The 3 arched bridge by Ismail Kadare

 

 

The 3 arched bridge by Ismail Kadare

Albanian fiction

Original title Ura Me Tri Harqe 

Translator – John Hodgson

Source – Library book

On the way to your brother’s house in the valley deep
By the river bridge, a cradle floating beside me
In the whitest water on the bank against the stone
You will lift his body from the shore and bring him home

Oliver James washed in the rain
No longer
Oliver James washed in the rain
No longer

Oliver James by fleet foxes is a nice match to this traditonal fable story .

Well yesterday saw me review  a book by Roberto Bolano today I’m reviewing Ismail  Kadare another writer whom has featured a number of times on this blog , I have reviewed three of his book before now .Kadare is one of the names often mentioned as a potenial Nobel prize winner .

As expected , the news of the bridge to be built over the Ujana e Kepe spread rapidly ,Bridges had been built now and then in all sorts of places , but nobody remembered any of them causing such commotion .They had been built with virtually not a word of comment , to the muffled sounds of hammers on wood

The bridge is built but keeps falling down why !

This rather like an earlier novel I reviewed by Kadare the pyramid  which is also  set in a past , although  this book is not as far back as the pyramid .The book  is set in  the 14th century .The book is based on a legend /myth of the region about a castle being built , for this book  thou Kadare has changed the castle to a bridge that connects the then split up into tiny regions Albania to the rest of Europe via this bridge .Which keeps being destroyed  , also the men working on the bridge keep falling ill , is it by the ferry men or is it something else happening , the people start sing songs about the bridge and the ferry men also a tale of a castle like the original tale that Kadare based this book on  and it is decided that a sacrifice  is needed to save the bridge but whom ? Who will be willing to let them selves be killed to have a bridge built , the victim face is remembered in plaster on the bridge .All this is narrated to us by a monk Gjon .

A few days before the final work on the bridge , one of the foreman’s two assistants  , the fat one , fell ill with a rare and frightening disease : all the hairs on his body fell out . They shut him in a hut and tried in every possible way to keep his sickness secret , but there was no way it could be concealed .

Another worker falls sick , as they try to get the bridge built .

Rather like the book the pyramid which I have also reviewed  , I felt this maybe more than it seems on the surface  which is an Albanian folktale retold with a few changes in the story  a bridge instead of a castle .No to me this is more a book of its time  which is the mid seventies  , than a story of something that happened over five hundred years before that .I feel the book , which was written in 1976 , maybe shows the events in Albania at the time using the myth and legend to maybe show the isolation of the Hoxha regime of the time , maybe the bridge falling is the way he kept Albania separate from Europe .I feel the sacrifice maybe eludes to what he felt at that time , what people had to do to get the bridge built (or the links and more open regime in Albania ) .I do prefer these books that have been translated directly from Albanian and like in places that John Hodgson has manage to keep a traditional feel to the piece of old songs and words used by Gjon

have you read any books by Ismail kadare ?

By night in Chile by Roberto Bolano

 

 

By night in Chile by Robert Bolano

Chilean fiction

Original title – Nocturno de Chile

Translator – Chris Andrews

Source – Library book

 

I dreamed I saw St. Augustine
Alive as you or me
Tearing through these quarters
In the utmost misery
With a blanket underneath his arm
And a coat of solid gold
Searching for the very souls
Whom already have been sold.

I choose  a Dylan lyric I dreamed of St .Augustine a song that is about Augustine of Hippo who wrote about Guilt and evil !

Well another year another Bolano  novel on the blog .I intend at some point to get all the books by Roberto Bolano  on this blog, for now  this is the seventh book by him I have reviewed on this blog .I’ve mentioned lots about Bolano before so , lets just say its twelve years since he dies and we are nearing the end of his books being published with just two more to come out in English one of those still to come out in  Spanish , that being  the  mysterious Diorama to come out .But the last on the list out in spanish is Little Lumpen novelita which came out in US late last year , no UK date I can see at the moment  .

I am dying now  , but still have many things to say .I used to be at peace with myself .Quiet and at peace. But it all blew up unexpectedly ,That wizened youth is to blame .I was at peace .I am no longer at peace .There are a couple of points that have to be cleared up .

The opening lines as he decides to write his own story on this one evening .

By night in chile could maybe called his stab at a modernist novel in a way it is a single piece told in one long paragraph by a priest  whom writes this all in the course of one night .who is also a poet Father Sebastian Urrutia lacroix , who is under the impression this is going to be his last night on earth so is writing the tale of his life down .A life of a poet and a priest , but of a nearly man  , a man who touched greatness in his life he knew Pablo Neruda , the great poet of Chile .But what we see is how his life also got caught up in the politics of Chile at the time the shift from the Allende regime to the stricter and ruthless reign of  Augusto Pinochet .The latter of which he ends up teaching , about communism .Added to this he is a member of Opus Dei what comes across is an embittered man who is so twisted by who he is inside it all comes pouring out on to the page over the course of this  one night as he thinks he is dying  .

