The return of the Caravels by Antonio lobo Antunes

 

The Return of the Caravels by Antonio Lobo Antunes

Portuguese fiction

Original title – As Naus

Translator – Gregory Rabassa

Source – Personal copy

There is a name that has for most of the time I have been blogging that has been on the list of potential Nobel winner Antonio Lobo Antunes is always on the list of potential winners. The former doctor served in the Portuguese army in a number of conflicts in the 60s and 70s they feature in a number of his book they have been in the two books I have previously read from Him. Here also there is a feel of the aftermath of those conflicts. He has written a bi-weekly column for a Newspaper he has written over twenty novels he is influenced by William Faulkner in his style which is dense and modernist.

He’d passed through Lixbon eighteen or twenty years earlier on the way to Angloa and what he remembered best were his parents rooms in the boarding house on Conde redondo where they were staying in the midst of a clatter of pots and womans exsoerated grumbling. He recalled the communal bathroom, a washbasn with a set of baroque faucets inimtation of fish that vomited out sobs of brownish water through there open gils, and the time he came upon a man on in years smiling on the the toilets with his pants down around his knees . At night the window would be open and he’d see the illuminated Chinese restuarents, the sleepwalking glaciers of electrical appliances stores in the shadows, and blond heads of hair above the paving stones of the sidewalks.

The opening lines show how the past and opresent mix together.

Inside the Jeronimos Monastery In Lisbon, there is the copper insignia that were on the ships from Portugal those Caracvels those ships the Portuguese used when they conquered their empire. Well, this book mixes those figures famous for the discovery and conquering those lands have returned to a mix of Modern well it is the mid-seventies after the falling apart of the Salazar regime and the decision to leave their empire so when figures like Vasco  De Gama the king, smaller figures like Luis as they all return and see what has happened the journey of their empire has gone full circle as the past and present crash and the figures of the past drift into the present as they see what has happened over the past three hundred years of history as the fate of their empire and its downfall is shown in full color this isn’t a plot-driven book it is more a revision and view of the past and present at once it is about the Portuguese empire and its downfall. the darker side of all is shown like in his other works he doesn’t hold back.

When Vasco da Gama arrived in Vila franca de Xira by van, with the poker deck in his pocket, ain=ming to find work at the cobbler’s trade, instead of the trees and houses and streets he’d remembered at night in Africa with meticulous precision of longing, he found a land that had extended beyond the rooftops and the pagoda of the bandstand submerged in the vast spread of the halted waters of the Tagus, drowning farms,cows and walls abd driven by November rains. Famlies clinging to the tops of poplar trees saw passing by, adrift in the whirlpools of mud, the bloated bodies of bereaus mules and dogs, double basses lost their clefs forever, woman with their figers motionless in sewing gestures, and their mugs thatr said souvenir of Loule.

Vasco De Gama one of those figures to return to the present

This is a tough book about a tough period in his countries history. What he does is mix those great names of the past and the underbelly of what has happened since. It looks at what the likes of Da Gama Legacy mean for them. Style-wise this is a book that owes a lot to the writers he likes Faulkner springs to mind it is a work about thoughts and ideas more than a plot about the legacy good and bad about the Portuguese empire with warts and all that has happened there are little side stories like Luis who comes to Lisbon on a ship and his father’s coffin. The mix of past and present in the world that sees the modern and the [ast as one is an interesting insight into the heart of the Portugal of the time. It is like a mixtape of Portuguese history with rifts on top of rifts as he samples the past and presents working them in together to produce something unique a seem less mixing of both that has been beautifully translated by Gregory Rabassa who for me has always been one of the best translators around.

Winstons score – + A stunning like a rich dessert it is intense and full of flavors of Portuguese history!!

That was the month that was July 2021

  1. Ramifications by Daniel Saldaña París
  2. Working Woman by Elvira Navarro
  3. Death at Intervals by Jose Saramago
  4. None so Blind by J A Gonzalez Sainz

This month I wasn’t on form a real reading slump so I only managed four reviews all month we started in Mexico with a young man looking back at the loss of his mother as he is sick in the same bed as his parents slept in. Then a flatshare happens or is it two women or one woman imaging a flatmate as her editing job shrinks down. Then Death takes a break from her job and all through everyone is happy at first the consequences of no deaths soon sinks in and a cellist then avoids the call of death Then a man moves to the basque region and sees his family drawn into the Basque problems in the 80s a quiet man’s life turns. So I managed three countries not any new publisher.

