Bullet Train By Kotaro Isaka

Bullet Train by Kotaro Isaka

Japanese crime fiction

Original title – Maria Bītoru (Maria Beetle) (マリアビートル)

Translator – Sam Malissa

Source – Personal copy

I don’t buy many crime novels but when I  this book caught my eye and I saw it was set on the Bullet train.  Which is on my bucket list of things to try at some point I just love the speed and whole look of the trains . Plus I have a soft spot for crime books set on Trains. This Kotaro won a prize for his debut novel and a lot of his subsequent novels have been shortlisted for Naoki Prize is a sister prize to the Akutagawa prize both run by the same people it highlights rising stars of Japanese fiction. This book has been translated into a number of languages and has seen it been made into an Ensemble film that will star Brad Pitt.

Tokyo station is packed. It’s been a while since Yuichi Kimura was here last, so he isn’t sure if it’s always this crowded. He’d believe it if someone told him therewas a special event going on. The throngs of people coming and going press in him, reminding him of a tv show he and Watura had watched togeth the one about penguins, all jammed in tight together. At least the penguins have an excuse, thinks Kimura. it’s freezing where they live.

Kimura thinks of his son and is on the train to get his killer !!

The book follows a bullet train journey from Tokyo to Morika that has seen the train leave Tokyo with a number of assains onboard train the first is a young man  Satoshi a young man that seems from the outside just like a normal teen and that is his beauty as he really is a deadly assassin and he is being tracked by the Kimura whose young son was caught up in his last job so he has come to kill the young assassin then we have the Nanao or Lady bird another assassin that has had a run of bad luck then we have two assains just known as Tangerine and Lemon, they spend a lot of the trip discussing Thomas the Tank engine which made me laugh. They all have various jobs to do some of them have the cash that is in a case to recover their revenge to sort other a target to kill. But as the journey moves and they move through the train we see that a lot of what has happened and brought this many assains together is interconnect as what has happened to get them as the action unwinds,  so we see in to the past events of them and why they are there and present of each person as we head to the end. The action is shown in each chapter as to where they are on the train or in over in other cases events off the train.  Who will survive the journey and who will complete the jobs they have been sent to do!

“Who’s Edward ?”

“One of thomas the tank Engine’s friends. Engine numer two”. Lemon launches automatically into the character description he’d memorised. ” A very friendly engine, kind to everyone. He once helped push Gordon up a hill and another time saved trevor from almost being scrapped. Everyone on the island of odor knows they can count on Edward”

“wow did youlearn all that by Heart?”

“If Thomas was on the college entrance exams. I’d have got into Tokyo U! “with that lemon walks on, exiting car number four.

I loved this little bit of Thomas the tank engine elsewhere they talk about under siege2  film set on a train as well .

I like this I am as many of you know not a huge crime fiction reader but over the last few years I am liking more crime novels from Japan now this has a nod towards being a film I felt it was one of those novels you could see would be a great film there is a nod to the classic train crime novel but what he has done here is throw in a lot of plots and twists and some unique characters. At times it is maybe a bit daft but I liked the silly chatting about Thomas the Tank engine and things like that the two characters Tangerine and Lemon are very Tarantino to me I was reminded of the round the table discussions in reservoir dog and also the names remind of Mr brown etc from that film with the two just called after some fruit. Are there other fruit assassins out there like an apple and pear somewhere etc. Dark with comic parts as the characters interact with each other and we find out what has brought them all to be on this train at the same time. If Agathe Christie had written a yakuza novel set on a train,  then given it Tarantino to make into a film this would be the novel of that film. Have you a favorite Japanese crime Novel ?

Winstons score – B a steady crime novel that has a cinematic sense to it.

Too loud a Solitude by Bohumil Hrabal

Too Loud a Solitude by Bohumil Hrabal

Czech fiction

Original title – Příliš hlučná samota

Translator – Michael Henry Heim

Source – personal copy

I was looking at the list of books that were published in 1976. There is a Wiki list of books also one on Good reads I read both. There is a few books that caught my eye that I had on my shelves this was one of those books I have reviewed two books by the late great Czech writer Hrabal. As I said in my post last week for his fellow Czech writer Jiri Kollar Bohumil Hrabal was a member of an underground writing group early on in his writing career. know for his visual style that mix the beautiful and the cruel in the world around him. This is a perfect example of that style. We enter the world of Hanta a man that has done the same job for 35 years something he keeps telling us. what Job?

