Some recent arrivals at Winston’s towers

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The first of four books to arrive in the last few days is the latest by one of the best known writers in translation in recent years Herman Koch whose The Dinner is one of those books that was a runaway success. He did an interview at the time of the dinner . This latest is a about a writer whom is being watched by the narrator of the book but why is he being watched by him ?

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Tom Lanoye is a well-known Belgium writer Tells the story of his own mother Josee an actress and flamboyent character after she has a stroke which meant she lost her voice . A mother coping with the loss of one of her  sons and the other being Gay is a modern tale.

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Next up a purchase from Amazon Mati Unt was a writer I reviewed in the first year if this blog so felt it was time to revisit him with this modern gothic telling of the vampire story mixing fiction and actual Estonian history.

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Last up is the latest by Norwegian writer Roy Jacobson about a small Norwegian Island but this is just as Norway is opening its doors to the wider world .I like the cover art of this one something Art deco about it in a way.

 

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Woman in translation reviews from Sept 15 to July 16

I will quickly wrap up all the reviews in the year since the last Woman in translation month.

2015

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Voices from Chernobyl  by Svetlana Alexievich – Her work on the characters and effect of the disaster on all effected.

The woman who fed the dogs by Kristein Hemmerechts The wife of Belgium’s most notorious murder is told.

The defenceless by kati Hiekkapelto Finnish crime novel link to the immigrant girls .

She is not me by Golnaz Hashemzadeh A young womans journey to adulthood as she struggles to be a swede from Iraq

Coup de Grace by Marguerite Yourcenar A novel set during russian civil wart a love triangle of sorts

Memory at bay by Evelyne Trouillot  Two people from Haiti In a Paris hospital from both sides of the Papa doc regeime

Gone to ground by Marie Jalowicz Simon One womans survival as a Jews In wartime Berlin

Decompression by Juli Zeh A love triangle on a hoilday Island

The other woman by Therese Bohman The other woman tells her story a doctor falls for a staff member at the hospital.

2016

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The decision by Britta Bohler – Thomas Mann decides to call the Nazis as he decides to publish a piece against them.

Mend the living by Mayliss De Kerangal A day in the life of a human heart and the two people it touches

Hah BY Birgul Oguz a collection of Turkish short stories

Ladivine by Marie Ndiaye Three woman’s lives connect by family

The story of the lost child by Elena Ferrante – The last part of the story sees the two friends older, but not together

The little communist that never smiled by Lola Lafon – The story in novel for off Nadia Comanecci apt for this Olympic year .

The body Where I was born by Guadalupe Nettel A tale of a girl with a sight problem growing up

The winterlings by Christina Sanchez-Andrade Two sisters return to the childhood home .

Well 17 books isn’t bad in what has been the poorest 12 months of blogging. This is my 1300 post on the blog it is nice it comes as I’ve  managed to post a few reviews this week.

What did you read in the last year by woman in Translation ?

 

 

 

On the edge by Rafael Chirbes

On the edge by Rafael Chirbes

Spanish fiction

Original title – En la orilla

Translator – Margaret Jull Costa

Source – review copy

Another later Spanish lit month book here. Rafael Chribes is a writer I had been aware of for a few years he is often mention on list of writers that had to be translated or list of great modern spanish writers .This is his first to be translated into english. He was considered one of the greatest modern writers in spain he died last year he had written nine novels received the National lit prize for Spain. This one of his last novels captures the moment after the collapse of the spanish economy.

On this sunny morning, everything seems quiet and deserted, not a single crane punctuates the horizon, no metallic noises trouble the air, no buzzing or hammering assails the ears. The first time they made the journey after Ahmed lost his job, his friend Rachid laughed at him when he said he was going there to look for work on the building sites,. Work? Only if you want a job digging graves for suicides, Rachid said mockingly

This captures the collapse so well the silence and the despair in one passage .

Olba is a small town on the sea really as the title of the book says on the edge and the people we meet around this town are all on the edge of life or being driven to the edge of life by the down turn that Spain saw like the one in the UK. First we meet two young Muslims that have grasped on to the edge of europe but as Ahmed sees he is a busboy or was  and just lets down due to the wealth he sees around him from |rich Muslims and how he since recent events is under the microscope now A rotting corpse found on the edge of town  adds a sense of mystery to the story .Then we meet Esteban a man who had a factory one of those rich guys that had a partner that left them holding the can when he left with the money. We see latin american eastern Europeans workers trying to cling to life as the bubble has burst and like a small rockpool when the sea has gone out left them all strand in this small town.A modern classic in every sense

We must cling to the few principles we have left. Paella rice must have that golden caramelised crust at the bottom we call socarrat ; foie gras and truffles must come from perigord; and vinegar from modena . He’s joking now. The new principles, the last thing we have to hold on to, serve to help us choose good wine, wooden masts for our yachts and ammunition for our hunting trips.

