This should be written in the present tense by Helle Helle

 

This should be written in the present tense by Helle Helle

Danish fiction

Original title -Dette burde skrives i nutid

Translator – Martin Aitken

Source review copy

Being boring

I came across a cache of old photos
and invitations to teenage parties
‘Dress in white’ one said with quotations
from someone’s wife, a famous writer
in the nineteen-twenties
When you’re young you find inspiration
in anyone who’s ever gone
and opened up a closing door
She said we were never feeling bored

’cause we were never being boring
We had too much time to find for ourselves
and we were never being boring
We dressed up and fought then thought make amends
And we were never holding back or worried that
time would come to an end

I choose this as in someways it is maybe a writer looking back on her youth” her twenties “

Helle Helle is one of the leading writers in Denmark .She studied literature in Copenhagen , she started writing after that she has worked in radion and written childrens books .But with her adult fiction has won a number of big prizes such as the PO enquist prize . This is her first book to be translated to english .I am pleased to add Helle Helle to the list of writers I have reviewed this woman in translation month .

I slept soundly that night .I didn’t hear a peep from the couple in the front room , or from the trains ,or the boiler in the utility room next door.It must have kicked in during the night , the place was sweltering when I woke up .My cheeks felt like they were on fire .It was light outside and the sky was blue .I stared emptily at the bark of the old pear tree for a minute , then came another gentle knock on the door and after a second it opened .

Haven’t we all slept and then woken in a newish place expecting it to be one way , I once woke thinking it was Germany but found out I was still in Holland !

 

This was a book I read the back end of last year , I quickly read through it this week just to refresh me of parts of the book .This should be written in the present tense is a vibrant book about being young it is the story of Dorte she has just left home moved into her own flat near the university in Copenhagen .Well that is what everyone thinks she is doing busy studying .But no she is busy well doing nothing much other than a journey of her own to discover who she is as a person .As she is busy doing this in the shopping district of the town with her poet friend and her boyfriend Per .What we see is the stor is a series of episodes of Dorte’s life rather than a straightforward short glimpses of a young womans life .As she finds friends herself , men and the wider world instead of studying at university .

One day I went for a bike ride while Per was having a nap .I cycled aimlessly in the direction of the nursery ,it was late afternoon .The forsythias were in bloom in a few small front gardens .I was soon too hot in my jumpers .I stopped to take it off , then carried on in my t-shirt.A smell of seaweed and salt waters hung over the fields .

Smells bring back the memories of growing up .

Maybe books are like the countries they come from ? well if that is the case maybe this book This should be written in the present tense is the perfect novel for how we see Denmark and the danish ! Maybe this book is clean in the way it is written as I said it has a epsodic nature about it and the passages are little gems of writing maybe like little lego blocks that we put together one by one to build what is a model of Dorte and her world but in that lego way all clean lines and bold strokes .Now that title where did she get this should be written in the present tense from , I did wonder and found out she was parapharse a quote from Samuel Beckett ,whilst doing that it said in the same article in Danish (using google translate )I discovered that she views the book as her most personnel book and parts of it is autobigraphical .I loved Dorte’s life it remind me of my younger years I was a wander in my teens instead of college I used hitch into Newcastle most days and wander arond this city meeting and observing the world .

Thank you for not reading by Dubravka Ugresic

thanks you for not reading

Thank you for not reading by Dubravka Urgesic

Croatian non fiction

original title – Zabranjeno čitanje

Translator – Celia Hawkesworth

Source – personnel copy

At the record company meeting
On their hands – a dead star
And ooh, the plans that they weave
And ooh, the sickening greed
At the record company party
On their hands – a dead star
The sycophantic slags all say:
“I knew him first, and I knew him well”
Re-issue! Re-package! Re-package!
Re-evaluate the songs

Paint a vulgar picture by the smiths is about how music is a product .

I mention this book a week or so ago and how blown away by it I was .Ugresic had long been on my list of writers to get too , so when this work of essays and observations on writing was in a recent sale at waterstones in Nottingham ,I couldn’t resist it . Dubravka Ugresic studied Russian literature at Zagreb , she  has written a number of novels  her best known books in the jaws of life , described as post modern .She  left Yugoslavia in 1993 ,since then she has lived in the US and most recently the Netherlands .

