The day my Grandfather was a hero by Paulus Hochgatterer

The day my Grandfather was a hero by Paulus Hochgatterer

Austrian fiction

Original title – Der Tag, an dem mein Großvater ein Held war

Translator – Jamie Bulloch

Source – review copy

We will skip of from Spain and move to world war two set novella from Austria. I had read the crime Novel that Paulus Hochgatterer is best known for back in 2012 but it slipped under the review guide but I seem to remember I enjoyed it so when this slim volume fell through the door I had to have a double-take to see if it was the same writer but it was which for me was great I love seeing writers trying different styles of books over there writing career.

They say my name is Nelli. Sometimes I believe them. sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I think my name is Elisabeth or Katharina. Or Isolde, like the young sales assistant in the hat shop. She’s the reason I go into town from time to time. When I stand outisde the shop and peer through tje window, I see Isolde’s torso floating around inside, nack and forth along the shelves. The head with its auburn plait floats in top. I can’t see anything from the waist down. I imagine her lower half having sat itself down somewhere. Perhaps all the toing and froing has become to exhausting. Perhaps it doesn’t like the plait or the way in wjich the upper half says .How may I help you ? But I don’t gell anyone these sort of things

The fragile sense of Nelli here shaken by her past and not sure of herself.

The book is set in the latter part of world war two in 1945 and our narrator is a young girl she has been sent to live with family in the farmlands of Lower Austria. There is a blur to how she got there almost a sense of a girl that had maybe seen too much of the war at home. Nelli was involved with the bombing at Nibelungen tank factories, she had stopped speaking so when the family takes in a fellow victim of the war an Emaciated Russian soldier all he seems to have is a rolled-up canvas that is his most precious object this above all he has chosen to keep safe. There is an illusion in the book that this picture could be a famous lost piece of art from the war The tower of Horse by Franz Marc the picture now lost may have been Mikhail’s picture they decide to hide him and keep him safe passing him off as a fellow Swabian like Nelli. But what happens when the Wehrmacht turns up with a feeling he may be there what will they Do?

Sitting on the left of the corner bench is a young man. I’ve never seen beforfe. He has long blond hair and reddish blond stubble, and is so thin that he looks on the verge of starvatgion. He is wearing trousers and a coat made of filthy canvas.He has one arm around something that could be a pipe or a piece of fence post. It reaches up to his shoulder when he’s sitting, and its wrapped in green oilcloth tied with a carrying strap. The man is as still as a statue and his eyes are fixed fixed on the floor “Who is that” Annemarie ask me softly. “No idea,” I say “Someone whose house has been bombed pr a spy, and I tell her it’s because that’s what I imagine a spy to look like.

Mikhail and one first things noticed is the wrapped up paining in the Oilskin.

This is a slim book but a book that lasts with you Nelli is a narrator that has seen the horror of war so when the Family hides Mikhail and how he is hidden by her family. The narrative is hers but there is descriptions of the world she is living in that bring the world alive of the farmlands of lower Austria. Nelli comes over well as a damaged figure Hochgaterer is a Child Psychiatrist by profession so he manages the fragile mind of a young girl that had seen more horrors than over will see in a whole lifetime. This is only just a 100 pages long but captures a little everyday corner of the war so well and a tale of hiding a fellow damaged soul in Mikhail that has had the worst horrors of the war. This a mix of the Machine gunners ,  whistle down the wind and A meal in winter stuck in a blender and transported to Austria.

A Beautiful young woman by Julián López

A beautiful young woman by Julián López

Argentinean fiction

Original title – Bien Pudiera Sex

Translator – Samuel Rutter

Source personal copy

Back to Spanish lit month and we return to Argentina and another new writer to the blog and another young talent not just as a writer where he has started a writers group Ciclo Carne which has a blog of the previous events. But he is also an Actor and poet as well. This was his debut novel and came out a few years ago. Like many other novelist from Argentina, he has chosen the rough years of the ’70s when people from all over the country and various walks of life disappeared. He has chosen a son who lost his single mother as the centre of this novel.

My mother was a beautiful  young woman. Her skin was pale and opaque. I could almost say it was bluish, and it had a luster that made it unique, of a natrual aristocracy, removed from mundane trivialties. He hair was black of course- I already said she was a beautiful young woman – her hair was straighht but heavy, and she wore it in a way I haven’t seen sin. I’m not talking about her hairstyle; no matter what she did with it her hair fell gracefully and in shape and always seemed tidily cut. I’m talking about the outline of her hair, of the linear sketch of that ocean of flexiable antennae rushing into the sea of her face.

