Hah by Birgül Oğuz

Hah Birgul Oguz

Hah by Birgül Oğuz

Turkish Fiction

Translators –

Kenneth Dakan, Alexander Dawe, mark Wyers, Alev Ersan, Arzu Akbatur, Abigail Bowman, Feyza Howell, Amy Spangler and kate ferguson.

Original title Haha

Source – Review copy

When this dropped through the letterbox earlier this year, i noted on twitter that it was one of my favourite covers the lonely dog on the cover maybe lets you into more what is on the inside. that is one woman getting to grip with her own fathers death. This collection won the European union prize for literature in 2014 and meant this wonderfully short book could get a wider audience. Birgul lives in Istanbul and has written both fiction and non fiction in her time.

MY MOTHER DIDN’T GIVE BIRTH TO ME. On a whim she left me there under an acacia. And it came to be that I found myself at the foot of Acacia. It rustled and I held on, rustled and I held on. When I was still no larger than a bean I became the dark shadow of that looming tree.

Thank God my mother set me free too soon. I am cool and I am alone. I am the image and the shadow and the oasis to the spirit of the acacia, dripping from its heavy boughs. sentence is anguish to the soul and I never tasted of it. I am solitude. I am that which is distant to the world.

The opening lines of Hah which as I noted has Acacia trees in it as a motif

 

This is one of those books that falls between the lines of what it is a novella in stories, prose pieces or short stories. What we get is abstract poetic stories as one woman struggles to find the way to deal with her father’s death. His past as he grew up in the violent years of Turkish rule in the late 1960’s. There is recurring motifs like acacia trees which crop up in more than one story I feel the wider brim of the acacia is a metaphor for the lost father in a way . Metaphor as well water trickling is like her father’s life as it trickled away from him. A journey through the ways we mourn those closest  to us.We also see the old Turkish life and the modern Turkish world clashing.

She stepped outside. She felt the cold slap her across her face and – clack!- the tongue of the door snapped into place.She hurried down the fig-lined road and , as she turned into Long Meadow Street, shook off three word from the branches of her mind:time, paper, death

The acacia began to sway back and forth with rage of the wind, at its roots lay those three acrid words, fallen like unripe fruit. Then it bent down heavily, as if to unload its entire weight onto that of the morning in an aching march, delivering a clumsy sentence in a voice dark and deep yet vaporous.

Acacia again from one of the last stories but a bent broken tree now .

This is a short work 88 pages long and as I said is hard to pin down thew language is rich and given the fact it was worked on at a ten-day workshop for Turkish literature means you can see how many translators have tighten Birguls words to the beautiful piece we get here. Another triumph for world editions rarely do we see such short works as this translated into English. Birgul uses a variety of styles from poetic prose , to songs  and short stories as she put in her winning speech for the european union Literature prize  she wove these styles together like a cloth. She started writing the book after the loss of her own father. As her way to deal with the rage and loss of her father she also said this in her winning interview. A great new voice from Turkey to read.

Have you a favourite Turkish writer ?

Numero Zero by Umberto Eco

Numero Zero, Umberto Eco

Numero Zero by Umberto Eco

Italian fiction

Original title – Numero Zero

Translator – Richard Dixon

Source – Library book

As I said the day after he died I had intend to review this as one of the man booker hopefuls, not knowing how the rules fully stand it still may be in the running. I enjoyed this and am sad that it will be his last novel as far as we know at the moment, as Eco always considered his novel-writing a hobby that he just did at the weekend as a diversion from his academic work.

Another topic was denial. We were still a newspaper without any readers, and so there was no challenge any of the news that we provided. But a newspaper is also judged by its capacity to handle denials, especially if it’s a newspaper they shows it doesn’t mind getting it’s hands dirty. Also, by training ourselves for the real denials when they came., we could invent letters from readers that we follow up with a denial. just to let the commendatore see what we are capable of.

this is so Borges a paper with out reader with readers letters hence the title Numero Zero.

 

Numero Zero is set in Italy at two times the first is a story of the end of the world war two the last few days of the tyrant IL Duce following his capture by the partizans, til he was executed and his body was buried in an unkown grave  or was it !.Now shoot forward too 1992 Collonna a hack is hired to write a ghost paper , a number of scandal written newspapers for a fake newspaper that is part of a great scheme b the owner of that paper , along the way he runs into a conspiracy freak. That tells him a whole tale of the 1945 Il duce story and that is they caught a double and that the real Duce was smuggled to Argentina by the Vatican. This is maybe to mad a story for the paper.There is many more twists and turns in this Classic eco tale.

“We’ll come back to Petaci. For now, let me just fill in my theory. A dictator must have a double, who knows how many times he had used him at official parades, seen always from a distance, to avoid assassination attempts. Now imagine that to enable the Duce to escape unhindered, from the moment he leaves for Como, Mussolini is no longer Mussolini but his double.”

“And where’s Mussolini ?”

THe double theory explained a very Borges Idea and also a classic piece of Eco.

 

This was classic Eco in a way. But also I said maybe it was Eco Lite, this was a short novel felt like a first draft of something that could have been more expansive in its scope. Although it had many echos to his earlier books in style and setting in Milan.  As ever he had many illusions to classic piece of Lit high and Low for me Collonna was very much in the hack crime writer of detective novels from the 1940’s . There is a large tip of the hat to Borges , that Alberto Manguel mentions in his guardian review ,where as Borges worked lit  gems in short stories I always felt Eco expand the style and sort of stories that  Borges used into a  longer novel form and this is now exception with two Motifs  the double and the detective story are both motifs you often find in Borges especially the double the mirror image! He had been called the thinking man Dan brown in recent years and I wonder if this was a clever nod to Mr brown as he has a vatican conspiracy in one of his books (I have seen the film but not read his books ). This would be a great Man booker book if still eligible from one of the most consistent writers of the last thirty years .A sad loss to World Lit, but at least I have his books to reread and add to the blog over next few years.

