That was the month that was June 2021

  1. The woman in Valencia by Annie Perreault
  2. Blind man by Mitja Cander
  3. The passenger by Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz
  4. Red Milk by Sjón
  5. Lamentations for 77,297 Victims by Jiri Weil
  6. Eulogy for the living by Christa Wolf
  7. The cheap eaters by Thomas Bernhard
  8. To The Warm Horizon by Choi Jin-Young

Well, I managed 8 books this month Which has taken me to the halfway point of the year with 54 books reviewed which is well on course for the 100 I hope to review this year well this months journey start with a woman haunt by a death that happened in a split second of her life but has a huge impact. Then a man struggles with his sight loss as his homeland stumbles in the post-communist world. THen a man tries to escape the closing net of Nazisism around him just after Krsytalnight will he get away. Then A man gets drawn into a group of Neo Nazis and winds up dead on a train in England after following the trial from Iceland of the Nazis. Then a lament for all those lost Jews in the war from Czechslovakia a new publisher for the blog as well with the Modern Czech classics from Karolinum press. Then one of Germany’s greatest writers struggles with her childhood in Nazi Germany. Then a man is drawn by a group of men eating the cheapest things on the menu in Vienna as he struggles writing his thesis. Then a group of Koreans try and find a new place in a world after a Virus has wiped out all the world.

Book of the month

The Cheap eaters by Thomas Bernhard

A novella by the great Austrian writer long out of print back in a new translation that sees us enter the world of the Cheap eaters and what brought them out and made them eat the cheap meals.

Non book events

I watched one of Ken Loach’s latest films” Sorry we missed you ” the story of a couple struggling to get by in the new gig economy selling the family car to get a van to makes deliveries as a franchise but this shows the worst side of this new way of working all day every day that doesn’t give them the freedom we felt they would get as they get caught up in fines for missed jobs and lost equipment. We had a weekend away only up the road from us in Matlock but it was with Amanda’s family for a family celebration it was nice catching up with family. I got a number of records from the likes of Sufjan Stevens, Birdland, Will Oldham, and Mark Eitzel a mix of styles.

This month coming

it is Spanish lit month I hope to start with a Central American novel from Mexico about a son who lost his mother when she walked out on him and his dad then I have the first of our two reads. I have the two read-along works and hopefully a couple more books from Portugal I hope this month.

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To The Warm Horizon by Choi Jin-Young

To The Warm Horizon by Choi Jin-Young

Korean fiction

Original title – 해가 지는 곳으로(

Translator – Soje

Source — review copy

I move to Korea and one of the rising stars of Korean writing Choi Jin-Young initially both a poet and fiction writer her first works appeared in the early 2000s.  Whilst working part-time in a cram school. Then when she took up writing full time she treats it as a job working office hours whilst she writin was initially in the style that was described as Kitchen table fiction. But this owes more to the writers she has said she likes in interviews which are Franz Kafka, Jeon Sungtae, and Cormac McCarthy the latter of these for me was a huge influence on this book especially his book the road. as this is another post-apocalyptic world.

I think about only pone thing: to never leave Joy behind on her own. So I must survive no matter what I must do my part as someone who’s stiull alive. This imperative is a Da sap eithout a Fine, a prayer I dedicate tomyself. As  mom died, she asked dad to look after us. As dad died, he asked me to look after joy. Like a secret key in some legend. Joy was handed down  from Mom to Dad, from Dad to me. What could I ask od Joy in my dying moment ? I love you. I Will ask her to look after love. Joywith my love handed down to her, will survive somehow. Withlove in her arms, she’ll dash towards the end of the world.

Dori and her sister she has to make sure is safe after their parents died.

What we have is a group of Koreans that are on the road to head to a place that may be in Russia that is clear of a virus that has wiped out the world around them. What we have is the story o the story is told by each character from the two younger women Dori that is with her deaf sister on the way to the warm horizon. Then Jina who is heading with what remains of her family being lead by her father the stories twist and twine overlapping as they head to what is viewed as a safer place. Then the is an older voice Ryu he fills in the background to all that has happened to lead to all the characters being on the road and how the world they lived in fell into chaos. There is also the falling in love of the two younger women among the chaos of the world they are faced with. The threads are woven together in the end with an epilogue that fills in the gaps of what happened.

