So You don’t get lost in the Neighbourhood by Patrick modiano

 

So you don’t get lost in the Neighbourhood by Patrick Modiano

French fiction

Original title –  Pour que tu ne te perdes pas dans le quartier

Translator – Euan Cameron

Source – review copy

I so enjoyed the last Modiano I decided to carry on reading another of the few by him I have on my TBR pile.This was the last of his books to be translated into English and the came out in French the same year as he won the Nobel prize. He has written one more book since but that hasn’t been translated into English. I said last time he has written the similar books and this is another twist on those themes.

“I should like to speak to Monsieur jean Daragane,”

A deary and threatening voice.That was his first impression.

“Monsieur Daragane? Can you hear me ?”

Daragame wanter to hang up. But what was the point? The ringing would start agan. withpu ever stopping, and short of cutting the telephone cord permanetly ..

“This is he.”

“It’s abput your address book, monsieur”

Giles rings up but is slightly threatening at first to jean

Again like in the last book the main character in this novel is a writer. Like in the last review he is called Jean but we get his full name in this book Jean Dragane. The story in this book is like the last review set of by the discovery of something old. This time a man has got hold of the old telephone book of Jean. The book has the name of Guy Torstel someone Jean had once been acquainted with many years ago. At the time he knew this person there was a murder.At the time he lived with a showgirl Anne in the seedy part of town. He is helped by the girlfriend of the man who has phoned him when he meets the man, to discuss his old telephone book. That man is  Giles Ottolini and his girlfriend, Chantal. A man that since then has drawn away from the world and lived as a recluse writing books one that may have a clue into what happened in the past. The past is a lost country in this book and Jean has to revisit it.

And so would the name Torstel which had once used in a novel.Simply because of its resonace. That is what Torstel  conjured up for him. There was no need to look any further. It was all he had to say. Gilles Ottolini would no doubt be disappointed. Too bad. After all, he was not obliged to give him any explanation. It was none of his buisness

The name from the past inspired a character in a novel but what about the real Torstel ?

As I said there are themes in his books. Jean is almost a mirror image of the writer having grown up in the dark post-war days. He also lives near Paris and spent time with a showgirl in the seedy part of Paris where there are twist streets and never quite sure what is around the corner the same Paris as Maigret walked in books like Maigret sets a trap. Then there is what I would be called missing memories another recurring theme of a misty past that the main characters seem to want to forget their Past. I feel Modiano is working his own past and his love may of a good mystery into books. I enjoyed this as I have all his books the Nobel win was such a treat for us the English reader as pre-Nobel I had struggled to find a book to read in the weeks before the prize and so many have come out since.

Advertisements

Man Booker international 2018 what will be there?

Well here is where I do my yearly look in the mystic ball of translated fiction and guess what I’d like to see on the man booker international longlist.

Books read or reviewed

 

I have decided to divide this year into books I have read or partly read or reviewed in the last year.First off we have Tea Tulic, book Hair everywhere, I always am bewildered why Istros books haven’t had any books on the longlist. This is a story about a family coming to terms with a mother dying, it really touched me.The three peter Owen Serbian books with istros are also worth a place on the longlist.Staying in the Balkans we have another favourite one thanks to doing the shadow jury for all the years I did I meet and it is Belladonna by Dasa Drndic a man looks back on his life and the post-war history of Europe and the worrying rise of Fascism across Europe.Then we have seeing red by Lina Meruane a story of someone going blind another gem from Latin America, Another Spanish language writer caught my eye with Such small hands by Andres Barba a creepy story of an orphan. Now a trio of books by one of my favourite translator Another Spanish novel The Imposter by Javier Cercas a true life story of a man who pretends to be a survivor of death camps. Then two I have part read and will be finished this year Vernon Subutex by Virginie Despentes a story about the title character a former record shop owner that has a final recording of a mysterious star that died too young.Then we have the French art of war by Alexis Jenni an old man tells a story about his life and the wars France have been involved with since world war two to a young man in return to a younger man.Dance by the canal is one of my favourite Peirene books of recent years so should be there IMHO. One woman’s downfall from the former east to the west.Fitzcarraldo has three in my mind that could be on the list Insane by Rainald Goetz recounting his years as a psychiatrist in an autobiographical novel. Companions by Christina Hesselholdt sees three Danish couples as their lives go separate ways in a minimalist novel. Then river by Esther Kinsky is one of those books I loved so much I’m having to build up to review. A personal novel that had a similar effect was Blue self-portrait by Nomei Lefeberve a woman internal monologue as she wanders Berlin. Fireflies by Luis Sagasti another transgressive book of ideas. A poison Apple by Michel Laub a mised concert maybe led a man down the wrong path. Last due out soon The dinner guest by Gabriela Ybarra the story of her own grandfather being kidnapped is a personal book about family and coping with a tragic event it.So from what, I read there is a few now a quick list of some other books.

