Eve out of her ruins by Ananda Devi

First published by Les Fugitives and CB editions in September 2016 ISBN 9780993009341 / 120x180 / paperback with flaps / 160 p / RRP: GBP10.99 Order here. With brutal honesty and poetic urgency, Ananda Devi relates the tale of four young Mauritians trapped in their country's endless cycle of fear and violence: Eve, whose body is her only weapon and source of power; Savita, Eve's best friend, the only one who loves Eve without self-interest, who has plans to leave but will not go alone; Saadiq, gifted would-be poet, inspired by Rimbaud, in love with Eve; Clelio, belligerent rebel, waiting without hope for his brother to send for him from France. Eve Out of Her Ruins is a heartbreaking look at the dark corners of the island nation of Mauritius that tourists never see, a poignant exploration of the construction of personhood at the margins of society, and a harrowing account of the violent reality of life in Devi's native country by the figurehead of Mauritian literature.

Eve out of her ruins by Ananda Devi

Mauritian fiction

Original title –  Ève de ses décombres

Translator  – Jeffrey Zuckerman

Source – personnel copy

When the american list for the best translated book came out on the three percent website this year I decide to order a few of the books from this years list , this was one of those books and since I read my last book from Mauritius the last brother  , I had been wanting to read another Ananda Devi won her first prize when she was fifteen she studied at SOAS in London and had her first works published in the late 1970’s and this was her seventh novel and won the Prix des cinq continents de la Francophonie.

He dragged me off a corner of the playground , behind a huge  Indian almond tree , he pinned me against the tree’s trunk , and he slipped his hand under my t-shirt. I was wearing a red t-shirt, with a soccer player’s name on it . I don’t remember who anymore . His hand stopped at my breasts , slowly moved up and down, just over the small black points. There hardly anything there. I heard other children shouting and playing .They seemed far away.

Eve first encounter distant like her mind and body split that day !

This is a coming of age book about four teens on the cusp of adulthood in the capital city of Mauritius Port louis , we have Eve the main character in this four voice narrative , she is a young girl that has being using her body to get attention of the boys around her and allowing them to abuse her ad in a way her body is damaged but her mind is still there . Then we have Saad as his chapters are called he shes what is happening to Eve , but wants more ,he loves Eve and has like many men his age discovered Poetry for him it is that of the young Rimbaud as he heard him read in Class  . But also is in the gang they still chase women the same . Another Gang member is the other male character in the book Clelio  he is awaiting family return from France and hopes to follow himself at some point to escape the gang and the world of Port Louis  . Eve also gets abuse at home from her father in fact the last voice in this book is her only Solace a fellow female student she seeks companionship and connection with . There is also a very sinister fifth voice weaving the book with a sinister tale.

You think about her again , as you saw her last . It’s because of him that she had this purplish tinge, this rigidity, this absolute stillness. It’s because of him that she contradicts everything she ever was ; a girl who was laughing thoughtful , warm and alive above all , alive . He was her final moment . It was this face = pasty defeated, unaware of the very meaning of the word love – that she saw at the moment she died.

You will not forgive him

THe fifth detached and chilling voice in this novel with its last words who was she !!

This is a story of growing up in the wild part of a city , I was reminded of the German novel tigermilk where the lead female character like Eve start to use their bodies for sex and a sort of instant gratification but also the hollow feeling that Eve has in her life. There is also a sense of pace Zuckerman has caught in the translation this remind  me of another book from its us publisher Deep Vellum . Tram 83 which also feature characters in what like Port louis is a town on the edge of Chaos , where like Cleio most youngsters are looking to escape to France. The uk publisher of this book is Les fugitives a new publisher putting out new female voices in french . A tough book about kids growing up in a harsh world .

