That was the month that was January 2021

  1. The Catholic school by Edoardo Albinati
  2. At Night All Blood Is Black by David Diop
  3. A luminous Republic by Andres Barba
  4. Shipwrecks by Akira Yoshimura
  5. Robinson by Aram Pachyan
  6. Holiday Heart by Margarita Garcia Robayo
  7. Schoolgirl by Osamu Dazai
  8. 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff
  9. Kokoschka doll by Alfonso Cruz
  10. The last days of Ellis Island by  Gaëlle Joss
  11. 30th April 1945 by Alexander Kluge
  12. The sand child by Tahar Ben Jelloun
  13. With an unopened umbrella in the pouring rain by Ludovic Bruckstein

Well, I managed 13 reviews this month, and from 12 countries unfortunately there were no new countries,  no new publishers, but it’s been a while since I reviewed a book from Virago. The journey this month starts with the epic Italian story of a school and some killing then we went to the trenches and some African troops. A small child tells the tales of his medieval Japanese fishing village.  Then some strange children appear in the jungle. Then Modern Armenia is highlighted in a collection of short stories. Then we had the tale of a couple’s American dream falling apart. A day in the life of a pre-war Japan. Then the letters between a New Yorker and an old English bookseller. A series of vignettes take us to wartime Germany and the aftermath. The last week on Ellis Island sees the last guard reflecting on his time on the Island. The day Hitler shot himself is seen in 360 degrees from every angle. Then a girl is forced to grow up a boy to save the family money and lastly we see Sighet in Romania with tales of the Jews that lived there.

Book of the month

We have two winners here –

Firstly the tales of Sighet so touch me in this collection of short stories from a writer that has luckily been saved from oblivion and brought to us thanks to his son’s efforts to get his father’s voice heard.

Then 30th April 1945 is just so rich the multiple layer Kluge forms with his vignettes around the day Hitler shot himself. Kluge is a writer that likes to take a wide angle on his fiction the bigger picture.

Non-book related items

With us in Lockdown I haven’t brought a lot of records this month but spent most time listen back to old Uncut and Mojo cd I have got both these magazines for well twenty years so I have a lot of their CDs and have spent a couple of hours reading and listening to them most afternoons off work. Especially their Americana CDs. I am now on the last of my three nights tonight for this month at work.

Next month

I have already read a couple of books read ready so we shall be in Iceland and with a chess master to start with this month’s reading I hope to add a couple of Arab works this month. Then I will see where I wander knowing me it has been a while since I read a book from a new country so I think that may need to add somewhere new next month what are your plans for the coming month?

With an unopened umbrella in the pouring rain by Ludovic Bruckstein

With an unopened umbrella in the pouring rain by Ludovic Bruckstein

Romanian fiction

Original title – Mitriya Sgura BeGeshem

Translator – Alistair Ian Blythe

Source – review copy

This is the second work by Ludovic Bruckstein I have reviewed he was a Romanian writer who had disappeared from the Romanian cannon of writing as he left Romania to live in Israel where his brother had settled just after the second world war in the late ’40s. SO in 1970 when Ludovic Bruckstein decided to leave the communist government wiped his works from the country. Bruckstein became a writer after the second world war he grew up in the Town of Sighet where the stories in this collection are set. He was inspired to write by the story of the sonder Komando uprising in Auswitchz which formed his first work a play called Nightshift. He like the rest of his town was sent to Auswitchz in May 1944 as they all went on four trains of his family there was just Ludovic and his brother survived of the 13,000 jews of Sighet only 2000 lived.

Hersch-Leib was a porter from an early age. “I worked in transportation” he wes leter went to say.

He was always cheerful, enterprising, born into a farming family, with numerous siblings, he was never one to twiddle his thumbs waiting for his mother to put food on his plate. He went out to earn his bread.

A man tht drag himself up from the bottom upwards.

The trap was also set in Sighet what he does with these stories is keep alive the spirit of the town at that time as his son said in an interview the town was very cosmopolitan in the pre-war time a mix of people from lots of places and lots of religions. These stories start with the Sabbath and the bargemen and the blacksmith of the local town in the title story. Then in other stories we hear of Hersch Lieb the local porter who grows his business from a young age, he also appears in a later story as a businessman who regularly comes to the town with his large family opts for three stale rolls to make his penny go further Avram opts for the harder sale rolls. Then We have Chaim rives a man with no fear poor but broad-shouldered and healthy a loner of a man that never got conscripted in both wars but in May 44he took his life rather than go on the train. The stories mostly end with the sad day the jews of Sighet left on four long trains as it is put 70 in each carriage 43 carriages to each of the four trains take the town to their death. One of the different stories involves the Italian troops that came to stay in the town which at the time was a hub for the railways they sing, play their mandolins, and lighten up the town in comparison to the Hungarians and German in the town. This is just a glimpse of the tales of the town never to be the same after those trains leave.

