Fracture by Andres Neuman

Fracture by Andres Neuman

Argentinean fiction

Original title – Fractura

Translators – Nick Caistor and Lorenza Garcia

Source – review copy

It has been a while since I reviewed a book by Andres Neuman. I met him when his first book made the shortlist of the old IFFP and I was lucky to have got invited to the award and managed a  chat with him which was amazing as he was aware of my blog. Anyway, the years have passed and when I saw this was out I was pleased it was on I managed to get a review copy of. this his latest to be translated to English as for me he is one of those writers that I want to read all he has written over time.

An earthquake fractures the present, shatters perspective, shifts memory plates.

As soon as Watanabe sticks his head out , a torrent of feet engulf him, He takes a deep breath before emerging. He is still has the feeling that the world is swaying slightly, that every object emits the memory of its instability.

Fortunately, everything outside appears more or less in it place he hadn’t been at all sure of this. The force of the jolts made him fear the worst.

I loved this pasaged it captured te earthquke and Yoshies life in one.

So the premise of this book is based around two characters the first is a retired Japanese Executive Yoshie Watanabe. His life has a circle like quality to it there is the beginning where he was one of the few people to survive the bombings at Hiroshima and Nagaski. the story starts when the earthquake in 2011 and the disaster that hit the nuclear plant at Fukushima. This is the bases of the story as he has seen so much and had spent a lot of time abroad in his life trying to escape the first nuclear disaster he had saw and he lost his family along the way. He is contacted by Pinedo an Argentinean journalist wanting to hear about Yoshie’s life as a man that had lived to see both the Nuclear bombs of world war two but the disaster and fractured world of the 2011 Earthquake. Yoshie has been around the world trying to run from his past but in this journey, he had been in a place like Vietnam and Madrid when major events happened around him. He is a man that has enjoyed his life but was damaged to start with so the fractured way he tells his life is how he lived it.

It was around that time that Phil Ochs rook his own life. According to him, he had died a long time ago. Later it was revealed that the FBI kept a five-hundred-page file on his activites. It still considered him a dangerous individual even after hi death.

Just like the country, I began a new life. I met up again with Richard. I think we had always liked each other, but when he was available I was with someone else and vice cersa. We had unfinished buiness. Despite claiming to be a liberated woman, I hadn’t yet learned how to live alone. I avoided the grieving process by eagerly moving on to the next challenge. Which is part of me indentified with Yoshie in this?

Phil ochs the protest singer in the sixties one of those times Yoshie was there to see!!

This is a story of one man’s life that is told in fragments. Using the journalist connects the story to Andre’s homeland which Yoshie had spent time. He is a sort of dumb witness to the 20th century by chance that happened to be at the crucial place at crucial times as he stands on the line between being safe and in danger by Fukushima power plant as he visits the place at the request of the journalist.” Sit by my side, come as close as the air, Share in a memory of gray; Wander in my words, dream about the pictures That I play of changes” is a song by Pil Ochs mentioned in the book due to the CIA keeping a huge file on this protest singer this captures Yoshie a bit as we wander in his words and the world he lived !! A rare story of some from Japan traveling the world. Have you read this ?

A Glass Eye by Miren Agur Meabe

A Glass eye by Miren Agur Meabe

Spanish (Basque) Fiction

Orignal title – Kristalezko begi bat 

Translator – Amaia Gabantxo

Source – personal copy

As usual for the Spanish lit month, I try to get a crossover work from the Basque region for my good friend Lisa Indigenous lit week. Miren Agur Meabe has written poetry and mainly youth literature but has also written a number of novels as well as working as a translator. Her poetry deals with the female body and her first work were said to have a lot of symbolism and postmodern concept of the moment “The moment lives us and we only live the moment” The me and the moment surround us. This is very apt for this novel from her.

The first artificial eye in history is 4800 years old. They found it in an archaeological site in the Burnt City, in what was ancient Mesopotamia, near the current frontier with Arghanistan. It was inside the head of a young woman, and was made of tar and animal fat. It has an Iris at its centre, and gold rays imitating eye capilaries, less than half a milometer thin.

