The Penguin Classic book week

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was sent this lovely Hardback book by Henry Elliot of the history of Penguin classics which covered all the books Penguin classic have brought out over the years little pen pictures of writers and some of the books. This is the sort of dip in and out of the book you can have for the rest of your life. I decided the best way to get it across would be maybe a personal but open to all reading week. I have decided the second week of April to have read these four books from my Tbr that are all in the Penguin Classics book. So if you have a chance between the 8th April and the 15th to read a penguin classic you are welcome to join in .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First up and I go way back to Ancient Greece and my copy of the Iliad by Homer and my 70’s edition which is translated by E V Rieu. A book that is considered the greatest work of Greece and my first foot into Classical literature on this blog. I’m not sure how good this version is or if it is but the Penguin Classic book says it has had the most translations of any Penguin classic over the time they have been bringing the book out.I often feel I have a huge gap in my reading from so little classics I have read so this is a time to change that!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I go now forward to Victorian times and to Charles Dickens I choose A tale of two cities by him as it is one that isn’t talked about as much as other and also given its setting partly in France fits nicely in the blog and it is one of the few by him I hadn’t read years ago. I was at his museum a few years ago for a book launch and said then I need to read him and especially as my best friend is a huge Dickens fan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the first Italian novels tells the birth of Modern Italy.  Confessions of an Italian tells the great story of the Italian Risorgimento through a sweeping tale of Love, betrayal, villainy, and heroism. I also love the cover of this book for me the picture on the cover just wanted me to buy this book when it came out a few years ago. italo Calvino was a huge fan of this book. An epic at more than 800 pages this is one I have been wanting to get to but keep putting aside now seems a good time.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last off I go to Russia and an Outsider in the time he wrote Nikolai Leskov story collection Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk and other stories. I was grabbed by the fact he had used Shakespeare’s characters for his fiction. A chance to read one of the most unique voices of Russian literature in a book that came out in 1987 for the first time in Penguin Classics.

With 1200 books being published by Penguin classics I’m sure everyone has one or two li=ying around and maybe getting Henry Eliot’s book would be a great intro and guide to them!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Katalin Street by Magda Szabo

Katalin Street by Magda Szabo

Hungarian fiction

Original title – Katalin utca

Translator – Len Rix

Source – review copy

I am surprised I hadn’t reviewed Szabo already I had read the doo and Iza’s Ballad and had enjoyed both but it seems they may have both gone unreviewed. So I start with the latest of her books to be translated into English this is a new translation there was a translation a number of years ago but this is by Len Rix who has also translated The door by her. Szabo wrote post world war two and her initial works saw her fall foul of the Communist authorities in Hungary which meant she lost he job in the ministry and became a Teacher for a few years at a girls school.

Henriette always insisted that she had a perfectly clear memory of the day they moved into Katalin Street, but that could have hardly been true. If by “remember” she meant thing she could directly recall herself, then that extended only to the h=general upheavel and excitement, the train going over the bridges and the facesof one or two people who would play key roles later on in her life. Everything else had been told by her parents, by the Eleke’s family, or by Balint, who was the oldest of the four children and the one with the clearest recollection of events. Likewose, with the exception of a single sentence, her “recollection” of what had been said on that day had also come down to her, in all its detail, through her parents or the other children, she had after all, been just six years old when they moved from the country

The opening of thw 1934 section and the arrival of the Held’s on the street.

This is a tough book to get into. It is a strange collection of voice we come across in the opening. We here about the Elekes family Mrs. Elekes and the children of Katalin Street Balint, Iren and Blanka the sister of Balint who ends up in Greece telling her story and adding the story of Henriette Held the daughter of the \jewish Dentist. Then the novel becomes more straightforward as we have a number of different years that follow the children of the street from 1934. That is when the Jewish Held arrive on the street and quickly become part of the street Iren gets a gold card from her teacher her father is the head teacher much to the dismay of her sister Blanka the sort of wild younger sister the children of Major  Balint. Blanka notes Balint always had a thing for Iren. This is shown when the two of them get together. The father the Major tries to help the Held’s but is unable to stop them going to the deaths. Blanka is horrified by the war and post-war is a different person as we see via the Balint now a doctor working at the same hospital as Blanka. the street itself in 1956 is having a facelift as the old house they all lived has changed. The next two sections round of the stories of the Eleke’s parents, Iren their daughter the youngest now in Greece and son of the Major. Also, the spirit left behind of the young Henriette Held is there seeing the post-war times.