Chaim rives was afraid of nothing, He wasx afraid of nothing hard work, nor illness, nor the bad dogs in poeople’s yard, nor dreams, nor ill omens, these was only one thing alone of which he was terribly afraid; tomorrow. He gladly endured hunger today, so long as he knew that tomorrow he would have something to eat,

This fear probably came from childhood, when he had never enough to eat. His mother was a washerwoman with large number of children and a large amound of laundry to wash. He couldn’t remember his father. Nor did his mother ever speak to him of the other children about their father: maybe she had forgotte, maybe she didn’t have the time, maybe there was no point.

From the story the fear one of my favourites in this collection.

Ludovic sin says in the interview here with Susan from Istros Books and also in a piece for Calvert Journal. That his father always told him stories of his hometown in those pre-war years. This collection reminded me of the lost world we met in Grigory kanovich book Shelti love song set in another Jewish community that isn’t there anymore.  Ghost lift of the page as you read of the character that lived in the town before may 1944 before the train left and 11000 souls lost their lives in the Auswitchz. I always say we can never have enough stories that make us remember the holocaust but also where hate can lead. The book is also illustrated by his son who has done drawing for each story. As his som said his father was a realist and unlike Wiesel who he said how could this happen ?, where has God been? Bruckstein knew Wiesel in fact they grew up and went on the same train to Auswitchz two voices of the lost town. A writer worth being rediscovered he brings this town alive with it characters that jump off the page Bruckstein gives the voice to these ghost from the highest to the lowest in the town. Have you read either of his books to be translated?

The Sand child by Tahar Ben Jelloun

The Sand Child by Tahar Ben Jelloun

Morrocan fiction

Original title – L’Enfant de Sable

Translator – Alan Sheridan

Source – Personal copy

Well, I move to North Africa and an older modern classic from that country that has been sat on the shelves for a while to read. The last book I reviewed from Morroco had a link to this writer as it was also set in the Tazamamart prison which featured also in Ben Jelloun’s best-known book This blinding absence of light. He is often mentioned as a future Nobel winner he has written in French although Arabic is his first language. He has written twenty or more novels and has won a number of big book prizes over the years including the Prix Goncourt.

The father had had no luck. He was convinced that some distant, heavy curse weighed on his life; out of seven births, he had seven daughters, the mother, aunt Ayshaa, and Malika, the old servan woman. The curse was spread over tim. The father thought that one daughter would have been enough. Seven was too many; tragic, even. How often he remembered the story of the Arabs before the advent of Islan wo buried their daughter alive! Since he could not get tid of them, he treated them not with hate but indifference.

Hajji has had a run of daughter so when he has had seven that is enough he makes a plan for number 8

The book starts with Hajji telling of the fact that he had seven daughters to his wife and no matter what his next baby was going to be a Son no matter what happened. So he knew his money would pass through the family as the daughter in Islamic law at the time is only able to get a third of the estate from the Father. Which his brothers knew and had pointed out that they would end up with his money if he hadn’t given birth to a son. So when they are expecting an eighth baby he decides no matter what the babe will be a boy and passes on so much to the elderly midwife Lalla his plan to make even a daughter into a son Lalla ios elderly and sees the benefit of the idea. So when his wife finally gives birth and it is a daughter the secret of that is known by just two people Hajji and the midwife. as the child, who is called Mohamed Ahmed grows they talk about having their chest tied up which is to stop her breast from developing. HE is married to a sickly daughter of a relative the story is told in the form of a storyteller and the young Mohamed writing to a friend but what will happen will Mohamed gather she is actually a woman? there are telltale hints here and there throughout the book and how the father always seemed to have the answer then later are storyteller end up blind and this is a nod to Borges of course.

