Havoc by Tom Kristensen

Havoc by Tom Kristensen

Danish Modernist fiction

Original title – Hærværk

Translator – Carl Malmberg

Source – review copy

I was so pleased when I was contacted by Duncan from Nordisk the publisher , I had heard of them late last year via Susan from Istros who said they were publishing a classic Modernist Novel. The fact that this book isn’t as well known as many other books from its time.say Vile Bodies or USA both modernist classic published the same year as this book. THe book Havoc was the best known book by its writer Tom Kristensen  a poet as well as a novelist in fact the poem in this book Angst about the effects of drinking. Like the main character in this book Kristensen work for most of his life as a book critic for a newspaper.

“mother madonna, and comrade in battle,

Beloved woman and happy warrior,

Mother of revolutions

He intoned the words crudely, apropos of nothing and without looking at Jastrau, who cringed at hearing quoted the words of “proletarian woman ” one of his youthful revolutionary poems

Saunders smiledmaliciously

Jastrau made a wry face. “Oh that!” he said

His two friends remind him of his past and his present using one of his old poems as a weapon for him.

AS I said in the intro this is Ole Jastrau is a lit critic for the newspaper Dagbladet , is sat with two friends just as the election of 1929 is happening the two friends are communist and one is a poet like the writer himself. There future is pinned on the election , they remind him of his own past as a poet on the edge before he married and settled down with his wife. So as the two poke fun at him for his comfortable life, This then as his wife choose to spend time away from him, he decides rather than going to the paper one day he visits the bar opposite and then gets drunk , this starts off a series of nights and days where he lose time drinks and goes down a spiral into the darker side of the city of ladies of the night and cocktail bars and the colourful characters that live in them, Will Ole Jastrau come up of air pr will he fall of the cliff into the depths of the drinking world.

Jastrau got up quietly. Here among this group, he suddenly felt like a person in disguise, like a sober fool at a carnival.He had to believed that he belonged here? why did the memory of the two hooligans who had been locked in the cell next to his suddenly become so warmly intimate and pleasant ? was it there that he belonged down at the lowest level of existence where things were so nice ?

Jastrau sees where he ending up and still not sure if it is really for him .

When I start this blog it was to discover the world of books from around the world but now in recent years I feel part of the reason I love blogging is discovering those books that have been lost or missed and this is one of those , I can see why Duncan was so keen to republish the book , it did come out on a small university press in 1968. This is a true lost classic , a wonderful Modernist novel Part Blaugast part Vile bodies. Like both of them books it follows the inter war years where a certain class started drinking more and being in clubs ,cocktail bars and wild parties like Adam in Vile bodies Ole is drifting into the world of drinking the mad world of the bright young things in Copenhagen but like Waugh this is a thinly veiled version of the world he lived in the setting and jobs is all very similar to the writers own life at time and also shows  how easy it is to fall down that spiral of drinking like the lead character in Paul Leppin book Blaugast another man stuck in a mundane job in Mitteleuropa is driven this time by a woman into a spiral of drinking.This is an epic book of one mans life over a few tough months of his life .

 

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2084 the end of the world by Boualem Sansal

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2084 The end of the world by Boualem Sansal

Algerian fiction

Original title – 2084  La fin du Monde

Translator – Alison Anderson

Source -review copy

A few weeks as they say in politics is a lifetime and since I read this at the turn of the year this book has probably more meaning than it did two weeks ago .Boualem Sansal is a writer that talks about the uncertain world we live in his books are frequently banned in his homeland, I have reviewed him before with his book Harraga  , this book is set in a distant future and is a reworking in a way of Orwell’s book 1984.

The reasons for these restrictions are not known. They date from long ago. The truth is that the question had never occurred to anyone, harmony had reigned for so long that no one knew of any reason for disquiet .Even disease and death, which took their turn more often than was fair, had no effect on people’s moral. Yolah is great and Abi is his faithful delegate.

This is what happens when one man takes power to far the rest forget why the rules were put down in the first place .

 

Ati lives in a future where his country Abistan is a totaliranian regieme the coutry is named after its leader Abi a man that found and was given a new book to live by from a new god Yolah . The new religion is of course a twisted version of Islam we see beheading , stoning of the criminals as examples to the nation. As they have to pray nine times a day  . Now he happens to meet an archeologist that says he has discovered some truths in the caves about the village they have found Nas tells Ati about this but this discovery could threaten the regime that wants to control the lives of the citizens by watching the every move like in 1984 . Can ATi and his friend Koa get to the village and discover the real truth behind Yolah and Abi ? Before they are caught by the regime !

