Woman of the dead by Bernhard Aichner

Woman of the dead by Bernhard Aichner

Austrian fiction

Original title Totenfrau

Translator – Anthea Bell

Source – library

Just remember that death is not the end
For the tree of life is growing
Where the spirit never dies
And the bright light of salvation
Up in dark and empty skies
When the cities are on fire
With the burning flesh of men
Just remember that death is not the end
When you search in vain to find
Some law-abiding citizen
Just remember that death is not the end
Not the end, not the end
Just remember that death is not the end
Not the end, not the end
Just remember that death is not the end

I choose the end of death is not the end a Dylan song Mark’s death was not the end of this story .

I tossed and turned where to start my german lit month reviews and I choose this as I don’t really read a lot of thrillers so when I read one and enjoy it, I feel it must be a good book also it was translated by one of the greatest living German translators Anthea Bell. Bernhard Aichner started out as a photographer working for an Austrian paper and at the same time in his spare time starting to write short stories.He has written a number of novels this is the first of two books in this series and was published in 2014 where it was a bestseller both in his native Austria and German.

Eight years ago, they touched each other for the first time. He put his arms around her on the boat. He was wonderful man, right from the very first moment when he was there, taking care of her. Mark waited with her until the coastguard arrived, until she had answered hundreds of questions. He simply stayed by her side. Talking to the police officers on the case

Blum meet mark after her own incident eight years earlier .

This is the story of Blum she is a woman that at very start of the book has it all Marriage , children, yes she has a dark humor and rides a bike but on the surface everything seems ok. But then her lover Mark a policeman is killed in a hit and run . This starts a chain reaaction that sets her on a course to get revenge on the men that killed her lover .Blum isn’t what she first seems no she has a very dark past that this one event has unlocked so she starts out to get the five people she finds had wanted her lover Mark gone to find out what happened  and seek her own personnel revenge on them .

Blum looks around the room, at his computer, his files, and a thousand other things lying just as he left them twenty-two days ago when he rode off. Everything here is waiting for him to come back; objects that want to be touched, tools that want to be used .

Blum goes to marks work place after he is found dead .

Well it’s hard to not think kill bill when you read what I wrote about this book.It is even mention in the inside cover yes Blum is rather like the Bride or even Lisbeth whom  also mentioned . This book had a cinematic thriller pace to it, you get the fact the Aichner is a photographer in the way he writes his scenes they a clean like the way a great photograph works looking simple and telling you all that is possible with in a small space of one shot. Blum is the original revenge killer a woman wioth her own hidden past that takes a death to relight. I liked the die  welt description of her taking these five rotten apples and squashing them under her feet , yes she is pruning the world and  like with a flower when they are rotting you have to dead head them.As I said I am not a huge Crime thriller reader so when I find one I like I note the writer down Bernhard Aichner is a writer I will be trying again .

Have you a favourite German crime/thriller writer ?

The confines of the shadow by Alessandro Spina

'The Confines of the Shadow' Cover by Luke Pajak

The confines of the shadow vol 1  by Alessandro Spina

Syrian fiction

Original title I confini dell’ombra

Translator -Andre Naffis-Sahely

Source – review copy

“Interzone”

I walked through the city limits,
Someone talked me in to do it,
Attracted by some force within it,
Had to close my eyes to get close to it,
Around a corner where a prophet lay,
Saw the place where she’d a room to stay,
A wire fence where the children played.
Saw the bed where the body lay,
And I was looking for a friend of mine.
And I had no time to waste.
Yeah, looking for some friends of mine.
I choose interzone as it was inspired by Burroughs book set in North Africa of the same title .

This is another book from the new translator Darf . This is the first in what is a three volume collection that brings together the eleven novels and short story collection that he wrote 70’s and 80’s to great acclaim from fellow writers in Italian such as Alberto Moravia and on the cover a great quote from Claudio Magris (an italian writer I really enjoy reading ) .Alessandro Spina was the non de plume of Basili Shafik Khouzam a writer of Syrian origin that was educated in Italy and settled running his fathers factories in Libya for 25 years til Gaddafi took over he factories when he retired to Italy .He died two years ago but saw the collected volume of this book win The Bagutta prize one of Italy’s biggest prizes .