The truth goes intoo exile. I have only to speak and the truth moves away, is forgotten; I become its gravedigger and disniterer. That is how the voice is: it does not betray me. And even if I wanted to betray it, reveal it in all its nakedness, I could not. I would knt know how. I know its requirement: avoid anger, avoid tenderness, do not shoutm do not whisper- in short, be ordinary. I am ordinary. And I trample underfoot the image that is unbearable to me. God, how heavy that truth wieghs upon me! I am the afchitect and the house, the tree and the sap, a man and a woman. No detail must disturb the harshness of my task, whether from the outside or from the bottom of the grave. Not even blood.

Later his decison wieghs heavy on him and this is just as the  young Mohamed has her first period !

I have the absence of blinding light by him as well but this one jumped out of me as the story seemed one I would enjoy the tale of a down on his luck husband that keeps wish for a son to only have daughters then he decides to sacrifice his youngest and let her grow up a boy in this age of people being able to be more gender fluid this tale of a deliberate swapping of gender seems horrific as it highlights the pain the child had to undertake to be passed as a boy. But also shows how religion can affect people it also highlights the prevailing system at the time in Morroco run by its elderly King. The novel uses the storyteller to tell the story within the story of the book it has nods later on towards Borges not only with the story becoming blind but also when later on the book its has a few Magic realism and Borges touches to the story. This book can easily be read in a day as it is under two hundred pages and each chapter moves the story as we move through various gates. Have you read any books from Tahar Ben Jelloun?

30th April 1945 by Alexander Kluge

30th April 1945 by Alexander Kluge(with an additional piece by Reinhard Jirgl)

German fiction

Original title – 30. April 1945 – Der Tag, an dem Hitler sich erschoß und die Westbindung der Deutschen begann

Translator – Wieland Hoban

Source – personal copy

I fell in love with Alexander \Kluge last year he had long been on my list of writers from Germany to read. Kluge was a leading light in both Literature and film and later on Tv he was a member of the Gruppe 47 writer that featured the like of Gunter Grass and Uwe Johnson for two and in many ways shaped post-war German literature. The discovery of him is the link for me to Sebald as he has a style of interlink vignettes and history like Sebald did. We also have the bargain of a few chapters from his fellow german writer Reinhard Jirgl who adds a few chapters he is another writer on my list to read his book the Unfinished came out last year and is one I want soon.

The most dangerous weapons of the second world war en route further westwards

At night along the Danube, trucks drove up to riverboats that lay hidden in the undergrowth on the riverbank. Barrels were loaded onto barges. The Barrels were unmarked. Even in the darkness, the captains of the six river vechicles were still advancing kilometre after kilometre on the Danube, going upstream, They were ensuring distance from the eastern enemy.

Only years later did those invlved find out that their task had been to prevent the enemy from getting their hands on the nerve gas, tabum, on the river. By day they were meant to look for shelter under overhanging branches on a distributary of the Danube. Before morning had broken, a motorboat caught upwith them and gave the command to unload the containers once more onto pioneer barges.

Thinks getting moved as the russians close in!

The full title of this book in German gives full insight into this book and that is the fact it is the day that Hitler had shot himself in the Bunker as the Russians drew closer to Berlin. As I said this is more a patchwork quilt of a novel that takes us on a tour of the west and eastern front at the time Hitler took his own life. there is a dark cloud over the Wehrmacht as they don’t yet know of Hitler’s passing but there are the red army and western forces heading towards the heart of Germany. Then the wider scope a Neutral ship in the water, the US at the time and there is Zurich we are told which films are shown at the time(and interesting mix of English and German films from the war which is an interesting insight). Then we move forward to Obama visiting Berlin to give a context of the change over a period of time. These 100 or such snippets build an interesting picture of the world at a crossroads in time.

He had Only Got Three of his students Through to Spandau-West

The educator Dr Friedrich Ruhl, who had led 18 pupils into a military intervention and only got three of them through to Berlin, attempted to report to the Ministry of Education, a ruin, where there was nonetheless work going on in some rooms. He was getting on the nerves of the porter, who was still active in his cubicle reinforced by wooden cladding, because he kept appearing day after day and asking for someone to report to. But there was no offical left in the remannts of the bulding to whom he could have spoken about pupils in a military intervention.

Elsewhere people run towards Berlin but loss his pupils along the way.

