That was the month that was January 2020

  1. Home and Exile by Chinua Achebe
  2. Letters of blood by Rizzia Rahman
  3. Billiards at the Hotel Dobray by Dusan Sarotar
  4. Maigret and Monsieur Charles by Georges Simenon
  5. Shadow Child by P F Thomése
  6. The females by Wolfgang Hilbig
  7. The Glass slipper by Shotaro Yasuoka
  8. The Hungry and the Fat by Timur Vermes

There we are I had hoped to get a couple more reviews done but I have just finished four-night shifts so I have to make do with eight reviews this month I shall get a few more in next month I Hope as I have a holiday booked in as Amanda has a significant birthday. This month I went from Africa then Bangladesh. The war in Europe from the first tale of Jews in Slovenia and then Maigret last book a father coping with the loss of his child a man coping with the loss of the females around him and a lot of sexual feelings. Then a collection of post-war Japanese stories and then the second novel of German satirist Timur Vermes. I visited seven countries one new press well not a press an imprint from seagull books. The Library of Bangladesh I hope to get a couple more from this collection soon.

Book of the month

It was a very tight month with this and Billiards at the hotel Dobray tie with me The Hungry and the fat does what great writers do they take an idea here what will the west do with the increasing refugee crisis that is ever-increasing here what Timur did was imagine the border shutting and a mass camp forming and then what happens if these hundred no Millions of refugees. As they decide with the help of a model and her refugee fiance to walk to the border and see what happens will those fabled gates open or remain shut a powerful work. Then a flip of a wonderful reworking through one mans story of his experience as a Slovenian Jew in the  holocaust as he returns to his home town which is Dusan the writers own town and the Hotel that is the centre of the town.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

None book events-

I said in my recent Music post. I brought the new Pale saints reissue. I Have been listening to this and enjoyed the mini gig on the radio from Warmduscher. I on whole have had a quiet month this month post-Christmas. I also started back at the gym after a pre Christmas break. What has your month entailed?

Next Month

I have a Swedish novel from a Swedish greek writer set in world war two that involves a retelling of Homer’s work from a teacher from her memories of the work that also seems to echo the events of the Germans occupying the island in the present. Am nearly finish the latest peirene Novel as they turn ten this year and their books been a fixture on this blog. This latest book seems an Italian novella that has a man that has taken himself away from the world high in the alps discovering a foot in the snow. In the world, he shares with his dog a cantankerous beast as his only companion. Then a Hungarian novel . What are your plans for next month?

 

winstons music

It has been a while since I did a post about what I am listening to at Winston’s towers. A big thanks to the guys that suggested the Orville peck album after my records of the year. First of is a female lead punk, the post-punk band I caught this a couple of times on BBC six music I usually capture a bit of Marc Riley’s show his shows last year brought me a lot of new music. Anyway, the band called Porridge radio the four members of the band were all involved in bands in and around Brighton this is the lead single from there second album sweet it has a hint of something and I just can’t put my finger on it at the mo. But it is a great mix of slow then fast music with a singer with an engaging voice and clever line in lyrics.

 

Then I went back with the release of the 30th anniversary of the Pale saints Debut Album. Which I have brought on a double vinyl rerelease of the Leeds based shoegazing group they were never big stars but for me, this album was on I played and played as I an 18-year-old and staying in the East Neuk of fife at my gran’s on my walkman as I had the original album on tape I was always and still am a fan of Vaughn Oliver’s artwork for $ad like Factory’s peter Savile made 4ad records stand out. He sadly passed away earlier this year. This is a wonderful mix of a sonic wall of guitars and those mumbling shoegazing vocals. still haunting and evokes memories of a summer many years ago which is what some of the best music does, isn’t it.

Then another lead single from a forthcoming album and it is off to Destroyers new album I have been a fan of this Candian group for a few years now they have a unique singer in Dan Bejar and this has again a stream of consciousness set of lyrics he said were evoked by Korean horror films80’s movies like Pretty in pink and the five-hour version of Until the end of the world (Wim Wender woefully underrated world road movie) I have yet see this version I have the three version. Crimson tide is a song that just draws you in like a lot of his music.

