Every promise by Andrea Bajani

every promise Andrea Bajani

Every promise by Andrea Bajani

Italian fiction

Original title – Ogni Promessa

Translator – Alastair McEwan

Source – Review copy

When this dropped through the letter box last year I read the blurb and in a way didn’t grab me ,I loved the cover but as happens it fell down the TBR pile to the other day I decide to pick it up and had missed the quote on the rear of the book from Antonio Tabucchi ,which is a writer I love so who is Andrea Bajani ,well he was born in Rome and moved round Italy growing up finally end up in Turin ,where he is both a journalist and writer he published his first novel in 2002 .this is seventh novel and won the Premio Bagutta prize in italy one of italy top literary prizes .

Yet we made love and no child came along .It was our we fell to the ground every month and broke in two ,and by dint gluing it together again it couldn’t be fixed anymore .The first months had been normal ,going down the whole route evry time , getting past menstrual cycles without wondering about anything , nopt even thinking about it ,just making love because we couldn’t do anything but searc for each other under our clothing as soon as we were close .

Maybe the lack of a baby coming was the start of their problems .

Every promise is the story of a man coming to terms with himself and the world around him Pietro the man in the story starts the book with his partner Sara leaving him ,we later find out she is expecting a baby to another man but still is very close to Pietro mother .Add to this Pietro does what most men in this position do he becomes a bit of a layabout and lets his live become a mess .Now around this time an old man who had fought in Russia during the war Olmo appear ,this leads Pietro  going to Russia himself but also this leads into another story his mother’s father ,his grandfather Mario a man who had problems with hios family after the war and had also been in Russia during the war has died .

Olmo asked me if everything was still there in Russia ,he said it like that ,with a little anxiety in his voice , as if he had far from home and had sent someone to check things out .

Russia holds many secrets but also truths for Pietro .

Well that gives you the bare bones of the story and that is it ,this book has many a twist and turn and more than one thing going on .When I started it I found myself doing that thing of flicking back to check what was happening  but most of all the story is of a man who has to lose everything to discover who he is by leaving his homeland and see the world through different eyes and his home in a new light and also what happen in his families past  .I am shocked that I have discovered yet another wonderful Italian writer Niccolo Ammanti , Pietro Grossi and Davide longo and Andrej Longo are  Showing what appears a rich vein of younger Italian writers coming through slowly as ever to us in English .This book links love ,loss ,secrets ,family ,death and life so well with a vulnerable but fun edge to his writing Andrea Bajani shows what it is to be a modern Italian man by looking at the past and the present to show the future  .This is one of those books that have slipped under the radar and maybe shouldn’t have .

Have you a current Italian writer you like ?

The people in the photo by Hélène Gestern

the-people-in-the-photo

The people in the photo by Hélène Gestern

French fiction

Original title – Eux sur la photo

Translation by Emily Boyce and Ros Schwartz

Source – review copy

Hélène Gestern is a French writer she is based in Nancy in France is a teacher and researcher at a laboratory studying linguistics   .She is also on the editorial committee of a literary review magazine dedicate to autobiographical writing .Her interest are photography and cats .This is her first book to be translated to English.

                                                              Ashford ,25 march 2007

Madame / Monsieur

I have only just read your advertisement ref 248 .22o in the Libération of 12 February

I believe I may have some information concerning the person you are inquiring about :I am convinced it is my father , who often used to spend his summers in Interlaken .I am enclosing the photocopy of his Geneva Tennis club membership card from the 1960’s ,which I have found among his papers .You will see his photograph on it

Could you tell me how you obtained his name and why you are seeking information about him

Yours faithfully

S.Crusten

The first letter to Hélène from Stéphane that starts their journey .

 

The people in the photo is an epistolary novel .The book starts when    Hélène an archivist discovers a photo of her late  mother and two men the photo was taken in 1971 at a tennis tournament in Interlaken .Armed with this info she puts an advert in the French newspaper Libération with the names on the back of the photo and is shocked when she gets a reply from Stéphane a swiss biologist that is based in Kent ,he believes it is his father is one of the two men with Hélène’s late mother .This is the basis of the book the letters that follow try to find out what happened between the parents at the time ,try to get to the bottom of how Hélène’s mother died .

                                                    Paris , 17 Febuary (email)

Dear Stéphane

As if you had to ask ! I will yes ,as molly bloom would say , come with you to Geneva .And we can stop off to see Jean on the way back : I’m dying to meet him .Did the nurse tell you exactly what happened ?

I’ll be waiting for you at the flat on Friday .You know the way ,but you’ll need th new magic number b220

A tender kiss

Hélène

AS you see they draw closer over the course of a year of writing to each other .

