Finally Holiday time

I have been missing a lot the last few months as I have just been running on empty two years of Covoid has been a lot. SO I have been counting down and now tomorrow Amanda and I finally get to have a long trip away we had a weekend away with family but this is our first break for over two years we had a couple of other plans curtailed due to lockdowns and restrictions over last year or so. So tomorrow we head north a last-minute change of destination we are going to Northumberland a place close to my heart as twenty-odd years ago I lived there for a couple of Years so when our plans change at the last minute a couple of weeks ago we opted for Northumberland. I even brought a guidebook as we look to do some new things this time we went a few years ago but this time we aim to do new things barring another day in Alnwick my old home town and home to the largest second-hand book shops in the Uk.  Barter books a shop that open when I lived there and had gone from the old waiting room of the station in Alnwick to the whole building over the years. This place was maybe the acorn of what I have become as a reader it was one of the first places I chanced on my reading experiences trying then unknown to me writers things like the Beats and some of my first translated writers. This was an age before the internet so a new writer was unknown to me as a reader no quick google search. A gem of a place. So a visit there it always feels like a rejuvenating experience. I have a pile of books with me and will be taking the laptop so may write a post or two if not I will be back and hit the ground running and reviewing in a little over a week. Has covid and the restriction hit your blogging or meant you can’t have a holiday? As we now face the world opening up again a=what are your plans moving forward

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Drilling Through Hard Boards by Alexander Kluge

Drilling Through Hard Boards by Alexander Kluge

German Political fiction

Original title – Das Bohren Harter Bretter

Translator – Wieland Hoban

Source – personal copy

This is the third book by the German writer Alexander Kluge I have read he is fast becoming one of my favorite writers this collection caught my eye as it is slightly different it was a collection of 133 political stories. This is including a couple stories from his fellow German writer Reinhard Jirgl as Kluge says telling stories is a very social activity. Kluge is one of those writers that isn’t easy to pigeonhole, he has so many talents he is both a member of the group 47 writers but is also a leading light of the New German cinema. Kluge has also written a lot of things for television. He is a truly unique talented individual and should be better known over here!

 A number of tourists arrive at the Federal chancellery steamboat jett. They do not want to visit the Federal chancellery but, rather, the HOUSE OF THE CULTURES OF THE WORLD. In front of this heritage protected building, two stalls offer Baked potatoes and Bratwurst respectively, accompanied by beerr. A band is rehearsing loudly for the evening on the roof of the building. They already knew how to use the loudspeakers before they start rehearsing. The rehersal serves to mark there territory in the culturual garden.

Maybe a sly look at how peoples nedds and views have changed in recent years

The book is divided into five rough categories of stories like in his other books he uses a style that is all his own he creates a sort of mosaic with his stories. They stretch from the mundane things like the description of the steamboat jetty near the Federal Chancellory one of the small vignettes that create bigger pictures through Il Duce intelligence. Obama this is Kluge he jumps from place to place each short piece. What he dies is mix the real and fake together. There is pieces from Jirgl which imagine the events around the  Keneady Krushchev meeting and what happened. Funny tales like the highest mountain taking a comment from Gorky and then explain that there was first Lenin peak then there had been a higher Stalin peak found. he moves from the mundane German politicians through Russian Politics and the events like Glasnost then minor observances like the Big wheel at Chernobyl set up at the time for the annual Mayday that stayed for years after. He also looks at how we view politics and those who serve us. The title comes from an observance from Max Weber described politics as ” a strong, slow drilling through hard boards with both passion and judgment “. this is what spurred Kluge to write this collection that makes the reader think like his other books.

