The roar of morning by Tip Marugg

The Roar of Morning by Tip Marugg

Curaçao fiction

Original title – De morgen loeit weer aan

Translator – Paul Vincent

Source – Personal copy

I move to the Caribean tonight and the most well-known writer from Curaçao Tip Marugg. The small island just off the coast of Latin America. Has a number of writers. I picked this up as it was part of the Margellos world republic of letters book collection. It is a collection I have reviewed books from a number of times and one that to say they pick books from around the world always seem to find gems. This was written later in the writer’s life he had written a number of novels he is described on the dutch Wikipedia page as different from his flamboyant friend fellow island writer Boeli Van Leeuwen as he was more melancholic, more focused on the individual. he has a touch of Latin American magic realism in this book.

A dearth of drink obliges me to go back inside to replenish my supply of Dutch courage, but soon I’m back in my old place under the neon strip, on the same lukewarm paving slab, flanked by my fresh provisions.

At moments like this, when there is not a breath of wind, the night speaks with a chorus of primeval voices; the vegetation in my garden pats, as if the densly planted bushes were gasping for breath; the indju tree moans; the tiny, nameless creatures that forage for food only when the it is pitch dark make rustling noises, far off, an exhausted goat wth its head caught in a fence utters a death rattle

A wonderfully evocative passage of being sst in the dark of night.

A man sits Scottish whiskey in one and Dutch beer in the other he is a low point of his life. In fact, the fact he has those drinks in each hand is stopping him using the pistol that is nearby. His only companion at this time is his dog. He has decided this is the night and morning to end it all in what he calls the roar of the morning, He has seen birds dive to the death in the cliffs. He spends this time reflecting on his past and what caught him there. He reflects on his sexual awakening. The time he spent on the mainland where he discovered books ass the clock ticks. Later he recalls an old man with a huge sexual appetite that used to get all the younger women around due to his position. The time draws towards the morning his mind drifts as the booze starts to affect his mind and he is one of those drinkers that see the dark dogs when in the pit of drink he imagines the world around him in a fire.

I Spent my tenth and most of my elevnenth year – probably the period in your life when you see and hear most new things – on the mainland with my Venezuelan uncle. The man was neither Venezuelan nor even my real uncle, But I  called him that because he lived on the mainland and was married to a Venezuelan woman. He  was an odd charact3er, but I guess he meant well. In early of the oil industry he had worked for She;;, but after spending some time among the oil tanks that mushroomed on the north side of the harbourhe felt a vocation to become a minister. He went to Europe to study and returned a few years later, not as a protestant minister but as an evangelist belonging to some obscure sect obsessed with showing mankind the error of its was and threatening hellfire and damnation

This one event left a mark deep in his life

There is a podcast called Nocturne that deals with the wee hours here it’s the early morning between 1.30 and 3.00 madrugada, as the Spanish call it those dark hours when the mind can wander and one is maybe at our lowest ebb is caught wonderfully here our main character is a man that is caught between his Calvinist upbringing and island life in his way. of life make him A man in torment on the verge of suicide is like Lowrys character Geoffrey in under the volcano a man caught up in the bottle. The sexual awakening at times reminded me of Marquez’s works in the description of sex. This is a brooding work of one mans life caught in those two hours as he drinks and thinks back. As he says there is nothing better than a glass of Scottish and one of Dutch is maybe the way he is caught between two places. Another gem from Margellos world republic and another new country for the blog.

 

The salt of the Earth by Jozef Wittlin

The Salt of the Earth by Jozef Wittlin

Polish Fiction

Original title – Sól ziem

Translator – Patrick John Corness

Source – review copy

Some publisher do a great job at rediscovering old works that have fallen out of print or haven’t been translated into English or maybe were due a new translation the latter is the case for this book they brought out another book from Wittlin which was a success so they got a new translation of this book. Which first came out in English in 1941 and had been out of print for a long time. Jozef Wittlin had an interesting life join the Polish army then initially when they were combined into the Austrian army. He then studied in Vienna and joined with Joseph Roth his friend. He got scarlet fever and end up a prisoner of war working on a translation of the Odyssey. He after the war traveled Europe and promoted Pacifism and then s[ent time in France collecting his materials together to write the Salt of the earth which has the tale of an ordinary man caught up in the madness of World war One.