Jina wore lipstick every day. ANd she was alway by my side. We slept together, and we ate together. WE scavneged through the cities rogether. What i used to never glance at, things were completely useless in these times, which wer easy ti procure because they were useless- things like makeup or a hairpin or a scar, which made Jina happiuer above all else – became jusr as important as canned food and matches .I never walked past those things anympore I started thinking about whether something would look good on jins or if it was something she would like.

Jina on the road again but trying to keep up her appearance as she heads on the road.

Well, this isn’t a book full of joy and hope no it is maybe with the way the world is a warning a virus that keeps mutating and thus making vaccines useless as we see how the population of Korea was wiped out in the hundreds of thousands a day until there is a handful of souls trying to find a place to rebuild the world. But are they even there there is a passage near the end where one character says they feel like a ghost walking in a ghost world are they? is this a book of souls trying to find peace on the warm horizon? When they hit the cathedral in what may be Russia they see what they feared the full effect of the virus on the world as it has wiped out most of the world. Yes as I said in the intro this has a nod to McCarthy’s the road and other books like Stephen Kings The Stand or even films like Mad max or tv shows like survivors which i recently rewatched there is the same sense of the empty world they see of empty buildings and nature creeping back in. A book that with what has happened since it was written 4 years ago maybe seems less sci-fi than real life !!

Winstons score – +B a slice of a post-apocalyptic world that maybe seems more like real life given recent events.

 

The Cheap eaters by Thomas Bernhard

The Cheap Eaters by Thomas Bernhard

Austrian fiction

Original title – Die Billigesser

Translator – Douglas Robertson

Source – personal copy

It has been two years since I reviewed a book by Thomas Bernhard I have reviewed eight books by him so had to limit myself as I only have a few unread books left to review or buy. Bernhard would have been eighty this year but he passed away over twenty years ago. He has long been one of my favourite writers so when I saw there was a new translation of one of his novellas that hadn’t been in print for a number of years had a new translation. of the cheap eaters out I knew I had to get it. It is among the last few I have left on my shelves to review.

While talking the walk that had been raking for the purposes of his studies every late afternoon for weeks- and also routinely at about six in the morning for the preceding three days, a walk that had passed through Wertheimstein park, in which he said he had once again been able, owing to the ideal natural conditions prevailing solely in Wertheimstein park, to return after rather long interval from a worthless trains of thought regarding his physiogonmy to a useful, indeed, ultimately uncommonly profitable one and hence the resumption of his workon his essay, an essay he had neglected for the longest imaginable time owing to his inability to concentrate

He is a grade A procastantor 16 years on this essay is his life work but he has been dodging it for years.

The book centers on a group of four men that meet every day for the cheapest meal that is available at the Vienna public kitchen every day of the week. When they were he happened upon by Koller as he was meant to be heading to the park. But decided to go to the VPK  but the decision changes but Koller life and the way he is working on his essay. So when he ends up in the kitchen where he sees and eventually becomes part of the cheap eaters’ group. He lost his leg years ago after a dog bite he is a typical world-worn and down-trodden figure. When he found out about the cheap eaters could be the center of his work the exact people he had spent the time search for. He has been working on a character study and writing a piece about Physiognomy he isn’t the quickest he has been working on this piece for 16 years and now the direction has been changed after the chance meeting of the cheap eaters Koller life has become about by a number of chance events the loss of his leg, the length of time spent on his work, the chance meeting sets Koller life into a spin and a new direction. Why are they the cheap eaters there and will Koller ever finish his work?

he had already formed thi impression that the cheap eaters were uninterruptedly concentrated on eating the cheapest food at the VPK even before he had sat down at the cheap eaters table; he had already straightaway been able to infer for his purposes, to infer it first solely from the cheap eaters physical comportment and physicsl movement, and then later also from theit intellectual comportment and intellectual movement. he had inferrred that they were born and personified cheap just as he had always been a born and eaters.