He asked to be shown the merchandise , and despite knowing its inferior quality he praised it, became he knew he would be able to sell it. The was had paralysed commerce and depleted stockpiles.Hajji Semereth said he was prepared to purchase part of the cargo, but he wanted a discount .Trade as the market was slow that day and that first del might expedite the sale of the rest. Hajji Semereth paid in cash

The young maronite tries to sell his cargo on arrival in the city .

The first three section in this book follow Libya from just before the outbreak of World war one to the late 1920’s from The book opens young Syrian Maronite lie about some cargo arriving in Libya .This starting the story of immigrants in Libya from The arab world and also europe so what we see is the melting pot of North africa and Libya in particular .Then we see an Italian captain in the city Benghazi as the city slowly grows over this book but eventually into the second city of Libya . The book follows the end of 1911 war as we see people follow to the area in search of chances to make their way in the world this is the first two-parts in the book and the last follows the final ending of Libyan resistance after twenty years of fighting .

Captain Martello evoked empires and diverse influences that had dominated the country, conquests that belonged to the ancient past – Egyptians , the Greeks, the Romans, the Vandals, the Byzantines – with the intnet of forcing that young man to stay silent,in order to impress him so that, having overcome his diffidence .

The captain shows how many people over the years had been in Libya really .

This is one of those books that is a portrait of a place the place in Benghazi , which the writer lived himself for most of his life running his fathers factory , the story really starts with the story of some one like his father a Maronite from Syria arrive to start a factory in the town, just as the 1911 war end and we see this then the Italians ruling the area and the fact that the locals finally lay down their arms . I was drawn into this book I can see why it was such a huge hit when published finally as a whole it is the start of a journey through this place through the eyes of the local Spina has been called either the Italian Joseph Conrad or the 20th century Balzac, but to me this is one of those epic works that is written by a true one-off writer like Musil , Proust and yes Balzac Zola and those great realist writers of French literature but this is also a book from a writer of Arabic origin so it has a little of Arabian nights to it and can go off a small journeys of the mind .So it is hard to pigeon hole him just to say he may be one of the hidden gems of this year for me .

 

 

Weekend reading from a Mountain to the turtle in the tree

20151030_144950Well not going to finish these this weekend as I have just started both these epic books.Leg over leg is 400 pages plus another 100 of notes and a very large forward to read once I’ve read the book , the book follows the alter ego of the writer as we see him learning in his native Lebanon then further afield , this book opens with an eye-opening few passages around female and male sex organs the shapes and sizes of each, very unexpected opening bit even after thirty pages this morning before work I get a real sense of the writers playful use of language and imagery. Then well I maybe should be reading something at the lighter end of the reading rainbow of books I like to read but no I chosen Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann as we see the world on the brink of world war one as Hans Castrop heads to the swiss alps and a sanatorium, as he tries to find himself and the world around him but also the cracks that lead to world war one a ringing of a new guard in the German-speaking world that would lead them into war. I will probably be on these two for most november as I splatter a few shorter books in the mix . The Mann also crosses two boxes a German lit month novel but also for the 1924 club but rather late on as I think I won’t finish it till middle of November but I want to add a translation to this event. I am nearly all read for German lit month a bit disappoint few of the library books I had found haven’t appear so must be lost in the libraries it has happened before I have managed to read 11 books already for German lit month and hope to finish magic mountain and a couple of others before December .

How is your weekend reading shaping up ?