The opening of the book and her hair so described on how it fell aroud her head.

The book starts with the son saying my mother was a beautiful young woman with pale skin this phrase is repeated as we see the son now a man as he tried to piece together his past a single mother devout to her son the little things like a weekly trip out to a posh place to eat he remembers what each of the places they ate served and how much he enjoyed each meal.  the brand of cigarettes his mother smoked and how she smoked those cigarettes through his child’s eyes it is a patchwork of memories he is trying to piece together in the present and he tries to think what happen why did she spend time with a neighbour such a lot was she up to something. The fear of things happen even in school there is a dark cloud floating over the head of those there as bomb threats and not knowing who to trust. So when he what to trace what happen we see the creeping feeling of doom in the world around him. As his mother tries to avoid it the terror of everyday world they live in is there for all to see. The horrors of those years.

on one of those afternoons. Uncle Rodolfo came over. It was a long time since I’d seen him, and he was different : his sideburns were thicker  and he’d let his moustache grow long. He pressed the doorbell  twice  and then after a while knocked on the aprtment door before the opening it with his keys, My uncle usually came over with a pile of Suchard chocolate blocks, one of each flavour, nd another pile of Milkybars , just as bif. I loved chocolate, and I loved how his visits providedme with this drug that made my mother mad and caused her to warn  me abiut toxic effects of devouring all the little blocks of chocolate and the Milkybars in one sitting. The theme of parasites was a serious one; my mother was firm and underwavering when she spoke of it

The brands are familar but his world is so different to mine of the late seventies growing up .

This is a book that has a fragmented style the narrative is that from the young boy as we see the world piece together it is just in snippets his mother doesn’t come to life but is there almost as a ghost in his memories of her and her habit. I have read a few books that also try to deal with this period of History from various angles like on the run from being disappeared to the view of another child and his father in the woefully underrated Patrico pron book my father’s ghost which I reviewed a  few years ago.  It is a dark time and this has a great child’s view of the time and of his mother but its those small details like her smoking that caught me and those days out they had before she didn’t return that day and his world changed. This is another great young writer from Argentina they seem to bring out writers and footballers although we are yet to have a good one of the later at United may I say lol. Have you read this book?

 

Rolling Fields by David Trueba

Rolling Fields by David Trueba

Spanish Fiction

Original title – Tierra de Campos

Translator – Rahul Bery

Tonight I bring a bestselling Spanish novel from an acclaimed director and screenwriter David Trueba. He directed the film version of the book Soldiers of Salamis by Javier Cercas. He has also directed a dozen films and has also published a couple of novels. This is his first to be translated into English. In looking up about this book I found on his Spanish publisher there was a spotify playlist the book is formed of two chapters side a and side b. Here is a link to the spotify list. It was also translated by a first-time translator.

We’re normal people. That was absurd way my father used to define us. I fought against it, quietly wishing not be normal, to be special. But I could never shake off the stigma of being normal.

“We’re just regular, normal people, Dani, my boy”

Because in my profession the exact opposite is what’s required. It’s only job where trashing your Cv increases your chances of getting to the top. We once meet Antonio Floresat the fiest in Peniscola, where we played just before him. He was so friendly that we instantly became confidents, despite not knowing him at all.

I like the last line a sort of music story yoiu net someone becomes you are best pals !!

The framing of the book is around a son driving his father’s corpse in a Hearst to his home village across the farming lands of Spain. Dani Masca is forty and is following his father’s last wish. He travels with him and the chatty Ecuadorian driver. But as they head off his thoughts drifts into his own life from a small village a humble town. He grew to be a singer/musician with his two school friends Gus and Animal f=they form a band but they all get caught up in the dark side of the music industry with there first manager and early recording career till they start to take off. Then add to this the loss of his mother at an early age a weird silence about his birth from his family, which later is revealed ! and as the road rolls out the mind of Dani flicks through all these events as well as his wife and two kids. Sex drugs rock and roll as he writes his love song. The memories of the early years the summers with his bandmates and growing up are great. This is a mid-life book that isn’t about a crisis but about a life that has been lived and coping with life.