Not read but could be there

The 7th function of language by Laurent Binet – a theory on the death of Barthes in a novel.

In every moment we are still alive by Tom Malmquist – the tale of a father bring up a baby after losing his wife in child birth.

The white book by Han Kang – About life starting with a white list.

My cat Yugoslavia by pajtim Statovci – a delicate book set during the Balkan wars in the 1990’s.

Lullaby by Leila Slimani – a Nanny turns out not to be all she seems

What do you think will be there?

 

 

The Black notebook by Patrick Modiano

 

The Black notebook by Patrick Modiano

French fiction

Original title – L’Herbe des nuits

Translator – Mark Polizzotti

Source – review copy

I’ve been having a slump in reading and reviewing the book this last couple of weeks. I have started, maybe half a dozen books and just not been settling in them and had finished a couple of these books. Then not felt like reviewing them. So then I decide yesterday to have a good look through my pile of books and decided on something to try and click my mind back into the groove and I decided , I had three of the Maclehose Modiano books to read and as I have only reviewed one since his Nobel win, two in total, as I had reviewed him before the prize, came out.

No it wasn’t a dream. The proof is that I still have this black notebook full of my jottings. I need precise words in this haze, so I look in the dictionary. “Note: a short piece of writing that is used to help someone remember something.” The pages of my notebook contain a succession of names, telephone numbers, appointments and also short texts that might have something to do with literature.But what catergory should they be listed under? private journal ? fragments of a memoir?

Jean discovers his old Black notebook and the time with Dannie

 

The Black notebook is the story of a writer called Jean, who is sorting through some old items when he comes across the black notebook of the title. What follows is him reading through the notebook. As he does he is remembering a time in 1960 and reliving and retracing his footsteps at the time. When he started dating a woman he knew as Dannie, she had some involvement with Morrocan security. He ends up meeting her mostly at night in the Montparnasse region of Paris. He gets involved with the characters around a certain hotel in that part of Paris. The Unic Hotel were he spent time with Dannie, Paul Chastagnier, Aghamouri, Duwelz, Gerard Marciano and “Georges”. All seem shady characters, Dannie, as Jean discovers over the course of reading back through the notebook had a number of Alias. Now the past seems shady, but at the time he said he was of the age when being in seedy places at night seemed ok. Weekends in a mysterious country house. As he retraces his steps,. early on in the book.  He remembers this is also the Paris area that Gerard De Nerval, a man famous for walking a lobster. But also one of his most famous books is about a man dealing with the loss of three ladies. He wonders what happened and what was real and what he added to the notes as a writer.

On the day we met, I’d written “Dany” in my notebook, she had corrected the spelling, using my pen: ” Dannie”. Later, I discovered that the name. Dannie was the title of a poem ny a writer I admired at the time, whiom I occasionally saw leaving the Hotel Taranne on Boulevard Saint Germam, strange coincidences do happen

Jean is remembering but is he also inventing Dannie as he does .