Over time Ati found some peace, which allowed him to settle into the routine he dreamt of. At last he was a believer like all the other; he was no longer in danger. He rediscovered the pleasure of living from day to day without worrying about tomorrow, and the joy of believing without asking any questions. Rebellion is impossible in a closed world where there is no way out. True faith is in surrender and submission, Yolah is omnipotent, and Abi is the flock’s infallible shepherd

Ati nearly falls for a quiet life of being blind to the truths around him that he knows are their .

Well how strange the book has so many echoes of what is happening now this is of course the other end of Trumps world a state that  has taken an extreme version of Islam that seems very similar to the language of Trumps world . Even the fact the village means the history is different to the History Abi is trying to give other since I read the book I am reminded of the Alternative Facts quote from the Trump camp. This is a timely novel as much as 1984 is seen to have much in common with Trump this take on 1984 is maybe more scary as this is partly Trump but maybe what could happen if the regimes Trump has just kicked by banning their citizens take another path could become Abistan. I can see why this book made a lot of book prize shortlist in France it is maybe better than Houellbecq book that every one was talking about last year . A powerful book against totalitarianism in all its forms whether eastern or western!

The African shore by Rodrigo Rey Rosa

Image result for the african shore by rodrigo rey rosa

The African Shore by Rodrigo Rey Rosa

Guatemalan fiction

Original title – Le Orilla Africana

Translator – Jeffrey Gray

Source – personnel copy

Rodrigo Rey rosa is a Guatemalan writer from a middle class family that meant he travelled a lot growing up. Including europe . When he started studying at a summer writing workshop run by the great writer Paul Bowles , who many books where set in North Africa, Rey Rosa fiction is set in Latin American and also like this book in North Africa where he later spent time with Bowles in Morocco where he translated Rey rosa books into english and after Bowles death he was the executor of Bowles estate . I know that is a lot of mention of Bowles but as you see in this book he has a lot to owe the American writer.

Everyone knew that owls don’t sleep at night and that they can see in the dark. That was why, when someone want to stay awake all night, it was a good idea to catch an Owl and pull out its eyes. Some people boiled the eyes in water and ate them, or you could make an amulet with one of the eyes and wear it on your chest to keep off sleep.

Hamsa returned to the tool shed and smoked several pipes of Kif, thinking of what he should do.

Hamsa captures the owl that links the two tales.

The African shore is one of those short books that after you have put it down seem so much longer than it was. The book is a pair of stories twisting around each other the first is a Take of a Shepard boy given a chance to be a lookout for his Uncle which he hopes I feel he will eventually get money or be given a chance to get across the water to Europe. The we have the second story a young man from Columbia is having to spend some extra time in The country after he lost his passport so we see him meeting and wander the town mix with french woman . A man not in the rush to get home to his wife and life . Then we have the Owl he sees it all and is the character connecting the two stories .

At the end of the street, on the sidewalk across from the herbalist’s , he saw a ragged boy with a two-handled basket trying to sell a barn owl.

He stopped and leaned over the basket to examine it. the owl said “Chi Chichich” Its big black eyes, circled with ochre disc, looked straight ahead. Its old woman’s face was framed by a small halo of feathers.It moved constantly, following the slightest movement around it .

The two meet as the owl changes hand between them both .

This is a clever little book about place , being lost in a place . Being in a place but wanting to be lost in another place it is about that short distance between the two continents Africa and Europe that is only miles but is also millions of miles away from one another. The we have the owl he is another character link the two people in the story but also the sense of place this desert and the town of Tangiers always a melting pot of Africa and europe . Like his Hero Bowles it is a story about coming to this place and feeling part of it The other character in the book is Morocco itself  the street life and characters we meet. Rey Rosa has part Bowles in his writing and also bit of Borges the book is built of short chapters that could almost be little piece of Borges he also has that sense of wanderlust and getting out of Latin america I have found at various times in Bolano’s work but also the works of some like Neuman a sense of connecting the old and new world through the needle of Africa . A great intro to a writer I want to try more of.

Have you read a Guatemalan fiction before ?

