The Beauties essential stories by Anton Chekhov

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Beauties essential stories by Anton Chekhov

Russian fiction

Translator- Nicolas Pasternak Slater

Source – review copy

I have read Chekhov before and my good friend Rob of rob around books has read and reviewed a lot of his stories.Chekhov is considered one of the first modern writers alongside Ibsen and Strindberg, he was a doctor by trade and wrote in his spare time in his short life of just 44 years he produced a number of works both short stories and Plays. He started writing to pay for his tuition. This is a new translation of thirteen of his stories by the nephew of the great Russian writer Boris Pasternak.

It was a moth-like beauty – the beauty that goes so well with a waltz, or darting accross a garden, or with laughter and merriment , and which has no buisness with serious thoughts, sorrow or repose.It seemed as if a good gust of wind blowing along the platform, or a sudden shower, would be enough to make that fragile body suddenly wilt, scattering its caoricious beauty like pollen from a flower.

“Ye-es…” sighed the officer. when the second bell sounded and we walked back to our carriage

One night on a platform a glimpse of a beauty on the platform.

There is a thirteen stories in this collection I will just describe a few of them here. The first the title story is a tale of beauty. It follows a man who is stopped for a few minutes at a station one night ,  when he glimpses a great Armenian beauty, which he had met many years earlier when they visit the girl’s grandfather. A day in the country follows a day in the life of a man Terenty , he is found by a little girl and he spends time with her and her brother both orphans we follow them through the day. Grief deals with a couple a drunk husband a loss of a son, a failing marriage  a wife who may actually also be dead. The husband laments how much his wife changed from the merry lass he married. The huntsman like the previous story I mention also deals with a couple this time a hunter Yegor now working for local landowner as a huntsman for him. They  meet one day on a country path his wife whom he hasn’t seemed for many years. She tries to persuade him to spend more time with her, but he has other ideas.

“It’s a long time since I saw you last, Yegor Vlasych..”says Pelageya, gazing tenderly at the huntsman’s shoulders as he moves.”Ever since Holy week, when you looked into our hut fr a minute and had a drink of water- we haven’t seen you since then.. Dropped in for a minute in Holy week, and God knows whay state you were in then.. drink and all … swore at me,beat me up, and walked out.. and I’ve been waiting and waiting.. worn my eyes out with watching for you … Oh, Yegor Vlasych, Yegor Vlasych! If only you’d come by some time

Husband and wife meet , a sad wife wants he even thou he beat her last time a sign of the times the bopok was written !!

I think most readers of this blog will know Chekhov.If not this new Pushkin collection edition would be a perfect place to start, I would think. I have read other translations of these stories, I like Pasternaks Slater use of words and he has done a great job keeping the wry humour of Chekhov also his sense of human nature. The collection has a good selection of his stories through out his career. I was touched by the beauties a story which is a bit like a story version of the you’re beautiful by James Blunt a glimpse of a beauty on a train platform echos with a memory of meeting another beauty years earlier. I also remembered the lines of Jack Palance in City slickers talking about his one love a woman he glimpse for a matter of moments earlier in his life has imprinted on his memory like the young man on the train in the beauties. A nice collection for any fan of Russian lit.

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Christened with crosses by Eduard Kochergin

Christened With Crosses

Christened with crosses(notes taken on my knees)  by Eduard Kochergin

Russian memoir

Original title – Крещённые крестами: Записки на коленках

Translator – Simon Patterson with Nina Chordas

Source – review copy

I often bang on about the small publishers I work with but the reason is this they tend to bring us the titles we wouldn’t see otherwise. That said this was a bestseller the second time it came out in Russia Eduard  Stepanovich Kochergin was born at the height of Stalinism in 1937 and his parents were considered enemies of the state and he as a young boy was sent away to state orphanage for children of political prisoners. This book follows that time and his six-year journey across the heart of Russia from Siberia to Leningrad his hometown.

