Globetrotter by David Albahari

Globetrotter by David Albahari

Serbian fiction

Original title – Svetski Putnik

Translator – Ellen Elias-Bursac

Source – library book

I had long want to try Albahari he is a writer that has always got good reviews over on the complete review with =three of his books getting -A score on the site. So when I saw this in the library system I thought be a great chance to read David  Albahari A Serbian writer , who also translates books from English into Serbian, he has won a number of prize including the Ivo Andric prize .Plus this was also published by Margellos world republic of letters a imprint of Yale press that I have a fondness for .

After that we visited the gray wolf, the buffalo, the bat, the golden eagle, the swan, and the hummingbird, and Daniel Atijas told me that the collection reminded him of a similar natural history museum in Belgrade, which he hadn’t thought of for years, and, come to think of it, he hadn’t been there for ages, for so long, in fact that he wasn’t even certain whether it was still up and running.But when he’d last visited, probably on a school trip, he had wanted to stay there forever.

A tour of a museum brings back a school trip and Daniels home town of Belgrade

Well now globetrotter is one of those tricky to describe books as it is set in Banff in Canada at a yearly art event ,but is mainly about former Yugoslavia  and the outfall of the recent war . A writer visits the art centre in Banff as a guest writer for three weeks. This writer Daniel Atijas is the main character but we see him through the eyes of the narrator of this single paragraph who is a Canadian  painter he has painted many faces of Daniel as he is attracted to this man but as he painted the many faces we see the story of Daniel but also what lead to him being in Canada the war in Yugoslavia but also the writers place in the world he says how many writers have left their homeland become Emigre writers . Does distance and history change how a writer writes ? As the two grow closer the reader discovers more about Daniels past and what he sees as his future as a writer. We also see a slowly unfolding love affair as the painter is so captured bu this Serbian writer and his tales but also by his face that seems to tell its own story .

Daniel’s room, I noticed that my misgivings had been unwarranted. The grief was still there on the grandson’s face, but by then, if I can put it this war, his was only half the grief, the other half had slided over Daniel Atijas faces, at least for that evening and night, looked less and less like the face I had been drawing and because of which I was sitting where, by all accounts, I should not have been.

The painter sees how the loss of a Croatian touches the Serbian writer when he is told by the grandson of the Croat .

I loved this it easy to compare the book to Thomas  Bernhard and many central european writers  as he writes in a similar breathless style to David in this the action is like one story coming at you at a pace. But for me it is maybe how David want Daniel and the unnamed story told a brief meeting of minds in three weeks that seemed to have touched both artist and writer in some way. This is a story of dealing with having a new home far away from your home but also ones own past a classic exile tale, but also Like Daniel David himself visited Banff in 1994 just as the story in the story was his own story and to add to the mix of Banff the translator herself visited it in 2001. So Daniel story is really Davids story of how he is trying to carry on as a writer in exile .I loved this it is a wonderful book that tells much about the writer but also those early years of the collapse of the former Yugoslavia remind me of me years at the same time in Germany working in a factory with a mixture of  Balkan refugees from Bosnia , Kosovo and Croatia

Have you read David Albahari ?

Sudden death by Álvaro Enrigue

Sudden death by  Álvaro Enrigue

Mexican fiction

original title – Muerte súbita

Translator – Natasha Wimmer

Source – review copy

Well it is Thursday and this translation Thursday I bring to you all one of the biggest stars in Mexican Lit, in fact part of what we may say is the Power couple of mexican fiction as Alvaro is married to fellow Mexican writer Valerie Luiselli. He has won a number of prizes and one of his books was picked on a list of the best recent books from Mexico .. I have read his book before I brought a copy of Hypothermia which came out a few years ago that was a collection of short stories this is his first novel to be translated into English.

At the collegiate church of Ottery St Mary, under Lacey’s rule, a group of novices had been using at the roofed gallery of the cloister to play matches against townies. In those day tennis was much rougher and noiser than it is today some were attackers, others defenders, there were no nets or lines, and points were won tooth and nail, by slamming the ball into an opening called a dedans. since it was invented by Mediterranean monks, it had redemptive overtones.

