All Happy families by Hervé Le Tellier

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All Happy families by Hervé Le Tellier

french memoir

Original title  – Toutes les familles  heureuses

Translator – Adriana Hunter

Source – review copy

I loved the years recently and it reminds me I hadn’t had chance to get to this book that had come out a couple of months ago by another well known French writer Herve Le Tellier is also a member of the OULIPO group. A mathematician by training he became a journalist and editor. He has written a number of books including winning a prize for a comic novel. when he put a book out that he had supposedly translated from Portuguese called Me and Mitterand about a series of letters in a spoof novel by Jamie Montestrela but was Le Tellier himself.

Marafan syndrome is a disorder of the connective tissue. It affects about one person in every five thouseand. The gene whose mutation produces the condition is on chromosome 15, and the mutation can have nearly a thousand variants. Symptons of the syndrome include aortal aneurism, pronouced nearsightedness and unusual bone growt,Sufferers are often very tall with long thin fingers,

The britsh actor Peter Mayhew, famlus for playing the hairy wookie Chewbacca in the star wars movies has the syndrome.Some claim that Abraham Lincoln did too. But that is of no concern to us here

He then mentions Rahmaniov and how he had it.

This is another clever little french memoir. It is a series of vignettes about the writer’s life growing up in his family growing up. He explains early on the book that the time was right his father and stepfather both dead and his mother in the latter stages of Alzheimers he starts to think back at his own youth not as he saw it as unhappy but more a childhood that when looked back on maybe wasn’t the happiest his parents split when he was very young and he grew up with his mother and stepfather guy. Guy is from an old French family and distant to the young boy He was drawn into his world of books as a kid. He also spent a lot of time with his grandparents another tale about them, every weekend. One of the things I most connect with was his chapter about Rachmaninov’s concerto no. 2 which leads to a digression about the condition Marfan syndrome which for me is something I heard mention a lot in my teens as it was thought I had it as I am tall have long fingers and a few other signs I haven’t but to know that is why he was such a great pianist was news to me.

 “My sister’s a whore ” my mother took to saying when the flood barrier of decorium gave way to age and dementia, and she stopped feigning affection.

This whore was also my god mother. My mother admitted she’d never lover her, perhaps precisely because Raphaelle was so loveable.

It was to this first daughter that my grandfather had so genrously bequeathed his name. A happy boistrous girl, she ramined his favourtie. Raphaelle was only eighteen months older than Marceline but numbers are deceptive.There was nearly a decade between them my aunt was a woman at thirteen, my mother not untilshe was twenty.

The aunt and what his mother called her .

 

This is an honest look back at a childhood that wasn’t the happiest but he does it with great humor remember events. All families are like his when we look at it this is a modern family before its time. Where divorce has happened not so common as is shown when they want to change Herve name I remember changing my own name as a child for a couple of years.  I grew up in a stepfamily my stepfather is well may I said an odd chap so I could relate to his tales of his life this is a wonderful set of vignettes that showed his family carbuncles and all his sister father all are compelling reading like his auntie or as his mother called her in the chapter My sister a whore who had a parade line  of men. All told in a witty style that made me want to read his spoof work I mentioned in the first section of this review. Have you read any of Le Tellier fiction ?

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Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi

Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi

Celestial bodies by Jokha Alharthi

Omani Fiction

Original title – Sayyidat el-Qama

Translator – Marilyn Booth

Source – personal copy

When the man Booker longlist was announced this is the one book I really knew nothing about and is the first I have reviewed from Oman. It is published by the small Scottish publisher Sandstone press that hit the headlines a few years ago when one of the books made the Booker longlist since then they have been doing a few books in translation including the Babylon Berlin books which I keep meaning to try any way this is the third novel by Johka Alharti and the second book by her to be translated into English she studied Classical Arabic poetry in Edinburgh her works have been translated into English, German, Italian, Korean and Serbian.

Mayya, forever immersed in her Singer sewing machine, seemed lost to the outside world. Then Mayya lost herself to love: a silent passion, but it sent tremors surging through her slight form, night after night, cresting in waves of tears and sighs. There were moments when she truly believed she would not survivethe awful force of her longing to see him.

