Tigermilk by Stefanie De Velasco

 

Tigermilk by Stefanie De Velasco

German Fiction

Original title – Tigermilch

Translator – Tim Mohr

Source – Library book

Berlin im Licht

And when you go for a walk, the sunlight may be enough, but to light the city of Berlin, the sun is not enough.
This is no little hicktown.
This is one helluva city!
If you want to see everything you can,
You have to use a few watts!
So what then? So what then?
What kind of a city is it then?

Come, turn on the lights so we can see what there is to see!
Come, turn on the lights and don’t say another word.
Come, turn on the lights, so we can see for sure what the big deal is: Berlin in lights!source

I choose Kurt Weil his songs reflect the darker side of life on the whole and here is one about Berlin

Now every IFFp longlist there is a few books I haven’t come across with hundred plus books out a year in translation , even I miss some so when this was on the longlist I didn’t know what to expect .Stefani De Velasco was born in Oberhausen to spanish parent she studied Political science at Bonn .She now lives in Berlin , were the book is set .This book was here debut novel it won Prenzlauer Berg Literature prize .

We dump the chocolate milk down the toilet , chocolate milk is for children . We drink tiger milk this is how you make it . Pour a little school cafeteria milk , a lot of maracuja juice , and a decent slug of brandy into a muller jar . Jameelah stirs it .

This is tiger milk a very German idea , my old  German girlfriend loved nutella and eggs on toast

Now Berlin has had many great books written about it ,the city has also been a character in many books .This is a book of modern Berlin the melting pot of cultures and races that live there now .The book follows two girls on the verge of womanhood , Nini and Jameelah have just broken up for school for the summer and are all set on losing their virginity By practice .But they choose a dangerous path by going to the red light district and picking up random men to learn about sex , maybe learning in the wrong way as they just view them as meat really  .All this discovery is fueled by The tigermilk of the title a mix of milk brandy and other thinks they drink from jars (now seen in every hipster bar in the uk ) .This summer sees the girls grow but also witness the darker sides of life and sex . There attempt to practice maybe doesn’t make perfect and also different cultures

I don’t know why we ended up on Kurfursten of all streets and with the men there , i don’t know any of that , I just know that we always thought nothing would ever go wrong, nothing would happen , as long as we didn’t go anywhere alone , never alone .

The closing lines struck me how we sometimes look back in regret but maybe experiences is a thing we all need .

This book is a gem really , I’ve not read to many Bildungsroman that have females as their lead characters .Nini  and Jameelah both reflect the new face of Berlin with both there families came to Berlin from outside Germany .These two street girls so to speak are this generations Christiane F like the kids in the book and the film, set around Banhof zoo in the 1980’s .What De velasco and Tim Mohr in his translation has done is bring the streets to life through the eyes of these fourteen year old girls .A book for me to sit next to the great books about berlin like Berlin Alexanderplatz and films like Wings of desire .So a great choice for the longlist , I love discovering new voices and this is another great new voice from Germany .

Have you read this book ?

By night the mountain burns by Juan Tomas Avila Laurel

 

 

 

By Night the M B front cover CMYK

By night the mountain burns by Juan Tomas Avila Laurel

Equatorial Guinea fiction

Original title – Arde el monte de noche

Translator – Jethro Soutar

Source – review copy

 

“Memories Can’t Wait”

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

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

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

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

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

The island works together at times .

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

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

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

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

have you read this book ?

The bridge over the Drina by Ivo Andric

bridge over the drina

 

The bridge over the Drina by Ivo Andric

Bosnian fiction

Original title – Na Drini ćuprija

Translator – Lovett F Edwards

Source – personnel copy

This table has four sturdy legs
And a heart of very near wild oak
When others would have screamed out loud my friend
This one never even spoke

I’ve been sat upon, I’ve been spat upon
I’ve been treated like a bed
Been carried like a stretcher,
when someone thinks they’re dead
I’ve been dined upon, I’ve been wined upon
I’ve been taken for a fool
Taken for a desk,
when they should have been at school

The table in the song by beautiful south is a dumb witness of history source 

Well this has been a book I have want to add to the blog for a while . Part of what I need to do is add books like this and writers like Andric .Former Nobel winner .He was born to Bosnian Croat parents ,was rought up in the town of Visegrad where this book is set and the bridge is .He won the nobel mainly based on the value of this book it was the first of a trilogy of books he wrote set in his native Bosnia .