In the next two wards there was a medical section – one of the most terrifying places in the orphanage, in our language the croakery or kaputka. Few of the children who were taken there returned upstairs. This section was led by a nurse called Absolute Drip. Her assistant, a deaf mute nursing aide, a dirty animal whose stench killed flies, did not clean up, but simply spread filt around

One his arrival to Pipsqueak ward he talks about the other wards, scarry to say the least !!

The book starts with him at home with his family and his christening at a church on Nevsky prospect and also his polish mother and Russian father firstly he was given poles for safekeeping.But was eventually sent to the state house and out to Siberia. We see him on a ward with other young orphans where he meets some other boys with names like the Toad and his deputy screwface. This is a brutal place but seen through a child’s eye Eduard or Stepanych becomes the shadow in these place and disappears. Living only at night when they are alone he grows sadder missing his parents and home, which leads to the young boy setting off on a six-year journey on the trains. He meets thieves. Then stumbles into a village where they still have a tradition of brewing.Gets taught how to make a fire all the time slowly making his way back home but does he?

Food was the main topic of our life. The dreams of the orphans mainly revolved around food, especially in winter and spring. During that time, as our hobbling lady said, we were liable to eat everything that wasn’t nailed down. In summer we ate weeds, rising catching a colon infection and falling into the clutches of the Absolute Drip.

This short passage reminded me so much of Dickens in  particular Oliver when he is at the orpahage as well.

I read this last week as my father was actually in Vladivostok a place in the far east of Russia a place he said still had a feel of its Soviet past. This is tale of a boy become a man but also a tale of post-war Soviet times the toughness of  when Stalin sent so many to the Gulags, this is the flipside of a writer like Solzhenitsyn as it is about the children of those prisoners those young souls we never heard about the brutal nature of the state orphanage. Seen through his eye but in the same way as books; like the boy in the striped pyjamas or curious incident in the night we see how violence can be seen but not really absorbed till much later. There is also a sense of adventure as we follow his homeward journey a sense of entering a wide world and learning skills and about danger first hand. Also glimpsing a dying rural world of Russia hinterlands with rituals and myths still alive in the 1950’s. A powerful memoir of one man’s journey to adulthood in a Soviet world that could have stepped out of a Dickens novel but 100 years on.

 

Companions by Christina Hesselholdt

Companions by Christina Hesselholdt

Danish fiction

Original title – Lykkelige familier, camillia and family and others 

Translator – Paul Russell Garrett

Source – review copy

I know to expect the books from fitzcarraldo to be challenging and also enthralling to me as a read and her with there latest fiction novel we have a book from one of the leading writers in Denmark. Christina Hesselholdt studied for a degree in Literatue. After that, she wrote for the Danish lit journals Banna split and The Blue Port. She is considered one of the leading figures in Danish minimalism writing. This is her first works to be published in English this is a number of her earlier books all about the same set of friends.

 My Husband does not believe I have a flair for words. Nor does he think I know how to move. One night when I couldn’t sleep I went into the kitchen to fetch some water, and when I came back to bed he said: “Your shuffling is keeping me awake”

I shuffle.I stomp. I shuffle and stomp and trudge about.Shuffle-shuffle-stomp-stomp-trudge-trudge.

I can’t sing, hence my husband thinks I am unable to hear music, I didn’t sing. I refused to sing. I trudged around the Christmas tree like a silent vessel

Kristina talking about her husband Alma and how he views her.

 

Camilla and Charles are the main figures during these books (I love the fact these two share the same name as our royal family).Then there is Alma, Edward, Alwilda and Kristian. The first part of the books follows Alma and Kristina mainly on a holiday in the UK. That starts in Wordsworth country as they talk about the poet and also move around many lit sites in the UK the husband is a writer himself. But this is a couple just getting by and lost faith in one another as the wife says my husband believes I have no way with words or to understand music.Then Wedward dealing with losses in his life and writing int in his Mourning diary-like Barthes did.  Then we meet Camilla and Charles as they go for an expensive meal out, in which they envoke the love of all things Slavoj Zizek and how well he has his finger on the pulse of the modern world. Edward had split with his other halfAlwilda before the events in the books. What follows is the year and glimpse of all the pasts of the friends as we follow them telling their tales in small glimpse and Monologues. A rye look at how lives loves and relationships shift over time this is like a map to there worlds but six individual maps to these lives.