Lastly another bit of nostalgia I love our flea market I think I have mentioned the books I get from there but there is a couple of record stall selling vinyl which I have been looking and getting some records to fill a number of gaps I had in the past well as I can afford when I see 40 or 50 pounds for some lps I think it isn’t worth it so it is smaller leftfield choice I pick this week was the third album from the Irish band Microdisney I was always a fan of The main singer Cathal Coughlan second band Fatima Mansions well I decided it was time to listen to his first band again I did have the tapes of a couple of other albums by them in the day on tape but I have long since got rid of most if not all my tapes there is a same political conviction behind the lyrics. One of the greatly missed bands of the eighties.

What new and old has been on your stereo or phone this new year? What reissues have you brought recently?

 

 

 

The Hungry and the Fat by Timur Vermes

The Hungry and the Fat by Timur Vermes

German Fiction

Original title  – Die Hungrigen und die Satten

Translator – Jamie Bulloch

Source = review copy

Well, it is to Germany next and the second novel by the German writer Timur Vermes his debut novel was a huge hit look who’s back which imagined Hitler returning and getting involved in politics in the modern age. This is his the second novel which title is a nod to the poem The wandering rat by Heinrich Heine

There are two types of rats:

The hungry and full.

The rich stay happily at home,

The hungry but emigrate.

The novel set in a near-future where Europe has closed its borders to those trying to get there from Africa.

And of course Astrid Von Roell was angry too. Not only because she was obliged to concoct the first story in its entirety, including the refugee model Ashanti 17, but also because on the first day she had to look for models on her own. Without consulting Nadeche, because the editoral team back home had already scheduled the model piece, And then to sit in Nadeche’s tent with senty or eighty photographs, which was enpugh in itself since Nadeche was premanently on the phone.

The first refugee piece where made but as Nadeche s[ends more time she falls for Lionel.

The book is a satire that is set ten years in the future an imagines that the refugee crisis has grown out of control so Europe has decided to shut up shop. So a massive camp of 150,000 refugees has grown up in the south of the Sahara as Europe has paid those north African countries to stop them trying to come to Europe and has put in place a strict limit of those that can come to  Europe meaning only those with a lot of money can get there. A German tv channel has decided to send one of the leading female stars to live in this camp Nadeche sends back a daily show as she gets to know the camp and those there from collecting wood to make fires, to those in the hospital. As she tries to make the camp seem more than it is for the public at home. Meanwhile, the government is trying to find a way to deal with these refugees without them ever reaching Europe. But as she spends more time in the camp Nadeche falls for a refugee Lionel he gets called in Germany where her reports start to get noticed.  Lionel has an idea and that is to lead an exodus of all the refugees this is initially greeted by Nadeche tv company as a great idea and as they move just 15 km a day it seems impossible that they will get to the German Austrian border they so want to get too. But then as the mass group of refugees start to get close to comfort those in charge have to decide what to do? what will they do?

Nadeche Hackenbusch and Lionel: the megastar has let her heart decide – now the fate of 150,00 people hangs on the success of this love affair.

By Astrid Von Roell

We all know the tale of the ugly duckling who turns into a dying swan. This time, however, it’s dofferent. The swan isn’t dying and the duckling isn’t ugly.Rather this is the story of a strong young woman prepared to do anything and everything for love, thereby conquering the hearts of the entire world. It is the story of a women reinventinghimself finally. Finally living the dream that no woman had ever dreamed before.Now Nadeche hackenbusch has made this dream come true; she has left her husband to acompany the great love you only meet once in lifem on his way to Europe on foot and alone. With 150,00 refugees

The Change we see later on in Nadeche from tv personality to poltical figure.

 

This is a tongue-in-cheek a what if like his previous book that put the question of what if Hitler returned what would he do.  Well, this takes the refugee question and says what if you stopped it would it go away. Would those trying to reach the dream of living in Europe and a life of plenty stop, well no as shown the camps swell and grow huge, Then he takes a swipe at the media Nadeche visit is like a real-life version of I’m a celebrity get me out of her the way they want suffering but photogenic suffering. But then the other question posed is what would happen if all those refugees waiting to come all arrived at once what would a country do? it is a question that hasn’t been asked since the Balkan conflict which did see many people from the Balkans go to Germany as refugees in the 1990’s I remember working in a German factory and at a Jugendwerkstatt with Bosnians, Croats, and Kosovans but they were European what if that huge even larger influx was from sub-Saharan africa would the welcome be different well the door is firmly shut but the question is what would the government do, what would public pinon be? As our recent election show the fearmongering press usually shows the way to everyone. This is a Wenders road movie remade into an apocalyptic African exodus. It is I’m a celebrity mixed with the worst sort of heartstring-pulling tv as they show the power of the media. As shown with Brexit the public can lap up lies and mistruths. Vermes shows us an Orwellian version of the refugee question.