It must have been hard for its owner to get used to that foreighn object; I know tahat from experience. If a chickpea in the shoe hurts, a pebble in the eye socket is no nicer. Driven by pain, despair, or plain disappointment, many have taken hammer to eye to smash it

The first Glass eye chapter makes to think what that first ey must felt and looked like !!

A glass eye is the title of the novel. But as the narrator of our novel a middle-aged woman has had to live since her late teens with a glass eye. Apart from that fact.  we are given a history of the glass eye, the care of what materials have been used in history to make a glass eye. I was surprised that glass eyes made of glass only last a few years due to the salt in tear. I love a little fact. Anyway are unnamed narrator is a writer herself we meet her just after she has found two shadows on a mammogram. Her partner just called M for most of the book is supportive but then next thing we know she has split with M and left her job to become a fulltime writer and moved to France to the wonderfully named Le rayon Vert the green-ray that light in the evening when the sun hits the ground also the title of a Rohmer film which follows a woman that has just split up in a relationship and found a new love. Her our narrator struggles to fill the void left by M with writing like my last Spanish lit read a book that has writer’s block in but her is a woman running from a scare!

I have rad a lot in these  two-and-a-half months ( the quotes tjat pepper the textd have helped me rise up). A special mention must go to Anne Ernaux’s Simple passions. That story taught me that some loves are non-refundable investments. I’ll never posses the author’s clairvoyance, but I feel forever linked to her because she sheltered me while I unravelled my chaos. I have also taken the liberty to copy from J,.M Coetzee’s summer, the idea of adding footnotes and specirying the questions the text leaves unresolved.

This is in the last chapter I loved the Eraux  mention and agree she is a writer that has touched me as well

I loved this I love just like the narrator she jumped of the page I loved how she split the chapters between the story of her life and a sort short history of glass eyes.  The chapters are vignette-like in style with the longest is just about ten pages most a couple of pages. It is the tale of one women’s search to write but also for what brought her to this point a sort of new freedom that isn’t all it seems. Which for me made this feel like a book that had slipped under Peirene’s radar it felt like one that they would publish and anyone that knows me that is high praise no this is from Parthian a publisher I don’t know too much about which is a shame as this is the second book from them in translation I have enjoyed.

Montano by Enrique Vila-Matas

Montano by Enrique Vila.Matas

Spanish Fiction

Original title – El mal de Montano

Translator – Jonathan Dunne

Source – Personal copy

Well, I reach the second book for Spanish lit month and this time it is from Spain one of our two writers to read in July. I have been a fan of Enrique Vila-Matas for about as long as I have been blogging. I have reviewed four of his book on the blog this is an older book but like his over books have part of Bila-Matas himself in a nod towards being a writer which I have come across in other books by him he is a writer that reminds me of myself he has a love of world literature and that is seen here again.

Today, in Montano’s home in Nantes, having confirmed that he is suffering as a result of his literary paralysis, i tried to amuse him by telling him all these stories of double and doubles’doubles.

“There are concidences and chances” my son remarked,. “From which you die laughing and there are coincidences and chances from which you die£

Didn’t Justo Navarro say that ?

As a narrator he is unreliable as here is a son we discover later was invented by the writer.

The book is narrated by a writer who has to end up as a lit critic as he tries to write that great novel. Montano is his son that suffers from the same love lof lit as the writer himself. So he visits Nates where Montano where he lives as we do this he starts talking about various writers connect to Nantes as The writer’s wife has worries her son has followed her husband down the rabbit hole of lit he is stuck in writing about other writers he has been caught in a loss of his own style. Next, he heads to Chile meets Tonguy a character based on an actor of Vila-Matas own friends.  He then travels to the Azores with a filmmaker. As he returns to Spain we find his son isn’t a real person. It was just something he made up and in the next section of the book he starts talking about writers especially those who kept Journals Witold Gombrowicz who huge Diary I read a number of years ago. Then we have people like  Genet, Virginia Woolf it not there style of writing that he is into but the way they viewed their world around them but as he goes further down a hole of literature as he starts to wrestle with himself and other characters he had read about. It is part diary part journey part road trip and part diary.

