Italian Lit month March 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I know I do Spanish lit month with Richard, but I was sat the other day in my book room and started looking at how many books from Italy. I thought I would love to do an Italian lit month since reading most of Zibaldone last year one of the defining books of Italian literature. I have been wanting to add a few more titles to my Italian list.So I decide March is a quiet month for me blog-wise I would suggest doing a lit month for Italy. I also like to throw in a couple of films at some point not quite made mind up which two to pick to watch.  I have on my shelves from Alberto Moravia and Italo Svevo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Both of whom I have read but neither is on the blog.Then I have read and reviewed a few books from Italo Calvino and a couple by Claudio Magris

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Danube is one I want to feature after finishing river recently another book based around a river . Then I also have a couple of books by Giorgio Bassani and Giovanni Verga .Then I have a number of books by Europa editions which is an offshoot of an Italian publisher.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They have published crime novels, lit fiction and of course Elena Ferrante.HAve you a favourite Italian writer?

Some websites and lists

Best Italian novels on Goodreads.

Tim parks five books from Italy .

10 modern Novels from Italy 

15 Italian writers who aren’t Elena Ferrante

Italian cultural institute  .

Complete review Italian lit under review.

My Italian reviews.

OUP  blog why read Italian Literature 

Europa Editions

 

 

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The Red-haired Woman by Orhan Pamuk

 

The red-haired Woman by Orhan Pamuk

Turkish fiction

Original title –  Kırmızı saçh kadın

Translator Ekin Oklap

Source – Library copy

Another from the list of books I missed last year and another I feel may be on the man booker prize. I love Orhan Pamuk he is one of those Nobel winners that write good books every time not knock out of the park books. I have enjoyed all the books by him I have read and have so far reviewed three of his books. It was nice this book was shorter than his recent books which have both been over 500 pages long.

I had wanted to be a writer. But after the events I am about to describe, I studied engineering, geologyand became a building contractor. Even so, readers shouldn’t conclude from my telling the story now that it is over, that I’ve put it all behind me. The more I remember , the deeper I fall into it. Perhap you, too, will follow, lured by the enigma of father and sons

The opening lines set Cems past and present out and what is still haunting him even today.

This is the story of two men digging a well. Their relationship is almost a father and son one as the story unfolds. They are digging a well on the edge of Istanbul in the traditional technique. Mahmut the master well builder is using his age-old knowledge to tell his apprentice. Cem the apprentice is a man who has grown up with an absent father so the regular stories and talks Mahmut and Him have as the work down the ground as the work the ground looking for water to help supply the factory.Then one day the woman of the title appears the red-haired woman a member of a travelling company captures his eye.But also leads to an incident with his master.Then we meet him years later with his own wife and son. He is riddled with guilt for the past.Although he is a successful engineer but not the writer he had dreamed of being. He has an incident with his own son. Then we have the last section of the novel, is  going over the first section from the eyes of the red-haired woman.

As the horse and I reached the open doorway, two more figures emerged: first, a man, maybe five or six years older than I was, and then a tall, red-haired woman who might have been his elder sister.There was something unusual, and very alluring, about this woman. Maybe the lady in jeans was the mother of this red-haired woman and her little brother.

His first sighting of the red-haired woman one that lingers in his mind over the years.

This is a retelling of the old Oedipus Rex story of a son killing a father and the reverse a father causing the sons death. Is a story of how we talk Cem struggles to talk to his own real father a man more caught up in his Dissident movement, so his adopt father Mahmut becomes a father figure as they do the hard work working the well but one moment cause an accident that he blames himself for the rest of his life. In the present, he has another incident with his own son life. Then we have the red-haired woman as a sort of temptress that cause problems from the moment she meets Cem and causes him problems for his life. Less complex than his recent books but still full of thew twist and turns you expect from Pamuk and of course the shadow of Istanbul is always in his stories.

A Poison Apple by Michel Laub

 

 

A Poison Apple by Michel Laub

Brazilian fiction

Original title –  A maçã envenenada

Translator – Daniel Hahn

Source – Library copy

I’m looking back at some of the books I have missed in translation over the last year and this was one of them. I read Michel Laub first book translated into English the Diary of the fall when it came out a couple of years ago. He has written books since the late nineties has published five novels so far. He won the Brasilia book prize for the diary of the fall. I also won the Wingate prize for translation.

