Exposure by Sayed Kashua

Exposure

Exposure by Sayed Kashua

Israeli fiction

Original Title – גוף שני יחיד

Translator – Mitch Ginsburg

Source – Personnel copy brought on kindle

 

Sayed Kashua is a well-known figure in Israeli ,he publishes a regular column in an Israeli newspaper .He is also the writer behind the hit comedy show Arab Labour which has been a runaway success in Israel .Exposure is his fourth book .I’ve found a clip of the title actually full episodes are available on you tube it is a sitcom following Arabs and Israelis living together .

He looked at his watch and saw that the store would be closing in ten minutes. He already knew which book he was going to buy: he had seen it reviewed in that week’s

paper, had spotted it on the shelf, and knew that after a quick walk through the classics he would return to it. As he browsed, The Kreutzer Sonata caught his eye and he remembered that his wife had asked him once, as the resident expert on books, whether he’d ever read the novella by Tolstoy. The lawyer had been surprised by her sudden interest in books and she explained that The Kreutzer Sonata came up in class whenever her professor discussed Freud. He pulled the book off the shelf and walked over to the new-books section, where he picked up Haruki Murakami’s most recent novel. “I’d like this one gift wrapped, please,” he said, handing Meirav the used copy of The Kreutzer Sonata, adding, “my wife’s studying psychology and she’s been nagging me forever to get her this book.”

The lawyer buys the book in question .

Well the show is a good starting point for the book although the book isn’t comic ,but touches a lot of the same ground and the is identity in Israeli from both side Arab and Jewish .The book is formed of two stories that unfold side by side the first is the story of an Arab lawyer .but he is a high-flying lawyer trying to escape from his Arab background and get accepted in the mainstream Jewish life as a lawyer . The lawyer  by chance finds a copy of Kreutzer  sonata  by Tolstoy a book that his wife recommend to him  to read in this second-hand book he discovers a letter in Arabic that appears to have been written by her wife to the books previous owner of the book. the previous Yonatan is the link to the second story ,but back to the first he of course now want s to find out from his wife who this was and why she wrote the letter .The second story is about a young Arab man Amir  struggling to get work ,then finds himself working as a carer at night looking after a young Israeli who is called Yonatan ,Amir starts to look into this young man’s life his likes and dislikes .Takes things like his camera and then decides he could become Yonatan ,so is he the one in the first story ?

Well the book is as Tony put it is very easy read and it is but it tackles a lot of subjects close to the heart of Israeli and to some one like Sayed as he is an Arab Israeli that is their place in modern Israeli ? How close can they come to be a full part of Israeli life without taking Amir’s path and stealing an identity or the Lawyer (we never get told his name )  where he has really sold his soul to be where he was and of course the first story on its line of marital betrayal  , jealousy could be a spin on the Tolstoy story which Thou I’ve not read it is about a marriage ,a wife’s betrayal and the husband in that book kills his wife .(an  aside to this is I had said I will get this book by Tolstoy next time I see it and low and behold last week I brought a second-hand copy a little bit of a deja vu moment .) .I feel this is very much an IFFP book as it tackles issues but also is one that serves well as a book group book with many points to dive off from about it .This was the third book by Kashua to be translated to English another book apart from this one had been on the longlist for the IFFP .

Have you read him

 

A French Novel by Frédéric Beigbeder

a french novel

A French Novel by Frédéric Beigbeder

French Fiction

Original title  Un roman français,

Translator – Frank Wynne

Source – From Translator

I have reviewed Beigbeder before I reviewed his book about 9/11 windows on the world ,so when Frank sent me this after I mentioned it on my IFFP longlist post as I thought it would be one that would in fact should make the cut .Beigbeder is somewhat of a character ,he was arrest in 2008 on the night his older brother ( a successful and well-known french businessman ) was made a member of the French la legion d’honneur ,this book follows that arrest in a brilliant piece of Autofiction about his childhood viewed from the cell on that night .Beigbeder is also working with VW on a new car .He  is dating a 18-year-old Russian ,if only our writers were so interesting as him  .