Book of the month

I hadn’t read Saramago for a decade and this reminded me what a talented writer he was and how he had lots of recurrent themes in his works such as religion, the Salazar regime, and dystopian worlds. It won’t be this long next time too I  read him.

Non-book events

I watched the Shane Meadows film Dead man’s shoes which I have watched a few times as a revenge thriller mostly set in Matlock as a brother returns to take revenge on the druggy gang that killed his disabled brother killing them one by one. It has him talking with his brother reliving what happened to him I like Meadows’s work as they are mostly set in place I know around Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. In the opposite to that was watching Terry Gillian’s dystopic film Brazil with Jonathan Pryce as a man caught up in a kafkaesque world of things going wrong after a mistake means the wrong man is arrested. But on the whole, It has been a quiet month otherwise really fairly hot for most of it.  we tidied our garden but have a bit more to do but now have a few days off to do some more work in it. This also saw the seventh anniversary of losing Winston, not a week goes by that I don’t miss him.

The month ahead well with the lack of reviews for the last month I have extended Spanish lit month and intend to review a few more books for there I have two already read ready for review and then I will also try a couple for Woman in translation month a couple will cross with Spanish lit month then I have review copies piling up. that I need to get to. So a busy month I hope. What plans have you for the next month?

None So Blind by J A Gonzalez Sainz

None So Blind by J A Gonzalez

Spanish fiction

Original title – Ojos que no ven

Translator -Harold Augenbraum and Cecilla Ross

Source – personal copy

I reviewed a couple of books from Hispabooks that published a number of Spanish writers and their books into English based in Spain they broke through a number of the recent writers I have loved Navarro and Barba being two of note that they published first over here. This is the first book by the Spanish writer Jose Angel Gonzalez Sainz to be translated into English he has written a number of novels. He won the Herralde prize one of the big book prizes in Spain. He was the founder and editor of the magazine Archipelago He has also translated a number of works from Italian to English including the works of Claudio Magris with whom he is a good friend. Nine so blind is the first of his books to be translated into English.

Diaz carrion, Felipe Diaz Carrion, knew from an early age, from the first times his father , may he rest in peace, took him along on the road to the field, that Egyptian Vultures were the first vultures to arrive on the scen wherever there was carrion, Genrally they are quiet and quick, his father told him, impressing him to the point of awe, quieter and quicker than anypne else, and despite their large size they don’t make type of dramatic commotion other vultures do, so sometimes they go unnoticed even thpugh they’re always there from the beginning, going about their buisness.

Maybe felipe is like the vulture unnoticed at times a quiet man and his world

The book focuses on the life of Felipe Diaz Carrion a printer that has always work in print shops what we follow is his life the three generations his relationship with his father. His time with his wife. The book follows him leaving his g=hometown and the fields that his family had worked and lived in for many years there is a recurring image of a Vulture and Egyptian vulture that is white and as is point out at a distance looks like a stork at times a motif of life and death this is a story of a quiet man a no one but when he moves North when his wife suggested that they will have a better life and his work life will be better in the Basque region he works at a print shop but is always the outside and the sense of tension there is at the Basque of the time the book is set the height of the recent troubles seems to simmer all around them as things turn for the worse he has a son but they chose to not take the family name of Felipe so we have the third generation of the family with Juan Jose or  Juanjo as he is known growing up in the height of the Basque regions as the famoly start to get involved with the world around them and Felipe often turns a blind eye or maybe doesn’t want to see what is happening around him. This is a story of one man’s life a man with morals in a world of fewer morals a man that tries to do the right thing but is often at odds with those around him.

But the years, now marked by the rhythm of that commute, which had gradually become as familar as his old road to the field, were passing comfortably. Asun, his wife, after a difficult adjustment period seemed to be feeling more and more at home as time went on, and their son- their elder son, because a year after they moved there, they’d had another one, and withthis one he had insited, perhaps for reason of nostalgia, on naming him Felipe – was well into his teenage years and had began not only to go out with his posee of friends but to be out with them at what might call every waking hour, in fact. To him, there was nothing more important at his pose, and no household routine or opinon, or, in any case, not his fathers, held the least valuefor him compared to those his friend would spout.