Piotr’s entire life involved carrying things. As a child he had suffered from that infamous Hutsul affliction for which the human face had the French to thank, apparently. Its symptons were typicalnose and certain defects of vision, which however, did not devolp further with age, Independently of the french Influences, Pitor body was also subject toEnglish ones, the rickets. And so France and England, those two warring elements that had done battle in the historical arena over man centuries, settled their differences in the body of a Hutsul child, To the end of his life Piotr remained bandy-legged.

PIotr is described here as a sort of uncanilly youth.

The novel begins high up in the war as the war begins and Franz Josef signs the papers to start the war. This is in contrast to the book itself which is based around one man’s experience of the war. That man Piotr Niewiadomski is what one would call a peasant he is an illegitimate child and has grown up as a rather Gangly uncannily youth. He dreams of a simple life working on the railways he is a porter but sees the chance to become a linesman. But he is now faced with the chance of being thrust into the war. He ends up as an Infantryman. He has t I wait until he leaves and as they are all due to leave there is a Solar eclipse leading to the feeling of the end of the world, but he is still on rails as he catches the train to Hungary this is where the story shows the madness of war when Piotr is caught up and gets on the wrong side of the sergeant this shows the madness of rank and war as they draw closer to the frontline and battles. It shows a simple man caught in the wheels of a war machine!

Pitor duties were exceptionally onerous in those days,but he managed. He had acquired a fondness for the railway – thatis, for the section entrusted to him. Every day, he walked the four kilometers to signal box 87, beyond which his responsbilties ended. He left his post only when Magda visited. She stood in for him competently, just like a legitimate signalman’s wife. The sight of young girl standing at her post with the little red flag had already on several occasions brought smiles to the weary faces of those returning from death. As if life itselfhad placed her on watch.

The rail is all he dreams about at the sart of the book.

This was meant to be [art of a trilogy of novels he had planned to write but he had the case with the other two works taken and lost at a later date which only a small fragment remain which is at the end of the book. It shows how hard it was for a simple man like Piotr to avoid getting caught up in the madness of the war he is like a polish baldrick maybe a bit cleverer than but a man that has a lover and a simple dream of being a linesman that because of the action in the first chapter. He gets sent to join the army and caught up in the madness of the war machine this is very like The way Blackadder describes his superiors they pay little head for the man on the ground at the front in that trench facing death. Whether today tomorrow but always there rather than planning and not taking part. This follows his own view of the War and his Pacifist point of view. It a shame we never knew more of the trilogy but it sits next to the great books of world war one as for me I have not read a book that captures the build-up to war so well and tension and horror of what was to come so well. Sasson in Fox hunting man captures the upper-class view somewhat but this is the lower ranks view. Another great discovery from Pushkin.

A Perfect Hoax by Italo Svevo

A Perfect Hoax by Italo Svevo

Italian Fiction

Original title – Una burla riuscita

Translator – J.G Nichols

Source – Library book

I have two books on my shelves from Italo Svevo but I saw this in the library and decide to give it a try it is part of a series of books Alma Classics had brought out where the books are all 101 pages long. Italo Svevo or as it means in English Italian Schwabian was the pen name of Aron Ettore Schmitz an Italian writer born of a Jewish German father and an Italian mother. He lived in the Austro Hungarian town of Trieste. He was good friends of the Irish writer James Joyce. Joyce championed him his early books weren’t hits and it wasn’t til later in life he found real success as a writer he was in a way the model for the character of Leopold Bloom in Joyce’s Ulysses. This book also contains a character that is a thinly veiled version of Svevo. Mario Samigli is the main character in this novella it is also a name Svevi used as a  pseudonym in articles he wrote at the time.

