Slow homecoming by Peter Handke


Slow homecoming by Peter Handke

Austrian fiction

Original title – Langsame Heimkehr

Translator – Ralph Manheim

Source – Library book

I was so surprised when I looked back and saw I hadn’t review a single novel by Peter  Handke in the time I have been running the blog, although he was a writer i read a lot years ago before his more controversal years when he support certain leaders in the Balkan war. I first came across him when he wrote the script for Wings or Desire the Wim Wenders film with whom he has worked with over a number of film and after which I saw I read a number of his books in the early 1990’s . Handke is a name that has crept up the Nobel betting also in recent years. The time to revisit him after twenty years maybe was now so this library collection of three novellas seemed a great place to start.


Sorger had outlived several of those who had become close to him; he had ceased to long for anything, but often felt a selfless love of existence and at times a need for salvation so palpable that it weighted on his eyelids. Capable of a tranquil harmony, a serve strength that could transfer itself to other, yet easily wounded by the power of facts.

The opening lines of the first of the three novellas The long way round .

The book is in three sections they were originally published separately but later brought together as the same character is in all three books The first extract is from the first book The long way round we meet Valentin Sorger he is in the distant Alaska  and as the title of the collection suggest we see  Sorger who longs to be back home in Europe working his wat slowly across America strangely I was reminded of the Wenders film Alice in the cities and it turns out that Wenders had used Handke  fiction as  part of  the inspiration for this film, also about a German speaker working his way home like Sorger in the book.

Mont sainte-Victoire is not the highest mountain in Provence, but it is said to be the steepest. It does not consist of a single peak but of a Long chain, the crest of which describes a relatively straight line at an almost constant altitude of a thousand meters above sea level. It looks like a sheer peak only when seen from the valley of Aix, situated half a day walk almost due westward .

The view of a mountain in Provence that Cezanne painted many times over his painting career.



I have include one of Cezanne’s many pictures of the mountain that makes up the second part of the three novellas that make up this book as we see Sorger taking short walks in the region and thinking about places and images as he does it.

The child was now more than three years old. Thus far, she had played alone almost exclusively, turned inward in quiet contentment, unlike the gloomily self-absorbed adult. But in the course of time ( and specifically of the seasons) both had made themselves at home in community on the wooded slope, and the adult was sick of vistors who with their falsely sympathetic or ironically citified remarks about the house and its location.

The third novella is about a father and his daughter

The third book although not called or even mentioned as Sorger follows a man who has moved to a small mountain town in what one must assume is Austria is a man returned to his roots after many years away from the country. Partly based on Handke on life.

I enjoyed this book it has a lot of what a love in my favourite books that is Longing and a wanting to return home in this case not to a place so much as to a feeling of a places. I imagine what Handke has done in these books is captured that feeling that is best decribed in the Portugeese word Saudade, that longing to return to a homeland now gone or even the german term Heimat these three books collected together see a man struugle with coming home then what it is about a place that appeals using Cezanne obsession with Mont Sainte-victoire . then the final end when home what it means to be home and not feel back at home.

Have you read Handke ?


An ode to Brim library

Brimington Library

well guardian has love letter to libraries on the website today. for me a a reader and a blogger wth out my local library I would be a poorer reader.

To Brim Library

Not cute or big  but

a 100 paces from my door

You too this reader

A 100 miles and more in the mind

Dear brim library

you have filled my mind to the brim

Taken me as  a reader to the rim



I love my library I use it every week near enough without it I wouldn’t been able to have done the last three shadow IFFP juries as they have always had some if not most of the books I wanted. In a time when we are talking about kids not read we need keep open our libreaires our shining beacons in the dark world of tech.I love the fact a click away is nearly every book I could ever want and the journeys I take in the world of translated fiction .

Stu library user .



I haven’t ever thought about moving the blog forward more just blogged week to week and slowly the blog grew. I tried different things some worked others didn’t over time. But the blog has got to the stage and as a fellow blogger noted the other day about seven year which is the age of this blog I maybe need to start dangling a carrot and maybe neaten a few loose trails on the blog. When I started the blog I had no real idea of how to blog and over the years my knowledge has grown but I have also never gone back and neaten things off on the blog. So I started a page of Winston’s goals to try and reach some totals blog wise like reviewing 100 french books and 50 German books both of which i am fairly near too and could be reachable this year. How do you keep yourself going when you have been blogging for a long time. I not losing interest in the blog I just find it has maybe come an endless cycle of doing the same thing week in week out and maybe by setting goals I can change that some what . I also feel I have lost a little influence on twitter the last year or twonot sure if it is me being less involved or just twitter is different now than when I first joined it.I sometimes miss Translationthurs  and I started it, I need to try and be on there a bit more .


New sentiments and old friends


Well this dropped on the doorstep yesterday. I have only read Madame Bovary years ago so as I am wanting to try as part of my forthcoming blog goals page is to try and reach a 100 french books this year as I am only 29 books away from that total this new translation from Oxford university press of sentimental education the tale of Frédéric Moreau journey into manhood from country to Paris as the country under goes great changes.


Then today I got latest  and the first in this year’s fairy tale series from another old friend Peirene press this tale of a gorilla told from his point of view as he struggles  with the the human world and human weakness. Also in the package was the latest Peirene newspaper which I am so.proud to have my blog mentioned as one to read for international literature


Submission by Michel Houellebecq



Submission by Michel Houellebecq

French fiction

Original title – Soumission

Translator – Lorin Stein

Source – Personnel copy

Well when I started to look back on books that came out last year that may make the Man booker longlist this was one of the first on my list of books I hadn’t read and I was lucky to find a half price copy in my local waterstones. I have read Houellebecq before I have found him a challenging writer if a little to obsessed with sex for my liking. But this was a book I had to read given the events it was caught up in as we maybe all know the week of the Charlie Hebdo the cover star the week of the attack with a review of this very book. Houellebecq then stood back from promotion of this book.