 

#translationthurs carries on now read the world with female writers

globe from images for free website

A short post time has caught up ith me today and I thought about a reminder that The hashtag #translationthurs is still running every week with or without my help , it has been on a cover of a book and all this from a small post seven years ago. I thought of mentioning it today after a tweet from Meytal who blogs from Biblibio  , who is wanting to repeat the journey Ann Morgan a year of reading the world  with its list of books took around the world but now with just Female writers from each country, she has been champion women in translation for a few years  . I m sure see would love any help anyone has on books from around the world

 

The French compass points to Lithuania

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I decide as two books arrived today I would talk about them and save you another review til tomorrow. The first is the first from this years Fitzcarraldo editions and it is a big prize-winning French book this won the Prix Goncourt , I have read a number of the recent winners, this is from a writer I have really enjoyed before Mathias Enard. The book follows a night in Franz Ritter as he is unable to sleep but as the night pass he travels the middle east from Istanbul through Aleppo to Tehran. a bridge from east to west I read an interesting interview about the book and its Orientalist angle of the book from a french website L’orient Litteraire  a very insightful piece. Mathias Enard is one of of the most inventive writers around this is the third book from him I have.

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Then I was contact by the publish of this prize-winning Lithuanain novel as he noted I had yet to review a book from their and this is the first book published by a living writer Laura Sintija Cernauskaite won the 2009 eu prize for this book. The book follows a family with a son with epilepsy whom mother adopts another boy a young Orphan taking him to their country home where their lives will never be the same . This is first of two book they are publishing at Noir press .

What books have you had arrive ?

A horse walks into a bar by David Grossman

A horse walks into a bar by David Grossman

Israeli fiction

Original title – סוס אחד נכנס לְבָּר

Translator – Jessica Cohen

Source – personnel copy

I have been a fan of David Grossman for a while now and have reviewed his books twice before on the blog. Grossman has seen his books translated into more than 30 languages and has won many lit and other prizes .he has published over twenty novels and children’s books as well as plays and this is his latest book to be translated into english and like the previous two I have reviewed it is again translated by Jessica Cohen

“I want you to come to my show “he said on the phone after finally breaking pleasant recollections from our twice weekly walks from Bayit Va’gan to the bus that took me home to Talpiot. He talked about those walks with great enthusiasm; “It was a real friendship we started there; he said a couple of times and giggled with bemused happiness. We’d walk and talk for ages. Walkie talkie friendship; he continued, reminiscing in great detail, as though that brief friendship was the best thing that had ever happened to him

A chance call and Avishai get a call to see the show that particular night .

does what it says in the title in a way it is a story of a a joke and a comedian. We meet Dovaleh g an aging comedian , but in the audience are two of his dearest friends are in the audience this is a man setting his life in front of his audience the story of his life in a stand up show and how they end up here and how they are able to take Dovaleh show that is bad not just bad  it’s offence at times , our narrator one of the two friend there a retired judge wonders where the night is going and why his friend is doing this whince at the lines and what has the small woman he keeps drawing into his story and of friendship truth and having to make decisions that have a lasting effect on all those around you this is more than a man on stage in crisis this is a story that can face all making decisions at times .

“These kind of things are done quietly and quickly in our system.Three or four months and the whole hing was over” I laughed “You see, sometimes the wheels of justice do turn quickly.”

He didn’t respond. I was a little disappointed at my inability to make a comedian laugh.

“Every time I saw your name somewhere; he said “I would remember how we were, and I was interested in what you were doing,where you were. I wondered if you even remembered me. I watched you climb he ladder and I was really happy for you honestly ”

The two share banter but it is a deep cut and past he has brought him here to remember !

As ever Grossman is a writer of the most powerful of human feeling and is maybe using the stand up as a character to look back on a life maybe not his but some one of his generation there is five years between him and the comedians age. This is one of those books that need time to dissect it is full of bad jokes and bad feelings as the night turns nasty but he is scratching the surface of real life and how many people say one thing and think another ! A book about deep wounds and also maybe about what happens when pain is buried as ever Grossman is a writer of true brilliance not an easy read but a lasting read.

Have you read Grossman ?

 

The Potato eaters by Manuel Rivas

THE POTATO EATERS

The potato eaters by Manuel Rivas

Spanish Galician fiction

Original title – Os comedores de patacas

Translator – Jonathan Dunne

Source – review copy

I always wonder when we get a writer that has been translator but has not had earlier books or the debut novel translated. I wonder what these books are like in many case we never find out but sometimes we have to look to small press like Small station , who I have reviewed a few times before and this is a debit novel from one of my favourite Spanish writers Manuel Rivas , I have reviewed three times before . Manuel Rivas won the Spanish national prize for fiction in 1996 .for his book people of the night . this was his first adult novel from 1991.