Chribes has a dry humour at times as he with what matters very tongue in cheek .

This captures the despair of the bubble when it burst. The one who had it and lost it those who never where going to have it like lifting a rock we see all that has gathered under it for shade for the fierce sun and world. This book is deep in narrative and description he was frequently compared to William Faulkner in his writing there is a shared richness in his prose style like Faulkner Chirbbes world seems to be small town spain and the underclass some what.This is the best book I have read about the collapse of the financial markets around the world but what that meant to people on the ground level which is sometimes behind the news headlines what we don’t see the Ahmed or Esteban’s on the ground level.

Have you a favourite read about the financial crash ?

 

Life begins on Friday by Ioana Parvulescu

Life begins on Friday by Ioana Parvulescu

Romanian fiction

Original title – Viaţa începe vineri

Translator- Alistair Ian Blyth

Source – Review copy

For my second book for Woman in Translation month I move west from Russia to Romania and to a EU prize-winning book Life begins on friday by Ioana Parvulescu. She grew up in Brasov , she came to Bucharest as an 18 year old and in her Eu prize-winning interview unlike most people from the town where she came from she fell in love with the city, fist with its good parts and then with its bad parts. She has written ten book this is her first to be translated into English. May I note this has an after word by Mircea Cartarescu whose book Blinding was hailed as a great book , why this equally challenging book for the reader has fallen on deaf ears ? This is maybe a reason we need woman in translation month.

The people of Bucharest were having a good day. It had snowed, there were still twelve days till the end of the year and twelve hours till the end of the day. The whiteness, which stretched from one end of the city to the other, from Cotroceni palace to the obor district, and from the serban voda cemetry to the flower beds on the Chaussee and then onward, into the horizon, was melting in the afternoon sun. The icicles looked as if they were coated in oil and here and there were beginning to drip onto the heads of the passer-by.

Bucharest in snow then in melts away under the sun in the day.

 

The book follows thirteen days in 1897 the end of that year . It starts when a man is found injured not really knowing who he is . The Man Dan Kretzu or as he is known in this time Dan Cretu has come back to this time from the present or the future (this is not really clear ) But we see him recovering in a house where the father is looking after him and The Daughter Julia is caught up in the world of the novel Vanity fair. This is a glimpse into a city that at this time was a shining light in Europe and also to an age where the human soul was maybe less  weary. But this is seen through modern eyes. Add to this there is also a murder in the background as it happened just by where he was found this 113 day glimpse in the past changes him and also all those he touches.

Today I experienced a great joy. A surprise. It was about time, otherwise I would have said that I was beginning to resemble Amelia from vanity fair, and heaven knows nowadays kind, weepy creatures are more unfashionable than Grandmother’s long nails and her bunches of curls hanging next to her ears.

Julia doesn’t want to be like the Naive Amelia n the book

Ioanna in the interview after winning the EU prize says the main character in all her books in the city of Bucharest and so it is here in this book. The city is full of life here as she choose this time as she felt it was an Epoch moment in both the city itself which shined bright at this time , but also in the sense of human nature she felt the soul of humans was different then we had a future to look forward to the world now has moved on so much. You can see this is Julia the way she is so drawn into a book and into that world of fiction vanity fair was cutting edge when it came out in how it viewed relationships. and Becky sharp was maybe one of the first woman of her own mind many young woman would read about. This is just one line of the book there is a few other threads but this is one of those books you have to read to fully get. I must note know the shame of brexit I have read so many great Eu lit Prize winning books over the last few years with money from the EU to bring us these books in English , which come UK leaving europe will happen no more a sad loss to all us fans of World lit.

Have you a favourite EU Literature prize winning book ?

An episode in the life of a landscape painter by Cesar Aira

An episode in the life of a landscape painter by Cesar Aira

Argentinean fiction

Original title – Un episodio en la vida del pintor viajero

Translator – Chris Andrews

Source – personnel copy

I can’t believe I hadn’t till now cover Cesar Aira on the blog ,I have a few of his books and Thought I had reviewed one before now well  as I just missed the end of Spanish lit month being off work on holiday I need to catch up so here we are Cesar Aira Has lived in Buenos Aires since 1967, he is a prolific writer his books tend to be short but he has been writing them at the rate of two to three a year for a number of years a number of his works have been translated into english. This was first published by New directions but later in a three vol version from Penguin mine i the new direction edition.

Rugendas was a genre painter. His genre was the physiognomy of nature, based on a procedure invented by Humboldt. The great naturalist was the father of a discipline that virtually died with him: Erdtheroie or la physique du monde, a kind of artistic geography, an aesthetic understanding of the world, a science of landscape. Alexander Von Humboldt (1769-1859) was an all-embracing scholar, perhaps the last of his kind:his aim was to apprehend the world in its totality

Humboldt was the last of the gentlemen scholars of the great age of discovery and in the eyes of someone like Rugendas a hero .

