second world war ,the we see how her and her two young daughters cope during the second world war .The change fortunes as the war goes one way and the another the two leaders Hitler and Stalin ,the post war period of Socialism and of course the great leader of Yugoslavia Tito then post Tito to the falling apart of Yugoslavia .Ekaterini always dreams through out her life of returning to her home in Thessalonike .The story is told by her granddaughter who greatly admired her grandmother .

Visiting her grave is like going for a walk for me .They say Lesce cemetery is a real “fresh air -spa” .Sure enough ,I alway come back from the cemetery feeling refreshed ,in a mood such as only intoxication with oxygen can bring

Ekaterini granddaughter the unnamed narrator of the book visiting the grandmothers grave .

Well the book is described as the reverse  story of the myth  Odysseus of course instead of Odysseus going and fighting in the wars it is a female Ekaterini a modern-day take on Penelope  that takes the journey not to fight but to show the other side of a conflict and that is the home life ,what is it like to bring up a family against this backdrop ? what is it like to be a women instead of a man and miss your homeland .I love the fact that Susan the publisher of Istros books keeps turning up gems like this one .Yet another book that for me shows the importance of books in translation .They take you to another place ,see the world through another eyes and like this can twist what we known as Greek myth into a greater myth of the Balkans and switching what was the male narrative of the original to a modern female narrative .

Have you a book you’ve enjoyed that is a modern  retelling of a  myth ?

A video treat Valeria Luiselli

I saw this on facebook the other day posted by Daniel Hahn it is an interview with the Mexican writer Valeria Luiselli in english about her book .I have reviewed two books by her 

 

The castle of of whisper by Carole Martinez

The Castle of Whispers

The castle of Whisper by Carole Martinez

French fiction

Original title – Du domaine des murmures

Translator – Howard Curtis

Source – review copy

Carole Martinez is a rising star of historic fiction in France this is her second novel .She is a middle school teacher ,she began writing during maternity leave nine years ago .This her second novel won the Goncourt Lyceens in 2011 ,previous winners are Phillippe  Claude and Andrei Makine .The prize sees twelve books read by 2000 students and they choose the one they like .

in the year 1187 , Esclarmonde ,damsel of the whisper ,resolves to live as an anchoress at Hautepierre , confined until her death to the sealed cell built for her by her father against the walls of the chapel that he erected on his lands in honour of Saint Agnes ,who was martyred at the age of thirteen for having accepted no other bridegroom than christ

How esclarmonde end up a damsel of whispers .

The castle of whisper is set in 12th century France ,a young women  ,the fifteen year old Esclarmonde is due to marry a rather unworthy Knight that has a wandering eye .She decides to turn her back on this marriage and join the Church much to her fathers dismay and she  becomes a mistress of Christ .She chooses to use her dowry for her entry to the church  instead of her marriage and builds a stone chapel where she entombed herself  in a cell ,the years pass and she can only contact the world via a small gap .She has become a link between the world of now and the dead ,her words tell what may happen ,the whispers of this place change the outside world .A world gripped in violence and the crusades are taking part .

My father had not yet put in an appearance outside my cell .In the autumn ,he had taken a second wife ,a young childless widow not much older than myself .whom I had often glimpsed since her arrival at the castle .her name was Douce ,and she smiled at me whenever she passed the maple .

What will the new stepmother bring into Esclarmonde life ?

I have struggle with historic fiction in the past ,I must have been the only person not too enjoy wolf hall ,so it was with nerves I decided to read this as it was another book set in the middle ages .But was surprised to find I liked it Martinez is a poetic writer ,she shows the transformation of the young girl to a woman in the walls of a church .I enjoyed the series on the TV in the  eighties Robin Hood ,which like this novel drift at times into the world of mysticism ,Esclarmonde and her castle of whispers are a French take on the same themes touched in the TV series ,people tended to believe in the other world ,worlds more than they do now .Gabriel Garcia Marquez is mentioned on the back cover  from a review ,I agree she has the same way of making the extraordinary seem less so the world isn’t so surreal as Marquez does in his books .The castle of whispers is about the power of men and women to battle the world in different ways one with love the other with violence .How faith can make people change and grow .

Do you have a favourite historic writer ?

The infatuations by Javier Marias

the infatuations

The infatuations by Javier Marias

Spanish literature

Orginial title – Los enamoramientos

Translator – Margaret Jull Costa

Source – library book

I have read two other Marias before this one ,I reviewed while the women are sleeping a couple of years ago and late last year read a heart so white ,I enjoyed both and have before that i have tried to read the huge your face tomorrow trilogy but never got to it as I never get chance to have the library books out long enough to get to them .But after hearing this mentioned as one of the favourite books of last year by Three percent podcast .I decided with the Independent foreign fiction prize looming in the background I review this before a heart so white .Javier Marias has been writing for forty years he started translating Dracula scripts for his uncle a well-known Spanish film director the infatuations was his latest book in Spanish published in 2011 in there .

The last time I saw Miguel Desvern or Deverne was also the last time that his wife , Luisa saw him ,which I ,on the other hand was a preson he had never met , a woman with whom he had never exchanged so much as a single word .I didn’t even know his name ,or only when it was too late

The opening lines of the book ,now doesn’t that draw you in?

 

I had been meaning to try this book , since it came out  last year partly due to the great black and white cover ,I’m not a huge one for mentioning covers but this one is a just come and look and read me cover ,anyway back to the book it the story of a women Maria Dolz  who works in publishing ,she sits every morning in a cafe and watches a young couple that also frequent the  same cafe ,she is an imaginative person and dreams about these two then one day she finds out the husband of the couple has died  after seeing a picture of a man who has been stabbed in a newspaper .This draws her into a sort of mystery and what is the wife doing ,when she turns up with some kids and they are fetch by another man .What is happening ? why did he die ,who is the new man ?

“Once the sentence had been  heard ,it was Athos who turned to her and ,as master of ceremonies , said : “Anne de Brueil , countess de la fere , Milady de Winter ,your crimes have weried men on earth and god in heaven .

one of many literary links in the story ,Maria does work in publishing .

I love Marias and will read all his books translated over time ,if there is a reading version of slow cooking he is it the prose he writes isn’t flashy ,the action plot isn’t a hurtling train no this is like a slow cook the senses ,mind is seeped slowly and gently into finding out what had happened to the couple .We discover that what Maria saw and thought she saw isn’t really what she saw .I was reminded of the way Maria gets drawn into this Murder and the web surrounding of the Woody Allen film Manhattan Murder mystery which saw a character played by Diane keaton sees her neighbour maybe kill his wife ,this book remind me of the fumbling into a deeper mystery .I also loved the way he used the character of my lady from the three musketeers as someone to compare the wife too .    We see a lot about life ,death and what drives people. I loved his style of writing ,yet again his books are like a slow drift down the river ,there is no hurrying in his writing it needs to be savoured .

Shadow IFFP 2014 translation Thursday

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Well it’s that time of year we are heading in over a month to the 2014 independent foreign fiction longlist coming out .I’ve spoken on twitter about doing the shadow iffp and lots people seem keen and so I decide to chair it again for a third year so anyone interest mention in comments or twitter we will sort out who is doing what I want try and have people read most books if possible this year and there we have a question what do you think will make the longlist ? Krall ,Marias ,Knausgaard ,Luiselli or ? I feel it’s been a quiet year than 2013 for iffp but lots of good books out there and I always find a couple of books I’ve missed out on .So if you want join the shadow team and chat translation come on !!!

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