I haven’t had many relationships between 1993 and today, at least not the long ones that end up serving as a point of comparison for the others. It’s as though the night I met Valeria was the starting benchmark, and from the chance ocurrence of my arriving at her house and seeing the Kurt Cobain poster and ger commenting that her biggest dream ever was tp see a nirvana show, a wave of premonition arose that contaminated all the conversations and fights and getting-back togethers and break ups I would have over two decades.

One moment he sees to blame for the future and the past of his relationships.

I remember the Butthole surfers lyric it is better to regret something you have done than regret something you haven’t done. well, Gibby Haynes wrote those lines on their Locust abortion technician album. He could have meant the guy of this story our Narrator is looking back to a point twenty years earlier. He was in his first serious relationship with a girl called Valeria.She is a singer and the woman that he lost his cherry with!!  He was in the middle of his compulsory military service. This was 1993 He had got them tickets to what would turn out to be the only show by Nirvana in Brazil.So our narrator got held up so let his best friend take his beloved Valeria to the concert. Not knowing that they would fall for each other at the concert. He is now recalling the events. He blames this one moment for not being able to get to the concert for his problems but also looks back at what happened to Kurt after this gig. As within in 18 months he had himself died and left us with the words of another great singer Neil youngs words Its better to burn out than fade away. Has one missed concert been the downfall or had he made the concert would his life had run different, had he been more Gibby and runoff from the CPOR training in Porto Alegre and gone to the concert. He also now a journalist in the present is interviewing a woman that hid in a bathroom with several other women during the Massacres in Rwanda. Her story is marked in his memory as well as his time with Valerie.

One explanation for why I was in London in the week Immaculee went into the bathroomand Kurt Cobain killed himself: a car accident I had had the year before. I crossed protasio Alves, at a traffic light opposite the bus lane, and a fire engineinto the door by my seat. I spent the night in the emergency clinc. They did tests and put a catheter in urethra.All theough the early hours I heard the groans from the other beds, and I was forbidden from drinking any water because they were considering surgery for first thing in the morning.

I like this as it had an echo to Kurt coming out in a hospital gown on reading where he sound like he was groaning in pain  at times during that performance.

 

This is an interesting book that has a sentimental look at a band that the writer must be a fan of to go into the depth he has with the history of the band and what happened after the Brazil gig. even the title is a quote both of a biblical nature it was Eve eating the apple that got Adam and Eve expelled after a snake told them too. It is also a Kurt Cobain line from the song Drain you about an unrequited love someone, Kurt, like but didn’t like him. Then add to it the side story of massacres and loss in Rwanda almost showing how a missed concert in the big scheme of things maybe isn’t important but maybe is !!I enjoyed this I too am a fan of Nirvana and also often wonder if certain moments in one’s life are those turning points we don’t know are turning points.

 

Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag

Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag

Indian fiction

Translated by Srinath Perur

Source – library book

I miss the old Man Asian prize because this is the sort of book I would have found via there longlist when it was running. I have always enjoyed the other books from around India I have read that have been translated. I know this one made a few end of year longlists. Vivek Shanbhag has written eight novels and a few plays, He is currently a writer in residence at the University of Iowa in America this is his first book to be translated into English.

Vincent is a waiter at coffee house, It’s just called that – coffeee house, The name hasn’t changed in a hundred years, even if the buisness has, You can still get a good cup of coffee here, but now it’s a bar and restaurant. Not one of those low-lit bar with people crammed around tables, where you come to suspect drinking may not be such a wholesome activiity after all.No this place is airy, soacious, high-ceilinged, Drinking here makes you feel cultured and sophisticated. The walls are paneled in wood to shoulder hieght. Old photographs hang on sturdy squarre pilars in the center of the room.

The coffee house is old but still hasn’t missed the changes in Modern India.

This book is narrated by an unnamed person talking about his family. we meet him initially in one of his favourite haunts a coffee shop, where he is a regular by the way he talks to the Waiter. The place is oak panelled and has a feel of the old India with old pictures of Bangalore where the book is set.The narrator is trying to untie what has happened to his family as he drinks his coffee Then we discover his father there spice business which has suddenly become the one everyone uses that has brought in wealth to him and the family. Then there is his wife Anita.She is the one that comes up with the title of the book a made up phrase her and her brother used when the Kite string got tangled up. That she uses when her new husband struggles to untie her clothes on their wedding night. This is a family sag in the piece the relation between wife, sister in law, father all have little tales in this lovely novella.