Even today I don’t understand why it was only then, and not much earlier, that I realised I was jealous of Henriette. Ever since she had moved into the street she had somehow belonged not just to all of us but especially Balint. That he had never smacked her as hard as he did either Blanka or Me was not in itself surprising, She wasn’t the sort of person you would ever want to hit, being so quiet and timid, and the smallest of the three, There was a certain pleasure in slapping Blanka, in pinching her leg ir smacking her bottom, but it was never like that with Henriette.

Iren remember the fragile Henriette in 1944 when she dies like her parents.

I was reminded of when I was a child and would get a jar or bucket full of creatures from a rockpool and watch them over the coming days some lived others as I was too young to know to need the changing tide to feed and were trapped in that rockpool I had caught them in. This novel like that Bucket is a microcosm of the rockpool. Szabo has gathered together four children and the parents like the little fish and shell creatures of the rockpool and we watch them over time. The events they see have changed Budapest and its own Microcosm forever from the end of the great Austro Hungarian years in 1934 till the shadow of the Nazi and the loss of the Held’s echoing so many others in the city. The post-war years and people like Blanka seeing the world with eyes afresh after the war and being changed by the war and what she saw. Szabo gathers the horror and the post-war communist suffering of Hungary. in fact, this novel is maybe one that needs reading now as we see the suffering of both sides here and the world before that in a brief glimpse at what was a better world before the chaos of the Nazi and Soviet eras of Hungary. Not the easiest book to get into but worth the last two-thirds of the book. Have you read Szabo or have you a favorite Hungarian writer?

The sound of waves by Yukio Mishima

Image result for The Sound of Waves

The sound of waves by Yukio Mishima

Japanese fiction

Original title – 潮騷 Shiosai

Translator – Meredith Wetherby

Source – personal copy

I have missed Tonys Japan in January last year so was pleased when Belezza said she was moving her Japanese literature Challenge too the first three months of this year. I have been buying but not reading a lot of Japanese fiction in recent years, in fact, Mishima is a writer I have brought a lot of his books. I wasn’t a huge fan of the book the sailor who fell from grace with the sea as I found it rather brutal in places. But others said I should try him again so nine years later I have got to him again. He missed out on a Nobel when it went to fellow Japanese writer Kawabata won the prize he was an early mentor of Yukio Mishima.

Boththe lighthouse keeper and his wif had taken Hatsue, the newcomer, to their warm hearts. Just when she was so silent that they were thinking maybe she was not so attractive after all, suddenly she would break into her lovely, girlish laughter; and if she sometimes seemed lost in the clouds, she was also most considerate. For instance, at the end of an etiquette lesson hatsue would immediately begin clearing away the cups they had drunk their tea in – a thoughtful action that never would have occured to the other girls – and while she was at it she would go on to wash the dirty dishes she might find in the kitchen.

Help ful and pretty the girl taken in by the lighthouse keepr and is seen by Shinji for the first time.

I choose this as my next Mishima as it seemed different from the other book by him I have read. Set in what seems to post world war two Japan we focus on a small island and Shinji a young fisherman looking after his mother and brother after losing his father in the war. He does jobs around the island one involves visiting the lighthouse keeper and his wife this is where he comes across a young pearl diver that has come there from a nearby island. Hatsue the girl in question is the girl all the local lads like. she is tanned and as Mishima discusses in detail has wonderful breasts. The two fall in love. It turns out that Hatsue is actually the daughter of Teruckuchi the wealthiest local man that had sent his daughter away to leave his son in charge of his empire as the future heir. But when he loses his son in the war he turns to the daughter he left to grow up as a pearl diver to make sure she marries a man he can then call a son and takes as his heir. He favors another but when he sends the two out on one of his ships Shinji and Yasuo a bitter rival of for the affections of Hatsue he had earlier said Shinji had taken his relationship further than he should of  !! who will get her hand and become the new son to her wealthy father?