My only hope ,as I embark on this diving expedition , is that writing can rekindle memory , literature remembers what we have forgotten :to write is to read within oneself .Writing reawaken memory ;it is possible to write as one might exhume a body .

I loved this how true this is what great writers do .

So I’ve set the scene we meet a writer called Frédéric Beigbeder on the night his brother is honoured and he is there  getting drunk ,when later that evening he is arrest for sniffing cocaine and ends up in a Paris cell .He begins to think what brought him to this point and he feels he can’t remember his childhood but as the night wears on he remember his younger years and the France of his youth from the music ,shows to his parents their lives .He also recalls his parents past Their parents the writers Grandparents that he never meet but had effects on both his parents and like a newtons cradle had an effect on him and his brother .What is painted is a childhood that is full of the 70’s fance ,his parents get divorced and both meet new partners in his father’s case many new partners .His brother Charles a rival and at times friend ,he notes early on that his own father hadn’t spoken to his own brother for years and wonder how this effect their relationship .You grasp that he is trying to discover himself in this French police cell .

The only names from my childhood I remember are those of the girls I loved and who never had the faintest idea : Marie-Aline Dehaussy , the Mirailh sisters , Clarence Jacquard ,Cecile Favreau ,Claire Guionnet ,Michele Luthala ,Beatrice Kahn ,Agathe Oliver ,Axelle Batonnier …I think most of them dated my brother ,but peroids and places get mixed up ..

I loved he remember the girls more than the boys in his childhood .

Well as you see the title of this book is suited it is very much a French novel .Although Autofiction isn’t a French invention it has flourished in France and here Beigbeder has shown how you can make your own childhood into a novel ,what do we remember of our childhood ? , for me it glimpses at time the shuttle launch whilst staying with my dad at my aunties house ,my brother biting his tongue run on top of an old fire engine on a family holiday ,dungeons and dragons  on tv and my friend Steve loving the show ,spangle sweets .Could I stitch these into a novel ,well no. But here is what Beigbeder has done .I’m a few years younger than him but touchstones in this book,TV shows music ,running his hands through his father’s music collection and even his parents divorce are all events I could connect to my own life .I also felt he caught the France of the time ,this is the time  Citroen DS,  ,Pompideu and then later Mitterrand. A huge change in France post 1968 which Beigbeder grew up in the nearest book in english I have read would be something like Black swan green by David Mitchell  .I still don’t know how it missed IFFP longlist for me it is a novel by one of the best living French writers .

Have you read Beigbeder ?

The FENCER /l’ESCRIMEUR by Ayala R

thefencer_cover_small

The fencer L’escrimeur by Ayala R

US fiction

Source – review copy

I was caught by the description of this book and by the writers bio ,when I was sent email about the book ,plus must admit always been beguiled by Fencing as a sport .Ayala R Finished studying at Stanford in the US ,then moved to the Europe he has lived in six different countries and speaks four languages .He was a competitive fencer and a tango Argentina dancer ,he currently lives in Vienna .

Every time Francis put on his mask ,it stopped being a sport to him and turned into something real :as real as it had been at the time when people used to demand satisfaction after witnessing their honour and pride compromised and thus blood needed to flow in order for offence to be washed away .

From the first match of the championship .

The fencer follows the story of Francis A man at the top of his sport fencing .He is competing in the world championship as the book opens the book unfolds on three levels the first is a progression through the rounds of the championship describing each match how Francis manage to win the moves used and opponent ,the second strand we meet Francis the man outside fencing in the present he is a man who has everything in some ways has nothing .We discover how he got to this point in his life in the third strand of narrative and that is the one of him and his brother growing up an overbearing father the sort that wants his child to be the best at the sport and thwarts his other dreams along the way as he loves playing the piano and would have loved to be a pianist .Add to this Francis has a brother whom like his self fell under his fathers huge desire for a champion in fencing and the honour that would come with that but unlike Francis his brother Germain stayed with the father not like Francis that broke loose but maybe as we see in the present maybe to long .

Francis and his brother had just been children when their father had decided that they were to learn the discipline of fencing .That was also the time when he had a fencing hall built inside the mansion because ,for him ,no fencing club in the region was good enough for his own flesh and blood .