Gide, andre(Paris, 1869-1951). In an unintentional way, this writer’s diary tells the story of someone who spent his life seeking to write a master piece and did not achieve it. Or perhaps he did achieve it, and paradoxically that great book would be the diary, in which he reflected the daily search for that masterpiece.

With the possible exception of Paludes- a short work of genius which could have been written by Queneau – the rest of what Gide wrote is fairly illegible nowdays, the modern reader sees it as strange, archaic, distant. The diary on the other hand, hough it falls short of gthe masterpieces of Proust and his contemporaires, is today a liteary milestone, one of the great writer diaries that exist, it is a pleasure to read

An insight into Gide, reminds me I have his journals !

This is like his other books it seems as thou the narrator is maybe the writer himself it is a search for style and substance who one writer can find his or her own style the struggle with conveying everyday life in a way how to avoid the mundane every day but also what does ones own introspection have to other to readers? he is inspired by those writers of the 19th century Genet, Renard that brought realism to the for this is a search for what it is to be a writer.A writer looking for a way out of that maze of being a writer with Writers’ block. I enjoyed this Vila-Matas writes with such passion for literature and use often a shadow of himself I was reminded that this wasn’ t the first novel I had read about writer block there is the wonder boys by Michael Chabon which sees the mania of not passing a block but is still writing a huge bok that he has lost control of like are narrator who has lost that spark that makes him a writer. Another view of losing that way to write.

The treasure of the Spanish civil war by Serge Pey

The treasure of the Spanish civil war by Serge Pey

Franco- Spanish fiction

Original title – Le Trésor de la guerre d’Espagne

Translator – Donald Nicholson Smith

Source – review copy

I have gone for my first read for Spanish lit month with a French novel. Well, this is a French writer that grew up in one of the concentration camps that was home for those who escape Franco regime. Serge Pey is a child of Spanish civil war refugees. He is well known as an artist and performance artist. So yes my first book is a Spanish sounding writer that is French but this is a book that could only be written in French a piece of history that has n’t been written about much or mentioned much.

The boy watched an eagle wheeling in the sky. As though harnessed to an invisible noria, the majestic bird drew all the sunshine towards the two of them where they stood amidst shadows. The boy would remember this. The man kept silent for a long while, observing the eagle as it turned towards the mountain, perhaps to check its worl and draw the sun to another valley. At last the manturned and spokje to the boy.

“Give me you knife”

The man gutted the piglet and wrapped it in leaves, then dug a hole and lit a fire with dry wood. When he had glowing embers he placed the animal’s spread eagled carcass on them and cover it with soil.

A boy sees an eagle as they eat the pig they cooked on the run

The stories here were published in France as a novel of interlinking stories. They are all set around the fifties and the camp were Serge himself grew up. The stories all can stand alone a couple of characters reappear. The first story follows a boy as he tries to escape some guards with his father a couple of interesting images an eagle wheeling overhead like a Spanish water wheel as the guards’ circle in the boy finds a snail then he ends up snail-like in a hole hiding away. Then later on how they learned french watching the dub films in the cinema in the camp. Then how the guards used many of the kids when they arrived to teach them to torture the other kids in the camp in the story a piece of wood. A boy buying horse meat meant only for a dog is that hungry he is tempted to eat it but then thinks of another young child that ate it and end up ill. These are tales that Serge must have heard and seen around the camp the lives of these lost souls retold. The harsh world they lived in.

The boy waited for the butcher’s van. He had spent three days longing to  buy meat for dogs. He chose the moment when the butcher was packing up to ask the man for dog meat. The man tossed him some horsemat wrapped in newspaper, telling him that the dog would have a feast and assuring him that the meat was fresh.

