Endless blue sky by Lee Hyoseok

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Endless Blue Sky by Lee Hyoseok

Korean fiction

Original title 벽공문한

Translator – Stevenn D Capener

Source – Review copy

Honford star is another of those rising band of the small publisher that is cutting its own corner in the world of translated fiction with bringing out works from Southeast Asia Korea in Particular. They have chosen works from modern classic writers from Korea. Lee Hyoseok is another example of the writers Honford star have been brought to us. He studied English in the early thirties in Keijo university. He was a fan of the works of Thomas Mann and Anton Chokov. But was most influenced by the group of nine writers of his fellow Korean writers. Which he was a member of. Where they all influenced each other in there writing.

Ilmas’s duties as a cultural envoy were actually quite simple. He was to go to Harbin and negotaite the invitation of a symphony orchesra. Although there was no mention of an ocupation on Ilma’s nuisness card, while writing commentaries on current cultural topics and critical essays on music, he had natrually come to be considered, by himself and others, as a culture mediator, Recent displays of his talents in the field, inculding successfully arranging for the performances of renowned theatrical troupes from Tokyo had brought Ilma to the attentoon of certain people.

how he got his job in Harbin that would lead to him falling for Nadia.

This is a romance but it is also the story of various cultures clashing just before the world they all know was to descend into the darkness of the second world war. We follow Ilma a Korean Journalist. He has been sent to Manchuria to be a cultural Envoy by the editor of Hyundai Daily. He has also been sent to get an Orchestra to play in Korea. What follows is the falling in love between Ilma and a Russian dancer Nadia. They both fall for each other’s worlds in a way he tells her about the breaking cosmopolitan nature of Modern Korea. But the city of Harbin where they are feels a lot more western as it is more liberal than Korea. They talk in a shared language of English and she tells him about life in the west. But there is a thorn in their sides an Actress that Ilma knew Daneyeong that isn’t happy that he is seeing a none Korean. From watching western films like the southern carrier a film about the early pioneering aviators. Then we have a kidnapping (common at this time in this part of the world) then Drug taking as well. A couple falls in love on the cusp of world war two.  but in the background is what lies ahead.

“Who are you talking about?”

“Whaddya mean who? Nadia, of course.”

“Nadia asks about me? Ilma stood with his mouth open his heart suddenly aflutter. “Truth be told, the first thing I think of when I come to Harbin is Nadia. Did she really ask about me ?

When he first gets a glimmer of the fact that Nadia likes him !

This is a book of its time a writer trying to cram as much of his world at the time as he can. The world that was in a way the setting is the late thirties southern carrier came out in 1937 and the book was written in 1941. So I feel he is trying to capture that world just before the world change. I have long been a fan of books that show clashing cultures and this is shown here from the Western Harbin a cosmopolitan gem that is what people like ILma and his Editor world like Korea to be. Then we have the feeling of falling in love at the wrong time. I was reminded of the loves of Charles Ryder in Brideshead another book that followed those years on the cusp of war. Even a book like Isherwood’s Goodbye to Berlin another book that captures that crazy pre-war world of new ideas and liberal values!! The world that like Hyoseok saw the barriers and cultural world changing slightly. I enjoyed this it is a busy book packed full of threads of stories but it serves a dollop of a world that is gone. The book has a great intro from the translator, he is a real fan of the writer. The book is also has a specially commissioned cover based on the book by a Korean artist.

In every wave by Charles Quimper

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In every wave by Charles Quimper

Quebecian fiction

Original title – Marée montante

Translator – Gull Lefebvre

Source – Review copy

I have a real feeling that I am lucky to have been let in the Library of books from Quebec it is like a small room in Borges Dream Library one that we who know about the great books from Quebec have the secret knowledge and so to the latest. This is an amazingly short novella from the writer Charles Quimper he has previously been a bookseller and written to a number of magazines. I read an interview where it said he had tried out working on a trawler only to find he has seasickness. He is married and has two children.

A BIRD GLIDES OVERHEAD. Could be a cormorant, maybe an albatross. Might be just a seagull.I have no idea.

It’s there first thing in the morning and follows me all day, circling above, tracking me accross the seven seas.

Cracked skin, calloused hands. My body sculpted by the sea

The steady rhythm of the gallery inside me. Turmoil and rain filled sorrow. A hint of something sweet, clear and amber. A mournful melody. I think of you every day, seeking your shadow in the boat’s wake, finding nothing but the sea

The recurrent them of the water her again in this poetic passage early on in the book.

In Every wave is narrated by the father of Beatrice. She had drowned one summer whilst swimming. Now the water is a recurring theme in the book. The narrative has a broken nature as we drift through the past and the present. From memories of camping playing Marco Polo , the actual day of Beatrice drowning rerunning what happened maybe to see if it could have been different then the aftermath his with underwater in the bath motionless her way of dealing with there loss. The distance between the husband and wife after the event is like a tide slowly drawing in and cutting them off to there island. He has a boat maybe he is trying to sail back to her or even to his wife but he just sees a bird in the distance every day.

That day

I swear , I tried. I tried everything. Our fingertips brushed together. I grabbed you by the forearm, but the current was too strong, and you were being pulled down too fast. I swear by your name engraved on my skin. On the head of my dead bird.

I can’t even swim, but there I was, swallowing water by the bucketful, spitting, coughing, desperate to get back to shore,howling your name. Cramped,gasping, and spent.Spittiomg up saliva and snot and despair. Someone pulled me out. Without you.

That day he replays again near the end trying to grasp at the water for his Beatrice.

This is such a short book 78 pages Long. It is strange I am just reading Knausgaard’s the End well that book was started with the death of his father. Well, it turns out the kernel for this book was Charles own fathers death he was young when it happened. Knausgaard books are a forest or words this short novella is a single autumnal leaf one of those leaves that had just the bare skeleton of the leaf this is the bare bones of coping with a death whether it is a father or a Child. This uses the sea and water so well as a recurrent theme from the boat, the drowning, the wife in the bath and the sea water forming salt on the skin a lasting impression of what the sea is like the tears we cry at times like this salty. I was so touched after reading this I tweeted this was one of the most touching books I have ever read it is a real gem a short book that lingers long in the memory of the reader. You will feel the unnamed fathers sorrow and guilt. I for one now both feelings so well in recent times especially the replaying the last days of what happened as the Counting crows one said in a song.” If dreams are like movies, then memories are films about ghosts, You can never escape, you can only move south down the coast”. Another gem from the library of Quebec. Please go preorder this gem I review it earlier than normal as I felt it was that good!!!!

 

That was the month that was August 2018

  1. Zero by Gine Cornelia Pedersen
  2. The Neighborhood by Mario Vargas Llosa
  3. One hundred twenty one days by Michele Audin
  4. A cat, a man and two women by Junichiro Tanizaki
  5. The tree of the Toraja by Philippe Claudel

I only managed to review five books last month as I had a long break no new countries and no new publishers. Three new writers to the blog including Tanizaki which is a writer I wanted to feature on the blog for a while. I also feature another from the Nordisk books which has brought a few gems out so far.

Book of the month

 

I was touched by this book. I am finding books that deal with death and grieving have come more important to me. This is the latest by Philippe Claudel which is a writer I had featured a few times on the blog. For me this is his best book and one will be recommending to people in the future. 
The month ahead
I had read a few other books last month so some catch-up reviews. Which will give me a number of days at the start of this month to read The end the last volume of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s autobiographical novel. I started it earlier today and am drawn in already 100 pages in of the eleven hundred pages. I then have a few review copies to read and to start prepping for german lit month with a few German novels.

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