Koller is so caught by the cheap eaters when he happens to chance on them by accident.

This has a tongue-in-cheek feel to it and the world he spirits up of the cheap eaters and the world that revolves around the cheap meals Mon to Fri and why they do this.  that soon ends up drawing in Koller to them and their world. but it also sees a man that isn’t much for the world as a loner a typical sort of Bernhard character down beaten by the world. This is a less ranty Bernhard character not as hard pushed by the world a sort more of a loner than an embittered figure that we usually meet in his work. This is maybe a great intro to Bernhard it has the character traits of his work long paragraph that strong voice that marches on as the book goes on. There is more of a comic edge at times to this world and not quite the bile that he has in other books. But he is yet another figure on the edge of society that Bernhard was so good at writing. I think I will next read his debut work Frost which has sat on my shelves for a few years. Have you read this translation or the earlier Osers one ? have you a favorite Bernhard?

Winstons score – -A maybe an entry-level Bernhard novella

Eulogy for the living by Christa Wolf

Eulogy for the living by Christa Wolf

German Memoir

original title – Nachruf auf Lebende

Translator – Katy Derbyshire

Source – personal copy

I have a lot of books from Christa Wolf on my shelves but haven’t reviewed a book by her here on the blog until now. I have decided to start with a book about the start of her life, with a work that was published after she passed away found in her writings was this piece which she wrote in a four week period in the early seventies she had tried many times to write about her childhood here own families experience at the end of the second world war where here family left the home which after the war became part of Poland this is the period that covers that times as she has her last day at school as the family head further towards the center of Germany to avoid the oncoming Red Army. This was an experience and time she had tried many times to write about this time.

it embittered me that the Fuhrer’s portrait was torn from the walls in all the houses in the town. Our Fuhrer was an oil painting, sixty by forty centimetres, dressed in tones of grey. A red ribbon ran around his elegantly tilted grey peaked cap, the cord at the front was also grey. He didn’t look at us, insteadgazing rather precisely at the sliding glass door between the dining and living rooms, a door that made my friends consider our home modern, and displaying his strong straight nose to us in oprofile along with a single grey-blue eye, which was rigid and whiochwe therefore thought was firm. He gazed firmly, Not always, Frauelun Dr strauch had told ius when we talked about the uprising of the goths-

The loss of the pictures shows the changing tide and the quote from her favourite teacher later tried as a leading Nazis.

The book ties in with another work on her childhood patterns of youth she also wrote about her early years. But this is just about the escape from her hometown as they head to safety. As her family Leaves her hometown of Landberg on the Wrathe. so on 30th January in 1945. When her mother decides it is time for the family to head out of the town. As the story unfolds the young Christa can’t grasp how the regime has fallen apart the spot on the walls in the town where the Fuhrer portrait had been taken down as the locals await the appearance of the red army. Her school the Herman Goering school. her favorite teacher later arrests as a leading Nazi this is a young girl’s view of this world her family settled middle class her family ran the grocer’s shop like when her mother considered bringing the fur coat with her shows the class of her family. She finds it hard joining the escape as she had the doctrine from Nazis in her question of whether heading to safety is the best. This is a short period of time looked back at with a clear sense of the time. it is easy to see why Wolf struggled writing about this time.

Don’t forget what a wonderful childhood you both had! My mother had words like these at her disposal, she would put her hand on your shoulder to say them, and there was no face you could present to words like that. Why are you acting so stiff? we did have a wonderful childhoof and now it’s over, we were walk-ons in a oplay guaranteed a happy ending on the days of our birth, and now they were casting us into the midst of a tragedy, its laws absolutely unknown to us- although it is a little flattering in the far corner of one’s conscious mind to be entrusted with such a difficuly and productive role. fear immediately ceases once the loss one trembled at the thought of has come to pass. All at once, the thin dew of boredom that settles on circumstances too long immobile is blown away.

I loved this passage it shows how as children even the hieght of Nazism a perfect childhood could be had.

