By night the mountain burns by Juan Tomas Avila Laurel

 

 

 

By Night the M B front cover CMYK

By night the mountain burns by Juan Tomas Avila Laurel

Equatorial Guinea fiction

Original title – Arde el monte de noche

Translator – Jethro Soutar

Source – review copy

 

“Memories Can’t Wait”

Do you remember anyone here?
No you don’t remember anything at all
I’m sleeping, I’m flat on my back
Never woke up, had no regrets

There’s a party in my mind…And it never stops
There’s a party up there all the time…They’ll
party till they drop
Other people can go home…Other peoplle they can split
I’ll be here all the time…I can never quit

Was hard to find a lyric but talking heads for some reason seemed right and a song about memories .

Well this is one I had read last year but put to one-sided and never got too , which doesn’t mean I didn’t like it the opposite really I loved it at the time sometimes if I leave a book too long to get to I never do .So last few days I flicked through it again and remember what I enjoyed about it after it made the IFFP longlist .Juan Tomas Avila Laurel is one of the voice to speak out against his countries harsh regime .A well-known blogger in his country , he worked as a nurse .He chose to stay in Equatorial Guinea ,when a lot of his fellow writers left .He eventually left in 2011 after he went on hunger strike to tie in with a visit from a Spanish minister  .

If there were too few people on our Atlantic Ocean island , too few strong people , we obviously wouldn’t be able to fish in canoes .There would be no need to ask a woman to have malanga soup ready at particular hour of particular afternoon , and nobody would sing to pull a half made canoe to its final destination

The island works together at times .

Now By night the mountain burns is one of those books that feel as thou it has been around for years in its style of writing  because the world we see maybe hasn’t changed for years .laurel draws on the small island of Annobon which is part of the country but also maybe shows more what is wrong with the country as it is smaller and poorer  .But rather like Fois book bloodlines is cut off from the surround world a world caught in amber .In this case it is an island where some of the past still lives on in myths and traditions . But the island is faces many other problems as Cholera and fire have both broken out and are spreading like wildfire .This is all told to us through the eyes of one of the youngest members of a family the young grandchild of a family  .So will it be fire disease or the old superstitions that drive the family out ?

They made the dead man a coffin and in the afternoon they went to bury him , following the procedure I described earlier . All the children who lived on the streets of the funeral procession were shut up in their homes with the windows covered up , forbidden from going outside until the adults got back .

A world full of tradition and the fear of what cholrea have brought to the island

I really enjoyed this when I read it last year as it is what seems the second book to be translated from its country it is hard to compare it with any other African fiction as Equatorial Guinea is the only Spanish-speaking country in africa . But at the time I noted down one book it reminded me of and that boom was” the last will and testament of senhor Da Silva Arajo by Germano Almeida “a book from Cape Verde a small island off Africa rather like Annobon I was  reminded as both gave  me  a feel of island life (meaning it is rather slow and often can have developed its own mythology ).A great choice for the English pen translation programme bringing us a writer that stands up for what he believes and in this book he shows us in part what is so wrong with his home country .In this book rich in its poetic language .

have you read this book ?

Taxi by Khaled Al Khamissi

taxi

Taxi by Khaled Al Khamissi

Egyptian fiction

Original title -Hawadith al-mashawir

Translator – Jonathan Wright

Source personnel E book copy

Khaled Al Khamissi is an Egyptian born ,writer he has written two novels so far .He studied Political science and university .This book thou published in 2006 /7 .A ;lot of what is spoken in the book seems very much still to be the case in Egypt .

‘People wonder why the economy’s screwed up,’ the driver said. ‘It’s screwed up because of people. Would you believe it, a country like Egypt, the people here spend more than 20 billion pounds a year on telephone calls. Twenty billion pounds, I mean, if we didn’t talk for two or three years, would Egypt be different?

Khamissi, Khaled Al (2012-03-15). Taxi (English edition)

 

Taxi is made up of 58 stories or is it voices ,from all round Cairo the voice of the taxi drivers of Cairo ,their  stories paint the city from top to bottom from the upper echelons to the lowest street people ,what we get is a clutter city  but city wanting to move forward ,of hard-working souls and corruption and uneven lifestyles come across .The from seatbelts to cinema ,Iraq ,Palestine and Israeli all crop up in the chats note in the stories .But at the back of it from time to time is the police corruption and the president at the time Mubarak   looming in the background as we see these windows of Cairo tell the tales to a unnnamed man in the taxis .

‘The whole story was business on business. The big guys imported seatbelts and sold them and made millions . The Interior Ministry issued one ticket after the other and collected millions. The wretched cops on the street would stop you and say: “Where’s your seatbelt, you bastard?” and you’d have to slip him a fiver, and if he stopped you when an officer was there , it would be twenty pounds. I mean, everyone benefited.

how they ended up with seatbelts in the city according to one driver ?

