Among the Almond trees by Hussein Barghouthi

Among the Almond trees by Hussein Barghouthi

Palestinian Memoir

Original title – Sa’ akin bayn al-Lawz

Source – personal copy

I wanted to add a lot more arabic literature this year but have failed so far I looked at a list from Arablit where they had some books coming out this year and this was one that was mentioned although I had to wait ages for it to arrive as the publication got pushed back of I had to wait for a reprint maybe. What had caught my eye about this book was the description which remind me of one of my fav orate books from year ago I saw Ramallah from Mourid Borghouti which was one of my favourite books and now years later sticks with me with the images of a man returning to his home of Ramallah after many years away. This has a similar premise we see Hussein come home to the countryside around Ramallah where he grew up. But this is a man that is near the end of his life coping with terminal cancer. He had Taught in Europe mainly in Hungary and was the found of the House of Poets in Palestine and also worked on a number of literary magazines. he passed away twenty years ago.

After an absence of thirty years I have returned to live in the countryside near Ramallah – “returned to the beauty that had been betrayed” I had exiled myself from my beginnings and chosen to live as an expatriate. I am one who has perfected “Beginnings” but not” endings”. My return therefore is an imperfect ending

The opening paragraph I was so touched with the ending comment to face death is so hard

As the translator says h=in his intro this is a man struggling with lymphoma and it is his thoughts of life and art but also how he is going to die and ascending into heaven. He has returned to a place that he left thirty years earlier he is near the end of his life and as we follow him as he walks out in the countryside around Ramallah the past and present and future all blend as he walks in the shadows of those almond trees in the day ion the night as he looks back and forward. The book is a poets looking and gathering the final curtain of his life the people he knew his wife and young child his parents. The mountains as memories of his youth flood in as we see a memory of place open up. as we see what was more wilderness in his day now changed but he still finds the wild parts of the area and the Monastery which look large in the story. He talks about people having country and cities of there names as he sees his city in the book.

Among my friends would be Ali Baba and Enkidu, and all those who were born and loved and lived in stories, Stories are the windows of the Spirit and the imagination. When, for example, quaddura spreads his abs on the roof of the monastery and sang and played his rabbi, looking out moonlit wadis, on orchards ploughed planted, on wide obscure distances, he opened a window for his voice in the moonlight space and his voice occupied an eternal domain. His song would then become the city of his name

Where are you from ?

I’m from the country of windows

Stories is often how people are remembered when they pass !

This is a short memoir of a man who has come home to far e the ghost of his past a poet a writer this book is a man looking at a police he once knew and reliving the past as he faces the end and trying to remember the past the translator mentions this as a work as a memory of place the ghosts of our past. I am someone that remembers most events in my life and the places they happen I am haunted and often relive them like Hussein does when he returns after all the years away from his homeland. It remind me of Sebald at time the way he used place to link to the past. This is one of two works he wrote near the end of his life they are both coming out from seagull book the other book Blue light is a flip of this book as it is set around his journey from Seattle with a homeless madman. This book is different to I saw Ramallah as  this is a lot more personal and lot more around the view of the end of your life. But it has the same feeling of loss in the past and returning to find the world you once knew gone or just there as ghosts in your memory. This is a powerful work of memoir of a man facing death. Do you have a favourite book set in Palestine ?

Winstons score – +A touching and sad memoir from a poet

Advertisement

To sir with love by E R Braitithwaite

To sir with love by E R Braithwaite

Guyanese fiction

Source – personal copy (on kindle)

I posted my interest in the Jubilee reading list and this is one of the books on the list it appealed as I hadn’t reviewed a book from Guyana and I have never seen the film and it is rare I’ve not seen the film to a book especially when it is a well known film so I decided to read to then hopefully at a later date I will be able to see the film. Anyway E r Braithwaite Had studied in New your before he joined the RAF this is where this novel starts as it is autobiographical.He like the character in his book went to the Uk after the war. We see his struggle and how he Fell into teaching this lead to him have a long connection in. the education system where he worked for a number of years along side his writing career as a educational consultant for UNESCO. He actually lived to the ripe old age of 104 when he passed in 2016.

The bus pulled away from the stop, but I remained standing there, feeling suddenly depressed by the prospect around me. I suppose I had entertained some naïvely romantic ideas about London’s East End, with its cosmopolitan population and fascinating history. I had read references to it in both classical and contemporary writings and was eager to know the London of Chaucer and Erasmus and the Sorores Minores. I had dreamed of walking along the cobbled Street of the Cable Makers to the echoes of Chancellor and the brothers Willoughby. I wanted to look on the reach of the Thames at Blackwall from which Captain John Smith had sailed aboard the good ship Susan Lawrence to found an English colony in Virginia. I had dreamed. . . .

