Death in Pont-Aven by Jean-Luc Bannalec


Death in Pont-aven by Jean-Luc Bannalec

German crime novel

Original title – Bretonische Verhältnisse: Ein Fall für Kommissar Dupin

Translator – Sorcha Mcdonagh

Source -review copy

When I receive the email from Hesperus press about this the first two things that caught my attention in the blurb  was the setting for the Novel the Breton region in France an area that has always interested me  as it is quite distinct from other parts of France and the other thing was the main character was a Caffeine junkie and anyone that knows me well knows I love my coffee so I knew I would feel some if as little part of kinship with Commissaire Dupin .Now who is Jean-Luc Bannalec ? Well he was born in Brest ,his father was A Breton and his mother was Germany ,he lives in France and Germany .Although it well may actually be  the name is a pseudonym of a a well-known German Publisher Jörg Bong this was mention in a piece about the books runaway success in Germany in Die welt newspaper  .

Dupin had spent his whole life amidst the glamour of Paris ,but two years and seven months ago he had been “relocated” to this remote backwater due to “certain disputes ” (as the internal memos had put it ) and ever since then had drunk his petit cafe in the Amiral ,it was a ritual as delightful as it was inflexible .

Dupin left Paris under a bit of a cloud .

The book is set as I said in Breton ,more specific in the small sleepy town of Pont-Aven where Commissaire Dupin a grumpy Parisian whom has for one reason or another end up in this quiet back water ,where he has chance to sit in cafes all day drinking endless cups of Latte and watching the world go by .When one day the 91-year-old owner of a local hotel is found dead and it is all rather gruesome this makes Dupin investigate what appears a classic closed room murder ,but as he goes through the crime and the people surrounding this well-known village that had for years been a home for many famous artist ,we discover the is more than meets the eye to the crime .

The pool pf blood looked grotesquely large to Dupin .It had spread out in a shapeless mass across the uneven stone floor .Pierre-Louis Pennac was a tall man ,thin ,wiry ,with short grey hair .An imposing figure even at ninety-one years old .

The body of Pierre-Louise is found in the hotel he had worked as manager since 1947

Now this fits in the classic crime thriller genre Dupin maybe could be best compared with Andrea Camilleri and his well-known detective Montalbano .They both investigate crime in a different setting than expect Breton isn’t so well-known and similarly Montalbano is in Scilly which other than it mafia connection is relatively unknown  .They also both like to sit in Cafes in Dupin case and of course in Montalbano it is in the restaurants eating .Jean-Luc has also used a classic type of case for his début the closed room case a person dead in a locked room and no sign of how they died this has been a staple of the crime novel from the start when Poe used it in murder on the Rue morgue .So as you see this has all the hallmarks of what makes a great crime novel and it is in parts it is quirky than most crime novels I’ve read in translation the last couple of years .

Do you have a favourite setting for a crime novel ?

Crumbs by Miha Mazzini


Crumbs by Miha Mazzini

Slovenian fiction

Orginial title Drobtinice

Translator Maja Visenjak-limon

Source – review copy

It was strange after reviewing The germany lottery in January by Miha Mazzini for the Scottish based publisher Freight books to issue for the first time this books Crumbs it is also known as The Cartier Project .This book was out in the US about ten years ago and written in 1987 .So I was thrilled to read another novel by Mazzini after enjoying The germany lottery so much .

Asa child I loved Guilvers travels .The only children’s book where the her shits and pisses .And even thou that hadn’t really been written for children .It just never happens to anybody else because you can’t live without doing it ,you get a feeling that you’re different a dirt complex .

This tickled me as it is so true it only that book I remember this happening .


Now The book was published in 1987 it does to remember that it is set in a working town ,where the main industry is a foundry .We meet Egon he is a writer ,in fact a writer in the model of the characters of books from Paul Leppin or Knut Hamsum Egon is a man living on the edge struggling for his art and also kicking against his art as he rants about writers at times .He is a chancer ,womanizer and idealist in some ways .He is chasing a dream of a life he may never have but also at the same time he is viewing the country around him change ,of course this is the time the Yugoslavia start to split back up to the smaller states that originally made it up .We also have a chase by Egon for a bottle of the after shave Cartier pour L’homme .Egon is a user in many ways and constantly with his band of friends tries to make the most of the world around him .

The postman was putting letters in mailboxes ,We said hello and exchanged a few polite sentences .No I didn’t intend returning to the post office .Maybe we’d have a drink another time .

I was struck because the main character in German lottery was a post man and now here is an Ex postman .