Memory at bay by Évelyne Trouillot

 

Memory at bay by Évelyne Trouillot

Haitian fiction

Original title – La mémoire aux abois

Translator – Paul Curtis Daw

Source – review copy

Mwen tap rainmin konnin, date and jou ‘map mouri … Yeah! Wyclef Jean misie Refugee, Muzion If you had 24 hours to live, and you knew you were going to die what would you do? [Wyclef:] Yo, if I had left it just 24 hours to live I would go see my mother to tell her she me well high, her son, she can be proud Let me addresses thief, murderer She not loose, for that, I ‘ will kiss A kiss on the forehead and then in the street I’m returned two hours and a half, I called Jerry Duplessis J’dit to come get me, m’deposer Among my Mam’selle in her dress is so niceShe said ‘Wyclef, will eat at TapTap.’ ‘I said j’pas can because tomorrow j’serai not! J’viens only thank you from the bottom of heart Because with everything I did you would spend the m’quitter you, go elsewhere You’re a beautiful woman, no need to cry when I’m gonna go, you can t’remarier Mwen tap rainmin konnin, date and jou ‘map mouri … [Chorus:] And if you had 24 hours to live Would you sing? Would you dance? Would you cry? Or said: oh no I wanna leave me or said oh no I wanna go away! Imposs!

This is a translation of 24 heures a Vivre ,24 hours to live from a ep wyclef Jean did for Haiti he ran for president himself in 2010 .I connect the line I would see my mother as this is what the daughter in this book can’t do.

 

I was contacted by Paul the translator of this book as he had seen on the blog, I had reviewed two other books from Haiti and would I like to review this one. Evelyne Trouillot is a member of a literary family, her uncle was a historian and her brother Lyonel is a well-known novelist and her other brother is a leading Creole scholar. This book won the Prix Carbet a prize award to new voices and books from the Caribbean.

I head home with the smell of the old woman’s wthered flesh on my fingers. The vision of her form sprawled limply on the bed like a nameless doll accompanies me through the streets of Paris, Why had they added that room to my list ?

“whatever you do, mademoiselle, don’t reveal he name no one should know who she is. Besides we have no official confirmation. I thought you were only a child when you left your country

She is given the woman to look after thinking she wouldn’t remember her own past having left as a child!!

Memory at bay is both the story of two woman one an elderly widow, the former wife of the dictator who ran Haiti for the middle part of the 20th century Papa Doc a name that rings of blood and death. She is lying in a hospital bed dying as she does reliving her life. She is being watched over by a young nurse who escaped from Haiti to France and became a nurse, but along the way she lost her own mother to the regime of the woman she is looking after. As the book unfolds, we see both woman’s story told as we see both sides of this brutal regime. As the brutal years of the Papa doc reign are seen from the wife of the leader and the everybody in the form of  a mother and daughter who have to live under the regime.The daughter escapes and becomes the nurse but before she loses her mother she meets the old woman and a young woman and wife of the leader.

On my return to France, while I struggled to recover from my fatigue, the disturbing dreams began their nightly visitations. Soon afterward, as if to give substance to the macabre atomsphere that surrounded me, I first enter that woman’s room and encountered a face that was so recognizable, despite the ravages inflicted by exile and old age. That face today epitomizes for me all the horrors od a regime that left its grim mark on my native country

She met her as a schoolgirl and even now knows the faces of the old lady even thou she is losing her mind.

This is a book about what is memory, What is history as we see two sides of the same time told. Can we forgive those who do us harm ? What happens when we have to care for those who may have been connected to those that do use harm this young woman has all this on her mind as she cares for the older dying woman at times she wants to kill her. This is a powerful look at Haiti’s past, I remember the downfall of his sons regime baby doc when I was younger and the telling at that time of the brutal nature of his fathers regime. Evelyne has strung together two main characters and narraf=tives that bring both the overview of what happened but also the inner workings of day to day life.

Another man’s city by Ch’oe In-Ho

Another man’s city by Ch’oe In-ho

Korean fiction

Original title -Nat Igun t’aindul ui tosi

Translators – Bruce and Ju-chan Fulton

Source – review copy

“City Sickness”

I’m crawling, don’t know where to or from
The centre of things from where everything stems
Is not where I belong
And the city sickness, growing inside me
So this is where I ran for freedom
Where I may not be free

[Chorus:]
I have these hands beating with love for you
And you’re not here to touch
Sent you away, what else can I do
When I need something that much?
I’m hurting babe, in the city there’s no place for love
It’s just used to make people feel better

I choose the Tinderstick as the mood of this song fitted the book .