This is the tale of two real life characters that did meet in real life . But this is an episode that never happened except in Cesar Aira mind. The two characters are Johann Moritz Rugendas , he was one of the best landscape painters of his time known for his work on expeditions. He has been told by the famous explorer Alexander Von Humboldt  to go back to Latin american and record the nature and Landscapes around Chile and Argentina .This is a man driven by his own history his grandfather also a renowned painter of battle scenes . He is driven to record nature at its worst in his painting this is what leads to an event that leaves him scarred after a lightning strike in the Pampas whilst he is painting a scene  and struggling to recover he is a changed man.

They hurried on and , as they approached, saw him move yet remain face down, as if kissing the earth; the flicker of hope this aroused was quenched when they realized tat he was not moving himself, but being dragged by the horse’s blithe little browsing steps. They dismounted, took his foot from the stirrup and turned him over.. The horror struck them dumb. Rugendas’s face was a swollen, bloody mass; the bone of his forehead was exposed and strips of skin hung over his eyes.The distinctive aquiline form of his Augsburg nose was unrecognizable, and his lips, split and spread apart, revealed his teeth, all miraculously intact .

After the lightening strike he is never the same man as before

The book harks back to an age of adventure and a time when painters could be at the forefront of the new world that were being uncovered and in Rugendas Aira has chosen a painter that was considered the best documentary painter.He also had a life worthy of a novel on his return to Latin America after his meeting with Von Humboldt to do a full work on latin america which is where this novel is set , but he also later got involved in a coup in Mexico . This is a gem of a book at 87 pages long it is a perfect summer evening .

Have you a favourite book about Artists ?

Gnedich by Maria Rybakova

Gnedich

Gnedich by Maria Rybakova

Russian Fiction

Original title – Гнедич

Translator – Elena Dimov

Well time has flown I was off work last week and had hoped to post a few post but I was so busy , I didn’t get chance any way it is now August and I still have a few Spanish reads to do over the next few days but today is the first day of  Woman in translation month and it seems fitting to start with a great find in a way. I was contacted by Glasgoslav books thanks to my friend Lisa at Anzlitlovers point them in my direction and one of the recent books is this unusual book by the Russian writer Maria Rybakova , who has written a number of novels which have n=been translated into a number of languages , but this is her first book to be translated to English, It was shortlisted for the Andrei Bely prize. Maria Rybakova is from a family of writers her grandfather and both her parents are writers he mother Natalie is editor of Banner a respect lit magazine in Russia

Homer says : youth is alway frightening ,

and the memory of it is the most dreadful or all.

Sing,goddess, it is your amusement

to sing our sorrows, our pain is your glory,

but when you come to me

pretending to be an ac tress

I will agree to suffer, said Gnedich,

and loooked in the mirror with one eye.

In the dark hole of glass he saw

either the cyclops or the hero lover,

then Homer, then suddenly no one really,

just fuinture and the sickly candle

The loss of  his eye draws comparison with Homer world and words for Gnedich

Gnedich is the name of a Translator in the 19th century Russia. He was the first man to translate Iliad by Homer from Russian into English. The book is told in the style of Homers work in twelve songs or Cantos about Nikolai Gnedich’s own life. From his childhood where he had smallpox that leaves mark on the young man who drives him to a become a librarian but also to books, to him discovering Homer and reading him to deciding that his lifetime task was to work on the Iliad  to bring it to a wider audience .All this at a back drop of when Russia as a country was at its height Imperial Russia is brought to life in Homeresque style as we see how one mans quest for the perfect Iliad is his own life’s work. From his own life his best friend also a poet .

Of course , he wanted

the girls to love him,

but they smelted of sweat and they cackler,

showing their blackened teeth,

and Gnedich decided to wait

until Moscow or Petersberg,

where goddesses would walk

in beautiful dresses: they would be the ones to love him,

but the later it appeared they also were afraid

to look at him

and Gnedich decided to wait a little more-

til his death

Sad he like the girls but they don’t like him thus driving more to his book and the work to translate it .

I said this was a unsual work and a perfect example of what we should all be trying to both read and promote during  Woman in Translation month. A work by a female writer, but also a work that you would only find from a small press. Who else would bring a short novel in poetic verse in the style of Homer from Russian and that is no one. It is also a tale of the art and passion of Translators the unsung heroes of world lit that like Gnedich bring the great works to readers in whatever language. The power of the written word to drive one man to transform it into his own language is shown here .  So my journey through some female writers in translation has started in Russia and we will next move west to Romania .

Have you a favourite Novel in Verse ?

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