That was the month that was June 2022

  1. To sir, with love by E R Braithwaite
  2. Among the Almond trees by Hussein Barghouthi
  3. Angel Station by Jachym Topol
  4. The blue bedspread by Raj Karmal Jha
  5. A cage in search of a Bird by Florence Noiville
  6. The young pretender by Michael Arditti
  7. The rabbit factor by Anti Tuomainen
  8. Ninth building by Zou Jingzhi
  9. Cinema stories by Alexander Kluge
  10. Copsford by Walter J. C. Murray
  11. The Military Orchid by Jocelyn Brooke 
  12. Goshawk summer by James Aldred

This month has been a good month for me reading as I have reviewed 12 books which is a total I haven’t hit for a while. The journey starts With being an immigrant in London post-war. Then return home after a lifetime away as a man dies and sees the ghosts of his past. Then 90s Prague and the flotsam and jetsam around a station lives are revealed. Then a woman meets a woman who starts to take over her life. Then a young actor and victim of grooming tries to review his career and escape his past. Then a brother inherits a fun fair and falls in love add to that a mafia angle in a great Finnish crime novel. Then growing up in Mao’s Beijing then being sent into exile to the hinterlands of China. Then Kluge wrote a number of stories about cinema and his world of films. Then a man drops out and collects herb in the first of three great nature books, then a man is obsessed with an Orchid he read about then spends his life hunting orchids and the holy grail of the Military Orchid. Then we have summer during lockdown watching goshawk nest and having a family of chicks in the New Forest. So a month that has seen me here there and everywhere. What has your path been this month through the books you have read?

Trio of the month

Among the Almond trees by Hussein Barghouthi

Hussein’s last days spent in the area of Ramallah where he grew up left and has returned to after a lifetime away he is haunted by his death and the ghost of his past. Very poetic and touching work there is another book from him coming out later this year I can’t wait for that book as this is one of the most touching books I have ever read.

The Rabbit Factor by Antti Tuomainen

A brother inherits the mess his brother has left in an amusement park full of odd characters that work there. He also falls for someone that is the polar opposite of the uptight account he is in a crime novel. But is so much more it has comedy romance and a bunch of odd characters and a damaged giant plastic rabbit.

Copsford by Walter J C Murray

A man moves to a derelict cottage and tries to live on the land as he tries to escape the life in London as he learns how to reap the herbs around Copsford. A great book about what has happened in the last few years.

Other events this month-

I  finally got to watch for the second time the series The story of Film an Odyssey. I had been given it as a present at Christmas and hadn’t got to it yet but this last month I watch the first two-discs of Mark Cousin history of cinema that encompass all of the worlds he just makes you just want to watch so many books. I watch the new series of Obi-wan on Disney which was a great series as it fills in some timeline gaps in the Star Wars story and I rewatched Only Murders in the Building ready for the second series of the comedy series is a tongue-in-cheek look at the world of true-crime podcast. I also went to the extra record store day middle of the month which had two records which I had to want but were delayed. The two I had on cd but wanted Beth Orton’s two LPs on Vinyl Central reservation and Trailer park her lo-fi acoustic sound is a great summer night sound I will love listening to them this summer.

The month ahead I am reading a little less translation for the foreseeable future I say this then go down a rabbit hole and see this and that book here I think the passion is there just a Little less over summer but it is the 10th Spanish and Portuguese lit month I will be reading the two books I had mentioned for the month plus a few extra. Plus work my way through the Wainwright longlist which I have all but three books now from the library. Amanda and I are off on Monday for a short break in Northumberland again we can’t wait as it means a visit to the wonderful Barter books which means a pile of books from our Holiday and some pictures of our trip.

What have you done last month or planned next month ?