 

The glass slipper and Other stories by Shotaro Yasuoka

The Glass Slipper and other stories by Shotaro Yasuoka

Japanese Short Stories

Original title -ガラスの靴 (title story glass shoe)

Translator – Royall Tyler

Source – personal copy

I have brought a number of Dalkey Archives older books when I have seen them cheap. I picked this up by the Akutagawa Prize-winning Shotaro Yasuora. He fought in the Philippines in world war two and was one of the few survivors to come back from there. He then started to study English but near the end of this contracted tuberculosis which affects his spine, he had spent a long time just lying on his back that is what started his writing career. The title story of this collection was one of the spending time recovering and amongst his earliest ones. He wrote and was listed for the Akutagawa prize but he did win it two years later in 1953. He won a number of other prizes and was the translator of Alex Haley’s books after he had visited the south of the US during that time and wrote about it.

I soon became caught up in Etsuko’s fantasy play. I enjoyed it goign along with her stories mademe feel as though I had taken possession of her. At her suggestion we played hide and seek. For all pratical purposes, the house and evertything in it belonged to us. There were hiding places everywhere – under the bed, behind the curtains, in the chest of drawers, in the dressing room woth all of it mirrors, I went upstairs and hid in a battlefield water bag that hung unused, in the closetat the end of the hall.

The played as the romance blossomed in the glass slipper

The title story The glass slipper sees the narrator a young man that has a job in a gun shop as he is asked to deliver a rifle to a US Colonel. Colonel Craigow house. When he arrives with his delivery he is meet by the families Japanese maid Etsuko he is smitten with her and returns as they spend the summer but then she isn’t there a nod to the fairy tale of the glass slipper. There are eight other stories. One sees a man selling his father’s beautiful enameled war medal to a US serviceman so he can make ends meet in the poor post-war times which is the time the stories are all set. Elsewhere a man is told by his boss to compose the company song via a shared love of verse. Jingle bells as the title suggest see a boyfriend on his way to his girlfriend but are running late and as is the case he keeps getting held up.

“JIngle Bells” was playing on the radio, and I was walking in time to it. It was christmas day. Noonetheless, the eateries lining both sides of the street in front of the station were flying big red-and-white banners against the leaden sky advertising “Grilled Sweetfish Tamagawa Specialty!Tasty !Tasty

Jingle bells, jingle bells

I tred not to walk in step, but it didn’t work. I seemed to have cords around my ankles that kept me marching along. I remembered how in my first year as a member of the Takasski Infantry Regiment the sergant had called “Hup,Two,Three,four” they called came a gap in the rhythm. Jingle(Hup) Bells(two) Jingle (three) Bells(four)

Jingle bells a man called by his girlfriend to visit her.

I read that this is a collection that Murakami recommends to readers it is a light-hearted collection of self-perception with a collection of characters that are all struggling in post-war Japan. The translator is American so we have a lot of American terms like Pants and vacations. But you can cope with that, Shotaro characters all have odd jobs a man guards a half-burnt house, a man writing a song and a translator. A varied section of post-war Japan. he died a few years ago. There is only this and another collection available in English by him. Have you read him?

Some recent arrivals and xmas gifts

Well, here we have the fist of a few new arrivals. I haven’t read lullaby yet but when I saw this copy of Adele the follow-up book to come out in English was unread in the local Oxfam and I haven’t read the Raymond Carver collection which was the first collection that came out by him as a writer. He was the master of the short story.

Then I have a gift from my darling wife the second Murakami diary to come out it is a hardback whereas the first one that came out a few years ago was a smaller pocket type diary it has all the publication dates of Murakami’s works, Cycle of the moon, and Japanese holiday. She also got me the recent Gregor Von Rezzori novel to be published, Abel and Cain. An episodic work that covers the post-world war years through the second world war to the sixties. I have had my eye on a while so when Amanda got it me for Christmas I was really happy it will be one for German lit month this year,

Then another find in the flea market a copy of Boswell’s London Journals. where discovered for the first time in 1920 and published in 1950. where among the earliest of his writing to be published. I have been a fan of his writing for a while since I was young and hadn’t read this but had his life of Johnson years ago so I have been buying a few other works he wrote and this is the latest to the collection of his works.