The two brothers lived strictly regular lives. Their way of life was not disrupted even by war, which threw therest of the world into disorder. Gulio had been fighting successfully for years against the gout, which threatend his heart. Going ti bed early, and counting his mouthful of food, the old man said good-humouredly, “I’d love to know whether, by keeping myself alive. I’m cheating life of cheating death. This brother was not a man of letters, but one can see that, by the repeating of the same actions every dayone finshes up squeezing out of them all the wit that is in them, Therefore a regular way of life cannot be recommended too highly to the common man

His brother is also a Bloom like character.

Mario Samigli is a writer in old age he has never really had any success as a writer he lives with his brother he is a fan of his works. His greatest work A youth he had published as a book with his own money. He spends his time writing Fables all about birds that are like other writers his brother tells them they are good but he never admits accept at night when in the darkness of the night he is struck by the utter failure of his life. But when he is approached by what seems a figure from a prestigious German publishing house th\t wants to translate this lost novel into German. Now, this is the pinnacle of his life but as the days go on he starts to wonder is all that it seems this is sees the highs and lows of one old man’s life as he is drawn in on a hoax.

Gaia, Mario and Westermann’s representatives were all so punctal that they arrived at the door of the cafe together. They stayed there quite a while, as they made up quite a little tower of Babel. Mario managed to say a few words in German to express his pleasure at making the acquaintance of the representive of such an important firm. The other, in German, said more, much more, and it was not all lost because Gaia translated assidously “The honour of meeting… the honour of dealing … the famous work which his boss wanted to posses at all costs”

The Hoax and the first meeting with the german publishers.

This is a book that in some ways it echoes Svevo’s own life as a writer it wasn’t to the very end of his writing life and his best-known work the Confessions of Zeno which only came out five years before his death and is held up as a classic of Modernist writing. This work came out a few years after that and one wonders if he had been taken in by a Hoax and if he is like Bloom whom had been described by others as “a nobody”, who “has virtually no effect upon the life around him” and this was maybe the case for Svevo even after the Great Joyce put his weight behind him it still took a number of years for Svevo to reach a wider audience. This is a book of its time as Svevo was also a fan of Freud and the is a lot of psychoanalyst in the way Mario Samigli looks at his life and his failure from his night terrors and the fables even reflecting his own life in a way to his relationship with his brother. A great little novella and it left me to want to read the other two books I have from Svevo. Have you read his works?

Happening by Annie ernaux

Happening by Annie Ernaux

French memoir

original title – L’événement

Translator – Tanya Leslie

Source – review copy

I have reviewed two Annie Enraux books before on the blog the first A women’s story and then The years both of which I really enjoyed she has a real talent for bringing her own life and events pop off the page. She has been writing mainly books around her won life since the 1970’s she has won numerous prizes for her books. Although this is a shorter work and is based in 1963 the year she had an abortion this was written a number of years later. It still has the same descriptive and insightful view into her world.

I wasn’t the least bit apprehensive about getting an abortion. It seemed a highly feasible undertaking, admittedly not an easy one, but one that did not require undue courage. A minor ordeal. All I needed to do was ffollow in the footsteps of the mryiad women who had preceded me.Since my early teens I had gleaned many stories of abrotions, taken from novels or inspired by local gossip through hushed conversations. I had acquired some vague idea of the methods yo use – a knitting needle, parsley stalks, injections of soapy water or violent horse rides – The ideal solution being to find a quack doctor or a back street abortionist; both chargfe extremely high fees although I had no idea ow much. The previous year, a young divorcee had told me that a doctor from Strasborg had rid her of a child, sparing me the details except that “It was so painful I was clinging to the bathroom sink” I too was prepared to cling to the sink, I didn’t think it might Kill me.

She knew a bit but not the horrors that could happen as it is just whispered in the background of society.

This is one of those books that needed to write and read as it shows the importance of choice to women. Written a number of years after the events she recalls what happened to her in the early sixties. She is the daughter of a working-class religious family just starting to taste the freedom of the early days of her university career and the summer before. She has an early encounter with a man just called P in the text he was studying political science she had met in the summer holidays in Bordeaux this was her first sexual encounter. Her memories of the time are of seeing the film the rape of Sabine women and her saying it had come to mean one thing. I was there and I didn’t know I was becoming pregnant. When this occurs she must find one of those back streets abortionists as with the Uk Abortion was banned in France until 1975 with the Veil laws. So she finds out the details of one of these women but is it the right thing to do ? Does she know what she was doing? This is all brought about in the present as another casual account many years later had lead Annie to have a test for HIV.