Braithwaite, E. R.. To Sir With Love (Vintage Classics) (p. 9). Random House. Kindle Edition.

His dream ideas and reality hit one another

The book follows Ricky Braithwaite a fthinly veiled version of the writer himself and the book opens as he is in the Rf and is getting demobbed where he struggles with getting a job in the field he is trained for from his RAF job as an engineer so struggling he takes the one job he can get as a teacher in an East end school. The school is eye opening for Ricky as the students aren’t ike he was as they struggle to read and learn this along with the fact he is constantly tease and disrupt with noise and other things by the students. Then he worries about the female students and their periods. This see him try a new approach where he want to show them there is more to life and with Gillian another young teacher he tries to show them Museums and the wider world. As the two teacher grow closer. His methods work but not everyone sees that as some prefer the old fashioned tough approach to the students and the way the behave.

The smells arose from everything, everywhere, flowing together and remaining as a sickening, tantalizing discomfort. They flowed from the delicatessen shop with its uncovered trays of pickled herrings, and the small open casks of pickled gherkins and onions, dried fish and salted meat, and sweaty damp walls and floor; from the fish shop which casually defied every law of health; from the Kosher butcher, and the poulterer next door where a fine confetti of new plucked feathers hung nearly motionless in the fetid air; and from sidewalk gutters where multitudes of flies buzzed and feasted on the heaped-up residue of fruit and vegetable barrows.

Braithwaite, E. R.. To Sir With Love (Vintage Classics) (p. 9). Random House. Kindle Edition later on the same and next page this evoked for me Call the midwife so much in this description of the smell of the East End!!

This is a book that opens the eye to attitudes in post war Britain and how they changed for Braithwaite character from the time he was in the RAF in the war where he felt that he was an equal the shocking crash to earth afterwards where the doors close. But that lead to him teaching and that was a passion he had all his life. I loved the descriptions in the book of theEast End of the day it was similar in feel to the early series of Call the midwife in fact as I reed through the book I imagine the class full of the students and kids seen in that show. It shows what one person can do to change those pupils life it is a look at the old system of teaching that was around discipline to what were newer ideas to nourish and inspire pupils which is what I always try to do here. I really want to watch the film which I haven’t seen or if I had I can’t remember this sits along side the early wind rush books as showing how it was to come to the Uk from Guyana or the Caribbean in those post war years when the were hopes for a better life often dashed like early in Ricky’s time but some do like Ricky make a way and become a success.I would love to read another book that was written by one of his former pupils to see how he viewed the experience of Ricky teaching him. Have you read this book ?

Winstons score – -A an interesting ;book at post war Britain and education from a teacher struggling to teach and be accepted.

That was the month that was May 2022

  1. The people opposite by Georges Simeon
  2. Canzone Di Guerra by Daša Drndić
  3. Cigarette by Per Hagman
  4. Solo Dance by Li Kokomi
  5. Standing Heavy By GauZ

Well I had returned to work and had a week off with Amanda this month so it was going be a short trip of the books IO read we started with a Early Simeon that is his most political work that came after a visit to the Soviet Union at the time. Then a woman tries to trace her father past and the past of Croatia and those that left from her home in Canada. Then a slice of being young and living your life to the max. Then a Taiwan office workers life as she tries to balance her past and her present and hiding her sexuality at work. Then those guards we see but never think about in a debut novel from a writer for Ivory Coast his first of many I hope. A slow month. Elsewhere we announced the Shadow winner of the Booker International and I decided it is time to move on after ten year I will be bring a new spin to it all myself with a new idea. I am trying to be more open to what I read and much keener on trying books I have missed.

Book of the Month

It was a hard month I read five books and they are all great books but I love Dasa work and this is another gem from the late great Writer that tackles the years from the end of the world war tow the Tito year and the Yugoslavian war the knock on effect of trying too escape and form a new life in Canada but also what were the traditions and past of your own personal history.

Other things

Well I visited York, Cheshire, and the cotswolds this month when we had time off together so did lots of small trips. Elsewhere I am nearing the end of watching all the Grantchester series which I’ve slowly been working through for a few month a bit of comfort tv which is good as  I returned to work end of last month,  so I’ve been taking things slow after 10 weeks off I am nervous about returning it is slowly lifting but this is third week of being back to normal shifts. So I now feel settled back somewhat and hope to get to normal with work.