The rearly tennis so much different I once saw a court in Oxford for what is now known as Real tennis

Now the shock for you all the book is set of a fictional game of tennis , although this appears to be what we in the uk would call real tennis which is a slightly different game that game before the modern game we know. The match is between the Italian Painter Caravaggio (I mainly know about him from the Derek Jarman film in the 80’s about him ) he is playing the Spanish poet Francesco de Quevedo a quick-witted poet that wrote prose satire and many poems. As the match unfolds in other chapters we travel the world from England with Thomas Cromwell and Henry viii then through to latin america and the dying Aztec empire as they also play a game with the Spaniards there . whilst the two are cheer on from the sidelines by many well-known figures of the time Galileo, Saint Mathew and Mary Magdalene all cheer the two the vulgar Italian painter well-known for his pictures (he did paint the first still life of the modern age in his basket of fruit and the Spanish poet still trying to keep in favour with the royal court of Spain via this match.

Scarcely had Jean Rombaud disembarked at Franciscopolis – such a ridiculous name of the port of Le Harve until the death of King Francis I – before he began to spread the rumour that he was in possession of the darksome braids of Anne Boleyn and the he would make tennis balls with them that would at last gain him entry to the closed courts, where the nobility sweatedt hrough one shirt per game, five per set and fifteen per match. He had always felt that his freshed washed lions mane gave him the right to hardwood and tile: to play for sport rather than money .

I love the story of the ball it is great fun tale one of those odd stories that could be real or could be fake.

I have said before that I hate tennis , well in this case it didn’t matter as the match is just a small framing device to capture two figures that maybe show the world of the time the match is set is in change this is the golden age of discovery, When The world was moving from one age to another even the ball in this story has its own story it is made from the hair of the late Anne Boeyln. Enrique plays with what a novel is this like an earlier novel from Mexico I read By Jorge Volpi , shows how history can be made to serve the present also be caught in one match a duel between two artist to the end as the world around them sees an empire fall a man marry many woman and even the crowd have their stories to tell along the way .Of course with Wimmer translating this book it will of course bring many to connect this to Bolano, but for me they are just two great writers and for me Enrique has maybe more in common with Volpi than Bolano. This is one of those book that defies pigeonholing as a novel one of those that break the mould.

Hve you read anything by Enrique ?

Fever at Dawn by Peter Gardos

Fever at Dawn

Fever at Dawn By Peter Gardos

Hungarian fiction

Original title – Hajnaliláz

Translator -Elizabeth Szász

Source – review copy

I was sent this very early this year its publishers have sent a lot of review copies out for a debut novel by the Hungarian film director Peter Gardos. He has directed a huge number of films since the early 1970’s . This book is also a film I will include the trailer for the film at the end of this review as I found it very touching. The book came about when Gardos father   passed away and he discovered a box of letters from when they first met shortly before he was born. That he was given to him by his mother these hadn’t been read since 1946.

Dear Nora, Dear Eresbet, Dear Lilli, Dear Zsuzsa, Dear Sara, Dear Serena, Dear Agnes, Dear Giza , Dear Baba, Dear Katalin, Dear Judit, Dear Gabriella…..

You are probably used to strangers chatting you up when you speak Hungarian, for no better reason than they are Hungarian too. We men can be so bad-mannered. For example, I addressed you by your first name on pretext that we grew up in the same town. I don’t know whether you already know me from Debrecen. Until my homeland ordered me to “Volunteer” for forced labour, I worked for the independent newspaper, and my father owned a bookshop in Gambrinus Court?

Excuse me for writing in pencil. but I’m confined to bed for a few days on doctor’s orders, and we’re not allowed to use ink in bed

Miklos letter to the 117 woman from his hometown in refugee camps in Sweden .

