Happy international Translation day


“The original is unfaithful to the translation.” Jorge Luis Borges


Without translation, I would be limited to the borders of my own country. The translator is my most important ally. He introduces me to the world. Italo Calvino

Translation is the art of failure. Umberto Eco


Translation is that which transforms everything so that nothing changes.” Gunter Grass

I’ve choosen four quotes by writers whom I have read because of Translation , this blog wouldn’t be here with out the hard work of the many translator and their translations .So today we raise a glass to them and say Bravo for all the hard work and here is too many more books in tranalstion for Winstonsdad .

Hurma by Ali Al-Muqri



Hurma – Behind the Veil of a Jihadi Bride

Hurma by Ali Al-Muqri

Yemeni fiction

Original title – Hurma

Translator – T M Aplin

Source – review copy

Don’t create
Don’t rebel
Have intuition
Can’t decide

Typical girls get upset too quickly
Typical girls can’t control themselves
Typical girls are so confusing
Typical girls – you can always tell
Typical girls don’t think too clearly
Typical girls are unpredictable (predictable)

Typical girls try to be
Typical girls very well

I choose a powerful female voice , the slits and typical girls as there are no typical girls really !!

It’s rarer and rarer these days I get to add a new country to the list of countries I have read books from,so when the chance to read this book by the respected Yemeni writer Ali Al-Muqri came along I wasn’t going to say no.He has twice been on the lists for the Arab Booker prize with his novels Black Odour and the Handsome Jew .This is his first book to be published in English .

Two cultural videos

I’m going to play the films on Lula’s Mobile phone,She used it to record the films as we watched them that day – she was very keen on making her own copies .

Two naked bodies.A man and woman .Licking and sucking .Groans and Moans .Opening and entering .Zeet-meet.The bodies entwined,face to face in a sitting position,the he lies on his back and she climbs on top of him and rides him like a horse rider mounting her steed,she rides him and rides him all the way .

The porn they watch is eye-opening and very secret in Yemen .

Hurma is the story of one young girls journey from being a girl into a women.It is a journey behind the Burka ,to the everyday life of being a woman in Modern Yemen.This is a family tale of a daughter trying to escape her world in a way.Her brother is socialist and has given up on religion,her sister is a extravagant girl who is maybe to sexual for the world see lives in . What we see here is behind the scenes as Hurma discovers her self and through the words of the Egyptian pop star OM Kalthoum (she is one of the biggest Arabic stars ),through her tape finds a way outside the world she lives in.Hurma decides to choose another path to that of her brother and sister and live behind the veil,but even this leads to men that aren’t suited and turn out top be the wrong men.

Cpuld the song have another meaning ?Didn’t the Arabic teacher at the academy tell us the meaning of a line of poetry is in the belly of the poet ?

Nothing is beyond the reach of a people 

When their feet are firmly in the stirrups .

Such beautiful words .. how slow am I ? why haven’t I appreciated the beauty of these words before ? There’s nothing a people can’t do if they set their sights on it and really go for it .Nothing is impossible .

I do wonder given the first quote could this be read another way still to the way the writer wanted ?

This is a crushing look at the inside world of being in Yemen,we often here it mentioned in Middle east affairs , but maybe know little of the country itself.So we see here what it is like growing up in a country with strict Islamic rules and how people live behind the veil (I hate that term,but can’t see any other way to describe it may step into the skin of being a female in the Arab world ).Hurma isn’t her name but a name she takes meaning in arabic Sancity a pointer of the direction she has taken .Arablit pointed out  the three long taboo subjects of Arabic literature are Politics ,religion and sex .Well in this book we see a fair bit of sex underground porn,sexual awakenings .Politic the brother is political shows the views in the modern Arabic world  and Hurma is the view into religion or the lack of it at times .the violent double standards for women are shown here we know they are there things like this happen but it hasn’t alway been written or discussed in fiction.A powerful book topical,also one of the most eye-catching cover this year I think .Another great Arabic title from Darf publishing.