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Goshawk Summer by James Aldred

Goshawk Summer by James Alfred

English Nature writing

Source – Personal copy

I decide to have this break and read some Nature writing which happened to be exactly the same time as we got the Wainwright Nature writing longlist for 2022. So I then decided to get all the books which I was so lucky to have found most of them on the Library system so Had to order to collect most of them as they are coming from all over Derbyshire. I am going today ( well actually yesterday !! as I wrote this yesterday) to pick up the first lot of books. But the two books I couldn’t get I ordered and they arrived before the weekend so I managed to squeeze in this book over the weekend James Aldred is an Award-winning wildlife documentary maker. He had just finished one project in Africa when he was hired to film some Goshawks in the New forest this is around the time of the first lockdowns in the Uk and he is able to go to the forest every day and to film the Goshawks during a summer that is like no other that has been for many a year and maybe won’t happen again. SO we see his observations of the forest and Goshawks.

Friday 10 April

The country’s been in lockdown for two weeks. I take our three boys into the empty landscape of the valley opposite for some decompression. They’ve been bouncing off the walls at home and it’s good to feel the stride of open ground. They bring their bows and shoot arrows high into the sky above the wide rhyme-locked levels. It’s a good way to let off steam for an hour or so. crossing one of the many small bridges. I glance down to see the five-toed pads of a dog otter imprinted in the soft mud.

I loved as he takes the kids out which many parents did he still sees the nature around him.

He has just returned to the Uk as we see Lockdown is happening and has just been given the job to sit in a Hide to film over the summer. In the New forest. We see as he travels back and forth to film in a world that is now quiet and how strange it is with nothing around that is usually the traffic on the roads, Planes in the sky all have vanished overnight and a new world of silence and quiet. As he settles deep in the forest in his Hide says how much he likes being in a hide hidden and watching whatever he is there to film. He grew up in the New Forest and is amazed when he sees the car parks fill as everyone went back into nature as he heads into the hide and watches this Family of Goshawks sit on the Eggs and then as the chick grows(there is an insight into how they choose which chick lives) we see the environment the bio system of the world of the Goshawks the world of the forest the squirrels which is the main diet of the Goshawks, other birds he sees he compares the other Raptures and places The Goshawks alongside them and how it all interconnects. All this is against the backdrop of the Pandemic and lockdown. I hope to capture the film he made of this Goshawk pair and the New forest in this time which is a time we may never see again.

Friday 8 may

A dry start. The forest leaves hang with mist, but the sky is clear and the 4 a.m. journey to goshawks is sublime. The full moon hangs huge and heavy above dark spires of conifer- a Spielberg backdrop in need of a flying silhouette. The road through Whitemoor glade is a bright bridge of silver and I turn of my lights to follow, rolling slowly forward as the trees eventually rise up to swallow the moon. As I re-enter the darkness a tawny owl is perched on a sign next to the road. It ignores me and remains poised with head tilted forward, listening to something in the leaf litter. I switch off the engine in their hope of watching it hunt, but it seems to notice me for the first time and flies off into the shadows.

his early morning walk to the hide deep in the woods.

I do wonder if in years to come we will get a series of books that will be described as Covoid lit or lockdown Lit. This time saw the best and worst of people but also as we see in James’s eyes it gave nature a small window away from the chaos of the world and  Pollution lessen as the cars on the road stop, I remember the driving to work myself in this time when some days I wouldn’t see a single car and also it was amazing hearing and see birds more than before. He captures this Goshawk couple in an extraordinary time this is a story of them but also has the reflections of the year which for James himself was a sad year With the loss of his father. I enjoyed the insight into a bird I haven’t seen it made me want to see a Goshawk at some point. Do you think there will be a section around ovoid and Lockdown in years to come or is it too early to tell? This was the first book I have read from this year’s Wainwright nature writing longlist.

Winston’s score – B a man in the woods captures a year like no other.

The Military Orchid by Joceyln Brooke

The Military Orchid by Jocelyn Brooke

English Nature writing

Source – personal copy

Well, I read Copsford last week and was bowled over by it and love the actual book itself it was a nicely presented work from the publisher Little Toller which until I brought that book I had never heard of so I went and had a look at there backlist of Nature writing classics and I choose two more to read and this is the first of those two books I selected Orchid Military which is the first of a trilogy by the English Writer Jocelyn  Brooke He was one of those old English characters he was in the military and had run away as a kid and then dropped out of Oxford before he joined the military in the medieval core this is also where he started to write and also discover the Orchid of the title of the book and also sent him what would be a google rabbit hole but then was discovering book after book and a journey of finding Orchids and the hunt for that one mystery Orchid.