Then I took a train to Turin , where I visited Fr Angelo , curate of St Paul of Succour , who was also versed in the falconers art .His falcon , called Othello  , had struck terror into the heart of every pigeon in Turin  , although as Fr Angelo confided in me , Othello was not the only falcon in the city ,

I choose this on a whim to quote just because H is for Hawk won the Costa just as I was finishing this book the other night !

Now I’ve been a bit vague as this is only a short novella and I’m not wanting to give too much away as ever the main character is a poet ,which I have found is the case in most of the novels by Bolano .The book is far more political than the other books I have read by Bolano , it is a lot more about , his homeland and the events that happened in the country in his youth .It is worth noting at this point , Bolano himself spent time in prison , which he describe in a story , but was it a story it seems as thou he may have been at Mexico at that time according to other reports .I love the mystery around his own life at the time .But what comes across in the book is that in some ways Lacroix is the juxtaposed of Bolano , some that stayed , some that worked with the regime , some one that was a poet as well .But by this time I feel Bolano viewed himself more as a Novelist than a poet , so unlike Lacroix , he had started to see success .Add to this Falconery as a hobby , years spent in Europe and an Opus Dei  side story in a way .At the start of this review I called this a Modernist Novel for me this was an attempt by Bolano to maybe do a Woolf or Joyce so to speak  an homage to their style in some ways I was most reminded of Mrs Dallowway in a way as it isn’t just one evening but also the course of a life in one book .

Have you read this or any shorter Bolano books ?

Letters to Poseidon by Cees Nooteboom

 

 

Letters to Poseidon by Cees Nooteboom

Dutch non fiction

Original title -Brieven aan Posiedon

Translator – Laura Watkinson

Source review copy

The hollow light is still on the fields
Where the winter has warmed
And the snows have drained away

And the hunter’s cry is still on the air
As the bullet flies home
And the heart that’s pierced with it

Still is racing
Still is racing all alone

The silver shoals of the light in the deep
Brush the glittering skin
Where the great, dark body writhes

And the trembling jaw
The unfathoming sounds of leviathan, bound
As his heart, though weakening

I choose Leviathon bound by Shearwater as my lyric for the book as it comes from an album that combines sea, birds  and myth in the songs source 

Cees Nooteboom is a  name often mentioned on this blog , I have interviewed him a number of years ago  and also the translator of this book  Laura watkinson .Well I have also  reviewed Cees books twice before in fact, so this is the third thread of his writing I’ll be reviewing as i have previously reviewed the novel In the dutch mountains  and the short story collection The foxes come at night  .So now I move onto a travel book of his , that is more than a travel book it is really a musing on life , art , history and the world we live in .

You are a god , and I am a man .That is however one looks at it , the state of affairs .But perhaps I might be permitted to ask you something  I have always wanted to know. What is a human being to the gods ? Do you despise us for being mortal ? or is the opposite the case ? Are you jealous because we are allowed to die ? Because your fate is , of course , immortality , even though we have no idea where you are now .

From Poseidon II , of course we never know the answer but we have to ask !

Letters to Poseidon is one of  those books that is very hard to pigeonhole as it is a collection of letters that Cees has written every year to a muse that of Poseidon (Greek god of the sea ) to protect his Menorcian home every time he leaves these are 23 slices of musings from the great Dutch writer  that are divided into a sections .A lot of the musings start from a conversation that he has with Poseidon that is about how the god has been viewed and represented in history .Also musings on items , events even nature .This is one of those books that is hard to describe as a whole as it is a mosaic of pieces rather like one of those photo mosaics with Poseidon being the big picture but lots little pictures on every subject under the sun making this picture up  .

At around midnight , here in a Germanic winter on the edge of the alps , I see him again , Orion , the blind hunter , the moon man of the mountains , Poseidon’s son , the most beautiful man there ever was , lured into the bed by the insatiable Eos , the drawn , who was tormented by unflagging lust as a punishment when Aphrodite caught her in bed with Ares , the god or war .I know Orion from winter nights in Amsterdam , when I see his shape above one of the canals .

from a piece called Orion , I know Orion as well he is one of the few constellations I can remember in the nights sky so have also seen him many a night as well .

Now I’ve been vague about the book and I don’t know why it isn’t a vague book , list a dam hard one to pass over its sheer brilliance fully .The nearest to it would be Sebalds work it has same feel of a mind at work musings become digression become little stories or thoughts even a mix of pictures like Sebald had .Leopardi would another writer that this book has reminded me of is Zibaldone by  Leopardi Nooteboom is exploring ideas the idea of sea and the nature of Poseidon , rather the same way Leopardi constantly muses of the way language evolved , Nooteboom exams how even now we view the god of the sea .Now this book yet again shows me Stu why I always highlight Cees Nooteboom as a potential Nobel winner as he has such vast skill , I really need to try his poetry next I think or hope his first novel which he mentioned in the interview as one to read published .I’m just sorry it took me a few months to review this book as it is one I feel most readers of this blog will get something from .