For the greater part of its course the river Drina flows through narrow gorges between steep mountains  or through deep ravines with precipitous banks  . In a few places only the river banks spread out to form valleys with level or rolling stretches of fertile land suitable for cultivation and settlement on both sides . Such a place exists here at Visegrad , where the Drina breaks out in a sudden curve .

The town has people living on both sides of the bridge .

The bridge of Drina is well what it says on the tin the story of this bridge that in a way links east and west . The bridge is set in the town of Visegrad . The bridge was built-in the 16th century by the Grand Vizar to connect the two sides of the town and two worlds really . Through the book we see families torn apart on the two sides of the river . The story starts with a Serbian boy  whom has been  taken from his parents  .The parents of the boys taken suffering . Through the door of everyone living in the town we see the small world there but also the larger world of the Balkans .WE see the religions of the region and how they affect the townsfolk Catholic , orthodox and muslim altogether .This is a huge book about the region through glimpse of the world through three centuries .

In all that ten days long bombardment no major damage was done to the bridge .The shell struck against the smooth piers and rounded arches ,ricocheted and exploded in the air without leaving other marks in the stone than light ,white scarcely perceptible scratches . The fragments of shrapnel bounced off the smooth firm stone .

The bridge came through world war one fairly unscathed .unlike the world around it

Now this book was written in Belgrade during the second world war .It maybe shows much of what happened after the second world war . The cracks that finally broke up the post Tito Yugoslavia can all be seen in these little stories in this book as we see the lives through 300 years which has seen many people trying to gain control of the town and over Bosnia and the wider region . from the Ottoman empire .then the interaction between the Serbs and the Muslims .Andric enters all the lives of the town he grew up these are little stories glimpse of people’s lives that he knew and must have heard of growing up in the town .Also the  folktales of the place all drawn together .The bridge is like a dumb witness to the history and the wounds left during the three hundred years in this book .Which formed scabs after this book that was maybe ripped off to bleed again by the Balkan conflicts at the end of the 20th Century .This is my second book for east European month and maybe one of the best and earliest books of the post war eastern europe .

Have you read this book ?

Bloodlines by Marcello Fois

Bloodlines

Bloodlines by Marcello Fois

Italian Fiction

Original title -Stirpe

Translator – Silvester Mazzarella

Source – Review Copy

 

He was a blacksmith by trade; he used to live on his own.
She was a little old maid; she was all gristle and bone,
Just a crone that you might not have fancied yourself;
She was not born to attract. She was lined up for the shelf
If it were not for the fact the blacksmith loved her well,
He loved her like hell. He used to grunt and sigh, fit to die.
But from afar; for he was shy, as blacksmiths often are.

I went for an obvious choice here The blacksmith and The toffeemaker by Jake thackray  and love the comparison he was shy like blacksmiths often are , given we have a shy Sardinan Blacksmith .

When the IFFP longlist was announced I was a bit annoyed with myself I hadn’t read this one as I had loved the first book by him that Maclehose had published Memory of the abyss . It was one of those books I started and just put to one side after 30 pages last year and never got back too , not because I hadn’t like what I read, no there was shiny new ones to read .Marcello Fois is part of what in Italy is called the New Sardinian literature a group of writers that have given a new voice to the island .He has published over 20 books in Italy .

Luggi Ippolito was the first Chironi to know the history and origins of the family .He had read enough to know we all come from somewhere and he was articulate enough to be able to tell the story . His firm and steady , if not yet fully mature , voice echoed calmly through the short November days as everyone grew sleepy round the log fire .

The family origins also told in a side story to the main one .

So Bloodlines as the title maybe suggest is a story of family .But rather cleverly the English title using the term bloodlines instead of lineage .Because this is the story of a family that in a way isn’t connected by blood the Chironi family is started when Giuseppe the father a blacksmith is at the local orphanage and he sees a boy Michele and see in him what could be his son .So he adopts him and he grows up and falls in love with a woman called Michele hat he had met when younger  , but meet when older and start the family that we see through the 20th century through their eyes and there kids eyes .The story of the family that  follows Sardinia through the first and second world war .A family struggling , both with themselves and with the world around them changing  . In a world that has changed is the still a place for them in it .