Next month

Although my reviewing has been slow this last couple of months I have actually read 54 books this year so I have 18 books to review so I will be ramping up my reviewing this month I have seen how the blogger Simon at the blog  stuck in a book has done a book a day all this month on his blog. Now I Don’t think I can do that but I am inspired to try and up the amount of reviews next month . I will be reading a mix of  old and new books as I Tend to more these day in my reading. As this approach will suit the  couple of challenges I have set myself  not to complete just to add a few books on the edge of what I would normally read like crime like some older books and those modern classics I never got too back in the day. Reading is such a wonderful journey we are like yachts tacking as the wind fills are sails and then sometime drops and we have change the sail so it is with my reading ring the high seas of world literature!!

What are your plans next month ?

Standing Heavy by GauZ

Standing Heavy by Gauz

Ivorian Literature

Original title – Debout-Payé

Translator – frank Wynne

Source – Copy

Well it seems apt to review a book that frank has translated the day after we all watched him announce the Booker international winner last night this is the first book for a few month I have read that Frank has worked on this jumped out with its eye catching(lol) cover art. It is the debut novel by the Ivory Coast writer Gauzthe pen name of writer Patrick Armand-Gbaka Brede. As a young man he loved the books of Amadou Kourouma and Louis Ferdinand Celine and has also said the Maryse Conde and Romain Gary have influenced his writing. This was his debut novel and came after he had spent a number of years living in France and it follows a number of fellow Ivorians over three generations. as they try to get by in France.

THE BLIND WOMAN
Accompanied by her husband, her daughter and her dog, a blind woman is doing the sales. The man chatters to her constantly; his accent is from somewhere in the South of
France, and he speaks in precise, carefully constructed sentences. She spends time stroking the fabrics in order to make her choice. From time to time, he gently places his hand
on hers to steer her in the right direction. Another couple compelled to touch. Another display of tenderness. Another relationship based on co-dependency. The woman’s disability enhances the communication of those around her.

One of the character pen pictures we get throughout the book.Here about a Blind woman in the shop.

As I said the bookfollows three generations of a men as they arrive in Paris from the Ivory Coast and how over time they have often end as Security guards as they try to get by with out the right papers. The first in the 60s is Ferdinand(A nod to Celine I wonder) His story remind me of the wind rush literature I have read recently for he like many in those oaks arrived full of hope only to have it dashed. Then in the 90s We follow two Ivorians as they see a Paris in Flux then we have some that maybe is some like Gauz himself that’s traveled in the millennium years and ends up as the all seeing eyes of the security guard. Now that is a quick breeze through those three for me the part of the book is the little vignettes that we get a sort off Guards speak and Knowledge names customers etc what we get is a satirical view of their mundane lives but how they see all there but as so often not see by most shoppers barring the Arab princess.He capture the comradely but also the struggles of the immigrants.

 Security Guards in the Movies

In the tens of thousands of movies and B-Movies that have been made since the Lumber brothers first made The arrival of a train at La ciotart, no security guard has ever been shown as a hero. On the contrary, security guards are usually the characters who quickly and casually killed off as part of the hero’s plan to get final confirmation with the bad guy in the last scene

The Last scene of Brain De Palm’s scarface, when Tony Montana’s house is attacked is a perfect example of the senseless slaughter of security guards in cinema

They are sometime like the Guys in the red uniform in the first series of Star Trek a one episode Job!!

I enjoyed this is as I regularly work with some agency staff at work everyday who work along side us and there to help with the risks we have with a patient and a number of them are from Nigeria and Ghana and when they chat about there work and lives it struck a chord with Gauz  characters and their stories and shows how certain jobs end mainly being done by African immigrants as they are just suited and have the skills for them. So I love it when you connect to works of fiction on a personal level and this especially when it is in books of translation so when these guys chatted it felt like some of the chats we have at work.I loved his eye for detail those little vignettes and pen pictures about what they see and how they work but also however time you can read people so well. It is an insight into those guards. I mean how often do we see them  apart from as it is point out those Babies always seem to smile or they try to make them smile. Now this is Gauz Debut novel and as Tony mentioned in his review he has written another book that sort of flips the story here as it follows a white man in the Ivory Coast in the 19th century. Which I we may hopefully see.If you are after a satirical look at life as a Guard in Paris. Do you know any other novels that highlights those people that we pass unseen in jobs that are there but we don’t see the cleaner, waiters, etc. A great new voice and one I hope we see more from him and Frank has brought this vibrant book to life.

Winstons score – +A an insight to that man in the corner of the shops in Paris.