Caught between tradition and the real world at times

There is a dark shadow over this book with the Basque ETA situation it adds to the world they come to when they move to the Basque region this is a man that seems to lose every way he turns a quiet man that leaves all he knows to move to for a dream. But the reality sinks in the recurring theme of the Vulture is hoovering over is like the death of a family in a way death of a tradition. For me, I was reminded of the undercurrent that I felt visiting Northern Ireland in my youth at the height of troubles the constant sense of undercurrent that was there the normal world that isn’t normal. There is also the ease one can get caught up in the passion and fury that is in that world.

Winstons score – B – an insight into one mans life.

Death at Intervals by Jose Saramago

Death at Intervals by Jose Saramago

Portuguese Literature

Original title – As Intermitências da Morte 

Translator – Margaret Jull Costa

Source – personal copy

I have had a real bout of readers block and reviewing block as well in recent weeks. I thought I had reviewed a Saramago early on in the blog but I hadn’t I just read a couple just before I started the blog. I decided to choose this as it had a lot of themes that Saramago used. The strange change of events here people stop dying. death it’s self a theme in other books I have read by him also it has the same style of the narrative he used in other books a stream of consciousness style and it was a later book in his writing career I always like seeing how writers wrote after the fame and Nobel win. It is over ten years since he died and Well maybe we need to read more of this great writer’s books.

THE FOLLOWING DAY ,NO ONE DIES, THIS FACT< BEING ABSOLUTELY contray to life’s rules, provoked enormous and, in the circumstances, perfectly justifiable anxiety in people’s ,ind, for we have ony to consider that in the enitire forty volumes of universal history there is no mention, not even one exemplarycase, such a phenomen ever having occurred, for a whole day  to go by, woth its genrous ever having occured for a whole day to go by, with its generous allowance of twenty-four hours, diurnal and nocturnal, matutinal and vesoertine, without one death from an illness , a fatal fall or a successful suicide, not one, not a single one

The opening lines of the book on the 1 January  everything changes.

The book starts in a country landlocked and the new year has just turned and then all of a sudden everyone in the country stops dying. This at once see as a wonderful joy among the public as a whole when it is clear there is no more deaths. But soon turns bad when an elderly royal on death’s door can’t die and she isn’t the only one. As the cycle that carries on living the whole cycle of life and death is broken by death stopping it , putting a branch in the wheel of life. So those that are involved in the whole cycle of life are worried the prime minister of this small country with its one tv channel may be his nod to the closed years of Portugal’s own past. Then Death is a  back ut in the figure of a person. After her taking a break she is a woman as in Portugal the noun of Death is female she sets up a relationship with a cellist that has to avoid her calls for her time to be over sets up an interesting match up. over what time it is best to die this is a book that asks about are our own mortality, by a writer looking back on his life.

in this country in which noonje dies not everything was a sordid as we have just described, nor,in this soceity toen between the hope of living for ever and the fear of never dying, did the voracious maphia succeed in getting its talons into every section by corrupting souls, subjagating bodies and besmirching the little that remained of the fince principles of oldm when an envelope containing something that smelled of a bribe would have been immediately returned to the sender, bearing a firm and clear response

later the reality of no deaths. Finally sinks in to everyone

The book has a lot of threads that connect to his other books the church and immortality is a theme that is very Saramago he frequently attacks the church which is a powerful shadow over Portugal grew up in there is also nods to the Salazar regime in the one tv state here an insular country. Death as a woman is refreshing for an English reader as we have death as a male from the image in Seventh seal or the spoof of that in Bill and ted, here we have a younger death a woman in a battle with a middle-aged man a cellist the lead cellist a nod to certain pieces played that deal with death. This ask the question of what would happen if we lived forever. We are all dying that is a fact of life and this is what is evident after time here as good as it seems on the outset after the first day of no deaths. when the flip side of what happens when you can’t die !! Like many of the other books by Saramago, I have read this leaves you as a reader thinking he uses a mix of magic realism fables, philosophy, and his own life to mix a truly unique vision. Have you a favorite book by him? I will be reviewing another great Portuguese writer soon.