Butterfly wings by Mohamed Salmawy

 

Butterfly wings by Mohamed Salmawy

Egyptian fiction

Original title أجنحة الفراشة

Translator – Raphael Cohen

Source – Library edition

I took some short novels from the library to read on my time off , but as ever when you are away time was short sightseeing and spending time with amanda but I did manage to read this great Arabic novel by Mohamed Salmawy . Salmawy is the president of the writers union of Egypt and secretary-general of the Arab Writers and also editor of a leading daily newspaper. This book came out just before the events of 2011 , so in a way is quite insightful about what happened then .

Doha imagined that meeting Ashraf al-Zayni on the plane had been a chance encounter.It would be over when the flight ended and they went their separate ways- she to Milan for the annual fashion show and he to Palermo in Scilly for the international NGO conference. Fate , however had something in store for her that she neither expected nor imagined.

The three and a half hours of the flight from Cario to Rome left an impression that would remain with her for the rest of her life.She had never met anyone like Ashraf al-Zayni before .She saw in him something she not seen in other politicians, plus  he had brought back to life something inside her that she had not believed still existed

The chancce encounter leaves an impression on the both .

This is a story with two main characters in it Doha is a fashion designer , a sort of link between the west and arab world , she comfortably travels between here homeland and The fashion world of Italy . Her husband is a leading figure in the Murbareck regime . We see their privileged world . But after a chance encounter with Dr Ashraf a man from the opposition she meets when they are both in Rome after talking to him she sees a new insight into her world . But even with this sense the wind may be changing in her homeland she returns and like the old saying about chaos theory a butterfly wings flapping can change the world the butterfly appears time after time whether flying or in patterns on the clothes Doha is wanting to show , the two meet later in the book as the tables are turned slightly from their first meeting  . Add to that a couple of small side stories about a man waiting to meet his internet wife and a pair of brothers hunting for the real mother.

Unable to rest, Doha flicked through The butterflies of Egypt , she came to a photograph of the mural in the tomb where the ancient  Egyptian artist had painted a picture of the butterfly . The tomb belonged to a noble called Nob Amun. According to the book , there were fifty-eight indigenous species in Egypt , which was a relatively small number in comparison with other countries. This was due to Egypt’s desert environment . Neverless , Egypt’s butterflies had adapted to the harsh conditions and were able to survive and maintain their beauty despite hardships

LIke the country itself the butterflies make a good metaphor from the Egypt post Arab spring .

This is another book that captures the can of worms that was opened in Egypt when Murbarek regime was on the verge of collapsing as part of the Arab spring A figure like Ashraf , is a passionate voice of a the young people on the street we saw so much in the TV coverage  clever wanting a bright future , which as we know never really happened . There is also echos of this change in the brothers seeking their mother a new mother maybe is clever metaphor for a new country and leadership. I also love the subtle use of butterflies as a recurring Motif throughout the book. But also a larger motif of the country emerging as a butterfly from it catalyst moment of the riots being the start of something beautiful like a pure white Butterfly. This is clever look at the recent past of Egypt.

Maigret and the man on the bench by Georges Simenon

Maigret and the man on the beach

Belgian fiction

Original title – Maigret et l’homme du banc

Translator – David Watson

Source – Library copy

At the start of the year I reviewed the last Maigret book to be made into one of the new series of tv dramas starring Rowan Atkinson Maigret and the dead man, I was in the library the other day and this cover of one of the most recent editions opf the penguin series to reissue new translations of all the Maigret books caught my eye .

His clothes were clean , respectable . He was wearing a dark suit, a biege raincoat and on his feet which were twisted at an odd angle , he wore greenish-yellow shoes, which seemed out of keeping with a day as colourless at this

Apart from his shoes, he appeared so ordinary that he would have passed completely unnoticed onn the street or on one of the numerous cafe terraces on the boulevard. Neverless, the policeman who discovered him said :

“I get the feeling , I’ve seen him before.”

The body would be anypone apart from those shoes of his !!