If Shinji had had more experience with women, as he looked at the naked Hatsue standing across the fire, in the storm encircled ruins, he would have seen unmistakably that hers was the body of a virgin. Her skin, far from fair-complexioned, had been constantly bathed in in sea-water and stretched smooth; and there, upon the wide expanse of a shest that had served for many long dives, two small breasts turned their faces slightlyaway from each other, as thoughabashed, and lifted up two rose-colored buds. Since Shinji r=fearful of being discoverde, had barely opened his eyes, the girl’s form remained a vague outline and, peered at through a fire that reached as high as the concrete ceiling, became almost indistinguishable from wavering flames themselves.

Shinji sees her breifly and is grabbed by her body as he sees it in the flames.

This is a classic boy and girl tale boy meets girl falls in love. Then we have the twists to it father figures missing fathers and missing sons Hatsue was abandoned then taken back by her father as he lost his son, Shinji Lost his father in the war. This is also a story that shows how life works in small villages as the gossip cause a lot of problem for the young couple especially when lies are told. The one thing that shone in the description of Hatsue was it must have been a woman that Mishima knew the way he so sexually described the body of Hatsue through Shinji’s eyes. This was much 6lighter Mishima than in the previous book a romantic work that shows love can win through in the end. A great first choice for the Japanese Literature Challenge.

Among the lost by Emiliano Monge

 

Among the lost by Emiliano Monge

Mexican fiction

Original title – Las Tierras arrasadas

Translator – Frank Wynne

Source – review copy

Some of the best books I have read in recent years have been from Mexican writers they seemed to have been an explosion of great writers from the from Yuri Herrea, Valeria Luiselli and Guadalupe Nettel. So when I got chance to read another rising star of Mexican fiction Emiliano Monge is a political scientist journalist and writer. His works have featured in the 25 best-kept secrets of Latin American literature and Mexico twenty this is the second of his books to be translated into English Arid sky was translated by restless books. But this has been translated by Frank Wynne which I have long been a fan of his translations.

After a brief silence, Epitafio brings his left hand to his pocketand, as he takes a was of banknotes to give to the boys, he feels a pressure in his bladder. I’m pissing myself,he thinks, handing over the money, then, unbucklinghis belt, he adds; how about we say same place, next thursday? Fine, we’ll be here, promises the older of the two boys, who dragging the younger boy by hand, heads back into the jungle.

As his body empties, Epitafio watches how the two boys hop overa root and how they pull back the curtain of liana.But he does not see the two disappear beyond the wall that separates the clearing from the jungle, because at that moment the petrol genartor belches again and he looks anxiu=ously at the old truck: Fucking hell …I’ll have to wake her up.

His first times in the jungle he is nervous Epitafio

 

 

 

This is a love story in the middle of the hell that is the world of being trafficked through Mexican jungle. Although it is described more of Dante like a trip through hell. The two main characters Estela and Epitafio are the lovers that grew up in a lonely orphanage became lovers then the world tore them apart on too two sides as we see their worlds of brutal trafficking of kids and adults where life can be swift and brutal and for the woman here harrowing. We see there lives as they often have no names just a jumble of words stuck together as a description of them like Estella who is called shewhoadoresepitafo . He Epitafo forced by the head of the gang into a marriage, not to Estella has a wife and son constantly tries to get in touch with Estella but in this hinterland of Mexico his mobile phone rarely works and the vehicles he uses are broken and old so he catches glimpses and seconds with his old lover. Will, they ever escape the hamster wheel of hell that is their lives to be together again.