This was found in her writings after her death wolf was best known for the way she looked at the east german regime her first book coming out in the sixties. She wrote often at odds with the Stasi but with a socialist heart to her works, she only wrote one book that came out after unification which she was opposed to which question the Stasi’s actions at the time. the subtitle of this book is called taking flight as we see the young Christa loved her school her teachers her home and in a way was blinkered at that age to the wider vision but her experience is a personal testament of the time which is drawn from her own experience of the time. It is easy to see why it was a struggle to write about without inhibitions as she said as she looked back on the time and how her mother reacted through her eyes her mother strength shows through. I have the latter part of her life next on my list of Christa wolf’s books the last part of a series of diary entries she wrote for the same day for over fifty years. Have you read a book by her?

Winstons score – B  an interesting insight into her life that was a struggle to write

Lamentation for 77,297 victims by Jiří Weil

Lamentations for 77,297 Victims by Jiří Weil

Czech Prose Poem

Original title – Žalozpěv za 77 297 obětí

Translator – David Lightfoot

Source – personal copy

I now review a very short but powerful work from the Czech Writer Jiri Weil best known for his work Life with a star which was long champion by the writer Philip Roth. It wasn’t until after the war Jiri Weil starts to write about his Jewish Heritage before the war he had only once mentioned his Jewish heritage. But after the war, he was one of the first writers to address the Holocaust and what had happened. After the war, Weil became the librarian for the Jewish Museum in Prague and his style of writing started to change. This is where he came across the boxes that contained the list of the names of all the Jews that had died in Bohemia and Moravia. Weil survived the war by faking his death. He wrote two well-received novels l

Smoke from nearby factories shrouds a countryside as flat as a table, a countryside stretching off to infinity. It is covered by the ashes of millions of dead. scattered throughout are fine pieces of bone that ovens were not able to burn. When the winds wcome, ashes rise up to the sky the fragments of bine remain on the earth. Qand the rain falls on the ashes, and rain turns them to good fertile soil, as befits the ashes of martyrs. And who can find the ashes of those of my native land; there were 77,297 of them? I gather some ashes woth my hand, for ony a hand can touch them, and I pour them into a linen sack, just as those who once left for a foreign country would gather their native soil so as never to forget, to return to it always.

The opening lines of pieces

The prose poem uses a style that mixes a number of styles of writing it opens with him talking about the factories and ashes from them and then the lament of the ashes of the 77,297 victims then the poem continues with a narrative strand about the events of the shoah. Then there are personal accounts of the people their age, job, and how they died. Then we have passages from the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) these build a portrait of those lost voices of the dead from Josef Friedmann an immigrant from Vienna, through to Adolf Horovic a seventy-year-old that waited hours for a meager hand out. The prose ends as those lives are ending with Weil telling us about the victims and how they were shipped out in their thousands to the various camps around Europe with thousands going and as few as 2 of the 100o come back when sent to the horrors of places like Treblinka this is a slim work that conveys the horror of the Holocaust in its full power from a writer that lived through it.

Robert aufman was returning home from the Branik quarries to his apartment in Karlin. He was dead tiredfrom unaccustomed labor and was barely able to keep ion his feet, since he was not allowed to sit down on the tram. In Podoli a German wirh a badge on his lapel boarded the tram. When he sa w the star he grabbed kaufman by the shoulder, kicked him, and threw him from the moving tram. Kaufman fell on the hard stone of the rail lin, lacerating his face till it bled and breaking a leg. He lay there for a long time until he was taken to the Jewish hospital. He was takenl ha wheel barrow. On the way Kaufman roused from Unconsciousness and moaned in pain

Remove thy stroke away from me

This is a touching piece that can be read in an hour it has an afterword that describes the original work which featured photos of what remained of the  Prague Synagogue in a small photo with touching cover art. It also tells us that one of the first reviewers said it captured the events of the two nights that saw most of the Jewish victims removed on March 8/9, 1944. The prose can be read in a number of ways it set out here or the three sections can be read separate the Personal tales, the history of the shoah, and the passages of Tanakh.   This is a writer exploring how to describe the indescribable of the holocaust. How to capture the full effect of war and the loss of all of those voices. It is a testament to those who lost those voices gone and deserves to be sat alongside the best of Holocaust literature  From a writer that faked his own death to get through it all. Have you read any works from Weil?

