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 ?

Winston’s books hello again

Well this week has seen arrival of two book by writers I have written about before but also from different sides of the middle east .

Hilltop by Assaf Gavron

First to arrive this week was this Novel from Israeli , the fourth book to be translated to english from this writer whom I first reviewed here on the blog with his book Almost dead , this seems to a more mature work from a writer whom , I like first time round .this book has been called the Great Israeli novel and follows the goings , comings and politics of one hilltop in modern Israeli .

The broken mirror / sinalcol by Elias Khoury

Then today dropped through from Elias Khoury ,another writer I have reviewed before on the blog two books by him  Yalo  and As though she were sleeping .Considered by many to be one of the finest voice from Arabic literature this is his latest offering and follows one man’s journey back to Beirut from the safety of France to find the mythical ghost of a man the hero of the civil war Sinalcol .

So two writers from different sides of the middle east both at the height of the career be interesting to see which I enjoy most this time round .

Have you had anything interesting arrive this week ?

Driven to read but have I passed the detours to do that !

20130422-131324.jpg

I always enjoy one of Simon at Savidge reads thoughtful posts about what it is to be a reader , like yesterdays rainy day books post .Well as ever it set me thinking and well I have been thinking for a year or two about firstly this blog and me as a reader , of course the two are connected I do choose what goes on the blog .Do i thou because this last twelve to eighteen months I have felt a bit  like a runaway lorry in my reading  habits and my blog has become the M1 (main motorway in the uk ) for books in translation .To steal an idea from Julio Cortazar with his book about traveling the main road in france , well this blog maybe has been driving to long and maybe needs to start turning into one or two rest stops , by this I mean books in english , african fiction things I used cover more when this blog first started , my biggest problem is I can’t help myself with books in translation , I just love them but after nearly two hundred straight books in translation , I’m feeling the need to break with my routine .A perfect example would be the collection of Anthony Burgess novels I was sent a couple of years ago , I was so excited to get these as I loved him when I used read anything years ago , but they kept being pushed back and my pile of books sent to read kept growing and they never got read , even now writing this post I have a large tinge of regret about that lack of reading those books .I’ve written about this before and sure I will again ,I’m very driven in what I read and maybe need to just make myself lighten up a bit ! I could try a challenge to do this but no I will try for 10% books this year not in translation this year .

What are your bad reading habits

Gliding flight by Anne – Gine Goemans

 

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Gliding flight by Anne-Gine Goemans

Dutch fiction

Original title – Glijvlucht

Translator – Nancy Forest Filler

Source – review copy

“Growin’ Up”

I stood stone-like at midnight, suspended in my masquerade
I combed my hair till it was just right and commanded the night brigade
I was open to pain and crossed by the rain and I walked on a crooked crutch
I strolled all alone through a fallout zone and come out with my soul untouched
I hid in the clouded wrath of the crowd, but when they said, “Sit down,” I stood up
Ooh… growin’ up
I choose Bruce Springsteen growing up of his Debut album , like Gieles has to in this book .

Well its always exciting when a new publisher of books in translation appears , what make World editions special is they aren’t new , just new to the uk as it is a new arm of the Dutch publisher De Geus .They had published this book a few years ago in Holland it won a prize for Youth literature , and is her second book to come out in dutch and her first to be translated to English .

I am like you training my geese for a project .I cannot run into details .It is secret and surprise for my mother .Like your rescue flying  , my project is also an action of rescue .As I already wrote , my geese do not excel in listening .They behave stupid sometimes .

Gieles writing to his hero Christian Moullec about trying to train his geese .

Now I have to admit I pick this first of the books from the launch of World editions as it appeal least to me and I am always one that believes in a challenge and it was also the longest of the launch books so .From the cover above you get a number of clues as to the nature of this book .The book follows a fourteen year old boy Gieles , now he lives next to a runway , in what is called a spotters camp .There is just him and his father , his fathers job is to keep the runway clear of Geese .But they also keep two geese themselves at home , which is Gieles dream to make them fly like one of the two heroes he has Christian Moullec the renowned french ornithologist , how has written books about using gliders to teach geese to fly (a similar idea and story inspired the film fly away home a few years ago ) .Add to this his mother is chasing saving the world in Africa , a best friend called Super Waling , whom is a historian and journalist , also like Gieles has his own problems .Also there is Gieles other hero Captain Scully , another link to geese he was the pilot that managed to land a plane in the Hudson river a number of years ago , after the plane got damaged after a goose flew into the engine .

Late the next morning Gieles was awakened by an inspiration .He was going to make  sacrifices .Tony’s mother might die of cancer , and his own mother might die of Africa , so it was time he sacrificed something , too .He looked around his room .The gosling was drinking water from a dish .He loved that little thing .She was way more than he could sacrifice , not on your life

Gieles reminds me of Adrian mole at times in the way he speaks .