Born in Seoul He studied english at university, when he left he started writing publishing his first story in 1967 .Which won a prize, he won a bigger prize with his book Deep blue night. He died two years ago and was remembered a year late when his hand prints were put on a street where he used to drink a lot .I was sent the third set of  library of Korean Literature books the 11- 15 in the series. I read a Pavane for a dead princess and wasn’t bowled over by it I felt it was maybe to Korean for me.But then earlier this year Tony reviewed this book and it made me pick it up .

7a.m.

(POWER ON)

What the hell? K groped the fuzzy boundary between sleep and wakefulness for an answer – what had awakened him?

His alarm clock. The strident ring a desperate cry letting the world know of its existence. Again the shrill clamor.

Dammit! K didn’t like being woken up. He fumbled at the nightstand found the alarm click, silenced .

He wasn’t fully awake. But he was conscious enough to splice the snapped filmstrip of his interrupted sleep, and he closed his eyes

The opening and a dazed K wakes up , I love that line” snapped filmstrip of his interupted sleep “

Another man’s city should really be subtitled Kafka does Korea . We find K a man who likes a drink that seems to get swallowed into a nightmare version of his hometown Seoul .So over the course of the weekend he has lost a period of time .We follow him as he tries to find what happened in this time. But is this real of a VR world one is never sure if this is the case. It is a shifting world he is in maybe electronic or maybe as he sobers up.

Well thought K, there was that one and half hour gap in the filmstrip of his memory, but he couldn’t recall anything that might have caused a concussion. He hadn’t noticed any marks on his head, no evidence of bleeding, no signs of trauma, no headache .

What happend in the missing reel of his life film,  so to speak ?

I over time have found writers ripple through time and place, the great writers  we all know and love have had a knock effect where it is Kafka who has influenced this writer. This is one of a number of books over the years I have reviewed that have been influenced by Kafka from the obvious books like Claudel’s The investigation through books like Muller’s The appointment. Here Kafka raises his head from the main characters name K to being trapped in a world. I was also reminded of fims like the matrix where the world around the lead character is a shifting one.Then there is the other side of the book the fact K is a drinking from what I can gather the writer himself was a bit of a drinker so may have also experienced lost time which many of us did in our youth but not 99 mins like here alsommaybe in a strange way Withnail and I where the time in the weekend away the spend stretches and shrinks as the weekend goes along .An interesting take on being trapped in a world and not knowing fully where it is .I view this as more a comment on the speed and way of the modern world where every minute is noted these days so losing a chunk of time is unknown now.

Have you read any of the Library of Korean Literature series ?

Winston’s books some important Arabic books

I very rarely ask , request books from publishers these days. I do get sent a lot of books without asking which keeps this blog going and for which I am grateful. But once in a while there is an important book or set of books that come out I feel I would love to read, so I send a request sometimes these fall on deaf ears and other times I get a reply and if I am very lucky the books .Earlier this year I saw on Arablit that paperback  version of the  Library of Arabic Literature  series were coming out .

20151027_110407

The first two books are the four volumes of Leg over Leg by  Ahmad Faris al-Shidyaq THe book recounts the writers life using an Alter ego .The book is considered one of the first books of Modern Arabic literature .The book was a satrical look at the world he lived in and is one of those books that breaks the mould .

20151027_110500

The second set of  two books deal with early days of Islam, The epistle on Legal Theory by Muhammad ibn Idris al-Shafii deals with early foundations of Islamic law. I feel we hear a lot about islamic law these days , But maybe if we know more about it’s origins we would understand it in the sense of present day. The second book is The expeditions by Mamar Ibn Rashid is one of the first books about the prophet Muhammad  and the early years of Islam. Both these serve as important texts in the Arabic cannon available in English for the first time .For more books from the series look and the Library of Arabic website.

 

Street of thieves by Mathias Enard

Street of thieves by Mathias Enard

French fiction

Original title – Rue des voleurs

Translator – Charlotte Mandell

Source – review copy

The moon is in the gutter
And the stars wash down the sink
I am the king of the blues
I scrape the clay off my shoes
And wade down the gutter and the moon

The moon blinds my eye with opal cataracts
As I cut through the saw-mills and the stacks,
Leaping over the gully where I would one day take Lucy
Then wash up my hands in the gutter and the moon.