So it goes, in the remaining western social democracies, when you finish your studies, but most students don’t notice right away because they’re hypnotised by the desire for money or, if they’re more primitive, the desire for consumer goods (though these cases of acute product-addiction are unusual: the mature, thoughtful majority develop a fascination with that” tireless Proteus”, money itself). Above all they’re hypnotised by the desire to make their mark, to carve out an enviable social position in a world that they believe indeed hope will be competitive, galvanised as they are by worship of fleeting icons: athletes, fashion or web designers, film stars and models

Maybe in the opening lines Houellebecq capture the modern world of greed and celeb we live in !!

The book in question is submission is set in a near distant future of  France 2020 and the story is told from the world of Francois, he is an academic who has spent his whole life studying the life and works of the 19th century French writer Joris-Karl Huysman. His life has a pattern even his relationships which early on he says seem to take a yearly cycle with his  academic year. He is wound up so much in his life , so much so that he seems to have missed what is going on in his homeland till this point which is breaking point. The country has seen a decade of governments fail and people get disillusioned with their leaders and into this vacuum that has come at the top of French politics is a far right leader based on the real Marie Le pen and a Ben Abbes the leader of a Muslim party, now the unthinkable happens and these to get to form an alliance and then Ben Abbes grasps power and starts to impose Muslim law on the country. Now Francois starts to taste a new life where have multiple wives and women have to treat men differently is acceptable but also this quite man sees his life has shifted.A scary look at a terrifying future.

Beneath these surface agitations, France was undergoing deep and rapid change. It turned out that some of Ben Abbe’s ideas had nothing to do with Islam; during press conference he declared ( to general bafflement) that he was profoundly influences by distrubutism. He had actually said so before, several times on the campaign  trail, but since journalists have a natural tendency to ignore what they don’t understand, no one paid attention and he’d let it drop

I love the fact they had missed the fact a lot of Abbe’s views follow a catholic theory that was missed by the press.

Now this is a clever look at what could happen if a path is taken the more one side grows say  the far right parties and their supporters,  their naturally has to be another side to counter act the rise of the other so the two main political figures in this book aren’t to far from the real people they are based on and in a way the fact that a far right and Muslim party would join together in a coalition shows in a way how similar some of their views may be. Then we have a juxtapose view of this book and the main book of Huysman Canon A rebours a study of a man and living a decadent lifestyle in a world of freedom.Is viewed  by a woman hating man in the present day that maybe sees the fact of  no freedoms as having the ultimate freedom.I maybe found Francois a little creepy and  in a way a typical lead character in a Houellebecq novel. But this is a clever view on France and the way things could happen if things don’t change.

Have you read this book or any by Houellebecq ?

Conducting bodies by Claude Simon

conducting bodies Claude simon

Conducting bodies by Claude Simon

French fiction

Original title – Les Corps conducteurs

Translator – Helen R Lane

Source – Library book

I have reviewed a number of French writers of the last few years that have all been identified as Noveau Roman writers such as Sarraute or Duras  both of which I have reviewed on the blog. Where each book the writer  tackled was a new style of story and book to them as a writer. Although he was included by many in this group Claude Simon himself didn’t count himself in the group of writers. Simon won the Nobel Literature prize in 1985.So when I found this book on my library system late last year I was pleased to try him.

In the display a dozen identical female legs are lined up in a row, feet up, thighs lopped off at the hip joint resting on the floor, the knees slightly bent, as though the legs had been removed from some chorus of dancers at the precise moment that they are all kicking  in unison, and put there in the window just as the were, or perhaps snipped out, in monotonous multiplicity, from some advertisement showing a pretty girl in her slip pulling on a stocking, or sitting on a pouf, or on the edge of an unmade bed

The opening lines of the book show you are in for a ride as a reader.

Well Conducting bodies belongs in the field of hard modernist novels, for there is no real plot to speak of other than we are told a writer is on his way to a writers conference that well could be a big city in america but equally given the time the book was written (early 1970’s ) when France was in love with all things US at that time it could france. Anyway or writers body isn’t working he visitis a doctor. Now this is the part you get the other parts is an interconnected collection of prose about bodies the human body, prints on the wall of the doctors , the models in the shop windows which is where the book opens from there on it is a rollercoaster ride of images and ideas

The airplane appears to be suspended motionless above the immense, unchanging layer of clouds, since each time that one glances at the fleecy humps stretching as far as the eye can see, the only thing visible are minute, nearly imperceptible changes.The only evidence that hour after hour is passing is the fatigue that is thickening little by little on his face, like a crust, accompanied by a slight burning sensation, as though he were suffering from a mild fever. It forms a sort of invisible mask of mud tat sticks to his skin,

The plane trip that may have happened or maybe not one can never tell in this book.

In a way the prose style setting and  style of this book were similar in a way to the  Robbe-grillet novel I review ed last year strangely another novel that was detached from place and time   in the way it was told. This maybe is Simon Homage to the style of writing that America produced in the middle of the 20th century some of Faulkner the way we have no fixed point in the narrative is similar in style to As I lay dying were we are given no guide to who is narrating the story.  But there is also a feel of something like William Burroughs a cut up feel to the nature of the book. This isn’t any easy book to get through no in a way it is like a lot great book trying to tackle the north face of Everest but when you reach the peak you get a real sense of achievement also the work that Helen Lane put into translating this book which must have been hard as there is no real plot to follow as you do so.I will be trying his books again as I come across them Simon is very much a French modernist writer as a look of Amazon tells me he hasn’t any books in print at the moment it seems.

Have you read Simon ?


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February 2016


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