Twisted is what I would call this book , many threads but also mainly linking ideas in a way .For me the main idea is loss and travel  Gieles has lost his mother but still yearns to be free of where he is ! Super Waling is an interesting character a fat chap that has lived around the town , but has seen history pass him by and strangely enough been in a plane crash .Gieles desire to fly the geese is another strong thread , the birds themselves seem to maybe symbolize the boy themselves , his two birds can’t fly , but could if shown how by Gieles , but also Gieles can’t fly and can’t help them with out the help of a hero ! I imagine for a teenage reader this is great stuff , even I admit it I got drawn in partly as it wasn’t to a dutch friend point out mid way through the book it was actually a YA novel in some ways .I do question that but I had same questioning with Mark Haddon’s book the curious incident in the night-time , in some ways that is the book I was reminded of Gieles is maybe seeing the world as a teen would but also has unusual loves and heroes for a boy his age rather like Christopher in the curious incident .. ., also Adrian mole that twisted teenage take on the world we all have has been caught so well here .We all had drives and dreams like Gieles but did we go as far as he does !

Have you read this book or any good YA in translation ?

 

Winston’s library books

image

Well I fetch earlier this week four books from library I had ordered in this wad the first it was mentioned in an end of year choice by someone I can’t quite remember who .But idea of following a modern retake of Steinbecks travel with Charles , well the Dutch travel writer Geert Mak did just that .I am reading this and finding it more a discourse on a lost America than a real retracing of the journey so much .But still enjoying it and giving me a chance to read travels with Charley at the same time .The other three books fall into the possibility of been in the IFFP longlist so have got to read if I get chance over next couple of months .

image

Neuland by Eskhol Nevo a pair of tales in one novel the gather story coming to the promised land after the second world war and the next generation escaping and travelling the world to find themselves
Bonita Avenue by Peter Buwalda may be the next great Dutch novel a family tale of a family that seem perfect to cracks and Internet porn start showing all isn’t as it seems
F by Daniel Kehlman the story of three brothers a priest artist and financier all about to step into problems of their own

Well I choose these as they all appeared on Boud Tonkin’s end of year list at the independent and over last few years I have found a this a partial guide to what may appear when the IFFP comes out .

What books have you got from the library this year ?

Portrait of the mother as a young woman by Friedrich Christian Delius

 

Portrait of the Mother as a Young Woman

Portrait of the mother as a young women by Friedrich Christina Delius

German Fiction

Original title – Bildnis der Mutter als junge Frau

Translator – jamie Bulloch

Source – review copy

My Wandering Days Are Over”

You know my wandering days are over
Does that mean that I’m getting boring?
You tell me
I’m tired of listening to myself now
I’m tired of fixing things for Michael and the rest of them

You know my bip-bopping days are over
I hung my boots up and then retired from the disco floor
Now the centre of my so called being is
The space between your bed and wardrobe with the louvre doors

I said “My celibate days are over”
You put me straight on the finer points of my speech rehearsed
In the mirror of my steamy bathroom
Where the lino tells a sorry story in a monologue

Well after watching the film last night of Stuart Murdoch first film , I thought of his lyrics as he seems to capture what is going on in the mind so well in his songs and wandering days from Belle and Sebastian debut album seemed just right .

Well I reach last of the first year of Peirene books , the year of the woman series and this was actually Peirene no 1 .Now I will spare you another stream of consciousness homage  review like I did for the first review .Since the book came out FC Delius has written three more books and won the Georg Buchner prize , considered the most important prize in German literature .

Her beloved husband could not have sought out a better refugee , she could not have found a lovelier German island , and the child inside her stirred at these thoughts , she stopped , felt the movement of the little legs and arms , she took this as a sign of consent and responded by slipping her right hand under her coat and slowly stroking her dress and curved belly ,

Just as she is walking clues to a forthcoming son maybe ?!

The book follows a young woman on a walk through the streets of Rome to see a Bach concert , whilst taking this walk we enter her mind and see what she is thinking as she is walking her husband is due to be moved to fight for the Germans on the African front again .A clue to what is making her think this is the fact she has just left the doctors ! She things over her past present and future as she walks alone , things like a concert they saw in kassel ( I remember this although near end of the book as it is where an old girlfriend of mine was from so I spent time in Kassel years ago ) .What comes across is the feeling of being a woman lost during the war , a husband away fighting for the homeland and wondering how the world they live in  end up this way .

every time she went to church this old poster reminded her of the days shortly before her engagement in October ’40 , when Gert and she had heard Orpheus and Eurydike in Kassel Opera House and had so enraptured by the blissful music that afterwards she hummed the she is gone , and gone for ever ,

The scene from earlier in their relationship when they were in kassel .

Now to be honest I struggled to review this book five years ago and still have this time , although I enjoyed it more second time round and felt I got more out of the prose this time .There is a real sense of being in the mind in the thoughts of the woman , who has just left the doctors and is thinking mainly back on her life and meeting her husband and their life .There is also a bit of denial and fear in one she is trying yo avoid what may face her husband but also knows deep down what is happening and that at this point the war seems to have no end in sight in 1943 .It’s hard to imagine this book isn’t partly inspired by Delius own mother in some way , he was born in 1943 , which is the same year and time as the woman in the book leaves the doctor in January 1943 .I made more of the connection to James Joyce in the first review , of course the title is a play in a way to Joyce’s book a portrait of an artist as a young man .Delius has written this in a modernist style but it isn’t as complex prose wise as say Joyce or Woolf .More a nod to these master using a small glimpse of time a walk to a concert , like the day of Ulysses or day of Mrs Dalloway’s party to expand a small amount of time into a lifetime and the events of a simple walk through the mind’s eye become the events of ones life .

Have you read this book ?

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