Shadow winner is for the last time for me

 

For the first time I have read but haven’t reviewed our winner it has been a strange year. We have spent time discussing books I had time to read the list as I was off work with stress but my focus hasn’t been around for months so I feel upset I hadn’t covered the winner we choose and still have books to review from the list. I will get to them but as time is over to review them we choose as our winner

Cursed Bunny by Bora Chung translator – Anton Hur

A collection of stories well written but just not my thing I loved a couple and will mention in my review as I have never been a horror fan but a couple I loved. It was a close winner and the other book that just got pipped at the post is

`Tomb of Sand by Geetanjali Shree Translator – Daisy Rockwell For me this was my personal favourite by a head and shoulders of all there books and will long be a favourite read for this reader just stunning a woman lives on after her husbands death and starts to open up about her life it is just such a great book on so many levels. So I reach the end of another year and this will be my last with the shadow jury as I feel it is time to change things round I will be doing something else next year with some new people. I look forward to see who Frank and his pals have chosen I miss the old iffy days when I was there but its amazing how big this prize is now!!

What has been your favourite read from the lists this year and who do you think will win ?

Solo Dance by Li Kokomi

Solo Dance by Li Kotomi

Taiwanese/Japanese lit

Original title – 独り舞, Hitorimai

Translator – Arthur Reiji Morris

Source – Review copy

Over the years World editions have sent me some wonderful books and this is the latest from them and it is a gem it is written by Li Kotomi a Taiwanese writer that lives in Japan she has written in both her native Mandarin and Japanese which she started to study when she was 15 and went to university in Japan to study and has lived there since this was her debut novel in Japanese . She is known for addressing LGBT issues in her fiction and has won a number of prize last year she was the first writer to win the Akutagawa prize(aOne of the largest Japanese book prizes previous winners include most of the best writers from Japan like Endo and Oe and more recently Sayaka Murata. The main Character in this book is also a Taiwanese woman living in Tokyo.

She was drawn to Danchen the moment she saw those eyes. Though she was to young to understand the meaning of eve in even its most basic sense, she knew that squirming, rolling wave of emotion in her chest was the same one felt between those fairy tale princes and princesses.

She spent her days watching Danchen but never managed to exchange a word with her.

To Young to see what this meant it haunts her still in her twenties this and other events in here years in Taiwan.

Cho has end up living in Japan and working in an Office but this Taiwanese woman has a number of events in her past that we find out as the book unfolds.She is just at them moment trying to blend in as she tries to hide her sexuality at work where the talk is all of marriage and kids, She is a woman that is walking a tightrope and is always looking into the abyss of death as we she what in her previous life made her leave her life in Tawian. To set up a new life in Japan a loss in her past of a girl she loved a girl she never told how she felt. which we see the after math of this event  in the middle of the book where the book shifts from the observance of her life to her inner most thoughts and diary of the time and the event that lead to her going to Japan the loss of a close friend that she was in love with. this and another event which locks her off just as she should bloom as she goes to university This is a book that has many threads office life trying to be yourself in a world where people are expected to conform. A look at grief , mental health and how death can lie round every corner.  It is about trying to escape but do we every really escape what has happened in our Past ?

Her solitary nature made a lot of the fellow students on her course uncomfortable around her. Unlike most of her classmates, she had been studying Japanese since Junior high school and had already progressed to reading a lot of Japanese literature in the original, making her top of the class. This only served to worsen her solitude. Tachung Girl’s Senior High School was prestigious, and so a lot of its students went on to study at National Taiwan University, which meant that news of the assault a few months ago had spread among the students in her degree course.

We what has happened  to Cho sets her apart that event just before University

The turning point as Javier Cercas put in his essay collection The blind spot he says a lot of great books have that point from has with the whale for ahab our waiting for Godot there is that event never seen that is the turning point here it is the death of a girl Danchen the aftermath of which with another even more horrific event  is the whole kernel of the book and how Cho ended up as the Cho we meet. But it is a look at grief unspoken grief. The pressure of hiding ones sexuality and also a novel about growing up it packs a punch in its 250 pages as we wind up this year booker international maybe I have read the first book from next years list ? I was also remind of the main event in this book the loss of the girl she was in love with at a young age is a similar story to that we find in Tarjei Vesaas The ice palace where we see a girl coping with the loss of a friend she was in love with. For me the book is like the Art piece Shedboatshed (where a shed was made into a boat then back to a shed ) The image of a person taken apart as this even has done and then like in the piece sailed across the water and then rebuilt on the other side not quite the shed to was !! this is about how we can never quite come back to what we were when that event happens like the death in this book it is always there ! Have you read this book or any other book set in Japan by a writer not from Japan ?

Winstons score – -A a book that sees how grief and hiding our true selves can eat us up !