How his journey began along side his brother as his fathers search for them to win “the big one”

I loved the novel Between clay and dust by Musharraf Ali Farooqi a novel about wrestling but also tackles similar ground to this book about the struggle to get ahead in a sport but also the fallout from such achievements can bring to the people like Francis involved in the sport .We also encounter father son relationships and sibling relationships ,what we do to make our fathers proud ,but what happens when we feel we fall short of the high bar some fathers can but on their sons .We see also the love and rivalry between  brothers which can ultimately drive one to the edge .Then there is the man himself there is often a feel to excel in one area of life or as a person can lead to a loss in another area of a person’s life and Francis is a perfect example of this .Ayala as a former fencer himself he captures the matches through the book so well you feel the adrenalin rush of each round ,the skill ,moves ,tactics and what it feels like to win a fencing match .It made me want to put on a fencing mask and have a go .All set along the background of the cities of Europe .The book has it’s own website here 

Do you have a favourite sport linked book ?

The Corpse washer by Sinan Antoon

The Corpse Washer

The Corpse washer by Sinan Antoon

Iraqi fiction

Original title –  وحدها شجرة الرمان

Translator – By the writer himself

Source – Personnel copy on Kindle

Sinan Antoon is and Iraqi/American writer born in Baghdad to an Iraqi father and American mother ,he lived and studied English in Iraq  .Before moving to the US in 1990 where he gained a Phd in Arabic and Islamic studies from Harvard .He is currently an associate professor at Galltain school in New York .He has written five books and also made a well-known Documentary called  About Baghdad.

If death is a postman, then I receive his letters every day. I am the one who opens carefully the bloodied and torn envelopes. I am the one who washes them, who removes the stamps of death and dries and perfumes them, mumbling what I don’t entirely believe in. Then I wrap them carefully in white so they may reach their final reader— the grave.

Very poetic thoughts at times as they look after the cities dead .

 

Well this was the one book on this years IFFP I didn’t see being there ,but that said one I was pleased to see on the list as however curates the Yale imprint ”  THE MARGELLOS WORLD REPUBLIC OF LETTERS” has rather good taste from the other two books I have read from the list Diary and Blindly .So to the book the corpse washer is set in the Shi’ite community and follows Jawad who at the beginning of the book is working with his father as a corpse washer following the Islamic practice of Ghusl ,were a body needs to be washed in the correct water and shroud  in the Kafan ,as soon after some one dies .Now young Jawad has his own dreams he wants to become an artist  so he leaves his father and goes to follow his dream of art becoming a sculpture .But as  he is studying and then the gulf war and Saddam leadership becomes more manic ,his father dies ,his mother becomes very ill and the family rack up cost in her care so Jawad life goes full circle and in the middle of the violence yet again becomes a corpse washer telling us the horrors of conflict as he washes and shrouds the bodies of the dead .As war brings Jawad so many more stories and bodies to clean and shroud .

Like all children I was very curious and would pester Father with questions about his work, but he said he’d tell me all about it later when the time was right. I would accompany him when I was old enough. “It’s too early, focus on school.” Ammoury had started helping Father when he was fifteen and started to wash at eighteen, but my father never allowed me to go inside his workplace. He wanted to keep work and home separate. When I used to ask Ammoury about work, he never gave me satisfying answers; these were matters for grown-ups and I was still a child.

I loved visiting my father factory as a kid didn’t we all do this ?

Now I found this maybe the most powerful book I have read so far from the list and knowing the IFFP it will be a good contender for a winner Jawad is a man caught in the vicious circle of failed dreams he glimpse another life ,he wants more than his father but in the end maybe sees what his father didn’t in their job when he returns to it .When the story is washed clean it is a universally themed story of father and sons ,foiled ambition ,family ,war and losing a dream .A modern tragedy maybe ,War story maybe ,but for me most of all one mans struggle Jawad he could be compared to characters from a dickens novel or even an older version  Billy Casper where Jawad’s art is like Billy kestrel and escape a dream of a better life .