The same organizational power that kept all sections of the USSr going was responsible for the annual preparations for LABOUR DAY, 1May, as well as the pouros planning (carelessness, techinical concentrates and disruption of responsibilties) that led to the ACCIDENT IN BLOCK 4 at Chernobyl on 26 pril 1986. The town had already been evacuated. But the leisure facilities for the 1 May celebrations, no longer noticed by anyone, were still set up. Towering above them was a striking big wheel that stayed there for another two years because no one dared take own this contaminated device. It stood there rigidly waiting for te rust in the coming winter. The mute witness to a memorieal day and the scenic ruin, covered by invisible lava, of the technological district: TWO POLTICALLY OPPOSING SIGNS OF HUMN LABOUR.

A nugget of information a small footnote in history the MAY day wheeel left after the disaster in Chernobyl

Kluge is a hummingbird of a writer he likes to fly from flower to flower he has a mind that seems to never rest. The book is one of those that like his fellow German writer Sebald that defies pigeonholes and like Sbebald he loves to mix fiction, non-fiction biography, and photos the images help build with the stories and vignettes. it becomes like a web of knowledge an interconnection tube map of stops that lead us one way and then back and then cross over. All in all,  It makes us all think about what is politics what does it serves and also lifts the lid on the post-war german years. Also the philosophy of politics and the history of politics. this is what I have come to expect from Kluge his books have left me as a reader feeling like I have been to a buffet or like a cosmos where there is a bit of everything you are full the food is rich and the here his ideas small large the vignettes from a few lines to a few pages each can lead you one a different tangent of thought. Have you ever read Kluge? if so which shall I try next.

Winston score – B thought-provoking work from a writer that needs to be better known in the UK

 

 

To see out the night by David Clerson

To see out the night by David Clerson

Quebec fiction

Original title –  Dormir sans tête

Translator – Katia Grubisic

Source – review copy

If you have followed this blog over the last couple of years. You will know how much I have loved the books that the Canadian publisher QC fiction has been bringing out. Here is the second book by one of my favorite writers David Clerson his book The brothers is a strange tale of two brothers on is made from the limb of his bigger brother here we have a collection of twelve short stories by Clerson. I decide to review it as early as I could get away with as like his earlier novel these stories are a real treat to the reader.

The summer was unbearably hot. Louis’s apartment was an oven, and he sat in the sweltering heat reading about primates. He learned that orangutans were solitary and territorial, that they ate fruit, shoots,eggs,insects, and invertebrates, and that they are constantly on the move building a new nest of branches every night. The cries of the males were powerful, and could be carry over a kilometer or kore. Louis could almost here them in the distance. The fangs of an ape in one photograph terrified.He saw others, victims of hunters or held in poacher cages

He vecomes obsessed and feels an ape with in him as he learns more about the great apes.

I am not a huge short story fan as the blog will show I have reviewed a few collections but my real love is novels except when in this case it is one of those writers I have loved in the past like Clerson so this collection really appealed to me as a reader and fan of books from Quebec on the whole.  So We start with the story of Louis he is a security guard that watches a show about orangutans and over time sees himself becoming like an ape over time as he starts to lose touch with the world first he loses his job then he loses his house and ends up living wild almost like an ape that is within him. Then we have tales about a writer and the next one story that grabbed me is a tale of a secret underground city hidden in Montreal in a way a sort of sly nod and joke towards and maybe at  Toronto’s Path system the series of tunnels walkways and underground passages that link that city up as a pascal discovers the city under the city is a maze of passages and secret tooms and secrets below the city. Then we have stories of woods and death there is always a sense of transition in the stories of becoming something at times of want to change. A really surreal tale of the dog with no head which in a way reminds me of the brothers a tale of a dog born with no head and its care is a bizarre tale that ranks along with the oddest stories I have ever read.

Clara’s dog was born without a head one July morning, during the hottest days of summer. The mother had whelped by the cedar hedge in one of the few shady spots in theyard, flies buzzing around ger, The bitch died as her only baby was being born. Paul the fat guy who lived nearby , had come to watch. Maybe , paul suggeted, the animals head had stayed trapped in the mother’s body in her womb. Paul’s twin sons laughed when they heard his explination. When they got back home, they drew pictures in marker of huge bellies filled with animal heads. But clara held the puppy inher hands, talking to him where his head would have been, as if she’d ben whisering into the shell of an ear.