Winstons score – +A a powerful, work on the horror of the Holocaust

12 years Of winstonsdad Happy Anniversary

Well, it has flown but here are some stats I have now written over a million words, posted 1960 posts, read and reviewed 1100 books, from over 110 countries. Sadly I lost my Winston of the title a number of years ago my faithful dog. I have been to London a number of times via things to do with the blog twice spoken about my blog and the whole world literature boom. I started a hashtag that has run for 11 years which is something I feel #translationthurs has been on a book cover and still runs every week as a real guide to all the translated books over the last 11 years. I have now settled as a blogger I love it as a hobby and love the discovery of new books the ever-expanding selection of books in translation has been the most amazing thing I have seen since the blog has started the growth in small presses and the ever-growing list of first from around the world. I still run Spanish lit month another long-running blog event and have done most of the shadow IFFP and Booker international juries which I started many years ago. But there are always new challenges out there new fences to be jumped and new books to read. I most of all have enjoyed connecting in person and virtually with people around the world showing the world is a small place. Let’s see where the next dozen years take winstonsdad !!

Red Milk by Sjón

Red Milk by Sjón

Icelandic fiction 

Original title – Korngult hár, grá augu

Translator – Victoria Cribb

Source – Personal copy

Well I know head up to Iceland and to an old friend of the blog a writer who I have reviewed three times before here but it has been five years since I reviewed a book by Sjón. I have Codex 1962 on my tbr that I was kindly sent by a twitter friend but this jumped out at me and I alway love a novella a book that can be read in the evening which his other books have tend to be. He has a way of drawing the reader into the world he is writing in the after word to this book he said he had touched on Nazisim in two previous books so decided to look at what made some one get drawn into the far right world.

The other policeman is holding a notebook. In it , he writes in pencil ” Blond hair, grey eyes“,below which he produces a deft sketch of the body and the railway compartment.

The policeman who had finished going through the dead man’s pockets turns to his colleague and shakes his head. They both look out of the carraige window. A small crowd has gathered on the platform to watch what what is happening inside the compartment. Neither officer noticed the three men in black shirts hurrying away from the train and disappearing into the station building

The end of the opening chapter and gunnars men in black shirts where there.

The drawing into the far right world that sjon based the book on follows the life of Gunnar Kampen the book opens in 1962 at cheltenham station as he is found dead on a train, but who are the men on the platform of the staion wearing the black shirts. This  part of the book  is were the Icelandic title of the book is from as he is described as Gunnar is described as  Blond hair, grey eyes. That is how it opens then we are drawn back to his youth and find out how he ended up on the path he did and dead in that train and this starts at the second world war in iceland listening to all that was going on from his fathers radio. But when events in Norway change he ends up meeting his aunt he hair had been shaved of and his uncle is in prison this is how he gets drawn into the far right world. This is where Sjon uses a number of real life well known far right figures in the post war era and there attempts to set up a world wide Nazi network. He use Gunnar trip down this poath showing how this young boy get drawn in bit by bit then when he discovers Savitir Devi and writes to him he gets further into the far right world.til he is on a train in the Uk to meet some men in Black shirts and deeper into the world wide net of Nazis.

Icelander take great interest in the affairs of their brother nation, There are a larger number of Norweigans living here,as well of people of Norwegian descent like us, Every year, books are published about recent events, there are talks aon the radio and plays staged. Ofically, they all toe the same lie. Recently, I was meeting of a current affairs club I belong to, where the topic of the day was Norway. A fter the meeting had finished, a man (O.P), who had known you kn Oslo came over to talk to me. He told me where you were, why you were there and how many years you had left.

As his family come back from Norway he gets the first onnection to the far rigtht world via his Uncle and what he did in Norway!