Modiano is a writer I fell in love with his style the first time I had read him. He is a writer that use familiar themes in his books. The first is a missing person or people, in this case, Dannie is the main person that is missing even though we found out he knew little about here Jean. He tells s her name isn’t even Dannie. The second is place Paris is like London for Dickens or Dublin for Joyce you sense Modiano can relive his own past as he writes about the streets in Paris. He uses Jean as an avatar for revisiting the Paris he has grown up in living a different life similar a writer of crime fiction, who may have been involved on the very edge of a crime.Modiano maybe writes books that seem similar all three I have read have similar topics a missing person, Paris and a sort of detective story as someone piece thinks together as a fragmented nature to his stories. This, as I read in his book pedigree, as he writes about his mother than he barely knew.

 

 

 

Istanbul Istanbul by Burhan Sönmez

 

 

Istanbul Istanbul by Burhan Sönmez

Turkish fiction

Original title – İstanbul İstanbul

Translator – Umit Hussein

Source – personnel copy

I reach the second book from the three of the EBRD shortlist I have to read and this title was the one I knew very little around. Burhan is a prize-winning Turkish writer. He grew up speaking both Turkish and Kurdish. He moved to Istanbul to become a lawyer, he then took up writing first poetry, where he won two national poetry prizes. Then he turned his hand to writing novels this is his third novel his books have been translated into twenty languages. He now teaches literature.

It was cold in our cell. While I was telling the Doctor my story, Kamo the Barber lay curled on the bare concrete floor. We had no covers, we warned ourselves by huddling together, like puppies. Because time had stood still for several day we had no idea if it was day or night. We knew what pain was, every day we relived the horror that clamped our hearts as we were led away to be tortured.

Demirtay in the opening story talking about life in the cell for them.

This book is set just after the military coup in the prison in Istanbul. We are hearing the tales of four prisoners Demirtay the student, the doctor, Kamo the barber and Uncle Kuheylan. The four are being held and tortured.In between the guards taking them the four keep their spirits alive by telling stories from their lives.To spring their minds from outside there windowless cell  As they do they bring the city above them to life. From a meeting with one of those huge white dogs that grew up around this part of the world. A princess that has escaped from the Harem that has snuck on a boat and hidden in a lifeboat.But as one of them is told the stories have to reveal as little about themselves as the cell may be bugged so what we get is slightly fantastic stories. Thjis is interspersed with graphic images of torture particularly later on in the book a scene when a hammer is hit into a wrist is very hard hitting.

“A girl boarded a large ship in the port of Istanbul with great stealth, climbed up the steps, and hid in a large lifeboat. She wrapped herself in a sail and strained her ears to listen to any sound coming from outside.Once the ship had set sail she heaved a sigh of relief. Time aboard passed between sleep and wakefulness. She listened to the crew singingWhen the ship anchored in a port, she waited until evrything had turned quiet and darkness had fallen. She descended the steps unseen by anyone, and started running. She was heading towards a new world

A woman escapes the world of istanbul by a ship but what is here fate ?

 

This is an interesting book that brings the streets of Istanbul to life through the eyes of four men on the edge. There is a harder edge to this than Pamuk’s Istanbul this is the city we don’t see all the time the one of secret prisons and those trying to keep their minds open like the descriptions in Calvino’s Invisible cities the city comes to life. The book uses the four men in the cell as a framing device for the tales they tell each other this is like the Decameron or the Canterbury tales where we see a group using tales to illustrate their lives or values. These tales are in place love stories a little raunchy at times. But also the real side of life in a huge city at times. Tales that show how minds can transcend walls and iron doors that hold these four men in the dark there broken bodies and their minds not yet broken. This is what I had hope the books from the EBRD would be like a prize like this is why I read translated books to discover gems.