Jacqui reviews Ten by Andrej Longo

ten Andrej Longo

Jacqui is back again to review Ten for the Shadow IFFP Jury

Ten by Andrej Longo
Translated from the Italian by Howard Curtis

Andrej Longo’s Ten consists of a series of hard-hitting short stories set in Naples. Each story takes one of the Ten Commandments as its theme and we see regular working-class people struggling to get by in the face of temptations and challenges that come their way.

In the first story we meet a teenage boy who wants to keep his head down and stay on the right side of the tracks. But he gets caught up in trouble during a night out with his girlfriend, the consequences of which will set his life on a different trajectory. Another story centres on a talented singer who becomes too ambitious and greedy. We follow his rise and fall into a life of drugs and debt – in the end his only way out is to become a guinea pig, thereby enabling his dealer to test the safety of each batch of coke:

I get off at the terminal. I lean on the wall to stop myself from falling and drag myself to where there’s an open space. I sit down in the sun or the rain, it’s all the same to me, and I wait, leaning against a pillar, like the others. I wait for them to bring the syringe, already filled, look for a vein that still has room, and put the needle in. And they wait to see the effect it has, and whether you live or die. (p. 34-35)

The mafia are never very far away — to the fore in some stories, in the background in others — and we see how people have grown accustomed to living their lives under this shadow:

Maybe Ricardo was right. Maybe like he said, to avoid asking myself too many questions, I’d stopped taking any notice of what was happening around me, the mountains of rubbish in the street, the murders, the bag snatching, the parking attendant who asks for money even when there’s a meter. I’d got used to keeping my eyes down to avoid trouble, paying so that I could drive my lorry in peace, without them slashing the tyres or breaking the windows. Maybe it was it was like he said but I didn’t want to admit it. (p. 113)

All this might sound rather grim, but some of these stories capture moments of love and longing. In one of my favourite stories from the collection, ‘Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy’, a woman longs to spend a Sunday with her husband but is unable to because her man can only find work in Rome. He returns on a weekly basis, but always Tuesdays, never at the weekend:

We’d been living like this for thirteen years. Seeing each other only on Tuesdays. Just so we could pay the mortgage and provide for the kids as they grew. But now the mortgage was almost entirely paid off. And the kids were grown. They were working now, making a living for themselves. I know there’s never enough money. But I could look for a job. Anything. Just as long as he came home in the evening and slept in our bed. Just as long as we could spend one Sunday together every now and again. Go for a stroll somewhere, without counting the hours, without feeling that time was slipping through our fingers. A Sunday together like everybody else. (p. 50)

Longo is a critically-acclaimed writer of short stories as well as pieces for the theatre, radio and cinema. When he isn’t writing, Longo works as a pizza-maker in the city of Naples and he draws on his understanding of the city to great effect in this collection. He takes us through the backstreets and clubs of the city, into the homes of its inhabitants and in doing so gives us a real sense of the place, its culture and social landscape. Knives and guns seem common place here and it’s an environment where kids and teenagers often have to grow up ahead of their time to survive.

Stu has already talked about how this collection illustrates what great short stories can do; they give us a slice of the world as we glimpse people for the briefest of moments. One of the things I liked about these stories was their directness and raw honesty. Longo’s prose is quite stripped back but he quickly creates a sense of tension and atmosphere as he pulls us into these individuals’ lives.

I also liked the shifts in tone, mood and pace across the stories. We experience flashes of violence, situations with a pulsating sense of urgency, but there are times when the pace shifts down a gear as characters reflect on their regrets, their hopes and fears.

One of the reasons I wanted to get involved in shadowing the IFFP was to discover exciting examples of world-lit with a real sense of place, fiction that vividly captures the voice and the essence of a specific location and/or culture. And that exactly what Ten delivers.

Ten is one of three collections of short stories longlisted for this year’s IFFP. The other collections are Revenge by Yoko Ogawa and The Iraqi Christ by Hassan Blasim (and one could also argue that Andrei Makine’s Brief Loves That Live Forever reads as a series of interlinked stories). As for Ten’s chances in the IFFP, I’m at the halfway point in reading the longlist so it’s a little difficult to tell at this stage…but it’s an excellent collection of stories and one which I’m very glad to have discovered.