I choose a very old Nick Cave song The moon is in the Gutter because maybe Lakhdar is in the gutter but there is the moon there to see .

Another from Fitzcarraldo edition today their second book from the s=rising star of French Literature Mathias enard.A s you may recall earlier this year our shadow IFFP jury called in his first book in english Zone to the shadow longlist we felt so strongly it was one of the best books from last year, so no high hopes for this one hey !Mathias Enard studied Arabic and Persian at university, he then went on to spend fifteen years living in Barcelona and most recently he spent a year in Germany living in Berlin.

The rest of our catalogue was more expensive, 9.90 per book. These are bound books, usually in several volumes, heavy as a dead donkey. The collection was entitles The heritage of Islam and was made of reprints of works by classical authors: Lives of the prophet, commentaries on the Koran, works of fhoetoric , theology, grammar. Since these mammoth works had beautiful imitation-leather bindings in coloured calligraphy, they were used mostly to decorate the neighbourhood’s living and dining rooms.

The shop he worked run by Sheik Nreddin selling books and doing their websites .

Street of thieves is the story of one young boys life as he journeys from Tangiers to Barcelona. Lakhdar the boy in question is on the verge of becoming a man and we see the world through his eyes. He is in Tangiers just as the Arab spring starts, we see how the system has kept the youth down, and why him and all his friends look to the other side of the Mediterranean. Lakhdar tries to find his place escape a violent home life to sell books then work on a ferry and then eventually he arrives in Europe and to the city of Barcelona and the Street of thieves a notorious area of the city for pickpockets this is a journey of a boys awakening to a man but also a trip from Africa to Europe and the contrast between the real and the dreams of the journey.

I opened the little safe with help of a key shaped like a cross, it contained a number of papers that had nothing to do with me, and almost five thousands euros in cash. I was becoming a thief. I had enough to live on for a while in Barcelona or elsewhere. The money of the dead that’s kind of idiotic thing I said to myself. Of course there was the police. I had left my fingerprints everywhere , even on the bottles of poison, I was the king of dunces.

Lakhdar is driven to steal for his new world in Europe .

I actually loved this more than the zone this book is one of those that captured the Zeitgeist the way it was to be in the North African Arab world as the Arab spring broke. But he also captures a young boys journey from Boyhood to manhood a sense of broken dreams , false hopes but also find friends and people in the same places and world as yourself. Of course because Lakhdar has read many books in his time we see the way the books have crafted his view of the world. I find it strange this has been heralded as one of the first novels of what happened with the Arab spring Enard is no doubt a rising star (recent events have shown he has ambition ) of French literature.I feel there are two great ways a writer becomes a great writer that is write similar books but make them seem different or write great books with different voices I put Enard in the Later this is different from Zone the same place the greater Mediterranean so to speak but more ground in now than the Zone .

Have you read Enard ?

Coup de Grace by Marguerite Yourcenar

Coup de grace by Marguerite Yourcenar

French fiction

Originalt title – Le coup de Grace

Translator – Grace Frick (with collaboration from the writer )

Source – personnel copy

Every time I think of you
I feel shot right through with a bolt of blue
It’s no problem of mine
But it’s a problem I find
Living a life that I can’t leave behind
But there’s no sense in telling me
The wisdom of the fool won’t set you free
But that’s the way that it goes
And it’s what nobody knows
well every day my confusion grows

Every time I see you falling
I get down on my knees and pray
I’m waiting for that final moment
You say the words that I can’t say

I choose Bizarre Love Triangle by New Order , a fitting song for this book I felt .

I try to give the blog scope by slowly working through great books and writers from around the world. So I read earlier this year coup de grace by Maguerite Yourcenar  for Women in translation month. Who was the first female to join the French academy.Although she left france and lived in Maine in the US since the outbreak of the second world war, she lived there with her partner Grace Frick who was also the translator of her book. she also worked as a translator herself and translated Virginia Woolf’s The waves into French .

