Bar Balto by Faïza Guène,


Bar Balto by Faïza Guène,

French fiction

Original title – Les Gens du Balto

Translator – Sarah Ardizzone

Review – personnel copy


I am tall and I am thin
Of an enviable hight
And I’ve been known to be quite handsome
In a certain angle and in certain light

Well I entered into O’Malley’s
Said, “O’Malley I have a thirst”
O’Malley merely smiled at me
Said “You wouldn’t be the first”

I knocked on the bar and pointed
To a bottle on the shelf
And as O’Malley poured me out a drink
I sniffed and crossed myself

Another death in a bar happens in Nick Cave’s O’malleys bar

I did a post when the new forty under 40 granta list came out a few years ago of writers in translation that were stars in the making and under 40 , one of whom was Faiza Guene the French Algerian writer .She published her first book when she was just 19 .She has also made a number of audio visual piece having studied this when younger . This was her third novel ,she is currently working on film scripts .So my third book for women in translation month is a rising star of French fiction .

I’m not Turkish .

They don’t get the difference .They’re always calling me “Turkey boy” .But I’m not Turkish .I’m Armenian .Well on my mum’s side .

My name is Taniel .My old lady calls me “Lazy bugger ” and “shit head ” most of the time .For school it’s daniel and for my mates it’s just “Turkey boy ”

I often hear people call people this and that without even knowing the person or where they are from .

This is a story of a bar told in Voices from the Owner whom is lying dead on the Floor Joel “The rink ” to Tani , the slut , the twins , the spaz . What we get is the story of the bar and the people who came to this Bar . We see how Joe treated certain people differently due to their race .Each person story is like a little statement we are left to wonder if each had something to do with his death .This is a quiet village at the end of the rail line and this is the most exciting thing to happen there for a long time .This is a place where the people dream of leaving .As Joe and the bars world unfolds in front of us .As a mother goes to this bar as an escape a young girl really wants to be paris hilton and that is just the women then there is the men Joel in particular .

It’s Joel Morvier to you , and I’ve decided to tell this story in my own words .Thirty years I’ve been surrounded by newspapers , so there’s no pulling the wool over my eyes .I can see how they can twist the facts rather than trust my own mouth ,

I ‘d turned sixty-two in april , twelfth of the month ,I’m telling you that as a point of fact ,I’ve never celebrated a birthday in my life .

They say I’m not an easy man to like .I’d say I didn’t get as much love and sympathy as I deserved ,As for slurs .I’m not racist , I’ve just got values, and clearly that bothers some people

Joel will have his story told .The rink says he is no racist but you will see others views .

This is a book that is full of undercurrents of what has happened in france since maybe the undercurrent of racism there between Joe and his customers .Faiza also captures the dreams and humour of being in a small out-of-the-way village I felt there is humour . A point I felt is that maybe the style of voices haven’t quite made it through in translation .I always feel slang must be the hardest thing to translate so some what a layer of what must have been in the original french book maybe was lost .But that said it is no reason to not read this book from what the french feel is a great writer in waiting .For me I feel Faiza is just 30 and given recent events both in France and north africa is bound to be one of the voices of this era .

Have you read any great writers in waiting .

August 2015


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