Ten is published in the UK by Harvill Secker.
Source: personal copy

My review of Ten 

Dead stars by Alvaro Bisama

DeadStars_kindlecover_FINALflat_300x400-225x300

Dead stars by Alvaro Bisama

Chilean fiction

Original title – Estrellas muertas

Translator -Megan McDowell

Source – Review copy

I said when I reviewed Zenith hotel that so far in 2014 I had read two stunning books ,well this is the second one .Alvaro Bisama Grew up around Villa Alemana .He studied Playa Ancha university before coming a columnist after university .He also started writing .He also got a master’s degree from university of Chile ,where he worked on the website Mariano Aguirre alongside Alejandro Zambra ,also with Zambra he was on Hay festival Bogotá 39 of the best 39 writers under 39 .he has published seven books including four novels .

We’d be down in the port ,at Hesperia ,cafe 8.30 .Talking about whatever .She’d be chain-smoking ,and I  would shred the skin of my lips with my teeth .Those nervous habits were all we had left in those days .

Opening both sat at a cafe ,waiting when they read the paper .

Dead stars ,strangely enough starts of a bit like Marias The infatuations in a cafe ,it is the end of a relationship a couple is using the cafe every time they visit there lawyers to finalize the details of their divorce .Anyway one day they are sat there reading the paper when they discover an article mentioning Javiera  a women they both knew when they were studying .Now in a rather Proustian moment we go back into the  history to the early  post -Pinochet years of the 90’s  and this couple when they first  meet at college discovering them selcves ,Chiles past and forging their own ways and Political views ,that at a later date will have a big impact on each of them  .How there lives all intersect in a backdrop of Grunge ,pink music ,drink and drugs and drug addiction .They remember what happened along the way til the point their respective lives split .

She said it all comes back at once ,it all comes back so suddenly .The photo opens the door .My memory is the room .

The proustian moment of remembering where they both met and the story began .

Now I was thinking of something to compare this with and the way my mind works the first thing that struck me was a piece of art .the Simon starling piece Shed Boat Shed ,where he took shed and this was the couple at the start of the book ,then made the shed into a boat and that like this book is a journey into the past is a voyage of discovery .Then we get back to the present and like the rebuilt shed in the piece it isn’t quite the same .I feel that covers the book well it is about rediscovering ones self  ,a collective past and also a country struggling with a violent past and the fallout due to that ,these quiet unknown years after pinochet when the shadows are still there but people don’t always see them ,not til they are sat looking back  .It was also nice to be reminded of some of the music of the time and to discover some artist I  didn’t know or remember .Bisama is one to watch and great on Ox and Pigeon the small electronic publisher to finally bring one of the brightest hopes of Latin American fiction to us in English .

Jacqui reviews Brief loves that live forever IFFP 2014

Brief loves that live forever

Brief Loves That Live Forever by Andrei Makine
Translated from the French by Geoffrey Strachan

When the IFFP longlist was announced in early March I was excited to see this novel amongst the contenders. While I haven’t read any of Andrei Makine’s previous books, I know Stu rates this author very highly, so I was eager to get to this one.

Brief Loves That Live Forever comprises of a series of eight episodes set within the context of Brezhnev’s Soviet Union; each of these vignettes could be considered a short story in itself, yet they are connected by the same narrator looking back on specific moments in his life.

The book opens as our unnamed narrator recalls walking home with friend, a dissident by the name of Dimitri Ress. Ress, a dying man in his mid-forties, has experienced a sequence of imprisonments primarily for attacking the totalitarian regime and railing against the charade of National parades. During the walk Ress seems keen to steer our narrator towards a particular route; by so doing they encounter a woman and young boy as they emerge from an official car. Ress turns away and it seems as if there may be some connection between him and the couple. As our narrator recalls this encounter with Ress it seems to spark memories of other days in his youth — moments of tenderness, fleeting glimpses of beauty and love — and it is these transient moments that endure and resonate most strongly in his life:

What remains is the pale patch of a dress, on the front steps of a little wooden house. The gesture of a hand waving me goodbye. I walk on, drawing further away, turning back after every five paces, and the hand is still visible in the mauve, luminous spring light.