So this is like the other novels and all starts with a murder . Louis Thouret is found dead on a bench at a dead-end road. He seems normal enough barring a rather bright pair of yellow shoes. As Maigret takes his wife to see him she says his shoes weren’t his own and at the time he died he should have been work . The usual team around Maigret swing into action , the place he worked isn’t there in fact Louis had worked for a long while getting by on loans and then taking a turn into the world of crime but his family seemed to have known nothing about the double life he was living which meant another flat and life away . But as they ask the family maybe his daughter had more to say than she did. Maigret grows to like Louis and he efforts to keep his family unaware of the loss his job.

“Kaplan and Zanin’s ?” he asked her

“the company closed down three years ago next month my good man ”

“wer you already working here ?”

“I’ll have been here twenty-six years this December.”

“Did you know Louis Thouret?”

“Why of course I knew Monsieur Louis! What has become of him? It must be four of five months since he last dropped by to say hello”

“He’s dead” she immediately stopped sorting the letter.

“He always enjoyed such good health ! What was it ? Heart,I’ll bet just like my husband…”

“He was stabbed to death , yesterday afternoon , not far from here .”

They discover his old workplace has long since ceased trading !

This is a classic story line from crime fiction .I know of a couple of similar classic tales from couple of other classic Crime writers. Connan Doyles Holmes investigated the case of the man with the twisted lip where a respected man thought to have died in an opium den and there is a beggar that is well-known for his ability to quote poetry is he the missing man ? . This is also a similar plot themes  to the Poirot the disappearance of mr Davenheim where the main character disappears but had made a sideline as a  criminal and had spent time in prison not south africa as he said , as part of a plan to frame someone. These both involved the male head of a family that has lost position , money or a job , but was too proud to admit it thus leading them to a life on the other side of the fence of the law.The book was originally released as a part work in the french paper Le figaro in the fifties. I wonder if this will get the Atkinson treatment who since he became Maigret is now whom I picture when reading these books.

Listening for Jupiter by Pierre-Luc Landry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking for Jupiter by Pierre-Luc Landry

Quebec fiction

Original title – Les corps extraterrestres

Translators – Arielle Aaronson and Madeleine Stratford

Source – review copy

The small Quebec based press QC fiction are translating some wonderful Lit from the french speaking part of Canada. The first book I reviewed Brothers by David Clerson was one of my favourite books from last year so when then latest book looking for Jupiter arrived I was excited .Pierre-Luc landry is a professor of French studies and found the journal La Chachoir de flaubert a spittoon of ideas ! and won the Ottawa book prize for french fiction with this novel .

I sat down in front of the TV to watch a documentary on Jupiter’s red spot , a massive  anti cyclone that was first seen almost two hundreds years ago and still looks the same today. The scientists who were interviewed compared it to a never-ending hurricane with winds raging at over 550 kilometers per hour. The more they study the phenomenon , they said the less they understand it

Man is this just the best summary of the book , a twirling circle , jupiter a recurring Motif and also a TV show.

This is a tale that takes place in the real and dream world and with two characters Xavier a rep working for a pharmaceutical company , sell a drug that he isn’t very sure works . But in his dreams he lives in a different world he joins and connects with Hollywood a man living what seems a dead-end life as a grave-digger  ( a job Dave Vanian of the damned had and also Joe Strummer ) , Hollywood is a student in fact in many ways embodies the classic Slacker role and in a way Xavier is maybe the classic Yuppie but as the novel unfold we see that The Slacker life of Hollywood as Xavier falls ill and lose his position  and starts on a path to becoming each other and live in a world where their lives are numbed by Music TV shows and films.As the weather has freaky nature during the book.

After the sandman

They remain standing for some time before the hole in the window, watching the meteor shower. They say nothing. They both believe that, at this rate, the sky will eventually burn out. Then hollywood shouts:

“It’s cold in here”

“But it isn’t snowing.It’s stopped ”

I loved these short passages this one is so Borges like I felt !