Winstons score – A a great late-career work from a Nobel winner

 

 

Working Woman by Elvira Navarro

Working Woman by Elvira Navarro

Spanish fiction

Original title –La trabajadora,

Translator – Christina Macsweeney

Source – personal copy

Another of the writers that were on the first Granta best Spanish writer list(note there is a new edition out if it is half as good as the first as there have been so many great writers from the first list) . Elvira Navarro studied philosophy at university and has written six novels and a number of collected stories. She has won many prizes for her writing. She is known for her innovative writing making her one of the leading writers of her generation most of her novels have been translated into English. This is the first book I had read from her.

Then one fall day, Fabio turned up. He was Mexican, thpough no would have guessed it, given his Irish looks. I had kind of an obsession with anything blond{She made a vague gesture, like a Thompson gazelle lying in wait for a camera in a wildlife documentary. I was about to say something, but..} One day my psychoanalyst said I was looking for the child I used to be all the blond men I fell in love with. A second shrink, Jungian this time came out with the idea that I worshipped the Ayran race{I looked at the floor, if susana wanted to beleive her, these ridiculous observations weren’t helping, but on the other hand, the part of me that curiously observed and envied her freedom in constructing an image of herself gave a faint signal of delight, I was accustomed to her exggarations , even to her lies

What is truth is a big part of this book who is real as well !

The book is a story of two roommates Susana and Elisa, Elisa is a copy editor and proofreader that has seen her job shrink and has had to move to a smaller place and then even couldn’t make ends meet she takes in Susana as her roommate. So she has left the center of Madrid and had to move to the outer suburbs. The book flicks between both their lives as at times we see Susana’s life through the eyes of her roommate as she writes down her roommate’s stories. What we see are to women struggling with their lives mental health is touched on the loss of dreams the struggle of life as the two are drawn Elisa is a lost soul as she wanders the town the graveyard both actual and the left behind abandon house half-built dreams in the dead of night. Susana an artist is making maps out of clippings and pieces of the local area. It is a story that sees you at the limit of what is life a woman on the edge is there even two women is Susana a sort of creation for Elisa to live out her fantasies in a way Susana is described in such a way she seems too good to be sometimes !! Is it a friendship or just a dream this is where Navarro does well to tread a line that as a reader you are never sure? Add to that all a relationship with a dwarf !!

Becoming an indepedent contractor had been the first step. Then they started getting behind with my paychecks, only making them promptly when i complained. They used to say this courtsey- meeting their obligations- was a sign of how much they valued me. When winter came around, I hadn’t been paid for two months, and I’d started without much success, testing the waters at other publishing houses.I wirker till late on galleys that left me without the slghtest desire to read to go on looking at the screen, and then I’d need to get outside , walk and have a couple of beers.

The tough publishing world has woirn her down and seen her move out of the city

When I saw on the back cover that Lina Meruane had called her disturbing and had an eye for the unusual I was drawn in and her novel seeing red I loved. This is a story of two women or is it one woman Elisa is failing in her job as she is working on editing a memoir she has a psychiatric condition which she is trying new meds is this all an illusion is Susana a character created to comfort her to inspire her with her tiny maps and her being the opposite of Elisa or is she real. Navarro has drawn the two roommates so well as at times the story goes between them and at times Susana’s story is told by Elisa. Not the easiest read it sees how easy it is for us to all fall into despair and a downward spiral. I do wonder if Navarro is a soft cell fan with the whole dwarf side story reminded me of the song of theirs from the 80s sex dwarf! Have you read her ?  which book would you recommend next?

Winstons score – -A near-perfect gem from a talented writer.