Like his other book, I reviewed by Kluge he uses short vignettes from a few lines to a few pages. to give small insights of the world at a moment of time I have seen in recent years Youtube use a similar effect to build films of a set day They did one for the new year a couple of years ago where everyone did what they did on the day thus like this showing a myriad of views it shows what a visual writer he is this is a man that isn’t after the shots going through Hitler’s brain no he wants to catch that exact moment outside that bunker as his homeland was on its knees bleeding as the war was coming to the end he also shows the before and after in small pieces that show how we end up with Hitler and also how the world moved on after. So I have to more books by kluge to read and I see there is a number more are four more from Seagull books for me to get. Have you read Kluge, do you see the connection to Sebald? He uses a similar way of layering the story he tales bit by bit I was especially reminded of  The rings of Saturn as we also dart here and there in this book like Sebald did in the rings.

The Last days of Ellis Island by Gaëlle Josse

The Last days of Ellis Island by Gaëlle Josse

French Fiction

Original title – Le dernier gardien d’Ellis Island

Translator – Natasha Leher

Source – review copy

I said I would have a second European literature prize this time we are in France with the French poet  Gaëlle Josse she started as a poet after studying Law, journalism, and psychology. She now works as a website editor. She has set a prize for young writers as well. Then about ten years ago started writing novels she won prizes with her first three novels. Then got this here fourth novel on the European literature prize list. This book started with the writer visiting the museum of immigration which is on the site of Ellis Island where she saw the history and came up with using some of the people’s stories she read whilst at the Museum.

Liz was my guiding light. Nothing triumphant or blinding like the light that is brandished for all eternity by Lady Liberty. My poor Liz, the very idea would have made me smile. No, she was mellow, constant, serene. We were married only a few years. Too little time, but is the intensity of an experience measured by its duration? The interminable pace of my life today has no significance for me anymore. I get up, work, go to bed and wrangle with the memories I have tried to build walls to keep out. I barely manage, and anyway it will all come to an endone day or another ?

Liz haunts him through out the book.

The book has John Mitchell as the main character in the novel. He has worked over 45 years as an officer of the Bureau of Immigration as the last gatekeeper of Ellis Island he has stayed on the island doing his job as in 1954 the Island is due to close he has carried on working there til the end even thou his colleagues had moved on and the stream of people was a trickle now. Whilst he works we get to look into the mind of John as he recalls the events and people that had passed through Ellis Island over his time there from when it was used a lot when there was a number of Steerage Passengers the sort of lower-class citizens in search of a better life or those needing to escape Europe. This sees us learn of his short marriage to Liz who passed away of Typhus from someone that arrived in the US. but he had a short foray with a Sardina girl Nella and even though it was thirty years earlier it seems to have affected him all the way through it. Memories of those he met during his time are told in brief from A couple from Hungary with communist sympathies elsewhere there is Italian anarchist maybe a warning of the future when McCarthy and even in the 20s the red scare and the tightening of the immigration laws in the late 1920’s which slowed the people through Ellis Island. A look into the last days of somewhere that was the start for so many dreams and Nightmares of what could be the American dream.

From my vantage point on Ellis Island, I observed the continuing existence pof America. The city so neqar, so far way. For me, the island had become an outpost, a watchtower or rampart, with me standing sentinl against invasion.

The activity of the station was in inexorable decline. Today I am the captain of a phantom ship that has been abandoned to its ghosts. Like the ghost of Nella, who arrived on board the cursed Cincinati on April 23, 1923, and still clamors for justice today.

His other ghost Nella arrived in the hieght of the arrivals on the Island.

 

I enjoyed this it is a book of memories but also felt as thou it caught the mood in some ways Ellis Island saw so many lives come through it over the years and we get a lot of brief glimpses here and there is a touch of melancholy over the tales and John himself the one event whilst he was married haunted him a ghost of a woman from Sardina he fell for and a wife that died too early. As we see him over the last eight days of the Island as we read his personal journal. Those years after Liz’s death John was there his job was his life and although we only see a few lives here it is the ones that touched him the most during his time on the island. As the Pogues said in there song pogues thousand are sailing” The island is silent now and but the ghost still haunt the waves and the torch lights up a famished man ” A tale of one man life as the gatekeeper of the US during the first half of the 20th century caught here.

Kokoschka’s doll by Alfonso Cruz

Kokoschka’s Doll by Alfonso Cruz

Portuguese Fiction

Original title – A Boneca de Kokoschka

Translator – Rahul Bery

Source – review copy

I join a blog tour on the day this comes out. I always feel Portuguese literature is a blank area of the blog over the years. So when I got the chance to read a book by the leading light of the Portuguese literature Alfonso Cruz he has published a number of novels this is the second to be translated into English. He is a novelist, artist, illustrator, and member of a blues group called The soaked Lamb (love that band name I must try and find some of his music). This book won the European Union Prize for Literature, I shall be covering another winner in a day or two.

