Nevada Days by Bernardo Atxaga

 

 

 

Nevada Days by Bernardo Atxaga

Basque (Spanish) fiction

Original title – Nevadako Egunak

Translator – Maragaret Jull Costa

Source – Review copy

Another from the ten-year celebration library of Maclehose Press called Read the world. I have already reviewed one of the Series Belladonna by Dasa Drndric , which I reviewed last month. Like Dasa Bernardo is another favourite writer I have read most of his books, there are two under review here. Seven house in France and The Lone man . There is still a number of books to come from the read the world list it is worth checking them out they are all from well known or rising writers from around the world.

In the image I found on the internet the spider was black and shiny, as if it were made of a mixture of metal and plastic. It had a red mark like a diabolo on its belly. Its legs were long and strong and hairless, almost polished. Its body was no longer than a hazelnut.

According to the article accompanying the image, the poison of the black widow was a neurotoxin, and its bite, which might seem innocuous at first, caused severe pain, like the pain of a heart attack or appendictis, only simultaneously. It also caused tremors, faintness, dizziness, nausea and wort of all , a sudden rise in blood pressure. the article emphasised, however , that the bite was rarely fatal,  and was only really a danager to children and the elderly.

The meeting with the Black widow that nipped him .

Nevada Days is a wonderful collection of Vignettes about a nine-month visit to Nevada where Bernardo Atxaga is to teach at the Basque department at the University of Nevada. We see over 150 of these snippets how he and his family settle in. From their initial meetings with a few of the less savoury locals a racoon that takes to watching over them, then a Black Widow spider. Then the scenery of this place drifts over Bernardo reminds him of his past, but also the present as he drifts from his Basque childhood to the present and wild horse in these little gems. The family, I laughed at times especially when he talks to his mum a remark about his brother that never married ( he is gay ) a worry for his elderly mother. Then there is the food the shock the first time we see them eat they are shocked by the size of the portions which face them.

“I can remember waking up in the morning, and, as far as i could see in any direction, there were only sagebrushes and rocks and runted little junipers. Though the Basques are used to being alone, these deserts were something else. In the first months, how many times I cried in my camp bed at night – remembering my home, remembering the beautiful green Basque country”

The early Basques that came to Nevada were Shepards, poor and struggle to adapt from there homeland.

Atxaga stated in an interview he had 250 of these small reflections he had written at the time and he had edited down to 150 pieces. His other books have all reflected somewhat on life from the lone man a  man with secrets, then in seven house, it is a reflection on a war. Here it is a reflection on his life a time in his life when he sees more behind him than in front of him. This is classic Maclehose press choice of a book. one that defies categories it is part autobiography, part fiction and part lament for Basque home and family life. The tales range from the intimate to the observational, witty and laments. A piece about the shepherds reminds me of the shepherds from Basque Adrein Bosc book Constellation that died in that crash but on the way to a new life in Nevada.

The Portrait by Antoine Laurain

 

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The Portrait by Antoine Laurain

french fiction

Original title –  Ailleurs si j’y suis,

Translators – Jane Aitken and Emily Boyce

Source – Review copy

I edge towards a hundred books from France this is book 92 and the fourth by one of my favourite writers or recent year Antoine Laurain is a witty lighthearted writer that writes the perfect summer reads for me with his last three books have brighten my summer evenings over the last few years so when his latest arrived a coup,e off months ago I read it the day it came. This was actually his debut novel in French.

That portrait of me, painted two and half centuries ago, which I came across in my forty-sixth year, was to turn out to be the high point of a collection I had been adding to for years .Ech successive year , each successive object, and each successive docket had been leading me here to this late morning in room eight of Drout auction house. But it is to the very beginning of my life as a collector that we must return , to my very first purchase. I was nine years old and , being a the good lawyer i am , I shall name that episode the “Eraser Affair ”

The first and last part of the collection maybe led him to his final piece.

Like his other books has an item as a thread for the story and also like his other books follows one persons obsession with the said item. The item in this book is a Portrait that has been purchased by Pierre Francois a collector of art , even thou this picture isn’t by a great name the second he saw the portrait,  he saw a bit of himself in the sitter of the painting. His family and friends are unable to find what Pierre sees in the painting himself. But pierre is like a dog with a rabbit trying to find out as much as he can about the sitter and artist of the said portrait  a key to this is a small coat of arms in the picture . As he sees a way to drift into the world of the painting as the history of the picture gives him a chance to escape his world. Like his other books we follow one man  journey through the past and  the city of Paris.