Poor colonel Mackenzies! His book was not the best of introductions to its subject. Yet he was a true ochidomane, and I salute him across the years. I imagine him living in comfortable retirement in Surrey, in a red house with a drive and spiky gates, among pine trees; pottering on the downs above Betchworth and Shere but not often venturing further afield. Probably he did possess a copy of Bentham and Hooker, but he could have seldom have looked at it. It is a pleasing thought that another retired officer, colonel Godfrey, has written the standard Monograph on the British Orchidaceae (He also lives in Surrey)

His intro was the Colonel’s book on Orchids

The book opens as we see via a Mr Bundock how the young Jocelyn was drawn into Orchid and the first orchid he discovered was the Lizard Orchid this is the time he got one of the first of many books about the Orchids of Britain this was the colonel Mackenzie Orchids of Britain that was an example of a book that was written by the amateur nature writer. . But this book is where he discovers the Military Orchid ( `orchis Militaris). Which is the one orchid we see him hunting to discover if this very rare orchid is even confirmed as the book unwinds we Follow Jocelyn in the English countryside where we meet a cast of characters that are from a bygone age where the countryside is a mixture of snobs and those old country figures ( this remind me of living in Northumberland in my teens and the characters I used to pick up for my job in a day centre which had a number of character that reminds me of those that Jocelyn crossed. He also spends time abroad in his army career this is a mix of his military life and his growing love of Nature and Orchids as he gets more and more Orchid. books and he tells us about the writers on the whole a collection of amateurs like himself. We see if Evers gets to find this orchid and if it is even real.

Les seuls Vrais Paraadis, said Proust, sont les paradis qu’on la perdus: and conversely, the only genuine infernos, perhaps, are those which are yet to come. After the post-Munch period, with its atmosphere of slowly gathering crisis, the outbreak of war itself was like a sudden Holiday, bringing a sense of release, almost of relief: the kind of relief which an invalid feels when a definite disease has declared itself, replacing the vague, indefinable mails by a set of recognisable physical symptoms

I love this Proust quote(a little jealous I never got past the first books of Proust)

This was just what I need it is one of those books that is written by someone with a passion for their subject which for Brooke is Orchids alongside his growing up and witnessing Both wars and the inter war years and his Military career and home life. He mixes a comical view of the time of the world around him. Add to this is the wonderful Orchid pictures we get that illustrate a lot of the plants that we have read about. This is a mix of styles Memoir, Satire and military history during and after world wars it is also a quest work his ask is the Military Orchid you can see as the years go by and he hasn’t seen this rarely record Orchid does it even exist. It has a bit of Waugh, a bit of Edith Holden and added to that is his Quest it is a sort of Holy grail search for his beloved Orchid.He wrote a number of other books after this book, I will be looking out for the other two books in this collection of the collected trilogy as the other two books are meant to be as good as this one is. Have you read any books by Brooke? do you like memoirs that combine a love of Nature?

 

Winstons score – A two wars and the inter war years are a hunt for a mythical Orchid. Sees a man grow and discover a passion.