The one before by Juan José Saer


The one before by Juan José Saer

Argentina  fiction

Original title – La Mayor

Translator – Roanne L. Kantor

Source – Review copy

Message In A Bottle”

Just a castaway
An island lost at sea
Another lonely day
With no one here but me
More loneliness
Than any man could bear
Rescue me before I fall into despairI’ll send an SOS to the world
I’ll send an SOS to the world
I hope that someone gets my
I hope that someone gets my
I hope that someone gets my
Message in a bottle
(Message in a bottle)A year has passed since I wrote my note
But I should have known this right from the start
Only hope can keep me together
Love can mend your life
But love can break your heart

I strangely choose A old Police lyric just as one part of arguments is about throwing a bottle with the word message in into the sea .

Now when this a three other books from the american publisher Open letter arrived for review , I was pleased this book in Particular is by a writer that is on my list of writer to read . Juan Jose Saer born to Syrian parents in Santa Fe , he studied philosophy at Litoral University and after that taught history of cinematography , he later got the chance to studied in Paris where he stayed in Exile up to his death ,Exile , Santa Fe and twins are recurring themes in his fiction according to his wiki page .He passed away in 2005 .

I ate the foods of the world ,My hands touched the stones of famous cities and my body , shriveled now but fit and feral , walked the streets more numerous than ripples in a river ,What man have I not known ? what book have I not read ? What might there be in the warehouse od visible and invisible things that could still be sold to me as a novelty ?

A poet remembering the places he has been Memories serve a part , another story is called scent memory

This book is a triptych of stories . Arguments are snatches of stories range from a paragraph to a few pages ,  thin slices of stories that range from little piece of info , arguments about books , being an exile , and memories  that stack up together to make you as the reader both think and feel  . The second and third story are more straight forward Half erased and the one before . I read the intro by the translator  and found that the Character Pigeon Garay is a character that has featured in other works by Saer ,here  he first appears in arguments here ,we see him wrestling with leaving his life in the last story , but his home town is also wrestling with an on coming flood almost as thou it is trying to wipe clean where he was . But also may drown him where he is which isn’t where he wants to be .

“The best thing a message can say ” said Barco , “is just message .So even when everything would seem to indicate we should write HELP! , I’d suggest that we write this is a message , Or just message  short and sweet .

Tomatis considered this a moment and at last agreed , only to encounter another question : who would write the word ?

I choose the police lyric due to these lines , I love the second part who should write the message .

Well this was my first collection by Saer , he is considered one of the main figures in Latin American fiction . For me I see lots of Borges in the first section .These stories  are like tapas like little pieces of fiction and as I say they are  thin slices so like tapas can be mixed together to everyone’s taste  however each reader approaches them taken what you want from them , rather like Borges made the reader work at times to get to the centre of the labyrinth . For me I got out his love of fiction , his feelings of exile (the parts on exile remind me of Goytisolo another great writer on exile ) The second two stories have a more visceral feel to them more of  a modern feel say like Aira and Bolano write and show how Saer was a writer that links the stylish style of Borges with that brutal cutting edge of prose of Bolano  .A great first book from Open letter books , I have two others coming in the next week or two .

Have you read Saer ?

Reading Europe German Lit on the radio



Look who's back

Today saw one of my favourite books get on the radio , Look who’s back by Timur Vermes  I reviewed this book last year .The book is a satire about Hitler returning to Germany in 2011 , 66 after the last day he remembered was in 1945 , as we see him tackling the new world that surrounds him . He finds people have forgotten who he is or thing he is a comic that does Hitler on the german tv .The amount of turkish people now in Berlin and things like TV , Starbucks or Herr Starbuck’s as he calls it the rise of his coffee shops . I’m so happy this was choosen to as part of the BBC reading europe series . For me when I reviewed this I said how well Jaime the translator of the book   had caught the  voice of hitler , this has been carried over in the performance of David Threlfall  which is  just perfect .He has  long been one of my favourite actors and in this performance he  captures what we feel Hitler must have been like if he spoke english in the 1940’s , that madness that is just below the surface of him  ,.He has the feel of a man on the edge but just on the edge . we see how Hitler becomes a star of the new media age  on a comedy show (presented by a Turkish comedian ), The TV folk think he is actually a very clever comedy  act , not the real person . Some great lines , where he takes some one to pieces about their knowledge of Poland , his constant thoughts about  what he would do to people around him  and looking for his  new Bormann .The final discovery the internet a wonder to him  .You can find this the first episode here  .If you want to see how Hitler finds modern Germany .Another triumph for Jamie Bulloch , he also translated Every seventh wave and forever yours which were also on the radio .