I can’t remember how long it took her to insert the probe. I was crying.It had stopped hurting, now I just felt a wieght in my stomach. She saidthat it was all over, that U was not too touch it. She had stuffed a large was of cotton wool between my thighs in case the waters broke. I could walk and go to the bathroom normally, It would come away in a couple of days; If I didn’t I was to call her. We both drank coffe in the kitchen. She too was glad it was over. I don’t recall handing over the money

The actual event described by Annie as sehe recalls it many years later.

This is a wonderfully written piece about what must have been a harrowing decision to make at just 23 new to the world and also maybe a touch Naive as she hasn’t had much of sexual awakening as yes this is the sixties before the swinging part of it. This is a society far different from today’s this is a world of clandestine whispers about who to see and then find the women in question this has been covered in fil and tv in recent years from Mike Leighs Vera drake and on Tv where one of the Midwives grandmother is a back street abortionist both show how dark and clandestine this world was here and in France. Both also showed how dangerous it was to have an abortion before the laws changed. This shows the effect on one young woman now and back then. Another gem from this french writer that needs to be read it can easily be read in an evening as it is only 77 pages long.

The siege of Troy by Theodor Kallifatides

The siege of Troy by Theodor Kallifatides

Swedish fiction

Original title – Slaget om Troja

Translator – Marlaine Delargy

Source – review copy

Here is a work by the Greek Immigrant Swedish writer Theodor Kalifatides after doing his military service in Greece he emigrated in his early twenties to Sweden. First, as a teacher of philosophy as a school at the university, he was then editor of one of the best know Swedish literary magazines. He has written over forty novels he was one of the first writers to touch on immigration in Swedish fiction. He was chairman of Swedish pen in the nineties here he has taken a classic greek work and reworked it around the world war two.

So I thought I would do that too. I will tell you the story of the Iliad from memory for as long we’re sitting here.”It’s not as if we have anything else to do””

That was true. WE didn’t have anything else to do in the cave, apart from trying to protect ourselves from the assorted bugs.

“So when was thios war ?” Dimitra asked.

“”It was very long time ago- more than three thousand years,” Miss replied.

Dimittra sighed. “Can’t wait”.

Miss took no notice. I didn’t think it sounded very excing either, but as I said we didn’t have much else to do, so Miss began her story

She told of her hearing Homer from professional actor when she was a young girl. The boys aren’t to keen at first but they get gripped by it.

This is told from the perspective of a pupil at a small Greek village we never know his name his friend is called Dimitra. As it is nearing the end of the second world war and the Germans are still in Greece but there is a sense of the end. But they are being bombed when they end up in a cave and the young female teacher that they adore even when later she has found herself a boyfriend our narrator forgives her. She decides the best way to take the boy’s and girls’ minds of the bombing and what has been happening she decides to recount the Iliad from memory. As a child, she had seen it told to her by an old man a performer that went from town to town doing Homer works. Initially they arent keen but she grabs them with this 3000-year-old tale!So as the days go by we are given small chunks of the Trojan war this is interspersed with the events around the village as the children rush to her there teacher telling the next part of the story like Helen and her two loves that eventually they face each other in battle. These battles are mirrored in the real world.

The two armies rushed at each other like waves rushing towards the rocks, Honors were even to begin with, and both sides lost many men and horses it wasn’t until the afternoon that Acheans gained the upper hand, not least to agamemnon their supreme commander, who strode along mowing down his opponents like a farmer scything his wheat. He showed no mercy, not even when two inexperienced young men fell to their knees and begged for their lives. It is the first time we kill that is difficult after that, it quickly becomes habit.

The great Greek leader Agamemnon in the war is fearless and ruuthless as he kills at will maybe an echo to the present !!