Reading Doldrums, reading rotation a new Horizons

I sat the last few days and tried to think why My reading has felt flat for a good while. I have at times acted passionate about books but in my heart of hearts, the passion isn’t there as it once was. I  have talked about reading for me is like my own yacht (well boat) and I have for many years sailed the translated sea of books but maybe I have reached the Doldrums as a reader that part where wind and currents have dropped and you are just there as a reader adrift and that has been me. I first felt it earlier in the year I had an idea for a project for the forthcoming translation of Solenoid but never really got started with it, not sure why I tried to read another Cartaescu book already out and this was just about the time I went of work with stress so I never finished it and then with this year shadow booker I was going through the motions the passion I had felt for doing this had gone and that was sad as it was a jolly good longlist the best for a long time. But I have sat and tried to kick start my reading of translation but then I have come to the conclusion I need a reading rotations and to broaden my scope of reading my reading is a fallow field overworked on the same crop of translation for year and years. This has also come as I have discovered book tube and the tubers I like people like Lonesome reader, Bob the bookerer tend to read a wider breadth of books. I then start to think about crop rotation and then compared this to my reading I always say, I’d  Like to try other books and for years haven’t I tried new projects but all with a hint book in translation or world lit and I am someone that isn’t great at following plans I just get too distracted by other things. I mentioned I want to read some more nature writing so I have looked at books on the Wainwright prize lists the big prize for nature writing and have ordered some of them from the library just to try and kickstart some joy in books. I have read a lot of books this year but for me, I read a lot it is like a reflex to just read but I have missed feeling passionate and I am someone that loves buzz books, books I connect with and maybe I have had a run this year of books that I haven’t connected that have made me buzz as a reader I can think of the books I have reviewed on here that there is maybe five of the forty-plus books that I have read I have really connected with and rather than carry on I need to rota my reading. I will be reading fewer books in translation for the time being this means I may only slightly contribute to Spanish and Portuguese. this year I feel I will broaden my reading for the rest of the year nature writing, English classic, historical fiction, some new fiction from the Uk and America, memoir and biographies. I love taking apart myself as a reader I am like a clockmaker my reading clock has been overwound I have sent it to the mender he has loses the spring cleaned the working and polished the reading clock. So hang on I am just about to do some night shifts and won’t be back to Weds or Thurs next week with a review. Do you look out for yourself as a reader ? have you burnt a genre out.I started the post with a picture of Oldway which I brought a while ago in hindsight this was maybe me starting to think of other books to read and then from the library today after I had paid my fine I am always bring books back late so bad at renewing or getting back so fine paid and I picked these three books up

A stunning book !!

I have just started this and I just wanted to share the great illustrations that the are part of this classic piece of nature writing that we see how one flower became an obsession for the writer Jocelyn Brooke he spent years trying to grab a look at a rarely seen and observed Orchid The Military Orchid of the title this book is the first part of a loose trilogy that merges memoir , fiction and a love a nature. So here are a couple of the illustrations that were done by Gavin and `Stephen Bone.

They are stunning and just pop the prose to life as I am reading about him just discovering the Militar Orchid and how rare it was .

It is farewell not now thou !!!!

I had !! decided to stop blogging here I wanter  a new blog but am not sharing it at mo till I build up some content I’ve just run out of steam. 13 Years is maybe a good place to stop here.I did try set a new blog up but it now seems you have to pay for WordPress and only have the new editor so I am going to continue here but the focus of winstonsdad is changing to wider writing and also more none book content I have just felt railroad by the blog last few years and just recently I am more into nature writing this may just be a short blip I love translated fiction but I just a little fed up and wanting new directions and had felt trapped as this blog has been so focused on Translation so maybe I need to just broaden the scope of post here as I want do post around days out and some just pictures I have taken here and there so anyway it will all be coming here I didn’t know that WordPress now see to charge and also use the new set up for post that I just don’t get on with so I am here to say. But expect new and different content from me .

 

Copsford by Walter J. C. Murray

Copsford by Walter J. C. Murray

British Nature writing

Source – personal copy

I have decided a couple of years ago that every time I go and put flowers and visit where we scattered my mum’s ash which is about an hours drive from where I live in Derbyshire .I would by some nature writing my Mom and my Granddad who are also scattered on the same site in Macclesfield in Cheshire with were great nature lovers my granddad had a love of birds and birdwatching he paid for my old YOC membership growing up (the youth section of the (RSPB). So there is a mid-size Waterstones there which is slightly big than the one we have here so I went to the nature section and had a look round and actually had another book in my hand when this one caught my eye with its Black white cover which by the sheer tone of the photo you could tell it was an old print. The book was written by Walter Murray he was from Sussex and had been living in London in a third-floor flat when he decided he want to do a Thoreau (as in Walden) and he decide to return to Sussex and rent a heap the hep on the cover a cottage called cops ford and try and make a living of the land grow and drying herbs and making a simpler life.He had a lifelong love of nature and took photos of Nature the photos in this book are from the original book when it came out in 1948( The Copsford year was in the 20s though)

“No one ain’t lived in Copsford for more ‘an twenty year’ he protested “Its do be out of repair like’

“You’m best go an’ ; ave a look around first,’ he suggested. Then returning to the familiar rut, ‘Ice going ‘ ploughin’ in the ten-acre.’

He readjusted his hat and began to harness his two horses. He was happy again, so I set off across the field to inspect Copsford, this cottage “sech a mile from nowhere” where no one wanted to live.

He goes to look at cops ford after the farmer warns how it is derelict.

I am drawn to the idea of living away from it all one of the things I want to do in the future is go back to Northumberland and live in a small village. So the book opens when he decides to leave his third floor flat and his life in London and with his Dog floss his sheepdog. The farmer iS taken back when he asks if he can take on Copsford the cottage had been empty for decades and was broken down as you can see ion the cover also it is full of rats. So the opening few chapters we see him first trying to get at least one room liveable as he then tries to get rid of the rats from the property all this as he is having to fetch water and live by candlelight as he also reconnects with his childhood sweetheart a music teacher, this is about the time in the mid-twenties when Murray became a teacher and eventually a headmaster at his own school. What fools is his upon and downs as he Lears to live on the land and also at the end chapter sees him comparing what he made to how he lived in London to the money earned for rent and living costs in Copsford.

If the herb is taken too late from the drying-room, and this quite frequently happens when a spell of dry weather suddenly succeeds a long damp, blowdrying period, the plant is so brittle that it crumbles to dust. The rosette of pale green leaves of cleavers is so slight that there is always some loss of herb at the bagging-up time, but that is better than mould. Other herbs, if allowed to become to dry, just cannot be handled; they smash and crumble and fall away into useless fragments, Others again – a few – one never seems to be able to dry enough; they always feel moist or oily to the touch, no matter how many days they hang on the line

He learns how to dry the herbs he is wanting to harvest dry and sell

 

 

I said in the intro I called this a Thoreau he did similar when he went to live next to Walden lake it was a way to escape the pressure of the present and this is similar he just wants to capture the countryside and live on the land with his dog Floss and he does what he does is also start to notice the seasons and the world around him as he struggles to collect and work at his plan to gather and forage for Herbs to dry and sell. Then there is also the budding romance between him and his childhood sweetheart who lives near Copsford. The cottage itself becomes a character in the book, even more, when he decides to stay in the winter as he said it was the last gift it gave him. This book is timely there seems to be a movement toward a simple life post-Lockdown people have reconnected with nature and want a simpler life it’s strange that the Similar events in the 70s with strikes and cost of living crisis lead to the likes of the Good Life. I think we all love a bit of the countryside I know I love the mix of that and going to the city or a large town. This was republished just before the lockdown and maybe should be read if you like a year of nature-type books or want to see how the simpler life was never to simple even 100 years ago. Maybe it is the prototype Cottagecore book if you want to be present and live in the moment and be sustainable this is the book for you. Also, it has his wonderfully evocative pictures to bring to life the text and the year he spent there. Have you a favourite back-to-nature book?

Winstons score – +A just loved slipping into his year in copsford.

 

Saturday We become a teen 13 years blogging

I was notified yesterday that it was my blog anniversary I started Winstonsdad 13 years ago. I had been reconnecting with books and over a previous couple of years, I had been reading more and more and was drawn to world lit. I had been on Twitter for a year which had connected with book bloggers. I got my first laptop around 15 years ago has not been into computers until then. So I  decided as someone that left school without maybe seeing my full potential and had drifted for years. Until I reconnected with reading I had read lots of books, maybe till my late teens. But then I had perhaps read a book a  month until I rediscovered a passion for books. As this grew I found that I had always loved European fiction since living and working in Germany in my early twenties. I had a number of books from around the world I had been buying. That was the Kernel of what is here. I got drawn into reading Translated fiction more and the idea of the blog was 52 books from around the world well 13 years later and 1100 plus books later the blog has become teen and actually I am in a purple patch of blogging I have over the last 13 years seen the blog go up and down much as my life has in the previous few 13 years. Anyway, let’s see what the teen years of Winstonsdad hold. The journey carries on I set sail on the sea of world lit. The plan is to carry on as I am I hope to eventually work a simple guide to world lit a simple book from me an open guide to encourage readers to try and discover and start their own journey around the world. So as I am currently in Brazil with the latest from Charco Press. One of the great joys in the time I have blogged is how many people now read translated fiction and how many wonderful small press have sprung up. The booker international seems to have sparked a wider audience for the listed books !! I love how it has grown and hope it carries on as is great to have lots more books to choose from. Thanks for all the comments and changes over the last 13 years here is to the coming years and let’s hope we just get more and more books in translation to discover and promote.

