Aliss at the fire by Jon Fosse

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Aliss at the fire by Jon Fosse

Norwegian fiction

Original title – det er als

Translator – Damion Searls

Source – personnel copy

One thing I have started to do since I moved house is buy a few very cheap books from amazon of writers I have had on my to read list forever. Jon Fosse is a point in case I have had him down for a few years as a writer to read since he started to feature near the top of the nobel hopefuls every year. I was a bit put of by the fact he is compared to beckett but when I saw this a recent book from Dalkey archive for under a pound plus postage I couldn’t resist it. I’m , pleased I did as this is my book of the year so far. I can see why Fosse has won every major prize at home and around the world barring the big one the Nobel.

I’ve seen much better boats, she says

I like this boat, Asle says

But couldn’t you get yourself a bigger boat a safer boat, Signe says

I don’t want a new boat , Asle says.

Why do you like this boat so much,Signe says

I knew the man who built it, and he built it for me,Asle says

He built boats his whole life, the man who built it and he built one for me, he says

Yes , Signe says

The boat had been a worry for his wife Signe before the day he drowned in the Fjord as she watched in the Black water.

 

Aliss at fire is one of those single paragraph work of monolgue, at time I was reminded of Thomas  Bernhard for this long winded style. The book is told as a widowed wife looks back on the her life with her dead husband Asle , but also the family that has been on that spot next to the fjord where she sits on a bench looking out at the black water like she did the night her husband’s boat ran into trouble. She imagines the family over time in other boats other deaths on the fjord her connection to the boat times she asked him if he wanted a new boat for the lake and he said no he was happy with his old boat.This is an inner monologue of time drifting her life now than and before as ghosts seem to haunt here in the dark coming out to touch her almost, at points she even touches her own body to feel close to the past.A tale of a woman trying to cope with death.

But forward, it’s moving, and the boat moves out across fjord, out father and father, in the wind, in the rain and even through the darkness is dense and thick around him in a weird way it’s not dark he thinks, because the fjord is shining black then it it’s not really that cold, he is wearing his thick sweater keeping him warm from rowing,he thinks and he looks back over his shoulder and there up ahead, far away there, there near the middle of the Fjord, what is that over there ?

Asle on the water in the boat he had built for him. The use of black is interesting.

This is one of those short novellas ,  that last with you as a reader, I thought when i put it down it was like a lost Peirene in a way.The story is dark as dark as the black water , hair and nights that are a recurring theme in the book boats also crop up a lot maybe as a vessel from this life to the next maybe the Fjord is this families river of sticks. As I said I was reminded of Bernhard but also maybe the constant mention of black hair , black water remind me of Dylan Thomas under Milkwood especially took me back to seeing that as a one piece monologue by Richard Burton Nephew .This is death playing chess or the dark sections of a film by Roy Anderson the real dark side of Nordic life Fjord and boats are dangerous. Fosse may well win the Nobel in the next few years.

Have you read Fosse ?

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Two faces Italy and Iceland march on euro 2016

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I arrived home yesterday to two books through the post . I was surprised firstly by an odd similarity in the two cover images. The first book young bride by Alessandro Barico the Italian writer follows a young women joining a noble family but as she does so she has learned secrets from each of her new family members. I have enjoyed his books before so am looking forward to this his latest in English.Then it is a real treat the next book by Jon Kalman Stefansson this book Fish have no feet is the first of his books to be set in a modern setting to be translated to english his trilogy which I enjoyed was a historic novel. This book follows a man returning to his childhood home town with memories of the music of the beatles and pink Floyd and a girl he once fell in love with. So as yesterday saw both Italian team and Iceland go forward to the next round in euro 2016 with Iceland playing England in the second round.

7 years bloganniversary let’s go to Spain

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The wordpress app told me at weekend it was seven years since winstonsdad started its trip around the world of Literature. In that time I have managed to review 635 books from 103 countries a real tour of the world . I miss the old days of blogging when it seemed new and fun but the recent move and a new library have spurred this old blogger on to carry on so we start off with the next spanish lit month which is next month. I have five books I plan to read one is reread.

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First up is two books due out from Harvil secker The first from a new star of Spanish Literature DIvorce is in the air by Gonzalo Torne one for the fans of Ferrante and Knausgaard says Harvil . Next is On the edge by Rafael Chirbes one of the great writers of recent times from Spain he won two of the biggest prizes in Spanish literature.

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Nocilla dream is the reread of the pile a wonderful odd collection of short snippets like a trail of photos with stories made up about them. I enjoyed it on the first read but felt a second reading would be worth it for this collection .

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Next up is Loquela by Carlos Labbe the chilean writer is compared to Borges and this is a warped love story and detective novel in one . One of those books that challenges the reader.