Life and Spanish lit month

A quick post just extending Spanish lit month into August. I’ve struggled to write and a lot of the time read a book this last month or so. I feel a group of nights at work which I finished yesterday morning was on my mind for various reasons and had distracted me with a shoulder injury last month and not having a holiday for two years we had a weekend away last month but the whole Covoid situation with working through it and having Amanda at home as she was told to stay in due to her health issues for most the last year of it has all taken its toll. Now as we enter more freedom with the figures still high and I’m just worn down so instead of panicking and stressing I’m extending  Spanish lit month to August which we have done before and it will match up well with Women in translation month as there is so many great female Spanish writer and translators out there at the moment. Thanks to everyone that has taken part so far I hope to go and comment some soon. I am now back at work tomorrow for two long days. So  I will be posting a review Friday Hopefully .A great Arrival has popped through my letterbox it is the first book that Charco Press has published by Argentinean writer Claudia Piñeiro she is the third most translated writer from Argentina and has had her other books published her a lot of her books have been made into films. The book has just come out and is a great choice for this month’s or next month’s Women in Translation Month. Hope all of you are doing well and don’t let Covoid worry you too much.

Gold Dust by Ibrahim al-Koni

Gold Dust by Ibrahim al-Koni

Libiyan (Tuareg) fiction

Original title – التبر

Translator – Elliot Colla

Source – Personal copy

I shift from Spanish lit to join in Lisa Indigenous lit week for this year and the Libyan Tuareg writer Ibraham al-Koni a book that I have had for a long time. al-Koni grew up as a child in the Desert not learning to read and write Arabic till he was twelve he then went on to study comparative literature in Moscow. This is where he discovered the Lit theory of Geroge Lukac about the novel can’t be outside the city and then decide to set the novel he has written in the desert world he knew thus working against Lukac theory. He has produced over 80 books there have only been a few translated to English. He has taught all over the world and is considered one of the best Arabic writers alive. he was longlisted for the man booker international prize a number of years ago.

When Ukhayyad received the camel as a gift from the cheif of the Ahaggar tribes, he was still a young colt. Back the, on moonligh nights, Ukhayyad liked to brag about the throughbred camel to the other young men of the tribe, taking pleasure in posing questions to himself and then answering them

“Have any of you ever seen a piebald Mahri before ?”

“Never !”

“Have you ever seen a through bred so graceful so light of foot and so well proportioned?”

“Not until now.”

Have you ever seen a Mahri who could compete with him in pride, fierceness, and loyalty?”

“Not like this one”#”Have you ever seen a gazelle who took on the form of a camel?”

“Of course not”

He loved his camel ? a gift the two become close the camel is almost human at times it seems

 

The book focuses on a young Tuareg man as he rejects the wife his father has chosen for him after being persuaded by his wife’s cousin  Duda to divorce her which he pays him in gold dust.  and has thus had to go into exile with only his camel which he was given as a gift by the chief of the Ahaggar tribe it is a thoroughbred camel his pride and joy a piebald camel. The tale is of these two a man and their camel as the two try and survive in the desert as Ukhayyad tries to avoid the men of his tribe the war in the south of the desert as we follow them. The two have a bond that is almost like a pair of best pals the camel at one point saves him from a well when he has fallen down. The camel who like his owner drifts from good health to being on the edge of life as the desert takes it toll on the two of them. the two end up in caves where the walls are covered in prehistoric painting where we see Ukhayyad dream of a house deserted as he hides away from those chasing him.

When the herders brought their camels to the well, they found the young man’s emaciated, bloody body stretched out naked beneath its edge. His foot was still fastened to the tail of the throughbred Mahri that looked as if he had been skinned alive, The camel sttod over his head using his body to shield him from the scorching sun, They carried him into the shade of a nearby lote tree. Under that thick canopy crown, ther dunked his head into a bucket and poured water over him, An older herder hasten to light a fire and heat a kettle of water . The man rifled through his belongings and returned woith a handful of Fenugreeek seeds that he proceeded to cook. The camle herder served the broth to him with a spoon, all the while holding his head like mothers do when they breast feed their children.

ukhayyad nearly dies in the middle of the desert to saved by some camel herders

I have had this on my shelf for too long I know it is considered one of the best books from Arabic and one of the best about desert life as I said this is a buddy book the man and his camel but there is a third character and that is the desert itself the harsh world of the Tuareg is opened up as we follow Ukhayyad and his camel through the Sahara the changing environments as the two on the run try to get by in the tribal world where he has rejected that world when he divorced his with for a bag of gold dust. It is a book about man, desert, tribal life, Sufism, and the natural world. Ukhayyad is a character that isn’t easy to like but you feel for him and the [redicment he has got himself into. A great choice for Lisa’sindigenous lit month ! Have you read any of his books ?