Have you a favourite book By Eco

The dirty dust by Máirtín Ó Cadhain

The dirty dust by Máirtín Ó Cadhain

Irish Gaelic fiction

Original title –  Cré na Cille

Translator – Alan Titley

Source – library book

I want to read this when it came out and a chance look on my library website the other week and Iw as shocked they had a copy, this book is considered the first modernist novel written in Irish Gaelic. Máirtín Ó Cadhain was heavily involved in the republican movement in the 1930’s. He worked as a journalist wrote short stories and published this book in his lifetime since his death two more novels have been published. I will be changing my quotes here slightly and using the opening of chapters, this is because next month Yale through Margellos world republic of letters the same imprint as this book is from are publishing a second version of Cre na cille in translation, which I intend to read and at that point will compare the wording in both translations to see what is different.

Don’t know if i am in the pound grave, or the Fifteen Shilling grave? Fuck them anyway if they plonked me in the Ten Schilling plot after all the warnings I agave them. The morning I died I calls Patrick in from the kitchen, “I’m begging you Patrick, I’m begging you, put me in the pound grave, the pound grave! I know  some of us are buried in Ten Schilling grave, but all the same…”

The opening chapter The Black earth and a new arrival in the earth wonders did her husband listen to her!

Now back to the book the dirty dust is set in the graveyard of a small town of connemera. What we have is voice of all those buried there talking away as each person arrives in the new grave they are set upon as the dead try to find out what has happened between burials. This sees old feuds carrying on wounds open wider in the earth from the time the new republic was formed and who was on whom side. You get caught up in this world of voices and often forget it is the dead that are speaking.This is like being in a busy Irish pub in that cacophony of voices all talking at once.

-The sky is mine, the sea, the land…

-The hinterland is mine, what is upside down, the inside , the lower depths.You have the edges and the contingent…

-The light of the sun is mine, the shining moon, the sparkling star..

-The mysterious recesses of every cave are mine, the jagged pits of every abyss, the dark heart of every stone, the unknown guts of every earth, the hidden stem of every flower..

-Mine is the sunny south, brightness, love, the ruddy rose and the maiden’s smile…

-Mine is the dour north, darkness, misery, the shoot that gives life to the rose petal, the web of veins that drives the diseased blood of melancholy routing laughter from the cheeks to lighten the brightness of the face..

-mine is the egg, the sprout, the seed, the source …

-mine is

I choose the opening of chapter 9 The wasting earth as the detached nature of the voices is very Beckett like .

This is a hard book to describe because that is what it is the dead talking and talking in that irish way of the crack these have all kissed the blarney stone and have the gift of the gab. Cadhaim wrote the book in 1949 so the same year Beckett brought waiting for Godot out. Brian O’nolan was writing absurd piece for the papers as  Myles na gCopaleen . two of his contempary . I choose these two as they seem nearest to him this book must have been read by Beckett there is part of this that reminds me so much of his later plays the detached nature of the voices in the book is so like those plays. As for O’Nolan he seems to poke fun at the irish establishment the same way O’Nolan did in his Myles character.Why it has taken 66  years to finally reach us in English I don’t know but know we have it we see what a lost gem it is and a missing piece in many of ours Irish lit knowledge. Another gem from world Republic of letters.

Have you read this or any Gaelic novels ?

Winston weekend Bye Umberto and how many books have I left ?

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I could not mention the sad loss of Umberto Eco which was announced on Friday I was due to review Numero Zero as part of my MBIP2016 possible this week so I will still do so. As I have only Prague cemetary under review here fter it was on the IFFP a few years ago , I actually own all his novels baring that and Numero zero which is a library book. He was a talented writer that liked to play with Genre of Fiction and also raise genres like the thriller to a higher lit level. He was also a talent academic and expert in semiotics.  His loss is sad from those early William weaer translation that showed what great books and great translators can do !

The loss of Umberto makes me thing of time and how many books we have left to read , I read this piece on times flow stemmed .Books that made my ears burn  where he finishes the piece of with his estimate total of books he has left to read. Well I had a quick add together of saying 100 books average a year , I read 120-130 the last fie years a 100 seems a fair guess and I have said another 40 years for me which seems fair we are long lived in my family so that is maybe 4000 books I have left maybe more. a few more journeys around the globe.But which books , That is becoming a point I seem to want to try more exotic books all the time those translated gems that many miss and I feel more of these will appear as 40000 isn’t enough to waste time on poor books or even hyped books .As I aim to read my 4000 and have  a few more .

How many books have you left ?

Winstons Post Down the Una

Two books that I received this week .The first is a Novel that follows one man’s journey through the past through the Bosnian war , but also the world around him the river Una and also the flights of fancy every child and young man has. The book has the original cover and illustrations that were in the Bosnian edition of the book. This book won the European union prize for literature. Another gem from Istros books who as ever is bringing us the best of Balkan Lit .

Another arrival is a book I was told about a couple of years ago. I was lucky with a couple of other blogger to have an afternoon tea with the great Christopher Maclehose. Whilst having tea we were told that this book had just been signed to be translated and that Kurkov considered it his best book The book follows characters through the soviet years from the end of world war to to the edge of the crumbling communist world . The title comes from the inventor of the fuse for Dynamite. The book has a lot of what is best in kurkov it say I have reviewed two of his books before The milkman at night and his famous death and the penguin  and love the way he shows the madness and satirical side of the communist years.

 

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