Last, is Tyll by Daniel Kelhlmann Who I thought I reviewed but turns out I didn’t I did read F by him but think I was in such a rush with the iffp reading when it was longlist that year as I struggled to get the books it missed a review anyway this is meant to be his best book and use a fable-like quality to tell a story that is historic but with echoes of the modern world?

 

 

The Females by Wolfgang Hilbig

The Females by Wolfgang Hilbig

German fiction

Original title – Die Weiber

Translator – Isabel Fargo Cole

Source – personal copy

Wolfgang Hilbig had trained as a toolmaker and first got interested more in literature whilst he was a stoker on the ship used in 1968 by a group of east german writers protesting about the centralized censorship and control of literature in East Germany since the start of world war two. He initially worked as a poet but showed no-one, but at the 1968 event which he showed his poetry.  This lead to his poetry being published a number of years after this when he stopped before writing his debut novel Ich(I) which was autobiographical this is a later book that is thematically linked with other books he wrote including the Tiding of trees which I reviewed here. 

My losses accumulated: it seemd I’d even lost my name, yes, I no longer knew who I was, my name was tge property if a strange personage, that alone put it in the presence of females, and they suspected nothing. My name was lost, as all that flowing and rustling hair was lost to me … It was lost because I was forbidden to touch it ah, it was beyond saving

loss despair and sexual loss al her as he losses himself in the maelstrom of his life.

I struggled with the last book by Hilbig I read, in fact, the same happened this time I read this last year and read it again just this week. it is rather like wading through treacle as a reader there isn’t a lot of plot here it reminds me at times of reading Mervyn Peake in my youth there is a wonderfully descriptive nature to Hilbig world as dark and vile as this is as we see Mr c a machinist a nod to Hilbig’s own past working in a factory as he is there he watches the woman that works in the factory but not in his section so he only gets glimpses of them which he describes in a very sexual nature he then says he lost his job at the factory but it doesn’t need to know fully why and why have the woman gone this is where the reader struggles as there is no linear nature to the events that follow they seem to drift back to a dream about getting tortured in a sexual fantasy by the witch of Buchenwald the notorious wife of the commandant of the concentration camp. Then we have a sort twisted masturbation scenes to rubbish and here I was reminded of the similar sexual imagery Ballard used in his book The crash which dealt with the fetish of sex and cars well here it is a similar fetish around rubbish and sex. Mother fixation and a strange dream about stroking a young woman hair and then an attempt to kill himself in an act similar to that of Oskar Brusewitz who killed himself as a political act in 1976 in front police after placing posters about religious freedoms in East Germany. All this is the background to him trying to find where the woman of the town seemed to have disappeared too. This is all a poke at the control of sexual images and natures under the east german regime he grew up in a backlash.

I had gradually begun to transform into a sickness, Like all things I produced, this transformation was utterly excessive, an agony not quite hiuman , it was no longer that of an animal, either. It led to my dismissal from the factory, though the details aren’t worth mentioning, I lived in circumstances in which symptons, I hid in my apartment by day and went out only at night, in the dark, roaming the  town’s deserted streets solilopuizing, holding rousing speeches to myself, sweating, covered woth milky greem pusticles, A terrible thing had happenedsince I’d learned to use life to manufacture descriptions which made an inner life possible for me.

I was remind of Peakes description of , Abiatha Swelter. the chef in gormenghast.

This is a complex work that probably to fully get needs a more careful reader than me and maybe some with more knowledge of former east Germany. But as a work of literature, it is rich with the darker side of the life of what it is like when sexual feelings are repressed then just let out of a dark past echoed in the remains of the concentration camp on the edge of town and our narrator’s sexual dream of an S and M act with Ilse Kock. Hilbig blows open the sexual repression of the East German regime where everyone watched each other so real sexual freedom was deeply repressed.It is a book that reminds me of the rich descriptive style of Mervyn Peake, in fact, the world he describes is similar at times to Peakes Gormenghast. I also remembered the sexual nature of J G  Ballards crash in the description of sex here. Two lines have done a great job bringing him to English.