For thirty five yers I’ve been in wastepaper, and it’s my love story. For thirty-five years I’ve been compacting waterpaper and books, smearing myself woth letters until I’ve come to look like my enclyclopedias- and a good three tons of them. I’ve compacted pover the years. I am a jug filled with wter both magic and plain: I have only lean over and a stream of beautiful thoughts flows out of me. My education has been unwitting I can’t quite tell which of my thoughts come from me and which from my books, but that’s how I’ve stayed attuned to myself and the world around me for the past thrity five years.

The opening lines t the book and Hanta tells us what his world is like

We are described the world by Hanta we enter his mind a jumble of words and images. There is a man who has spent his life working with wastepaper where he crud=sh the waste paper as he does he sometimes sucks as he says wonderful sentences from those works as he has over time become one with the printed world a man that from what he describes has few friends, a slight connection family, Then young gypsy girls that he pays to visit him. Even when he goes away he takes his press but we are not sure if this is just in his mind or in reality the lines blur at times.  As the young girls hang around him his room toppling with books he has saved and this is the way we view his world poetic lines but over time Hanta wonders what is him and what is the books he has read crushed and absorbed, All this in the crumbling Prague. As he works at his Hyrolauic press crush books art whatever is put there for him to destroy.A man living a simple life but one that has given him a huge amount of knowledge and insight as he amassed his secret book collection,

Wandering through the streets of Prague on the way back to my cellar, I switched on my x-ray eyesand peered down through transparent pavements into the sewers to find rodent general staffs mapping out operations for rodent troops, generals barking orders into their walkie talkies about which front to put pressure on, but I just kepy walking, listening to the crunch of sharp little rats” teethunder my shoes andthinking of the melancholy of  a world eternally under construction, and when I looked up through my tears I noticed omething I had never noticed something I had noticed before, namely, that the facades, the fronts of all the buildings, public and residential- and I could see them all the way up to the drainpipeds – were a reflection of everything Hegel and Goethe had dreamed of and aspired to, the greece in us, the beautiful Hellenic model and goal.

A poetic pasage as we follow Hanta’s mind as he wanders the streets as he jumps from here to there.

I have an opinion about this book and This is a man near the end of something I have felt this is the third time I have read the book and Hanta maybe is Hrabal in part he was in later life when he wrote this work as he had been ill in bed and had for the first time not drunk for a while he was a celebrated drinker there is a strong feeling of a man at the end of something Hanta is also a metaphor for all those banned works that happened after the end of the Prague spring this book has been filmed twice, the second film I supported by sharing a post for the fundraising site for the film to be made. Hrabal is a writer that is rich in his prose style when to reads his prose the images and texture are so unique. Especially when translated here by Henry Heim. Have you a favorite read from Hrabal ?

Winstons score — B a perfect little novella

 

 

 

 

The Lying LIfe of Adults by Elena Ferrante

The Lying Life of Adults by Elena Ferrante

Italian Fiction

Original tilte – La vita bugiarda degli adulti

Translator – Ann Goldstein

Source – copy for blog tour

 

I don’t often sign up for a blog tour but when approached to do one for the Cheltenham Literary festival it was always going to be a yes as the theme is reading the world which is something I always do here. But then I had no idea what the book was till it arrived at the house. So when the latest book by Elena Ferrante dropped on the doorstep of Wintonsdad towers.  I was in two minds as I hadn’t been bowled over by her. As in the past, I had read the first and last book in the Neapolitan series. I was also one to avoid hype and the time the first book came out My Brillant friend was everywhere in the blogosphere so I left reviewing it. There is still the question of who Ferrant is I love that even after all this success she or he or they has stayed hidden from the limelight in a way it has attracted me more to them as a writer as it shows they are in it for the writing. And  I am always willing to try again with a writer I hadn’t got on with a second chance and this time it was the right choice it is a standalone novel set in the Naples of the 90s and follows three teen years of Giovanna’s life. A coming-of-age novel.

Two years before leaving home my father sid to my morther that I was ver ugly. The sentence was uttered under his breath, in the apartment that my parents new,y married, had brought at the top of Via San Giacomo dei Capri, in Rione Alto. Eveything – the spaces of Naples, the blue light of a frigid February, those words – remained fixed. But I slipped away, and am still slipping away, within these lines that are intended to give me a story, while in fact I am nothing,nothing of my own, nothing that has really begn or really been brought to completion: only a tangled knotm and nobody, not even the one who at the moment is writing, knows if it contains the right thread for a story or is merely a snarled confusion of suffering, without redemption

The opening lines told in retrospective by Giovanna years after the event.