My impatient hands couldn’t get anywhere with the stuck knot. She tried, too, but to no avil.”Tchah”she said,” This string has become all ghachar ghochar.Wait” I stood there as she sat up, bent over the knot, and carefully teased it apart.

It came back to me later when we were lying there catching our breaths,”What was that you called the underskirt string?” I asked her.

She giggled” Ghachar Ghocahr” she said

The made up words of the title she used to uses with here brother .

Sometimes the best books come in around hundred pages.  The Great Gatsby, Heart of darkness. This is one of those vbooks that capture the Zeitgeist of there times and that is what happens when people move between classes in Modern India. This is a classic novella about people moving up the class ladder. Like Gatsby people feeling out of place, but I also feel at times Dickens is more apt there is something more in line with his work moving into the middle classes. What Vivek captures is a world that has changed it isn’t the male-centric world on the coffee shop walls no this is a new India was woman speak more than they use to and this is showing the waves that happen from a male point of view. He has constructed a number of strong female characters in this book. I pleased I read this one shame there is no man Asian prize to bring it to a bigger audience still

Secret passages in a Hillside town by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen

Secret Passages in a Hillside Town, Paperback Book

 

 

Secret passages in a Hillside town by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen

Finnish fiction

Original title – Harjukaupungin salakäytävät

Translator – Lola M Rogers

Source – review copy

I read Pasi first book to be translated into English The Rabbit Back Literature Society but never got round to reviewing it so when I got the chance to review his latest book into English, I was excited. Pasi is a Finnish language teacher and has a degree in Philosophy. He has published five books in Finnish and has won numerous prize in Finland for his books. This is his second book to be translated into English.

Greta Kara, The Author, answered his message two days later:

Well, hello yourself, Oll! How delightful that you decided to write to me! And you remembered the pear print dress, too! I’m flattered. I didn’t know if you would remember it, or even me, any more. I’m sure you’ve met thousands of interesting people since you knew me, and it’s been almost thirty year since we last saw each other 

The opening of her reply to his request of friendship on Facebook.

This is the story of Olli Suominen, Now middle-aged and settled with a family and son. He is busy trying to light a passion for films by joining a weekly film club and also using Facebook he is trying to reach out.When he gets a film guide written by an old flame.  He then requests a friendship from the woman  Greta an old school friend and flame. This also follows a number of his friends from that time reappearing. They as a group used to spend time exploring the secret passages that are hidden under the town he spent his childhood holidays. They were like a group of Blyton children in the day a sort of Finnish Famous Five discovering these secret places. But also in the present his wife and son are kidnapped, this is connected to the past so as we see him watching weekly films losing his umbrella and an act of the past is affecting his present. What happened why were Greta and he involved and why did they split? The beauty of this book is it has two possible endings written up.

He did have a faint memory of the secret passages games the Tourla five used to play , which must have put the idea of secret passages in Greta’s head. He and Karri and the Blomroose had pretended to find entrances to secret passages fittingly hidden spots around town and then spent days wandering in them. They had encouraged each other to invent everything a child’s imagination could think up and had been so caught up in their games that hey saw and heard non-existent things, The secret passages haf been enchanted and sometimes terrifying places.

The five in their youh looking under ground this also hides something about them all!

I really like this book it has a real quirky feel to it and in the times we are in with things like Brexit, we maybe need to be reminded how our ripple effect from writers in English have affected the world Enid Blyton and her world of kids on holiday having gripping adventures is one part of this book and shows her effect even now 40 days after her death. I loved the use of old films via his weekly film club. Films like in the mood for love wild one and much more make any film fan think of those films and work links to the story. Another gem from Pushkin press, this could be a man booker book but who knows. I like the dual ending how often have you felt well what if that happened !!

 

Winston’s Library raid

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I fetched a few books from the library yesterday. Her they are first off an epic I had to pick up off the shelf as it was a former IFFP winner Omega Minor by Paul Verhaeghen is Ponders dark matter studies and world war tow with one of those wandering epics I hope to get it read but just amazed to find a Dalkey archive at the local library.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next up is another favourite writer Emmanuel Carrere has been on the blog before and I was grabbed by this as it uses the story of luke to mirror the writers own life in a way, he is such a clever writer Carrere he could pull this off.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One other thing I do want to do this year is adding a few more books from Africa and Cassava republic have published this Nigerian novel that is a coming of age tale in Northern Nigeria against a backdrop of extreme religion and politics.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another great writer and one I have reviewed four times before on the blog Manuel Rivas. Jonathan Dunne his translator has his own site on the origins of words which is worth reading Stones of Ithaca  .He has also published the other Rivas books small station books.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Bassani has been on my list for a while so pleased to get a copy at the library doctors secret gay life in 1930’s Italy is brought into the open and a touch of antisemitism into the mix.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A French classic reminds me that I have the French art of war to finish this book focus on one period also covers in that book the `1958 French Algerian conflict.