This is a classic piece of what I would call Gen x lit mixed with a work of magic realism .I was reminded so much the films I grew up with where the slacker characters  turned into the anti hero Ethan Hawke in reality bites was similar to  Hollywood. In the way he is like with his friends a the way Hawkes character was über cool  like and  on the other hand Xavier is rather  like Ben stiller characters an up and coming yuppie but unlike stiller Xavier has a soul , but also with a tinge of the Campbell Scott’s character in the film singles who ends up as a slacker when he seems his dream and office career fall apart. Then there is the master of Gen x fiction the man who started the genre Douglas Coupand this is a tale pf young people caught up in their own worlds as they collide. This is a trip into a world that may not be real as it is warm in the cold part of Canada and snowing in Europe you feel as thou the two characters need to meet to change the world back and make it run as normal. There is also a chink Of Borges for me the character circling a labyrinth of the dreams and the reflective nature of the two worlds they live in are all motifs that Borges used in his stories .

The children by Carolina Sanin

The children by Carolina Sanin

Colombian Fiction

Original title – Los niños

Translator – Nick Caistor

Source – review copy

When I started the blog ,I be hard pushed to have name more than one writer from Columbia that wasn’t Marquez but in the years in between we have seen a wave of new writers from Columbia Rosero , Vasquez and Gamboa .Now here is another name to add to that list . This is her first book to appear in English and her second novel she has taught in New york hispanic studies and is considered a rising talent .

Laura Romero heard that the woman  who watched the cars outside the supermarket was offering her a child. She heard her say “I’ll keep a child for you “. But Laura was not sure whether the woman really did watch the cars. She knew that when she finished her shopping , she gave her some coins as if to pay, and that her car had never gone missing . Maybe that was because she only left it there during daylight and when there were lots of people about , but it was also possible that the woman had some influence over the car thieves.That she was their mother , for example

Before Fidel arrives Laura misses what she said at the supermarket.

The children is one of those books that is hard to put in a category. The story Follows Laura after she is going to the supermarket one day and like other days she is met by a beggar woman , but is ask if she wants her a child thinking no more of it she gives her some money .But later that night a boy appears outside her house .The boy fidel know nothing other than his six years old . So she sets off to find out about this boy. Laura herself is a strange character as the story unfold she has money from her families salt mines  , she works as a housekeeper as she like to clean and sort the  houses she works in  a strange OCD, but doesn’t need the money . She is reading Moby Dick maybe the boy is her Moby Dick as he seems to have come from nowhere and maybe at points he has trance like fits you wonder is he real or maybe like the whale in the mind of the crew a ghost that isn’t real just in Laura’s eyes in Moby Dick a metaphor for something else .Then we she Laura battling the bureaucracy in what is a Kafka like nightmare  race to find out about Fidel  as she sees how slow the wheels turn.

Brus became aware of Fidel’s existence before she did it was shortly before midnight on Saturday , and laura had just filled the hot-water bottle she took to bed with her.The dog began to bark and then howl, and in between could be heard sobs that  seemed to have been learned by heart, as if they came  from a child who knows he is too big to still be crying like that . Laura titled her head that way Brus did when se asked him something , and realised that the sound was coming from the street, on the right-hand side of the building as you looked out. She went onto the balcony . A boy was looking up from the pavement, three storeys down. As soon as he saw her appear , he stopped crying

Fidel appeared and was noticed by her dog Brus .

This is one of those novels that leaves you with more questions than answers, much in the vain of a number of latin American novel particular Evelio Rosero .But also a framing of a lost child or ghost child that has frequently appeared in literature . Also a connection between a woman and a child that isn’t her child this is a theme that appeared in Fever Dream. Add to that Laura is reading Moby Dick a book itself that is about obsession and ghosts. This is a clever novella that like Fever dream from this years Man booker shows the strength of latin american fiction.

 

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