We soon discovered that our ame belonged to a company owned by The Champo, along wioth the publishing rights for the songs and the sole rights to our forst two albums, as dictated by the contest’s one-sided regulations. This incident inoculated us against futher disappointments of the music world: the enitre advance from the label was spent on buying our freedom and we never got back the rights for those two songs, We also had to pay The Champ compensation in order to keep our name, Las Moscas.

This remind me of the stone rose early sings row with there first record label years ago.

This is a page-turner a good summer read I like it as it has a gentle mix of the family story in the relationship with Dani his parents also later with his wife and kids. Music the spotify list has a number if not most of the songs mention in the book. The band is a sort wart and all look at the music industry with the pitfalls that all bands find whether in Spain or Here the pitfalls of managers’ labels and friends that become bandmates all are of a type. Then the loves of Danis in his Friends, family, and music is at the heart of the book. There is a feeling that this is written by someone in the film industry I’ve read a few novels by filmmakers it is well-paced and you can feel it has a feeling of a film in the way it is paced. An interesting debut in English from a filmmaker and writer. A book for those who do like a fun read It says David Mitchell fans but for me, if Woody Allen had been born in Spain and been a singer in a band this is in his comic vain a mix of what makes life for us all. Have you read a book or seen his films at all?

Hunter School by Sakinu Ahronglong

 

Hunter School by Sakinu Ahronglong

Taiwanese fiction

Original title –  山豬.飛鼠.撒可努

Translator – Daryl Sterk

Source – review copy

This book won the 2000  wung Yung-fu literature prize. The book originally came out two years earlier and was later made into a film called the sage hunter. Sakinu himself grew up in Pawian village as part of the indigenous tribe of Pawian people. He grew up to first be a police officer and then later he became a forest ranger. He then later formed his own hunter school to pass on the traditional hunting skills of the Pawian people he learned. This book is a series of short stories that form the early life of a fictionalized version of the writer himself.

Alas, the last time I heard the flying squirrels sing the song of the squirrel love was when I  was in secondary school. I didn’t immediately notice when they stopped, or rather when they failed to sing one spring, perhaps because I had never fallen in love myself, either with a girl or with the ,ountain forest. But I knew someone who had not only fallen in lovr but had a lover’s intimate knowledge of objectof his love.

“Hey dad!” What happened to the flying squirrels ?” I asked him one day “Where have they all gone ?”

The loss of squirrels is a showing of the changing enviroment in Sakinu’s world

As I said this is a collection of stories that start when the fictional version of Sakinu was growing up and is taught by his father the hunting techniques of his forefathers. The first two chapters are about Flying squirrels and Wild boar both staples of the tribe. But what is noted by the young Sakinu is the loss of flying squirrels from his younger days when they could be seen in the village to now they have to find them and then they are hard to catch than they use to be. A story of the local monkeys and the observance of when the King monkey of the tribe that lives by them dies and leads to a power vacuum that they see cause a fight as other tribes fight to gain ground and become kings themselves almost human-like the way he told it then we see the importance of Millet and his grandparents that both had field growing this crop that forms tha backbone of what they eat. Then as he ages and the rites of passage drinking then the later parts of the book see the adult looking at his world that is changing as the Han Chinese have shrunk the lands of his people and he has also seen the young of his tribe lose skills. They have to leave to Taipei or to the sea to get by and their own histroy is slipping. The last part sees him marrying his father is there his father is the harsh man but one that is a connection to the past here.

My Maternal Grandfather and grandmother have always loved to sing. They like to drink fresh national milk, Mr. Brown coffee, and millet wine. Sometimes they ask me to go to the corner shop to buy them thousand-year-old eggs to go with the wine. When they are a bit drunk, they start to sing love songs, both Paiwanese songs, and Old Japanese song. Sometimes they even throw in an old Taiwanese song.

His family keep there history alive

This is an ode to a tribe of indigenous people that I knew little about they have a language that is related to the pacific tongues of other indigenous tribes of the Pacific. Sakinu is trying to keep his tribe alive and here in this collection of stories he has a wonderfully evocative world that has a connection to a lost past in many places from the image if his father wrestling with creatures in wellys and not much more. He weaves a world that even in his lifetime is shrinking even more this is a book of his people and an important work. I’m not sure there are many other works around his people available in English. It evokes the past lost community the passing of knowledge from father to son those traditions to survive that have been lost to most of the world. One man’s life captures a world that it’s shrinking. Fair to say I loved this book this is what I read books in translation for those couple of times a year discoveries that set me as a reader alight. Another gem from Honford star that has been bringing us some great Asian fiction.