Michele Angelo is solid and stout , plum as a well-fed animal . His clothes are basically light brown but see against the light , his substance almost blond  , like living expression of something as transient as fruit-growing from honeyed seed , in sharp contrast to the crow-like blackness that surrounds him .

A great example of Fois Prose and the great job of Silverstre the translator .

Epic is one word that can sum this up . An epic family saga , that remind me of Marquez in a way , but without any real magic realism .A family and how they face the world , also like Marquez this is a world disconnect from elsewhere round it Sardinia is an island so is both in Italy and not in Italy . In a way it remind me of the world my Father and Grandparents described .When they described the Irish republic they used to visit for weekend’s growing up in the 30 , 40 and 50s and the difference in the world just a few miles from their door .I feel Donegal at this time and Sardinia probably were quite similar worlds . Again I feel in love with Fois wonderfully rich prose style , in a way he is maybe a rich meal full of flavour . In regards the IFFP for me this is a shortlist book so I’ll be scoring it high in the shadow jury .

Have you read Fois ?

Soldiers of Salamis by Javier Cercas

javier Cercas

javier Cercas

Soldier of Salamis by Javier Cercas

Spanish fiction

Original title – Soldados de Salamina 

Translator – Anne McLean

Source – Personnel copy .

 

you say you’ve got to go home ‘cos he’s sitting on his own again this evening.
I know you’re gonna let him bore your pants off again.
Oh God, it’s half past eight you’ll be late.
You say you’ve never been sure tho’ it makes good sense for you to be together.
Still you bought a toy that can reach
the places he never goes & now it’s getting late.
He’s so straight. Do you remember the first time?
I can’t remember a worse time
but you know that we’ve changed so much since then
Oh yeah, we’ve grown.
Now I don’t care what you’re doing

Do you remember the first time is a bit oike war stories our first time is often misremembered .source

 

I have read this book roughly around the time it came out and won the IFFP prize Lisa and I choose it as one of our books to celebrate 25 years od the IFFp running .With the clock running down to thursdays announcement I decide to start today with this tomorrow I have our shadow jury announcement and then thrursday will see what I have read of the longlist and what needs to be read by myself .Anyway back to Javier Cercas he is one of a number of great spanish writers that have in the last decade or two started looking at what happened during the Spanish civil war . I love this book as it in some ways captures what I enjoy most in recent Spanish language writing , even down to having the great Roberto Bolano as a character name  . Cercas has won numerous prize for his books this one in particular he has written 8 novels including two on here Outlaws and Anatomy of a moment  .

It was the summer of 1994 , more than six years ago now , when I first heard about Rafeal Sanchez Mazas facing the firing squad . Three things had just happened ; first my father had died ; then my wife had left me ; and finally , I’d given up my literary career .

Opening lines , the value of a story to a writer in the opening lines here .

The soldiers of Salamis , is really a study of how we view the past told in three parts . The connection between the three parts is the history of Rafeal Sanchez Mazas . The book revolves around an incident that happened during the civil war .Who in one day escapes a firing squad and then also nearly getting caught by a a soldier sent to search for him .The first is what he thought happened then in the following two parts more about the man that nearly caught him appear so was the original history the truth ? A writer in the present struggles with what is truth in historic fact and is all historic fact fiction in some way ? Was the man that spared Mazas Miralles the real hero of the story . A real look at hpw the events of the civil war still linked with the present and more so effected those involved .

Exhaling loudly , Bolano reminded me that he hadn’t seen Miralles for more than twenty years , and that he wasn’t friends with anyone from back then , anyone who could  – he stopped short and , offering no explanation , asked me to hang on a moment . I hung on . The moment got so long that I thought Bolano must have forgotten I was waiting on the phone .

I loved he called a character bolano .Like real Bolano he knows the other side of the story .