Well this book still seems fresh not seven years on yes the modern Egypt has moved quickly ,but one feels from the bits we see on the UK news that the basic problems that underlie these stories and people in the stories are the same .The city comes across as a place of divide but also great characters . I was reminded of the book written about a tube train and its passengers that had great snippets of of there lives .Also the book has a non fiction feel at times ,you never quite sure what has been heard and what was made up ,I feel maybe from what I’ve read about the book one thing we maybe have missed in Jonathan Wrights great translation is dialect that part of the book that if you live in Cairo maybe opens the book even more like a Londoner would gather more from an east end dialect and a city boys speaking but that aside I felt it was a great view into Cairo just before it blew up and maybe in here are a few clues too why it happened .

What is your favourite book on Egypt ?

Beneath the Darkening sky by Majok Tulba

beneath the darkening sky

Beneath the darkening sky by Majok

Australian / Sudanese fiction

Source Review Copy

Beneath the darkening sky was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Book prize .Majok Tulba grew up in Southern Sudan as he says on his website his village was by the waters of the White Nile .When he was nine soldiers from the Sudanese Armed Forces came to his village looking for recruits ,Majok was as it happens an Inch shorter than an AK-47 stood up which was the mark they used to measure up child solders ,he finally fled Sudan aged 16 got a Visa and settled in Australia .He is married with children now and writes and runs a charity and likes to highlight the plight of people in his homeland .I would say have a look at his personnel website which is rather good for a writers site

I think about my last sight of home .Mama and the younger ones clinging to her skirts .Her teeth were chattering .She wasn’t whimpering or crying,she was just trembling with her mouth half-opened and her eyes staring into emptiness of space ,and then she turned and stared into my eyes

Obinna last sight of his home and Mama

 

Now what would happened if the Nine year old Majok was actually a couple of inches taller when the solders came to his town .Well that is the basis of Beneath the darkening sky ,Obinna is a happy nine-year old when the book opens dreaming of entering primary 6 at school .When his village is over run by soldiers ,They cause damage in the village ,also kill a number of people , then start looking for who to take and its Obinna and his older brother Akot ,This leads the two boys into a dark world were one goes one way and another another Obinna ends up being called Baboons arse  .The story follows the brothers as they struggle to cope with the violent life of the solders ,rank and respect is gained by how many people they killed ,how many women they’ve raped this is a brutal world .How will it turn out ?

From the first ,we had to learn revolution songs , but our morning runs included a different kind of song – not about the revolution and the glorious new world .

A farmer’s daughter tried to run from me 

So I shot her once ,right in the knee

I dragged her into the long grass 

And then I F****d her pretty ass

The violent nature of the solders and their world even makes it into their songs .

Well short and sweet description ,I want you to read this one .As many of you that read the blog will know I usually wait a few weeks before reviewing a book to let it settle  in my mind ,but this book is one , that just needed me to jump ,up and shout about it to you all .But be aware this is a book about a violent world and thankfully Majok has chosen not to sugar coat the pill here ,no a couple of times I almost throw the book away out of sheer horror at what I was reading ,  but then Majok  is a wonderful compelling storytelling writing didn’t make me .I hate the term Page turner because it is such a cliché ,but I  did finish  this book in two sittings . This book does more than news pictures can do ,it brings you down on the ground as we see this horrific world through the eyes of a sacred nine-year old .Majok Tulba is a writer to watch .A heartbreaking insight into the dark side of the Sudan conflict .

King Lazarus by Mongo Beti

King Lazarus

King Lazarus by Mongo Beti

Cameroon fiction

Translator – Peter Green

Source personnel copy

As I said yesterday I was shocked when in Alain Mabanckou in his book ,Black Bazaar, they were discussing early French language fiction from Africa and Mongo Beti was mentioned ,it served to remind me I hadn’t reviewed this book that I had read last year .So too  Mongo Beti ,was out spoken as a kid about religion and colonialism in africa .He was expelled from his missionary school but did manage to get to university in France where he studied literature , first at Aix-en-Provence he then went to the prestigious Sorbonne in Paris ,before returning to Cameroon ,where he wrote journalism ,including a scathing piece on the writer Camara Laye for what he saw as a book pandering to western tastes ,not African tastes.He then choose to write novels himself ,writing a number of books a number of which appeared in the ealry collection of the African writer series  .He did end up spending a lot of his life in exile .

The same day the reverend father mustered all his determination and will-power and sought audience with the chief .What took place no-one discovered .Directly Le Guen left ,the chief summoned his brother ,telling him to send away all the palace wives .

“Except the one and only wife to whom I shall be married in the eyes of god ”

“And which one might that be ? ” Mekenda enquired cautiously .

The Chief makes his choices .

After reading up on Mongo Beti his motivation for writing this book became clear ,this book is a vision of how he saw Cameroon ,missionaries and tribal life in his homeland .The book centres on The chief of the Essazam ,who has decide to embrace the catholic faith .Now this is where the problems start for him ,because he has a number of wives 23 in all .The church has been pushing him to choose just one of the women so he choose the youngest of his wives to be his only bride in the eyes of god .Now this isn’t the simplest thing for him to do because the other 22 wives don’t want to lose the position or lose face within the tribe ,thus setting up a trick situation .On top of this the chief is being pushed into this by Le Guen the priest ,as Le Guen in turn is facing pressure from his bishop to make the chief convert as they see him converting as a powerful figure for the church in the country .