What remains is a fleeting paradise that lives on for all time, having no need of doctrines. (p. 91)

From this point onwards Makine uses this theme to lead us through a series of experiences in the narrator’s life, all of which touch upon brief snatches of love, compassion or grace. We see a young girl desperately searching for a grandmother whom she has never met; a grief-stricken young woman mourning the passing of her husband; an elderly couple of seeking shelter from a storm; a lover immersing her face in a bouquet of flowers. Here’s our narrator recalling this moment in their affair:

She comes in, kisses me, sees the bouquet. And asks no questions. She quite simply leans forward, buries her face in the subtly scented halo of flowers, closes her eyes. And when she stands up, her eyes are misty with tears. “They smell of winter,” she says. “We met in December, didn’t we…”

That night there is an unaccustomed gentleness in the way we make love, as if we had found one another again after a very long separation, having suffered greatly and grown old. (p 131-132)

These moments also offer glimmers of light in our protagonist’s world, forming the greatest defence against the grim reality and hollow emptiness of the Soviet system. The encounters are played out against the backdrop of the political development of The Soviet Union from the 1960s to the 1980s and representations of the totalitarian regime are never very far away. Early in the novel we see our narrator when, as a young boy, he becomes trapped within the imposing entrails of a grandstand used for parades:

Sunk in the torpor of a condemned man, I saw I was in a vast spider’s web spun from iron. This three-dimensional trellis was everywhere…My terror was so profound that, within this prison-like captivity, I must have glimpsed a more immense reality concerning the country I lived in, whose political character I was just beginning to grasp, thanks to snatches of conversation here and there… (p.36)

There are other symbols of the Brezhnev-era regime too; the leader’s imposing face, an authoritarian gaze beneath bushy eyebrows on a vast hoarding on the façade on a railway station (p. 98) and an enormous sterile apple orchard, an example of a Potemkin village, Soviet style (p. 139).

Brief Loves That Live Forever is a wonderful novel studded with beautifully haunting images, many of which are almost certainly set to drift through my mind in the days to come. Stu, in his review, likened the experience of reading this book to looking through a collection of old sepia-tinged photographs and how these can evoke memories of the past…and that’s very much how it feels for me, too. While each episode could work as a short story in its own right, they build and come together to form a more powerful, more resonant whole. And at the end of the book we come full circle and return to our narrator’s memories of Dimitri Ress, where we learn a little more about his past, causing us to reflect on our impressions of events and themes introduced in the first chapter.

There’s a melancholy, almost meditative quality to Makine’s writing, and in this respect I feel it shares something with Javier Marias’s The Infatuations (also longlisted for the IFFP). Such elegant writing, too; everything seems to flow effortlessly, from Makine’s prose through to Geoffrey Strachan’s sensitive translation.

While I’m only halfway through the IFFP longlist this is one of my favourites thus far; a strong bet for the shortlist, I feel.

Brief Loves That Live Forever is published in the UK by MacLehose Press.
Source: personal copy.#

Many thanks Jacqui here is my review of this book 

Butterflies in November by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir

butterflies in november 2

Butterflies in November by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir

Icelandic fiction

Original title – Rigning í nóvember

Translator – Brian Fitzgibbons

Source – personnel copy on kindle

Well I was pleased I choose to buy this earlier in the year on a kindle offer as I had it at hand when it made the IFFP longlist .Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir is an art history lecturer and has previously been the director of the art museum at Iceland university .She has written four novel this is her first to be translated into English .

I provide proof-reading services and revise BA theses and articles for specialized magazines and publications on any subject. I also revise electoral speeches, irrespective of party affiliations, and correct any revealing errors in anonymous complaints and/ or secret letters of admiration, and remove any inept or inaccurate philosophical or poetic references from congratulatory speeches and elevate obituaries to a higher (almost divine) level. I am fully versed in all the quotations of our departed national poets. I translate from eleven languages both into and out of Icelandic, including Russian, Polish and Hungarian. Fast and accurate translations. Home delivery service. All projects are treated as confidential.