Well again like in the two other books I have reviewed by javier Cercas there is a thin line walked by him between truth and lies in fact between fact and fiction .This book could sit on the middle .the earlier books are Outlaws his childhood reimagined a fictional growing up story . Then in Anatomy  of a moment the attempt coup of the Spanish parliment in the 80’s is recounted more of a fact based non-fiction novel . So What do we learn , that the history of what happened in the spai=nish civil war was in some ways rewritten by those that won .There was good and bad on both sides . What we see is how history gets written or even invented or misrememebered . For me this is as near perfect novel and a fine example of what the IFFP should be there for promoting the best voices from around the world .

Have you read Javier Cercas

Closely Observed trains by Bohumil Hrabal

 

 

Closely Observed trains by Bohumil Hrabil

Czech fiction

Original title –  Ostře sledované vlaky

Translator – Edith Pargeter

Source personnel copy

Upon the sand, upon the bay
“There is a quick and easy way” you say
Before you illustrate
I’d rather state:
“I’m not the man you think I am
I’m not the man you think I am”

And Sorrow’s native son
He will not smile for anyone

And Pretty Girls Make Graves
Oh…

It had to be the Smiths , Milos could have maybe been the first smiths fan if he wanted ! source 

Well I read this years ago , then a few years later thanks to Guardian managed to get hold of the dvd of the film .This slim novella is a classic of Czech fiction .Bohumil Hrabal at the time he was writing was maybe along side writer like Harval , Skvorecky and a few others made Czech lit the lit to read in the cold war . Hrabal himself  studied law postman , clerk and bailer of wastepaper . Before he finally became a writer and spent most of his writing life in Prague . He has a number of his books translated into English .

Dispatcher Hubicka welcomed me back , and told me at once that we were to be on duty together , for after three months of sick I should have to start learning all over again . And then he asked me what the time was , and pulled up my sleeve from my wrist , but instead of looking at my watch he was staring straight t the scar over my healed wound .

Milos is given help but maybe not the best he will learn .

The setting for the book is 1945 , at a small station , but important hub for germans we meet Milos . He Milos is the main character of the book this young man . He  has a girlfriend , whom he is having trouble getting really close to . At work there is the boss a dispatcher called Hubicka . His problem he is more taken with the telegraphist at the station and trying to stamp her on the behind with , than his job . The job is as the title says closely observing trains , thus making sure the trains full of German solders and arms don’t have any hold ups .Milos is stressed doing this letting down his girlfriend and then because of that tries to take his life this is where were we first meet him  . Only to return and get caught in the same cycle again .

But dispatcher Hubicka was gazing unto the blue sky , and now as I followed his gaze , I , too , could see what he was seeing there : our telegraphist Virginia  stretched out across the entire heaven , and my Hubicka gently turning up her skirt , and then taking one stamp after another and with along movements printing those stamps on our telegraphist;s behind ..

this is why he ends up hubicka has his eyes elsewhere .

Now how do you cover this one . It’s hard it is only 90 pages long .But in some ways it covers . Much more than you feel can be covered in 90 pages .Love ,sex and romance through Milos and his boss we see the good and the bad and failure and success in a way . The war this is 1945 and there is an undercurrent of why the German needs this to be so smooth and that is the war is being lost . Satire there is part of this reminds me of Catch 22 at times Milos has similar problems as Yossarian . They are both caught up in a mad world seeing the madness but not able to escape it  .Yossarian being the piloting of the plane . Milos is the inability to perform with his girlfriend . I think the is a real beauty is the way Hrabal evokes this world of a small  bohemian station , subtle details like the trains coming and going remind of us where we are but also add as a commentary on maybe what was happening at the time ,maybe also the Germans could be changed for the Soviets ?  Hrabal wrote the book  in 1965 .I must watch the film again which in its own way brought the dimension of the Prague spring to screen more in a way .

Have you read this book or any by him ?

The red notebook by Antoine Laurain

The red notebook by Antoine Laurain

Original title – La femme au carnet rouge

Translators – Emily Boyce and jane Aitken

Source – Review copy

She drove her mother’s car, ’twas a 2cv
I was most impressed by her casual dress
I was most impressed
Inside her rented room colored deepest blue
I suppose we found some kind of happiness
To fill the emptiness
We were simply wasting precious time
Hiding from the cruelest summer sky
She took her mother’s car to get away from me
Heaven knows that i, I can sympathize
Oh I can sympathize
For we were never close if the truth were told
All we ever shared was a taste in clothes
Oh we were never close

I choose another romantic Lloyd Cole an early song 2CV  obviously a slight link in the title  to france as well .