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Lasr but not least is the won derfully witty Sky over lima which sees two writers in Chile write and start a love affair in letter with the famous Spanish poet Juan Ramon Jimenz .In what started as a plan to get his latest book early turns it a love in letters .

Have you any plans for Spanish lit month ?

How do you keep your blogging fresh after a number of years ?

Football by Jean-Philippe Toussaint euro 2016

Football by Jean-Philippe Toussaint

Belgium Non -Fiction

original title – Football

Translator – Shaun Whiteside

Source – Review copy

Jean Philippe Toussaint is a writer I had long wanted to get to his novels are well-known for a minimalist style , so when this collection of prose piece by him on football arrived from Fitzcarraldo editions I got a chance to tick off a writer I had wanted to get to for a while. He has written nine novels which have been translated into many languages and he has won a number of book prizes as well .This also ties in with my current set of Euro 2016 related books as it follows his life in recent years tracking the Belgium team.

Childhood

In Brussels, in the playgrounds of primary school no. 9 , we used to play football at break time and the criterion used ro seprate the two teams was nopt little versus big or fair versus dark or year four versus year five, it was moral versus religion . At the start of the year, in this secular school on rue Americaine in Ixelles, you effectively had to choose between Moral and religion, according to whether you parents or we ourselves wanted to take catechism classes.

I love this way they choose the teams in my day it was against a wall and I was often near the end .

The book is a collection of short essays about his early life and football , things like playing with friends , getting a bad injury whilst a kid. what jersey he loves.I like the insight into shirts and teams we always think of certain teams and colours his examples are France in Blue, Brazil in Yellow and Germany in White.But what happens when they don’t where that shirt of course here in the England this was the case on our biggest game ever the 66 final where the team wore red shirts! Then he finally watches matches as an adult first in France 98 which strangely serves as a mid-point in the book and a tying to the end of the book as of course both involve the french player Zidane.Toussaints memories are tied to his team Belgium and their course through the cup which in this case was three draws . Then what follows is how he sees the team at the following world cups the next saw them make the 2nd round only to lose to Brazil.then the missing belgium team means a short piece on 2006. Then South Africa also a year without Belgium . The work is rounded off with an earlier piece he wrote on Zidane about the mad night 2006 when Zidane end his career getting sent off for the first time for headbutting an italian player in an act out-of-place for the great player and hero of the first year Toussaint talks about .

Night has fallen over Berlin now, the intensity if the light has faded and Zidane has suddenly felt the sky darkening over his shoulders, leaving nothing in the firmament but the flayed trails of blck and pink clouds. Water mixed with night is an old remorse that will not sleep

No one in the stadium has understood what just happened.

That moment in 2006 from the piece Zidane’s melancholy

Now I find hard not to like this book as Toussaint is a true football fan , the real shame for me is the book ends just as the story of his team and country is about to turn the book ends in 2010 , when in 2014 the belgium team makes it quarter-final and even this time have been maybe the best team or second best team at euro 2016 so far with their team of stars. So lets hope we get a football 2 with these years at some point Toussaints take on Hazzard, Fellani and so on. The Belgium team is packed with talent not seen since the days of Enzo Scifo the great Belgium player with the Italian name that caught the eye in the 80s world cups where they finished 4th in 86 and Scifo was one of the stars of that year.This is one of the best football books I have read. But for further reading on the Benelux football I would point you in the way of Brilliant Orange a book on the mad genius of Dutch football .

 

Byron and the beauty by Muharem Bazdulj euro 2016 post 3

Byron and the beauty by Muharem Badzdulj

Bosnian fiction

Original title – Đaur i Zulejha

Translator – John R cox

I have briefly met Muharem a couple of years ago when I was out for the day with his english publisher Susan and we bumped into him before the first Balkan day at the british library. It wasn’t till I sat to write this review I was remind of the fact I had met him briefly . He lives in Belgrade and has had a number of small piece translated before one was included in the best European fiction 2012. Muharem himself is a professor of English and AMerican Lit and has translated piece from Auster, Rushdie and Larkin to name a few. I choose this as we see Turkey in the opening game the other day of Euro 2016 play a fellow Balkan team Croatia so it gave me chance to shoehorn this book in as Croatia and turkey have been two of my favourite teams to watch over the last few decades as both fans have such passion and this is seen on the pitch.

Isak pointed towards the mountains. “North of here, and to the west ” He said : “A stern and beautiful land. I spent my youth there it is a perfect land, as a Turk once told me, wherever you dig, up comes potable water, and wherever a seed falls, there a tree will sprout. Nowhere is the water any sweeter, or the shade any more beautiful, my lord. This place you were speaking of, my lord , this sintra, seems to me to be complete sevdah, but Bosnia is at once Sevdah and Dert.