After driving for three hours and forty minutes , I parked my Jaguar in the little village square. Here  I was in Rivaille . There was almost no sign of life at that time of the morning, just an old Renault 4 , a clio and a little van . I got out of the car and took some deep breaths of fresh air.It’s only when you’re in the countryside that you notice how polluted, stale , and , worst of all , stupefying the air in Paris . I moved my head side to side ,stretched my arms then shut the car door as I caught sight of the nearest cafe . la jument Verte , with its “Lotto ” and “Tabac” signs I headed there for a double espresso and croissants, after which  I’d ask for directions to the chateau

Pierre nears the end of his journey into the painting .

This is a whimsical look at the life of a collector and how one can easily fall down a rabbit hole when one sees something of ones self in the art we enjoy , as a way of escaping the present. His other books always use the said item of the title the presidents hat takes back through a nostalgia for 80s and the great french leader, a notebook leads to a couple who meet across the city. A long-lost letter and tape reunites friends and this one use the Portrait to reignite a mans passion for his life  and a journey like the other books it is look back at a past and how this great city was in the past. This is almost like the Scene in Woody Allen where Owen Wilson character is given the chance to step back to the 1920’s in Paris , but we also see a looping as a character in the 20’s has a chance to go back to the 1890’s as she finds the 20’s that the Wilson character finds so exciting boring and this is also a  theme that is in the book Pierre francois is a man who has used collecting art to hide away the true sadness in his life .

 

 

Our dead world by Liliana Colanzi

 

 

 

Our Dead World  by Liliana Colanzi

Bolivian Fiction

Original title – Nuestro mundo muerto

Translator – Jessica Sequeira

Source – Personnel copy

As I said the other week , I have been adding a few new titles from my own money to the tbr pile , this is a new writer from Bolivia , I was attracted by the fact there has been so little lit from the country , Liliana Colanzi is  writer , journalist and editor . She currently lives in New York this is her third collection of stories and the first to be tranalstated into English by her

She ran to the bathroom, hoisted her foot on the toilet bowl and lifted up her skirt . She took the razor and without breathing made a crosswise cut on her thigh where some old scars were fading , she gave herself three ,four ,five quick slaps on the face until the bathroom mirror returned an image of burning cheeks . Then she tucked her hair behind her ears a, cleaned the blood from her thigh with a piece of toilet paper, flushed it away and went back to bed , where she stayed reading Maira Dimma’s The marvelous Secret of the souls in Purgatory until she fell asleep.

A girl marks herself in the opening story of the collection

 

Now this is a strange collection of short stories , mostly all have a hint of  sci-fi in there  nature , I was reminded in part of Early Murakami and other writers  . It has a mix of real and surreal worlds touching. A wave in one story comes across a university coming across making the students kill them selves, this is stories about stories . A man on Mars see ghostly animals in the desert of Mars as memories of his home on earth surface . , a family gather for that yearly photo and sparks fly . A dead youngster is being buried and a daughter and her  religious mother discuss what happens after you die  . A couple on the run in Paris run into a killer as they  arrive in the city , but are they to be dinner .

The day we arrived in Paris the police confirm the cannibal is hiding in the city. He lands on a commercial flight and the airport cameras show him passing through security controls, barely disguised in a copper coloured wig. He wears a Mickey mouse T-Shirt and has a distinct beauty and fragility that makes him look like an adolescent rock star than a butcher. It’s May and raining and from the seventh floor of the hotel the streets of Paris look like an Ocean off moving heads with colourful umbrellas floating here and there.

A couple in Paris the same time as a potential killer .

This is a short collection of eight stories that mix real life and magical realism.But also a future that could be where creatures have gone and come back in ghostly views , echos of Amazion Indian  powers and magic. I felt this is a nice short taster of what could be a new voice from her country , has already won a major prize for Spanish female writers under 35 .This is a writer trying out styles  a mix of everyone from Classic JG Ballard with the sense of abandon worlds and Murakami earlier works , where explained things happen this crops up in Colanzis work like in Early Murakami books . Also a nod to Borges this is a collection from upcoming new writer .A collection you can read in an evening .