Luou never receives visitors. He must feel pretty happy. Lying there, in his spacesuit, without having to talk or eat or anything like that. I watch the saline solution going down and imagine nothing sliding down the course of his blood and breaking up into tiny, invisible droplets that settle at the end of this toes. The bastard, perhaps in a couple of days he’ll be lucky enough to have Miss Cowbutt spoonfed him his soup

Luou had a tip to toe plaster on after the accident Sam view is odd but beleivable even down to the last line of this quote.

The book follows Sam a young man with a bad drug habit. He had a bad crash and end up in hospital after one particular episode but at least he isn’t as bad off as his friend who end up injured tip to toe . In hospital he has people pressing him for money as he is trying to stay off drugs he meets an old man who world view intrigues him. There is also a nurse he likes isn’t there always lol . His family decides to take him home to  the quirky village he grew up knowing as he grandmother lived there. single mother a man who collects everything a mysterious man in the attic as Sam tries to kick his habit  Aita at his grandmother with his mother his world is controlled and they hoped the mountain air would help him.

The mirror

The dampness has entered the mirror as well and unfurled black ivy along its edge, where the spider has woven its web. I am caught. everything passes slowly before my eyes, bringing dry leaves that land on me sleepily and carry words and memories of others.This is Aita a goddamn cobweb I look at myself in the mirror and pretend to be a monster

This shows Riva’s poetic side in this short vignette aout a mirror and Sam trying to be monster in it

 

This is a story of growing up Sam is just on the cusp of adulthood a boy becoming a man and also he has his cross to bear which is his drug habit . the book is taught in schools in the Galician region it seems , although it has been question as a little to earthy in its language , but I am some one that knows kids say certain words and know what certain words mean.  I can see why it is a tale of what drugs can do and that is ruin your life as we see in the knock on effect with Sam friend Luou who ends up in a really bad way after the accident. Rivas style here is to use short vignettes as the course of the novel each chapter is a snippet of Sam’s life with title like Miss cowbutt the nurse that captures his eye whilst in the hospital. The title is also a the title of Van Goch painting of ugly rural peasants eating potatos , this is maybe a way of showing the ugliness of drugs on people but also the people of Aita could have walked of a van Goch painter the richness in the quirky village folk .It is also full of poetic pieces from Rivas worth discovering as a piece of early fiction from a great voice of Galicians fiction but also a poet as well.

 

Sunday trio a finn, a dive and some rag and bone

Well this week sees two old favourites back –

First up is the first track from the new Album from Craig Finn from his fourth solo album he is also the leader singer of the Hold steady . His solo stuff is more searching than his groups out put almost like him playing with genre he is a natural storyteller a modern Springsteen.

Then I have Simon from insidebooks to thank for this it is the return of shoegazing great Slowdive with ride also reforming last year a revival of shoegazing scene is on its way I think .Maybe if My bloody valentine can take less than 22 year between albums we could have a scene come back!

I usually hate chart music but I saw this guy on Jools over the new year and his voice has echoes of classic blues and this song is one that just is a classic earworm I tell you once you hear it, you have it in that ear all day.

Danish Modernist Classic that Karl Ove likes !!

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Strange isn’t it you don’t thing of a place or a country for a while. I haven’t thought much about denmark since early last year when I read the last of the four books from their. naturally when I think of Denmark it is sport I think of in a way Rolf Sorensen wear yellow for a few days in the tour de France then a few years later Bjane Rijs winning the race Or the Michael Laudrap silky skills in 1986 or Peter Schimicheal the hero of United. But in Literature I always feel woefully under read, I knew Denmark must have embraced Modernism as there was so many great chair designs from that interwar years that came from Demark they have been called Danish modern so when I first heard about this book Havoc was from Susan at Istros , who had meet Duncan the publisher from Nordisk books  who has republished this Danish Modernist Classic Havoc by Tom Kristensen described on the cover by Karl Ove Knausgaard as Hærværk(Havoc) is one of the best novels to ever of come out of Scandinavia. As discomforting as beautiful it portrays the fall of a man , and its so hypnotically written that you want to fall with him”  I love the sound of this it reminds me of the other great Modernist books I have read like Hunger , Blaugast and The trial about mens downfall. My review coming soon also love the book came wrapped 

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1984 no sorry its now 2084 the first book in the post of 2017

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Well the first book I got sent this year is from a writer I have reviewed before Boualem Sansal is an Algerian writer that has had his works banned and censored in his homeland. I reviewed Harraga Two years ago. This is of course an homage in a way to Orwell’s  great book 1984 and also a work  against all totalitarian regiemes here  in the future a country called Abistan after its spiritual leader a place where like in Orwell’s world every move is watch we find one man who is trying to find a new truth. What was your first book of 2017

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