Isak tells byron what Bosnia is like in the most poetic way as Bosnia is considered the poetic heart of the balkans .

It’s interesting that Muharem has translated poetry and choose a poet as a lead figure in this book. The figure in this book is Lord Byron the mad bad boy of romantic poetry. We meet him here as we spend two weeks with him as he waits in the Balkans Byron his group of people and a man called Isak whom is the interpreter. Then there is the third character in the story a Bosnian beauty called Zuleiha who is part of the Turkish royal Harem. At one point Isak said her beauty is that much it can’t be described so we have an English man in love with an eastern beauty that he can’t have .They can’t even say he name after she married. We see Byron trying to work out how eastern culture works through his western eyes.

“No my lord” Isak replied, “her name has not been utter since the wedding. All those who’d been saying she would definitely appear re now as silent as can be. Such a story, however cannot be invented. She is here somewhere my lord; I can feel it; and I fear that we Iliad will miss her, that she will come to Yannina, and leave again, while I’m away

Isak talks about Zuleiha and her wedding and after .

Now another connection the mad bad boy of romantic poetry , grew up 20 miles from where I live in his family home of Newstead abbey ( I went a few years ago and Byron had some mad family members one who made the staff of the estate take part in naval battle in small ships with real cannons on the lake ) I knew I had read something similar by Byron and I rooted out my battered copy of Bryon’s poems that I have had for years .

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I found that after Childe Harold he had written a poem or turkish tale in fragments called The Giaour  a story with three character a woman from the Harem an Infidel (also the name given to Byron in the Bosnian edition ) as she is thrown to the sea after being involved with the infidel.But strangely the poem is also one of the first mentions of Vampires and given that most vampire storys start in the east is this maybe the start of it given that it is explained to Byron about the Bosnian Dert and Sevdah Black bile and blood  This book is a modern take on how Byron looked at the east back then how we in the west held eastern culture in such mystery at the time. It is also a tale of love that won’t happen a great lover that misses out on getting the great beauty maybe for the first time . There is no actual record of this two weeks but Byron spent time in-between turkey Albania and the Balkans in 1809  to 1811 on his grand tour when he fell in love with not just the Balkans but also the old Levant region of south eastern europe and north africa.

Have you a favourite book set in turkey ?

Moonstone The boy who never was by Sjon euro 2016 post 2

Moonstone The boy who never was by Sjon

Icelandic fiction

Original title – Mánasteinn – drengurinn sem aldrei var til

Translator – Victoria Cribb

Source – personal copy

Well a new book Sjon is always a welcome treat, I have reviewed a couple of his books on the blog and met the translator of this book and his earlier books at the IFFP a few years ago so I knew there was other books to come out by him as she had translated more books by him. Sjon is maybe one of the best known names from Iceland not only as he is connected to the band sugarcubes in the past who were one of the first connection I had with Iceland .They are also making the first appearances in a major football championship and one of the players was the first I remember playing in Britain is still in the Iceland team Eidur Gudjohnson was part of Big Sam’s Bolton team back in the day with his fellow club mates from all round the world 17 years later it was great to see him part of the team last night for the first euro match.

She appeared on the brink like a goddess risen from the depths of the sea, silhouetted against the backdrop of a sky ablaze with the volcanic fire of Katla; a girl like no other, dressed in black leather overall that accentuates every detail it is intended to hide, with black gloves on her hands, a domed helmet on her head, goggles over her eyes, and a black scarf over her nose and mouth

Imra Vep in her death like outfit in the film Les Vampires that engulfs Mani as he watches it .

Anyway back to the book Moonstone is for me one of his best books the story of Mani Stein he is a 16-year-old boy , but one of those boys that almost fell out lf a dickens novel this is a boy who lives on the edge of society in Iceland making his way through encounters with men. But at the same time living his life in a dream world of the cinema and imaging his life drawn into the films and heroines of the films he loves to watch in one of the two cinemas in the capital. Add to this it is 1918 and a boat has just arrived and brought the Spanish flu to the capital. So as death rides over the town we see one boy trying to avoid death as it calls on Iceland. Will he avoiding him as he swoops like the black glad figures he loved so much in the films of the time.

He overhears them saying that some of the Botina’s crew are ill with the same influenza that swept through the country last summer, and that the ship will be delayed while new hands are found to take their place. The boy knows the illness from personal experience. He was sick as a dog for five days, with a headache and a high temperature, a cold and an upset stomach, and missed the films From Headquarters and The black owl, neither of which, to his great dismay, had been shown again.