Have you read Cees Nooteboom ?

Shadow DSC prize winner

 

Well we have managed to read between Lisa ,Tara and myself to read all the shortlist and in the end had read forurteen books between us at least two or us had read the shortlised books.Not bad as we decide only just before christmas to do a shadow jury .Next year we will be more on the ball .

 

Shortlisted Authors:

  • Bilal Tanweer: The Scatter Here is Too Great (Vintage Books/Random House, India)
  • Jhumpa Lahiri: The Lowland (Vintage Books/Random House, India)
  • Kamila Shamsie: A God in Every Stone (Bloomsbury, India)    
  • Romesh Gunesekera: Noontide Toll (Hamish Hamilton/Penguin, India)       
  • Shamsur Rahman Faruqi: The Mirror of Beauty (Penguin Books, India)

So we weight up the list which for me was very strong a couple of writers quite well known , one truly epic novel , one new name to me at least and a short story collection from a writer I really like .So i just managed to finish the fifthn book last night and have two more to review , so thankfully the winner we choose was a book I have reviewed .

the mirror of beauty

We have chosen the Mirror of beauty for the first shadow DSC prize and it is the Epic The mirror of beauty by Shamsur Rahman Faruqi .I had this down as a favourite when the list came out as I had read the book before it came out here back in 2013 when the book had come out in Inida  here is my review .The book takes the life of the  mother of the poet Dagh , his mother Wazir Khanam life touches many in Mughal indian and we get a slice of the world at this time is this epic novel .We must also mention that it was run close in the shadow jury by Noontide toll  , we just felt this was maybe a book that lasts longer in the readers mind and soul .

have you read any books from the list ? would you like to take part next year?

Noontide Toll by Romesh Gunesekera

noontide toll

 

Noontide Toll by Romesh Gunesekera

Sri Lankan fiction

Source – review copy

 

I opened up the pathway of the heart
The flowers died embittered from the start
That night I crossed the bridge of sighs and I surrender

I looked back and glimpsed the outline of a boy
His life of sorrows now collapsing into joy
And tonight the stars are all aligned and I surrender

My mother cries beneath a southern sky and I surrender

I choose a David Slyvian lyric I surrender from his Dead bees on a cake album the somber mood is a bit like the book

Tonight I’m back with third book from this years DSC south asian prize shortlist and last before we announce the winner of shadow DSC prize , we managed to read all the books between us .Anyway back to Noontide Toll , I’ve long been a fan of Romesh Gunesekera ever since reef appeared on the Booker shortlist more than twenty years ago , this was also a book I had looked forward to reading , even thou it had taken a while for me to get to it , as I had loved one of his earlier short story collection Monkfish moon is my favourite book by him .I have reviewed him before his book The prisoner of paradise is also here

In the Tsunami of 2004 , the Galle cricket stadium was destroyed .Obviously , that was not all .Up and down the coast , thirty thousand people lost their lives .Whole towns in the south disappeared .The devastation was a bad as the war .Maybe only half as many people died or a third , but all in a day rather than over thirty years of human madness

Of course there was the damage of Tsunami as well as the civil war .as in the opening of the story shoot .

Noontide toll is one of those short story collections that could also be called a novel very easily it follows a collection of trips and people connected to a van driver called Vasantha , as he goes about his business as a driver and van , he is hired by various people and as we see them coming and going .This follows life returning to normal , if that is the word after the end of the civil war in Sri Lanka .The war saw the north trying to be a separate state from the south as the population in the north the Tamils formed a small percentage of the island and were always the underdogs .Anyway if the course of the book Vasantha starts in the south , in fact the stories is in two halves the first being the south and then as with the stories the second half is the north , seeing him visiting libraries destroyed by the war .elsewhere the past of britain is visited as some one goes to see Leonard Woolf’s house .

I hadn’t had any people from Holland in my van before .I liked these two .They might have been diplomats or from some funding agency , but they didn’t talk much .On our journey up ,I don’t think they said more than a dozen words each .But already they have picked up some local terms .

from the opening story folly, maybe title has more meaning ! but it sees the van taking people come to give money after the civil war .

I for one was shocked at the time there wasn’t more reported on the violent end of the Sri Lanka civil war , which saw the government after a number of years of Tamil tiger actions in the mid 2000 , finally launch an all out attack on the north which saw the fall of the Tamil tigers , but also 200,000 people displaced by this violent end to the conflict .I imagine for Romesh this was a hard book to write and get right , not be too one way or another but even as we find out in the book Vasantha could be any of us , he is an average Joe and even he can see how wrong near the end of the book what had happened in the final years of the civil war and the deep scars that are still there just under the surface ,possibly waiting to explode again ! As we spoke about this book , I was tuck by a point Lisa said about how easily forgotten events like this are and how some people may have not even been fully aware of what happened their .

Have you read any books by Romesh Gunesekera ?

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