It was FIVE in the morning, and pouring rain; Erick VOn Lhomond sat waiting in the station buffet at Pisa for the train which was to take him back to Germany. he had been wounded at Saragossa, and was just off an Italian hospital ship. Though nearly forty, he seemed young , as if his kind of hard, youthful elegance would never change; the narrow profile bespoke French ancestry, bt his mother was Balt and his father Prussian, hence the pale blue eyes, the tall stature, the arrogant smile and the heel-click,

I really got Erick from this opening lines he was maybe an early prototype in looks of a Nazi !!

Coupe de grace is a book written on the eve of the second world war about the russian civil war in a castle in what is now Latvia . The Story focus on a woman and the group of men that are in love with her Sophie is the woman and the men Erick a Prussian fighting for the white russians he has also fought in the first world war , he has been station in the castle that Sophie lives in with her brother Conrad .As she is the only woman about she captures men’s heart. She likes Erick but the harden soldier is maybe to war damage to reply to her love or does his love lie elsewhere . She escapes to join the reds and tragedy follows .

The terrible solitude of ones who loves was increased for Sophie by the fact she did not share the views of the rest of us: she had some sympathy for the Reds. For a nature like hers the supreme elegance evidently was to think that the enemy was right; accustomed to reasoning against herself she was probably as genrous in justifying our opponents as she was in absolving me .

She saw the reds point of view but stayed with the whites.

I feel there is more to this than first appears when you read it. Erich seems cold but he talks with Conrad maybe he is actually Homosexual, but given the time his love is unshown but an undercurrent to what is a triangle in a way she loves him and shows it he shows her no love but talks with the brother but not about love . Also given the time maybe the seeds of what was going to be the second world war were in the air so a tragic love story set among st a war maybe was poignant at the time. The story is slowly unwound for the read each character is believable , it is thought some of the story was based on an actual real event. I have Hadrian by her which I will read for next years woman in translation month I think .

Have you read Yourcenar ?

The butt – the end of an affair

Illustrations of cigarette packets

Today saw Will self’s intro to the forthcoming book Nicotine by Gregor Hens a book about stopping smoking. So I taken a twist of style here and decide to do a piece about my years of smoking .On january 4th this year I smoked my last cigarette after 24 years of smoking , I don’t remember the time or even if it was a normal cigarette or a roll up. I made my mind up and stopped as I had many times before but then in a Newtons Cradle like effect two days later I dislocated my elbow and thus spent the next six weeks at home, which was enough to finally break the cycle of me as a smoker I had smoked more at work than at home the last few years so being at home I just held on til the day I felt I was clear of smoking. But lets turn the clock back twenty years when did all start well the was a first cigarette on a geography field trip at 15, but even then I didn’t start fully smoking til I was eighteen. As will said in his essay cigarettes are a love affair. For me its connections brands people, places and times of life. Woodbines my first job working with old people one of which smoked woodbine the filterless strong cigarettes have a unique taste not that of filterless french cigarette no a smell that at once made you think of world war two films and the smoking in them and the smell of cigarettes like woodbines as people smoked in those films.Player number six my stepfather a man I don’t get on with hence a brand i never brought, More my late stepmother’s brand when she smoke I see them and think of her a classy cigarette for a wonderful woman and then JPS blue and old black remind me of My Amanda and my best friend both of which smoke them . Tobacco I remember the first time I really got tobacco rolling cigarettes it was the first time I met my ex on an exchange between Northumberland County Council and Nordrhein Westfalen and being stuck on a moor fixing a stone wall and smoking roll up with two german girls, I later lived in Germany with one of those girls where I used cycle with here the 5 km to Holland to buy even cheaper tobacco there the brands in a Dutch tobacconist  shop there are  mind blowing number of brands, I was  like a kid in a sweet shop tried many types but always loved the brand Javaanse Jongens Enteng a more expensive tobacco.How to light a cigarette well for me it was always a zippo I had many zippo lighters over the years, I had a habit of losing them but there was that strange petrol taster of lighting  cigarette with a zippo, myths no third light from a match (I believe this comes from world war one and the trenches but not sure if that is an urban myth) . As the year passed prices grew so I stopped smoking gauloise Malboro or Camels to cheaper brands, They stop me smoking in pubs but I carried on , stood in the cold and rain on nights out for the last few years of smoking was a change from the early days like an affair that has drifted on two long I end up smoking roll ups and finally this year felt brave enough to say good-bye to what had maybe been something  I hide behind I smoked, I talked with my cigarettes being part of me. I did at one point never view the time when I would have the affair with them but now looking back it is like the bad taste of a mistaken love affair in the mouth bitter and one wonders why you did it in the first place .I will be reviewing Gregor’s book next month he will also be suggesting five short books from German .