The opening of the story the dog without a head a bizzare tale of a dog with no head and his owner.

If you loved the brother it is easy to say you will like this collection it has a dash of Kafka “dark twisted lives and sense of not know quite what is going on” and Will Self at his best years ago ” like his grey area where it had a feeling like this at times” then add a pinch of the surreal humor of comics like league of gentlemen and  noel fielding those dark corners of comedy and tragedy. there is a theme of man and animal whether becoming a beast or insect or caring for a dog with no head the connection with nature and man at times is dark here. I loved this it is a collection that will last long in the reader’s mind. Another gem from QC is a great evening read the stories are all short 12 pages being the longest stories in the collection. What is your favorite short stories? Winstons score – A+ just perfect

Come with me by Nicola Viceconti

Come with me Nicola Viceconti

Italian fiction

Original title – Vieni Via

Translator – Laura Bennett

Source – review copy

I have reviewed one book from the new publisher Aspal Prime that has here a prize-winning Italian novel from the writer-poet and sociologist Nicol Viceconti a writer of over ten books. A lot of his works have focussed on Latin America where he has worked particularly in Argentina where he was award an honor by the people of Buenos Aires and was called an Italian with an Argentina soul. He likes to travel and has a real interest in Human rights his writing has been called Novelas por la identidad”  which means in search of identity here it is an old professor looking at his past as he hunts an old flame.

Someone had taken Irina to Vladivostok, away from me forever. What if that was really happed, I wondered in a low voice.

Even just the vey thought of this theory sent a shiver down my spine. I dropped the coat on the floor and, still clutching the note in my hand, sank into the chair ]. I closed my eyes and fell back into the seat. I began to wonder about what had haoopend to her. While my eyes followedthe words from one side of the paper to the pther. I heard their sound, as if she was saying them. Suddenly eveything had imagined about her vainshed, bursting like a bubble.

The note is found is his imagined version of what happened right or was it different

Eighty-year-old franco Solfi had completely forgotten about a young Russian girl he had met in the sixties when he was a communist in Paris and not as tainted as he was now.  when she disappeared he thought she had died Irina. But when he finds an old note, that had been left for him in a coat he hadn’t used since that time and the discovery is like a Proustian Madeline as it reignites something he had forgotten.  he is convinced it is a sign and decides to go on a journey to discover what happened to Irina a journey that goes into the past and mix history the cold war and these two peoples journeys as he first goes to Paris and then into what was Irina Homeland as he tries to discover the truth about what happened all those years ago was it was he imagined was all that it seemed at the time as this is a flip of being a communist in the Paris and living under communism in the sixties in Russia the trip will take him to Moscow then through to Siberia and then even to Mexico city. Will he find out if Irina is alive will the present heal the past?

I decided to travel by tain for two reasons: on the one hand I wanted to enjoy the landscape of Europe I had almost forgotten on the other, I needed to give myself the time needed to reflect on some episodfes of my life spent with Irina, A thrity six hour journey seemed to take stock of the situation before I suddenly found my self catapulted into the past.

I have always lived travelling by train. I must have inherited the passion for it frommy uncle Renato, my father’s brother, who spent fifty years of his life as a train driver on the line that went from Rome to the lake as Castel Gandolfo. It was the fifties and to the delight of romans, this, one of the most scenic routes in central Italy had recently been open.

He heads into his past as he tries to foind put what happened to Irina all those years ago.

One of the things I have found over the years is there are so many books not translated you only have to look at the blog the untranslated that covers those gems that have yet to find a translator or have been signed up and never got to us in English so many great books await us so we have books like this a writer that has published a number of books but given his style which is a mix of Latin American and Italian in his style. this book finishes in Mexico and this is all parts that he wanted to bring into the bok the militants of the sixties a certain type of Italian that is marked by Franco then he wants to touch on certain events in Mexico in the 40s, 50s and 60s and then he wanted to use Irina as a way of connecting all these ideas as we follow Franco as he looks for her and in a way discovers what happened to make him the disillusioned 80 years old he is on a quest a short of Odessey into the truth. This is another perfect example of why small publishers do such a great job.