Shadow Child by P F Thomése

Shadow Child by P F Thomése

Dutch autofiction

Original title – Schaduwkind

Translator – Sam Garrett

I was out a few weeks ago when I saw this slim volume fro this prize-winning Dutch writer. I read the blurb it concerned the death of his young daughter Isa and struggling with the words to cope with this death has been so touched by the book by Carl’s book by Marie Naja Aidt which saw her coming to terms with her son’s death in his teens. I wondered the father version of the same loss would deal with it. The words on the back of the book some up the title may be “missing word. A woman who lives longer than her husband is called a widow, a man without his wife a widower. A child without parents is an orphan. But what do you call the father and mother of a child who has died ?”

We, who were no longer allowed to take our child in our arms, adapted immediately. We learned to read lips, eyebrows, fingersI eben read backs and shoulders. I read footsteps,doorsm=,silences. Later they brought in the equipment, more and more equipment, We learned to read that as well, we learned the numbers and their relationship to respiration,pulse rate, blood pressure, We learned to ignore certain beeps, and could distingush unerringly between various drips and tubes, They provide us with explanations, the only ones at our disposak. We wanted to understand everything.We sought a handheld in every fact, in order to keep from falling,.Into bottomless nothing.

I was reminded when i sat by my mothers bed as she opassed away with all the equipment around her and having the feeling of bottomless nothing.

There is a lot about the future here and the moment of loss from Pieter’ point of view a stone that had broken. As his girl drifted off from them. The future they saw is broken a book shut what wasn’t anymore.It doesn’t linger on the reason for her death what was wrong but the aftermath and the space left by Isa the trying to carry on. The betrayal in those writers he lovedNabakov and Flaubert who had both written about child deaths in the prose here, Pieter, in his vignettes feels they let him down even says in Goethe’s piece about the erlking which ends with the line But in his arms, the child lies dead. Pieter says this should have been the opening line no the closing line of the piece. The vignettes show how grief can rip your heart out as we have lived with our grief for the last year since my brother in law took his own life these words are touching and show the raw emotions of grief.

You don’t have ablank page anywhere, there’s nowhere I can get through to my own blanket ignorance. You put full stops everywhere and pull doors shut behind you (Yes, even you. Herr Gehemrat Goethe. your poem should not have ended with ” In sienen Armen das Kind war tot * ,.That’s how it should have started)

*In his arms the child was dead.

Even Goethe wasn’t a comfot of those writers he lived to read just seemed pale in the darkness.

The lines on the cover about the missing word for the loss of a child this is like carls book was a heartfelt work on personal grief and if you have grief in your own life is worth reading to show that you are not alone on the journey and the journey maybe be short or long everyone’s trip through grief. With it short chapters and drifting in time we see how Piter meditates on this moment of loss and the problems it brings to the parents of a shadow child the gulf of loss or a future never had the coming to terms and the loss of Isa her self those last days of her life that he relives from various angles and approaches. I was pleased to have found this book it came out 15 years ago here so it has been out of print for a while. But if you find a copy it will be worth reading.

Maigret and Monsieur Charles by Georges Simenon

Maigret and Monsieur Charles by Georges Simenon

Belgian fiction

Original title –  Maigret et Monsieur Charles

Translator – Ros Schwartz

Source – review copy

I was pleased I was sent this title which is the last of the novels of the Maigret series that Penguin has been putting out in new translations. I was in at the start and have reviewed nine of the new title including this one. In fact, it was six years ago yesterday I posted my review of Pietr the Latvian which came out in 1931 this his last novel featuring Maigret was written in 1972 with many years Simenon publishing two Maigret books I still have  66 of the new series to read. But it has been a great achievement from Penguin to bring this and many of his novels out in new translations. I do hope we see more of these in the Rowan Atkinson series that has done bur it seems to have been cancelled which is a shame.

“You are Detective Chief Inspector Maigret, are you not?”

“Yes”

“I Imagined you fatter”

She was wearing a fur coat and matching hat,was it mink? Maigret had no idea, because the wife of a divisionary chief inspector genrally had to be content with rabbit or, at best , muskrat or nutria

Madame Sabin-Levesque’s eyes roved slowly around the office as if making an inventory. When Lapointe sat down at the desk, with his notebook and pencil,she asked

“Is this youngmany going to stay in the room?”

“Of course”

“Is he going make a not of our conversation?”