Cigarette by Per Hagman

Cigarette by Per Hagman

Swedish fiction

Original title – Cigarett

Translator -Elinor Fahrman

Source – review copy

I have enjoyed all the books that Nordisk books have been bring out Duncan the owner seems to have great taste for the books he selects from Scandinavia. Her we have the debut novel from the Swedish writer `Per Hagman this caused a scandal when it first came out in the early nineties as the Local literary press say how can a serious publisher put out a book which is just a lost of nights out and drugs and one night stands and call it a novel. Per Hagman at the time maybe lived the life of the narrator of this book he early on in his career he made a living out working in restaurant whilst he worked as a freelance writer and dj at the same time. Cigarette was his debut novel he has since written 6 more novels his second novel Pool was made into a film. This is his debut in English.

Viktor arrives with four bottles of wine. He asks how far in we are and Micke says he’s on his fourth or fifth beer.

“Better hurry up then” He pulls a corkscrew out of his pocket and smile. Victor looks splendidly correct in his white shirt and black tie and expensive which corduroys. Probably has something to do with him being a secretary or something at some law firm.

One of the first nights out described in the books as they start drinking

The book follows our Narrator as we follow his life as he works as a waiter in the Hard Rock Cafe in Stockholm the year is 1989 (which is about the time I first start to go out so this remind me partly of my journey in my late teens and early twenties when I went out and drank most weekends) This is a man that like many of this generation works maybe that is just working he tries to get by then live it hard at night with the people he work Micke with those he has seen in the Hard Rock Cafe those pretty folks follows his nights out after work the girls . Then the flip side of that is also seen the connection with his parents when they visit also the past is a counter point to the drinking the drugs and the culture of the time  which Hagman shows his narrator doing. For me it was like falling back thirty years remember the way I avoid work at times and used to go out. What it captures is a age gone it is as I said in the intro just a auto fiction piece of. nights out. It is a world of Hedonism that maybe isn’t there anymore.

Start work at half nine. I’m pretty much the only one of the staff who didn’t go out the night before. everyone’s hangover and sluggish the final couple of hours and I find out the police raided the Pipeline last night and that Melody might be closing down.

Lunch starts and the daily special is fish burger and we joke about how disgusting it looks and hope it’s not the staff food.

There is always the Morning after the night before but he missed out (I thought about how the face of here where I have lived since my mid twenties the changing bars , clubs I wonder if the Stockholm of the book is still there I doubt it!!)

It is hard to describe the book as it is just nights out and it is compelling if like me that was your life in a small part it was the last gasp of a world before the smartphone took over. Hagman is known for this type of novel books that capture the hedonism of living at night of going out of one night stands drinking and drugs . I think this is a far away land to me know I rarely drink these days mainly my monthly or so lads night (well now afternoon out ) and I was never one for drugs. I have even been a non smoker for nearly 8 years(I love the Swedish cover of this book which has a nod to the old gitanes cigarette packing). this was a cult classic I can see why its a shame it didn’t come out at the time the 90s it would sat well along books from the likes of Irvine welsh, those early Will self books, Alex Garland  and Brett Easton Ellis ( what maybe was the culture of the time that lad culture that was just coming to the fore in the early 90s)  all capture in some part the hedonism and maybe last time we meet had sex and it wasn’t an app or such that have changed this world of dating and nights out for ever. I feel it is largely a work of Auto fiction it seems this may have been the writers own world in some part. so if you were a fan of some of the writers I have mentioned or just want a book describing being young in 90’s Stockholm this would be the book for you ? Have you a favourite book that touches your teen – twenties ?

Winstons score – A – A reminder of a bygone time and way of life a lost world of youth

Crime dagger Translation and the Queens jubilee read projects

I am best when I have an idea or  a project to make me blog.  but sometimes as it has happened with what should off been Archipelago books week which I missed. Anyway I have two personal projects I am keener on my own individual projects so when I got a email for the Crime dagger awards on the short list for the awards. Which features the Award for crime novels in Translation which had two books I had one I had read Bullet train and the other The rabbit factor.

CRIME FICTION IN TRANSLATION DAGGER

  • Hotel Cartagena, Simone Buchholz translated by Rachel Ward (Orenda Books)
  • Bullet Train, Kōtarō Isaka translated by Sam Malissa (Penguin Random House; Harvill Secker)
  • Oxygen, Sacha Naspini translated by Clarissa Botsford (Europa Editions UK Ltd; Europa Editions)
  • People Like Them, Samira Sedira translated by Lara Vergnaud (Bloomsbury Publishing; Raven Books)
  • The Rabbit Factor, Antti Tuomainen translated by David Hackston (Orenda Books)

So I order two from the net and one from the library and will read them over the next few weeks. I’m not timetabling myself it features two books from Orenda books who had sent me a lot of books in the past and have always been great promoters of crime in translation. Have you read any of the books on the list.