Now the book is an exploration of find out the secrets that can be kept from kids by their parents .The two main characters each in turn discover more about their parents than they wanted .The choosing of the epistolary form shows that even given the change from letters to e mails it still shows how the tension can be built from mail to mail as these two uncover the long-lost secrets of the past .Each some how finds out where they came from ,discover what problems can happen when there parents may have had a liaison in the past and what does this mean for the two of them now because although they have been drawn together by chance they actually start to like each other as the go on the journey of discovery .Photos play an important part in the book Hélène Gestern brings the pictures in this book to life in the prose as we see the family snaps of the two pass and the past come alive .This is one for loves of family secrets it is full of them ,loves of photos and if you are like me and see a picture and build your own narrative around it this is one for you ,how often have you found or seen a picture and wonder what happened then and what happened at the time ,also a book for the fan of the epistolary form .I will soon have a q&a with Hélène Gestern .

Have you a favourite epistolary novel ?

The space between us by Zoya Pirzad

the space between us

The space between us by Zoya Pirzad

Persian fiction

Original title – Yek Ruz Mande be Eid Pak

Translator – Amy Motlagh

Source – review copy

When Henry who works for me contact one world saying they have a couple of new novels from Iran coming out I jumped at the chance as it is one of the few countries I haven’t read a lot from ,I only have one book under review so this is the first of two books forthcoming from One World .Zoya Pirzad is described as a rising star of Iranian fiction .She is of Iranian / Armenian descent ,she is known for using the everyday life of m Iran in her novels and lifting the lid on everyday lives of ordinary people .

That year I turned twelve .

Early one morning ,a few days before easter ,I stood on the balcony at the top of the stairs that ran down to the courtyard and ran my hand over the banister .No sliding down today .

Early on in his life easter mentioned and Edmond is just about to meet Tahereh at school

This book is called the space between us in English but the orginal title when translated is One day before easter which maybe gives you a slight Clue to the story .As the main character in this story is a Christian of Armenian descent ,his name is Edmond Lazarian .The story is of Edmond daughter  who falls in love with a man who lives in the same town .Now this would be a love story  ,but the man Edmond’s daughter falls for is a Muslim this leads to much tension for Edmond but also the local community . Add to this Edmond’s best friend  Tahereh is a Muslim they grew up together she was the daughter of a janitor and his only friend when he grew up .This choice for Edmond  daughter cause him to make a big decision about what to do ,we see later how this decision effect him and the people around him .

The morning of the day after easter ,I sit at the dining room table and look at the garden .The violets lean this way and that in the breeze :it’s as if they’re finally at home in their new place .

On a pice of white paper , in green ink ,I begin a letter : dearest numush 

The closing lines and finally events take place after Easter .

I said the original title had some meaning because a lot of these events seem to take place in the day before Easter in the book .This book was an interesting look into the everyday life of people inside Iran the mix of religions and communities is something we never see in the press .Edmond as the lead character shines a light on the Armenian community in Iran and their interaction with the Muslims .The small town where they live is mostly Armenian so the town is really the opposite to the rest of the country leading to much different views .It shows how close and how far apart to religions can be .Now I making this also sound exotic when actually it isn’t really it is down to earth it is about love ,family and friends and that could be set anywhere ,so as I said earlier Zoya Pirzad is known for her portrayal of everyday and as I have said many times on the blog the everyday in place like where this book is set a small town is very much the everyday anywhere .

Have you a favourite book from Iran ?

That was the month that was Jan 2014

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Well I got 2014 off with a bang I managed to review 19 books on the blog which is the most I have acheived for a couple of years  and I  have read 16 books also my best ever start for a year .So I decide it is about time I brought back the month end round up posts  .A great start here is what I read in January –

  1. the art and craft of approaching your head of department to submit a request for a raise by Georges Perec france
  2. The confusion of young Törless by Robert Musil Austria
  3. Naomi by Jun’ichirō Tanizaki Japan
  4. Pietr the Latvian by Georges Simenon Belgian
  5. Miruna ,a tale by  Bogdan Suceavă Romanian
  6. The restaurant of love regained by Ito Ogawa Japan
  7. Zenith Hotel by Oscar Coop – Phane france (review in march )
  8. The people in the photo by Helene Gestern france (review in feb)
  9. The lonely hearts club by Raul Nunez argentina
  10. The last day of a condemned man by Victor Hugo France
  11. Botchan by Natsume Soseki Japan
  12. The space between us by Zoya Pipzad Iran
  13. The infatuations  by Javier Marias spain
  14. The castle of whispers by Carole Martinez France
  15. The front seat passenger by Pascal Garnier france
  16. Crumbs by Miha Mazzini  Slovenia

As you see a real mix but with French novels and Japanese to the fore .I think the real gem of the month is Zenith Hotel a book that comes out in march but one that I read and instantly called the best book I had read for a long time .I enjoyed taking part in Tony’s January in Japan event again .

Books read 2014 to date – 16

Countries read from – 9

Next month – Well Pushkin press fortnight is at the end of the month I have a couple I read last year to review for that and also halfway through a couple on my kindle .I’ve a new French crime series to start .

What were your highlights for January ?

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