Now this book is a lot gritty than the German lottery and in some ways a far more complex books their is a lot of aliuson in this book the after shave maybe is a metaphor for statehood Egon maybe is a the nation struggling to capture the riches and promise that a dream like a fancy bottle of aftershave can bring you .Freight choose this as it feels the situation Egon is in and the Yugoslavia of the time when it is wanting to split is similar in some ways to the current Scottish situation with the vote for independence due .It was his début Novel and wrote it whilst working as a night-watchman .writing in the day this gave the novel its choppy style as he was looking after his daughter and  had to keep checking her .Egon is a character that is based in a type of character that is slightly different from the usual ones in Slovenian fiction .I watched a great interview with Miha about the book here .The style he says is absurdist and it is we follow the country around Egon falling apart and he is focused else but other events are happening .The book was made into a film .I found a clip here .It shows the Punk ethos and that Egon is a punk ,I hadn’t got this so much from the book more just a bohemia type with a dark edge .

I love the cover to this one as well .

Women in translation

I had initially mention doing a best of 2013 ,but have since decide to bring ten female writers in translation I have enjoyed on the blog .I like many others would love to see a few more female writers translated ,I probably do have a slight bias of reading male writers ,but have in recent times tried to add a few more female writers in translation to my reading .As it international women’s day it seem a great time to share some of my favourite female writers and there books from around the world .I will keep trying to add female writers in translation to the blog .

sidewalksValeria Luiselli is a Mexican writer I have reviewed two of her books on the blog .Sidewalks and Faces in the crowd .Sidewalks is a series of essays mainly about cites and walking .Faces in a crowd set in new york is a novel about a women an old poet and writing a wonderful book .Valeria is my favourite female writer in translation .

stones in a landslideIts hard to believe this was one of the first books from Peirene and it is one I still think of a lot ,stones in a landslide is a story of Conxa her life in the small villages of the pyrenees .

The rest is silenceNow top chile and Carla Guelfenbein one of the rising stars of Latin American fiction .We follow Tommy a young boy ,whose mother has died ,as he uncovers what really happened to her .

revenge by Yoko OgawaNow Yoko Ogawa writes dark short stories I have reviewed two of her books on the blog Revenge and diving pool .I loved revenge its clever series of recurring motifs and other worldliness makes it a stunning collection .

Train-to-Budapest-Maraini-DaciaNow Dacia Maraini is a name that wheneveer the Nobel prize betting appears ranks high ,she is an Italian writer I have only reviewed train to Budapest on the blog .But have three more I need to get to over the next year or so including Silent duchess her best known book .

summer bookNow I was a later comer to Tove Jansson I had read a moomin book as a kid but it wasn’t til I started Blogging I discovered her adult books .She wrote two books summer and winter book about her life on a small island both are gems .

hunger angelNow the German writer  Herta Muller has won the Nobel prize and is another of my favourite female writers ,I have reviewed Nadirs ,the passport  and her most recent book The hunger angel .Her books look over the dark past of communism and her use of language is very unique .

Until-Thy-Wrath-Be-PastAsa Larsson is one of the best Nordic crime writers I have review her book Until thy wrath be past one of the series she has written about Rebecca Martinsson .

trieste dasa drndicDasa Drndic book was shortlist for the IFFP last year it is the story of a women born under the lebensborn programm of Nazi regime ,but also the history of the Italian Jews during the war a list of every Jew from Italy that died is a strong reminder of what happened .

ekaterinfrontcover_50b7770928f02I ve lastly picked Marija Knezevic a Serbian writer for her book Ekaterini follows the history of the Balkans but also what it was to be a women during those times .

So there is ten female writers in translation ,I could added lots more maybe if you could suggest some ? that would be great .











The longlist for the IFFP 2014

Well iIguessed six in my post last week .I have four of the books I ve not read already after guessing that they may be on the verges .I like the list nice to see a Yale book the corpse washer there it a series I have enjoyed so looking forward to it a lot .My fellow jurors and I will be reviewing all the books on the longlisted the highlighted titles link to my reviews .

A man in Love
A Man in Love by Karl Ove Knausgaard and translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett (Harvill Secker)
A Meal in Winter by Hubert Mingarelli and translated from the French by Sam Taylor (Portobello Books)
Back to Back by Julia Franck and translated from the German by Anthea Bell (Harvill Secker)
Brief Loves that Live Forever by Andreï Makine and translated from the French by Geoffrey Strachan (MacLehose Press)
Butterflies in November by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir and translated from the Icelandic by Brian FitzGibbon (Pushkin Press)
The Corpse Washer by Sinan Antoon and translated from the Arabic by the author (Yale University Press)
The Dark Road by Ma Jian and translated from the Chinese by Flora Drew (Chatto & Windus)
Exposure by Sayed Kashua and translated from the Hebrew by Mitch Ginsberg (Chatto & Windus?
The Infatuations by Javier Marías and translated from the Spanish by Margaret Jull Costa (Hamish Hamilton)
The Iraqi Christ by Hassan Blasim and translated from the Arabic by Jonathan Wright
(Comma Press)
The Mussel Feast by Birgit Vanderbeke and translated from the German by Jamie Bulloch (Peirene Press)
Revenge by Yoko Ogawa and translated from the Japanese by Stephen Snyder (Harvill Secker)
The Sorrow of Angels by Jón Kalman Stefánsson and translated from the Icelandic by Philip Roughton (MacLehose Press)
Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami and translated from the Japanese by Allison Markin Powell (Portobello Books)
Ten by Andrej Longo and translated from the Italian by Howard Curtis (Harvill Secker)