He had got through last time but will he this time when one boat brings it back to Iceland

Sjon shows his love of early cinema this book is a treat for anyone interested in what films to watch from the early year of cinema such as Les Vampires a french epic told in ten parts starring Imra Vep the heroine Mani so looks up too as a black dress vampire committing crime in Paris. THe images of the film in me  also evoke Bergmann death in his film seventh seal and you feel death is a character in this  book never mention but always in the hinterland. I love Mani the way he loved film this is a darker northern version of Cinema Paradiso a young boy in love with the moving image but also in trouble in his own world. But this boy has no Alfredo to save him or for him to save. As ever Sjon walks the line between fairytale and reality without ever making the story feel to surreal but with the sense of otherness we all love in his writing.I may also remind you Sjon has been interviewed by me here 

Have you a favourite Sjon book ?

The Little Communist who never smiled by Lola Lafon euro 2016 book 1

 

The Little Communist Who Never SmiledThe little Communist who never smiled by Lola Lafon

Original title – La petite communiste qui ne souriait jamais

Translator – Nick Caistor

Source – review copy

Well today sees the Euro 2016 championship kick off and there is a strange symmetry to this book and the first game which is a novel by a French writer about a famous Romanian which mirrors the opening game of the Euro 2o16 championship which sees France take on Romania. Lola Lafon has written three novels this is her third novel, she is also a well-known feminist in France and also a singer. This book won a number of book prize in France ten in all.

They are waiting for her. This first press conference is packed out, all five hundred seats and more on the ground, there is no room anywhere. The walls are covered in embrodieries of flowers. When she finally arrives, dressed in the romanian team’s tracksuit with blue , yellow and red bands and the hammer and sickle on her chest, her coach lifts her and carries her at arms length to her place; the doll she is clutching is wearing the same tracksuit and their hair is done the same way, with two bunches tied up with red ribbons. Above her head, a portrait of President Ceauseacu.

I love the doll in her hands and the way she is carried like a doll into this first conference after the perfect ten.

Now the book is a imagine work on the life before during and after the Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci, shock the world when in the 1976 olympics , when she got a perfect ten for her routine on the uneven bars the first time this had even happen. What we see is how she is discovered trained then wins the gold medal . This point is where her life really changes she becomes firstly a figurehead for woman around the world but also a pawn in the cold war . Used by the Romanian regime of Ceauusecu as a figure-head for the country ,  but this weighs heavy on this fidgety young girl that is yes a great gymnast but propelled into a world of craziness that was the propaganda of the cold war. Thing like Romanian eat better than West German the bountiful land displayed by fake food in photos she is involved with.

In 1984 or 1985, I can’t remember which, a woman died after an abortion. The securitate forced her family to organize the funeral outside the factory, her body was exhibited as an example. An example.. they exhibited living womans bodies as well, like Nadia with those postcards of her everywhere, and her triumphs; dead or alive, we could be used.

The dark side of the regime no abrotions and woman either held up or put down .

I enjoyed this book I knew Very little of Her life other than the grainy footage of her 1976 win and that perfect ten moment that she got . Which has been part of an advert here in the Uk in recent years. Her life is an example of what was so wrong with the cold war the myths lies and untruths that both sides made. But in particular regimes like the one in Romanian where the face of the nation on the press wasn’t the actual face of the world and we see this through Nadia’s eye a young girl growing and seeing the world from both sides the huge palace of Ceausecu to the home she lived in and her training. Lafon has captured the cold war through one womans story and also captured the sad life of a heroine and a true great in her field .A great book about sport to read on opening day of euro 2016 and France and romania which is just about to kick off….

Have you a favourite Novel  about a famous person ?

I’m back welcome to my book cave winstonsdad new HQ

Well its been a week since I moved from my old house to our new home which I now have a room for all the books a personnel library come office to blog from and read. I had to decide whether to keep my old shelves or buy new but when looking at the shelves I had five mismatch units I decide to take the dive and buy six billy shelves a new chair and small table.

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We managed to get in the weekend before and put the new book cases up. Then bit by bit I brought some books down and loaded the shelves. I wanted these new shelves to be more ordered than my shelves at the old house .

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The plan was a shelf full of my hard backs then shelves for Penguins . Then to order the rest of the books by Country or region . I managed to do this . So I have French , German, Italian , Spanish Portuguese together. Then regional lit of Eastern Europe, Latin America  , Asia,Middle East and Africa. Th en I pulled certain publishers together and new books and hey presto I have ordered shelf and the new HQ for Winstonsdad . I also can now easily find the books for Next months Spanish Lit month which Richard and I are running again for the third year  soryy fourth year doesn’t time fly . Anyway I will be filling you all in near the time on my choices .

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There as you can see my shelves are full and winstonsdad has a new home to return from. Tomorrow I return to Book reviews with  a french novel about a Romanian which given Euro 2016 kicks off with France against Romania .

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