 

This is part Bildungsroman and part thriller and also part cautionary tale. Sjón weaves a web around Gunnar so he ends up like a fly trapped in the web of Nazism as it gabs him bit by bit how easy it can be for a normal boy like Gunnar  can get caught up in this world. It is insoired by one of the real life leaders of the Red milk an Icelandic right wing group. The book is about how people fall down the rabbit holes it is what Sjon wanted to do and that is find how this happens we don’t get a full explination to what it is makes people do this but an insight into one mans world. It is most of all a cautionary tale of gunnars life. He use a number of different styles of writing epistolary, historic novel, thriller and mystery. If you have read his earlier books this will appeal to you ! Have you a favourite read from Sjón ?

Winstons score – B An interesting novella of how the far right can draw people in. a cautionary tale.

The Passenger by Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz

The Passenger by Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz

German fiction

Original title –  Der Reisende

Translator – Philip Boehm

Source – Personal copy

Pushkin has a habit of turning up with these lost gems of writers from around Europe. Here we have Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz. Boschwitz was the son of a Jewish businessman that died in world war one where he was brought up by his protestant mother they left Germany for Sweden but in the mid-thirties he was called up for the Wehrmacht. So they went on the run around Europe before ending up in London in 1939 where he published his second novel under the name John Grane and the original title was  The man who took trains. This and his debut novel didn’t come out in German until a few years ago this is a new translation of the book that follows the events on Kristallnacht written shortly after that night Ulrich captures the chaos but also the loss of personal identity for our main character otto Silbermann.

I’m living as though I weren’t a jew, he thought, somewhat incredulously. For this time being I’m simply a well-to-docitzen- under threat, it’s true, but as of yet unscathed. How is this possible ? I live in a modern six room apartment, People talk to me and treat me as though I were one of them. They act as if i’m same person I used to be, the liars – it’s  enough to give a man a guilty conscience. Whereas I’d like to show them a clearer picture of reality, namely that as if yesterday I’m something different because I am a Jew. And who did I used to be? no-who am I , really A swear word on two legs, one that people mistake for something else!

It dawns of Otto what has happened and how the world is changing.

The action opens just after Kristallnacht has just happened in Berlin and it has finally dawned on Otto Silbermann a successful Jewish businessman that runs a factory just about until now he thought he was going to avoid the worst of what was happening he isn’t overly Jewish looking and had a German wife. But when he meets his partner Becker after the night as he talks he notices the difference in his manner and later at a hotel he had been going to for years he sees how people treat him differently.  But this single night has turned the world around him to one he doesn’t know and he now must try and get money for his business and try and find a way out of Germany what follows is a wonderful portrayal of a man on the run as he sells his business for a pittance and then goes on the run on train after train rides as he crisscrosses Germany trying to connect with old friends and work a way out of German even at one point he gets to a border but is then turned back into the heart of Nazis Germany. There is a sense of the world shrinking around Otto as he sees who are his true friends and acquaintances are and those that now despise him as it shows the way the Nazis manipulated people.

Silbermann’s coat pockets were bulging out from all the bills, so he went to a shop to buy a briefcase, after making the purchase he realized it was already 6:55, so he dashed to the nearest post offive, where he too a form from the telegragh counter and sent a local telegram to his wife. Because he was worried about returnuning to his apartment, he asked her to meet him in a cafe close to home.

When he left the post office he wondered what he should do with the forty-one thousand five hundered marks he has recovered. He decided no to dwell on the matter of Becker and how deeply his former friend had disappointed him although that did little to stave off his painful, depressing reflections.

AS he starts to go on the run with the money from his buisness and the loss of his friends

This is a classic thriller that goes at full pace as we see Otto trying to get away, of course, the train and escape is a nod towards John Buchan in a way Hannay of course tries to escape the spies that are following him on a train to Scotland. Then he has taken a large linch of Kafka as the world he is living in becomes a maze of these train journeys as he tries to escape and avoid being seen as Jewish the world he knows is changing to a Kafkaesque nightmare before him as door after door gets shut in front of him. Otto is the every Jews Man of Berlin after that night trying to escape the collapsing world around them in Otto case he has the fact he can pass as Aryan but it still means his papers are showing him as Jewish. Another gem from Pushkin and I feel there are still more books out there waiting to be rediscovered that like this haven’t aged the book actually feels modern and the pace it is told at is wonderful we get caught up in the chaos of that world.