Trembling the boy thrust the paclage under his shirt. He wentround the back of the house to find the dog, which was in the kennel, In the ditch by the fig tree he opened up the blood-soaked newspaper. And then, without consultation between boy and dog, the two fell upon the meat

A boy buy horse meat uncoocked that is meant just for dogs or else you fall ill

This is a collection of vignettes there is a sense of stories the writer had heard when young he was a child when the stories are set this is the world he grew up in his parents, friends, and families in this collection there is a sense of a world where the extreme has become the normal his translator said it is like magic realism or surreal all thou he hated the terms this is a world where things are different. Yes he has some great imagery in his prose that sometimes are too poetic more than prose driven but how else can you face this horrific world. The violent harsh reality in the world often seen through a child’s eye. this isn’t a large collection just over 130 pages and it is a small archipelago book as well.A world not written much about these lost voices of Franco’s exiles need to be heard as it is a remind of the horror of war but also the fate that fell them when they reached the camps in France !

Fate by Jorge Consiglio

Fate by Jorge Consiglio

Argentinian fiction

Original title – Tres Monedas

Translators – Carolina Orloff and Fionn Petch

Source – Personal copy

Another gem from Charco Press. I didn’t get his first book from them Southerly. But ordered this the other week as it appealed. Jorge Consiglio has published four novels as well as Poetry and Short stories. He has won a number of prizes in his native Argentina and in Spain as well.  This is the second of his books to be translated into English. There is a great intro about the book by the writer where he mentions a woman that missed a train that crashed in Buenos Aires a crash in which 51 people died. This leads to a thought about Fate what is our fate and then he said whilst writing the book he was also watching and was drawn into the story of the film “The Third man”.

The Colombian disappeared into the subway Karl walked down Corrientes towards Pueyrredon. He was taller than everyone else. He crossed Uruguay Street and stopped short in front of a bookshop. His eye roved over the window display beofre he carrid on. Marina  Kezelman was turning forty in two weeks and he wanted a gift that would suprise her. They had met in a bar in Madrid a decade before. Everything had happened very quickly. Moved by desire and, above all, an extaggerated sense of honesty, they’d made their decisions.

KArl has no idea of what lies ahead here in his first chapter.

The book is two stories intertwined both are about relationships but one is starting that of Amer an up and coming taxidermist he is in a  therapy group where he falls for the younger than him Clara. This relationship is just beginning, But Clara is the one person in the book that is just told through the eyes of another Amer he has a view of her and you hope that the real Clara is near that or will Fate interrupt them ! then we have a relationship at the other end of the spectrum and that is  Karl an Oboist and his meteorologist wife Marina we meet her as she is trying to kill the ants in her house and her Son Simon. Then as the story unfolds in the short chapters that shift from one character to another Marina is having a fling with a work colleague Zarate. This leads to a violent scene that affects Karl’s oboe playing and reminds me of the sudden burst of violence that was in the third man which is the link to the whole story who was the third man when the body appears. Then later on in the book, there is another nod when the son Simon has a love of The Ferris wheel.

Clara also changed position – and subject. She talked about life after her separation. Dammed blessed happiness, she said. Amer put the kettle on again to prepare some more mate. They say beekeeping is good for reducing stress, Clara remarked. Amer felt as if he were watchoing a performance, but this impression didn’t weaken Clara’s words. She was silent for a few seconds.

Amer views clara through his rose tinted glasses.

This is a well-paced novel that follows two relationships but like a train, on the track, the fate of all those involves seems on a track the marriage breaking up, but also the workings of having a failing marriage what to do with Simon this is sort of a rerun for Karl as he has another child back in Germany from an earlier marriage. Then we have Amer a man that works very hard on his animals and maybe he is building a Clara like one of his dead animal the outside of them appears perfect but then he has worked her to be maybe more than she was. The nods to the Third man like Simon liking a Ferris wheel which of course is where there is a great monologue from Harry Lime. This follows four well five if you include Marina’s affair with Zurate over what are two of the hardest things starting a relationship making the right move what card has fate dealt you and then the break up of marriage but when that path is changed what happens when fate intervenes! Have you read either of his books ?