 

Well another visit to france today .This is the second book by Antoine Laurain , I have reviewed here on the blog .The first The presidents hat was a real hit with me when I read it . Antoine Laurain has written five books and collects antiques .His books have translated into many  european  languages . There is a short questionaire with him on the Gallic books blog .

Laurant had never opened a woman’s handbag . He hadn’t opened his mother’s when he was a child and he hadn’t opened claire’s either . Occasionally he had been told , ” Take the keys from my bag ” or “There’s a pack of tissues in my bag ; you can take those . He had not touched a handbag without explict prior authorisation , more like a command that only vaild for a very limited time .

How this made me smile , I think most of us men have similar a expereience .

So The red notebook is similar in  premise to the presidents hat . Again the story starts with a lost item . This time it is a hand bag , unlike presidents hat the finder of this bag doesn’t know who the bag belongs too . The bag is in the hands of laurent Letellier a bookseller , when he finds  the bag  outside his shop .Having been lost when it’s owner was attacked in that spot  .He looks through the bags contents and comes across the red notebook and a few other items .One of these items is a signed novel by Patrick Modiano   . But none of these give a clue to the bags owner . So Laurent reads the notebook and through its content is drawn to its lady owner . what follows is a journey through the notebook and it;s notes .Along the way laurent meets the recent French Nobel winning writer Patrick Modiano . Can this notebook lead laurent to this women he has fallen for without even meeting . The charm of this story is a shy is guy trying to discover this women that to him seems very interesting .

He paused . Laurent stared at him . Only Patrick Modiano could tell you he didn’t remember the woman he had met in the street then immediately go on to give you a description that would have delighted any police force in the country .”Thank you , ” said Laurent in a low voice .

Had pick a line with Modiano in as it shows his respect in France that Laurain include him in this book

I was charmed again by this writers fiction .It’s not very lit , but has the same charm as you find in say the french films by Tati . What we see is one mans journey through Paris to find one woman . Along the way Laurain pays homage in a way to Modiano  both by putting him in the book as a character .But also the style of the book is in a small way  an homage to Modiano a detective novel without being a detective novel .This book is a perfect holiday book or train journey book . I love a book that leaves me with a smile after I have put it down . Sometimes we all need something that is both a page turner and fun to read . I really can’t wait too Gallic hopefully publishes the next book by him .

 

Limonov by Emmanuel Carrere

Limonov by Emmanuel Carrere

French fiction

Translator – John Lambert

Original title – Limonov

Source – Personnel copy

 

I dreamed I saw Phil Ochs last night
Alive as you and me
Says I to Phil, “You’re ten years dead
“I never died”, says he
“I never died”, says he

The music business killed you Phil
They ignored the things you said
And cast you out when fashions changed
Says Phil, “But I ain’t dead”
Says Phil, “But I ain’t dead”

The FBI harassed you Phil
They smeared you with their lies
Says he, “But they could never kill
What they could not compromise
I never compromised”

I choose this Billy Bragg lyric  as it was like this book a singer paying tribute to another singer . As Carrere had done with Limonov .

Well he almost made it onto the blog a few years ago . As I had a tip his last book may have made the iffp longlist I read it . But it missed longlist and had to return to library before I could review it . So this time I got his book as a gift from family . Emmanuel Carrere is a French writer and screen writer . He has been writing since the early 1980’s , he has had a number of his books translated and made into films . He won the Prix renaudot for this particular book . His most famous book is like a French version of in cold blood  . A  book called the adversary  , which saw him in contact with a serial killer in France . This book was also made into a film .

This dandyism is also what he likes about Jazz musicians his new friends so idolizes . He has no affinity for music , and never will . But he does start reading again . He’d stopped at Jules Verne and Alexandre Dumas ; now he starts again with Jack London and Knut Hamsun , the grand vagabonds who plied every trade and embellished their novels with these experiences .