What does this all have to do with literature ? Almost nothing .Then why mention something as trivial as Joan Collins pink suit ? Because trivia has swamped contemporary literary life and become , it seems more important than the books .A books blub is more important than the book itself , the author’s photograph on the book jacket is more important than it’s content , the authors appearance in wide circulation newspapers and on tv is more important than what that author has actually written .

Joan Collins or any celeb writing a novel is just the sad state of books and reading .

Thank you for not reading is a collection of essays all based around books , the market for books and her observations on coming to the west to promote her books . , it starts when she is at the london book fair in the 90s and the fair is being opened by Joan Collins . This is the first of a number of observations by her of what is the market force lead western , well english book market . This is contrast with her memories of growing up under Tito where books and writers where values how the soviet system treated writers in one way and then in other ways both good and bad but they were valued for what they wrote not who they were !

Milan Kundera wrote that one day , when everyone writes , nobody will listen .The markets , it seems , is creating utopia .But nevertheless , in the whole commercial whirlgig , there is a sad and paradoxical truth :glamour is a populist longing , a sign of absence .Literacy can have an aura of glamour only where literacy does not exist .

I agree with this statement , literacy is so important !

A breif description as it is more my reaction to this book that is what I want to talk about as for me it touches on a point about books that I often go on about , but feel I struggle to get across . I will give an example that mirrors the book I was at the recent launch of Olja Savicevic book Farewell cowboy , which was being filmed t=by the Croatian news to be broadcast on the evening news .There was an air of surprise when I pointed out that this wouldn’t happen here in the uk .Like this book it is a sign of what books have become and this is my constant point the big selling books and writers now can like Urgesic observed can be celeb writings or celeb writers (if you know what I mean !).But the flip of this is what I call “Adding to the critical discussion on books in translation or in general  ” that is raising books to high culture thus making them seem unreadable or unobtainable to the masses  . I mean just today we are talking about giving every kid a library card .It is not just that gets people reading it is making books seem interesting not adding to a critical discussion on books !!  An example  would  be John Buchan was the most wide read writers in the trenches of Flanders when the Everyman was reading his books . Now Buchan is considered a literary writer , but back then was read by the masses , so I agree with Urgesic view that making writers seem like heroes but heroes we can touch ,so in one book she has touched on so much that makes me blow my top the putting of books on high peaks whilst promoting drape books to the masses , it is our right to choose what we want to read not to be told book a is right because we come from a certain social or educational background Jesus would you have been the one top grab the 39 steps out of the hands of the Tommy because they couldn’t add to the critical discussion of books !! I have drift into arant her but isn’t that what a great book can make you do . For me this is the heart of why I read books from around the world knowledge is free to all well here and too most readers of this blog so don’t let books scare you because you are told they may be high culture .This book is funny and possibly ahead of its time when it was written .

The hen who dreamed she could fly by Sun – Mi Hwang

The Hen who dreamed she could fly by Sun-Mi Hwang

Korean fiction

Translator – Chi Young Kim

Original title – 마당을 나온 암탉

Source – personnel copy

SKYBIRD
Skybird
Make your sail
And every heart will know
Of the tale
Songbird
Make you tune
For none may sing it
Just as you do

Look at the way I glide
Caught on the wind’s lazy tide
Sweetly how it sings
Rally each heart at the sight
Of you silver wings

I choose Neil Diamonds lyrics from his songs for Jonathan livingstone  seagull

I visit Korea again this woman in translation month . With a best seller in Korea by Sun-Mi Hwang .As a young girl her family couldn’t afford to send her to primary school but thanks to a kind teacher manage to be able to read books after school and got into high school because of this .The book came out in 2000 in Korea and was made into one of the best-selling animated films in Korea also a comic and Musical .

Sprout liked to stare out into the barnyard .She would much rather watch the ducks scuttle away from the dog than peck at feed .Closing her eyes she imagined herself wandering freely about . She fantasized about sitting in a nest on an egg , about venturing into the fields with  the rooster , and about following the ducks around .