German lit month planning

Still a month to go to this years German lit month but I have already two books read this year ready for November .I have a number of books I have taken down of the shelves of winstonsdad’s towers .I am always adding books with german lit month in mind when I find them .


20150926_145757The first pic Gregor Von Rezzoris snows of yesterday one I have want to read for a while , the tale of the writers life and his family .The a Gunter Grass one of two pictured , I also have a third book by him that I have to choose from .Then we have two classics of German lit The sorrows of Young Werther by Goethe he is considered the grandfather of german Literature I read Faust his most famous play years ago , I love this cover of the one world classic edition then also from one world classics is The devil’s elixirs by Hoffman a monk tries to… need I say more .


Then I have the Oxford collection of stories from Vienna including names like Roth, Schnitzler and Canetti .Then a collection of three novellas by Peter Handke Slow homecoming The same character Valentin Sorger is in all three books they focus on alienation through getting back into society then feeling inner harmony .Then the other Grass the huge Flounder is told over space of nine months as a father tells the story of his life and the fish the flounder , whilst his wife is expecting their child .


Then I looked back at the last four issues of New books in German the journal that deals with German translations and books available for translation to find a few books from Library to order , which  have done also the new system on derbyshire libraries will let you search for translators and via this I have turned up a few gems from the 70’s that I can’t wait to read including one that left me shocked going really got read that  (I think everyone will be same as me just hope it is there )  .I also managed to order a  Frederich Schiller , Christa wolf  and Remarque books that Lizzy and Caroline are doing during German lit Month , I sly said I may do a couple of books . I did 8 books in 2014 and 2013 ,9 in 2012 , 6 in 2011 so I hope to maybe get into double figures this year for German lit month .I always get excited for German lit month , rather sad I not been sent many new German books this last few months , but great books I have brought with german lit month in mind make up for that .

What you planning to read ?

A project for a revolution in New York by Alain Robbe-Grillet

alain robbe Grillet

A project for a revolution in New York by Alain Robbe-Grillet

French Literature

Original title – Projet pour une révolution à New York

Translator – Richard Howard

Source – Library

Let’s begin, what, where, why, or when
will all be explained like instructions to a game
See I’m not insane, in fact, I’m kind of rational
when I be asking you, “Who is more dramatical?”
This one or that one, the white one or the black one
pick the punk, and I’ll jump up to attack one
KRS-One is just the guy to lead a crew
right up to your face and dis you
Everyone saw me on the last album cover
Holding a pistol something far from a lover
Beside my brother, S-C-O-T-T

I choose a very old rap lyric from New York Band Boogie down productions themselves victims of gang violence in New York when Scott La rock was killed this song is about the aftermath .

Alain Robbe-Grillet is a writer I have had on the list of older writers I want to put on the blog over the next few years .He was one of the leading lights in Noveau Roman movement along side Claude simon and Maguerite Duras .Where each novel was an attempt at a new style and maybe change the way novels are driven ie less about plot more about place or objects .This book is maybe a perfect example of what Alain robbe-grillet had in mind , it has no plot , not much in characters .

The doctor bends forward .Kneels down on one knee and begins to untie the cords binding her ankles .the girls body docile now , lies prostrate as two steady hands part the knees , spreading the smooth brown thighs which glisten in the lamplight ; but the upper part of the body does not lie flat because pf the arms which remain bound together behind the back .

a very Visceral style of writing can be brutal at times .