 

A Long way off by Pascal Garnier

A long way off by Pascal Garnier

French noir fiction

Original title – Le grandes Loin

Translator – Emily Boyce

Source – review copy

Well, here we have the last novel that Garnier published in his lifetime. Over the years I have reviewed his books five times before on the blog and he is a writer who I have enjoyed for his black humor and use of everyday characters in his works. There is still a couple I think to be translated into English as on his french Wikipedia there was a book that came out after his death. Anyway, let’s see what his last book is like?

He had spent a good hour leaning on the railing of the motorway bridge and would have probably be there still had it not began to pour with rain. Often when driving he had seen people perched above main roads like a melancholy birds of prey. The sight of them engaged in this sad and usually solitary activity had always intrigued and sometimes worried him. You could imagine almost anything about thme – perhaps they were about to throw themsleves off, of their bicycle, since they usually had one propped beside them. What were they looking at ?

A great insight into some one sad and lonely as marc looks over the bridge !!

As I said Garnier loved the normal folk of the world in a way I often think he was like a french version of the league of gentlemen. Where we meet normal people but with a slight twist always. Here we have Marc he has retired but is bored with his life? He has a wife but is want a taste of freedom we see the mundane of his everyday life at the start of the book. For me, this is a usual character from Garnier I have found in his books he is great at the later life crisis in people. So with his adult daughter, Anne who he hasn’t spent much time with and who has recently left mental health unit and the cat decided to take a battered camper on a road trip heading to Agen which biggest claim to fame is its Prunes ( which made me smile) after they had visited a  channel resort they decide to head further south. But as they head on their way Marc is a little shocked by what his daughter does. As the trip starts to spiral out of control. as people disappear and destruction happens in their wake.

Despite the stick thin shop assistants laughing behind her back, Anne would not be swayed in her dubious choice of clothing.

“The red trouser. The yellow jumper. The green coat. The shiny boots.”

She didn’t Hesitate for a second before the rails”.That ,That and That.” Her pointing index finger brooked no arguements. It went much the same as the hairdresser.

“Frizzy”

“You mean you’d like it curled?”

“No, frizzy, like an Afro”

“Oh…but you have lovely natrual hair”

“Frizzy and yellow”

Marc felt as if he were watchong an island emerge

Anne here sound a bit like Peggy from hi di hi with the yellow hair.

Now, this has a whole lot of things that I had seen in the other books strained family relationships family not knowing each other which is a common thread in his books. Boredom and the later-life crisis. Getting stuck in a situation which at times reminds me of what I loved in Magnus Mills books another writer that is great at the ordinary people caught up in odd situations and that leads to dark humor. Here Marc and Anne could have walked off the set of the league of gentlemen they have that oddness to them as they struggle with this road trip,. This Garnier at his best which is a shame as it was the last in his lifetime.

M Train by Patti Smith

M Train by Patti Smith

American Memoir

Source – personal copy

A change today I’ve been down a bit so when I read a bit about this book by the singer poet Patti Smith a week or so a go I went head and ordered it. I’ve listened to her music over the years and had seen that she had published a number of books that had been well received in the music magazines I read. But it was just a fancy for a change in my reading and it was a welcome surprise how much I enjoyed it. It follows Patti in recent years after the death of her husband Fred smith from MC5 it is also littered with her own polaroids.

Cafe ino didn’t exist back then. I would sit by a low window in Caffee Dante that looked out into the corner of a small alley, reading Mrabet’s The Beach cafe. A young fish-seller named Driss meets a reclusive, uncongenial codger who has a so called cafe with only one table and one chair on a rocky stretch of shore near Tangier. The slow-moving atomshere surrounding the cafe so captivated me that I desired nothing more thn to dwell withinit. Like Driss, I dreamed of opening a place of my own. I thought aboutit so much I could enterit : the cafe Nerval, a small haven where poets and travelers might find the simplicity of asylum.