Cinema Stories by Alexander kluge

Cinema Stories by Alexander kluge

German fiction

original title – Geschichten vom Kino

translators – Martin Brady and Helen Hughes

Source – personal copy

If you have been following me for the last couple of years you will know since I discovered the works of Alexander Kluge. for me he should be better known than he is all those people going on about Sebald well this guy is like him but has been writing his documentary-style fiction usually around an event or subject I have reviewed four books by him so far. I have just been navigating on a personal odyssey through his works as I buy them. This is one of the books that maybe cross over his two main fields of filmmaker and writer. As ever it is a series of Vignettes 39 in total.

The ELDORADO movie theatre was located close to the border dividing the centre of Beirut from the South of the city, and still within the area destroyed by aerial bombing. Razed to the ground, only the foundation remained. The married couple who had run the venue for decades had cleared away the rubble and erected a tent on the flat concrete floor of the building, The projectors, which had been rescued, stood under this tent. In front of them, are rows of makeshift seats (chairs from a cafe); and in front of those, the screen. The sound of battle, sometimes coming closer, sometimes moving away, merged with the soundtrack of the films. The audience was somewhat safer under this tented roof than in the surviving houses, because destroyed buildings were seldom attacked for a second time and also because in this “cinema auditorium” there was no danger of being buried by falling masonry

The opening of the book and the story cinema in a state of Emergency

I will mention a few of the vignettes and leave you a lot to discover they are all around the subject of cinemas. The collection opens with a story that is a little way reminds me of a scene from the film Cinema Paradiso this is the story of a cinema in Beirut and the couple that ran the Eldorado cinema trying to keep it running with the war going on and how they showed whatever they could get hold of it to remind of when the cinema burnt down in cinema Paradiso and the carried on. Then we see how Erich Von Stroheim maybe was one of the first people in the film industry to invent who he was not the son of a hatmaker from Vienna he became a von and lived up whole was working his way up through the cinema. Then he turns to Walter Benjamin and his observations on how cinema and films can be used as propaganda. Then I read one that was a connection to a book that I had read that was by the wife of the Filmmaker Joris Ivens here we see how when his filming was interrupted by rain he then made a piece describing fourteen types of rain, like rain in the country, never-ending rain and the concentrated rain in Hurricanes. This is just a glimpse of the book I feel it is hard to write about many of the 39 vignettes in the collection.`I want to leave a few to be discovered.

1 A week of Rain with Joris Ivens

The radical documentarist Joris Ivens took advantage of a week of rain in Holland, during which he couldn’t shoot anything else, to film variations on the theme of rain. Hannes Eisler later composed music for these film sequences. His piece is called fourteen ways to describe rain

It reminds me of how many words the Inuit have for snow types and looks of snow. And how many words do we have for rain here in the UK!!

 

this book mixes the two worlds that Alexander Kluge is best known for cinema there is a real sense of some of these small tales he’ll have heard over the years and then he has used his writing talent to bring some of those sorts of insider tales gems he will have heard or even been involved with. The vignettes cover a myriad of subjects from actual cinemas, to what the power of film is to actors, filmmakers and myths of cinema. For me he is a writer you just want to read cover to cover in every book he is like that uncle with the great stories we all have someone that can talk and describe the world around us and make it interesting and Kluge’s world is c=inema he is an insider and these are those tales. I am still not sure why he isn’t better known here in English maybe it is the fact he falls in between styles of writing as a writer he has parts of short stories, narrative non-fiction, memoir or documentary fiction he is a polymath a true gem of the German cultural scene. Have you a favourite book from Kluge?