Zenith Hotel by Oscar Coop-Phane

zenith hotel cover

Zenith Hotel by Oscar Coop-Phane

French fiction

Original title –  Zenith Hotel

Translator – Ros Schwartz

Source – Review copy

Back in the beginning of January I was sent a pdf of this book by the publisher I had seen it late last year in their catalogue and had thought it was one I would like .So who is Oscar Coop-Phane ,he is one of the rising stars of french literature .He has travelled round europe spent time in Berlin .This is his debut novel and won the Prix de Flore ,he also now writes a column for the french version of Vanity Fair .

don’t know why I write. It churns me up, it soils me
from inside. Honestly, I don’t know why I’m doing
this. To pass the time, perhaps. That’s it. I write like
some people do crosswords, it keeps me busy. I think
about words, style, the shapes of the letters. I feel as if
I’m doing something without getting up off my arse.
It’s not vital, it’s not therapeutic. I don’t know, I write
to keep my hands occupied, like doodling on Post-its
when you’re on the phone. I fill pages, writing one
sentence after another. It’s a pointless exercise, but it
keeps me busy. I could listen to the radio, do sudokus,
read the paper or look out of the window, but I write, I
don’t know why. I kill time. It’s a tough bastard.
I’m a pen-pushing old slag. How about that?

Nanou tells us why she writes about the men she meets .


I rarely read a book finish it and would love to read it again on the same day ,but this was the case for Zenith Hotel ,it was the first of two books I’ve had this year and the first for about two years .So you can see I can’t heap enough praise on this short novel .The book is the story of Nanou ,she is a working girls and we join her for a day in her life and see the people she is interacting with .We also get little vignettes about the men that visit this women ,in a way telling us how the wound up at her door and how they treat her .Nanou life is one of those lives you know is out there but would rather at times maybe not want to think about it .So Oscar has brought us the dark underbelly of france .Why do men visit this women and what toll has it taken on her as a person .

Victor washes. The dog watches him scrub his
naked body with a purple flannel. Baton lies with
his head on the tiled floor, soaking up the splashes
like a hairy bathmat. Victor towels himself and
gets dressed. The dog doesn’t wash himself any
more, there’s no one for him to charm now, no one
to look at, not even any puddles of piss to sniff.
Baton no longer pokes his muzzle into things,
because it died before he did.
Your body falls apart, disintegrates. And eventually
it’s unable to carry you.

Victo and his dog was the saddest vignette I felt .

Now I am quoted on the cover of this book with the quote “male flotsam and jetsam of Paris wash up on the bed of a street-walker as we glimpse their sad lives .One of the best books of 2014 .Stunning ” well now in march I hang by the best book of 2014 it still is in my opinion .What Oscar does so well her is to add flesh to characters ,we know are out there these are the men you saw in a films like Nick Broomfield fetishes ,why do these men visit Nanou ? well it is hard to put a finger on it but each man seems at his core in the little vignettes to have something missing in there lives ,love ,people ,confidence and even friends .Sad stories all but saddest is Nanou for this is just one day of her life ,you are left with a sour taste of this being some ones existence and her being caught in the endless cycle that can be a street-walkers life .All that is compressed into under 100 pages .

Have you read this book ?

That was the month that was February 2014

Well after a bright start in January to my blogging year my blog went of the rails slightly last month ,but I had Amanda in hospital thankfully she is ok now and near the end of the month I have used the last of my holidays for 2013/4 so have actually just done not a lot and recharged my batteries but now start to wind back up with the Iffp longlist out in a little under a week I need to review and catch up on books I may have to read for that .but last month I managed to read 11 books and reviewed 8 books also had Pushkin press fortnight which I loved the fact so many people joined in celebrating a publisher I love .I also had a great interview with Hélène Gestern q& a .Also added the Blogging meet up in June in Sheffield 


Polychrome by Joanna Jodełka poland
Oliver VII by Antal Szarb
Every promise by Andrea Bajani Italy
Journey into the past by Stefan Zweig austria
the break by Pietro Grossi Italy
Amok and other stories by Stefan Zweig Austria
Death in Pont-Aven by Jean-Luc Bannalec france
The late Monsieur Gallet by Georges Simenon Belgium
A french novel by Frederic Beigbeder france
Pigs foot by Carlos Acosta Cuba
Dead star by Alavro Bisama Chile

I ve already read two great books in march and am looking forward to reading the new Andres Neuman novel and doing Shadow Iffp post .What are your plans for March ?

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