Vicious by Xurxo Borrazas

Vicious by Xurxo Borrazas

Spanish (Galician) Fiction

Original title – Criminal

Translator – Carys Evans-Corrales

Source – review copy

It has been a while since I have reviewed a book from Small station I had a couple left that they had sent me a few years ago. They have published books from Galician and Bulgarian into English. Xurxo Borrazas studied English at university. He has since translated works by  Henry  Miller and William Faulkner. He has also published six novels This was his second novel. It won a number of book prizes when it came out in Spain. He has had a number of short stories also translated into English.

Chucho Monteiro stops at the side of the road Castrillion, by the ruins of ancient settlement. Carrying a green laurel branch in hishand, he has walked slowly uphil to the oak grove and is now sitting on a stone boundary marker at its edge. Strolling around the countryside in peace and quiet is something his body seems to need and is one of the activites that occupies most of his time. He tucks the branch under his arm, rubs his hands together to dust them off, takes out some tobacco and some matches, rolls a cigarette and lights it. From there he can see the Riba valley and firther on, in the Lendo foothills, the hamlets of Raposeira, Muino and Pitoquers sawmill on the road from San Roman to Nociela

Chucho you get a feel of the place and him as a person returning to his homeland.

A brother returns to the coast of Death as it is called in Galicia is the setting for this as a brother returns to live with his other brother. Chucho the older brother returning to his Younger Brother Daniel. He is settled Married with a child. The older brother left after he felt slighted by his family at times for his younger brother. What happens then is murder but what is clever is both the style Borrazas use it has an air of something from a different time Shakespeare is mention on the cover but yes there is something of that era about the story. Add to that the style of storytelling where we have a sort of swinging view of what has happened as we travel from the foregrounding of the murder what caused it to then the aftermath and being on the run trying to get to freedom. This is a tale of two brothers and a multi-layered book that we see at times from both as viewers and participate in the action.

Our newspaper brings you today the latest information on the horrifying events that have recently shaken Lacha, a municipality located some twent kilometers from Coruna.

Once again an iniquitous legend has taken a turn for the irrational with regard to a multiplemurder that can be described as a crime of passion nor as one motivated by financial or other reasons. It is primeval, instinctive act of violence that grows as it lurks in every corner of the shadowy nooks and crqannies of our villages and rural regions.

A start of a newspaper report into the crime and in has feel of place as well this place is old word in a way still.

This is a clever little novel it has lots of layers and is like entering a labyrinth as we try to find out the full story of the murder but into doing so we have to sort of seeing the prelude and the ending before we get what was the main act of the book. A clever if a different way of telling a crime but also at the heart of the book is the two paths that the two brothers in this book have taken in their respective lives that lead and in some part add to the events in the book.  A sort of preordain destiny at times we have a feeling they are trains on a track and the events in there lives are like stations on the route till they meet and  boom. I wish I had got to this one earlier than I have but it is another gem from Small stations who is run by the translator Jonathan Dunne. Have you read any Galician fiction?

Fracture by Andres Neuman

Fracture by Andres Neuman

Argentinean fiction

Original title – Fractura

Translators – Nick Caistor and Lorenza Garcia

Source – review copy

It has been a while since I reviewed a book by Andres Neuman. I met him when his first book made the shortlist of the old IFFP and I was lucky to have got invited to the award and managed a  chat with him which was amazing as he was aware of my blog. Anyway, the years have passed and when I saw this was out I was pleased it was on I managed to get a review copy of. this his latest to be translated to English as for me he is one of those writers that I want to read all he has written over time.

An earthquake fractures the present, shatters perspective, shifts memory plates.

As soon as Watanabe sticks his head out , a torrent of feet engulf him, He takes a deep breath before emerging. He is still has the feeling that the world is swaying slightly, that every object emits the memory of its instability.

Fortunately, everything outside appears more or less in it place he hadn’t been at all sure of this. The force of the jolts made him fear the worst.

I loved this pasaged it captured te earthquke and Yoshies life in one.