The book starts with the 13-year-old Giovanna hearing at the crack of a door her father says she was Ugly and becoming more like his sister Vittoria. This is the first thing she has heard of a family. Her parent’s successful couple life up the hill in Naples in a middle-class area. She loves and has her father as her idol so when she hears this it sets her on a path to first find out why her father compared her to the auntie she knew nothing about and after much persuasion, she is allowed to meet her aunt and this leads to the discovery of her parent’s origins a working-class neighborhood and a family of aunts and uncles that she never knew existed and the Aunt at once enthralled and vibrant draws the young girl in and shows her the working class place her family was from. But then she sees her in the way her father does over time. Add to this her parents start to unravel over this time and drift apart. Giovanna also blossoms over this time and discovers boys. Add to that the truth behind a family Heirloom this is a glimpse into three years that will change her life forever.

I learned to lie to my parents more and more. At first I didn’t tell real lies, but since I wasn’t strong enough to oppose their always well-ordered world, I pretended to accept it while at the same time I cut out for myself a narrow path that I could abandon in a hurry if they merely darkened. I behaved like that especilly with my father, even though his every word had in my eyes a dazzling authority, and it was exhausting and painful to try ti deceive him.

fter she meets Vittoria she has to start telling lies to her parents as she is drawn into a new world.

It is fair to say this impressed me more than the other two books by Ferrante I have read. I have always been a fan of Bildungsroman works those important teen years are the years that we become the adults we can be and here we have so many threads it makes the story more than that. First is why did her father call her Ugly like Vittoria and was that the right term to use. Why did the parents hide this other family this is all about Class and how they tried to escape their past and class moving to San Giacomo when they married a middle-class place far removed from the home. Add to this a girl discovering herself as all this goes on it and also falling in love for the first time as her family falls apart. Then there is the other character to this book the city Naples as in her other books this is a story of a city of class and the city about how people move on. A story that isn’t just a Naples story but it is told so well by Ferrante her love for her home city of Naples that always leaps of the page. Has it converted me to Ferrante well I will try some of her other stand-alone works? What are your thoughts about Ferrante?  Do you read the world?

Winstons score –  A – a brilliant coming-of-age novel with family secrets at its heart!

 

Kafka’s Prague by Jiří Kolář

Kafka’s Prague by Jiří Kolář

Czech art/literature non fiction

Original title – Kafka’s  Praha

Translator – Ryan Scott

Source – review copy

Jiří Kolář is one of those people that had many strings to his bow as a person, poet, writer visual artist, and political activist. He was a founder member of th Skupina 42 group of writers and artists that included the great Czech writer Bohumil Hrabal. He did many jobs over his life early on in the communist regime he was arrested and imprisoned for one of his manuscripts he later when the Prague spring happened was a member of a group of artists that meet regularly in the Cafe Slavia this included from Czech Leader Vaclav Havel but when the regime change he went to live in exile and this is where this work was originally published by the exile publishing house Index in Germany.  the book is in two sections the first called responses is a sort of interview about Kolar and his beliefs the second is a collection of Kafka quotes and visual art in the form of crumbled photos to go with each quote of famous views in Prague.

I wrote a musical score named for Baudelaire ` because the majority of sound poets, didn’t know how to express themselves other than as cabaret artists. Only a few of them managed to surpass the Dadaist, such that almost all of their magnetic tape has seemed to me merely a recording of their own recital, or more precisely, of a recital of their “products From the outset Mallarme in mind. Perhapsin him lay the starting oint and solution: to make poetry through music – to write a musical scroe for a recital – recitation of a single word ! obviously I canot deny the influnece of specific music, especially several americans and others in the age of contemporary musical experimentation, the image suddely wanted to be read anew and moreover, heard. Most musical compositions require esembles and a conductor to interpret them – I was working with this objective in mind.

He writer music poems art so talented her is one of his responses .

The first part of the book is a series of vignettes about art, writers, and the world. Then the world of art and science is questioned, with questions such as does art expand our knowledge, digressions like did einstein go to this exhibition. The view of Poets like Baudelaire with a piece about hypocrisy and a piece called the “Hypocrite reader- fellowman – my twin” Meditation and art. Too his own art how it used be surrealism and then changed after the war and over time his world view changed he became Avant garde. Baudelaire crops up he was disappointed with the sound poets so he chose to write music about the poet. Then the second part of the book he takes a number of images of Prague that he has used a technique called crumplage that he made new images out of the old buildings of Prague along the side of these new images he uses a quote from Kafka most of which are perfect companions to the images.

