A nail, A rose by Madeleine Bourdouxhe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A nail, A rose by Madeleine Bourdouxhe

Belgian fiction

Original title – Sept Nouvelles

Translator – Faith Evans

Source – review copy

I featured a picture of this for my women in translation covers piece earlier in the week. I had read this a while ago as it came out in May but felt it was a great choice for women in translation month as it shows what Pushkin do so well and that is rediscovered writers that have disappeared here we have the Belgian writer Madeliene Bourdouxhe although she moved with her family at a young age to Paris  during world war one returning to Brussels to attend university, She married a maths teacher  and began writing during the war she was in the resistance . After the war, she frequently went to Paris meeting writers like Simone de Beauvoir and Raymond Queneau. This collection was published firstly in the late eighties and it great it is back in print in a Pushkin edition.

Come on, “he said, “get some change..”

She went in and returned with the notes. She watched Nicholas as he hung the hose back on the petrol pump and handed over the change; she watched the cas as it pulled out , re-entered the right lane, and disappeared in the direction of Masions-Alfort. At the garage over the way anpther car pulled in. The women who worked there was tall, gaunt and older that Anna, and she wore an old fashion chignon on the crown of her head , fastened not with hairpin but with four or five criss-crossing nails, which formed a rosette around the chignon, a real curiosity

I loved anna description of the woman over the road her hair sounds so unusual and destinctive with its nails holding it in place!!

This is a collection of stories all but one is told from a female point of view. The woman, on the whole, seem to maybe be a general vision of women in the pre and war years this book came out in 1944 the last story touches on this story Sous le point Mirabeau follows a Belgian woman, just become a mother and with many others trying to get into France. I liked another story Blanche it starts with a husband asking if his shirt is ironed but his wife is wistful dreamy Blanche doesn’t see her life as a housewife so doesn’t iron her short this is a woman that maybe is one the edge at one point when she heads into the woods with her son its dark he says but we are looking for squirrels to reassure him this scene makes you wonder what was going to happen . In other stories, we have one  Rene is the flip of the other stories a man looking at ordinary women lives this is a subtle collection of ordinary lives brought to life from Heartbreak to Trauma.

Blanche hurried along the path, holding her hand. Some drops of rain were still falling but the heat of the day lingering and the air was warm.

“Shall we walk through the wooods? Blanche said.

“Its all black in therem I’de be frightened” said Jean-Louis

“You mustn’t be afraid of the wood. We might see some squirrels in there …”

“Squirrels? All right then,” Said Jean-Louis

Blanche takes her son into the dark woods one night …

I held this back as it was so perfect for this month from the great cover art of a factory girl of the time a strong woman, an ordinary woman which is what Bourdouxhe captures so well in this book. she captures the voice and internal feeling of the women she writes about okay they are all very similar in character but they also show maybe the changing thoughts of the writer at the time this collection came out in 1944 a time when the writer her self had seen action in the resistance but women’s roles  in the home and workplace had changed during those war years. I feel this is an undercurrent in these characters from Blanche feeling unlike a housewife to trying to get to France in a crowd. There is a number of other books that the translator had translated inn the eighties lets hope they also get reissued. Have you read her books?

 

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I do love the feel of Archipelago books they are such nice book printed on lovely paper and with great cover art. Set in a small fictional town a sort of polish magical realism with dark happenings and humour in places. Tulli has been on the Polish equivalent of the booker prize on a number of occasions. My review

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