Winstons score – +A a true gem rediscovered

The Melting by Lize Spit

The Melting by Lize Spit

Belgium fiction

Original title – Het Smelt

Translator Kristen Gehrman

Source – review copy

This book was a big hit around Europe when it came out Lize spit debut novel won Hebban debut fiction prize and was snapped up for a film within days of it coming out which isn’t surprising at the Brussels film school she studied screenwriting there is a strong cinematic feel to the book. She said in an interview on the flemish literature site that she grew up in a house where there was no Tv till she was eleven and she grew up reading books after school and would run home every day to find out what was going in the books she was reading. What she has done here is taken to classic genres The coming of age novel and a thriller as we meet Eva a woman with a secret in her past.

In the summer of 1993, right before Laurens, pim and I finished preschool and started kindergarten,a letter was sent around to all of the teachers at the primary school and our six parents: a meeting had been planned , and the presence was required.

In the meeting, Beatrice the school principal, got right to the point. How it was possible that only three babes were borning 1988? Was it the cold winter, the hot summer, the black monday tyhe previous October that made couple take it easy in the bedroom for a while? Why were so few children born that year? Her school was the smallest in the region, with an average class size of ten(One of its greatest assests in her oponion)

So from an early age the the three Musketeers were together since a very young age !

There is a huge block of ice in the back of Eva’s car as she is heading back to the small town she grown up in she had an invite to a new milking parlor opening which has become a large event in the small town. The invite is from Pim one of her two best friends growing up. Pim lost his older brother as they were growing up something that Eva in the present keeps thinking about as she heads home for the first time in a long time. Laurens her other friend the three of them called themselves the three musketeers as they started growing into men and women one summer they started to ask each girl in the village a question about the sort of things kids do as they are discovering themselves and entering puberty. The story unfolds in the past that summer that it all changed for the three main characters the reason Eva has the ice in her car and her wanting revenge for the day her world changed. Then we see the present as Eva heads back to her family which is a mother that never stood up to her father a dominant man and thus this made her older sister a neurotic. As the ice slowly melts what happened is told and what will happen is told side by side.

Pim’s parents always let us play anywhere we wanted on the farm, but there were four places that were off-limits: the left side of the hayloft (The hay was too thin there, and we might fall through), the garage with the floor pit(the wood cover was rotten and dangerous). The septic tank grates in the old cowshed(no longer reliable), and the white mounds, That they were never given a reason for the last one, We were simply told that they were forbidden territory, even though they looked so innocent and inviting.

Once at a birthday party, Laurens rested his foto on the white plastic. Pim yanked him to the ground by the hood of his jacketso hard that it ripped off the snaps.

What are the white Mounds in the famers fileld that is now Pims field

The use of the two timelines is so well-paced the past unfolds as we see Eva heading in the present back into her past as she heads home for the first time the past is a tale of growing up but like over tales from Lord of the Flies to something like the dinner what happens when those events when young men and women are at that turning point in their puberty where a single moment can change the course of a number of lives this is what happened here the second timeline is a wonderful slow-burning thriller storyline of revenge viewed through Eva’s eyes as she heads home after 13 years. I said in the first part that she had studied screenwriting you can see and also her love of reading books that left her wanting more there is a lot of chapters ends here that make you want to read on. She has also used that twist that has been in a number of thrillers that have been made into films in recent years In particular two I’m thinking of are gone girl and the girl on the train which also in films at least had various strands to the storyline. but also had similar pacing to this book I can see why the film rights sold straight away the characters are painted well enough but it is the action and eye for detail she has that make it flows off the page so if you’d like a cocktail of gone girl, lord of the flies with a dab of Dumas thrown in this is the book for you.

Winstons Score – B a solid thriller with a great coming of age tale in a small farming village.