3 from Maclehose and a Lithuanian crime novel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am showing some recent arrivals for the blog first we have three books from Maclehose press. First off is After winter by The Mexican writer Guadalupe Nettel I have featured her book The body where I was born   This is a novel set between Prais and new york, two people on either side of the Atlantic have troubled lives until they meet.Nettel is regarded as one of the best Mexican writers around.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next up is another writer from Latin America, that has also featured on the blog. this is the latest from Juan Gabriel Vasquez, he has featured three times on the blog. This is his most ambitious book The shape of ruins based on an actual event in Columbian history just after world war two, this event and one of the characters involved also inspired Gabriel Garcia Marquez in his book one hundred year of solitude.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The last book is the one I am most intrigued about. One clear ice-cold morning at the beginning of the twenty-first century by Roland Schimmelpfennig. Is the first novel from the renowned German playwright. It follows a wolf as he wanders one cold morning into the Heart of Berlin and sees the morning through his eyes. An unusual sounding book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then we have The music teacher the latest book from Noir books a publisher bring the best in Lit from Lithuania. This is their first crime novel. A small town police investigator who had an affair before with her music teacher. She is now investigating the murder of a teenage girl and her ex-lover now a local politician is putting pressure on too close the case.

Exclusive extract of Craving

I am luck to bring you below an exclusive extract of the book Craving by Esther Gerritsen , as part of a tour for the Dutch annual event Boekenweek that is all about books and sees a special book published ever year Ester Gerritsen was the chosen writer in 2006 with her book ” Broer ” .

The relationship between Coco and her mother Elisabeth is uneasy, to say the least. Running into each other by chance, Elisabeth casually tells Coco that she is terminally ill. When Coco moves in with her mother in order to take care of her, aspects of their troubled relationship come to the fore once again. Elisabeth tries her best to conform to the image of a caring mother, but struggles to deal with Coco’s erratic behaviour and unpredictable moods.

Publisher Twitter handle: @WorldEdBooks 

Publicist Twitter handle: @RKBookPublicist

craving was describe by Alice Sebold as  –

‘Cool, sparse, and delicious, Esther Gerritsen’s Craving hits all the right notes. This is an author who is unafraid of both complex characters and complex emotion (Thank God!).’—Alice Sebold, author of The Lovely Bone

 

My extract –

‘Nothing is as nice as fresh sheets,’ Coco says as she pulls the fitted sheet over the mattress. Elisabeth doesn’t say that she should have put on an underlay first.

She is sitting on the sofa next to the bed, looking at her daughter as though she’s five years old again and wants to help fold the wash but only makes it worse by helping.

‘Do you know that Dad said you locked me up in my bedroom when I wasn’t even eighteen months old?’

Elisabeth hears her daughter’s attempt to sound breezy. So she replies just as breezily, ‘Did he say that?’

‘Yes, he said that.’

‘That father of yours.’ She does her best to fit in with Coco, over and over. The previous evening she’d even tried to eat more, if only to show her that they weren’t that different after all, though she knows otherwise.

‘It’s not true is it?’ Her daughter looks at her.

She doesn’t reply fast enough. Now there’s no going back. ‘Your father wouldn’t make a thing like that up. Why would your father make up something like that?’

‘You locked me up?’

‘Do you remember anything of it?’

‘So it’s true?’

‘But can you remember it?’

‘Mum, you locked me up when I was a year and half?’

‘Times were different, you know,’ Elisabeth says, trying to sound like the hairdresser.

‘You don’t lock up a one-and-a-half-year-old child.’

‘You didn’t cry any louder when you were in your room. You really didn’t. It didn’t make any difference.’

‘A year and a half?’

‘Would you pass me that plastic bag?’ She points under the bed. Coco bends down and gives her the bag from the chemist’s.

‘A year and a half?’ she repeats.

Elisabeth gets the morphine plasters out of the bag and puts them next to the sofa.

‘Did Dad say a year and a half?’

‘You mean he’s lying?’

‘Lying? How do you figure that one out?’

‘You’re avoiding the subject.’