My documents by Alejandro Zambra

My Documents by ALejandro Zambra

Chilean fiction

Original title – Mis documentos

Translator – Megan McDowell

Source – review copy

The flash of a distant camera
reconnecting
thoughts and actions,
Fragments of our missing dreams,
Pieces from here and there
fall in place along the line,
Disappearing between you and me.

Life is changing everywhere I go,
New things and old both disappear.
If life is a photograph,
Fading in the mirror….

A Neil young lyric Distant camera from silver and gold album i felt the line fragments of our missing dreams suited this collection do well .

I have read Alejandro Zambra before his two Novella’s Bonsai and ways of going home  the ,later I did review here . I remember at the time I read it thinking , he would be a great short story writer so when this collection from Fitzcarraldo editions arrived I was excited to see if my feelings about him were right .Alejandro Zambra currently teaches at Santiago Diego Portales university he has won a number of awards including the best Chilean Novel award and was part of the 2010 Granta best Spanish writer collection (time flies that was a great collection ).

He was twenty-three years old, it was the first computer he’d owned and he didn’t know exactly what he wanted it for, considering he barely knew how to turn it on and open the word processor. But it was necessary to have a computer, everyone said so, even his mother . Who’d promised to help him with payments .

I was a bit old when I got my first lapton but had same feeling as what is this for in my life as our narrator did .

My documents could easily be called a novel in the way it is a collection of memories strung together , but the narrator isn’t defined as the same one, so it’s not a novel but a wonderful collection of gems memories drawn like the miniatures of old .Rather like in the 18th century people used carry a miniature of their loved ones eye just the eye and like that this collection it is a detached collection of stories of lives and memories . A remembrance of a first computer , from putting a poem on it , then listening to music , editing pictures and music finally to a dark side of the owning of a pc .Then we follow a smoker as he writers a diary of his giving up smoking (The irony is I just read Nicotine another non fiction work from FItzcarraldo also about stopping smoking ) .Then Condor Rojas is mentioned in one of the stories and rather like the stories themselves an echo of one of my own memories was remembered as like the writer himself , I remember the story of Roberto Rojas when this Chilean keeper pretend to be injured from a firework a match was abandoned and then he was found to have injured himself .

He’d been there with us, in front of the tv . When Condor Rojas faked his injury in Brazil and the Chilean team walked of the field at the Maracana. My father and I couldn’t believe what we were seeing and Camilo was distraught too. “Fucking Brazilians!” I shouted to see if anyone would scold me,but no one did. My father sank into a furious silence. Camilo immediately set off downtown, and he was part of the crowd that protested in front of the Brazilian embassy. I wanted to go with him, but my parents wouldn’t let me , and I had to swallow my rage.

The moment Rojas did the injury that turned out to be fake .

Again i was touched by Zambra I said although he grew up a million miles away from me and in a different world . I connected with him in ways of going home and again here , I remember my first interactions with a pc .But more than that the memory of what happened in that world cup qualifying game in 1989 that saw chile miss the 1990 world cup all but forgotten now outside Chile was by me at least remembered for a number of days after the reading of the story .Rather like Robin Williams in the film the final cut Zambra is a master of slicing together parts of life memories , loves and behind it all the dark past of Chile .This is a wonderful debut short story collection from one of the leading lights of Latin American fiction at the moment.

Have you read Zambra ?

 

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