It is not that you are buried in a mine and the masses of stone separte you, a weak individual, from the world and its light, but instead you are outside and want to penetrate to the person who has been buried and are powerless against the stonesm and the world and its light make you even more powerless

Postumous writings and Fragments Kafka

14  crumplage from Kolar.

This is something leftfield for mand the blog. e but I love that Kolar was a figure at the heart of the group of writers in the early 40s and then in the Prague spring than was a strong voice of resistance in his years of Exile so this is a work from an important figure in modern Czech history as ever with twisted spoon it s wonderfully presented the crumplage prints tie so well with the bilingual Kafka quotes on each page symmetry to them in his choice of the pairing of quote and art. This is partly an insight into Kolar’s mind and the world around him the first part sees him looking at art and himself as a sort of interview without questions vignettes insightful and questioning without questions. Then we have his art the art that he pastes after destroying the images to create something new and this may be a way to provoke a feeling of unease and oddness in the images. A collection unable to be seen in Czechslovakia at the time it came out. A homage to the hometown and its best-known writer Kafka a man that they used in the letters at the time a figure that spurred them on when in Prison. A powerful insight into art and the artist view of the world

Winstons score – B thought-provoking and with insightful art and quotes.

 

 

The Last Children of Tokyo by Yoko Tawada

The last children of Tokyo by Yoko Tawada

Japanese fiction

Original title – Kentoshi (献灯使)

Translator – Margaret Mitsutani

Source – Personel copy

I popped into the Waterstones in Morpeth on Holidfay and brought two books this was one of the two books I brought. Yoko Tawada has been on my radar  since her book Memoirs of a Polar bear was on the radar for the Booker international prize although she has had a lot of books translated over the years she has written in both German and Japanese and has won prizes in both countries.. Known for her connection between words and reality and also how language works she was asked to work on her germna translations which has lead to her comparing the two languages and cultures and even writing in German. This was originally written in Japanese and is the latest of her books to be tranalsted into English.

Every morning, Ypshiro rented a dog from the rent a dog place on the corner to run along the riverbank for about half an hour. Wehn the water level was low, the river looked like silver ribbons that stretched out much further than you’d expect. Long ago, this sort of purposeless running had been referred to as jogging, but with foreign words falling out of use now called loping down, an expression that had started out as a joke meaning “if you lope your blood pressure goes down” but everybody called it that these dats. And kids mumei’s age would never have dreamt that adding just an e in front of it the word lope could cunjure up visions of a young woman climbing down a ladder in the middle of the night to run away with her lover.

Running is a rare thing in this new world !

The last children focus on a greatr Grandfather a man over a hundred as most of those that are still alive at this time Yoshiro is living on the very edge of a no empty Tokyo where the centre is now a no go area and disaster zone. even running is rare as shown early on when the old man hires a dog to walk as the children struggle to do even this now. All this is after a huge catastrophe whoch has wiped out most of the humans and lead to wide spread pollution so those youngster living are growing up with huge problems with  the world changed this sees the areas countries closing themselves off as they tried to deal with the unnamed problems that were caused by the catastrophe this means that his grandson Mumei is growing with out the esential vitamins and minerals that we all need to grow things like Calicum  are in short supply so they are growing up with problems like poor teeeth  and bones so grow crooked and this has leads to people like Yoshiro to become a underground emissary to help the kids out. where they sneak out children on ships as the Japan they live in has gon back to the feudal state of isolation they try to get the kids to other places to find out what is causing the issues..will Yopshiro get his great grandosn out or will he end up worse off ?

On his front doorsteo, Yoshiro unrolled the paper. He hadn’t paid much attention to the newspaper as a young man, but ever since this mediahad been revivied after its disappearence, reading it carefully all the way through had become a daily ritual. As he let his eyes fly low over the poltics section, words such as regulation, standard, adaptation, policy, investigation, and caution stuck out like ttalks in a flattened field. actually reading this section was like slogging through a swamp. He musn’t spend his mornings this way; first, he had to get to Mumei off to school. The word school still carried a faint whiff of hope

School isn’t what it was as the kids die so young.

I loved this tale as given the world we have seen in the last year or two how quckly the world can change around us. what Tawada does so wellnhere is use the hostroy of Japan the isolate era the 200 plus years of the Edo peroid which saw Japan cut itself of from the world. The storyline of supplies running out remind of how we would deal with this and films like soylent green and how the world would have do what happen here and keep supplies for them selves. The other side to this story is the connection between the young and the old and the way Yoshiro regrets the waythe world has change as he relives his youth and how the children are unable to do what he did in his youth. A glinmpse into a world of children growing up with grave issues is told with a tender touches as we see a world flip as the old carry on living and the young are dying. A kafka view of a pandemic and the aftrermath where the world becomes a series of small boxes and if you are in the wrong box your fate is sealed !! Have you read any book by her ?

Winstons score – +A one of my favourite read this year !

 

Drilling Through Hard Boards by Alexander Kluge

Drilling Through Hard Boards by Alexander Kluge

German Political fiction

Original title – Das Bohren Harter Bretter

Translator – Wieland Hoban

Source – personal copy

This is the third book by the German writer Alexander Kluge I have read he is fast becoming one of my favorite writers this collection caught my eye as it is slightly different it was a collection of 133 political stories. This is including a couple stories from his fellow German writer Reinhard Jirgl as Kluge says telling stories is a very social activity. Kluge is one of those writers that isn’t easy to pigeonhole, he has so many talents he is both a member of the group 47 writers but is also a leading light of the New German cinema. Kluge has also written a lot of things for television. He is a truly unique talented individual and should be better known over here!

 A number of tourists arrive at the Federal chancellery steamboat jett. They do not want to visit the Federal chancellery but, rather, the HOUSE OF THE CULTURES OF THE WORLD. In front of this heritage protected building, two stalls offer Baked potatoes and Bratwurst respectively, accompanied by beerr. A band is rehearsing loudly for the evening on the roof of the building. They already knew how to use the loudspeakers before they start rehearsing. The rehersal serves to mark there territory in the culturual garden.

Maybe a sly look at how peoples nedds and views have changed in recent years

The book is divided into five rough categories of stories like in his other books he uses a style that is all his own he creates a sort of mosaic with his stories. They stretch from the mundane things like the description of the steamboat jetty near the Federal Chancellory one of the small vignettes that create bigger pictures through Il Duce intelligence. Obama this is Kluge he jumps from place to place each short piece. What he dies is mix the real and fake together. There is pieces from Jirgl which imagine the events around the  Keneady Krushchev meeting and what happened. Funny tales like the highest mountain taking a comment from Gorky and then explain that there was first Lenin peak then there had been a higher Stalin peak found. he moves from the mundane German politicians through Russian Politics and the events like Glasnost then minor observances like the Big wheel at Chernobyl set up at the time for the annual Mayday that stayed for years after. He also looks at how we view politics and those who serve us. The title comes from an observance from Max Weber described politics as ” a strong, slow drilling through hard boards with both passion and judgment “. this is what spurred Kluge to write this collection that makes the reader think like his other books.

The same organizational power that kept all sections of the USSr going was responsible for the annual preparations for LABOUR DAY, 1May, as well as the pouros planning (carelessness, techinical concentrates and disruption of responsibilties) that led to the ACCIDENT IN BLOCK 4 at Chernobyl on 26 pril 1986. The town had already been evacuated. But the leisure facilities for the 1 May celebrations, no longer noticed by anyone, were still set up. Towering above them was a striking big wheel that stayed there for another two years because no one dared take own this contaminated device. It stood there rigidly waiting for te rust in the coming winter. The mute witness to a memorieal day and the scenic ruin, covered by invisible lava, of the technological district: TWO POLTICALLY OPPOSING SIGNS OF HUMN LABOUR.

A nugget of information a small footnote in history the MAY day wheeel left after the disaster in Chernobyl

Kluge is a hummingbird of a writer he likes to fly from flower to flower he has a mind that seems to never rest. The book is one of those that like his fellow German writer Sebald that defies pigeonholes and like Sbebald he loves to mix fiction, non-fiction biography, and photos the images help build with the stories and vignettes. it becomes like a web of knowledge an interconnection tube map of stops that lead us one way and then back and then cross over. All in all,  It makes us all think about what is politics what does it serves and also lifts the lid on the post-war german years. Also the philosophy of politics and the history of politics. this is what I have come to expect from Kluge his books have left me as a reader feeling like I have been to a buffet or like a cosmos where there is a bit of everything you are full the food is rich and the here his ideas small large the vignettes from a few lines to a few pages each can lead you one a different tangent of thought. Have you ever read Kluge? if so which shall I try next.

Winston score – B thought-provoking work from a writer that needs to be better known in the UK

 

 

To see out the night by David Clerson

To see out the night by David Clerson

Quebec fiction

Original title –  Dormir sans tête

Translator – Katia Grubisic

Source – review copy

If you have followed this blog over the last couple of years. You will know how much I have loved the books that the Canadian publisher QC fiction has been bringing out. Here is the second book by one of my favorite writers David Clerson his book The brothers is a strange tale of two brothers on is made from the limb of his bigger brother here we have a collection of twelve short stories by Clerson. I decide to review it as early as I could get away with as like his earlier novel these stories are a real treat to the reader.

The summer was unbearably hot. Louis’s apartment was an oven, and he sat in the sweltering heat reading about primates. He learned that orangutans were solitary and territorial, that they ate fruit, shoots,eggs,insects, and invertebrates, and that they are constantly on the move building a new nest of branches every night. The cries of the males were powerful, and could be carry over a kilometer or kore. Louis could almost here them in the distance. The fangs of an ape in one photograph terrified.He saw others, victims of hunters or held in poacher cages

He vecomes obsessed and feels an ape with in him as he learns more about the great apes.

I am not a huge short story fan as the blog will show I have reviewed a few collections but my real love is novels except when in this case it is one of those writers I have loved in the past like Clerson so this collection really appealed to me as a reader and fan of books from Quebec on the whole.  So We start with the story of Louis he is a security guard that watches a show about orangutans and over time sees himself becoming like an ape over time as he starts to lose touch with the world first he loses his job then he loses his house and ends up living wild almost like an ape that is within him. Then we have tales about a writer and the next one story that grabbed me is a tale of a secret underground city hidden in Montreal in a way a sort of sly nod and joke towards and maybe at  Toronto’s Path system the series of tunnels walkways and underground passages that link that city up as a pascal discovers the city under the city is a maze of passages and secret tooms and secrets below the city. Then we have stories of woods and death there is always a sense of transition in the stories of becoming something at times of want to change. A really surreal tale of the dog with no head which in a way reminds me of the brothers a tale of a dog born with no head and its care is a bizarre tale that ranks along with the oddest stories I have ever read.

Clara’s dog was born without a head one July morning, during the hottest days of summer. The mother had whelped by the cedar hedge in one of the few shady spots in theyard, flies buzzing around ger, The bitch died as her only baby was being born. Paul the fat guy who lived nearby , had come to watch. Maybe , paul suggeted, the animals head had stayed trapped in the mother’s body in her womb. Paul’s twin sons laughed when they heard his explination. When they got back home, they drew pictures in marker of huge bellies filled with animal heads. But clara held the puppy inher hands, talking to him where his head would have been, as if she’d ben whisering into the shell of an ear.

The opening of the story the dog without a head a bizzare tale of a dog with no head and his owner.

If you loved the brother it is easy to say you will like this collection it has a dash of Kafka “dark twisted lives and sense of not know quite what is going on” and Will Self at his best years ago ” like his grey area where it had a feeling like this at times” then add a pinch of the surreal humor of comics like league of gentlemen and  noel fielding those dark corners of comedy and tragedy. there is a theme of man and animal whether becoming a beast or insect or caring for a dog with no head the connection with nature and man at times is dark here. I loved this it is a collection that will last long in the reader’s mind. Another gem from QC is a great evening read the stories are all short 12 pages being the longest stories in the collection. What is your favorite short stories? Winstons score – A+ just perfect

Come with me by Nicola Viceconti

Come with me Nicola Viceconti

Italian fiction

Original title – Vieni Via

Translator – Laura Bennett

Source – review copy

I have reviewed one book from the new publisher Aspal Prime that has here a prize-winning Italian novel from the writer-poet and sociologist Nicol Viceconti a writer of over ten books. A lot of his works have focussed on Latin America where he has worked particularly in Argentina where he was award an honor by the people of Buenos Aires and was called an Italian with an Argentina soul. He likes to travel and has a real interest in Human rights his writing has been called Novelas por la identidad”  which means in search of identity here it is an old professor looking at his past as he hunts an old flame.

Someone had taken Irina to Vladivostok, away from me forever. What if that was really happed, I wondered in a low voice.

Even just the vey thought of this theory sent a shiver down my spine. I dropped the coat on the floor and, still clutching the note in my hand, sank into the chair ]. I closed my eyes and fell back into the seat. I began to wonder about what had haoopend to her. While my eyes followedthe words from one side of the paper to the pther. I heard their sound, as if she was saying them. Suddenly eveything had imagined about her vainshed, bursting like a bubble.

The note is found is his imagined version of what happened right or was it different

Eighty-year-old franco Solfi had completely forgotten about a young Russian girl he had met in the sixties when he was a communist in Paris and not as tainted as he was now.  when she disappeared he thought she had died Irina. But when he finds an old note, that had been left for him in a coat he hadn’t used since that time and the discovery is like a Proustian Madeline as it reignites something he had forgotten.  he is convinced it is a sign and decides to go on a journey to discover what happened to Irina a journey that goes into the past and mix history the cold war and these two peoples journeys as he first goes to Paris and then into what was Irina Homeland as he tries to discover the truth about what happened all those years ago was it was he imagined was all that it seemed at the time as this is a flip of being a communist in the Paris and living under communism in the sixties in Russia the trip will take him to Moscow then through to Siberia and then even to Mexico city. Will he find out if Irina is alive will the present heal the past?

I decided to travel by tain for two reasons: on the one hand I wanted to enjoy the landscape of Europe I had almost forgotten on the other, I needed to give myself the time needed to reflect on some episodfes of my life spent with Irina, A thrity six hour journey seemed to take stock of the situation before I suddenly found my self catapulted into the past.

I have always lived travelling by train. I must have inherited the passion for it frommy uncle Renato, my father’s brother, who spent fifty years of his life as a train driver on the line that went from Rome to the lake as Castel Gandolfo. It was the fifties and to the delight of romans, this, one of the most scenic routes in central Italy had recently been open.

He heads into his past as he tries to foind put what happened to Irina all those years ago.

One of the things I have found over the years is there are so many books not translated you only have to look at the blog the untranslated that covers those gems that have yet to find a translator or have been signed up and never got to us in English so many great books await us so we have books like this a writer that has published a number of books but given his style which is a mix of Latin American and Italian in his style. this book finishes in Mexico and this is all parts that he wanted to bring into the bok the militants of the sixties a certain type of Italian that is marked by Franco then he wants to touch on certain events in Mexico in the 40s, 50s and 60s and then he wanted to use Irina as a way of connecting all these ideas as we follow Franco as he looks for her and in a way discovers what happened to make him the disillusioned 80 years old he is on a quest a short of Odessey into the truth. This is another perfect example of why small publishers do such a great job.

Winstons Score – B is a gem about one man’s journey into his past

But you did not come back by Marceline Loridan-Ivens

But you did not come back by Marceline Loridan-Ivens

French Memoir

Original title Et tu n’es pas revenu

Translator – Sandra Smith

Source – Personal copy

I found this slim memoir in a charity shop and was gripped by the description the book is a memoir of the life of the writer Marceline Rozenberg she was born to Polish parents as the family moved to France after world war one, she thought in the french resistance. Along with her father, she was deported to the concentration camp at Auschwitz – Birkenau on the same train as Simone Veil. when she arrived she was separated from her father this is the kernel that gave the book its title. After the war, she married twice hence her double-barrelled name her second husband was the Documentary filmmaker Joris Ivens she was a communist and made films in China but fell foul of the regime.

I wa quite a cheerful person, you know, in spite of what happened to us. We were happy in our own way, as a revenge against sadness , so we could still laugh. People liked about me . But I’m canging. It isn’t bitterness, I’m not bitter, it’s just as if I were already gone. I listen to the radio, to the news, so I’m often afraid because I know what’s happening. I don’t belong here anymore. Perhaps it’s an acceptance of dearth, or a lack of will I’m slowing down.

And so I thin about you.I can picture the note you managed to get to me back there , a stained little scrap of paper almost rectangulas, torn on one end. I can see you writing, slanted to the right, anxd four or five sentences that I can no longer remember.I ‘m sure of one line the first  ” My Darking Girl”

The words have gone but she remembers the piece of paper so well after all this time.

The book talks about how she ended up in the camp and that she had been split from her father. Later on, she gets a note from him this is the last she hears from her father. This short note was passed on by an Electrician an act of kindness in the madness. That haunts her and the fact that time has washed away the words. The book is about the loss of a void in her life. as she passes her father’s life in France that undercurrent of antisemitism that had been there before that I have read in other books set in Provincial France at the time. and then later her own as a testament to surviving the horror of the camp this is a short book but powerful an unflinching look at the horrors told without sugar to sweeten it to us as a reader the camp is brought to life and the effect like others that were there it spurred her on but also at times it made life after war horrific as the past haunted the present after the war but she also gives a voice to herself and her father.

I don’t know how much time passed between those two moments, those two estures, the last between us.Several months, I think. Perhaps less. You remembered my block number. The first in the rw closet to the crematorium, and you had the message brought to me. You didn’t ign it “PApa” but your first name, in Yiddish, “Sholime” ghat became Solomon in Fance you had returned to the land where you were born, which hadn’t waited for the nazis to persecute the jews; you surely needed toi affirm your identity, your Jewishness, in this universe where we were nothing more than Stucke:things.Perhaps you even found some relatives again in the camp, cousins in Poland who alway called you Shilome still today, whenever I hear the word “Papa”, I’m startled, even seventy five years later

Her father polish used his originl Yiddish name in the note.

I loved this it is a perfect evening read it is what  Meike would call a movie in a book it took as long as an average movie to read. There is a place for Holocaust literature there can never have enough to remember what happened this is a highly personal almost letter from marceline to a father to make up for the fact she had seen the note but time had made those words dissolve of the page. There is a filmmaker’s eye to the words and images here. Marceline’s second husband was Joris Ivens the Dutch filmmaker and a man that made movies alongside Chris Maker at times had a style of documentary filmmaking that we see here in her words a clarity that is no holds barred in the world she saw and lived in. Another powerful voice in the gallery of Holocaust literature. Have you read this powerful little book ?

Winstons score – Just read it any work from  Holocaust survivors is worth reading to remember what happened!!

The Others by Raül Garrigasait

The Others by Raül Garrigasait

Spanish (Catalan) fiction

Original title – Els estranys

Translator – Tiago Miller

Source – review copy

I end this year’s Spanish lit month with another book from the publisher of Catalan fiction Fum D’Estampa press.This interesting take on a historic novel has an interesting angle and style to it. This was the prize-winning novel from the Translator and writer Raül Garrigasait he has translated a number of books from both Greek and German into Catalan.Plato, Goethe, Alexandros Papadiamandis, Joseph Roth, and Peter Sloterdijk are all writers he has translated he is involved with a project to translate a number of classics into Catalan. The other is his debut novel and won a couple of big [rizes when it came out in Spain.

Wieldemann wandered through the grounds of the sanctuary.Next to an entrance both of old, dark stone, the roofless pillars and arches held themselves aloft among the nettlesx and weeds, surrounded by an assortment of discarded rocks. It was nothing more than half finished, abandonedbuilding but there was something apocalypitic about it. He went into the empty church; all the pews had been removed all the way up to the Baroque altarpiece where golden figures ornaments shone in one gleaming glorious mess

Erarly on as he heads to the war but does he he finds an abandon building .

The others are set mainly in the late 1830s as the Carlist war is being thought in Spain. We view the war we viewed through the adventures of a young Prussian that has come to fight in the war.  Rudolf Van Wielemann is a young man trying to prove himself. He believes in the war and has high hopes to be in the forefront of the action but when he ends up in a small town he is struggling to get on with the odd set of locals he is a true outsider no language skills the comrades he wants think at times he is |Russian that is how he ends up at the hospital with a doctor in the small town as he is fish out of the water. The only real connection he makes is with a doctor who when they talk we see how the war has touched them both. as they have a shared love of music.  We follow his adventures on the edge of the war as he tries to find out who he is what to do when the war isn’t at his door. it tackles the absurd nature of the war and the absurd nature of it. The book has another dimension which sees Rudolf and his time being looked up by the writer as a number of chapters do a clever piece of autofiction as the fourth wall is broken and the writer becomes a character in the book and how he came up with the idea for the book with a character he found that was there at the time.

Between the pages on Wielemann, responisibility dictates I must translate, at least a bit

When it came to writing ,Prince Lichnowsky had no time for verbose or ornate prose, trather making his words fall in with the style of a competent commander, sure , efficent, exact. Given his importance he placed on calling things by their name, his book it as free from lyrical outpouring as his life was. Nevertheless, on the few occasions he did feel inclined to poetry he drew less on his military resolve, always knowing where to draw the line.

One of the chapters about the writer writing ther book, her finds a prussian charcater from the time.

I enjoyed this book it takes that over the approach to war we that of not being in the frontline so we have a chance to see the boring side of a conflict where we can sometimes gleam the absurd nature of war but also young men can discover themselves at the same time as not fighting a war.I also liked the way he moved to his writing of the book by breaking the fourth wall narrative about researching the book and how he came up with the idea of a Prussian character. There are touches of books like The good soldier Schwelk and The tartar steppes the latter where we see a young man guarding a similar distant outpost of the war. There is a mix of absurd nature and pathos of wart also of not quite getting to the front.An interesting mix of war and coming of age in a way Rudolf set of to find himself and prove something to his family but winds up not doing so but maybe finds out more about himself. Have you a favourite novel that is set in a war but not at the front line ?

Winstons score – +B An interesting take on the historic novel with a clever second narrative in the present.

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