At the age of Forty-two, or , to be more precise, two days after his birthday that year, Bonifaz Vogel began to hear a voice. Intially he thought it was the muce, then he thought about calling someone to deal with the woodworm, but something stopped him. Perhaps ti was the way the voice had given him orders, with the authority of those voices that live deep inside us. He knew it was all in his head, but he had the strange sensation that the words were coming from the floorboars, entering him through his feet. They came from the depths, filling the bird shop. Bonifaz Vogel always wore sandals, even in winter , and hr felt the words slipping through his yellowed toenails

The opening lines just drew me in as a reader. worth noting Vogel is German for bird!!

Now, this is one of those books that you in one part love and in another absolutely hate at times just as it isn’t a linear narrative of a patchwork of little piece stuck together we have three main narratives the first sees Bonifaz Voge who is the owner of a bird shop in Dresden he hears voices from under his floorboards This is just as the bombs in the latter part of the war have fallen and in his cellar Isaac Dresner who end up thereafter he saw a jews friend shot. He starts to talk to the man Vogel who thinks the voice he hears through the floorboards. Vogel thinks it is god and Dresner becomes this man’s inner monologue.  Then we move onto the book within the book a novella called Kokoschka’s doll by Mathias pope a work about the Expressionist painter Oskar Kokoschka who when his Alma Mahler left him he got a life-size doll made of her. That he took out and strolled with and eventually he smashed a bottle of red wine over her head. In an interview with the writer on youtube, he said he used this as a metaphor for the book as a whole. But also the story of the Varga’s another thread of stories with chapters that are randomly numbered. The latter book is about the novella in the second part of the book and how it is received. The three parts of this novel all interlink this is collection of stories with a dash of Aphorisms and philosophy. There is no clear way to describe this book it is a gem of snippets that see you go around the world and view the same events at views.

FROM OUR FLESH WE WILL MAKE A SINGLE EARTH

” I have always wondered who will bury the last man” my grandfather said to my father, “or in this case who will bury the gravedigger. You will, of courser. You are not a gravedigger, but you will bury me in the same earth as your mother, who died as you took your first breath almost three times seven years ago. Her earth will mix with mine, as it did in life, and from our flesh we will make a single earth”

When my grandfather died, my father did as he wished and they were mixed together for ever

one of the snippets from the opening part called the memoir of Isaac Dressner

I said I feel I haven’t read enough Portuguese literature and I always feel the same after reading books from there the deepness of there writers is always stunning from Pessoa who’s complete The Book of Disquiet I read when it came out the other year but haven’t had time to review I will be doing this soon it maybe would show how we get to writers like Cruz as Pessoa uses a lot of Aphorisms and the is no real linear narrative to the Book of disquiet. Then I have read more modern writers like Peixoto and Antunes both often use different strands in the narrative Peixoto had an odd collection of characters like this book does. I feel this is one for the readers of books like Sophie’s world or night train to Lisburn books that make you think and puzzle that have so much more at the heart and this is one it is about war the aftermath love and loss and life in general and will have you thinking for days after you have put it down.

84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

Epistolary work

Source – Personal Copy

I sometimes like a change and like most of us book bloggers, we all love books that are about books and book people. Here is a great epistolary work that contains the letters sent and received from the 50s through to the late sixties by New yorker Helene Hanff she was a playwright her early books covered her struggling to get a foot in the New York theatre scene. Later she wrote scripts for Elery Queen. Marks and co a bookshop of the title based at 84 Charing cross road published and advert in the Saturday Review of Literature that they could get hold of ut of print books this leads to the letters that form the book as Helene a well-read woman had struggled to get certain books. I have tried to find the advert in the online collection of the Saturday Review of literature but haven’t found it just love to see the original advert.

14 East 95th St

November 18, 1949

WHAT KIND IF A BLACK PROTESTANT BIBLE IS THIS? Kindly inform the Church of England they have loused up the most beautiful prose ever written, whoever told them to tinker with the Vulgate Latin? They’ll burn for it, you mark my words.