Winstons score – -B an interesting insight into the tuareg world

 

 

Ramifications by Daniel Saldaña París

Ramifications by Daniel Saldaña París

Mexician Fiction

Original title – El nervio principal

Translator – Christina MacSweeney

Source – personal copy

I’m rather late starting this month’s Spanish lit month well I have started with another Charco press book before I get to the week one book of a perfect cemetery. I have both the books that have been translated by Daniel Saldaña París into English which is the reason I decided it was time to read one of them. He has been in the list of the best Mexican writers that came out in 2017 and the Bogota 39 list of the best writers under forty from Latin America. He started with three poetry collections and then has written four novels two of which have been translated into English. This book follows one man looking back on his childhood as he is laid confined to a bed.

Teresa walked out one Tuesday around midday. I can’t remember exactly which month, but it must have been either the end of July or the beginning of August , because ,y siter and I were still on H=holiday. I always hated being left in the care of Mariana, who systematically ignored me for the whole day, barricaded in her bedroom with the music playing at a volume that even to me a boy of ten, seemed ridiculous. So that Tues, I resented it when, Mumgot up from the table after lunch and announcecd she was going out “look after your brother, Mariana”, she said in a flat voice , that was the way shegenerally spoke, with hardly any intonation, like a computer giving instructions or someone on qutismspectrum(Even mow, when no one else is around, I sometimes imitate her, and it’s not beyond the bounds of possibility that writing this is, in some form, an effort to find an echo of that monotone voice in the written world).

The opening lines and his mother walking out in 1994

This is a novel that our unnamed Narrator traces a man’s childhood as he tries to piece together what happened in his youth when his mother Teresa  just left him and his sister and father on a Tuesday. As our narrator tries to piece together the past.why his mother just left to join the Zapatistas and left them with a father who is distant a man that struggles to cope. Our narrator becomes obsessed with origami which he did to occupy time but also made him a quiet boy as his 10-year-old mind fills the gaps, but it also meant he grew into a quiet lonely man. So in the story, as he recalls this we question what we remember as now 32 he is laid in a bed the family bed that his father had passed away from a few years earlier. It is that he is sorting through his family’s papers as he learns some truths that have struck him down. he is unable to get out of bed. So he thinks of the time in 1994 when this all happened. It is a story of growing up with a huge void in one’s life but it also questions how we remember our lives when we are so young what do we recall is it colored by what we read and saw at the time. It is a book about coming of age amidst the chaos that was Mexico at the time when a man that is a reclusive soul looks back at what may be made him that way all the years ago.

My attempts at origami grew worse by the day, or at least that was my impression. Beforethe mastering the crane and the frog, I launched unto more complex figures. The result; unrecognisable lumps of paper that had been folded and unfolded too many times (Pper has that drawback; it’s made to remember all our errors, whether it’s when writing on it, as I do noe, or when folding and unfolding it, as I did then.)

His hobby shuts him of from the world but is maybe the way he remebers the past fold by fold but are they in the right order !

This is one of those books that hasn’t a lot of plot but a lot of how the world was for one small boy as the action flicks between the action of the past and the present it is a  book about what makes our memories of these timelines twist at times as we see how the present can ooze into the past. I enjoyed the pieces where he recalled the world cup in 1994 which I remember as at the time I was living in Germany as was visiting the Uk with my German partner at a time shortly after some of the events in the book when Bulgaria that had earlier played Mexico knocked out the germans. like is origami this is trying to fold the past into a swan or something without missing the folds memories fade and get blend with what we learn after them this is what we learn here. A story of a lonely boy as a lonely man piece together his past.

Winstons score – B A strong story of childhood recalled after the space left by a mother that has gone !

That was the month that was June 2021

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

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

Book of the month

The Cheap eaters by Thomas Bernhard

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

Non book events

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

This month coming

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

To The Warm Horizon by Choi Jin-Young

To The Warm Horizon by Choi Jin-Young

Korean fiction

Original title – 해가 지는 곳으로(

Translator – Soje

Source — review copy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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