Her body prstatrate, ready for the dawn prayers, she made a whispered oath. By the greatness of God – I want nothing, O Lord, just to see him. I solemnly promise you, Lord, I don’t want him to look my way … just want to see him. That’s all I want

Mayya has a heart break from a man she loves but can’t be with.

In the intro, it says that the novel tries to capture the two sides of Oman the Modern and traditional side and the struggles of the country from the 20th century. The book is formed of a family saga from the early twentieth century to Now. The story is told in the lives of three sisters and their marriages Mayya who has a huge heartbreak when the man she loves broke her heart and then settles for marriage but then rebels when she gives birth to her first daughter and instead of picking a name that the family would approve she calls her London. The Khawla moves to Canada after her betrothed who has been there for a number of years but it turns out he has been living with a woman. Then Asma the most traditional of the sisters marries the book also revolves around the rest of the family the male member Mayya husband is the main character as the chapters go between the family stories and Abdallah as he is returning home on a plane. The contrast between his present and the past in the other chapters one of the slaves and traditional values at the start of the century. Then his own life of Lonon now grown and not had the happiest of lives his own childhood. This is a compelling picture of a country changing.

As much as I have travelled, I still like getting the seat by the window. I like to stare down at one city after another, dwindling and then vanishing. Papa, London said once, you travel an awful lot. I did not say to her that when we are away from home, in new and strange places, we get to know ourselves better. And that is exactly the way it is with love. London does not know much about strange places or being far from home but she certainly knows about love. Her stubborn endurance under her mother’s blows allured and pained in equal measure, until I cracked the whip myself and married her to him.

Abdallah on his plane home talking about London his daughter that has a life different from her.

Now I shortlisted this above the other book that was translated from Arabic it is a wonderful description of her homeland and the way it has moved through the last century. It is a book th\t in its scope is maybe more an epic but not as long as that  being only 240 pages but has the feel of a 500-page novel there is a variety of characters as you see the world of Oman through three sisters there husbands children and parents that show a land that struggles to be modern with its traditional nature. So a great intro to books from Oman also a gem of a find from this years longlist one of two. Have you read any other books from Oman?

The Storyteller by Pierre Jarawan

The storyteller by Pierre Jarawan

German/Lebanese fiction

Original title – Am Ende bleiben die Zedern

Translators – Sinead Crowe & Rachel McNicholl

Source – review copy

I have joined the Blog tour for this Novel as I loved the sound of it and I have reviewed a lot of books from World editions and am pleased to have another title from them to review. This book from the German Lebanese writer Pierre Jarawan who’s parents like his characters fled Lebanon when he was three years old and settled in German His father was Lebanese and his mother is German. He started out doing poetry slams and this was a play that later he expands out into a novel. It has since been translated into Dutch where it was also a big seller.

Meanwhile, history was being made in Lebanon. Beirut, once a dazzling beauty, rubbed its disfigured face and staggered out of the ruins. A city felt for its pulse. In neighbourhoods, people thumped the dust out of their clothes and wearily raised theirheads. Thge war was over, militiamen became citzens again, laying down their guns and taking uop shovels instead. Bullet holes were filled in. Facades painted, burned-out-cars removed from the pavements. Rubbkle cleareed away, the smoke disperser. The huge sheets hanging in the streets were takendown, as there were no longer any snipers whose view needed to be blocked. woman and children swept debrisoff balconies and removed borads from windows, while fathers carried mattresses back up to bedrooms from cellars thatr had served as bunkers.In short, the lebanon did what they’ve always dfone: they carried on

The country awakes from the turmoil of the civil war that tore it apart and ripped the heart out of the land.

This is a classic story that of a son going in search of a lost father. Samir decides he wants to find his long-lost father. He leaves the safety of his life in German. He has an old photo of his dad and the stories he remembered his father told him when he was a little boy that painted a vivid picture of Lebanon his father lived in. He tries to find out what happens to his father as he tries to find out what happens the characters from his father’s stories become real people as he finds out what happened when his father returns after twenty years he slowly builds a picture of his family and what happened to them. The father Brahim disappeared when he was eight and he told one last story and left. He returned to his homeland. The son has held his lost father close for all those years as he retraces his father’s steps after all those years you see in the past and the events in war-torn Beirut when his father had when he returned. The past and present grow close but will they ever meet again?