It’s nothing to me, I’m Jewish myself. But I have a catholic sister-in-law, a methodist sister-in-law, a whole raft of presbyterian cousins (Though my Great Uncle Abraham who converted) and an aunt who’s a Christian science healer, and I like to think none of them would counternance this Anglian Latin bible if they knew it existed(As it happens, they don’t know Latin existed)

The Bible incident the wrong Bible was sent they later sent a better copy.

What follows is a series of letters that see Marks finding the books well FPD as they sign themselves in the early letters, Boks from the likes of Hazlitt Stevenson. The cost of these old but as Helene says fine books too good for her Orange crate bookshelves far better than their modern counterparts she has brought in the US. There is humor at times when they send a bible she calls a Black protestant bible and says it had ruined the Latin version in the translation to English as she said she was Jewish but has Methodist and Presbyterian relatives. As the book moves on Helene finds she is talking mainly to Frank Doel who is the main buyer for Marks and co. She discovers the hardship of post-war Britain makes her choose to send a food parcel from Denmark here she writes after sending it with concerns about if the owners are Jewish as she sent Ham to the bookshop but no everything was ok she receives letters from other staff on the side thanking her and wishing her well and looking forward to meeting her. But the main body is her and Frank as he hunts down the books she wants but life means she struggles to get to the UK.

Dear Miss Hanff,

We are glad you liked the “Q” anthology. We have no copy of the Oxford Book of English Prose in stock at the moment but will try to find one for you.

About the Sir Roger de Coverly papers, we happen to have in stock a volume of eighteenth century essays which includes a good selection of them as well as essays by Chesterfieldand Goldsmirth. It is edited by Austin Dobson and is quite a nice editon as it is only $1.15 we have sent it off to you by book post. If you want a more complete collection of Addison & Steele let me know and I will try to find one.

There are six of us in the shop, not including Mr Marks ancd Mr Cohen

Faithfully yours,

Frank Doel

For Marks and Co

Her love of Q lead to a later book I’d love to get about how Q influenced her reading

I love this book I have a special VMC hardback I brought a number of years ago it has the follow-up. The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street. Which finally saw Helene make it to the UK. This is a window into a bygone world Marks and co is gone and most of the shops that made up Charing Cross road have gone over time. It’s hard to split the book now from the film for me though I did feel the film was well cast the humor of Helene that came across in the letters a sort of deadpan wit was well portrayed by Ellen Burstyn. Frank equally was played as a straight-laced English man by Anthony Hopkins. I have a number of books she mentions I have been a fan of Arthur Quiller couch or Q as he was known as the editor of Oxford book of English Verse which I have had for a long time as it was often mentioned on Rumpole of the Bailey which I loved as a kid. This is one of those books that reminds us why we all love books and reading and the bygone age when we had to hunt for books which we still do, well I do there are so many translations I would love to find like Helene I’d love to find an 84 Charing Cross road. Have you have read it?

Schoolgirl by Osamu Dazai

Schoolgirl by Osamu Dazai

Japanese fiction

Original title – 女生徒 Joseito

Translator – Alison Markin Powell

Source – Personal copy

I take another stop on the January in Japan tour it isn’t a long one I think I may get another book but here we have a modern classic. This book came out just at the start of world war two it is from one of the highest regarded writers of his generation. The eighth son of wealthy landowner Shūji Tsushima or as he later was known Osamu Dazai attend school and briefly university. This time in his life was hard his idol the writer Akutagawa died later on he tried to take his own life in a double suicide the woman he did it with died. He was then arrested for being in the communist party and went on the run his family got the charges dropped on the promise he would calm down he did and then started his writing career. He Wrote from 1933 till his death in 1948. This is from early on in his career and is considered a masterpiece for its use of language.

Mother, who was very busy arranging someone’s marriage, had gone out early this morning. Ever since I was little, Mother had devouted herself to other people, so I was used to it by now, but was really amazing how she was constantly in motion. She impressed me. Father had done nothing but study, so it fell to mother to take up his opart. Father was far removedfrom things like social interaction, ut mother really knew how to surround herself with lovely people, The two of them seemed an unlikely pairing, but there had been a mutual respect between them. People must have often saidabout them what a handsome and untroubled couple, without any unattractive qualities. Oh I ‘m so cheeky

THe mother tries to fill the fathers void but there is a gaping hole in the schoolgirls world it is obvious

Well, that was a long intro for a book that is barely 100 pages long and it is a small size book I read it in an evening. The beauty of this book is a simple fact it is a book where nothing really happens but you just get caught up in the day of our narrator the unnamed schoolgirl of the book’s title. It is told in a stream of conciseness style that starts with her having breakfast talking about her love of the book adverts in the paper. Going to school with the new umbrella that her mother has brought her when she heads to school there is a sense of her having a sort of self-loathing of others from ugly people she sees on the train to school to a dog as the day goes on we are let into the fact her father is dead and this means they are a single-parent family. But she also seems to grip on to her love of books at one point saying she didn’t know what she would do without them. This is a modern girl but she is caught in a traditional world and dealing with grief.