 

Rather perfect passage for this blog I felt ,Iceland is so much better at this than us translating .

Butterflies in November starts in the Capital of Iceland Reykjavik ,we meet the narrator ,we never know her name but this is her story .Her marriage is falling apart ,her husband leaves her as she is a little on the odd side and he can’t take her idiosyncrasies any more .So we she her go out meet new men and move to a flat .At this point it seems like it is going be a tale of a women blooming after a failed marriage .Then her pregnant friend rings up ,she has a son who is deaf and she wants her friend to take her son on for a few days but as the two start to get along her friend is ok for the two to stay together as she is worried how her son will react to the new arrival  .The son Tumi and narrator struggle at first to communicate but she draws him in and they go on a road trip round Iceland along the way discovering a number of odd characters ,the narrator still meets men ,but now with this young child her priorities have changed some what  .End up in a distant and strange Village .Tumi also helped her winner the lottery

“Can you collect Tumi from the kindergarten for me and keep him over the weekend, I don’t want to involve Mum in any of this, not yet at least, her blood pressure is far too high. The only thing you need to watch out for is his sleepwalking, he’s been known to open doors and vanish behind corners, and even to put himself in danger. Once I found him down by the lake. Just make sure you don’t startle him when he’s in that state.”

So the pairs adventure starts with this brief phone call at the start .

Now this book is just what I expect from Icelandic fiction and that is a little kooky ,this book is tinge with a bit of magic realism ,there is also a recurring motifs of insects in the depth of winter . and also at times is rather like David Lynch ,also an undercurrent to the narrators past ,she isn’t a mother part of the reason she split with her husband ,but also something bad happened in the past .This is a book about fear the narrators fear ,but discovery as she connects with Tumi and maybe finds herself in the hinterland of Iceland in a rather quirky village the narrator spent her childhood in a small portable home her family own .I found the book a page turner maybe not the best translation but part of me wonders if this is also part of the charm as the narrator is a proofreader and maybe this is to test us as a reader ?Also an epilogue of recipes.

Do you like quirky character ?

Pig’s foot by Carlos Acosta

pigs foot

Pig’s Foot by Carlos Acosta

Cuban fiction

Original title –  Pata de Puerco

Translator – Frank Wynne

Source – from Frank the translator of the book .

Well when I first heard last year that Carlos Acosta had a novel out ,I was a bit sceptical the whole celeb writing novel is never a real winning formula in my Opinion .Carlos  is someone I have been aware of for a number of years as one of the face of Ballet ,where he has been a star of the Royal ballet and is considered the greatest male dancer of his generation .It wasn’t till I saw Frank’s name attached to the book as the translator , I knew this was more than a run of the mill celeb writes novel (May be awful but celeb names sell books is my usual view on celeb novels and why they come out  ) .

Beuno … Ok .. the first thing you need to know about me is I never knew my mother or my father ,in fact I only found their names a couple of months ago .My memories begin on the day i came home from primary school dragging a dead cat by the scruff of the neck .I must have been about seven .

What happen before he was seven has he blocked this out ?

So pig’s foot is the of a family told by its last surviving member as he holds the pig’s foot  amulet a family talisman passed through the generations .Also to the very small village in the hinterland of Cuba is  were a  family story and the story of Cuba during the past four generations is told .So from Oscar and Jose who were  Slaves  that helped in the freedom  and end up settling in the village after Cuba gets it Independence in the 1850 ,we see the the next generation through the eyes of three children relate to another Oscar in the present day the last of this family line .alive , as the years past we see the good and bad of Cuba ,from the rise of Us involvement to the fall of the regime that was toppled by Castro .

I looked at the pendant in disgust .The pig’s foot was not dried and shrivelled ,in fact seemed to be alive ;the veins pulsed ,the flesh was red and bled constantly .I fetched a damp cloth to wipe up the blood inside the drawer and on the floor then ran back into the kitchen and threw the gruesome amulet in the bin .