The book is set in an alternative New York of underground gangs and gang violence .Rather like  what actually happened in the late seventies and early eighties when the gang culture took over the city at times .This book follows that town and the  society with in it falling apart .This is a vision of the city that in someways came about after Robbe-Grillet had written the book . A series of rapes and gang violence scenes follow in this book as we drift through this world  follow in this book . The book has a feel that is disjointed at times .But it is beautifully written and that is what keeps you reading the visceral nature of the words

Whatever the case she then sees a uniformed policeman (It is a fake uniform and a mask that the man is wearing , but she can hardly be aware of the fact ) who . regulation pistol aimed at her belly ,advances towards her , ordering her to keep still and not to move .

This maybe is a theme people not knowing who people are really , he has a similar theme in his film last year at Marienbad

I found it hard to descibe this one as it hasn’t much plot but is more a series of events slice of a city descending into chaos , very much a book of its time the sex and violence could be recalled in the same ways as it happens in Anthony Burgess Clockwork Orange and the way gangs and underground city of New York is depicted is like that of Burgess the book were written 8 years apart . But for me the book style wise remind me much more of William Burroughs , Robbe Grillet doesn’t shift to such a far fetch take on reality that Burroughs did but more a take on a city falling apart at the seams and the way it spirals into volence .This one of those books that open your eyes to what can happen , but also with a bit of toungue in cheek in time , rather like Kubrick in his take on clockwork orange the world at times seems a bit OTT and the violence maybe to much .I loved this so much I was pleased to buy another by him on my recent trip to York .Also love this old cover .

26 years on the shelf my latest library book


I was busy checking the library system and found a Peter Handke , which I think may have been lost before the new library system came online in Derbyshire last month , as I ‘m sure Peter Handke is a writer I would have search for before for a german lit month of just because he is a writer I have enjoyed in the past especially his work with Wim Wenders on the films they have made together The goalies anxiety at the penalty kick , The wrong move and of course one my all time favourites wings of desire .I picked this up yesterday from my library (very handy only two mins walk and great staff ) .I noticed this evenong that it had been 26 years since this book was last stamp so this poor Peter handke has been sat around waiting to be read again .Have you ever check a book out that has sat around for years ?


The Illogic of Kassel by Enrique Vila-Matas


The Illogic of Kassel by Enrique Vila-Matas

Spanish Literature

Original title –  Kassel no invita a la lógica

Translated by Anne McLean & Anna Milsom

Source – Library book

Day comes up sicker than a cat
Something’s wrong, that is that

Mr. Somewhere missing somewhere, never did figure just how much
A boat from the river takes you out
‘Cross the other side of town, to get out, to get out
You take the tide, any tide, any tide
Like there isn’t gonna be any tide

Mr. Somewhere missing somewhere, never did figure just how much
Missing somewhere, never did figure just how much

I picked Mr Somewhere as it is about trying to find somewhere and it was an album I brought in Kassel in 1992 .

This is the third book by Enrique Vila-Matas to feature on the blog the two previous books Dublinesque  and Never any end to Paris were two of my favourite books whilst doing this blog .So when I saw his latest book was a book about going to the german city of Kassel to attend the Documenta . I couldn’t resist it .

That night at home I watched a television documentary about the growing power of modern china until my wife went to bed , when I started investigating Kassel ,I learned all the telescopes in the french sounding Orangerie Palace were pointing toward clocked perspective , a piece by the Albanian artist Anri Sala , located in Karlsaue , two kilometers away .

I visited the orangerie it is an impressive building .

So to Kassel , I like Enrique have been to Kassel during a Documenta , mine was the 1992 one and I was their with an old girlfriend who happened to be German and her father lived in Kassel . So like Enrique , in this book I have wondered at the piece and people who form the Documenta . The story starts when Enrique out of the blue gets a phone call to come to Kassel and be part of the 2012 Documenta , this is in the form of sitting in the window of a Chinese restaurant and writing every morning .Whilst in the city he learns about the city but also sees all the art that is going on and in a way you can feel as he writes the art rubbing off and inspiring him .Also he remembers the past and the part Kassel played in that .