I was reminded of the lady next to ne on the train this morning with the heavy makeup. Ugh so vile. Women are disgusting. Being female, I am all too familar with the impurity found in women, it sets my teeth on edge with repulsion. It’s as if that unbearable raw stench that clings to you after playing with goldfish has spread all over your body, and you wash and wash but you can’t get rid of it day after day, it’s like this , until you realize that she-odur has begun to emante from your body as well. I wish I could die like thism as a girl

Telling lines about not wanting to grow into a woman in what at the time was a very male society in Japan!!

This is a gem of a book the narrator had hardly aged I felt although some of the things like reading a paper may now be via a phone and maybe she’d be reading Manga instead of books. but her view of the world one of a modern teen. The book has a feel of a modern book than its time. It is an insight into the drifting minds of a teen from her avoid the death of her father in the way she daydreams. This is a simple version of the modern teen world of worry she shows the conflict between trying to be herself and what they expected and grief. This is written by a man that tried to take his own life and was in a suicide pact with a young woman that could have easily been our narrator the feeling is this was someone that the writer knew or maybe just using a female voice to convey his own life his father was absent during his growing up and was brought up mainly by the female members of his extended family when younger. I have another collection of short stories by him I will be reading at some point. Have you ever read any books by Osamu Dazai ?

Holiday Heart by Margarita Garcia Robayo

Holiday Heart by Margarita Garcia Robayo

Columbian fiction

Original title – Tiempo muerto

Translator – Charlotte commbe

Source – personal copy

I add a few books to my TBR that I felt maybe in line to make the man booker list that I hadn’t been sent just to get a leg up so here is the second novel to be translated into English by the prize-winning Columbian writer Margarita Garcia Robaye that has been brought out by Charco press that has been bringing out some wonderful books from Latin America the last couple of years. Born in Cartagena on the coast of Columbia she won the prestigious Casa De Las Americas prize for her book worse things. She currently lives in Argentina.

Ar around 5 p.m. he received an email from Gionzalo and Elisa – Gonzaloandelisa@gmail.com- invinviting them over fro a barbecue. They lived nbext door and they saw them often but not particularly close friends. He bumped into Gonzalo most days when they each took out the rubbish to the bim they shared, halway between two houses. The bin was a bit further away, so they walked that stretch together as they discussed the news. usually terrorism, They talked about Isis, Boko haram, Hezbollah and the FARC as of discussing the performance of different soccer teams. He couldn’t recall how this had become their go-to-subject, but they’d kept it up for years, This was handy for Pablo because it allowed them to dance around more delicate subjects such as the fact that Gonzalo, a while back, had stuck his hands up Pablo’s sister’s skirt

There friends afre most latin American but it seems strange that talk could be about anything but Covoid nowdays.

What this book does is dissects a relationship falling apart a marriage dissolving. The heart of the book is a Columbian couple living in the US Pablo and Lucia. Maybe at the heart of what the problem is the way they have adapted to the change of Homeland Pablo is still feeling drawn to his homeland and keeping his identity whereas his with it seems has never really felt at home. They have made a life with their twins but even then Lucia takes the front foot on how the kids are raised. They have split and then Pablo ends up in Hospital with what is called Holiday heart and this it seems is a condition that is caused by over living so when at Christmas people overeat and drink it cause temporary heart issue. Pablo trying to write that epic novel of his homeland whilst his wife writes a piece about their life in the US this is what seems to be the heart of the problem one moving one-way one moving another way. This so the view of both outdated racism that hasn’t changed since their time in the US. Pablo is a man of his homeland he likes to womanize in a way he could have been a character from a Marquez novel. This is an insight into a marriage falling apart bit by bit and looking at how and why?