The complete Big Jubilee Read list

From 1952 to 1961

  • The Palm-Wine Drinkard – Amos Tutuola (1952, Nigeria)
  • The Hills Were Joyful Together – Roger Mais (1953, Jamaica)
  • In the Castle of My Skin – George Lamming (1953, Barbados)
  • My Bones and My Flute – Edgar Mittelholzer (1955, Guyana)
  • The Lonely Londoners – Sam Selvon (1956, Trinidad and Tobago/England)
  • The Guide – RK Narayan (1958, India)
  • To Sir, With Love – ER Braithwaite (1959, Guyana)
  • One Moonlit Night – Caradog Prichard (1961, Wales)
  • A House for Mr Biswas – VS Naipaul (1961, Trinidad and Tobago/England)
  • Sunlight on a Broken Column – Attia Hosain (1961, India)

From 1962 to 1971

  • A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess (1962, England)
  • The Interrogation – JMG Le Clezio (1963, France/Mauritius)
  • The Girls of Slender Means – Muriel Spark (1963, Scotland)
  • Arrow of God – Chinua Achebe (1964, Nigeria)
  • Death of a Naturalist – Seamus Heaney (1966, Northern Ireland)
  • Wide Sargasso Sea – Jean Rhys (1966, Dominica/Wales)
  • A Grain of Wheat – Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o (1967, Kenya)
  • Picnic at Hanging Rock – Joan Lindsay (1967, Australia)
  • The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born – Ayi Kwei Armah (1968, Ghana)
  • When Rain Clouds Gather – Bessie Head (1968, Botswana/South Africa)

From 1972 to 1981

  • The Nowhere Man – Kamala Markandaya (1972, India)
  • Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – John Le Carre (1974, England)
  • The Thorn Birds – Colleen McCullough (1977, Australia)
  • The Crow Eaters – Bapsi Sidhwa (1978, Pakistan)
  • The Sea, The Sea – Iris Murdoch (1978, England)
  • Who Do You think You Are? – Alice Munro (1978, Canada)
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams (1979, England)
  • Tsotsi – Athol Fugard (1980, South Africa)
  • Clear Light of Day – Anita Desai (1980, India)
  • Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie (1981, England/India)
  • Schindler’s Ark – Thomas Keneally (1982, Australia)

  • Beka Lamb – Zee Edgell (1982, Belize)
  • The Bone People – Keri Hulme (1984, New Zealand)
  • The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood (1985, Canada
  • Summer Lightning – Olive Senior (1986, Jamaica)
  • The Whale Rider – Witi Ihimaera (1987, New Zealand)The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro (1989, England)
  • Omeros – Derek Walcott (1990, Saint Lucia)
  • The Adoption Papers – Jackie Kay (1991, Scotland)
  • Cloudstreet – Tim Winton (1991, Australia)

From 1992 to 2001

  • The English Patient – Michael Ondaatje (1992, Canada/Sri Lanka)
  • The Stone Diaries – Carol Shields (1993, Canada)
  • Paradise – Abdulrazak Gurnah (1994, Tanzania/England)
  • A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry (1995, India/Canada)
  • Salt – Earl Lovelace (1996, Trinidad and Tobago)
  • The God of Small Things – Arundhati Roy (1997, India)
  • The Blue Bedspread – Raj Kamal Jha (1999, India)
  • Disgrace – J M Coetzee (1999, South Africa/Australia)
  • White Teeth – Zadie Smith (2000, England)
  • Life of Pi – Yann Martel (2001, Canada)

From 2002 to 2011

  • Small Island – Andrea Levy (2004, England)
  • The Secret River – Kate Grenville (2005, Australia)
  • The Book Thief – Markus Zusak (2005, Australia)
  • Half of a Yellow Sun – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2006, Nigeria)
  • A Golden Age – Tahmima Anam (2007, Bangladesh)
  • The Boat – Nam Le (2008, Australia)
  • Wolf Hall – Hilary Mantel (2009, England)
  • The Book of Night Women – Marlon James (2009, Jamaica)
  • The Memory of Love – Aminatta Forna (2010, Sierra Leone/Scotland)
  • Chinaman – Shehan Karunatilaka (2010, Sri Lanka)

From 2012 to 2021

  • Our Lady of the Nile – Scholastique Mukasonga (2012, Rwanda)
  • The Luminaries – Eleanor Catton (2013, New Zealand)
  • Behold the Dreamers – Imbolo Mbue (2016, Cameroon)
  • The Bone Readers – Jacob Ross (2016, Grenada)
  • How We Disappeared – Jing-Jing Lee (2019, Singapore)
  • Girl, Woman, Other – Bernardine Evaristo (2019, England)
  • The Night Tiger – Yangsze Choo (2019, Malaysia)
  • Shuggie Bain – Douglas Stuart (2020, Scotland)
  • A Passage North – Anuk Arudpragasam (2021, Sri Lanka)
  • The Promise – Damon Galgut (2021, South Africa)