I wish I was Zizek. Zizek can get everything to ,make sense, if I had been Zizek now, right now, I would be lying in a punic bordello having a fucking match with houellebecq, the whorse would not be traffiked, just glo-ba-lized – can you hear it being sung by Gregorian monks, or a eunch: glo-ba-lized pro-sti-tutes, ohh the humans, the oh so Zizekiaan eed to make sense of things where none exists.What is it that I cannot make sense of ? My Memory? My Love life ? we will have to take a closer look at that.

 

This book owes much to the Modernists writers. I saw one review mention Waves by Woolf which is told in Six voice like this book. I was also reminded of other writers of that generation Waugh there is a turn of humour like Waugh had at times also Powell as it follows a group of friends as they grow and shift through time. I may also note having read Havoc recently read and also his poetry is mentioned in the book, his minimal style is maybe the best guide to modern Danish minimalism writing.

 

That’s how whales are born by Anxos Sumai

THAT’S HOW WHALES ARE BORN

That’s how whale are born by Anxos Sumai

Spanish fiction

Original title –Así nacen as baleas

Translator – Carys Evans-Corrales

Source – review copy

Anxos Sumai is regarded as one of the best writers from Galicia in Spain. She has written four novels and also worked as a radio journalist. She was voted Galician writer of the year in 2007 the year this book came out it also won a prize for short novels. This is another in the series of books that have been sent to me from Small station press who are bringing to us so many new voices from Galicia.

Mother had just turned fifty-five when she decided to lock herself up in her bedroom. The stores had been functioning for a long time without her assistance and were doing well – very well.It was time for her to fall into one of those agonizing maelstroms, because this how it had been throughout her life, When she locked herself into her room she was defeated, yearning to be transported th some place where destiny would be waiting for her. It didn’t matter where: Mother always needed a destiny to set herself into action, to relinquish the voluntary self-exile she would impose on herself when neither death nor her loved pnes could move her at all .

The motherlocked away from her life and the world in pne trying to give up .

The book follows a young woman journey home. Having escaped her family and living in Baja California Mexico where she is studying Marine biology.In particular to do with whales that do crop up as a recurring thought in her mind. The girl receives a call from her Aunt that her mother a figure whom she had numerous problems with her mother. As she returns we found out about her past the mother who never seemed to recover from the husband that left her even now she has shut out the world and lives in her room. The older brother Ramon, a fat boy with a violent temper and disability that is always eating in her mind and then sleeping this was the time they could get around him without him lashing out. The whale at times is a figure she uses for her brother, with the vast appetites. Add a caring Nann the Aunt and Uncle we see a woman struggling to readjust t0 her home but also seeing those around her after returning.Maybe time is right. She is caught up in an affair with her tutor.

Except that the little girl barelyunderstood anything she was being told when Ramon interrupted them, Excuting turns at the entrance to the kitchen, ramon looked like a fat, flabby potato that gyrated and gyrated until he hit one of the walls. The little girl burst out laughin. Ramon made her ;laugh all the time, unless he was asleep.It was like having a clown all to herself, a joyful clown weighing over one hundred kilos.ramon could eat her up if he wanted to. He could eat her up in the same way he could eat a roasted capon all by himself.He could even flatten her when he breathed.

The brother larger than life like a whale a mystery at times

This is an interesting study of a family a modern family. This maybe shows who the dynamics work when there is no father. The problem of having a large than life figure in that of the brother Ramon. He may be overshadowed the narrator(I sense this we never even know her name). THere is a feeling of her runaway but the elastic of her home never quite breaking and being flung back into the family. But with her eyes opened by the trip to Mexico and also maybe having spent time with whales she sees more in her brother Ramon than she did. This is a book about memories the writer has said in interviews also she wants us the reader to draw our own view on the family.The title came from the time she imagined Ramon spending in the tub a fat boy in the tub and a whale ! I really like this book as it does what she wants us as a reader to do and that is thinking about the characters and the situation of an unnamed girl returning to her odd family.