Miklos has ended up in Sweden in the chaos that followed the end of the second world war having been liberated from Belsen , he has ended up at a refugee camp. But he hasn’t a bright future he has been told he has just six months left in this world so this crafty chap gets someone to get a list of all the woman in Sweden from his home town in Hungary. The list ends up with 117 names so he spends time writing a handwritten letter to each of them. HE sends them out not knowing what will happen . He gets a reply from Lili  a woman touched by his letter but also a daydreamer so what happens is a love in letters as the two start to write to one another in the chaos of the post war years this shining light of a love blossoming that slowly drags the half dead Miklos to life and away from death.As both have wounds from Belsen to recover from the strength of the love built-in words show the power of words to sooth the soul.

Dear Miklos,

I’m unlikely to be the person you were thinking of, because, Though I was born in Debrecen, I lived in Budapest from the age of one. Nonetheless, I’ve thought a lot about you. Your friendly letter was so comforting that I would be happy for you to write again.

That was a half truth pf course. Confined to bed with a strange new illness, out of fear, by way of escape or just to stave off boredom, Lili allowed herself to daydream

Touched by his letter and to break her own Boredom Lili writes back and the story starts off ..

What is not to like in this well I am a romantic and I love stories like these. I love that Peter found his fathers and mothers letters and worked them into this book. I just love the sheer chance of the story a Hungarian man and woman fall in love in the utter chaos of post war europe in Sweden one dying the other looking for a way to live both wanting a new future and all this story told by their own son sixty years later. It is one of those true stories that almost seem unreal. The two characters stories draw you in the lament for their past that they know after Belsen will never be there again the city the grew up in is for ever changed.This is one of those books I’m sure people will talk about a lot about this book for a book club as it touches your soul if like me you are romantic and believe in love conquering all .Here is the trailer I love this trailer .

 

 

Too close to the edge by Pascal Garnier

 

Too close to the edge by Pascal Garnier

French noir fiction

Original title – Trop près du bord

Translator – Emily Boyce

Source – review copy

Its been a while since I reviewed a Pascal Garnier  I have reviewed three of his earlier books  , I have been lucky to been sent all his books by Gallic books and have read most of them he is always a joy to read. But a new year and a new cover on the series and this latest from the French Noir writer caught me from the blurb as one I would like. It is more than 6 years since he died, he wrote over sixty books it wasn’t til 2000 when the French publisher Zulma decide to collect his works under one publisher he had written books for various publishers over the years , this was published in 1999 a number of years before his death in 2010.

She was one fo those people who had always been and would remain attractive in a wholesome, obvious sort of way. She never needed to give nature a helping hand. Just a touch of lipstick now and then when she and Charles went out of an evening, purely for the raspberry-flavoured kisses. Even the few wrinkles gathered around her eyes brought a new charm to her face. It was as though time had polished her with beeswax. Only Charles’ passing had slightly dulled the sparkle in her eyes, and placed her smile in permanent parentheses.

eliette one those french woman who just look wonderful no matter what even at her age !

This is the story of one old woman, recently widowed Eliette , who lost her husband just before they where due to retire to their mountain home which they had spent many years doing up. Much to the dismay of her kids Eliette decides to carry on with her plans and she ends up in this huge house in the middle of nowhere. Her means of getting about is a small Aixam car (on a small aside I have seen these cars over the years and never knew they were french made ) which takes her on her weekly trip to the town to stock up , it is on one such trip that her vehicle breaks down just as she chanced on some new clothes to make herself feel younger and she meets the a stranger also stuck as his car has broken he helps her she then gives him a lift . Next day the son of a neighbour has been Killed in a bad hit and run, is it murder how did it could this good Samaritan be a killer ?

He appeared to be in his forties, not very tall, not especially thick-set, with a baby face. His shoes and trouser bottoms were covered in mud. As he set to work on the wheel, the rain began to drop like a portcullis. Eliette could not tear her eyes from his muscular back, which showed through his sodden shirt . He was finished in under ten minutes.

Her Hero or is he a kiler he helps her change the wheel on her car the next day a neighbours son is dead are the two connected ?

This is a classic piece of noir a stranger appears next day some one is dead. But it is also a look at growing old eliette is a woman on the edge of being old see is trying to keep young hence the rebelling and living by herself so when a charming young man helps her by the side of the road her heart flutters a beat. I do often wonder if Tales of the unexpected was popular in France at the time it was first shown in the UK as I often feel Garnier has a touch of that series in his writing A story that starts of about an oldish woman retiring into the middle of nowhere then the car breaks down is like a classic framing device that was often used in the Tales series of programmes. If you want a great piece of modern Noir Garnier is a must read I feel his books mix both the darkest parts of the human world and comic moments so well.

Have you read Pascal Garnier ?

 

Man tiger by Eka Kurniawan

 

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Man tiger by Eka Kurniawan

Indonesian fiction

Original title Lelaki Harimau

translator  Labodalih Sembiring

Source – personnel copy

Winstons score B+ a fresh voice from an emerging country in translation in English , owes much to Marquez but worth reading.

Eka Kurniawan had been on my radar since his first novel beauty is a wound appeared last year, so when the second book by him Man tiger appeared on the man booker I was pleased to get the chance to add Indonesia to the list of countries this blog has covered. Eka Kurniawan grew up in a small coastal town and studied philosophy he is also a graphic designer. Also in the introduction to this book there is talk about how Eka discovered books and the two books he loved that of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and the old crime novels of the detective Nick Carter.

 

Boar hunting had become their pastime many years ago, back when Sadrah was still the town’s military commander. Anwar Sadat himself had always been highly enthusiastic every time the harvest season ended, when people were no longer bound to the soil, which was left fallow temporarily. Although he had never raised a spear or run up and down the hills, he always provided boxed meals of rice and fried egg and a truck to take the hunters to the jungle’s edge. Three times a year they enjoyed this sport, going on the season’s non-stormy Sundays. Between hunts they would tame ajaks and train them to course their prey.

Anwar like Margio was a hunter as well .

I don’t often read introductions to books but am pleased I did to this one as it placed the work in context to me. Baring in mind the book is 11-year-old, its safe to say this is a book written firmly under the spell and style of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. If Marquez had grown up in a small coastal town in Indonesia this is possibly the book he would have written. Man tiger follows, the death of Anwar Sadat (am I the only one that find it is strange the choice of a Egyptian president that also like the main character in this book is shot) . Now this is a not a who dunit as we know who shot him it is more a whydunnit in a way.Anwar was shot by Margio a young man with a white tiger as a friend whose famlies past has often crossed with the womanizer Anwar Sadat a failed artist. What drove the young man to kill the older man who had been a thorn in his families side for so long. Margio talks about the tiger also being inside him.

The coffin was covered by a golden sheet with silvery tassels, inscribed with the words of the Shahada. Kyai Jahro led the salawat chants as it left the surau, a few people following behind, mostly Margio’s friends who had been hunting boars on the mountain and gave no thought to their mud-smeared clothes. Margio was among them, right next to the coffin, scattering the flowers Mameh had picked along the way. Komar bin Syueb was to be buried at the Budi Darma public cemetery, accompanied by frangipani and champak, a furious little Marian waiting for him on the other side

I loved the atomsphere of this passage it evokes the place so well .

I enjoyed this As I said it remind me of Marquez but also of Classic crime from America where it isn’t always a whodunnit but more of whydunnit as I said this also harks back to the classic crime novels of Latin America where it is more about the scene than we in the uk have to try to find out who did the killing. We also have a trying to pay himage to Marquez without going full magic realism in a way lots of talk about having a tiger in a man but no men becoming tigers here bu the lines nearly get blurred at times. I do wonder about the chhoice of Sadat as a name is that a wider comment on his homeland it wasn’t til 2004 when this book was published the country had its first free presidential election.Well will it make the actual shortlist I think so our I am not sure it is close this year I think you will have to wait to tomorrow and the Shadow shortlist is announced. I have now reviewed all this years longlist.

 

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