So the premise of this book is based around two characters the first is a retired Japanese Executive Yoshie Watanabe. His life has a circle like quality to it there is the beginning where he was one of the few people to survive the bombings at Hiroshima and Nagaski. the story starts when the earthquake in 2011 and the disaster that hit the nuclear plant at Fukushima. This is the bases of the story as he has seen so much and had spent a lot of time abroad in his life trying to escape the first nuclear disaster he had saw and he lost his family along the way. He is contacted by Pinedo an Argentinean journalist wanting to hear about Yoshie’s life as a man that had lived to see both the Nuclear bombs of world war two but the disaster and fractured world of the 2011 Earthquake. Yoshie has been around the world trying to run from his past but in this journey, he had been in a place like Vietnam and Madrid when major events happened around him. He is a man that has enjoyed his life but was damaged to start with so the fractured way he tells his life is how he lived it.

It was around that time that Phil Ochs rook his own life. According to him, he had died a long time ago. Later it was revealed that the FBI kept a five-hundred-page file on his activites. It still considered him a dangerous individual even after hi death.

Just like the country, I began a new life. I met up again with Richard. I think we had always liked each other, but when he was available I was with someone else and vice cersa. We had unfinished buiness. Despite claiming to be a liberated woman, I hadn’t yet learned how to live alone. I avoided the grieving process by eagerly moving on to the next challenge. Which is part of me indentified with Yoshie in this?

Phil ochs the protest singer in the sixties one of those times Yoshie was there to see!!

This is a story of one man’s life that is told in fragments. Using the journalist connects the story to Andre’s homeland which Yoshie had spent time. He is a sort of dumb witness to the 20th century by chance that happened to be at the crucial place at crucial times as he stands on the line between being safe and in danger by Fukushima power plant as he visits the place at the request of the journalist.” Sit by my side, come as close as the air, Share in a memory of gray; Wander in my words, dream about the pictures That I play of changes” is a song by Pil Ochs mentioned in the book due to the CIA keeping a huge file on this protest singer this captures Yoshie a bit as we wander in his words and the world he lived !! A rare story of some from Japan traveling the world. Have you read this ?

A Glass Eye by Miren Agur Meabe

A Glass eye by Miren Agur Meabe

Spanish (Basque) Fiction

Orignal title – Kristalezko begi bat 

Translator – Amaia Gabantxo

Source – personal copy

As usual for the Spanish lit month, I try to get a crossover work from the Basque region for my good friend Lisa Indigenous lit week. Miren Agur Meabe has written poetry and mainly youth literature but has also written a number of novels as well as working as a translator. Her poetry deals with the female body and her first work were said to have a lot of symbolism and postmodern concept of the moment “The moment lives us and we only live the moment” The me and the moment surround us. This is very apt for this novel from her.

The first artificial eye in history is 4800 years old. They found it in an archaeological site in the Burnt City, in what was ancient Mesopotamia, near the current frontier with Arghanistan. It was inside the head of a young woman, and was made of tar and animal fat. It has an Iris at its centre, and gold rays imitating eye capilaries, less than half a milometer thin.

It must have been hard for its owner to get used to that foreighn object; I know tahat from experience. If a chickpea in the shoe hurts, a pebble in the eye socket is no nicer. Driven by pain, despair, or plain disappointment, many have taken hammer to eye to smash it

The first Glass eye chapter makes to think what that first ey must felt and looked like !!

A glass eye is the title of the novel. But as the narrator of our novel a middle-aged woman has had to live since her late teens with a glass eye. Apart from that fact.  we are given a history of the glass eye, the care of what materials have been used in history to make a glass eye. I was surprised that glass eyes made of glass only last a few years due to the salt in tear. I love a little fact. Anyway are unnamed narrator is a writer herself we meet her just after she has found two shadows on a mammogram. Her partner just called M for most of the book is supportive but then next thing we know she has split with M and left her job to become a fulltime writer and moved to France to the wonderfully named Le rayon Vert the green-ray that light in the evening when the sun hits the ground also the title of a Rohmer film which follows a woman that has just split up in a relationship and found a new love. Her our narrator struggles to fill the void left by M with writing like my last Spanish lit read a book that has writer’s block in but her is a woman running from a scare!