“It’s the rule”

Her brow furrowed and she gripped her crocodile sjin hand bag tighter

She reports Gerard disappearance and seems to be a lady by the description but there is more than fur and crocodile skin.

Maigret is nearing his retirement and is on the verge of an office job when this case comes across his desk. When Nathalie Sabin- Levesque whose husband Gerard but then Maigret and Lapointe discover that he is well known around the town and often leaves his wife for days drinking and is known to the girls of the night he meets as  Monsieur Charles. So he had disappeared a month earlier than they expected when Nathalie first came to them due to his habit of disappearing for days. Charles /Gerrard works for successful lawyers this shows the other side of his life the people he works with aren’t fans of his wife. WHo had said she was a legal secretary when she met Gerrard but who it turns out was a call girl that he married and she has tried to take up the mantle of a rich wife. But she has her ghost from her past trying to threaten her. In turn, has this effect her husband when he turns up dead Maigret is faced with a choice in what is maybe the last time he can tread those dark alleys, bars, cafes of Paris.

“Do you haveany news?” He asked

“Not news, exactly. As far as I know, the last person who saw your boss was hostedd at the cric-Crac in Rue Clement- Marot, And when he left her he was supposed to go to Avenue des Ternes, where a young woman was expecting him… That was in the middle of the night of the 18th of feburary… He never turned up at the Avenue des Termes … Perhaps he changed his mind on the way?

Charles had a habit of disappearing for days.

The feeling is the later Maigrets are weaker than the earlier ones but like Doyle when he wrote the Holmes stories they just run out of material for their character to do. So there is common threads in the books to earlier works fallen woman ladies of the night is a recurring character in Maigret. The rich doing wrong is another recurring theme in Maigret. When Maigret and Lapointe head out to find Monsieur Charles and what he is like it seems old times as they hunt the dark underbelly of Paris. It has a poor marriage at its heart a husband that married a call girl and carried on as he always did a wife that wants the world he lived in but instead is caught in a limbo. It is a story that has many twists and turns in it but maybe isn’t as original as the earlier books seemed.

Billiards at the Hotel Dobray by Dušan Šarotar

Billiards at the hotel Dobray by Dušan Šarotar

Slovenian fiction

Original title – Biljard v Dobrayu

Translator – Rawley Grau

Source – review copy

Anyone that follows this blog knows what a fan I was of the first book by Dusan to be translated into English Panorama it was one of those books that just lingered with me long after I read it and here is another by him an earlier book but an important book as it was one of the first by a Slovenian writer to deal with the plight of the Jewish population in Slovenia. It is a personal story as it incorporates his own grandfather’s story. A recent visit to our own UK holocaust museum in the summer which like this was full of personal history even sixty years later it is still important to remind the people of event this is told through a single building in a single town what Dusan does is use his personal history to tell a wider story of the events near the end of the second world war.

The old porcelain sky was polished to a shine, It lay motionless above the black earth. Like a coffee cup someone had long ago turned upside down on its saucer. Perhaps this was the work of many fortune tellers who read coffee grounds. Now the black sediment covered the sauce, and high above it, in the blue of the sky, only small traces could be seen, broken signs and msterieous shap[es, which only the ost inspired could interpret.That morning one of those women kept glancing at the black sludge as if she was looking at thesky; then she’d merely shake her head and spit outout a thick dollop of phlegm . She was sitting on the front steps of the Hotel Dobray

Such an evocative descriptive passage here.

The Hotel Dobray of the title was one of those imposing Hotels that many small cities and places have around Europe. This is settled in the town of Sobota which is in the northeastern corner of Slovenian between three countries it was occupied in the war by the Germans they left the Hungarians in charge of the town. The t=story is told from one man’s story which in a way is a wider story of the town. Franz Schwartz is walking back to the town after like all his fellow Jews having been forced out a year earlier. This was just as his son was having a bar mitzvah a talented violinist due to give a performance. The Hotel is housing a special tribunalJoszef the man doing this can see the writing on the wall he knowns the read army in the year from when the Germans arrived in 1944 to 45 and the Red Army expect any time. Then we have a factory owner and local character Josip and a prostitute Linna a former singer and like her friends in the brothel stuck in this sleep backwater as the war draws to its end.As we see Franz heading there and what has happened in that hard year.