Father was quick to realise how important it was to learn German. After fleeing burning Berut in spring of 1983, the first refuge myu parents found in Germany was the secondary school’s sports hall in our town. The school hall in our town, The school had been shut down the previous year when routine inspections during the summer holidays had revealed excessive levels of asbestos in the air. But there were no other options, so the sports hall ended up asa refugee reception centre. Fathersoon managed to get hold of books so that he could teach himself this foreign language. At night, while others around him slept wrapped in blankets on the floor, he clickedon a ;ocket torch and studied German

His father got to German and quickly learned german as the slept in a codemened school hall.

This is a tale that has been told a number of times of over then years. A son on the hunt for a lost father or even parent for me the recent film Lion is a similar story top this a young boy loses his family and goes home all he has like Samir is the slimmest of memories about his father the old photo and his stories for Samir and in the film Lion it is the lie of the land around his home and the fact it was a train ride away from where Saroo end up in the book and film. This builds a picture of their parent’s bit by bit and this is the case here we see that Brahim stories had those friends and families around him as he told his baby son those bedtime stories but also planting a love for his homeland and also maybe like a magician weave a magical past and also leave a trail of breadcrumbs that his son follows twenty years later. Here are the other blogs on the tour

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Years by Annie Ernaux

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Years by Annie Ernaux

French Fiction

Original title – Les Années

Translator – Alison L Strayer

Source – personal copy (kindly sent by Batpoet from twitter the US edition thanks)

I will put my own Shortlist out tomorrow the day the actual shortlist is out I have about hundred pages of the last book to finish and I will have read this year’s longlist I am behind on reviews so this is the ninth book from the long list I have to review three more books to review. Anyway back to this which in a way is maybe the most unusual books on this years list as it is one of those borderline books that I really love. I should know it UK publisher is Fitzcarraldo. It is neither fiction or non-fiction a memoir in a way. Annie Ernaux her books have long chronicled her life over the years over books have dealt with her relationship with her father, the death of her mother and having breast cancer this is considered her masterpiece by French critics.

Memory was transmitted not only through the stories but through the ways of walking, sitting, talking, laughing, eating, hailing someone, grabbing hold of objects. It passed body to body, over the years, from the remotest countryside of France and other parts of Europe: a heirtage unseen in the photos, lying beyond individual difference and the the gaps between the goodness of some and the wickedness of others. It united family members, neighbors, and all these of whom one said “They’re people like us” a repertory of habits and gestures shaped by childhoods in the fields and teen years in wiorkshops, preceeded by other childhoods, all the way back to oblivion

I loved this passage early on in the book.

This is an interesting work as Annie speaks of her life from the early 1940s to the 20th century in a third person narrative of a womans life in France over those years and the generation she is part of the post-war generation of French intellectuals that we all know so well over here it is ashamed Annie herself maybe isn’t better know. She is a French literature teacher she has kids and lives in the Paris suburbs. This book isn’t just about her life but is a work that shows us the culture of those years and the events of those years from the music she listens to from Piaf chevalier and even pre-war acts like Josephine Baker. The books films and general culture.I love she laments how TV is taking over the world at the end of the book. This is maybe a lament to a world that has now gone that of proper discovery that of reading one book then finding another books films because of paper reviews or word of mouth of friends a smaller world a world where things need to be discovered no good reads, no IMDB, etc. The second line is France itself through these years in a way a build up to the pivotal events of 1968 that saw France on the verge of crashing into oblivion and then to here and now where they are part of a greater Europe but events still happen.

Beneath the surface of the things that never changed, last year’s circus posters with the photo of Roger Lanzac, First communion photos handed out to schoolmates, the club des chansonniers on Radio Luxembourg, our days swelled with new desire. On a sunday afternoons, we crowded around the window of the genral electrics shop to watch television.Cafes invested in TV sets to lure clientele.

A world now gone when people would stand and watch tv in a shop window .

 

I loved this I will be rereading this one for years I love books that make me think and books that make you want to discover the world around us. This was a life’s work for the writer she had kept notes for years in preparation for writing this book a look at her generation and what happened during those years and what influenced everyone. Those pivotal moments of Algeria, 1968, September 11, The coming of the digital age. The use of everything from High to low culture is great Adverts for examples those tunes and slogans that we all remember more than even the tv we may have watched this is a book about what is remember later rather than then in the moment it is where it differs from Karl Ove work it has a feeling of being worked over time it is more what has been remembered that what I remembered or what was happening a sort underpinning of the times. Yes this should be on the list it isn’t in maybe straight fiction but is a book that deserves a wider audience.