Winstons score – + A compelling vignette around his other job as a filmmaker.

Ninth Building by Zou Jingzhi

Ninth Building by Zou Jingzhi

Chinese Memoir

Original title – 九栋

Translator – Jeremy Tiang

Source – review copy

It was great when Hanford star got listed for the Booker prizes this year. I have been sent books by them since they started and it is great to see them get some more recognition as they are a smaller publisher and one of those like Istros and Nordisk that focuses on one area to publish works from. They have brought books from all over Asia in the last few years I have reviewed most of them here. This is one from a Chinese writer  I have often said I have a feeling I want a writer from China I can really connect with and I think in Jingzhi I may have he has written both fiction, poetry, scripts and here is what is a memoir but it is more an Episodic Memoir than a linear memoir but a work of fiction so Chinese Auto-fiction.

Ninth building was the building I lived as a child. It’s been demolished now, and on the same plot, they built a bigger, taller Ninth Building. My words concern the previous incarnation.

Before the block disappeared, I went back to take some pictures of it. A place I spent my early years. With its vanishing, there’d be no traces left of my childhood.

The loss of the building made him write this to remember the times and events in the Ninth building !!

I said this is a book that is a fictional memoir but it is more the writer sat and remember little episodes of his life and it follows him and his family in two times the first was his time in Beijing as a young boy the book is set in Beijing just as Mao and this cultural revolution is taking place and we see it through the eyes of aa young boy the young Zou as he is caught up in the fever of the times where they are told to tell on anyone that seems to not be the thing the party line. They want to be red guards as they seem heroes to the young kids buying armbands to be like them. Now we see this how he saw out at the time and that is as a kid sees things he wants to be accepted by his peers and telling on those around him in the ninth building is the way it is. The book captures this but also what it is to be a child in the midst of chaos and not see it as he said the building as he wrote this looking back had gone and there was now a larger building it captures China just as it is entering the dark times and we see this in the second two-thirds of the book which follows a now teen You as he and his family has been sent to the northern hinterlands of China in Exile like many people were from Beijing. So we see him in 1960 arrive in the village of Yangfangdian where they are expected to return to the land and have to toil and grow things the vignettes here are sparked by items events those little rascals he met twins he could never tell who was who. As they all toil in what they called a  return to the land but is actually really a labour camp for them as his father is here considered dangerous as he fails to comply we see a young man awaken in the horror of the wastelands of china working hard and trying to be a young man at the same time.

My family moved to Yangfangdian in 1960. All around our building were vegetable fields, and in the midst of this greenery were white stone tablets(commonly known as “Turtleback stones”) on which were inscribed huge characters, most of which we couldn’t recognise as we stared up at them. It didn’t help there wasn’t any punctuation at all. Nonetheless, we persisted in reading them out to demonstrate the joy of learning. several children would stand in a group and chant in unison. Something something memorial. some lines had not a single comprehensible word, and still we’d something-something-something-something our way through, no shortcuts. I get nostalgic now thinking of a gaggle of kids chorusing “Something”

His new home in the wastelands of China feeling out of place

 

I loved this captures his life and that is a tale that isn’t told in a Rosie way this is warts and all it shows how as a kid we can be swayed to do things one thing of how the Stasi in Soviet times influenced kids to think it was normal to watch and report own this around them. It shows how the red guard was made to seem like hers to the kids. One of my main problems with a lot of Chinese lit we get is it has never seemed to be very personal and this does this is Zou’s voice and his world we are dragged into as a reader from those days as a young boy as the craziness of the red guard and the cultural revolution are just taking hold of the country the way the young kids want the armbands and to be part of there own gang. Then the sheer tedium of life and backbreaking work alongside a coming of age work as he starts to see the woman around him among all this. Have you a favourite book from China or a book about the cultural revolution.

Winstons score – A -a writer I want to read more from !!

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