I had been so many men ( I thought , parodying Borges ) , and now I was just a resident writer  they’d invited to come and do a chinese number .To cap it off , you could tell the sign had been handled by a large number of writers who’d been invited in the preceding weeks , some of whose names I remembered : Adania Shibli , Mario Bellatin , Aaron Peck , Alejandro Zambra , Marie Darrieussecq , Holly Pester

Not the only writer there a couple of these names will be on this blog over the next few months .

Well this is a splendid piece of Metafiction with Enrique at the heart of the story . A man surprised to be asked to join a modern art show as a piece of art , the sitting in the restaurant to write reminded me of  the story of Geroges Simenon being stuck in a glass bubble and writing a book in a day   .But as he drifts through the city he sees so much and absorbs so much .Rather like Walter Benjamin as he wandered the arcades of Paris he is awaken and driven by the strange world of modern art gives Enrique a new burst of life as a writer  .I remember on my visit in 1992 gazing at wonder and amazement  at the installations ,also I remember hearing about earlier piece still in the city especially those by Joesph Beuys a German artist that has always been a favourite of mine he put rings round trees throughout the city I think they are still there  .A fun book about discovering art and being a piece of art yourself , or trying to work out why they want you as a piece of art .

Do you have a favourite Novel with connections to the art world ?

A Nobel weekend reading


Here again with my choices for a weekend off reading wise .First up just about to start this classic of African fiction A grain of wheat by Ngugi Wa Thiong’o .The Kenyan is a name that has been in the list of the top ten writers in the nobel betting the last few years .This is his most well-known work ,  he is also a writer I should had on here before now and also carrying on the tradition on this blog of picking a couple of hopefuls that I haven’t read in the months just before the prize is announced .


Also on this weekends pile is this , as I say I like to plan and last year hadn’t planned my german lit month reading so well .But this year as my books read list shows I have a few books already read from the IFFP list that just didn’t get to review .Then I’m starting with this throwing a couple of books in the next few weeks of my reading plans .The Prodigy by Herman Hesse is a short novella about how a boy is broken by the teachers and system of teaching the success driven school system brings . He was very keen on Eastern ideas and systems at the time he wrote this book and a number of his later books .

What are you reading ? How far in front do yo plan ?


A few days in York



We have just  returned yesterday after three days in York .I managed to write up  the last three post ,before I went away .We missed a holiday earlier in the year so choose to have a couple of nights in York to make up for it .We decide to do a ghost walk on the first night around the minster and shambles in York .This was from the doors of the minster and I would recommend this walk to one and all the chap doing it fitted the part to a tee , he was old in black and a top hat and had lived in york most of his life .He told us about the cat trail a series of cats place around York .

20150915_104053 .So we managed to sleep after tales of dead Roman soldiers marching in front of you  and children being sealed in a plague house (two of the stories from the tour ) .


We passed this every day on our way into York the birthplace of Auden .The second day we visited a few shops and then we had booked to do a tour of the Chocolate story a history of the chocolate making in York the quaker families that started Terry’s Rowntrees and Craven , how they started to make chocolate the iconic bars like Kitkat and chocolate oranges (and lemons once upon a time ) .The tour end with a trip around the gift shop and a very nice hot chocolate .


We then took a bus tour where we saw Cliffords tower at the top of this post a number of the gates and the castle and wall of York .


We then took a walk by the river and then through the park where A chap said you could feed the squirrels , Amanda tried this and got very close to this squirrel but screamed as it got to near .


Now back to what the blog is about , yes I can confirm there is a number of bookshops in York and I visited a number of them and this is what I came back with .



These are the books , the first for  my Moomin readings .Books from writers I know already Amos Oz ,Andre Malraux  , Heinrich Boil  all three have featured on the blog . Another is one mentioned years ago Franz Werfel who Peter Stefan Jungk mention in an interview a number of years ago as he had written the biography of him . Baiha blues is a prize-winning French novel set in Brazil .A second book by Alain Robbe Grillet to the one I read earlier this month . Then there is The brothers Karamzov a book I should have read but haven’t .Then the huge epic Red Horse by Eugenio Corti a highly regard novel in Italy it was their book of the decade .So We are planning a return trip next year to go to all the places we haven’t seen this time .



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September 2015


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