‘Am I?’ She unfolds the information leaflet.

‘Yes, you are. Can’t you do that later?’

‘Oh sorry, is it bothering you?’

‘Yes.’

Elisabeth puts everything back in the bag.

‘The pain’s not that bad really. Methinks.’

‘What?’

‘Methinks.’

Her daughter looks at the bag.

‘Well, put it back.’ She gives her daughter the bag. ‘Then we can have a nice chat. Just ask me, I don’t have any secrets. What do you want to know?’

‘Why would you lock up a child of a year and a half?’

Elisabeth wants to give her an honest answer, but her thoughts have already digressed. ‘A playpen is a kind of lock-up too, isn’t it?’

‘Mum, I asked you something.’

‘You need to put an underlay on.’

‘Huh?’

‘You need to put on an underlay underneath the fitted sheet.

Yes, I’m just being honest. You want me to be honest, don’t you?’

‘Why did you lock me up?’

Elisabeth searches for something true she is happy to share. She has a good memory. She says, ‘I put cushions down everywhere. In your room. All the cushions from the sofa and the big ones from the old easy chairs. I used belts to tie cushions to the corners of the cupboards so that you couldn’t bump yourself. I left you three bottles. Two with water and one with freshly squeezed orange juice. You liked that. I broke up biscuits into small pieces and put them in plastic bags. At the time you didn’t eat well unless you could get the food out of small plastic bags yourself. You liked that.’

Her daughter doesn’t say anything.

‘And there were toys,’ Elisabeth says, ‘cardboard cubes, from big to small, that fit inside each other. A wooden lighthouse with coloured rings. A book with animals that made sounds. A big cow that mooed when you pressed her belly.’

‘How long did you leave me there?’

Elisabeth looks at the paler strands in her girl’s hair and then her eyes descend to the fleshy neck.

‘I liked to kiss your neck,’ she says. ‘My face fit perfectly into the space between your throat and your shoulders. You smelt so lovely as a child.’ They don’t know that you love them, you have to tell them. Again and again. ‘I love you. That’s what I’d say when I tucked you in at night. Bye-bye little girl. I love you.’ Elisabeth’s gaze wanders off. She looks out of the window and thinks about the matt-grey Mercedes. Then her daughter tears the sheet from the bed.

‘Are you angry now?’

‘Why would I be angry? You have to put an underlay on, don’t you. Explain it to me, Mum, why would I be angry?’

‘Because I locked you up. You’re angry because I locked you up, aren’t you?’

‘Yes, don’t you think?’

‘You weren’t at the time. Not at the time, you know. You were angry when I didn’t lock you up too. You were always angry. It didn’t make any difference.’

‘And you blamed a child of one-and-a-half for that?’

‘No, darling, you don’t have to feel guilty about it—you couldn’t help it.’

‘I don’t feel guilty!’ Coco says. ‘What do you expect?!’

Elisabeth has that strange feeling in her chest again. Perhaps it’s indigestion. Her daughter walks away, out of the room.

‘What is it now?’

‘I’m fetching an underlay!’

The book is published by World editions and is available here 

 

 

Maryam Keeper of stories by Alawiya Sobh

Maryam keeper of stories by Alawiya Sobh

Lebanese fiction

Original title Maryam Al-Hakaya

Translator – Nirvana Tanoukhi

Source – personal copy

Well, this is a great day for the blog it sees the 800th review and this book seems fitting all the time I have run the blog. I have run shadow juries connected to translation prizes. So for this to be the first in my new shadow EBRD prize jury is a real treat. Alawiya Sobh studied English and Arabic literature at university and has been writing since the early 1980’s and was editor of a leading woman’s magazine. This book won the sultan’s prizes in 2006 four years after it came out, her other novel was also longlisted for the Arabic Booker prize.