THe opening lines and we see how Sprout daydreams .

This book it seems is part of a trend of Korean fiction , like the other book from this genre of Korean fiction I reviewed earlier in the year the salmon who dared to leap higher . These fairy tale / fable tales have a greater meaning under the basic story . So this is well as it says on the tin the story of a Hen her name is sprout .She lives in a farm and is in a cage with other hens laying eggs . But this hen by chance glimpse the outside world and wants to not lay and lose her eggs but also see the wider world beyond the cage . She manages to escape and journey outside to the barn , then she  meets the  ducks .This is where she meets greentop ,whom she adopts greentop is an  orphan duckling , whom she has to help along in life as well as finding her own way in the wider world and does she finally get to fly .

“Baby careful ”

“Mum look where I am !” he waved his little wing joyously . the Lilly pad tipped and he fell into the water .

“Baby ” Sprout panicked ,surprised , Baby flailed about .Sprout ran into the reservoir , but her feathers became waterlogged , and she barely managed to get out .

he motherly instinct comes to the front her to save baby even at the rick of her own life .

I read a lot into this about Korean life in general .I see sprout somewhat as Korea  of today , maybe greentop is North Korea in some way the child you didn’t give birth too but want look after but maybe don’t want to let go off .Sprouts journey could also maybe be seen as Korea own journey into the world and discovering the world after the Korean war . Now that could be me seeing too much into it it could just be a story rather like the kids books like Charlotte’s web or Jonathan Livingstone about someone make the way in the world their own way . You could also connect this in part to the film chicken run which follows a group of chickens as they try to escape by learning to fly .Anyway this is a fun book with some lovely illustrations that the uk publisher commissioned for the book . I managed to find a trailer to the film .

 

Heloise is Bald by Émilie de Turckheim

 

wpid-wp-1420831143565.jpg

Heloise is bald by Émilie de Turckheim

French fiction

Original title – Héloïse est chauve

Translator – Sophie Lewis

Source – review copy

when i first saw the child brides

two bridegroom boys at their side
genevieve in union with -holy communion
marriane the younger wife

and the child brides
went down to the water
neptune calls out to his daughters
throw yourself at the tide
i’ll see you on the other side

in a loveless marriage – when i was fourteen
all brained knees and black knees
then you come round here
with your fancy talk and your big ideas
what have you done with your wives

I choose The auteurs lyric Child brides , the is a seedy nature to their songs that match this book in a way .

Back in France again for woman in translation month and another read I have saved until later in the year . Emile de Turckheim , Studied French and American law , then after that taught for a while in prisons french and english . She then at the age of 24 published her first novel .She has since written 8 books in total , she has also written articles including one about being a life model to artists .She has won a number of prizes  for her books in France .

Heloise is bald . She still has a long life ahead of her . Her dress has the anxious stiffness of new clothes .Not a single smudge of varnish spoils her short red nails .Upright in her high chair , she is lower than the others , her toes squeezed into a pair of ballet slippers that struggle to contain the plump flesh of her feet .

The opening lines and the bay Heloise is in her high chair ,when Lawrence calms her .

 

Heloise is bald is a strange tale of love between a young girl and an older man. When I first mention this book I connected it with Lolita . I maybe was wrong in some ways . The story start when the baby Heloise in her parent house as a babe is really upset and is calmed by the family friend Lawrence  as she sucks his thumb and falls for this strange man  .This sparks a connection between the two that see the young baby grow into a girl on the verge of womanhood .But the connection between her and this older man , who is a doctor and a real charmer is one that is very sensual and daring in its nature as the two grow closer in their  natures .

Heloise slides both hands around Lawrence’s hips  , and he finds himself counting the years .he will be sixty when she is twenty .He’ll be snuffing it on the stroke of eighty when she in the happy valley of middle age , will be celebrating her fortieth .He realises that Heloise is sucking….

I leave that hanging as it is a very sexual scene that follows as the young girl gets her man .