I have rad a lot in these  two-and-a-half months ( the quotes tjat pepper the textd have helped me rise up). A special mention must go to Anne Ernaux’s Simple passions. That story taught me that some loves are non-refundable investments. I’ll never posses the author’s clairvoyance, but I feel forever linked to her because she sheltered me while I unravelled my chaos. I have also taken the liberty to copy from J,.M Coetzee’s summer, the idea of adding footnotes and specirying the questions the text leaves unresolved.

This is in the last chapter I loved the Eraux  mention and agree she is a writer that has touched me as well

I loved this I love just like the narrator she jumped of the page I loved how she split the chapters between the story of her life and a sort short history of glass eyes.  The chapters are vignette-like in style with the longest is just about ten pages most a couple of pages. It is the tale of one women’s search to write but also for what brought her to this point a sort of new freedom that isn’t all it seems. Which for me made this feel like a book that had slipped under Peirene’s radar it felt like one that they would publish and anyone that knows me that is high praise no this is from Parthian a publisher I don’t know too much about which is a shame as this is the second book from them in translation I have enjoyed.

A quartet from Armenia

 

I have reviewed two books from Armenia one was by Aram Pachyan which I loved. So when I saw that there was four new books from Glagoslav from Armenia.

Robinson by Aram Pachyan was his debut collection won a presidential medal 16 stories each story is a small but sharp painting of various characters. a look at loneliness in the modern world. He was meant to launch these books with a speech a London book fair here is a link to the text of that speech. called the importance of difficult steps .

Raven before Noah by Susanna Harutyunyan Harout raised and saved by an old man grew up in an abandoned village that is home that has escaped torture from Turkey set between 1915 and 1960  one of the most acclaimed writers in Armenia

The door was open by Karine Khodikyan her fiction can be described as intellectual fiction for women. These short stories with a “MYstical touch” tell stories about women – young and old, happy and sad; even when the protagonist is not a woman, the story will immerse you into the life of a woman, revealing her role in anything and everything. These sound great don’t they !!

Point Zero by Narek Malian two historical stories set during the crusades on in Syria and then about pope urban starting the crusades a third story is a love story between a french  woman and a young Arab man in 2015 in Paris

This is a great new insight I looked at the three percent database and that in the ten years on the database there was only three books from Armenia published so this is a great leap forward!

Montano by Enrique Vila-Matas

Montano by Enrique Vila.Matas

Spanish Fiction

Original title – El mal de Montano

Translator – Jonathan Dunne

Source – Personal copy

Well, I reach the second book for Spanish lit month and this time it is from Spain one of our two writers to read in July. I have been a fan of Enrique Vila-Matas for about as long as I have been blogging. I have reviewed four of his book on the blog this is an older book but like his over books have part of Bila-Matas himself in a nod towards being a writer which I have come across in other books by him he is a writer that reminds me of myself he has a love of world literature and that is seen here again.

Today, in Montano’s home in Nantes, having confirmed that he is suffering as a result of his literary paralysis, i tried to amuse him by telling him all these stories of double and doubles’doubles.

“There are concidences and chances” my son remarked,. “From which you die laughing and there are coincidences and chances from which you die£

Didn’t Justo Navarro say that ?

As a narrator he is unreliable as here is a son we discover later was invented by the writer.

The book is narrated by a writer who has to end up as a lit critic as he tries to write that great novel. Montano is his son that suffers from the same love lof lit as the writer himself. So he visits Nates where Montano where he lives as we do this he starts talking about various writers connect to Nantes as The writer’s wife has worries her son has followed her husband down the rabbit hole of lit he is stuck in writing about other writers he has been caught in a loss of his own style. Next, he heads to Chile meets Tonguy a character based on an actor of Vila-Matas own friends.  He then travels to the Azores with a filmmaker. As he returns to Spain we find his son isn’t a real person. It was just something he made up and in the next section of the book he starts talking about writers especially those who kept Journals Witold Gombrowicz who huge Diary I read a number of years ago. Then we have people like  Genet, Virginia Woolf it not there style of writing that he is into but the way they viewed their world around them but as he goes further down a hole of literature as he starts to wrestle with himself and other characters he had read about. It is part diary part journey part road trip and part diary.

Gide, andre(Paris, 1869-1951). In an unintentional way, this writer’s diary tells the story of someone who spent his life seeking to write a master piece and did not achieve it. Or perhaps he did achieve it, and paradoxically that great book would be the diary, in which he reflected the daily search for that masterpiece.