Two metres from IHearonlywhatiwant, in a nest build unto the rock face, two hatchlings cheep and the sound attracts the attention of this woman, who, on seeing the nest, shifts her thoughts to another person, thinks for a moment about Cementeria: back in El Paraiso, they were responsible for feeding the chickens.

turning back from the sheer drop, estela stares at the fledglings and once again wonders what happened to Cementreria ,where she was all that time she was missing, and why the hell she tookher own life. But her minds quickly accepts that now is not time to think about such things, and her friends suicide is once again replaced by thpoughts of Epitafio: Fucking hell …I didn’t even respond to your message!

I bet you’re pissed off

A brutual world weere they lose friends but estela still after all thinks of her man !!

This book uses the divine comedy as a sort of companion to describe the hellish world the two lead characters find themselves in this is shown by the frequent Dante quotes through the book. I also read he is a Joyce fan as he is one of a group of this is shown to me in the Names of some of the characters which in a way echo Joyce’s way of combining words in Finnegans Wake. This is a grim world that hasn’t been shown through rose colour glasses this is a brutal world where the migrants are the currency for those taking them to the north and the end of the journey for that get to the end that is or those that like Estella and Epitafio are born into this world and never really have a chance to escape this world. A powerful view of his home country wonderfully translated by Frank who has a great intro around names and words used in the novel.

The wicked go to Hell by Frédéric Dard

 

The Wicked Go to Hell by Frédéric Dard

The wicked go to hell by Frédéric Dard

French Noir fiction

Original title – Les salauds vont en enfe

Translator David Coward

Source – Library book

I reviewed another novel by Dard a couple of years ago Bird in the cage. Which I enjoyed so when I saw this in the library I decided it was time to try another by this prolific French writer. this was indeed the first of four books he wrote in 1956. This was also made into a film the year before the book came out although the book seems slightly different to the film details when I read them on Wikipedia.this is a tight two-handed tale of two cellmates.

“Our man has got to escape and escape he will … with you!” He looked at me to see my reaction but I’d long been used to letting the sky fall on me without battling an eyelid.

“We’ll lock you both up in the same jail cell … a tough one.. the sort of place that gives kindly old ladies the shivers. The pair of you escape!

“You’ll hole up somewhere and you’ll wait. The breakout will be big news. The head of the organization, knowng thatnhis man has escaped, will want to get him back..At some point or other he’ll break cover..Then , when you’ve got your hands on him”

He made a chopping motion with the dside of his hand.The gesture meant death.

Merin’s boss the old man a scary old chief that sets clear whathe has to do.

The book is set firstly in one of France toughest prison and on cellmates. What we are told about Frank and Hal is that one of them is a policeman called Merins was called in by his boss the old man to trap this spy. So he was sent into the prison to uncover. a spy ring and the overman is an enemy spy and leader of a spy ring that is centered on the prison the two initially don’t get on and fight. Thou in the fighting we see thou the two men Frank and Hal are on different sides of the fence in terms of what side they are on they in personality are similarly tough men as reach accuses the other of being a spy or the stool pigeon. The prison splits them up after a number of fights and sends both men to solitary but they get together in the cell and over time a collective loathing of prison life draws the two together as the plan an escape as they do they get closer. The plan works but leaves Frank worse for wear they land on an isolated island in the southern part of France Carmargue that wetland where there are many small islands. The two hide there till another person from a shipwreck ends up with them drawing the two to a final end. But who was who!

When the bull had gone, the two new men remained standing side by side for a moment, without looking at each other. Then there was a kind of click of release. Time, which had been flowing over them without intruding on the consciousness, suddenly jolted them out of the prisoner’s stupor and swept them up on its aimless way. They looked at each other up with fierce intrest. Like two animals who come face to face. Eventually, one of them – the one with the eye half-closed eye- give a shrug.He looked round the cell. There were three hinged cots, each with a straw mattress and a blanket.The prisoner who couldn’t speak occupid the fatherst one.

The first time they are alone in the cell Frank and Hall weight each other up.