Her she dreams of various cafes she has visited and read about.

The book opens and Patti drinks a black coffee at her favorite cafe where she is shocked when Zak her favorite waiter and maker of coffee is due to leave and open a beach cafe this reminds her of the beach cafe she read about in a book translated by Paul Bowles, we find out how she meet Bowles in Tangiers as she spoke in a conference about Beat writers she was friends with Wiliam Boroughs since her early twenties. This is a wonderful reflection on a reader and her love of books from Beat writer Jean genet whose grave she visits then takes a visit to Berlin and her love of Bulgakov on her last visit a sideline about various angels made me smile as it mentions that ode to Berlin wings of desire. Then another trip is Japan and Murakami a writer she said like Bolano and Bulgakov she got fully drawn into. Then she mentions the master of Japanese cinema Ozu and Akira Kurosawa via one of the few filmmakers to work with them both. Then a visit to Zak  Beach cafe a meeting with an old friend this is a warm book tinged with the memories she had with Fred as she revisits places for the first time alone.

MY BERLIN HOTEL was in a renovated Bauhaus structure in the Mitte district of former East Berlin. It had everything I needed and was in close proximity to the Pasternak cafe, which I discoverd on a walk during a previous visit , at the hieght of an obsession with Mikhail Bulgakov’s The master and the Margarita. I dropped my bags in my room  and went directly to the cafe. The proprietress greeted me warmly and I sat at the same table beneath the photograph of Bulgakov. As I was taken by pPasternak’s old wolrd charms. The faded blue walls were dressed in photographsof beloved Russian Poets Anna Akhmatova and Vladmir Mayakovsky.

Another city, another cafe this time Berlin.

A change but when you read smiths taste in books it is very much a reader I would share a lot in common and it also has influenced Smith writing style there is a touch of Sebald here for me it is full of her own experiences around the world as she visits various graves and thinks of Fred there is a sense of her love of books and life but also the sense of her own mortality which really touched me. Then there is smiths love of Itv 3 as a fellow crime drama fan I so agree wh=ith the way she just falls into watching them. Smith has a great chance to do all this as she is well Patti Smith a true one-off and has the chance to go place and see things that we don’t so it is a glance into a world that is unique. I loved her polaroids as well they speak so much from Bolanos chair to Frida Khalo crutches. Have you read any of Smiths other books

A House in Norway by Vigdis Hjorth

A House in Norway by Vigdis Hjorth

Norweigan fiction

Original title – Et norsk hus

Translator – Charlotte Barslund

Source – personal copy

I brought will and testaments earlier this year then remembered I had this by the Norweigan writer Vigdis Hjorth. Vigdis grew up in Oslo she studied Philosophy, literature and political science and has been writing both adult and children’s fiction. She writes about the dilemmas of living in Modern society, her character struggles to come to terms with a rapidly changing world and to find a meaningful way to integrate with others and realize their own potential. She has won many prizes and has a number of her books translated into English she said her influences are Dag Solstad, Bretold Brecht and Louis-Ferdinand Celine. This is the first book by her I have read.

A few days later a woman phined and introduced herself as the interperter for “your tennt Slawomira Tzebuchwaskai”. She spoke broken, but clear coherrent Norweigan. It was concerning her tenant’s housing situation. She said and she wanting to meet with Alama. And Alma was delighted and said yes because she wanted nothing more that to resolve the tenant’s housing situation. The interpreter would visit. Alma in a few days, and the pole would be there as well, almaunderstood, so did this mean that she was moving back in ?

After her husband has to return to Poland she is left as a single parent Alam still willing to help ?