The wind borne  byt the plain from the east dispersing the smoke from the station and distributing it noisily amoung the houses. It was then what ever hope Franz Schwartz still carried inside him collapsed. He knew that Ellsie and Izak would never again appear out of the fog. Here, for a long time to come, people would still be getting on  and off trains, embracing each other and saying teir farewells, but he would always be waiting. He alone would be walking across the tracks and watching for the train that would one day take him away, too

The day they left the town before he returned aloned.

This is the wonderful historic view of the writer’s hometown it must have hit a nerve as a few years after the book came out Murska Sobota put up its first memorial to the fallen Jews of the town. It has a woven tapestry of a small corner of Slovenia from one man’s story to a wider tale and a remembrance of a building and the characters that used it during those war years. The action is slow in this book I was reminded of the films of Bela Tarr the place although in Slovenia was once in Hungary this is another tale of a small town dealing with bigger issues like Tarr’s films and Krasznahorkai who writes most of the books they are based there is a an air of place in this book but also of a place struggling with change the loss of so much marks a place as Dasa Drndrc once said to me when the names of those lost Italian Jews were taken out of the Italian version of the book the fabric of the book fell apart like society itself. Another gem from Istros and Dusan worth reading as one man muses what has happened and what might have been.

Letters of blood by Rizia Rahman

Letters of blood by Rizia Rahman (library of Bangladesh)

Bangladesh literature

Original title – Rokter Okkhor

Translator – Arunava Sinha

Source – personal copy

I read a while ago about the library of Bangladesh series of books I am a fan of publishers trying to collect together literature from a particular country. Seagull books have published books for us in the UK and US. Rizia Rahman is one of the most respect Bangledesh writers having published more than fifty novels. This was her fourth novel when it was published in 1978 she was inspired to write it from an article called the prostitutes of Dhaka. She was unable to visit the brothels but used Male journalist reports and photographs of them in the brothels to imagine there lives. She said when this came out in English received a lot of praise for the book, but also had to endure an equal amount of abuse.”

One side of the termite-ridden door of Bokul’s room has collapsed. Yasmin shivers at the sight of Bokul’s naked, unconscious form on the bed, lit by the reddish glow of the lamp. A wild animalseems to have sliced up her body with its claws. She is bleeding. A miserable Shanti is wiping her body with a rag. She doesn’t look as thpough she had a violent quarrel with Bokul this morning. Yasmin tells Zarina, who’s standing there, “MANNAN should have dettol in his shop. Get a bottle”

Violence is always just below the surface of those living in the brothel.

This is the second book in the last few months I have read based around a Brothel the other was the booker longlist 10 minutes 38 seconds by Elif Shafak. This like that book lifts the lid on the everyday life of those women in the brothel here in such a short book we get to know a number of the girls and their stories. We have Yasim she was involved in the war of liberation and is from a middle-class background unlike a lot of the girls she lives with she has had a hard time to wind up there. This is a woman who falls on hard times and is similar to the lead character in Elif’s book. Then we have some of the other girls some of them that dress like the movie stars of the day in a sort of escape from every day lives. Others try to get the richest clients and use that as a way to fame and fortune and the way out. She also captures those little arguments everyday tasks they have to do in-between clients the things that make their days in this bleak world go by the risk of diseases and abuse always in the background and everyone is just a day away from a fall that may stop them earning and having a living.

Mashi begins to abuse the women ” You line iof wores, what do you think you’re doing! You’ve become too big for your own good. I’m informing the police at once.They eat out of my hands, They’ll beat you all of you to a pulp”

Marjna stans up to her ” To hell with your police. You scare us with talk of police to exort money from us every month. You think we don’t understand?”

They try to stand up for themselves against those that are trying to exploit them.

This book is just 140 pages long but it does what I think great novellas do well and that seems like an epic trapped in a small book. This is a lifting of the veil on a world that one imagines in the time the book was written to now hasn’t changed much. Rizia has a sensitive eye for the girls of the brothels her writing is never judgemental and shows the lives of bones and all. How vulnerable they are they can be sold and moved on anytime. She captures their world. The men in this book are in the background but depicted as violent abusive wanton or as the pimps for the girls. There world is them on top of one another and the sense of this meaning that there is trouble always just around the corner as they compete for the men there. I was sad to read that Rizia Rahman had passed away last year she seemed an interesting writer that has just this book translated into English so far.

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