The amulet comes to life ,this remind me a bit of Marquez .

Now I loved another Cuban novel  I reviewed ,well  novel isn’t  the right word it’s actually a collection of vignettes about Cuba .The book view of the tropics in the  dawn  by Guillermo Cabrera Infante ,this book also follows Cuba through snippets from independence to the Castro took over so actually serves well as a companion to this book ,Carlos book is on a more personnel level but also shows the struggles Cuba have had since its independence .I read an interview with Carlos about the writing of the book and the writers he loves and he read his first book in his twenties and it was a book by Marquez and the is touches of magic realism in this narrative ,he also loves the writing  Borges ,which for me I felt more as there is a lot of looking where the modern Oscar comes from about the mirror of his life almost and to me that is a very Borges thing to do .As ever frank has work wonders on this book ,Carlos even thanked Frank for his input to the final edition .You will remember I had this on my IFFP prediction its a shame it missed it the book is more than a celeb novel ,in fact it could be the first step for Carlos Acosta in a post dance career .

Have you ever read a celeb novel that is as good as this one ?

The dark road by Ma Jian

the dark road Ma Jian

The Dark Road by Ma Jian

Chinese fiction

Original title –  阴之道

Translator – Flora Drew

Source – Library copy

I have reviewed Ma Jian before his book stick out your tongue , which was like this book a book that had made the Independent foreign fiction prize list ,This is my first review after the long-list was announced and it is a writer I have enjoyed before .Ma Jian was born in Qingdao ,his education was cut short due to Mao’s cultural revolution .So he set about studying  a Chinese dictionary word by word ,moved to Bejing working as a photojournalist and also painting in the early 80’s he became involved with dissident movement .He published his first book in 1987 the one I read   a couple of years ago stick out your tongue .

“Keep out of this !” he replied , rubbing his cold red hands together .”Haven’t you read the public notice ? I f a woman is found to be pregnant without authorisation ,every household within one hundred meters of her home will be punished .You should reported her to the authorites before the child was born .As her next-door neighbour ,you’ll be fined at least a thousand Yuan .

The way the keep people in line making everyone a nosey parker and potential stool pigeon .

The dark road is another book set in the heart of china the china we don’t see .Melli is the main character in this book born into a peasant family ,we follow her journey down the Yangtze river with her husband Kongzi ,he was the teacher at the school in the village ,the pair have a daughter but due to the stringent One child rule at china (one that has only just been partly relaxed ) .The pair want a son so have to hit the road in this case the road is actually the river as we see them head through china to the south .Kongzi isn’t what he seems and is desperate for this second baby the son to carry on the family line .Along the way we see the ruin the rapid industrial growth of china has brought to the towns and river itself ,Also people lives who have been broken by the river a man looking for his mother that Melli briefly seems to connect with .Also over scandals like fake milk .All this as the pair try to avoid the state taking a potential second baby .

“Wait until your baby is born before you leave ” says Bo’s wife ,a scruffy women called Juru “You can give birth in the backstreet clinic behind the Family planning centre .The midwife only charge three hundred Yuan .

An example of the wry humor at times the backstreetclinc is next to theoffical family planning clinic .

This is a journey into the heart of darkness that is parts of modern china .Ma Jian is well-known as a critic of certain policies of the reigme ,but seeing this journey through Melli’s eyes it is hard not to avoid being critical of the regime ,from the piles of rotting junk at one point they work on sorting through ,to fake baby’s milk being sold .Then there is the vicious nature of the family planning police controlling the one child policy  also the widespread corruption .For me my heart just poured out for Melli a simple yet loyal woman who has a husband that rapes her ,people wanting to take her baby and then having to do a variety of vile jobs . The chapters all come with helpful bullet words at the start relating to the vital parts of each chapter  ,Thou the book has a dark sense to it ,there is also wry humour at times the sort of gallows humour that a world as dark as part of china in this book can bring  .As for translation it is near perfect as Flora Drew is Ma Jian wife and has already translated five of her husbands books .

Have you read Ma Jian ?

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