Winstons Score – B is a gem about one man’s journey into his past

But you did not come back by Marceline Loridan-Ivens

But you did not come back by Marceline Loridan-Ivens

French Memoir

Original title Et tu n’es pas revenu

Translator – Sandra Smith

Source – Personal copy

I found this slim memoir in a charity shop and was gripped by the description the book is a memoir of the life of the writer Marceline Rozenberg she was born to Polish parents as the family moved to France after world war one, she thought in the french resistance. Along with her father, she was deported to the concentration camp at Auschwitz – Birkenau on the same train as Simone Veil. when she arrived she was separated from her father this is the kernel that gave the book its title. After the war, she married twice hence her double-barrelled name her second husband was the Documentary filmmaker Joris Ivens she was a communist and made films in China but fell foul of the regime.

I wa quite a cheerful person, you know, in spite of what happened to us. We were happy in our own way, as a revenge against sadness , so we could still laugh. People liked about me . But I’m canging. It isn’t bitterness, I’m not bitter, it’s just as if I were already gone. I listen to the radio, to the news, so I’m often afraid because I know what’s happening. I don’t belong here anymore. Perhaps it’s an acceptance of dearth, or a lack of will I’m slowing down.

And so I thin about you.I can picture the note you managed to get to me back there , a stained little scrap of paper almost rectangulas, torn on one end. I can see you writing, slanted to the right, anxd four or five sentences that I can no longer remember.I ‘m sure of one line the first  ” My Darking Girl”

The words have gone but she remembers the piece of paper so well after all this time.

The book talks about how she ended up in the camp and that she had been split from her father. Later on, she gets a note from him this is the last she hears from her father. This short note was passed on by an Electrician an act of kindness in the madness. That haunts her and the fact that time has washed away the words. The book is about the loss of a void in her life. as she passes her father’s life in France that undercurrent of antisemitism that had been there before that I have read in other books set in Provincial France at the time. and then later her own as a testament to surviving the horror of the camp this is a short book but powerful an unflinching look at the horrors told without sugar to sweeten it to us as a reader the camp is brought to life and the effect like others that were there it spurred her on but also at times it made life after war horrific as the past haunted the present after the war but she also gives a voice to herself and her father.

I don’t know how much time passed between those two moments, those two estures, the last between us.Several months, I think. Perhaps less. You remembered my block number. The first in the rw closet to the crematorium, and you had the message brought to me. You didn’t ign it “PApa” but your first name, in Yiddish, “Sholime” ghat became Solomon in Fance you had returned to the land where you were born, which hadn’t waited for the nazis to persecute the jews; you surely needed toi affirm your identity, your Jewishness, in this universe where we were nothing more than Stucke:things.Perhaps you even found some relatives again in the camp, cousins in Poland who alway called you Shilome still today, whenever I hear the word “Papa”, I’m startled, even seventy five years later

Her father polish used his originl Yiddish name in the note.

I loved this it is a perfect evening read it is what  Meike would call a movie in a book it took as long as an average movie to read. There is a place for Holocaust literature there can never have enough to remember what happened this is a highly personal almost letter from marceline to a father to make up for the fact she had seen the note but time had made those words dissolve of the page. There is a filmmaker’s eye to the words and images here. Marceline’s second husband was Joris Ivens the Dutch filmmaker and a man that made movies alongside Chris Maker at times had a style of documentary filmmaking that we see here in her words a clarity that is no holds barred in the world she saw and lived in. Another powerful voice in the gallery of Holocaust literature. Have you read this powerful little book ?

Winstons score – Just read it any work from  Holocaust survivors is worth reading to remember what happened!!

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