The book follows the life of a divorced textile artist. She lives in an old villa that has an apartment that she has rented out once unsuccessfully so when she lets a Polish Family move in she sees them as steady and she starts work on a large commission doing a tapestry to celebrate a centenary of women’s suffrage in Norway. But then as the Famil have kids and things start to happen like the Husband has to return to Poland leaving the wife and the kids alone in the apartment but they start knawing at Alma like the Mouse that her Polish neighbor says she has but won’t take the traps out like this and other little things start making Alma regret her decision. this leads to a series of letters rent rise changes in the size and description of the apartment it size. This carries on will she get her house back will she finish her commission?

Alma wrote the long-planned letter to her tenant in order to make same demands of her as she would have done of a Norwegian by informing her of the Norwegian attitude to electricty consumption. To be more conscious of her usage and turn down the radiators at night, sort her rubbish for recycling and not mixpaper and cardboard with other waste, and she also requested that she parked her car alongside Alma’s and always in the tarmac rather than on the ground between the treesfurther down where Alma wanted the grass to grow in the summer .

The crack in their relationshipo start after her husband isn’t their little things that build up over time.

 

This is done exactly what the description of her writing does in the book we have Alma she is a fair mind woman in her eyes her kids come ever so often. especially Christmas but in your heart you feel she is only renting the apartment for the money and no matter who was there she would eventually pick fault and her we see this she wants to be fair but at the back of her mind is the wanting a quiet life and the things like clearing the snow which when she contact the landlord advice line she does this a number of times not wanting to be seen as a bad landlord. This is all about manners and trying to be polite but there is a simmering undercurrent slowly growing in Alma that silent anger that is hidden just under the surface we see it building I was reminded of the few books I read by Anne Tyler a writer that also is great at capturing a woman at a certain age that simmers so well like Alma does here. Have you read Hjorth?

Grove by Esther Kinsky

Grove by Esther Kinsky

German fiction

Original title  – Hain

Translator – Caroline Schmidt

Source – review copy

One of the things I love best about blogging for so many years is the chance to read the second and third books that get translated by writers you had loved first time round and this is such a case River the debut translation in English from the German Writer/ Translator Esther Kinsky. It was a book that touched me her wonderful view of the world around her a wonderful observation of nature and the world around us. This book was written not long after she lost her husband the German to English translator Martin Chalmers. The narrator of this book has gone to Italy to get over a bereavement of her husband.

It is winter evening comes early. When darkness falls , the old village of Olevano lies in the yellow warmth of streetlights. Along the road to Bellegra, and through out the new settlements on the northern side, strtetches a labyrinth of dazzling white lamps. Above on the hillside the cemetery hoovers in the glow of countless perptually burning small lights, which glimmer before the gravestones, lined up on the ledges in front of the sepulchres. When the night is very dark, the cemeterty, illuminated by Luce Pertuea, hangs like an island in the night. The islanf of Morti above the valley of the vii

The unnamed narrator looks out in the dark over the village this passage really touched me.

Our narrator’s loss of her husband two years earlier she has decided to head to a small Italian village in winter to live there and try and work through her bereavement. In the early part of the book, we see her observing the village as it ebbs and flows in front of her as she sits on the balcony of her small cottage. Visiting the graveyard and seeing the names are the same as those in the shops she has been visiting. But then the feel changes as the woman remembers her childhood trips to  Italy. These sepia-toned memories of her family holidays seeing the old ladies of the villages. Carnivals and the variety of life they saw then. Then she heads to the river Po like in her book river the book springs with the world of the river the gardens around the river that she sees with that wonderful eye this is a book that sees the beginning of winters and people visiting graves then we have the remembrance of her past that seems to bring her to the now and remembering in the end of the works of Fra Angelico. A painter I had run across in a book by the Italian writer Antonio Tabucchi.

Once we stayed in Chiavenna. We found a guest house, managed by a woman with a severe expression. Every piece of furniture and every step creaked. We were given a family room, which smelled of mothballs. the beds stood sombre and massivein in the large room, as if randomly placed and lefty there standing.My parents had an argument ad ,y father went out I lay under the stiff sheets pretending to sleep. My mother sat at the window, waiting for my father.

I wqas remind of a guest house we stayed in Devonwith an old fashioned own and stiff sheets like her.

This is for me even better than the river it is so personal its hard to not think of it being Esther’s own story of how she got over her own personal loss that of her husband. The book is a path of that recovery in a way starting as cold as the unnamed narrator arriving in the small village of Olevano an outsider in the winter slowly opening as the world goes on around her but in many ways still detached as she sees those villagers visit the graves and she ventures to see the names and t=in a way this is a path to her own remembrances of her past and then the last section the Po flows to the sea and toa wider world. An insight into grief and the struggle we all make with it and the different ways we can find to get over it. A book that is rich in the world around her and insight into a human soul. Have you read either of her books ?

Tazmamart by Aziz Binebine

Tazmamart by Aziz Binebine

Moroccan Memoir

Original title – Tazmamart

Translator LuLu Norman

Source – review copy

When this arrived I decided it was a good time to read a few other books from Morroco alongside this one and I found I had two others both of which had a connection to this book. Aziz was a young officer when by chance he was caught up in the attempted coup on King Hassan 2nd. His brother is a prize-winning Moroccan writer Mahl Binebine. The story of his time in Tazmamart prison which he told his fellow Moroccan writer Tahar Ben Jelloun which he used as the bases of his novel this blinding absence of light.

By evening,everything was ready. The drill had been rehearsed a few minths earlier, but with different actors, this time, the finger of fate pointed to us. After a hard day’s work, we gathered for supper in the officers mess, in combat uniform of course, with guns and ammo.as he entered the mess, ithe school’s doctor, a young Feench Lieutenant doing his military service, exclaimed “My god, you look like you’re planning a coup!” A burst of laughter greeted his remark, but a seed of doubt had been sown.

The night before the coup that was meant be an exercise but could be seen as a coup!!

Aziz Binebine was an officer and from a family close to the King his father was an adviser to the king when one day he was told of an exercise the next day that they were doing. At the time he jokes it could almost be a coup so when this exercise was an actual coup the young man was caught and captured and then sentenced to ten years in prison he initially went to a normal prison but then after another coup he and 57 fellow prisoners are taken to a special underground prison the king had built so these men will be forgotten. The only escape is death in their tomb as he calls it they are fed poorly and have to live through illness and sickness they survive through keeping each other spirits up in Aziz part that is through retelling the novels he remembers over and over again. Baba Driss his fellow prisoner a man that imagines he is being attacked by snakes as he loses his grip a close friend from his academy days also loses his will to lie this is a story of Aziz but also those around him.

At midday the guards arrived, they served us a smallbread roll and a carafe of chickpeas boiled in water with a little salt. This would be eternal, unchanging menu, with a pot of pasta, again boiled in a slightly salted water

Ass the transfer had taken place in mid-augusty, we each received a khaki canvas shirt and trousers, the classic military summer uniform. The striped uniform of civilan prison were taken away, through we kept the plastic sandals we’d arrived wearing.we swapped our clothes quite cheerfully. Deep down, we were almost relived to take off that shameful apparel in favour of the more or less reputable uniforms of the army, to which – after all we still belong.

The arrival at the new prison is grim food wise for them.

Now, this sounds familiar as it was a three-hour interview he gave many years ago to Tahar Ben Jelloun that was the base of his prize-winning novel but since then he has said he had neem pressured into the interview and in an open letter denounced the book. I will be reading that book later in the month. But this is a personal account the names are the names not like in the novel where a character has been made up. This is his memory of those 18 years in Tazmamart the horror of having to do surgery on oneself to live, to remember works of literature which remind me of the recent NYRB book that captured  Józef Czapski’s lectures on Proust as he recalls retelling those great Russian writers he loved this shows the hope literature can give as I read in Albert Manugels history of reading where there is a section about books that have been read by prisoners over various times. The other thing he does is show the loss of his inmates over the 18 years half of those 58 prisoners didn’t make it to see the light of day most of them ending up going mad with the despair of their situations. Have you a favorite book from Morocco

 

 

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