Limonov growing up in the Ukraine , growing as a reader .

Limonov is a hard book to pigeonhole . Is it a novel or is it a biography ? You see it is the story of the Russian writer Eduard Limonov . Now if you had to pick a writer to write about . Eduard Limonov life is a perfect choice . From his early years in Russia through new York , Paris and Serbia .We see him returning to the Soviet union just as it starts to fall apart . Limonov himself at this point becomes involved in the politics of the falling apart Eastern bloc .First in Serbia , whom he supported at the time the Serbian war was happening . Then he returns to Russia and becomes involved in their politics . As he supports the far right National Bolshevik party .

Pawel Pawlikowski is a Polish born British filmmaker  with whom I share many interests, and whom I’ve run into several times while writing this book . He made a moving documentary about the last months of Venichka Erofeev’s life  – remember , the hero of the Brezhnevian underground  . Poverty- stricken , destitute , alcoholic , and ravaged by cancer , Erofeev cuts a figure that Limonov would judge without pity but which had me in tears .

Strange read this the day after Pawlikowski won the Oscar for the best foreign film .

I was reminded of another French writer Frederic Beigbeder . I have reviewed two of his books . One of which The french novel was  a tribute to Carrere own novel the Russian Novel .(according to Beidbeger tribute site in France ) . Eduard Limonov is an interesting subject for the book . His life has seen him move from one side to another on the political spectrum . It has also seen him travel the world in Exile . This is the life of a writer .It is in his early years you see Carrere attraction to Limonov . A shared spirit as a reader , he loved French fiction Limonov Verne and Dumas were his heroes  growing up . But in a way Limonov is also the perfect flawed character . His later life has seen him involved in the far right Russian nationalist party . A strange event during the reading of the book was that Ida won the Best foreign film at the Oscars . The director of that film crops up in this book .I was also left want to try Limonov’s book has anyone read him ?

 

The 3 arched bridge by Ismail Kadare

 

 

The 3 arched bridge by Ismail Kadare

Albanian fiction

Original title Ura Me Tri Harqe 

Translator – John Hodgson

Source – Library book

On the way to your brother’s house in the valley deep
By the river bridge, a cradle floating beside me
In the whitest water on the bank against the stone
You will lift his body from the shore and bring him home

Oliver James washed in the rain
No longer
Oliver James washed in the rain
No longer

Oliver James by fleet foxes is a nice match to this traditonal fable story .

Well yesterday saw me review  a book by Roberto Bolano today I’m reviewing Ismail  Kadare another writer whom has featured a number of times on this blog , I have reviewed three of his book before now .Kadare is one of the names often mentioned as a potenial Nobel prize winner .

As expected , the news of the bridge to be built over the Ujana e Kepe spread rapidly ,Bridges had been built now and then in all sorts of places , but nobody remembered any of them causing such commotion .They had been built with virtually not a word of comment , to the muffled sounds of hammers on wood

The bridge is built but keeps falling down why !

This rather like an earlier novel I reviewed by Kadare the pyramid  which is also  set in a past , although  this book is not as far back as the pyramid .The book  is set in  the 14th century .The book is based on a legend /myth of the region about a castle being built , for this book  thou Kadare has changed the castle to a bridge that connects the then split up into tiny regions Albania to the rest of Europe via this bridge .Which keeps being destroyed  , also the men working on the bridge keep falling ill , is it by the ferry men or is it something else happening , the people start sing songs about the bridge and the ferry men also a tale of a castle like the original tale that Kadare based this book on  and it is decided that a sacrifice  is needed to save the bridge but whom ? Who will be willing to let them selves be killed to have a bridge built , the victim face is remembered in plaster on the bridge .All this is narrated to us by a monk Gjon .

A few days before the final work on the bridge , one of the foreman’s two assistants  , the fat one , fell ill with a rare and frightening disease : all the hairs on his body fell out . They shut him in a hut and tried in every possible way to keep his sickness secret , but there was no way it could be concealed .

Another worker falls sick , as they try to get the bridge built .