That night , after they’re all showered and fed, Lucia logs onto Skype and calls Pablo so the kids can say hello. It’s hard to get full sentences put of the children, but they tell him, as best they can about the seaweed, the brunch, their bodies burried in the sand, Then they started yawning and Lucia sends them off to their twin beds, in the room Cindy had decorated with iold stuffed toys she found in the apartment, left over from a previous life.

“They’re shattered” she say. She is sitting at the table. The sounds of the waves drifts through the open balcony door. Pabli is wearing the same dressing gown he had on when she left. She wonders if he even showered

HEart breaking in place I remember my parent divorce diffferent circumstances but the loss of time over the years.

This is an interesting look at how the immigrant life can strain but also changed people over time what has happened is they have moved in two ways Lucia although they live in a sort of Latin American bubble with there friends and family she has settled and maybe it seems never felt settled in her younger life whereas Pablo writing about his home maybe has more of a Columbian heart than a holiday heart as he has left but still lives there in his heart he drinks to much and cheats frequently as his marriage falls apart this is told with an honest eye on events. Has he a real heart problem or is it just the bitter dregs of a marriage? WE see they should be apart but it is the time and the twins that kept them going as an observer those cracks seem so much wider than they would in the bubble of a marriage.  Have you read this book what did you think of it?

Robinson by Aram Pachyan

Robinson by Aram Pachyan

Armenian fiction

Original title – Ռոբինզոն 

Translator – Nazareth Seferian, Nairi Hakhverdi, Arevik Askharayan, Nyree Abrahamian

Source – review copy

I have reviewed the debut novel by Aram Pachyan a couple of years ago. This was meant to be part of a collection of books from Armenia that Glasgoslav had brought out and Aram was to give a speech about writing here is that speech.  which I really enjoyed so I am pleased to review this short story collection from one of the leading writers in Armenia. This book won the presidential prize in Armenia. His books have topped the chart in his home country. His works have been adapted into Musicals and experimental play of his book goodbye bird which I reviewed here.

He opened the box with his eyes closed, his breayth held. The colourful ornaments were quietly asleep on the cream-couloured paper. On the surface of those decorations, he saw the sad reflection of his face and the curvy shadows od his pointy hair. In the box, there were layers upon layers of ornaments and streamers hich adorned their christmas tree every year. The small plastic Christmas tree that his parents had brought in the city of Vandzor a long time ago, even before he was born. It’s skelton had grown weak over the years, its green leaves had melted here and there from the heat of the lights. Every year, when he placed the tree, his father would use a copper wire to fasten the tree’s thin trunk to the four legged base, so that it would not fall over.

A proustian moment of a christmas tree remember a close moment with his father.

This is a collection of 16 stories that seem to capture what it is like growing up in Armenia and also the loneliness of modern life. The title story is a nod to the ultimate tale of being alone that of Robinson Crusoe. A series of letters between   Robinson and Friday that then leads to children and their teacher. This gives the tale of being alone a modern twist. Elsewhere there are street chess players. A young boy falls for the local girl of his dreams of her in a sexual way then later on he takes a local girl he has fallen for out she gets drunk he has to go back to the same aunt for some money to bail him out. There are dreams of escape where a young boy reads of Toronto and dreams of escaping there. Mothers trying to sort out their drunk husband by drugging the father to keep him from drinking is observed by a child. In places, the tales feel personal as a number of the characters are called Aram. The most touching was a son whose father is dying remembering the closeness the putting of up of the tree brought him and his father. Who is dying in the hospital he wonders if his father sees a tree there in the hospital and is remembering those moments as well !!

I was embarrassed: how could I ask those boys for more money when they had worked all day like slaves? No, I couldn’t ask them .. What should I do …What should I do ? The thought was born in my head scared me , but the fear felt very pleasent, for the first time I wished to properly feel fear, it was like being run over by a car, when you somehow avoid the blow and manage to calm down afterwards …How I went, I don’t know.. Did I go, did my childhood go? I don’t know. I knocked on the apartment door of number 19 and Lia opened it

Having been made broke by the drunk local beauty he goes to his aunt for some money.

On the back cover, it says the stories contain the inescapable loneliness of people in the modern world. It is a hard world at times he describes tough times tough people also a world where drink and violence can just bubble below the surface. These are great observational pieces the little everyday things are captured here. The despair of a story like John Cheever swimmer can be seen in this collection the despair in the modern world but also the dreams of past and future at times. This lifts the lid on a hard life and a world that we can be thankful we aren’t in.

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