 

Nobel lit 2017 Kazuo Ishiguro

Image result for kazuo ishiguro

 

Well we have just seen the winner announced live a true shock . The winner is Kazuo Ishiguro. I haven’t  on the blog here is a review and this is a shock. He is best known for remains of the day. Here is him on desert island discs . I have only read two of his books and hadn’t had him in mind for this so don’t know what to say.

Sweet potato by Kim Tongin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sweet Potato by kim Tongin

Korean short stories

Original title – Gamja  감자

Translator – Grace Jung

Source – review copy

Kim Tongin or Kim Dong-in as he was also known. Like many Koreans of his generation in the early 20th century he studied in Japan in Tokyo. But dropped out to become a writer as he had funds from a family inheritance, which meant he lived an extravagant lifestyle til his funds start running out in the thirties, he launched a magazine in the mid-thirties.He then visited China and in the forties, he was sent to jail in Japan. He died in 1951 aged just fifty. This is the first collection of his stories to be published in English from new publishing house Honford star.

It’s strange how when one person gets disciplined everyone else in the room shakes. (it’s neither public rage nor camarderie.) It;s not just that the body shakes, but thae heart shakes with it.the first time i experienced these shakes is when I got beaten up for three hours straight and shook like a po[lar in the detention room for two hours.(This is now something I deal with at least twice a day) the room is like a dead person’s cell.Not a sound . I can’t even breath loudly.No one wants to look inside here for fear that that they might encountewr a ghost.

From the story flogging a powerful passage on fear of violence shown in a body shaking .

There is a selection of stories from all over his career. They paint a picture of Northern Korea that I think is now long gone. From a tale of boat folk a brother who is a boatman make nightly trips from a small fishing village a story told over a number of years. Then Flogging is about a man in a jail in Japan, there is a real sense of the hatred between Korea and Japan in the way they treat each other. He builds a sense of fear, with comments like when one person gets discipline they all shake around him a real sense of fear. Then the title story follows an arranged marriage of a young poor girl to an older man shows power struggle as she ends up in poverty after getting raped at a salt mine by the boss and ends up turning to the street.This is also one of a number of well-written female characters in the book. A woman has an affair with a married man whom she tries to turn into something better.

Fighting, adultery, murder, begging, imprisionment – the slums outside the Ch’ilssong gate were tje point of orgin for all of life’s tragedieds and conflicts. Pongnyo and her husband were farmers – the second in class ranking (scolar, farmer,artisan and tradesman). Pongyno was poor but raised in a household that upheld principles.The strict rules of sonbi were left behind once the family fell into the rank of farmer.But some level of discipline, order and intelligence lingered.

The opeining lines of Sweet potato tell of a girl that grew with pricnciples but has a hard life when she marries.

 

Kim was known for the realistic nature of his works and he does here seem to set a world that is long gone the Korea of the past a more rural world, a slower world than the one now and in the case that most of the stories are set in the north of Korea a world that is now shut to public eyes. The title story has been made into a film a couple of times the first version is on youtube but hasn’t subtitles which is a shame. The cover art for the book was specially painted by a south Korean artist jee-ook Choi to reflect the title story.A great intro into one of the best regard writers from Korea one of the first true modern writers from that country a man that fought for a Korean voice in his writing.

International translation day 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saint Jerome is the patron saint of translation and it is the day we celebrate translation on international translation day. Well, maybe a look back over the eight years of this blog 750 books 90% in translation. Has seen me travel in my armchair with books from Afghanistan to Yemen in books. But also has seen an explosion in people publishing books from Peirene, Istros, tilted axis, honford star and Noir to name a few, have seen books reach us in English that would have not have done when I started the blog. The future is bright with two new prizes in the pipeline for books in translation and Booker behind what was the Independent foreign fiction prize, people seem more willing to try world lit . As for me the blog has grown and still gives me pleasure especially discovering places and writers. I now start to try and improve navigation of the blog as I want to divide  the reviews into a number of sections such as war, village life, experimental, family, cities, crime and short so as to show the common themes we see in literature no matter of place. How do you think translation has moved on in the last eight years ?