Eve out of her ruins by Ananda Devi

First published by Les Fugitives and CB editions in September 2016 ISBN 9780993009341 / 120x180 / paperback with flaps / 160 p / RRP: GBP10.99 Order here. With brutal honesty and poetic urgency, Ananda Devi relates the tale of four young Mauritians trapped in their country's endless cycle of fear and violence: Eve, whose body is her only weapon and source of power; Savita, Eve's best friend, the only one who loves Eve without self-interest, who has plans to leave but will not go alone; Saadiq, gifted would-be poet, inspired by Rimbaud, in love with Eve; Clelio, belligerent rebel, waiting without hope for his brother to send for him from France. Eve Out of Her Ruins is a heartbreaking look at the dark corners of the island nation of Mauritius that tourists never see, a poignant exploration of the construction of personhood at the margins of society, and a harrowing account of the violent reality of life in Devi's native country by the figurehead of Mauritian literature.

Eve out of her ruins by Ananda Devi

Mauritian fiction

Original title –  Ève de ses décombres

Translator  – Jeffrey Zuckerman

Source – personnel copy

When the american list for the best translated book came out on the three percent website this year I decide to order a few of the books from this years list , this was one of those books and since I read my last book from Mauritius the last brother  , I had been wanting to read another Ananda Devi won her first prize when she was fifteen she studied at SOAS in London and had her first works published in the late 1970’s and this was her seventh novel and won the Prix des cinq continents de la Francophonie.

He dragged me off a corner of the playground , behind a huge  Indian almond tree , he pinned me against the tree’s trunk , and he slipped his hand under my t-shirt. I was wearing a red t-shirt, with a soccer player’s name on it . I don’t remember who anymore . His hand stopped at my breasts , slowly moved up and down, just over the small black points. There hardly anything there. I heard other children shouting and playing .They seemed far away.

Eve first encounter distant like her mind and body split that day !

This is a coming of age book about four teens on the cusp of adulthood in the capital city of Mauritius Port louis , we have Eve the main character in this four voice narrative , she is a young girl that has being using her body to get attention of the boys around her and allowing them to abuse her ad in a way her body is damaged but her mind is still there . Then we have Saad as his chapters are called he shes what is happening to Eve , but wants more ,he loves Eve and has like many men his age discovered Poetry for him it is that of the young Rimbaud as he heard him read in Class  . But also is in the gang they still chase women the same . Another Gang member is the other male character in the book Clelio  he is awaiting family return from France and hopes to follow himself at some point to escape the gang and the world of Port Louis  . Eve also gets abuse at home from her father in fact the last voice in this book is her only Solace a fellow female student she seeks companionship and connection with . There is also a very sinister fifth voice weaving the book with a sinister tale.

You think about her again , as you saw her last . It’s because of him that she had this purplish tinge, this rigidity, this absolute stillness. It’s because of him that she contradicts everything she ever was ; a girl who was laughing thoughtful , warm and alive above all , alive . He was her final moment . It was this face = pasty defeated, unaware of the very meaning of the word love – that she saw at the moment she died.

You will not forgive him

THe fifth detached and chilling voice in this novel with its last words who was she !!

This is a story of growing up in the wild part of a city , I was reminded of the German novel tigermilk where the lead female character like Eve start to use their bodies for sex and a sort of instant gratification but also the hollow feeling that Eve has in her life. There is also a sense of pace Zuckerman has caught in the translation this remind  me of another book from its us publisher Deep Vellum . Tram 83 which also feature characters in what like Port louis is a town on the edge of Chaos , where like Cleio most youngsters are looking to escape to France. The uk publisher of this book is Les fugitives a new publisher putting out new female voices in french . A tough book about kids growing up in a harsh world .

Eight years

 

I got a notification yesterday to tell me it was eight years since I started winstonsdad so i have posted 1400 odd posts which even after eight years is near one every other day , although this last two year I have slowed down due to life more than lack of interest in blogging . 109 countries have been covered in the time of the blog, I have nearly hit 100 french books and 50 german novels .But for me it is the people and place I have been because of the blog , people like Susie , Daniella , David ,Rob , Simon , Nicci , Paul , Frank and so on even last week I met Grant for the first time and had a wonderful chat.Events like the old IFFP and london book fair also a couple of great drinks and meals in london all of this because of this small blog. I have been so lucky that a support worker from derbyshire has managed to stretch a blog that has been seen around the world over the years and I have written about the world . I love to see what the next eight year bring the one thing I am sure now is we will contiune to see more books in translation. I feel it is great to have been blogging through what is a golden time for literature in translation .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Butterfly wings by Mohamed Salmawy

 

Butterfly wings by Mohamed Salmawy

Egyptian fiction

Original title أجنحة الفراشة

Translator – Raphael Cohen

Source – Library edition

I took some short novels from the library to read on my time off , but as ever when you are away time was short sightseeing and spending time with amanda but I did manage to read this great Arabic novel by Mohamed Salmawy . Salmawy is the president of the writers union of Egypt and secretary-general of the Arab Writers and also editor of a leading daily newspaper. This book came out just before the events of 2011 , so in a way is quite insightful about what happened then .

Doha imagined that meeting Ashraf al-Zayni on the plane had been a chance encounter.It would be over when the flight ended and they went their separate ways- she to Milan for the annual fashion show and he to Palermo in Scilly for the international NGO conference. Fate , however had something in store for her that she neither expected nor imagined.

The three and a half hours of the flight from Cario to Rome left an impression that would remain with her for the rest of her life.She had never met anyone like Ashraf al-Zayni before .She saw in him something she not seen in other politicians, plus  he had brought back to life something inside her that she had not believed still existed

The chancce encounter leaves an impression on the both .

This is a story with two main characters in it Doha is a fashion designer , a sort of link between the west and arab world , she comfortably travels between here homeland and The fashion world of Italy . Her husband is a leading figure in the Murbareck regime . We see their privileged world . But after a chance encounter with Dr Ashraf a man from the opposition she meets when they are both in Rome after talking to him she sees a new insight into her world . But even with this sense the wind may be changing in her homeland she returns and like the old saying about chaos theory a butterfly wings flapping can change the world the butterfly appears time after time whether flying or in patterns on the clothes Doha is wanting to show , the two meet later in the book as the tables are turned slightly from their first meeting  . Add to that a couple of small side stories about a man waiting to meet his internet wife and a pair of brothers hunting for the real mother.

Unable to rest, Doha flicked through The butterflies of Egypt , she came to a photograph of the mural in the tomb where the ancient  Egyptian artist had painted a picture of the butterfly . The tomb belonged to a noble called Nob Amun. According to the book , there were fifty-eight indigenous species in Egypt , which was a relatively small number in comparison with other countries. This was due to Egypt’s desert environment . Neverless , Egypt’s butterflies had adapted to the harsh conditions and were able to survive and maintain their beauty despite hardships

LIke the country itself the butterflies make a good metaphor from the Egypt post Arab spring .

This is another book that captures the can of worms that was opened in Egypt when Murbarek regime was on the verge of collapsing as part of the Arab spring A figure like Ashraf , is a passionate voice of a the young people on the street we saw so much in the TV coverage  clever wanting a bright future , which as we know never really happened . There is also echos of this change in the brothers seeking their mother a new mother maybe is clever metaphor for a new country and leadership. I also love the subtle use of butterflies as a recurring Motif throughout the book. But also a larger motif of the country emerging as a butterfly from it catalyst moment of the riots being the start of something beautiful like a pure white Butterfly. This is clever look at the recent past of Egypt.

Shadow Man booker international Winner 2017

It’s that time of year when the shadow panel for the man booker international winner for 2017  comes to announce our winner a quicker remind of our choice of shortlist for this year .

Fever dream by Samantha Schweblin

Compass by Mathias Enard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Unseen by Roy Jacobsen

Judas by Amos Oz

Fish have no feet  by Jón Kalman Stefánsson

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Bricks and Mortar by Clemens Meyer

For me this is the most lit shortlist we ever have chosen in the six years we have been shadowing the prize also show the recent rise of small presses for translation , in a way that was a small nudge to the winner . We had after much chopping and adding of scores we tied to books even on count back they tied we asked everyone for another count but decide in the end for Tony and myself to knock it out for the winner as we neither fancied a joint winner and I said as this book in the first round of scoring had the better score by the width of a hair it should be the winner.It was also my top choice , So our winner is –

Compass by Mathias Enard

For me the long-term future of Enard as a writer of great books his books so far show an adventurous writer that is willing to try different style of writer , stream of consciousness and in this book using a reflective dream as a way of connecting how  the west has connect with the east as a love affair unfolds and we see what has been lost in Syria this book serves as a testament for a lost place and time . Also this makes up for Zone not getting anywhere on the man booker !!

Now for the close second it was the wonderful descriptive

The unseen by Roy Jacobsen

I love its new cover in paperback it so captures the book.

Maigret and the man on the bench by Georges Simenon

Maigret and the man on the beach

Belgian fiction

Original title – Maigret et l’homme du banc

Translator – David Watson

Source – Library copy

At the start of the year I reviewed the last Maigret book to be made into one of the new series of tv dramas starring Rowan Atkinson Maigret and the dead man, I was in the library the other day and this cover of one of the most recent editions opf the penguin series to reissue new translations of all the Maigret books caught my eye .

His clothes were clean , respectable . He was wearing a dark suit, a biege raincoat and on his feet which were twisted at an odd angle , he wore greenish-yellow shoes, which seemed out of keeping with a day as colourless at this

Apart from his shoes, he appeared so ordinary that he would have passed completely unnoticed onn the street or on one of the numerous cafe terraces on the boulevard. Neverless, the policeman who discovered him said :

“I get the feeling , I’ve seen him before.”

The body would be anypone apart from those shoes of his !!

So this is like the other novels and all starts with a murder . Louis Thouret is found dead on a bench at a dead-end road. He seems normal enough barring a rather bright pair of yellow shoes. As Maigret takes his wife to see him she says his shoes weren’t his own and at the time he died he should have been work . The usual team around Maigret swing into action , the place he worked isn’t there in fact Louis had worked for a long while getting by on loans and then taking a turn into the world of crime but his family seemed to have known nothing about the double life he was living which meant another flat and life away . But as they ask the family maybe his daughter had more to say than she did. Maigret grows to like Louis and he efforts to keep his family unaware of the loss his job.

“Kaplan and Zanin’s ?” he asked her

“the company closed down three years ago next month my good man ”

“wer you already working here ?”

“I’ll have been here twenty-six years this December.”

“Did you know Louis Thouret?”

“Why of course I knew Monsieur Louis! What has become of him? It must be four of five months since he last dropped by to say hello”

“He’s dead” she immediately stopped sorting the letter.

“He always enjoyed such good health ! What was it ? Heart,I’ll bet just like my husband…”

“He was stabbed to death , yesterday afternoon , not far from here .”

They discover his old workplace has long since ceased trading !

This is a classic story line from crime fiction .I know of a couple of similar classic tales from couple of other classic Crime writers. Connan Doyles Holmes investigated the case of the man with the twisted lip where a respected man thought to have died in an opium den and there is a beggar that is well-known for his ability to quote poetry is he the missing man ? . This is also a similar plot themes  to the Poirot the disappearance of mr Davenheim where the main character disappears but had made a sideline as a  criminal and had spent time in prison not south africa as he said , as part of a plan to frame someone. These both involved the male head of a family that has lost position , money or a job , but was too proud to admit it thus leading them to a life on the other side of the fence of the law.The book was originally released as a part work in the french paper Le figaro in the fifties. I wonder if this will get the Atkinson treatment who since he became Maigret is now whom I picture when reading these books.

That was the month that was May 2017

  1. War and turpentine by Stefan Hertmans
  2. The Unseen by Roy Jacobsen
  3. Traitors Niche by Ismail Kadare
  4. Fish have no feet by Jon kalman Stefansson
  5. Monte Carlo By Peter Terrin
  6. Mourning diary by Roland barthes
  7. Bodies of summer by Martin Felipe Castagnet
  8. Hair everywhere by Tea Tulic
  9. Belladonna by Dasa Drndic
  10. The Children by Carolina Sanin
  11. Listening for Jupiter by Pierre-Luc Landry

Things got back to normal on the blog this month after a couple of lean months review wise. I managed to finish the man booker longlist. I managed to read books from 10 countries .No new Publishers this month but the second book from Notting hill editions the Barthes Diary. So I have reviewed 49 books this year on the blog leaving me on course to read over 100 books this year.

Book of May

Belladonna by Dasa Drndric

It is a tough month as there has been a number of books that have touched me the Barthes is a great book for me at the moment but in the long run Dasa’s book is one that needs to be read Andreas Ban is a anti hero that shows us , what we need to be thinking about.

None book discovery

 

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I am due to leave work tomorrow after 17 years , I am sad but also looking forward to my new job in three weeks. I have just brought a Lomo La sardina Camera for my holiday next month, a retro camera with flash filter should make some memorable photos from our holiday.

Looking forward

 

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I have had a little extra money last few months so have slowly been getting some US translations from publishers like Open letter, Dalkey archive , Deep Vellum and archipelago books . The Castagnet from this month was the first of these books , I have a Magdalena Tulli I am reading at the moment. How was your month and what plans have you to read next month ?

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