Before the war ended, Alawiyya did come sporadically. Somwtimes, she would be gone for days, weeks or months, but in the end she would return to knock on my door. I rarely left the flat. Often, I would only only go to the firm to collect my slary at the end of each month, since regular attendance wan not enforced. Particularly during the early years if the war when the fighting was at its worst, I spent most of my time at home in my room, unless I had arranged to meet Abbas. Ibtisam and Alawiyya, for their part, went to the fronts and disappeared for days. they wandered off like a sheep and grazed in the war meadow only to be brought back to my little stable where they regurgitated their tales.

Maryam talks of her friend and them going to,the front, I loved this image.

Maryam is a Lebanese woman, she is in Beruit.But she is just found out she is going to leave and go to live in Canada away from the war. She is worrying that the stories she has told her friend the writer Alawiya haven’t been used by her. Even thou she promised. So we see Maryam recounting the tales she had told her friend. She worries about why ALwiya hasn’t asked for more of her stories.So we see Maryam struggle as the war raged on but also times before a place that is now lost.Then we also see her parents yes her mother is a bit of a character there is some great interaction between and the father who the mother has just in the place she wants him. Like the tales of her various aunts like the slow one. Then we see the wider picture of the city and the conflict, which for me at the time was bewildering and complexed.

My sister prepared to carry out Mother’s orders and stood guard over the brad for fear of puinishment,But my older brother Ahmad slipped by her, stole some loaves and escaped down the valley to eat them there. My sister ran after him, but he was faster and soon disappeared from her sight. He devoured the loaves in the orchard while, bacj at the house, fear devoured my sister. When Mother returned and heard about my brother’s “big Belly”, she broke into a rage and ran after my sister to thrash her.

The mother was feared and made the daughters hold the line .

This book has an interesting take on Maryam narrating, but a writer called Alawiya in their lives that had promised to tell the story. There is a feeling is this Maryam or is Alawiya being Maryam? It is good to see a female voice on the Lebanon war, I have read a couple of books from the male perspective. It was great to see the bonds between mothers daughters and friends keep their spirits up in the darkest times. A family saga set during a dark time shows how the family pulls us through the darkest times and also the humour we find within families even in the dark days of the war there is still humour here. I wouldn’t have read this without it being on the EBRD literature prize shortlist so I am pleased it was on the list.

Berlin Alexanderplatz by Alfred Döblin new translation

Berlin Alexanderplatz by Alfred Döblin

German fiction

Original title – Berlin Alexanderplatz

Translator – Michael Hofmann

Source – review copy

This is the first time in the seven years I have been blogging I am reviewing a book for the second time. I reviewed Berlin Alexanderplatz. But that was the first translation by Eugene Jolas, which had cut some of the original out and was inspired by Jolas fondness for Joyce. So when I heard Hofmann a translator, I admire was doing a new translation I was looking forward to it so to get sent a review copy was a treat. Alfred Doblin studied medicine in the years before world war one which meant he got to avoid the war. But the war had an impact on his views he wrote from 1915, but this book was the one that raised him to a national and international standing when it came out and is considered a masterpiece of German modernism.

Our hero has been successfully brought to Berlin. He has sworn to mend his ways, ad we wonder wheter we shouldn’t simply stop here.An ending her would be optimistic and straightforward, an ending seems to be at hand, and the whole thing wouuld have the advantage of brevity.

But Franz Biberkopf is not just abyone, I have not summned him for my own amusment, but for his heavy, true and iluminating fate to be experienced.

Franz Biberkopf has been burnt, now he stands there in berlin, feet apart and merry, and when he says he wants to be respectable, we believe this to be the case.