Goodbye, bird by Aram Pachyan

Goodbye, Bird

Goodbye, bird by Aram Pachyan

Armenian fiction

Original title – Ցտեսություն,_Ծիտ

Translator – Nairi Hakhverdi

Source – review copy

Well, I haven’t added many new countries in recent times, since getting over 100 countries the task gets harder. So every time I come to a new country to review a book from it is a bonus.This is another title from Glagoslav and their decision to bring us lit from a lot of Post-Soviet countries this time Armenia. This book was a best seller in its homeland.Aram Pachyan was born into a family of doctors and studied law. But also wrote getting his first story published in 2007 he now works as a journalist and columnist and hosts a radio show. This was the first novel after he had a collection of short stories.

I am 28 years old. That’s what it says at the beginning of every page of his notebook, which he opens every hour and leafs through, and incessantly repeats it with his skin turning dark red with anxeity, first looking at his arms to check that two has not suddenly turned into three.then he hangs his melon-looking head like the limp head of a dead man over one of the pages in his notebook and write two will never become three, because after being discharged the only governor of space and time is you, just like your grandfater who, at the break of dawn, finally closed the books on history.

The opening line shows the complex nature of this book

This novel finds a 28-year man has returned to his hometown and is now trying to piece together his life. The man is fragment like the book itself which drifts through time as we see his childhood years the friends he had then. Then the major part of his life in the Army seeing action losing comrades as he remembers a cat called bird, returns home and regains a girlfriend. But all in a fragmented style of almost PTSD world of the ex-soldier it all harks back to events in the army one horrific events and his trying to piece all this together and move forward. But there is also the everyday side of life listening to pink Floyd discovering Madame Bovary and other things as he pieces his world together.

“Everyone is guilty of my suicide. Is this not your creation, a mutual killing factory where time is killed until it’s time to kill and where everyone is forced to wait until the next time to kill, and then the next, the next time to kill, until a sniper’s bullet bores into your eye and you retun home for the last time,even if it’s in eternal silence in a coffin

This reminds us of the brutal nature of war at times and the repative effect of being in battle.

This is like a giant jigsaw of a book the pieces are there but this is like opening the box and piece it together without a picture. It is a young man’s world but told from his view others point of view and in a third voice at times. This makes it a compelling and challenging piece of prose. I was reminded at times of another recent book the novel Fado Alexandrino even down to what one may say is a feeling of Saudade in that book is also tinged in this book. A man looking back as well to his life in the army in the army and after the army.Also how to deal with PTSD in the fragmented nature is about trying to grasp life once again.  This was one of the most challenging books I have read recently but also one of the most interesting for any world lit fan this is an interesting first book from Armenia to read.

Two new shorts and a german seagulls

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m off for a night out later so not time to do a review. So I have chosen to show a few recent arrivals at Winstons towers. Sweet Potato. The first is from new publisher Honford Star. The collection from Kim Tongin is an insight into the first fifty years of the 20th century in Korea a time before its rise in power.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pushin press has a new collection of stories by the mast of the short story Chekov in a new translation from Nicolas Pasternak Slater the nephew of Boris Pasternak. There are thirteen stories in the collection including ones such as a day in the country, The lady with the little dog and the kiss.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now some purchases first is a collection of short stories from Robert Wasler from a few years ago. I have read one of his books but now how well regarded he is as a writer. The book covers most of his life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then two books by the late Swiss writer Urs Widmer. The first the Blue Soda siphon is an adult fairy tale that follows a man returning to his childhood in the 40s then his younger self, going forward to the 90s and the gulf war. In the congo follows a man that works in a retirement home where his father has just moved in and it follows the discovery his father wasn’t a boring man as he thought he was.The journey takes him to Congo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A trip for a grandfather and grandson to China goes slightly wrong. when then grandfather dies the grandson carries on writing back to family fantastic tales of what they were doing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then a second book for the tbr pile from German poet Hans Magnus Enzensberger. Tumult follows his life and the world from 1963 til 1970 as he was a left winger, spend time in the Soviet Union and Cuba. the last four books are all from Seagull books.

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