Then we have this list which I intend to try and read over the next 12 months it is the Queens Jubilee and this list has come out of a book a year and from around the commonwealth. It has a lot of books  that I have been reader favourites and I may have passed over the years.Now I am keen on the list as it has a few old favourites there is a few books on the list `I have reviewed over the time I have blogged which I will mark uo when I make a page for this project. . There is also six countries which I haven’t read books from so when I was in Bakewell today it was great to find two books from the list I had read disgrace pre blog times and I had a copy of stone diaries which I had but think I long since gave away. I have strarted on the list with To sire with love, but won’t be following an order as in years I’ll just jump from book to book. It will just be as I feel which books appeal over the next year. Which books I have at hand I need to get a most of the books on the list but I feel most my library will have or I can buy second hand. So I will try and read all seventy of the books from this may to next May. Anyone any favourites on this list?

Canzone di Guerra by Daša Drndić

Canzone di Guerra

Croatian fiction

Original title – Canzone di Guerra

Translator – Celia Hawkesworth

Source – Review copy

When I heard that Susie had decided to publish some of Dasa back catalogue those books that had come out before her success with Trieste. I was very excited as many of you may know I did meet dad at the old IFFP award when she was shortlisted in 2013 this brief meeting we spoke maybe for half an hour maybe a bit more I was shocked she had read the blog but she was one of these people that this blog had given me chance to meet people I would never come across in my every day life in fact when ever I have doubts about this endeavour to cover world literature and books in translations, which is quite often it is those moments like meeting dad that spur me on. she was a writer that need to be read she saw what was over the Horizon even when we meet she saw the tide of the right was over in the distance and as she had done in her books she has always used the past as a way of highlighting the future. Her we have a woman tracing her own families past but also that of the culture she is from.

There is a Lot of literature about pigs, there is almost no genre of the written word into which pigs have not worked their way. They are found in science(Veterinary, biological, medical) in literature (essays, poetry, belles-lettres), not to mention film and painting. As far as life is concerned, here too, in our everyday life, pigs are all around us, and their destiny in the development of civilisation and technology is increasingly bizarre. The bizarre destiny of pigs is our reality

Even an intro on the section about pigs makes you as a reader think (for me I was remind of the film A private function set in the aftermath of the war in England that had a big at the heart of its story)

This book is made up of a collection of factual and fictional stories that at it heart sees the main character in the book Tea Radan a single mother who many years earlier had relocated to Canada to Toronopte as she tries to look at the emigrant life and those in the country around her. (Dasa had some interesting thought on Canada in the after word there is her description of Canada not the most favourable and full of what I remember of her when I met her that mind) She blends things like Pigs as animals to keep and how they effect society from how we keep them how they were Kept in Tito’s Yugoslavia. What we make of the pigs.This leads Tea to her grandfather a man that like to write to Tito ( I always interested with how Tito’s influence over those post – war years loom large but what at the heart of this book is the two events at the start of Tito reign which is the aftermath of the holocaust and we she in typical Dasa style as she shows how those that we involved with the events. of the holocaust escaped the war an we see how they came to Canada (It is hard to accept the dream of free Canada and then we see events like those that on a ship in 1939 that went from place to place as those on board lost hope) I love this as hot is so much of Dasa the person it is about what makes us tick but also she shows us about what has been and what is to come. It is about being lost in your own life and but also lose of identity.

In the course of the last four years, Sara and I have undergone three migrations. A lot of books have been written about migrations about leaving one’s country, about exile, some very stupid, propaganda, some very intelligent. But all those books state clearly that migration is both dying and being born, that it is a very complex phenomenon, hard to comprehend for anyone who has not experienced it.Our arrival in Rijeka from Belgrade, where I had spent forty years of my life and Sara almost all nine of hers, did not fundamentally from our arrival in Toronto.

The truth of being in Exile described so many times in literature !!