This is a clever way to make the work of Homer available to new readers, I am not well-read in the classics .but this is a clever way to open the door to classics. He has made it readable by trim parts of the original but making you want to read the original. There is also a clever mirroring of the events that are read and the events in the present for Miss and her pupils. The Iliad showed the horrors of the Trojan war but we maybe could have done with a more violent present would have been interesting but the main character is just 15 and not yet a man he knows what is happening but isn’t involved so we just see the glimpse a 15 year would see of the war of the Nazi’s parading around. He had reworked The Iliad into a more mortal version of the work playing down the god’s role which given the setting of Miss telling the story to her adoring pupils is apt.

 

Snow,Dog,Foot by Claudio Morandini

Snow, Dog, Foot by Claudio Morandini

Italian fiction

Original title – Neve, cane, piede

Translator – J Ockenden

It is hard to believe this is the tenth year of Peirene Press they been around as long as I have been blogging and I have reviewed most of the previous books. This year’s theme is called a” closed universe” and this is the first of this year’s three books around that theme it was the sixth novel published by Italian writer Claudio Morandini he was a teacher of Latin and literature and has written novels and short stories. This won the Procida Isola di Arturo – Elisa Morante prize in the fiction section. The book was translated by the last Peirene stevens prize translator winner for 2019. The translator says in their note that there is certain words we have just one for like valley were as there is three Italian words for this describe different types.

Adelmo Farandola makes his way back up, confused and despondent. He dosen’t remember – he doesn’t remember having forgotten. From time to time a nagging feeling of having been the butt of a joke between the idotic old man and the lady in the shop, “They sit there, waiting for me to come down, just so they can make a fool of me, These village types , ” he says, and spits on the broung he says it the same way that people from the village say “These city types”, spitting on the ground in the same way.

His world has shrank but he is also feeling a odd paranoia that you can’t put your finger on till the end!!

This is one of those novels that when I started seemed to be one thing. It centers on one character Adekmo Farandola he is a hermit that has lived most of his life in the high Alps by himself. He only heads down occasionally to the local village and over the years he is going less and less this adds to a sense that something is odd about Adelmo. He loves the village band but is more hesitant than the previous visit this time as he gets closer to the village. He returns home but still feels the new mountain ranger is watching him at a distance. There is a sense of Paranoia then we meet the other character in this book and that is Ademlo dog this old dog is like a comic sidekick he is as one would imagine a lazt=y cantankerous old dog in what he says this is the start of Adelmo as his worlds seems to bee shrinking and at the same time coming to the end as the winter nears its end and the snow goes nearby it reveals a severed human foot that has been frozen. Where is it from how did it get there who is it and what does Adelmo know why is he here alone and what made him come here to this remote place in the first place.

The dog’s tongue drips like a leaky rap and his drool creates a spreading puddle on the floor

At the second wine-soaked morsel, he begins to swallow mouthful of air.

“Can I try a bit?” he asks the man at last.”NO” says Adelmo Farandola, who is just getting started on his third piece.

“Just a little bit,” says the dog. “Please. Just a teeny little bit”?

“No”

“Just to see what it’s like. How do I know you’re telling the truth unless I taste it?”

“You take it on trust”
“I’D rather try for myself”

Adelmo and his dog argue of the crumbs of food he has to eat the dog not believing it is what his master said it was this has a touch of comedy to it I found.

 

This is one for those that love a book that isn’t what it first seems it is like a Chinese puzzle box you think it is one thing a story of a hermit, then the story of a lonely man going mad.  then a tale of a man and his dog, then a mystery. Then something else completely until the box is fully open. It shows how the mind plays tricks when you are alone is the dog real? of just a figment of Adelmo imagination? why are things starting to talk to him. This is an interesting view of dementia or even just what one would call cabin fever the result of years of being alone and then when the foot appears it almost is like the madeleine in Proust as it opens a whole back story in the book that is an interesting and different direction. He also captures that wintery world so well the sense of high mountains and small villages this is one man’s closed world that sees as the border of that universe draws in closer from the start at the edge of the village now. This does exactly what Peirene claims to by the TLS and a two-hour book to be devoured in a single sitting: literary cinema for those fatigued by the film. This would make a great film as well it has a wonderfully surprising story that would do well in a film.

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