The clever device in this book is Dard not telling you who is Merins the opening chapter sees him get the job and then we are thrown into the cell with Frank and Hal and questioning who is the cop and who is the spy. The story is also a classic take on the buddy film the two initially hate each other but other the courst=e of the book they form an uneasy alliance due to the conditions they find themselves in. Dard lets us know that no one at the prison knows Merins is there as they are not sure how far the spy ring goes in the prison. Dard builds the tension as the strained relationship and violent nature of both men maybe sees them seeing a bit of themselves in the other man. Leading to the escape and the friendship becoming closer as one saves the other from the water to drag him onto the island. As human nature not what side each one is on takes over. A simple story but with a clever few twists. I do hope Pushkin carry on bring Dard’s out he did write nearly 200 books in his time.

My Name is Adam by Elias Khoury

My Name Is Adam_TPB.jpg

My Name is Adam by Elias Khoury

Lebanese fiction

Original title – Awlad AL-Ghetto- Esme Adam” (أولاد الغيتو- اسمي آدم)

Translator Humphrey Davies

Source – review copy

Well I haven’t reviewed a novel by Elias Khoury in a while. I reviewed While you were sleeping and Yalo a few years ago. I am a huge fan of his work he has a wonderful way of capturing the world he lives in and is lauded as a future Nobel winner and one of the leading voices of his generations of Arabic fiction. This latest book he uses a modern writer to look back at the moment in 1948 when the world around his home fell apart. This book is the second time he has tackled the 1948 conflict but this time from a whole new angle.

These notebooks came into my possesion by coincidence, and I hesitated at the length before deciding to send them to Dar Al-Abab in Beiruit for publication. To be hionest, the reason for my hesitation lay in that ambigous feeling that combines admiration and envy. love and hate, I had met the writer and hero ot htese text. Adam Dannoun or danoun in New York, where I reach at the university. I remember I fold my Korean student how good looking I thought he was . It was towars the end of Feburary2005.If memorey serves me correctly.

This is a clever book which sees the writer himself Elias Khoury looking into fictional writers notebooks. This happens when the man Adam Damnoun he is an old man who grew up in the early years of the founding of Israeli but eventually left there and fled to the US. He strangely for an Israeli strangely end up in New York working in a restaurant serving Middle-eastern dishes where his path crosses the real-life Khoury the two talk but when Adam sees A version of one of Elias books as a film,  he storms off and that seems to be it. But when this old man dies in a fire his lifetime of notebooks falls into the hands of Elias Khoury. What we see is Khoury reading and pulling into shape this mans past and his family connection to the events that happened in 1948 around the city of Lydda an infamous massacre and what was his families part in it! The tough times that the 1948 conflict had on everyone on each side. What was his true / past is he the man Khoury thinks he was or had Adam been someone else in the past and just rewritten his history. Was the man Khoury got to know as Adam really an Israeli or Palestinian.

As my mother told the tale, I was born in thrist. Now, as I write about that woman who vanished from my life when I was fifteen, I don’t know whether her lips were indeed cracked in Parallel, straight lines, or of it is the image of thirst, which has pursed me since childhood, that transforms her thirsty lips whenever I recall her.

She was my mother, and she was Manal, daughter of Atif Suleiaman, f the village of Eliabourn in Galiee. When I remember her , I say “Manal was …” for to me she’s like the first word in a sentence that was never completed. After I left the house at fifteen to work in Mr Gabriel’s garage in Haifa, I discovered that the woman passed through my life like a sigh of wind, leaving behind her nothing but her world of stories,

The stories of his mother and his mix together in this book.

I love the framing device here of the fictional meeting of these two men of similar age one that is a clever device for Khoury telling the story of 1948 from another angle. The point when Adam runs off and losses contact with Khoury is when he saw the Film version of Khory’s book A gate of the sun which is another book dealing with 1948. So when Khoury starts working through the notebooks of Adams history and tales of his families life through the same time he gives light to another voice and another world from Adams perspective. This is the first in a collection of novels by Khoury called the Children of the Ghetto a nod to Lydda which is where the first ghetto in the region as the native Palenstines called it.

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