I as always find it hard to describe this as it isn’t a liner novel,  is a documentary novel ( a book of lives shown in pieces a mosaic of a world and lives) in the style of writers like Kluge (I could have said Sebald, but for me it is nearer Alexander  Kluge in the way she like to keep hitting at the spot and that is the spot of a warning this book is over 25 years old but in a way is more relevant now with a new wave of refugees from Ukraine we see how previous  waves of those trying to escape war have suffered in what is the real treatment of refugees and the way we portray how we treat refugees this gap is what is at the heart of the book.Those people caught ion those situation from those involved and trying to escape the holocaust and the aftermath of World War Two to those in the 90s trying to escape the horrors of the Yugoslav wars. At the heart of this is Tea ( a thinly veiled dasa) her family that were effected by both these events and the question of what makes us and what is our story. I mention Kluge as he brilliant in his use if  vigenettes and sometimes footnotes like this book does . In his book 30th April 1945 a book about that day when Hitler shot himself and what was going on around the world at that exact moment. Well this takes that moment the tatters of the war and west the aftermath this is that event taken out in one thread from before the event the horror of world war two to the present which now is 25 years ago ( or is it !!!!) because as we see here those events recalled in the past look so much like the future and that is what made Dasa one of the most important writers of her generation as she never turned to be popular or to be linear or to be easy no she told the truth, she saw what was coming as she had seen it so many times before but unlike others hadn’t a sort of cultural amnesia of the past or even a rose coloured glove of the past no this is the truth this is a written like Hogarth in his depiction of the world she lived in  or Goya in his disasters of war Dasa showed us a world warts and all one we want to look away from but one we should really look straight on at !! Have you a favourite book from Dasa ?

Winstons score – ++++A On of my all time favourite books already along with her other books

The people Opposite by Georges Simenon

The People opposite by Georges simenon

Belgian  fiction

original title – Les Gens d’en face 

Translator  – Sian Reynolds

Source – review copy

I am as you may know a huge fan of simenon both his crimes and no crime works which over the last decade or so Penguin has been bring out in new translations. I have reviewed 11 from the books that have. come out so far and my intention is to try over time read all the books Penguin has brought out from him a long term project for me not a race as I find myself reviewing two or three a year from him and I do have a couple on my shelves. But was happy when I was asked if I was interested in reviewing this which is an early book in his writing life being written in 1933 and is also for Simenon a political book it came after he had a trip to Stalins Russia in 1933 and came back and wrote this book.It was originally published in seven parts so there is that pacing of a serial work.

The only newcomer present was Adil Bey, and he was so recent that he had arrived in Batumi that very morning. At the Turkish consulate, he had found a single official from Tbilisi holding the fort.

The official, who would be leaving again that night, had brought Adil new along to the Italian consulate, to introduce him to his two colleagues.

Adil is the new boy in the town.

The book was written on his return and what we get is the Stalinist Russia caught in a small Black Sea port and we are introduced to the New Turkish consul AdilBey who has been sent to the port town which is a multi cultural place. But he feels out of place  and why did his previous consul turn up dead and why did thethe other Turkish staff disappear back to his base as soon as he appears. there is a sense of poverty the town, even thou it is near the oil rich fields of Russia. Adil is alone in this town and so when his Russian secretary appears Sonia she has been sent to help him and this sparks Aldi how falls for `Sonia and gets obsessive around her as he watches her in the room opposite his office.But is she trying to tempt him ? we see the two grow close but there is always a sense of more to this relationship she lives with her brother a member of the GPU( the state police). The action slowly unwinds you cans see where this relationship is going and it isn’t going end in wedding bells and roses !!!

This girl, Sonia, could hardly be more than eighteen years old. She was a slip of a thing, with a pale face, fair hair and light blue eyes, yet she had a calm and self assured strength that panicked the consul. The door had remained open and he walked over to watch, as she told the crowd to leave.

She was standing very upright in. the middle of the office, pen in hand, and speaking Russian, without raising her voice but gesturing to stress what she wanted. Since the woman nursing the the baby had remained sitting in her corne, she walked straight up to her, removed the child from the breast, and buttoned up the woman’s blue herself

His initial meeting with Sonia his secretary when she arrives you sense his wonder at this young woman.

For me has caught what must have been the soviet world at times where everyone at some point seems to be spying on one another. It has a slow burning as we see the two grow closer I was remind of the relationship in tinker tailor soldier spy with Ricky and the Russian wife there is always a sense that this isn’t going be a good outcome. He slowly unfurls their relationship but then you figure there may be more to it than first meets the eye this is of course Stalin’s Russia and there is the under running current of fear and worry in the book and the way people act at times.It also capture a lonely man a women in a situation that is caught between love and duty. I liked this book it is different to his other books but he is very good at what makes people tick at times and he has caught that here the way the characters although obvious show how the system was and also the effect of a system like stalinism on those inside it and also coming into it from the outside was there a similar Sonia figure that maybe caught Simenon eyes when he was on his trip too Russia. There is an intro where he does say a bout his time in Russia. I do wonder  how ,such pop Adil is him in disguise as he wrote this straight after his return. Have you a favourite Simeon or book in Soviet Russia written from someone that visited Russia at the time ?

Winstons score – A a solid afternoon read that deals with Stalinism through the prism of two characters one inside and one outside the regime.

 

Previous Older Entries

May 2022
M T W T F S S
 1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
3031  

Archives

%d bloggers like this: