A Czech crime trio

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Earlier this year I found one of this trio of books written by the Late Czech writer Josef Skvorecky. Around the Sixties, he wrote about Lieutenant Boruvka of the Prague Homicide Bureau. The books reflected the Czech regime of the time and things like LSD arriving there. Last year one of the book was recorded for radio here. It was said in his obituary the four books of Borkuva could be read as an epic work, I have the three books as they are said to convey the everyday life of Prague at the time very well.I hope to read them soon have anyone else read them?

 

In red by Magdalena Tulli

 

In red by Magdalena Tulli

Polish fiction

Original title –  W czerwieni

Translator – Bill Johnson

Source – personal copy

One of the publishers over the years I have discovered is Archipelago. I have reviewed a number of their books over the years and have brought a lot as they are so pretty in their design. Magdalena Tulli is one of the writers from them I hadn’t tried and this short novella seemed a great intro. Magdalena Tulli is a writer and translator she has been five times on the prize list for the Nike prize in Poland (the polish Booker Prize), this book was one of the books to make that prize list.

Left to prey to foreign forces, stitchings filled with stories that previously no one had ever heard or wanted to hear. In the house of pleasure, in the downstairs parlor, at night officers in jackets unbuttoned in contravention of the regulations fell madly in love, sang. andlaughed; during the day the other ranks were let in through a side door and took the creaking stairs to the second floor. They thronged the poorly lit corridor, wreather in cigarette smoke, grasping metal tokens in their sweaty palms.

The town is change by Germans , this passage remind me of the Brel song Next where a soldier loses his virginity.

This book follows a small town in Poland Stitchings a town where time stands still even thou the world moves on around them.We follow the town over the period pre world war one to pre world war two. This story tells little tales of the multitudes from the workers in the main factory their Loom and son and the two other big factories in the town. German invaders the officer and the ranks their impact on the town both during the war and afterwards. The creation of Poland is proclaimed after the war to the citizens of the town. A young woman who has to decide between the two most eligible bachelors in the town. This is an odd world like that of say Dylan Thomas llareggub full of dark characters that are touched with a bit of magic realism but also the dark realism of that period of history.

Every morning the unemployed demoblized soldiers, a snarl of anger frozen on their faces, would read the newspapers, in which there was not a single piece of good news for them. They lit one roll-up cigarette from the previous one, and blew the acrid smoke up towards the ceiling. They paced from wall to wall in their basements, irritable and gruff

The men left after the war have little hope in stitchings .

I liked this book it is in the spirit of the likes of Calvino and Saramago that fine line between realism and magic realism. Stitchings is a surreal mix of dark characters that like fireflies in the night appear for a second then disappear as death hovers over the town itself. We meet folks then they die it is a strange place. But I felt in a way it is an attempt to capture the madness the encapsulated Mittel Europa in those first forty years of the twentieth century. Where lives burnt brightly at times and lives were short at times. I enjoyed Johnson translation he managed to keep the feel of this being magically real at times. The spirit of how a town is shaped by war and death is what Tulli tries to show here and that is what works it is about the place rather than the people in way.

Such small hands by Andres Barba

Image of Such Small Hands

Such small hands by Andres Barba

Spanish fiction

Original title – Las Manos pequeñas

Translator – Lisa Dillman

Source – personal copy

Here we have Another of the writers that were on the Granta list of the best 22 Spanish writers. Andres Barba has had another book translated into English. This is the first book by him, I have read. He has written ten novels.He has a number of prizes for his books. He also works as a translator doing the works of Joesph Conrad and Alice in Wonderland being among them.

One day she said , “We have the same name: Marina.”

And what if , like her , Marina started to have fewer memories, hardly any memories,no mermories at all ?

“we have the same name ”

Because dolly was the only one who didn’t lie . She was the only  one calm, as if halfway through a long life. and she looked different from everyone else, Time passed over her, and she remained ever alert, like a visionary, astonished, lashless eyes(broken; now even when you laid her down, they wouldn’t lose)

The doll is the only one she trusted as others lied.

This is a very short novella clocking in at just 86 pages. It only arrived today and I took it with me when I went with Amanda to an appointment and read it whilst she was with the doctor in about an hour. It is the tale of Marina an orphan that has lost her mum and dad in a car crash,  or as she keeps putting it .””My father died instantly and my mother in Hospital. The book opens as she is pulled from the crash. Awaking with a scar on her tum. Also, a number people talking to her trying to get her to open up. One way is to give her a doll. The doll she also gives the name Marina. She is then passed fit to leave the hospital and travel to the Orphanage.This is where the story moves into two narratives her the first Marina,  then a collective voice of the fellow Orphans,  as they greet Marina. The orphanage is a strange world to her all them in bright dresses and the same black shoes. The Orphans aren’t kind to her and we see Marina through their eyes as well as hers in a frightening look at being young and lost in a world of fellow lost souls.Also, the violent and horrific way kids can treat each other.

When class was over we liked to play. We’d sing as the jump rope hit the sand with a dull crack. To get in the circle you had to pay attention, had to calculate the jump rope’s arc, its speed, adapt your rhythm to the chorus. Once you were in you felt exposed, tense, as if each time the rope cracked down, it hit your mouth, or your stomach. with each thump you went around the world.

There is a brutal nature to this play rather like in Lord of the flies which this part remind me of

Another of the current crop of books, I have read from Spanish in recent years.  That has a creepy surreal edge to the narrative two that spring to mind is The children and fever dream. Which both feature children and like this walk a line between real and surrealness. The Orphanage is where this story starts to turn a strange way.  Although the way MArina talks at the time has a vacant feel about it as though her heart has been ripped out of her. The black and whiteness of the statement about her parents hang in the air when she says it. This in Lit terms is an Amuse Buche of a book. A book that sets you as a reader minds racing far beyond it mere 86 pages. Also have to say the cover is rather creepy to this book as well.

That was the month that was August 2017

  1. The ultimate tragedy by Abdulai Sila
  2. Winter Quarters by Osvaldo Soriano
  3. Inventing love by Jose Ovejero
  4. Seeing red by Lina Meruane
  5. The painter of birds by Lidia Jorge
  6. FAdo Alexandrino by Antonio Lobo Antunes
  7. Mister Blue by Jacques Poulin
  8. An animal called mist by Ledicia Costas
  9. The exiled by Kati Hiekkapelto
  10. The white city by Karolina Ramqvist

I managed to review ten books on the blog last month. From 8 countries, no new publishers this month. But one new country for the blog Guinea Bissau with the first book to be published in English. Bring the total books reviewed this year on the blog to 75 still in the range of getting 100 books reviewed this year on the blog.

Book of the month

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fado Alexandrino by Antoino Lobo Antunes

A novel that looked at the disaster that was Portugal at war in Africa a sort of European Vietnam from the point of view of five men that fought at the same time and lives went in different ways after what happened there. Proof if need, why Antunes runs high in Nobel, Lit betting in recent years.

Non-book discovery

Well , I’ve been taken back to my childhood recently with Drama the UK Tv channel starting of the long running UK police series The Bill from the beginning which was in 1984 , it was one of the first shows I was allowed to stay up and watch as a kid so I am enjoying rewatching them 33 years later.

Next month

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have a number of new books I have brought a couple from the US publisher  Open letter and the latest Javier Cercas one of my favourite writers of all time.

What was your favourite last month ?

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