With the possible exception of Paludes- a short work of genius which could have been written by Queneau – the rest of what Gide wrote is fairly illegible nowdays, the modern reader sees it as strange, archaic, distant. The diary on the other hand, hough it falls short of gthe masterpieces of Proust and his contemporaires, is today a liteary milestone, one of the great writer diaries that exist, it is a pleasure to read

An insight into Gide, reminds me I have his journals !

This is like his other books it seems as thou the narrator is maybe the writer himself it is a search for style and substance who one writer can find his or her own style the struggle with conveying everyday life in a way how to avoid the mundane every day but also what does ones own introspection have to other to readers? he is inspired by those writers of the 19th century Genet, Renard that brought realism to the for this is a search for what it is to be a writer.A writer looking for a way out of that maze of being a writer with Writers’ block. I enjoyed this Vila-Matas writes with such passion for literature and use often a shadow of himself I was reminded that this wasn’ t the first novel I had read about writer block there is the wonder boys by Michael Chabon which sees the mania of not passing a block but is still writing a huge bok that he has lost control of like are narrator who has lost that spark that makes him a writer. Another view of losing that way to write.

The treasure of the Spanish civil war by Serge Pey

The treasure of the Spanish civil war by Serge Pey

Franco- Spanish fiction

Original title – Le Trésor de la guerre d’Espagne

Translator – Donald Nicholson Smith

Source – review copy

I have gone for my first read for Spanish lit month with a French novel. Well, this is a French writer that grew up in one of the concentration camps that was home for those who escape Franco regime. Serge Pey is a child of Spanish civil war refugees. He is well known as an artist and performance artist. So yes my first book is a Spanish sounding writer that is French but this is a book that could only be written in French a piece of history that has n’t been written about much or mentioned much.

The boy watched an eagle wheeling in the sky. As though harnessed to an invisible noria, the majestic bird drew all the sunshine towards the two of them where they stood amidst shadows. The boy would remember this. The man kept silent for a long while, observing the eagle as it turned towards the mountain, perhaps to check its worl and draw the sun to another valley. At last the manturned and spokje to the boy.

“Give me you knife”

The man gutted the piglet and wrapped it in leaves, then dug a hole and lit a fire with dry wood. When he had glowing embers he placed the animal’s spread eagled carcass on them and cover it with soil.

A boy sees an eagle as they eat the pig they cooked on the run

The stories here were published in France as a novel of interlinking stories. They are all set around the fifties and the camp were Serge himself grew up. The stories all can stand alone a couple of characters reappear. The first story follows a boy as he tries to escape some guards with his father a couple of interesting images an eagle wheeling overhead like a Spanish water wheel as the guards’ circle in the boy finds a snail then he ends up snail-like in a hole hiding away. Then later on how they learned french watching the dub films in the cinema in the camp. Then how the guards used many of the kids when they arrived to teach them to torture the other kids in the camp in the story a piece of wood. A boy buying horse meat meant only for a dog is that hungry he is tempted to eat it but then thinks of another young child that ate it and end up ill. These are tales that Serge must have heard and seen around the camp the lives of these lost souls retold. The harsh world they lived in.

The boy waited for the butcher’s van. He had spent three days longing to  buy meat for dogs. He chose the moment when the butcher was packing up to ask the man for dog meat. The man tossed him some horsemat wrapped in newspaper, telling him that the dog would have a feast and assuring him that the meat was fresh.

Trembling the boy thrust the paclage under his shirt. He wentround the back of the house to find the dog, which was in the kennel, In the ditch by the fig tree he opened up the blood-soaked newspaper. And then, without consultation between boy and dog, the two fell upon the meat

A boy buy horse meat uncoocked that is meant just for dogs or else you fall ill

This is a collection of vignettes there is a sense of stories the writer had heard when young he was a child when the stories are set this is the world he grew up in his parents, friends, and families in this collection there is a sense of a world where the extreme has become the normal his translator said it is like magic realism or surreal all thou he hated the terms this is a world where things are different. Yes he has some great imagery in his prose that sometimes are too poetic more than prose driven but how else can you face this horrific world. The violent harsh reality in the world often seen through a child’s eye. this isn’t a large collection just over 130 pages and it is a small archipelago book as well.A world not written much about these lost voices of Franco’s exiles need to be heard as it is a remind of the horror of war but also the fate that fell them when they reached the camps in France !

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