 

 

Blind man by Mitja Čander

Blind man by  Mitja Čander

Slovenian fiction

Original title – Slepec

Translator – Rawley Grau

Source –  review copy

In a podcast, Mitja described himself as a man with three titles the first and his main one for most of his life was as an essayist and literary critic which he did to his 40s then he decides to start helping organize large cultural events such as the city of culture in Maribor and various book events. Then in his last role, he became a director of the publishing house Beletrina. He himself like the main character in his book has always had a problem with his own sight the book came out of his memoir then he decided to make it into a novel. After he got feedback from a well-known Slovenian playwright.

I handed the grocery bags to my wife, sat down at the kitchen table , and pcked up the newspaper. I glanced through the headlines.

“could you bring me something to eat, please? I’m starving, I said without looking up.

She stopped putting the foodaway in the fridge

“They gave you rotten lemos again!

“It happens”I answered calmly. “I doubt it was intentional.”

“This is the second time now. Not long ago iot was the bannas. Those ladies have good eyesight, you know.”

“I’m sorry, but I’m hungry ”

I trusted people on princilpe. I trusted them to always give me back the correct change.

The rotten lemons again this is another passaged that made me laugh

Like tMitja himself the main character is a successful book editor and critic and has been severely impaired vision since his childhood. Thou he has never been part of that blind community so when his vision starts to get worse. He is married and his wife is an editor and translator they live their lives we get some insights like when he shops for the house and returns with fruit and veg she says the people in the shop that gave him the worst produce. This is how he has lived to try to avoid his blindness but after trying to give a talk to a blind group and then is told to apply for funds for his blindness. Then when he doesn’t he appeals but this process ends up being invited into politics and to join and talk to a  party called the front this then grows and becomes the main party in Slovenia and our narrator is invited to join the government and start to organize a large event rather like the city of culture project but this is a huge concept of what will happen in future but the project is underfunded and is maybe a view of the country its self in the 30 years that followed the setting up of Slovenia as an independent country

“You get more beautiful every time I see you!”

“you say that, but you’re half-blind, you know – you don’t see wrinkles, the circles under my eyes, or the other blemishes…but thanks anyway, dear”

In my eye women with truly long hair automatically had an advantage. When we were stdying world literature at university, and even later, when we would bumpo into each other now and thenn, she had always kept her hair short, or medium length at most, Our most important lectures had been in the evening, and they were often the prelude to a long night, she had been one of the most avid oartiers I knew, and no jealous boyfriend could ever comvience her it was time to go to bed, Her boyfriends in fact, had always been somewhere far way,either studying in foreign lands or foreigners themselves, guys she had met travelling or on student exchanges.

I loved the opening of this chapter a compliment or was it !

 

The first part of the book seems to be based on Mitja own life he is blind but he has never been in the government but has been involved in the fact he had organized these large cultural events he has seen how politicians are at first hand. So this is a thinly veiled look at how Slovenia has been since they began so our narrator is impaired in his vision and many in the government has been short-sighted or impaired. There is a great use of language and humor in the book he says in the podcast he used to tell anecdotes you can see some of them grow out into the text a sense of humor and satire of his own life and the world he lives in. He also said he used short sentences in this novel. The descriptive way is described is well caught as that of a man with impaired vision ( having worked and often chatted with a man that lost his vision slowly like Mitja the veg story remind me of a story he told me of making breakfast when his wife had mistakenly put peaches in the place of tomatoes so when he ate his breakfast it was hot peaches, not tomatoes!, also the mapmaking we spent many months walking into the village where I worked till he eventually walked himself remind me of our narrator talking about his blindness in the office )so the world is seen through his prism it is a man trying to work out his place in the world the kafkaesque quest for a grant shows what makes us blind in the eyes of government what happens when you are blind but can see! What happens when those running a country get blinded by their own shining lights rather than what is in front of them a brilliant insight into Slovenia a man that strides both sighted and impaired world but also is blind running a project that is too large and underfunded from a shortsighted government !! What happens like the many chess references in the book that a country plays out and ends up in a stalemate you go back to what point did it happen! a sort of satire of Slovenia!

Winstons score -A an insight into one man’s life that is a wider commentary on the world he lives in

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