You willsee how for several weeks he succeeds. But that’s just a period of respite

The opening of chater two captures well his life cycle of Franz Biberkopf

 

So the approach Hofmann took was to make the book seem more like its German version where it is a wonderful mix of the world around the main character in the book. Franz Biberkopf. We meet Biberkopf as he is released after surviving a sentence for manslaughter. He has determined to try and go on the straight and narrow. He initially is drawn into a story told by a Jewish man who takes him to a rabbis house. But he manages to get out of what is a strange situation and ends up selling things we see him going through a number of different trades. Alongside this, we see the city around him as each small chapter is made up of a what happens to Franz but also the city around him.As he meets woman after woman. He also has a scene in a slaughterhouse where he sees how the meats that are sold are made. He tries to stay on the straight and narrow but he is a man drawn to the darker side of the town, But when he meets a man called Rheinhold a friend at first but later attacks Franz he has to head down the path of crime and gangs.As he gets involved more with the Pums gang.Franz is a man drawn by fate and maybe a liking for the darker easier side of life as he sees it.

Since Christmas is icumen in, Franz makes a switch into seasonal products, for a few mornings and afternoons it is shoelaces, first on his own, then with one Otto Luders, luders been out of work for two years, his wife takes in washing. Fat lina brought him along one day, he’s her uncle. For a few eeks in summer he was the Rudersdorf peppermint man with swizzle sticj and uniform. He and Franz wandered through the strets together, go inside the houses, ring doorbells and meet up afterwards

Franz is slipping down and getting in with the wrong sorts as the book goes on .

This manages to capture the world of Doblin book so much clearer than the Jolas did. we see a world this is different to Joyce’s modernism of an internal voice. No this is the world without filters Doblin tries to capture every detail to give the reader a full picture of the Berlin of the time the smells sounds and feeling of the place jump of the page. Franz Bibeerkopf is the dark side of the Isherwood World of Berlin, this is a man that has been to prison and tries to go straight but is drawn in by the wrong people as he spends his nights in Bierkellers and with women of a certain type. If John Dos Passos, Tom Waits and Charles Bukowski had a bastard child it would be Doblin this is like Dos Passos modernism a way of capturing the wider world and the personal struggle at the same time. Franz is like a character from A Waits song or a Bukowski novel a loser but trying to be more than he wants to be. I still say watching the Fassbinder series is worth it I watch it after reading the book the first time and am midway through a rewatching of it. As my next review is the 800th on the blog I pleased to meet a new version of a book I loved first time around.

Have you read either translation of the Book?

 

Love/war by Ebba Witt-Brattström

Love/War cover

 

Love/war by  Ebba Witt-Brattström

Swedish Fiction

Original title –  Århundradets kärlekskrig

Translator – Kate Lambert

Source – Review copy

I was lucky to get sent the second book from Nordisk books. After Havoc, I wondered what they would choose for the second book. They have chosen a modern novel that has a lot of style about it. It is written by Ebba  Witt-Brattström a well-known figure in Sweden for her feminist setting up one a feminist party in Sweden, which she has since left she is also a professor of Nordic Literature in Helsinki. This is her first book to be translated into English.

He said:

I duppose this morning

wasn’t worse

than usual.

It wn’t get

any better than this.

It’s far more probable

that from now on

goodwil

on either side

will decrease

by a few percentage points

a week.

I don’t know

what could possibly

turn that process

around.

The opening lines of the book show the husband as cold in his way as he accepts the way things are.

We have a novel that is in the form of two voices the two voice indicate just as he and she throughout the book. They are a married couple. what we see here is an unleashing of  two minds that in many ways are the same but due to a lifetime spent together there paths have gone in a classic mid 20th century marriage where the man has been allowed to take the lead and the “classic male role” and what we see is the pent-up anger of  the wife, but also a husband that  has allowed his wife not pursue her dreams and has over time underappreciated her role by calling her a pussy a sub. She has grown afraid of him the love that burnt so bright has turned to pure hate. The final nails in the coffin of a marriage seen in the last conversations they take at each other. Like two expert fencers diving in the point of a blade in the form of words trying to draw blood from one another.

She said

speak for yourself.

Ypur idealisation of

the woman’s feelings for the man

doesn’t seem to apply to the man’s

feeling for the woman.