This is a twisted story of a girl growing in love from five months old .I compared it Lolita but these are two different stories this is a girl who knows what she wants and that is Lawrence .But lawrence is a man whom is married and has had an affair with her own mother to name one .But he  is easily caught by this young girl when she finally get what she needs from Lawrence . I was reminded on some ways of the English film wish you where here something in Heloise character remind me of the character played by Emily Lloyd in this film  the way she is free of convention in the way she acts round men .This is a tale of growing up with the wrong idols .About men that let woman down but also on the surface seem all charm .A extraordinary story that could have only come to us from French literature .

Have you a favourite story of an age difference relationship ?

 

the vegetarian by Han Kang

The vegetarian by Han Kang

korean Fiction

Original title – 채식주의자

Translator – Deborah smith

Source – review copy

 

Heifer whines could be human cries
closer comes the screaming knife
this beautiful creature must die
this beautiful creature must die
a death for no reason
and death for no reason is MURDER
and the flesh you so fancifully fry
is not succulent, tasty or nice
it is death for no reason
and death for no reason is MURDER
and the calf that you carve with a smile
is MURDER
and the turkey you festively slice
is MURDER

Back when this came out maybe being vegetarian was the same here as it was for Yeong -Hye in Korea .Of course only one lyric for this book Meat is murder by the mighty smiths .

I was sent this just before it came out and I read it back when it came out and was going to review it then , but the day I went to write a post I saw a couple of other people had posted and a few did the next day so rather than be a  small fish in a shoal of fish ,I decided to wait til this month as I thought well I’m sure folks would be interested at the time and a gentle nudge may make a few more people want to read this book .Han Kang Teaches creative writing at Seoul institute of arts and has won a number of prizes in her native Korea incurring the Korean Literature novel award .

Before my wife turned vegetarian .I’d always thought of her as completely unremarkable in every way . to be frank , the first time I met her I wasn’t even attracted to her .Middling height ; bobbed hair neither long nor short ; jaundiced , sickly-looking skin ; somewhat prominent cheekbones ; her timid sallow aspect told me all I needed to know .As she came up to the table where I was waiting .I couldn’t help but notice her shoes – the plainest black shoes imaginable ,and that walk of hers – neither fast nor slow , striding not mincing .

Well poor Yeong-Hye her husband didn’t even notice her the first time they met bar her plain shoes .

Well I was excited about this especially after hear a discussion on  trying to find Vegetarian restaurant on the three percent podcast made me aware that there is actually not many vegetarians or a culture of being vegetarian in Korea  so the main decision in this book is a hard one to make .This novel is a trio of stories about one wives Yeong-Hye journey into become vegetarian and how it affects her husband and her sister and brother-in-law the later whom happens to be a video artist and uses Yo=eong-Hye in what are becoming more and more sexual and erotic works of art .All this send this woman into a downward spiral of self-destruction and sees her own sister come near to the edge as well .We see the ripples of this decision to become vegetarian .

“Lie on your side for me ” slowly as though timing her movements to some music only she could hear , she bent her arms legs and waist and rolled onto her side . He panned the camera down the ridge of her side and over the soft curve of her buttocks , then filmed first the flowers  on her back the flowers of night and the the flowers of the sun on her front .

I choose this as it shows Yeong-Hye could be very sensual in another’s eyes

The book is really a study of what happens when one person decides to do something outside society’s norms .The trio of stories  or as I view them myself they are more like a triptych so the in three parts the start middle and end of this breaking of the norms of society . The beginning sees the family coping how families cope , rather extreme at times as she is almost force-fed at some points .The next part sees a woman slowly become alone , but as this happens falling into an unhealthy partnership with the failing artist of a brother-in-law .the last part well I leave that to you to find lout this book is one that ,makes you think what would make people react the way Yeong-Hye family and friends reacted in the uk these days . I’m not sure what but I think if someone say is from a strong religious , cultural background or class the fallout may be the same as in this book . It shows what happens when a person is pushed out .I was reminded of some of the great pieces of central european fiction for example Blaugast , I have read where the story is the flip  and it is a male  perspective  on  being on the outside of society .Also a great translation by Deborah who we all followed on twitter as she did this one of her first translations .I love the cover which you have to look art ever so carefully to fully get !!

Have you read this book or any other korean novel ?

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