At the time of the events this story describe ,the girl was barely fifteen .An impetuous ,passionate  creature, la bell ,Medzo ,her opulent Bosom the more striking for the bird-fine  adolescent body .Already the most attractive women in the place .

WHat happens to Medzo ?

Well as you see this is very much tribal world and way of life clashing with the incoming Christian religion  .The title is a spin on the old tale because instead of everything turning to gold as the priest and his bishop hopes ,it in fact has the opposite effect for the Chief .Given that Beti was critical of Laye ,you can see that this book which he wrote after that is very much a book that appeals to Africans in the post colonial world at the time it was written 1958 France and both the UK were starting to withdraw from Africa ,in fact Cameroon became independent just two years after this book was published .Satire is the way Beti choose to show the world of the chief and the priest ,to show the madness of the two worlds clashing the Christian world and it values and the Tribal world .The Pressure on Le Guen to make him decide to become a Catholic ,without seeing the bigger picture .Beti has written here a sharply observed  book capturing a shifting world in time that world of older values and western messing with these values .This book seems out of print which is a shame but old African writer copies seem easily available online .This book shows yet again how in the early years of this series the Late Chinua Achebe ,who sadly passed away last week ,made some great choices for this series by picking strong voices out of Africa.

Have you read any books from Cameroon ?

Black Bazaar by Alain Mabanckou

Black-Bazaar_large

Black Bazaar by Alain Mabanckou

Congolese fiction

Translator -Sarah Ardizzone

Source – Library

So after a few days away from the blog I return with another of this years Independent foreign fiction prize Long-listed books and this time it is From the Congolese writer Alain Mabanckou .This is the third book from him I have reviewed on Winstonsdad ,I have previously covered Broken Glass and Memories of a porcupine .Now the big change in this book than the two previous books which have both been set in Congo is that this book is set in the Paris ,but more the Paris of the African immigrant a very different one than the one we know and also the story of one Man and the people he knows .

Because he keeps going on about the Hippocratic oath ,we’ve ended up nicknaming him Mr Hippocratic .Seeing as he can’t insult the whole earth, he takes it out on me instead .Mr Hippocratic likes to cultivate his garden at my expense .He says ,for example ,that most blacks he knows ,I always put the cart before the horse ,I’m not worth Peanuts ,I’m a cabbage head ,with an artichoke for a heart

The racist neighbour of the Buttologist .

The main character in this book is a Congolese man from the capital of Congo ,the same as Alain Mabanckou ,but our man character is a colourful chap who has earned the name Buttologist ,he is one of these chaps that has a swagger about him a modern-day Dandy .He is one of a group of guys that have a certain air around them .This is almost a keen to the English gang novels of Richard Allen who charts the life of Joe a skinhead that then becomes a young man in his other books .This is the story of a man coping with the world around him .The title is a reference to a diary that the Buttologist keeps .He is a man in mourning not for someone who has died, but for his women the women called Original Colour by Buttologist and his friends she earned the name because of the deep colour of her skin ,well she has taken of with his son, who with a midget ,she has gone back to the Congo and left the Buttologist .We see how Buttologist copes with this loss but also through what his friends say a large picture of being African in Paris .But also how being African has been shaped in them the books the read ,the music they like ,how they perceive life .

I buy books from the rideau Rouge .And what do I remember from what I’ve read ?

A dazzling truth: it’s thanks to colonisation that Cameroonian Ferdinand Onyono wrote The old man and the medal and Houseboy ; it’s thanks to Colonisation another Cameroonian ,Mongo Beti wrote cruel Town and The poor christ of Bomba .

I read this and Smiled I have read Mongo Beti’s king Lazurus last year but never got to review it yet so will be tomorrow .

I love Mabanckou ,this is my third read from him ,every time I go wow .He is a writer that seems the same yet different in every book ,if that makes sense he has grown as a writer of the books but also has kept what I loived the first time I read him in the heart of the book and that is the interaction of everyday people .Buttologist is a guy you often see around ,not always from Congo the sharper dressed African is some one I ve meet via work and like Buttologist what on the outside the maybe brash dandy looking chap isn’t what they are all about .The other thing I love in Mabanckou writing is a dry and dark wit subtle and shows the clashing of African culture and French culture but also ,the clashing of different african nations as one passage about living in a house with a few Nigerian women and how they argue made me laugh .I see why this was picked for the IFFP longlist ,Sarah Ardizzone has done a great job on keep what appears from talking to Tony who has read it in the original French a vibrant book alive .

Have you read Alain ,which is your favourite by him ?

Previous Older Entries

July 2015
M T W T F S S
« Jun    
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031  
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,517 other followers

%d bloggers like this: