Fleeting Snow by Pavel Vilikovsky

Fleeting Snow by Pavel Vilikovsky

Slovakian fiction

Original title – Letmý sneh

Translators – Julie and Peter Sherwood

Source – review copy

I now move over from France to Slovakia and the second book from there I have reviewed. Also, the first to be published by Istros press from there as they move a little further afield. They have chosen a writer considered the greatest living Slovak writer. He only wrote two books whilst communism was in control of the country. but since the regime change, he has written over a dozen books. This was his latest Novel to come out in Slovakian. He is also a leading translator of books from English into Slovak including great writers like Faulkner, Conrad, and Woolf. It is great to see more Slovakian fiction coming out.

1.B If, as the saying goes, every person is unique, their name ought to be unique too. Except that it doesn’t work like that. What is unique about say, Stefan Kovac, whose name is about as common as Stephen Smith is in english? In this country, no first name can ever be truly unique – the church and the clerks at the register office have seen to that – and if your surname happened to be Kovac the to boot, you’ve had it: you’ll end up being known as Kovac up the valley, or Kovac the shepherd. Slovak is a garrulous language, we don’t mind throwngin an extra word here and there, but even with additional piece of information, does a name convey anythingunique about a person?

the second part of the first story about how come the name is but also how they use extra wrds to identify a stefan Kovac who is ours ?

This is a book that has five interweaving stories at its heart. This is a fragmented book almost like a snowflake with the five points coming out. The first story is the tale of a man at the end of a long marriage that seems to be losing his mind early on we hear he is called Stefan Kovac but has now taken the name Cimborazka and is a self-declared Cimborazka. The second story tells us about a pair of step twins and talks about the soul. The third starts with an avalanche and the fourth story strand a scholar called Stefan, that has recently had a book about North American Indian languages in the US. This fourth links to the first story and where we have a talk about certain US place names that may have Native American origins. The fifth strand finds someone looking through old photos. The strands of the stories cross and the link they are about life, language particular Slovakian and old age. The loss of memory in old age. The snow is the metaphor in a way for so much in this book memories fade like snow old age leads to dementia which is like an avalanche that clears that top layer of one’s memories leaving what was under.  There is a sense of the fleeting nature of life art tines and what makes us as people who is Stefan Kovac a name we are told early on is as common in Slovakia as Stephen Smith is here.

1.J My real name is Cimborazka but I haven’t told ayone. What would be the point ? It would be the same changing your phone number: your friends will remember your new number but the will still use it to ring the same person as before, the same idea of a person. But I don’t want to receive letters addressed toDear Mr Cimborazka, which would be like addresssing a different person each time. Cimborazka is a clean blank sheeet; a reminder that I am a person – not an entity, just a being, albeit a human one. And that every human possibility is therefore still open to me each and everytime. It is a silent, secret challenge to honour my name

What is a name like the first quote another on identity as Kovacs becomes Cimborazka or does he .

This is a meandering book about the nature of life in a way questioned in many ways. Language and how it is used the short passages that make this book up reminded me of the little snippets in books like The book of Disquiet or Zibaldone thou this has more narrative and a central figure that of Stefan Kovac is he the same person, or a step twin or just another character. As in the end all the strands end in one final passage as a couple talk about how many words are in Slovakian and then as they wander on to find a disk on the ground showing distance to place and maybe placing them back in their world with a thrown word over the fact that Vienna is only 57 kilometers away. This is a writer in his old age trying to write a series of themes that must have been important to him in his life like Slovakian for a translator which is a language he mentions for how many more words there are in it. What we are what he has written about what lies after the writer’s life is gone or like the snow what remains when it has melted just the memory of it.

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The Kites by Romain Gary

The Kites by Romain Gary

French fiction

Original title – Les Cerfs-volants

Translator – Miranda Richmond Mouillot

Source – Review copy

I looked back and it has taken a good while to get from book 90 to 99 from France. I have slowed down blogging wise this last year.I remember thinking after the eighth year anniversary it would be that year I would hit a 100 books from France and I hadn’t so I looked at the last two spots and this is the first my 99th book and the first from Romain Gary on the blog. I think I so=hould have featured him earlier I have had a couple of his books other than this one sat around for a couple of years. His life reads like a novel he was a Diplomat, resistance fighter, filmmaker and also the only writer to have won the Prix Goncourt twice when his non de plume won as well. This was his last work before he committed suicide.

“I don’t have any parents. I live with my uncle”

“What does he do?”

I sensed vaguely that “rural postman” wasn’t quite the right thing

“He’s a kite master.”

She seemed favourably impressed.

“What does that mean?”

“It’s like a great captain, but in the sky.”

She thought for a little while longer then got up.”Maybe I’ll come back tomorrow”, she said. “I don’t know. I’m very unpredictable.How old are you?”

“I’m almost ten.”

“Oh, you’re far to young for me. I’m almosrt eleven and a half. But i like wild strawberries, Wait for me here tomorrow at the same time,. I’ll be back if there’s nothing better to do.

The first meeting in the field of the young couple that starts a love that last for years

 

 

The story starts in the early 1930’s when a young boy Ludo, he is the nephew of a man famous for his unusual and daring Kites Ambrose Fleury. The story starts when this young boy meets by chance one day a Polish aristocrat in a field. Lila a woman that grabs the young boys attention for the rest of his life. This sets forth his life from this point in a whole new direction as he falls in love with this slightly older girl. But also as he loses her in the war and sees what happened. His uncle has already got in trouble flying a kit based around Jewish star of David the Jews had to wear. This sees the war through a young man’s eyes as his village and those he grew up with try to resist the Germans. The activity in the village centers around the Cafe Clos Joli as they cycle around the Germans passing messages and he tries to find out what has happened to Lila. Locals like a Jewish prostitute who changes her self from that to an exiled Lady within the village, A wonderful insight into the way everyday French people tried to resist the Germans. As we see Ludo move from a boy to a man and His love for Lila change.

THE CLOS JOLI CONTINUED TO PROSPER< BUT MARCELLIEN DUPART’S reputation in the area began to suffer; he was accused of serving the ocupier to well; as for comrades, they hated him cordially. I knew him better than that and defended him when my friends called him a bootlicker or a collaborator.Truth be told as soon as the ocupation began with German superior officers and the entire Parisian elite already flocking to his “galleries” and his “rotunda”. Duprat made his choice.

The Clos Joli serves great food so has many imortant customers that come through it.

This is one of those books that cuts across genres. War story in part, the story of a village in the war. A heartsong to the France of those years one Gary would remember as he served in the resistance. The similar feeling I remember hearing from some of the old people I looked after thirty years ago that were involved in the war about the spirit that brought people together in those time seen. A romance where the love is maybe one-sided as Lila is very much above the young boy that has fallen for her. A coming of age novel. Yes, this has it all in also I often felt the relationship between Ludo and Lila was similar to that of pip and Estelle in great expectations the aloof nature of Lila is similar to that of Lila. The Clos Juli remind me of the cafe at the center of Allo Allo which like the one in the Kites was the center of village life like most cafes of that time and was also the main center of the resistance whilst still operating as a cafe. The last book of his lifetime and here nearly forty years later in English for the first time. The 99th book for this blog from France not long til I get 100 up.

The Radiance of the king by Camara Laye

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Radiance of the King by Camara Laye

Guinea Fiction

Original title – Le Regard du roi

Translator – James Kirkup

Source – personal copy

I said with the post the other day I had felt the variety of place I had blogged from had narrowed in recent years from the early years when I would have a number more African title in the mix. So I have had this on my shelf for a few years I like to keep a few titles from places I haven’t read from in reserve for the day I really struggle to find somewhere new. Camara Laye was born into a family caste that was traditionally Blacksmiths and Goldsmiths. He studied Mechanics and became an engineer via his studies. He like many Guinean males of the time was circumcised this form the story of his debut novel the African child. This was his second novel and unlike the debut is an allegorical novel.

“What right?” asked the beggar, as if the word had startled him.

“Wasn’t that mor or less what you told me? Wasn’t that  what you were hinting at, at least ?

Clarence was now speaking with great bitterness

“I spoke only of “Favour” “said the beggar “You are quite wrong to think I said anything about “rights” of any kind. As far as I’m concerned, I have nevered claimed any kind of “rights” I have always resticted myself to soliciting favours.I’ll say no more than that I expect these favours tobe granted.

They have just meet and the Beggar is a strange man .

This novel tell the strange tales of Clarence he is a penniless white man who has got stuck in an unnamed African country with no money and no one apart from the locals to help him.We see over the three parts of the book as Clarence tries to get to see the King get him to help to get home. A job with the king would help him get home. He has lost everything to a game shortly after he arrives. He has been helped initially by a beggar. This beggar is a strange character as he says he has a way for Clarence to get to the King. They do at one point see the King but then learn he has headed south for a while. Then we meet another strange pair a couple of Naoga and Noaga whom with the beggar set of to a village in the south. They get drunk on the arrival in the Village and the beggar has a strange look at Clarence then leaves the village on a donkey !! THen Clarence ends up in a cycle of drinking and getting stuck into village life feeling a lazy way of life coming over him and the king coming seeming more distant as he tries to get the answer to when the king is coming! while he escapes returning home? Will he meet the King?

They were made aware if its proximity by an odur which ought to be described, not merely because Clarence was especially sensitive to smells, and very curiously affected by them, but also, and above all, because this odur was particularly representative of the whole character of the south

The odour was a subtle combination of flower perfumes and the exhalations of vegetable moulds, It was certainly a strange and even suspect fragrance, not disagreeable, or not overwhelmingly so, but strange, and suspect, a little like the turbid odour of a hot-house full of decay blooms

The fragrence as they head south has a almost mad=gic realist description about it !

This is an unusual novel as it has a white man turning African and not an African becoming western. Clarence gets drawn into village life. He is also a man that has to face challenges this is like the temptations of the flesh and mind. From the off were he loses his money, then the temptations of the women of becoming lazy all challenge him in meeting the King as he sees others around him trying like the blacksmith does in the village to make the perfect axe for the King. Clarence also is like a Kafka character, the book starts with the Kafka quote and there is a sense to a similar dream world in Clarences being stuck in the village in the middle part of the book. This is another early work of Franco African literature coming out in 1954 for the first time. I hope to try African child at some point by Laye. My copy was a Fontana modern from the early seventies with as you see a rather old-fashioned cover

Ambiguous Adventure by Cheikh Hamidou Kane

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ambiguous Adventure by Cheikh Hamidou Kane

Senegalese fiction

Original title – L’Aventure ambiguë

Translator – Katherine Woods

Source – personal copy

I enjoyed the early years of the blog when I didn’t get sent as many books as I do know as it meant I had search books from the library or what I found in these early post on the blog one of the areas I  covered more than I do now is  African literature. I have long been a fan of the African writer series and still have a number on the shelf unread. So as I am trying to cheer myself up I looked back on what this blog means and discovered I have been missing those chance finds and books that set me apart in the past. So this by one of the most widely regarded early postcolonial African writers this book won the Grand Prix d’ literature d’ Afrique Noire a prize for the best French-language work from Syb Saharan Africa this was the second ever winner in 1962.

“The peace of God be upon this house. the poor disciple is in quest of his daily pittance.”

The sentences, plaintively spoken in a quavering voice by Samba Diallo, were repeated by his three companions. The four youths, shivering in their thin rags of clothing under the blast of the fresh morning wind, stood at the door of the Diallobe chief’s spacious dwelling.

“Men of god, reflect upon your approaching death. Awake, oh awake! Azreal, andel of death, is already breaking the earth for you. Itis about to rise up at your feet. Men of god, death is not that sly creature it is believed to be, which comes when it is not expected, and conceals itself so well that when it has come there is no longer anyone there.”

The boy enters his fathers hut a mixture of Islam and tribal words early on in the book.

I said yesterday I loved books that feature culture clashes and this is one such book. It is set in those early post-colonial years when places like Senegal were finding their feet but still some of the locals looked to France as the center of their world. This is the story of one Boys journey to manhood in those years. Sambo Diallo the boy and the main character of this take is the next in line to be Chief of his people the Diallobes. We see him as he is being taught by his teacher in a hut by the fire the Koran off by heart. This teaches him what the text means to him and also in the wider sense of the tribe. His father did the same as a child and is all for this being his only education. But his Aunt The grand royal his father sisters think the boy will be better for spending time in France. In the end, the boy is sent to Paris and studies Philosophy among other things. He loses his homeland and his strict Islamic identity but also is never treat as French and is always viewed as that African when in the company of others. He struggles to find his place in his two worlds together.

Like Paul Lacroi, he did not express this thought aloud. He said, instead:

“I believe that you understand very well what I want to say to you. I do not contest the auality of the truth which science discloses. But it is a partial truth; and insofar as there will be a future, all truth will be partial. Truth takes its place at the end of history. But \I see that we are setting out on the deceptive road of metaphysics”

Samba much changed in tone after some time in France when he speaks but also a sense of no trust in the world he is in here.

This is a classic tale of a boy journey to manhood it has classic eye-opening scenes like when he sees the bigger world when he arrives in France. But he also struggles to fit in the struggle of who he is now he has seen the wider world leaves him questioning the world he grew up in.  This is one of the reasons I started the blog to discover about the past and present around the world those grinding of our western world . up with the traditional world tribal lives that were still evident in the 60’s. I was pleased to see the other month that the ebook catalog of the African writer series had been brought for academic use it seems I tried to find the piece but haven’t. It is nice see people get the chance to look back at some of these works ok times have changed but these books are as important as English and American novels people regard highly from the same time. This is a great insight into traditional Islamic culture in Senegal and that clashing with arriving in sixties Paris.

Smoking Kills by Antoine Laurain

 

Smoking Kills by Antoine Laurain

French fiction

Original title –  Fume et Tue

Translator – Louise Rogers-Lalaurie

Source – review copy

I mentioned the other day that the Wodehouse prize for the funniest book in English had been stopped this year due to a lack of funny books. Here is another example of a great comic work in translation. Antoine Laurain is a writer I have reviewed four times before, his books are witty and usually have a turning point in them. This is a book he wrote a few years ago I imagine this was like the time in the UK when the smoking bans came in Place. This also moves the total of French novels under review on this blog to 98 nearly at the 100 mark.

I couldn’t believe it. Now that it was full stem ahead with the smoking ban, the rats were leaving the sinking ship. Vancourt had joined the enemy. He was as bad as the barman – another smoker – at the hotel d’Aubusson, who, ever since his hotel had implemented the ban had been vaunting the merits of his smok-free workplace.” I work better and can breathe ” he told me , earnestly. This man who from time to time used to share a smoke with me at the bar. And wasn’t the first smoker I had seen rally to the opinon of the majority. Strange how people are apt to turn their coats at once large scale .

I would call this effect the Simon Cowell effect when somesays something and every one around agrees with them

Fabrice Valentine is a fifty-year-old married Headhunter who is a compulsive smoker. When the rules at work change and he has to stop smoking there. This to him feels like his whole world is changing. After much discussion with his wife about this, it leads him to a hypnotherapist. But it also leads him back to the earliest years and how he ended up a two packet a day smoker. As his wife, Sidone has said he be best stopping. He does succeed the hypnotherapy has done its trick and this lifelong smoker has kicked his habit.That is until to one night he is coming home from work and is attacked and he fights off the man that attacks him.  In the end, throws him to the rails of an oncoming train he then runs home has a cigarette but the buzz doesn’t last like it when he was smoking. SO when a new colleague really e=getrs under his skin Fabrice has a clever plan !!

I would go walking with him my early teen. My father would puff on his cigar, while I was allowed a handful of Malabars brought at a backery along the way. Often, he would remember that he had brought my bubblegum while he was buying his box of Punch cigars from the tobacco counter in the cafe. “Your turn now ” he would say, and we would look around for the nearest bakery.For months, our walks invariably ended at Place du Colonel Fabien. Oscar Niemeyer had drawn up the plans for the headquarters of the French communist party , theb under construction.I can see my father  now, chewing on his cigarm standing motionless lostin admiration of the great structure.

I was reminded of my own dad who used smoke cigars on our walks when we were younger a smell that still evokes memoires to this day.

I said there was a turning point there is a few in this the first the decision to stop smoking for Fabrice leads the narrative to the nostalgia that for me is always a part in Laurain’s books. I remember packets brands I liked to smoke when I smoked. I was a fan of French brands like he has Benson and Hedges. I would often have Gaulouise Blondes a brand which seemed hip back in the day. It’s been years since I stopped, unlike Fabrice. I didn’t use hypnotherapy no I just managed with cold turkey and well a dislocated elbow that made rolling my own impossible just at the time I had stopped. The second turning point that leads to the latter part of the book is the attack at the station and the death of the attacker which sends the story in an unexpected direction which is another theme that runs through Laurain’s books. The nearest I could connect to this book was a section in the film Cats eyes a collection of Stephen King stories about a man that goes to a strange stop smoking agency that isn’t all it seems like this it has an unexpected turn when the main character starts smoking again.

Blood of the dawn by Claudia Salazar Jimenez

Blood of the dawn by Claudia Salazar Jimenez

Peruvian fiction

Original title –  La sangre de la Aurora

Translator – Elizabeth Bryer

Source – Personal copy

I am always trying to add new voices to the countries I have read books from. I have read four books from Per but they are all bt Male writers so when I saw this one from Deep Vellum by one of the leading female writers from Peru I decided I would give it a try. Claudia Salazar Jimenez studied Literature in Lima and then In new york. She has since living in New York set up a Peruvian film festival and a creative writing workshop. In an interview, she states that her books problematize the limits between history and literature, the point of enunciation of official historiography and the inherent relationship that both disciplines have with the language in this sense, both novels are inserted into the genre of historical fiction , works that controvert the mechanisms by which operates historiographical discourse. Talking about her two novels including this one. 

How many  were there it hardly matters twenty came thirty say those who got away counting is uselesscrack machete blade a divided chest crack no more milk another one falls machete knife dagger stone sling crack my daughter crack my brother crack my husband crack my mother crack exposed flesh broken neck machete eyeball crack femur tibula crack faceless earless noseless swallow it crack right now eat it up pick the ear up off the floor

Just a breif pice of the passage of the masacre gives a sense of the horror i was remind of the lines Brando spoke the horror the horror of war in Apocalyase now

Blood of the dawn follows three women through the early years of the conflict that happened in Peru between 1980 and 2000 between the government and the shining path. This is also a theme in the two of the other books I have read from Peru The blue hour and Red April but both were from a male perspective. This has a woman Marcela a teacher drawn to the dream of helping the poor of the country she becomes a terrorist. Melanie a young photographer who has been left here by a lover who left her to escape to France. and then we have Modesta a poor woman the exact person they were fighting for but she loves her family. All three of the voices intertwine. But the book opens into the violent side of the conflict when in the early pages we have a vivid and bloody retelling of an actual event that of the massacre of Lucanamarca where 69 people lost their lives this village is Modesta home and the aftermath of this event and the effect on three women is told in the book.

I got a call from a reporter who has just got back from the central conflict zone. Usually he has a calming unwavering air, but today he is annoyed, iffitable. His voice is almost enough to make the receiver tremble. I sense he’s being careful not to shout but can’t help raising his voice . They’ve never edited a story of mine in such an outrageous way. Not ever, Mel. It looks like orders from higher up.. They smudge the blood on the paper so it won’t spatter the city of drizzle. It has already splattered, even if they don’t want to see it. National security, they argue.

The violence is tamed down to the wider public after time.cenors so often blur war in the public eyes.

This is a gem of a book given a clear and vivid voice to three women who were touched by the horrors of the violent years that happened in Peru. The opening pages of the massacre capture a real sense of being caught up in the horror of this event and the rest of the book shows the outfall of this violence at the personal level of three women drawn together in the violence and each damaged and changed by it. This is what great historical fiction should do capture the true horror of what was horrific times but here told from a point of view we never really hear from the female involved and caught up in the violence just by living in the wrong place. Another strong female writer from Latin America I have covered so many in the last few years.

Soumchi by Amos Oz

Soumchi by Amos Oz

Israeli fiction

Original title – סומכי

Translator – Amos Oz and Penelope Farmer

Source – personal copy

I always fall back to short books when I’m feeling down so I had this from the library and it was only 80 pages long so one evening last week I decided to read it it is the fourth book by the Great Amos Oz I have reviewed on the blog. It is also the earliest book written by Oz I have read it first came out in 1978 and this translation came out in 1980 and this new vintage edition came out a couple of years ago.

“Sum it up, Soumchi, sum it up, Soumchi”. While Mr Shitrit sweeled like a frog, grew red in the face and roared as usual:

“Let all flesh be silent!”And then, besides:”Not a dog shall bark!”

After five more minutes the class had quitened down again. But, almost to the eight grade I remained Soumchi. I’ve no ulterior motive in telling you all this. I simply want to steess one significant detail; a not sent to me  by Esthie at the endof that same lesson which read as follows:

You’re nuts. Why do you alway have to say things that get you in trouble? Stop it!

A note from the giurl he likes to stop being the class clown at tmes.

The book is narrated by Soumchi it’s the nickname of the narrator. The book is set in 1947 as Britain is still occupying Jerusalem. What we see is the day this young boy gets his first bicycle from his dodgy Uncle Zemach. The Uncle is known to dabble in Black Market. He also used to turn up with strange and exciting gifts for his nephew. So when he turns up with the bike for his nephew the parents aren’t too sure but Soumchi is happy. He is a boy that like many his age eleven is just discovering the other sex for him, in particular, it is one girl that has caught Soumchi eye. The Girl Esthi is one he is driven to try and impress and therefore get her attention. The book is filled with those daydream notions we have as a child the bike could take him to the heart of Africa or to the Himilayia’s. But the bike also causes problems for this bullied boy. His day gets worse when his best friend a richer boy who hasn’t a bike swaps the bike with him for a train set. We also see the Jerusalem under British control through a child’s eye.

This time, Uncle Zemach marked the feast of Shavout by riding all the way from the egged bus station in the Jaffa road to the courtyard of our house on a second hand raleigh bicycle, complete with every accssory: it had a bell, also a lamp, also a carrier, also a reflector at the back; all it lacked was the crossbar joining the saddle to the handlebar. But, in my first overwhelming joy, I overlooked just how grave a shortcoming that was.

Mother said: Really, this is excessive, Zemach, The boy is still only elven. What are you proposing to give him for his Bar Mitzva

Zemach had always turned up with strange and exciting gifts.

I have always been a fan of Oz’s books he is one of those writers that is on the edge of the Nobel prize. For me he is in the Pamuk and LLosa vein of writer his books are readable and compelling but maybe not great but always good if that makes sense. You can see on his Wiki page you can see a list of all the prizes that he has won from around the world. which include a couple of those prizes that other Nobel winners have won. This is a classic coming of age tale Soumchi is a typical boy he has to deal with blossoming teen hormones, Bullying, Love, and hate. He also is a great daydreamer and Imagination. Character-wise Soumchi has some similarities with the Narrator of Stand by me who also had a great imagination and also was starting to get interested in girls. reminded of the lines he said about never have friends and times like you do when you are twelve (or elven in this case). It is a view of a day in the life of a boy trying to get told in short chapters that keep the reader right there with Soumchi through his day the day he got a bike and what happened.

Document 1 by François Blais

Document 1 by François Blais

Candian Quebecian fiction

Original title – Document 1

Translator – JC Sutcliffe

Source – review copy

When someone from Book*hug contacted me to review two of there latest books in translation. I couldn’t say no, I have enjoyed all the books in the last couple of years I have read from Quebec. So I choose Document 1 first to read. As François Blais is considered something of an underground superhero of Quebec literature. This is his most successful book when it came out in French in 2013 he has written nine novels and a collection of short stories. This is his first book to be translated into English.

One amusing and instructive way of learning about America is exploring the Family Watchdog website (www.family-watchdog.us), a service that allows American citizens to learn whether anyone in their neighbourhood has been convicted of a sex crime. The home page asks for the name of a town. Let’s choose ne at random: Anchorage, Alaska. A map pops up with a constellation of little coloured squares corresponding t the houses and workplaces of criminals.

A site that shows the location of all sex offenders in America and we find the colours lead to type of criminals. Another rabbit hole for Tess and Jude.

This is the tale of two slackers in a way. Tess and Jude are daydreamers, they love nothing more than searching google maps for those odd named places in America like Chicken in Alaska and Boring Oregon two examples given in the book. But the one place they really like is a place in Bird in hand Pennslyvania. Which they discover it is nearly a ten-hour drive from there Quebec small town of Grand-Mere.That sets the two on planning how they could make the journey there. That makes them search and leads them to Sebastien Daoust a writer. They then make use of the one writer Sebastien locally. He is a small time writer. They fake an application from him “Hence the document one of the title the title of the document they wrote on Microsoft word”  for arts grant to write a book in the dying travelogue genre as they put it citing books like Sterne’s sentimental journey through France and Italy and Diderot’s journey to Holland. They end up buying a Monte Carlo car and have a dog to come with them on this road trip. But as they are maybe more dreamers than realist!! read the book to see what happens to Tess and Jude.

For a long time, Bird-in-Hand was basically little more than a market. The Amish came there to sell their products a couple of times a week, then went back to their farms. On non-market days, it was essentially a ghost town, with a population that barely made it to three figures. Things changed in1911, when Jonathan stoltzfus brought a sixty-acre farm in the area. Later on, his sons opened a hotel and started devolping tourism in the region.Today, his decendants (The Smuckers) own just about all the two’s businesses.You’re going to say, “If the guy was called Stoltzfus, why would his descendants be called Smucker?” Well, Smucker sounds more American, which is better for Buisnees.Simple as that

I liked the little pen history of the town they want to visit.

Earlier last month the Wodehouse prize was canceled this year for a lack of witty and comic novels. Well, this would have been up there it has a wry dry humor of the underdog world. Tess and Jude reminded me of those characters Magnus mills wrote in his early books those trapped in their own world without really knowing they are. Also, there is a nod in a way to fellow Canadian slacker writer Douglas Coupland the parts on the computer remind me of scenes from his books like Microserfs those endless rabbit holes of searches. I used to love the old zip code stories in National Geographic a patient I looked after used to buy them and we’d look at the different places they had chosen. Similar to Tess and Jude’s odd named towns searches. A tragic tale of two dreamers trapped in their own worlds. This made me smile when I hadn’t had a lot to smile in the last couple of weeks.

Alma Mahler by Sasho Dimoski

 

alma mahler fc

Alma Mahler by Sasho Dimoski

Macedonian fiction

Original title – Alma Mahler

Translator – Paul Filev

Source personal copy

I found this book when looking around recent books that had been brought out by Dalkey Archive. I have been a fan of there books for a while as they are always trying to find new places to bring books from. So when I saw Macedonia was one of the countries they had just bought a book out from there I had to try it. Sasho Dimoski has written three novels and studied comparative literature in Skopje and is currently working as a Dramatist. This is his first book to be translated into English.

We had time, Gustav. Time stood still when we weren’t in it. It came to a halt, and nothing took place here or elsewhere. Nothing. We always had time. Always. Every wrong righted in the present, and smoothed over for the future. Every unspoken word for every innermost place within the soul, for every rise and fall within it.Every you and every I, for the various forms the days took, and that slumbered at night. And whenwe awakened our time, you and I always knew that n the other side of the looking glass stands the unkown. Something only we two could know, That we still know. And that we live today, in thwese final days that I drag along like shackles.

An undercurrent of her silence and growing unease is here

This book follows the life of the wife of the composer Gustav Mahler. Alma Mahler married him late in his life they were married for nine years this book describes those years just before his death. It uses his symphony as a guide for the chapters. we see their marriage from her point of view. She was a talented composer and a woman that in many ways must have been a muse she later Married the founder of the Bauhaus movement and the writer Franz Werfel. She was also painted by the other Gustav Klimt (that crops up in the book). What we see is the power struggle of a clever woman forced into the shadows and with a husband that at times is so wound up in his music that he doesn’t see her at times. She puts at one point she gave up long ago and now lives day to day. Late on he reveals she was every to him but she didn’t know when he falls ill after his ninth working on his tenth symphony.

There is something I must tell you, Gustav

I Fell in love with the idea of being Alma Mahle. Then I fell in love with you

Assurances? No. What kind of assurances are you talking about? I could have had that from any number of men. Indeed, I did have it from quite a few. I reveled in your greatness, which I later came to learn largely meant profound sorrow.Immencse lonliness. Great effort. Considerable. Numerous sacrifices. Umpteen missed birthdays, countless significant dates forgotten, unshared beds. Symphonies concerts, different towns, changing residences, searching for new homes, suitcases, makeup, tears, silence, sadnees,silence, tears, make up, grief, suitcase, anguish, sorrow!

