Vile bodies by Evelyn Waugh

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh

English fiction

Source – personal copy

Well, I enjoy Kaggy and Simons year club this time we are now back in 1930 this time for the 1030 club and when I looked at a list of books published in 1930 this one was jumped out at me as I have read this a few times before it is one of my favourite books in English. I may review mainly translated fiction these days but in my youth, I loved the works of Waugh and have in the past did a small weekly blog event for Waugh. This book for me maybe captures those bright young things at the best and worst the only book that comes near is Henry Greens party going.

“French, eh/” he said. “I guessed as much, and pretty dirty, too, I shouldn’t wonder. Now just yoy wait while I look up these her books? – how he said it! “in my ist. Particularly against books the home secretary is. If we can’t stamp out literature in the country, we can at least stop it being brrought in from outside. that’s what he said the other day in parliment, and I says “hear,hear,” =Hullo,hullo,what’s this, may I ask?”

The custom officer confiscating his books and his own manuscript as he arrives back in the UK.

The book focus on the ups and downs of the life of Adam Fenwick Symes as he returns to London after time in America trying to write his magnus opus of a book which he has in his Case. The first down for him is that he loses this book and the money he was going to get for it from his publisher as it is seized by an over efficient custom officer with a hatred of literature. Putting at risk his marriage to Nina Blunt this on-off marriage runs through the book as he on a number of occasions tries to get her father a rather mad colonel. He returns to his hotel and by chance doing a magic trick wins a sum of money which he is persuaded not to keep but by a Major to let him bet on a sure thing outsider horse that is running at 33/1. So when the horse wins he needs to find this Major this is another thread in the book. Also, he is given a chance of a job as mr chatterbox by his publishing tycoon boss in a chance to redeem himself as Mr Chatterbox. A role Adam jumps at but then as his predecessor in the job got in trouble he is pushed by Nina just to make up characters and events and trends like a green bowler hat which leads to fact and fiction blurring as people start wearing them. Will Adam get Nina will he get his money or even his book back?

(… Masked parties, savage parties, victorian parties, greek parties, wild west parties, Russian parties, Circus parties, parties where one had to dress as somebody else, almost naked parties in St John’s wood, parties in flats and studios and houses and ships and hotels and night clubs, in windmills and swimming baths, tea prties at school where one ate muffins and meringues and tinned crabm parties at Oxford where on drunk browbn sherry and smoked Turkish cigarettes, dull dances in londonand comic dam=nces in Scotland and disgusting dancesin Paris – all that succession and repetition of massed humanity …Those Vile bodies

In his Mr Cgatterbox piece we see the title as Adam describes those bright young things parties and what they get up too !!

Well this is a book that is timeless in fact since the last time I read it Adam stint at Mr chatterbox seems more apt than ever we live in a time that Gossip is now news it seems ever more to me every time you see a red top paper there isn’t news just gossip as news and also the angle of Fake news the reporting of green Bowler hats a piece of fake news that drifts off into reality,. The book is based on Waugh own life and his circle of friends at the time from the batty to those near the prime minister of the day mad relatives. It is for me his funniest book his later books have humour but also the tinged  by world war two this is a moment between the wars that saw as Stephen Fry retitled the book for his film those Bright Young things were able to party and be carefree just before the crash and far enough away that hope had grown after world war one. A perfect first choice for the 1930 club have you read this or have you a favourite Waugh book?

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Bellevue by Ivana Dobrakovoa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bellevue by Ivana Dobrakova

Slovakian fiction

Original title – Bellevue

Translators Julia and Peter Sherwood

Source – review copy

I was sent three Slovakian books as part of a tour that is happening in the UK by the writers of these books here is the first of these three books Ivan Dobrakova. Considered a leading light in the blossoming contemporary Slovak scene with her books reflecting part of modern Slovakian life and that is having to live abroad so expat literature of Slovakian abroad. She has been compared to writers like Rachel Cusk or Deborah Levy in English as OI haven’t read them it is hard to compare but for me, she captured the experience of living abroad as an expat.