 

The faculty of Dreams by Sara Stridsberg

The Faculty of Dreams

The Faculty of Dreams by Sara Stridsberg

Swedish fiction

Original title – Drömfakulteten

Translator – Deborah Bragan-Turner

Source – review copy

This is the second of the Man Booker longlist that wasn’t out at the time the Longlist came out. But it was brought forward and came out a few weeks after. Sara Stridsberg was trained as a Lawyer but decide she wants to be a writer. She won acclaim for her first novel Happy Sally wich liked this book focused on a real person in that book it was the first Scandinavian woman to swim the English Channel. She has also worked as a translator. She worked on the Swedish version of The SCUM Manifesto from the main character of this book Valerie Solanas. This book won the Nordic council literature prize the biggest prize in Scandinavian fiction

A hotel room in the tenderloin, San Francisco’s red-light district. It is Alril 1988 and Valerie Solanas is lying on a filfthy mattress and urine-soaked sheets, dying of pneumonia,Outside the window, pink neon lights flash and porn music plays day and night.

On April 30 her body is found by hotel staff. The police report states that she is found kneeling by the side of her bed( has she tried to get up?Has she been srying?) It states that the room is in perfect order, papers neatly piled on the desk, clothes folded on a wooden chair by the window. The police reports also states that her body is covered with maggiots and her death probably occurred around April 25

The opening is the sad end of this poor womans life.

This book is a novel that tries to build a life for the radical feminist Valerie Solanas. She wrote the radical SCUM Manifesto. That put forward the theory that Man had ruined the world and it was up to the woman to mend the world and get rid of all the men. The society of cutting men as it stood for. This follows her life from her tough childhood where she was abused and ended up at a young age on the streets battling to get to college and how to see ended up in the New York her life is a mix of ups and downs and also a lot of mental illness so she never quite seems to have control of her world and even some of her friends like cosmo and silk boy verge on being surreal the action is told in conversations with Valerie both with the likes of Andy Warhol whom she had sent a play to that was too graphic for even him. She even ended up with a part in one of his films. She was on the verges of his factory scene. But that leads to what is maybe what she was most famous for and that was trying to kill him after she had a turn and want the script back she had sent him years earlier and shot him. There is clips of the trail what Stridsberg tries to build is a fuller picture of this deeply troubled woman. Her frequent visit to mental hospitals shows how fragile she was.

The Narrators

A. A heart full of black flies. The loneliness of a desert. Landscape of stones. Cowboys. Wild mustangs. An alaphbet of bad experiences.

B. Blue soke on the mountains. I am the only sane one here.There were no real cowboys. There were no real pictures. I vacuumed all the rooms; the dust was still there. I cleaned all the windows; I still could not breathe. It had something to do with the construction. The sun burned through the umbrellas.

C. The american film. The camera’s lie’s. World literature’s. America was a big adventure with its unreal blue mountains, its desert landscape.

The books has couple of alphabets like this one.

I was aware of Valerie mainly as she is part of the song cycle that Lou Reed and John Cale did for the songs of Drella which mentions Valerie and what happened with Andy. Sara has tired here to maybe make her seem a slightly more complete person rather than have that one event be the epitaph of her life. This pieces her life from her abuse and living her family and the times on the streets which meant she sold her body and also it fixed those ideas which she wrote about in her Manifesto as all men as a rapist. Her view was extremes but this shows how they were formed by her own life which was tragic. She also recently featured in an Episode of American horror story the cult series but this is maybe the best version of her life it brings a cinematic view of her life. I was reminded of some French novels of recent years that also take a real person as the central figure and build a novel around it from HHHH to The adversary and build a life narrative like that.

The pine Islands by Marion Poschmann

The Pine Islands

The Pine islands by Marion Poschmann

German fiction

Original title – Die Kiefern Inseln

Translator – Jen Calleja

Source – personal copy

This was one of two books that hadn’t come out when the Longlist of the Man Booker was announced the publication date was brought forward for this book that was previously shortlisted for the German book prize (the German booker). It is the fourth novel by Marion Poschmann two of her other novels have been on German book prize lists. Marion studied German philology, philosophy, and Slavic studies. She then taught German as part of a German-Polish project for primary school children. Since then she has been a freelance writer living in Berlin. A member of German Pen. As part of writing this book, she spent Three months in Japan.

He exchanged some money and brought a travel guide and a couple of Japanese classics in English translation from a newsagent. The works of Basho, the tales of Genji, the pillow book. He had always assumed that, like him, everyone knew the Japanese classics of by heart, but standing in front of the shelf with the pocket books he now had to admt that he himself had at most watched only a couple of Japanese films during his lifetime and had never been able so much as to recite a haiku.

How he gets to discover Basho by chance at the airport and pass over the islands on the plane there.

Now, this is a classic take on the man in his mid-life crisis. Gilbert the man character has just discovered his wife is having an affair so he head of to Japan. He is a lecturer on Beard in cinema (could there be a less hipster lecturer title than his). He arrives at the airport and picks up a number of the classics of Japanese literature including the works of Basho especially his travel verse piece  Oku no Hosomich the long road to the north which follows his journey to the Pine island a book that was described as the soul of Japan. So as he tries to cope with his relationship with Mathilda a strange one he talks then doesn’t talk but then writes to her about the discovery of Basho but also how he wound up on a station to find Yasho who also has a book about suicide he is trying to jump in front of a train when he meets the Gilbert the two of them set of to rediscover themselves and try and find the world that Basho described ending up at Matsushima the pine island. This is maybe a tongue in cheek look at the genre of books that talk about Pilgrimage. 

Yosa Tamagotchi had been pised to thrpw himself in front of the train because he was afraid he wasn’t going to pass his exams. The bag contained a suicide note, carefully calligraphed and dated. He studied petrochemistry, and his marks were good, but maybe not good enough.Fearful of social exculsion he grew a beard, he knewno company would hir him in that state.If he were unsuccessful he could say that it was down to the beard, or should luck smile down on him and a firm took him on anywat there would be nothing straightforward than shaving it off.But his exam fear grew, paralysing him to such a degree that he was no longer capable of thinking.

Yosa is saved by meeting Gilbert at the Station but loive the comic touch of his beard and Gilbert talking about beards all the time.

The East has long been a subject in German literature Herman Hesse wrote about Indian culture and also wrote a book about discovery Journey to the east this isn’t in that league no this is more a look at the modern obsession with pilgrimage or even middle age men escaping their world and discovering themselves.  From Martin Sheen in The way doing the way of St James in Spain or the likes of even someone like Bill Bryson and his old friend doing the Appalachian Trail this book has the classic character of two leads one in search of what his life means Yosa the man Gilbert saves is this and another is  Gilbert a man that needs to take time out of his life. Add to that a book that makes you want to pick up one of the greats of Japanese literature Basho. Also reconnecting with the world around us is another thread in the book. Similar to books like rings of Saturn or A whole life the later more so than rings of Saturn. I enjoyed this I like books that see folks discovering themselves and having a book that means something to them I remember Herodotus histories in English patient meaning so much to Almasy or a book like Geert Mak book where he followed the route of John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley like this book saw a world that is now gone. An interesting book that would passed me by except for the Man Booker.

The death of Murat Idrissi by Tommy Wieringa

Image result for the death of murat idrissi

The death of Murat Idrissi by Tommy Wieringa

Dutch fiction

Original title De dood van Murat Idrissi

Translator – Sam Garrett

Source – personal copy

Now the last visit to a writer I have read before on this year’s Man Booker Longlist. I read Tommy Wieringa novel a few years ago but never reviewed it he has had a number of his books translated to English. He studied history and journalism at university. He had a number of jobs as a light seller and on the railways before he became a full-time writer. His breakthrough came when his third novel Joe speedboat won a big ditch book prize he has since then 18 more works. This is the short book on this year’s longlist at just a hundred pages but as you can tell by the cover and title it is a powerful little novella and maybe one of those books that should notice more than it was.

It’s her uncle’s fault that she was born in Holland. In 1975, her father arrived in France from Targuist – that was all fairly easy back then, hos brpther convinced him to travel on to holland. They worked in shifts at the Hoogoven mills, and shared a room in Beverwijk. They married and were laid off during the steel crisis in the early eighties . Life beat them down. Her uncle rose to his feet again , her father remained lying, he was the weaker of the rwo.But her uncle was dead and her father was still alive.

The iuncles death is part of the reason for the trip and shows how they started out in Holland by chance.

The book is the tale of Two Dutch women whose families are originally from North Africa who has decided to take a trip back to their parent homeland Morrocco. The two Thouraya she is as you would say is the pretty on the beautician and driving force of the two girls the other Ilham is the larger girl and worries she will have to settle down as her parents want her to as a usual Morrocan wife. The two arrive and immediately when having to hire a bigger car an Audi car. The two even as tourist feel that they are second class citizens due to there cultural heritage. They end up in a tight squeeze when a charming young man Saleh he takes it on himself to help and guide them around Morocco where to they meet in a seedy part of the town Murat and his mother and realize their savior has a price to his help them and that is to take Murat back to Europe he was once in France but was then set back. So these two unlikely traffickers have to bring this boy/man back to Europe in their car. But a cruel twist in the tale leaves them scarred for life about what happened to the young man in the time he was with them.

The two custom men don’t eave you past, they simply ignore you. Two cars in front of them, a mercedes is pulled out of line .

“Okay baby”, Thouraya says “Here we go ” sheputs on her film star face, and in a soundless dream they cruise past the customs officals , left and right. Before them them suddenly , there are twice as many lanes of asphalt . “Was that it ?” Ilham hears her own strange , high voice.

The two get through with Murat so easily at first little to lnow what will happen later on !

The shortest of the books on this Man Booker international list may actually have the most inside it as it tackles so many issues. Personal identity the two girls show the two sides of peoples cultural heritage Thouraya shows those that try hard and blend and move in and her friend likes to still keep her heritage but both initially view themselves as Dutch it isn’t to they get to the cultural homeland they then see how they may be western but will forever be Morrocan at heart. the four character incapsulate the vicious cycle of trafficking the two girls drawn into bring Murat to Europe to fulfill the immigrant dream of riches and a better world and life escaping the poverty of his home and then there is Saleh those who make a life of getting people in whatever way to Europe with little care for how it is done. For a book under a hundred pages it touches the soul of the reader and shows them the dark side of trafficking in a personal light in the story of four people that maybe are the voice of the thousands trying to get to Europe from North Africa.

Four soldiers by Hubert Mingarelli

 

Image of Four Soldiers

Four soldiers by Hubert Mingarelli

French fiction

Original title – Quatre Soldats

Translator – Sam Taylor

Source – library book

Here is another writer from this year longlist that I have reviewed before his book Meal in winter was shortlisted for the old IFFP prize. Here is my review of it. I had seen a review of this before the longlist came out and had seen it at my library so was planning to read it anyway. Hubert Mingarelli left school and joined the Navy for three years he has since then written about twenty novels it is noted that on the whole his novels have just male characters and tend to look at father-son or male relationships like this book where we meet four soldiers in the middle of the Russian civil war that sees how they react in a lull in the war. The book won the Prix Medici

The four of us were still alive and kicking., thanks to Pavel. He was the cleverest of us all. His plans for the hut were perfect, and he was even able to build a real stove using a metal barrel filled with engine oil. A real stove that worked well nd didn’t smoke us out. But most importantly he’d found a way to pass the pipe through the roof without setting fire to it.Because that was how most other huts caught fire. Pavel had made tin tiles by cutting up our mess tins and then he’d nailed them to the roof around the pipe.

The arrival at the station / hut and Pavel sets up the stove after saving them.

We meet these four men as the set up a camp in a lull in the war they are just in the late teens or early twenties. Four young guys in the middle of the Russian civil war and just getting to know the world around them. That get time to know each other and grow closer. Benia the narrator of the book is a man that has time and is growing closer to Pavel then the other two men are Kyabine a simple giant from the Uzbek he is one of those guys that is the butt of all the guys jokes and lastly Sifira. Now it says, four soldiers. but there is a fifth man the so-called Evdokim kid a youngster a man who is a recruit. But he worries them as he is the only one of the group that is able to write and is often seen writing notes. As they try and stop others joining them in the station and get lots of useful items from around them and play dice as they talk this idyllic corner is surely only a short gap in the war.

We’d forgotten the dice in the station, We didn’t try to figure out who was to blame. We just knew tht we’d have to go and hind them s soon as we could, before anypne found them.

The tent was big enough for five. The Edvodkim kid wasn’t to our oil lamp, through, and the smoke hurt his eyes.

Kyabine was kicking up a fus about the watch. I think in reality, he was just oretending not to understand that it was my turn to hve it tonight.”I brought your turn from you last night” I reminded him

The gutys still guard but can swap when .

This is another short novella on this year’s Man Booker list it seems on the surface similar to the Meal in winter as it uses a similar framing device the men in that book end up trapped in a house by the winter. He uses the abandon station for a similar frame here the four main characters plus Evodkim who comes and goes is just on the cusp of manhood as we see in the relationship of Benia and Pavel which could be seen another way. The book isn’t about the war more the effect of war and the fear of war on those involved in it and about the comradeship of war as one of the soldiers that were a character in the tv series band of brothers about his company we in it shall be remembered. We lucky few, we band of brothers. For he who today shed his blood with me shall be my brother.” This what the short interlude is a band of brothers spending time together playing dice getting the things they need to get by and trying to forget what has been and what will be for  a few minutes and this is what Mingarelli captures so well in this book. I can see why this made the longlist it is a powerful book given it is only 120 pages long i’ve seen book much longer not have the same impact as this book does.

At Dusk by Hwang Sok-yong

At dusk by Hwang Sok-yong

Korean fiction

original title – 해질 무렵

Translator – Sora Kim-Russell

Source – personnel copy

One of the nice things that have come about from the longlist. It has given me a chance to revisit three writers that have featured before on the blog. This is the second visit I featured Hwang Sok-yong nine years ago. The book ” the guest”  was one of the earliest reviews on the blog when I read that book I liked it but didn’t fall in love with it. But I have since struggled with finding Korean fiction either twee with the folk-like tales of Salmon or Hen dreaming of better things. Then there have been other books that I haven’t connected with. Until now the only one before this was please look after mother and I found this is a different story but it is the same tale of Korea that is the changing face of modern Korea.

It was mere coincidence that I had studied architecture and made a career of it and that Byeonggu had come to own a costruction company, but after meeting again in our forties, we were like hand in glove. Because we needed each other.

Of course, we all like to think that our own stories of difficult childhoods and overcoming adversity are the stuff of tragic epics, but they’re never really worth bragging about. Talking about it is pointless as telling youngsters that they’ve never known true hunger, that they don’t know what it is like to be the hungry kid with no lunch trying to fill his empty stomach at the drinking fountain.

Park partner the one that cause him the trouble and how he dragged himself up her in a neat passage.

We meet Park Minwoo if there was a poster boy for what you could do with your life in Modern Korea. This guy would be if he is at the forefront of making modern Korea as an Architect. He is one of those who are making bright shiny Korea and is good at his work so is an in-demand man for designing the future. He has maybe grown too far. The company he runs is in trouble. The buildings he has been asked to design may not be built but are just there to draw in peoples money in.  This leads Park to rethink his present and his past along with the fact an Old flame Cha Soona. The chapters fall with Parks story in the now and Cha’s story of her and Pask’s younger years. She grew up on what was then the edge of the city and worked in a shop a time when people were the son of this man or daughter of such a man in these case a noodle maker and fishcake maker this harks back to a simpler time. She loved acting literature and books. She had dreams but we see her life now in a tiny apartment. the book draws the past and the present together. From the fact that Park’s wife and child now settled outside Korea. Too Cha living in a small apartment in one of his building as Park meets the ghost of his past in the place where he grew which his building have eaten up.

When my younger brother and I got home from school, we snacked on the torn fishcakes, still warm from the fryer. Once our hunger was sated, we’d laugh and point at each other’s greasymouths. My mother would wrap up the rest of the torn fishcake from that day and send us out to deliver them to places she owed favoursto or anyewhere else that she needed to stay on the good side of. That meant places like the tiny shack inhabited by the elderly man who fetch water from the public tap for us and the other vendors in the marketplace, the garbage collectors station, the police box and so on

Park and his brother handing out the left overs to the community to keep it runninga time now gone and habits now dead.

Now, this is a book that like Please look after mother did that mixes what Korea was with what Korea is. I keep thing back on my recent watching of Tokyo-ga Wim Wenders ode to the Japanese filmmaker Yasujiro Ozu which he said Ozu tried to capture in his films the downfall of Japanese society and this is what Sok-yong is doing here with Korean society and the world people lived in from the simple age when people knew every one til you end up like Park lost in the clouds or cha lost in a small apartment with just two stip lights for company. This uses the twin narratives well as the book comes to the end you see the two narrators drawing closer till the end. I am liking this list for the fact I have discovered books that had past me by in the last year.  But also the books are all quite short this took me a little over a day and I am already well into the next on the list. it’s hard to say where this will end up I found it clever using the twin stories and loved some of the use of names like the fishcake makers son. Then it is just a simple tale.

Mouthful of birds by Samanta Schweblin

Mouthful of Birds by Samanta Schweblin

Mouthful of birds by Smanta Schweblin

Argentinean short fiction

Original title – Pájaros en la boca

Translator – Megan McDowell

Source – library copy

When the longlist of the Man Booker came out I was happy I had one book on the list and had read half of it just in case it made the longlist as I had it on loan from the library. This is the second book by Samanta Schweblin to be listed by the man Booker international prize. She has published three collections of short stories and one novel. She was chosen by Granta in 2010 as one of the best 22 Spanish language writers under 35. I enjoyed her previous shortlisted book Fever Dream.

When she reaches the road, Felicity understandsher fate. He has not waited for her, and, as if the pastwere a tangible thing, she thinks she can still see the weak reddish glow of the car’s taillights fading on the horizon. In the flat darkness of the countryside, there is only disappointment, a wedding dress, and a bathroom she shouldn’t have taken so long in

Sitting on a rock beside the door, she picks grains of rice from embroidery on her dress, with nothing to look at but the open fields, the highway, and, besides the highway, a women’s bathroom.

The opening lines of the first story Headlights a woman jilted on her wedding day.

The collection has twenty stories. The opening story Headlights is a tale of a bride jilted left by the side of the road. I was hit by one line in the opening as she picked the rice from the embroidery of her dress so soon after they haven’t even fallen out themselves. Ther woman Felicity then wanders and meets another woman Nene who it seems was expecting her to be there. Then the next story sees a pregnant woman and her partner trying to get free of the pregnancy in some strange ways. Further on a strange tale of a brother visiting his depressed brother Walter a man that everything is a struggle for him to do. The title story is Sara who has decided she will only eat living birds a macabre tale and how it affects her relationships with her father he comes to take her to live with him after hearing about his daughter’s new diet. It ends with a bird being left in Sara’s room in a cardboard box and the door being closed. Then lastly the Merman a woman heads to a dockside bar and finds him sat on a post nearby looking at her the two have a conversation. In which she explains about her ill mother who is slightly insane and how her brother isn’t accepting the fact she somehow ends up kissing the merman.

I’m sitting at the port, waiting for Daniel, when I see the merman look at me from the pier. He’s sitting on the first concrete column, where the water is deeper and the beach hasn’t begun, some fifty yard out. It takes me a minute to relize what I’ seeing, what he is eexactly: such a man from the waist up, such a sea creature from the waist down.He looks to one side, then calmly to the other, and finally his eyes turn back to me.

The woman sat having a coffee has caught the eye of the merman the two then talk .

I enjoyed fever dream but for me, this collection maybe shows her real talent is with short stories there is a real sense of the supernatural and surreal at times in this collection. Schweblin has cleverly left place out of this collection which means it makes the tales more universal in there feeling. She also seems to nod towards the great of short stories a pinch of Poe in the supernatural tales, in the depressing ones I saw a real touch of Raymond Carver for me the opening tale especially had hints of his sorrowful style. even Roald Dahl in the darkness in the tales which is something he was great at.  then if Borges had rewritten Grimms tales for a modern reader he would produce something like this the merman for example where maybe the Mermann is a mirror of what the woman wanted her brother to really be? ok cold to kiss but willing to listen to her. I can see why it made the longlist finishing it off since the list came out it is one of the best short story collections I have read probably since circus Bulgaria

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