That silence again her looking back on wanting to be his wife, but regretting it for the missed reasons.

This is a short book. sixty pages of a poem like prose. It is one of those books that defy being place in a pigeonhole a prose poem, a novella and it also has music notations in places of each symphony also a strong feeling of a monologue. In an interview in Bosnian, I translated on google the writer talks about the silence in the book. There is many spaces and also the silence of the love between them and the silence in the music. as he says the silence that stands against the music. this is a book about the gaps in their relationship in a way a great mind and a woman of great will silenced, she had written music but early on she shows she now lives in his shadow. An interesting intro to Macedonian lit. I understand this has been made into a stage show. In the Bosnian interview, he is asked about the theatre in Macedonian Lit. For me it would work well as a monologue piece the vice of Alma comes through in the text I could see it working as a stage piece.

This too shall pass by Milena Busquets

Image result for milena busquets this too shall pass

This too shall pass by Milena Busquets

Spanish fiction

Original title – También esto pasará

Translator – Valerie Miles

Source – review copy

I was sent this last year but it wasn’t to this week when I was looking for a couple of short books to cover whilst reading a longer book as well to give me some books to review. Milena Busquets book had been a best seller around Europe and in many ways is a perfect summer book as it is set in the summer in Spain. Milena got a degree in archaeology from university college London then she worked for her family publishing house and has worked in PR and translations since then. This book was longlisted for the Impac award.

For some strange reason, I never considered what it would be like to be forty. When I was tweny, I could imagine myself at thirrty, living with the love of my life and a bunch of kids. Or at sixty, baking apple pies with my grandchildren – me who can’t boil an egg to save my soul, but I would learn. Even at eighty, as an old bag drinking whisky with my girlfriends,But I never imagined myself at forty, not at fifty either,And yet here I am

Blanca never saw herself as middleaged she went from youngest with kids to old age this is her main problem!!

The book starts with Blanca the main character in the book dealing with her own mother’s death and funeral. She then decides to visit her mother seaside holiday home with those she considers her closest friends, lovers, and family. Her two best friends, her two sons, her two ex-husbands and her lover. this is almost like a setting for a Spanish Woody Allen film. In fact the themes within the book. Are those that are most common within Woody  Allen’s films that is of oncoming Middle age. This In Blanca case is driven by the death of her mother.(As someone like Blanca that lost my mother early I know the effect on one’s life and view of life) . The next themes are sex this in Blanca case as we see through this book is almost used to plot out the pain of the loss of her mother. Then there is Death another come theme in Allen films death of family but also the death of relationships is another underlying theme. So over the summer, we see a woman coming to terms with what happened to her. So we see a woman trying to grip on to those younger years drinking and drugs are mentioned a lot and parties but then we see her own children on the edge of coming into the age where this will be their world. A heady mix of sun, sex, and sangria.

To the best of my knowledge.the only thing that momentarily alleviates the sting of death – and lfe – without leaving a hangover is sex. It only lasts a few seconds, though; maybe a little linger if you fall asllep afterwards. But then the fuinture , the clothes, the memories, the lamps, the panic, the grief, everything that had been shooshed up into the The wizard of Oz tornado comes right back down and falls into its place in the room, in the head, in the belly. I open my eyes and it’s not garlands of flowers and singing dwarfs that I see, no ; I’m lying in bed next to my ex,

I loved this description of how she fell into bed with an ex, this remind me some what of something Woody Alllen would say.

This maybe isn’t the first book I would have chosen to read it isn’t my usual read. But I enjoyed the style it has a follow as we follow the stream of consciousness narrative of Blanca’s world as she spends her summer in Cadaques. This brings to mind classic modernist piece like Mrs  Dalloway where a woman confronts here world over a night here we see a woman wrestling with the modern female problems which is much different Mrs Dalloways problems. Blanca is very much a self-centred woman but we see her struggling and trying to get on with her life. But for me, this had a lot in common with Woody Allen films the feeling of a female instead of a male facing what their life is and maybe falling into the arms of a number of people over the course of the book.

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