There were five sleeping bags on the floor, and holdalls, pillows, handbags, bath towels, cosmetics, sunscreen, bits of clothing, books lay scattered all around the place, a complete mess. I helped to carry the stuff to a two-bedroom flat in the annexe reached through the main building.past a big drainpipe and a flowerbed, accross a short metal bridge above some sort of crater filled with gravel and finally down a long balcony, the second doo on the left. The flat was very clean, light, with a view of the building opposite, a bathroom, a toilet

When she first arrives at Bellevue and tries to settle.

Blanka has accepted a job in France, well in Marseilles at the Bellevue a centre for people with physical disabilities that has volunteers at a camp in the summer to help out. As she boards the night train for Prague to venture across the train to cross Europe it is full of fellow young people from East  Europe like Poles all trying to get a better life in Europe. She arrives and the Bellevue centre is there on the top of the hill. She arrives and is drawn into the lives of her fellow volunteers and works at the centre looking after the patients but also the love affairs and relationships within the group as she starts to meet people Martina Patrick and Drago some of the  European people at the camp is a mix of Them and Algerians working there. she is drawn into the world of the camp one of the beach days and nightclubs and work. Behind all this Blanka struggles to fit in she is a sensitive 19-year-old a fragile girl maybe this trip wasn’t the right choice for her !! But then a single event hinges a change in her life meaning she is injured and a reversal in her role with Bellevue!!

I’m trying to be helpful, I see that he’s exhausted, he’s fed up with me, he seems to be avoiding me, as if he, too wason the brink of a nervous breakdown, so I brig him fruit, stroke his hairand hand him cloths to fling at a hole in the wall, I’ve no ideawhy he enjoys that, tossing dirty tea towels at a hole in the wall after lunch, I keep begging him not to be cross with me, to forgive me, I know I’m being impossible, I know how difficult I make things for him. but it’s just the time being, I’m sure everything will be all right again soon , just bear with me for a little longer, I don’t have anyone else, everyone hates me, please Drago

Here we see how she is pushed out at times with the line everyone hates me as she is the squre peg in the round hole of the camp.

This tale captures a mix of Hope the dream of the French Riveria and working there for the summer against what is Blanka main problem and that is she has depression and very little self-belief in herself. What is seen is the usual your life of a group of young people when gathered together but her we have Blanka view which sadly is that of an outsider inside the world she is when her life hinges on that one event later in the book you wonder what will happen to her that is the question. Blanka is a different character than I expect she is fragile and in that case unreliable as a narrator at times. Well this is an interesting strand of Slovakian fiction one that I have seen in other books from Polish writers that is the one of the expat experience as I have said before this is a genre that will grow over time a sort of European version of what is the Windrush lit scene that of being an outsider in a new place.  Have you read any books from Slovakia?

 

Faces on the tip of my tongue by Emmanuelle Pagano

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Faces on the tip of my tongue by Emmanuelle Pagano

French fiction

Original title – Un renard à mains nues

Translators – Jennifer Higgins and Sophie Lewis

Source – review copy

I loved the first book from this writer when it was brought out by And other stories a few years ago Trysting was an unusual book with the detached nature of the voices with in the work. This is a collection of short stories in the french version there were 34 stories but the translator and Emmanuelle decide to trim this down to give the book more of a collective feel. The stories all, on the whole, have unnamed narrators and managed to capture that certain oddness of the countryside this case the french but many of these could easily be set in Rural areas in the Uk. As I show below I linked with a few stories.

I went to the lake every summer when I was alittle girl, I lived on an aec of beach nordered by wooden fences and a forest so thick that we didnt make dens in the trees but dug them in the undergrowth instead. My uncle had built a house on this strip of shore, then a hut for tools and the pedalo, and some wonky terraces where the landsloped down to the rippling water. Near the reeds, right up close to their rustling song and their birds nests, he hadmarked out a meadow where he went in search of sunshine .

My local lake was all the rage every summer.

So we have thirteen tales in this collection. It seems to want to capture the loneliness oddness and quirky nature of the French countryside. Here it opens with a narrator talking about a lake cycling to it this lake in the middle of the nowhere I was reminded of the lake well old quarry that was filled with water near where I grew up, then we meet the local loony as they say I was reminded of a chap the guy in the story had lost his family the guy  I used to pick up on my journey out for the day center he just appeared in the main street in Rothbury never saw his house he was a real country character disheveled and maybe out of pace with time he had a sad story in his past too. Then there was a story of someone that looked very like a grandmother this was another story I could relate to I have pictures of my own grandfather in his army day when he was a bit younger than me but I could see a lot of me and my dad in the picture. Then a cruel tale that I really connect with as we see women waiting at a bus stop she has a learning disability and was told by a cruel doctor that he wanted to marry her so she goes and waits for him.An interesting collection of stories. I connected with them.

The looney and the bright spark. It could be the title of a fairy tale, a bit like “Beauty and the beast”< a sad storywith quite a happy ending. The full title would be the roadside looney and the bright spark at the construction company, but that has less of a ring to it , for a sad story with a more or less a happy ending. My story is sad too, but it has a sad ending, very sad or rather it never ends its starts badly, very badly and nothing comes rightnothing is resolved.I don’t know where it starts.

The looney a man that lost everything waits for them to return in this anti fairy tale !

I was a huge fan of stones in a landslide an early Peirene book that caught a world well this is another world all be it darker and fun at times in that regard I was reminded of the works of fellow Fench writer Pascal Garnier who like some of these tales saw the darkly comic in the everyday and also rural France.. This collection was chosen by the writer and translators as they seem to link in well together from the original 34 stories which means the book fits Peirene two hour read which is about what it took me I had a quick read through and as I did I  make the slow connections which I do as a reader from time to time to my own life having lived in small towns villages in my youth it was easy to make the connection to rural places. Have you read this collection ? or Trysting by Emmanuelle ?

The Jeweller by Caryl Lewis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Jeweller by Caryl Lewis

Welsh fiction

Original title – Y Gemydd

Translator – Gwen Davis

Source – review copy

To say I review translated fiction I haven’t reviewed many Welsh novels translated into English so when the chance comes to add another to the list of books I am always happy to review them. Caryl Lewis is a previous winner of the Welsh book of the year and was also translated into English by the same translator that book was two years before this book came out in 2007. She studied at Aberystwyth and Durham University and had worked in public relations before becoming a writer. She writes the welsh scripts for the crime series Hinterland.

Mari was sitting at the lip of the bed, the carrier bag in her lap and her mind light years away. It was evenoing, the night cluds coming in th colour the sky. She couldn’t keep her eyes of that photo of the bicycling girl, which she’d framed and placed on the mantlepiece along with the others.The girl seemed at home there, somehow: among friendly souls Nanw’s screech cut across the room. Mari choose another piece of meat. The monkey snatched it, swallowed most of it whole, squealing and groping between the bars for more. On her way home from work -passing the town square- Mari had seen Dafydd walking hand in hand with a slender, dark haired girl making sure they didn’t see her. Mari had stood there intil the cold settled around her

The loner Mari loves the freedom of a girl on a bike in an old photograph.

There is a cover song on the This mortal coil Album called the Jeweller about a Jeweller polishing with Ashes with the linesThe coins are often very old by the time they reach the jeweller., With his hand and ashes he will try the best he can. He knows that he can only shine them, cannot repair the scratches. Well this is a story of a Jeweller she lives in a lonely cottage by the sea in a welsh Town we are never told the name but there are so many small welsh towns by the sea we don’t need a name Mari shares her house with a cat and a Monkey like all monkeys he loves the little trinkets Around Mari house she has a market stall that she runs but she also loves the stories behind the pieces she gets a lot via her friend Mo that clears house and she has the letter and other pieces from those who had touched the jewels of the years from the house to go with the jewelry. But when the Market is Threatened with closer we find out what makes Mari the loner she is as her past is brought to light. Will she like the perfect gem she is trying to cut be able to gleam and sparkle in a new future and shed the past.

Those jewels were giving Mari a hard time. They were supposed to be healing, but having set them out on her stall after a sleepless night was making her brain fit to burst. She had broughtin all the clothes that were destined for the sale rail, They had been given prority over the jewellery, right at the front of the stabd: the white gloves hand in hand; the pink frock glad again to act the party girl and welcome all comers. Mari piled up the bags on one side of the glass counter and wrote the price on the card.

Her market stall but times are changing and it may close.

This for me ticked so many boxes small village/town life the people Mari learns about all add to this small town but also how it has changed. The turning point which is not just the town with the threat of the Market closing but also Mari in her life herself. Then there are the old lives Mari sees in the jewels she is selling on her stall. There is some wonderful turn of phrases that had kept through the translation like seagulls being compared to litter in the wind. This shows what we leave behind still has echoes of other’s lives but also we mustn’t cling to what holds us back at times. Have you read this or other books by Her ?

Under pressure by Faruk Šehić

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Under pressure by Faruk Šehić

Bosnian fiction

Original title – Pod Pritiskom

Translator – Mirza Puric

Source – Kickstarter copy

I don’t do many kickstarters but when Istros did one for this book the second book by Faruk Šehić they wanted to publish they choose to do a kickstarter. I choose the one that gave me a copy of the book and a tote bag. Faruk Šehić was studying to be a vet when the Bosnian war broke out and he joined the army eventually he led a unit of 130 men. He chooses to study literature after the war and when he published his first book and was part of the mangled generation of writers that were born in the ’70s and lived through the war. This book won the European Union Prize for literature.

I got drunk and fell asleep on the wooden stall where Jagoda displayed her groceries, in front of the Austro Hungarian residential building in which I lived

I was wearing light shorts and a T-shirt.

Mother saw me from toilet window.

They brought me in holding me by the arms

washed my faceover the tub.

I felt like a foreign object within a foreign object.

I looked like a weary robot

the first of the Haiku from the Haiku diary

 

This book is made up of a number of stories in different styles of writing they are fragmented that capture what is the story of the fifth army as they fight and also in those downtimes in the war in the Krajina area where 200000 people were forced from there homes. We have an intro that uses the river Una The smell of the river and the birds on the river. Then straight into a man heading to the foggy frontline as he talks about his hierarchy of life which is

  1. war
  2. Alcohol
  3. poetry
  4. love
  5. war again

So even thou he has love and poetry war is still there his favorite book is Plexus by Henry Miller and his favorite weapon is Hungarian Kalashnikov. Elsewhere he has Haiku diaries then we have more frontline action people returning to the frontline after the last time burying comrades then we have those that fell apart on the psych ward a soldier lets loose about what happened in the war. The tales bring forth the horrors and also the comradeship of wars. later on, there is a touching list of fighters

NOw I weigh 70,000 g. I was 180 cm tall last time I was measured whin I served in the Yugoslav people’s Army. My eyes have turned darker, probablyfrom alcohol. Juicy, kosa, Ani and I are standing in front of the Cafe Ferrar.Hari Palic toook the picture,Its a colour photo…..

The image is cold and objective an embalmed section of wartime, I assume we’ll live forever in that piece of plastic coated paper. But, before we ride into immortality wearing the invulnerable faces of dead men, we ride into Cafe Ferrari for an aclohol rhapsody.

The opening and close of a passage calle the The photograph that captures how war has craved these men into lean mean fighters but also I love that it is a monent and those four may not get through it to the end but live in the picture!!

I had read Quiet flows the Una his debut book but never got to review it.I will get to that one at som,e point but now I will give my thoughts on this book. It is a book that isn’t for the faint-hearted it has warts and all view of the war but it also has those other reflections on how they grasp at the literature when they can or grab at love or just a woman to keep them warm. The language is rough in an interview he said he had liked the way the translator Mirza Puric had tried to recreate the dialogue as they would have said it with there local accents so it is in place it is like being in a working man’s club but for me, that is the feel of the frontline those men. This is a brutal world that has been brought to life in these stories it is a fragment in nature rather like the war for those that fought it. A powerful collection.

Agnes by Peter Stamm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Agnes by Peter Stamm

Swiss fiction

Original title – Agnes

Translator – Michael Hofmann

Source – review copy

I have reviewed Peter Stamm three times before on the blog over the years. so when I got the chance to review his debut novel I jumped at the chance as he is a writer whose works I had enjoyed his other books. Agnes had come out in the UK but was never brought out in the US so it gave me a chance to go back twenty years this book came out in 98 in Germany and 2000 in English for the first time. He has written several novels but was a journalist iuntially and has written radio plays as well.

I was back in the library early the next morning, and even though I was waiting for Agnes, I had no trouble concentrating on my work. I knew she would come, and that we would talk anc smoke and drink coffee together. In my head our relationship was already much further advanced than it was in reality. I was already wondering abouther, beginning to have my doubts, though we hadn’t even been out together.

I was working well, reading and making notes, When Agnes arrived, around noon and she nodded to me, Once again, she put her foam rubber cushion down on a chair near me, spread out her things as she had done yesterday, picked up a book and started reading

The beginning of the relationship as they keep meeting in the library sharing coffee and a smoke,

 

An older writer he is unnamed is asked by his younger girlfriend Agnes a cellist studying physics and free spirit in her own way to write a story about her. Our narrator is in Chicago to write about luxury trains. He does what Agnes wants and writes about their relationship He does that but as they are happy and the everyday life of these two. The way they meet and fell in love but this doesn’t lead to the most interesting story about their relationship. As they work together on the story. But, when she tells him she is expecting a baby the narrative changes as he is older and doesn’t want a child he tells her that he doesn’t want the child this is a turning point in their relationship. but also in the story, he is writing about there relationship changes as he starts in that narrative to try and control the younger woman by making her into what he wants her to be as the two worlds the story and real life start to come intertwined as the relationship cracks apart.

We celebrated Christmas Eve together. It was some time since I’d shown Agnes what I’d written. Now I printed out the story on white paper and put it in a folder with a dedication.

“I haven’t got an ending yet,” I said,”But as soon as I do.Ill have the whole thing boiund into a little book for you ”

Agnes had knitted me a sweater

“God knows,I had enough wool, she said.

“Black wool”

“No I had it dyed. Light blue doesn’t really suit you.”I didn’t say anything. We were sitiing on the sofa, with a little christmas tree in front of us that Agnes had decorated with only candles.

Later on the feeling between the two has changed in the story.

As ever Stamm is a master of describing how relationships work but hew also is great at getting that moment when the relationships change the turning point so to speak that unseen event at the start of the narrative that initally seems like the perfect relationship even thou there is an age difference. This sees the writer trying to idealize Agnes later in the book. This is maybe free in style than his later books it is like he is trying a different way of writing in this book it is looser than his other books. But worth reading I alwaylike to try and see how a writer has grown this isn’t as cut and cleaned as say seven years but is still an interesting insight into the dynamics of relationships and also about writing about a relationship which when it is good can seem very boring. Have you read this book?

 

Quichotte by Salman Rushdie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quichotte by Salman Rushdie

English fiction

Source – Library book

I am now on the third of this year’s Booker shortlist as I said the three books I have read so far were ones I may have read anyway. I have read Midnight’s children, satanic verses, Haroun and the sea of stories and the ground beneath her feet so I haven’t read anything by him for at least twenty years as my reading path went towards translation I moved away from his works but this being based on Don Quixote caught my eye when it made the longlist which was before it came out when I read he was using that classic tale as a background to a road trip through middle America I decided to read it.

“Sancho”, Quichotte cried, full of a happiness he didn’t know how to express. My silly little Sancho, my big tall Sanch, My son, my sidekick, my squire! Hutch to my Starsky,Spook to my Kirk, Scully to muy Mulder, BJ to my Hawkeye, robin to my Batman! peele to my Key, Stimpy to my Ren, Niles to my Frasier, Arya to my hound! Peggy to my Don, Jesse to my Walter, tubbs to my Crockett, I love you! O my warrior Sancho sent by Persues to help me slay my meduas and win Slama’s heart, here you are at last. “Cut it out,,”dad”, the imaginary young man rejoined. “Whats in all this for me?”

He imagines Sancho as his sidekick

As in the other books by him, I have read by Rushdie he uses various stories within his novel. here we have a man an anglo Indian writer of spy novels that is alone his son has left him. He has wanted to write about a man traveling across  Middle America this is where he comes up with the Character of Quichotte an Indian salesman Ismail but he takes the name Quichotte. A man who has spent his evenings and all his free time watching the trashy side of US tv those odd reality shows and dramas and quiz shows he is a sickly man and has fallen for an Indian tv star Salma R he writes to her and decides to travel across America and get to this woman as he does this he invents a son as he sees it all those great Tv stars he had seen had a sidekick so he has a son called Sancho along the way he meets many racists in Middle America in one small town they become Mastodons this is a nod to the Absurdist work of the Italian writer Ionesco his play Rhino about the rise of fascism in Italy here is echoed with a warning with the undercurrent of Populism that Trump has brought to the fore that has a whole heap or racism entwined in its heart. So as he heads across the in his battered old Chevy Cruze meanwhile the writer of this story sam sees his story of Indian salesman having echos of his own life! Will Quichotte get to Salma R?

My dear miss Salma R<

with this note I introduce myself to you. With this hand I declare my love. In time to come as I move ever closer you will come to see that I am true and that you must be mine. You are my grail and this is my quest.I bow my head before your beauty. I am and will ever remain your knight

sent by a smile,

Quichotte

A letter he writes to his beloved Salma as he heads across the US to her.

 

Another book taking a look at the heart of Trumps America it is interesting that two of the books on this years list take a view of this country at its heart I heard Rushdie interviewed and he said he had wanted to move his book outside the big cities in the US like Duck Newburyport it use the heart of America as Rushdie pointed out the red states the heartland of Trump. What Rushdie captures with Quichotte and  Sancho is that unspoken undercurrent of racism that is just below the surface that he shows him with a brilliant piece of magic realism when they all turn into dinosaurs. A writer that even in his seventies is still trying to challenge his readers. Now I read half of the list I wanted I’m not sure if I will read the other three I do have two books and am awaiting the third. If I do the next book will be the orchestra of minorities

Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann

British/American fiction

Source – personal copy

I am rarely tempted by a new book in English but this book grabbed me when I saw pictures of this huge book I was interested in what it was about any way Lucy Ellmann had written a number of books since the late ’80s. She is the daughter of two writers and is married to a writer and has taught creative writing. She had all her earlier books published by a big publisher. But when this book was finished and described to her usual publisher They turned it down. It was picked up by the small publisher Galley Beggar Press. I mean a thousand-page modernist novel that has no plot and is a stream of consciousness eight sentences that makes up the book.

I wish I had nice handwriting, the fact that i also have a few of her favourite sweaters, but that’s about it, beside the stuff she gave me, like some books and stuff, ups, fedex, rolex, X-ray, and my old patchwork quilt that was always on my bed as a kid, the  fact that it’s reall falling apart now, the fact that Jane Austen no longer exists and only ever existed briefly, not long enough to finish  Sandition, tragedy, enormity, Bronx cheer, Graduation Gowns, Choir Robes, paper owels, humdinger, Uber, Lyft, biege countertop, the fact that some people work for Uber and lyft at the same time.

One passage where she admires her moves handwriting then drifts off to something else in her mind.

The book is narrated by a housewife she is from Ohio and that is all we really know. Well, we learn more like she has her own baking business that she runs from her home.  What follows in the book is her thoughts that flow and drift from here to there lists words jumping from words that sound alike. These lists I loved as she had a thought an old productor some such and then from that word jumps to similar words. It then goes to the state of Modern America Trump gaining power. Writers she likes Laura Ingalls her of little house fame and then she references Anne Tyler especially her book The Accidental tourist which maybe of all her books captures modern American life as it follows a family recovering from the loss of a son to a shooting. The book is full of America but also her family from the title that relates to an event in her youth involving her sister. Then she worries about her own four kids in Trump’s world. It is hard like many books of this length, to sum up the world of this book as it is more about the internal mind than the external world and how her thoughts run and that is so difficult to capture.

Laura Ingalls Wilder’s dog was called Jack, the fact that i keep thinking I see the abominable snowmanmoving between those trees down there, a bigfoot, just behind the bushers, gully the fact that ben would be thrilled, the fact that I should photograph it, but of course I don’t have my phone, that that if I had my phone I would be in this mess freezing to death in the wilderness, the fact that I am always forgetting my cell, the fact that it’s so silly not to have it with you at all times, the fact that the people on the planes in 9/11 made good use of theirphone, the fact that I bet every American has carried their cell phone with them since 9/11

Another digression from Laura Ingalls to 9/11 in four lines.

Everyone knows this book as I was discussing one twitter when a friend ask me what I thought of it as they had been put off by the hype and I could connect with that but the thought of a thousand-page book that tries to grapple with the scary world that is modern America. Well for me this remind me in tone at times to Thomas Bernhard as it has at times a similar feeling in the tone of her words if he had been a midwest American housewife this would have been how he wrote even the lack of paragraphs and long sentences are something that Bernhard used in his books. I was pleased when I read that she had given Bernhard to her husband to read many years ago. When it made the Booker shortlist I knew I had to read it I had already got it as a fan of really long novels it was one that grabbed me and showed that small publishers are great at taking chances she describes how she actually added 30,000 words in one edit of the original manuscript how many large publishers would allow that to a large book get larger. I was reminded of Sergio de la Pava struggle to get his Naked singularity like this another huge modernist work that in another way wrestles with the world that is modern America. Ellmann tries to grab what life is like for a middle-aged woman struggling to get by the changing of focus in the female roles with in the world the rise of Trump and does it in a wonderfully poetic and thought-provoking book.

The Marquise of O by Heinrich Von Kleist

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Marquise of O by Heinrich Kleist

German Literature

Original title – Die Marquise von O

Translator – Nicholas Jacobs

Source – review copy

Well I have only one before reviewed a book where it has two translations that was the double translations of Cre Na Cille that came out a few years ago well I have an updated translation of one of the greatest German writers works that of Heinrich Von Kleist a writer that influenced writers in particular Kafka he was describer in the encyclopedia Britannica as Kleist’s whole life was filled by a restless striving after ideal and illusory happiness, and this is largely reflected in his work. He was by far the most important North German dramatist of the Romantic movement, and no other of the Romanticists approaches him in the energy with which he expresses patriotic indignation. I have reviewed this a part of a collection a number of years ago but didn’t focus on this story.

In M -, An important town in Northern Italy, the widowed Marquise of O – A women of impeccable reputation and mother of well-brought up children, made it known through the newspapers that she had inexplicably found herself in a certain condition, that the father of the child she would bear should make himself known, and that out of regard for her family she was resolved to marry him. The woman who under the pressure ofirremeediable circumstances took such a strange step, risking universal derison with such fortitudewas the daughter of Colonel G

A sort of whose the father Jeremy Kyle style forthe time

The Marquis of O is a novella set during the Napoleonic wars. it starts with a startling piece from a newspaper THat in M a town in Northern Italy has found herself in a certain condition and she wants the father of the child to make himself known. She is the daughter of Colonel G and has arrived at his home in this state after her husband died some years earlier. The early part of the book follows the events leading to the Marquise ending up this way. which saw her home overrun by Russian soldiers and at the risk of being used by them she is saved by Count F who then saves her but later appears to have died and then return and he tries to gain the hand of the Marquise but in the meantime she has been cast out and is returning to her dead husbands estate.

THe Marquise came with her two children to the forecourt of the castle where shooting, now at its heaviest, was already lighting up the night, forcing her, out of her mind where she sould turn next, back into the burning building. Her she was unfortunate enough to meet a band of hostile riflemen just as she was intending to slip out by the back door. At the sightof her they suddenly fell silent and slung their weapons over their shoulders and took her with them whilst making abominable gestures.Tugged and pulled this way and that by hte terrifying pack fighting among themselves

Her fate seems doomed her when she ran into the gun men by her old house

This has many twists in the tale and like the best of Kafka there is a little of not knowing who is who here with no full names just Colonel G , count F and Marquise of O remind me of the way Kafka never used characters full names them there is the hint that the Marquise may have been raped not clearly in the book but there is a feeling that something is wrong with how the baby was conceived.. Will the count ever be able to make the Marquise his Countess ? The book leans on the lines that see the Count take the MArquise when she is very tired from the group of Russian soldier is this when they had relations? it isn’t said but implied. It is also a studied into how people react under stress Her father the Marquise, the Count each act differently.  I enjoyed this new translation I remember the story didn’t grab me much in the collection as I choose two other stories to describe in the collection I hope that Pushkin get some of the other Von Kleist works to translate especially An Earthquake in Chile and Michael Kohlhaas which where the two stories I liked in the other collection.

Milena, Milena, Ecstatic by Bae Suah

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Milena, Milena,Ecstatic by Bae Suah

Korean short fiction

Original title – 밀레나, 밀레나, 황홀한

Translator – Deborah Smith

Source – review copy

I read Bae Suah Wiki page and was interested. That she had studied Chemistry and was working in the airport on the disembark desk and had taken writing up as a hobby when she got a story published. An inspiration to all writers I think. I also read there she had spent a year in Germany and has translated books from German in Korean including works by Sebald, Erpenbeck and Kafka. This short book is only 35 pages long.

On his occasional visit to a cafe, he onlyever drinks espresso – It’s the only kind of coffe whose flavour is strong enough to neutralise the taste of machine. He always orders two singles rahter than one double, drinking one first, then the other, so as to experience the difference in temperature, foam and mouthfeel – just like he does at home. It jappens to be a mild day, when the cries of the collared dove can be heard, he set the cup on the table by the window, so the coffee receives the morning light. Cold coffee doesn’t bother him especially. Neither does feel the fine granules against his tongue and against his throat.

His odd coffee habit of two singles instread of a double.

This is a third-person narrative of a day in a man’s life. Hom Yun is a bit of hipster in the way Bae describes him he only drinks Double espresso but has them as two single shots. We see his day from a man that loves to read in the bath he has one book a copy of Letters to Milena which links to Bae time in German and also in a way to this story they are a collection of Kafka letters. The letters haunt him and also the former owner of his collection from the inscription in the book. This story then takes a strange turn as Hom is dressed and of to an interview at a Cultural foundation that he doesn’t quite remember to apply for with his film project that is a mix of fiction and Documentary around the Scythian graves that Herodotus wrote about in his histories. Hom is usually a loner in his filmmaker but this is his biggest idea and he may need an assistant so when he leaves the Foundation the secretary from there follows Hom and then spends the night trying to get him to hire them in a strange Kafkaesque even of cross meanings between the two.

HIm yun examines the inside cover. There, someone has written a sentence in German, in pencil stiff and crooked as though the writer were not familiar with the German alphabet and had simply copied out the words, the handwriting scattered clumsily and slanted irregularely and in indvidual strokes that did not join up with each other

“Ecstatic MIlena”

There are no marking other than that single sentence, whichhe absolutely had not written himself. This means that this book is not Hom Yun’s

THe letter to Milena that he owns isn’t his own !

This book has some subtle details in it like Hom habit of splitting his double espresso into two single shots so he can experience each shot at a different temperature. The sitting in the bath reading, the way he dressed in all black made him seem like a real hipster to me. There is a number of nods to Kafka the love of his book the evening he spends with the secretary which takes many odd turns. Then Hom being haunted by his letters to Milena. This is a short novella but feels like much more after you have read it He jumps of the page this hipster filmmaker and his mad film idea is well built around his idiosyncratic behaviors. This is part of a collection of short Korean works called The Yeoyu series from stranger press there are seven other books in the collection.

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