What have you got from the library recently?

 

To back of Beyond by Peter Stamm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To back of beyond by Peter Stamm

Swiss fiction

Original title – Weit über das Land

Translator – Michael Hofmann

Source – library book

I usually try over the new year to catch some books that may be on the man Booker longlist. A good place to start is writers that have been on the list before so this is the first of two books I have got from the library from previous longlisted writers. Peter Stamm has won a number of prizes in Germany for his writing which is described as being sparse.I have reviewed his books twice before on the blog, he is a writer I feel could be on the longlist this year.

When astrid realized that Thomas wasn’t lying beside her, she would suppose he was already up, even though she almost invaribly got up first. She would go upstairs half asleep and wake the children and go downstairs again. Ten minutes later, freshly showered and in her robe she would emerge from the bathroom and call the children, who were bound to be still in bed. Konrad!Ella! Get a move on! If you don’t get up now, you’ll be late,Always the same sentence.

Astrid goes into auto mode when Thomas goes.

Like his other books, this has a moment at the start of the tale. The moment this book starts is when a perfect or so it seems couple Thomas and Astrid with their 2.4 children return from a perfect holiday in Spain. Next Day Thomas walks out of there house and starts to do a Forest Gump and walk around Switzerland. Meanwhile, his with Astrid is like a rabbit caught in headlights and just stays as she is covering for her missing husband.Thomas initially stays in a caravan then heads to the mountain trying to live off the land as best he can stumble into a brothel. Well, Astrid tries to help the children then she decides to let the world know what has happened. Why did Thomas escape, why hasn’t Astrid acted sooner? This is about keeping face in a way for Astrid there perfect life had tiny cracks in but they failed to see them.

It was daybreak when Thomas awoke.The moon was high, but it didn’t shed much light in the brightening sky. The group if trees that Thomas had seen as an outline the previous nightwere just a few sick specimens with leafless crowns, their trunks a tangle of ivy. A sweetish smell hung in the air.

Thomas clothes were sodden, but he didn’t feel cold. He rubbed his hands on the damp grass and wiped the sleep from his eyes .

Thomas is in a dream state at times .

This is a novella and touches on what modern life is about in a way. Those who like Thomas just drift off this isn’t quite Christopher Mccandless into the wild Thomas isn’t making a point in a way he seems  more hunting for what is seldom seen these days in our towns and cities and that is as Kierkegaard said “I found I had less to say, until finally, I became silent, and began to listen.I discovered in silence, the voice of God. Maybe not quite God, but Thomas is seeking that clarity it brings to people sometimes. Their life isn’t all it seems this is classic Stamm in a way he has a way of going under the veneer of modern life. He has a way of placing his characters into situations using a starting point.Like in seven years he uses a classic storyline a man leaving his family in a mid-life crisis a Reg Perrin or Frank Bascombe life falling apart. What is your favourite Peter Stamm book?

2018 Stu’s reading plans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s a new year and the time of year when all us book bloggers make our reading plans for the coming year. Well, a few old favourites blog-wise,  will still be on this bloggers list to do. I will be doing another Shadow man booker this year. I want to do another Spanish lit month with Richard. I have a number of books waiting for this year event. Then, of course, German lit month. I have already filled my shelves ready for next year event. For me these three events keep me ticking over I love a challenge. I have seen a number of lists of books coming out. But I always just happy with the books  I get sent and if anything else catches my eye book wise I tend to get them these days.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I hope to remember John Steinbeck over the year as it will be 50 years since his death, I have a number of his books on my shelves I’m not doing a readalong or week but would happily help anyone that wanted to do. Books on my TBR I am looking forward to are the open letter books from last year I have brought and still have to read four of them. The invented part, island of point Nemo, Tomas Jonsson bestseller and Chronicle of the murdered house. River by Esther Kinsky is another great looking book from Fitzcarraldo. Before that, I need to clear a backlog of about five books from last year. I am already one book into this year reading this year.I intend to try and reach 100 French books on the blog and also get to 900 books read and maybe add three or four more countries to the blog. What are your plans

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