Rather like the book the pyramid which I have also reviewed  , I felt this maybe more than it seems on the surface  which is an Albanian folktale retold with a few changes in the story  a bridge instead of a castle .No to me this is more a book of its time  which is the mid seventies  , than a story of something that happened over five hundred years before that .I feel the book , which was written in 1976 , maybe shows the events in Albania at the time using the myth and legend to maybe show the isolation of the Hoxha regime of the time , maybe the bridge falling is the way he kept Albania separate from Europe .I feel the sacrifice maybe eludes to what he felt at that time , what people had to do to get the bridge built (or the links and more open regime in Albania ) .I do prefer these books that have been translated directly from Albanian and like in places that John Hodgson has manage to keep a traditional feel to the piece of old songs and words used by Gjon

have you read any books by Ismail kadare ?

By night in Chile by Roberto Bolano

 

 

By night in Chile by Robert Bolano

Chilean fiction

Original title – Nocturno de Chile

Translator – Chris Andrews

Source – Library book

 

I dreamed I saw St. Augustine
Alive as you or me
Tearing through these quarters
In the utmost misery
With a blanket underneath his arm
And a coat of solid gold
Searching for the very souls
Whom already have been sold.

I choose  a Dylan lyric I dreamed of St .Augustine a song that is about Augustine of Hippo who wrote about Guilt and evil !

Well another year another Bolano  novel on the blog .I intend at some point to get all the books by Roberto Bolano  on this blog, for now  this is the seventh book by him I have reviewed on this blog .I’ve mentioned lots about Bolano before so , lets just say its twelve years since he dies and we are nearing the end of his books being published with just two more to come out in English one of those still to come out in  Spanish , that being  the  mysterious Diorama to come out .But the last on the list out in spanish is Little Lumpen novelita which came out in US late last year , no UK date I can see at the moment  .

I am dying now  , but still have many things to say .I used to be at peace with myself .Quiet and at peace. But it all blew up unexpectedly ,That wizened youth is to blame .I was at peace .I am no longer at peace .There are a couple of points that have to be cleared up .

The opening lines as he decides to write his own story on this one evening .

By night in chile could maybe called his stab at a modernist novel in a way it is a single piece told in one long paragraph by a priest  whom writes this all in the course of one night .who is also a poet Father Sebastian Urrutia lacroix , who is under the impression this is going to be his last night on earth so is writing the tale of his life down .A life of a poet and a priest , but of a nearly man  , a man who touched greatness in his life he knew Pablo Neruda , the great poet of Chile .But what we see is how his life also got caught up in the politics of Chile at the time the shift from the Allende regime to the stricter and ruthless reign of  Augusto Pinochet .The latter of which he ends up teaching , about communism .Added to this he is a member of Opus Dei what comes across is an embittered man who is so twisted by who he is inside it all comes pouring out on to the page over the course of this  one night as he thinks he is dying  .

Then I took a train to Turin , where I visited Fr Angelo , curate of St Paul of Succour , who was also versed in the falconers art .His falcon , called Othello  , had struck terror into the heart of every pigeon in Turin  , although as Fr Angelo confided in me , Othello was not the only falcon in the city ,

I choose this on a whim to quote just because H is for Hawk won the Costa just as I was finishing this book the other night !

Now I’ve been a bit vague as this is only a short novella and I’m not wanting to give too much away as ever the main character is a poet ,which I have found is the case in most of the novels by Bolano .The book is far more political than the other books I have read by Bolano , it is a lot more about , his homeland and the events that happened in the country in his youth .It is worth noting at this point , Bolano himself spent time in prison , which he describe in a story , but was it a story it seems as thou he may have been at Mexico at that time according to other reports .I love the mystery around his own life at the time .But what comes across in the book is that in some ways Lacroix is the juxtaposed of Bolano , some that stayed , some that worked with the regime , some one that was a poet as well .But by this time I feel Bolano viewed himself more as a Novelist than a poet , so unlike Lacroix , he had started to see success .Add to this Falconery as a hobby , years spent in Europe and an Opus Dei  side story in a way .At the start of this review I called this a Modernist Novel for me this was an attempt by Bolano to maybe do a Woolf or Joyce so to speak  an homage to their style in some ways I was most reminded of Mrs Dallowway in a way as it isn’t just one evening but also the course of a life in one book .

Have you read this or any shorter Bolano books ?

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