Love is a story of a couple.

not the conditional submission

of one party

to the needs of the other.

BE WHITE MAN’S SLAVE

You are only enthralled

by the woman’s sacrifice.

you call that love.

My arse

She said:

Now I have dreamt two nights in a row

that I was happy and carried a knife in my hand,

a bloody knife, and my heart was as light as a bird

She puts her anger so well her the way she has felt like his slave during the later part of the marriage now she has seen love turn to hate.

I loved the detached nature of the voices. As the book unwinds we are given breadcrumbs of their lives as we gather what lead them to this position. I was reminded of Beckett in the voices .The way the work is just voices brought to mind the classic piece by him Not I, which was a female voice like this one that is full of bile of a lifetime of being put in her place this is the voice of a woman that has had her dreams spurned. This is the story of a marriage splitting, a battle voiced in words that has the feeling of being very real. the fact the writers own marriage broke up around the time this book came out it. The books original title in Swedish is a nod to another classic Nordic work that of the love of the century by Martha Tikkanen the Finnish writer.where a woman tries to voice her anger towards her alcoholic husband.

Bled dry by Abdelilah Hamdouchi

Bled dry by Abdelilah Hamdouchi

Morrocan fiction

Translator – Benjamin Smith

Source – review copy

I reviewed another crime novel by Hamdouchi a couple of years ago the Final bet. Which focus on a different detective and a different part of the Moroccan society. But this is the first in a new series he is writing set Casablanca and with the Detective Hanash as he heads into the slums of that city. Hamdouchi writes also for Tv in Morroco police dramas. He lives in Rabat in Morocco. This is from Hoopoe fiction a branch of AUC press.

Detective Hanash was in his fifties, and only a few years from retirement.. Everything about him suggested a man who had spent a lifetime interrogating ciminals, studying murderers, and unraveling clues to crimes. This was how he got his nickname “Hanash” which meant “Snake” his real name was Mohamed Bineesa.He would change character by “Shedding his skin” and then “Strike” his prey. Those who met Detective Hanash for the first time immediately got a sense of his strange personality, and those who had met him on multiple occasions tended to find him quite unpleasent

The Detective Hanash described remind me of so many classic detectives.

The problem in crime novels is when to set the murder. To early I find and the characters that have been killed have no backstory and too late it is mat to short for the crime to be solved. Well this book for me has it right. We start by discovering the life of Nezha, she is a young woman that has been drawn into being a prostitute to keep her family together. We see her as she works the men she meets a mixture of men from factory men to police, to religious men. She has got used to the work as it is what keeps her life on track. But then something happens and she and her lover are found dead then step in Hanash a man called the snake by those who know him and because when he gets his prey he will strike. He is drawn into the dark streets and has a connection with the dead that means he wants this crime sorted as soon as possible.

Nezha normally spent the morning hours asleep, and didn’t wake until three or four in the afternoon. She would have a meal with her mother and then prep for another night out. She would shower, get dressed, tie her hair back, and leave the house looking like she was going to a normal job. She’d then head straight to Salwa’s salon, whish she considered a second homeIt was there that she would get herhair done and makeup, in preparation for the evening.

Nezha does it for the family and  tries to keep up normal appearance for everyone.

Now, this is a better than a normal crime novel. The first part of the book is a wonderful look at the underbelly of the city through the eyes of NEzha as she visits her men and we see how extremist are creeping into the city. This is a good piece of social insight. Hanash is a detective that is clearly pencilled out as a bit of a loner a man that maybe rubs his colleagues up the wrong way. Part Rebus part Harry hole, a loose cannon of a detective. world-weary also aware of the reality of the city he lives in as he walks into its underbelly to find a killer. I look forward to reading more in this series it is one of the best crime novels I have read, great pacing, interesting main characters and interesting settings.

Previous Older Entries

February 2018
M T W T F S S
« Jan   Mar »
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
262728  
%d bloggers like this: