Vernon Subutex 1 By Virginie Despentes


Vernon Subutex 1 by Virginie Depsentes

French fiction

Original title – Vernon Subutex

Translator – Frank Wynne

Source – Review copy

Well I am pleased that Frank is the first person to have books from two languages he has translated on the short list he also translated from Spanish The imposter also on the Man Booker longlist.As far as I can see looking back this is a first for the prize even going back through the IFFP years. He won the Old IFFP with his transition ofWindows of the world in 2005. Anyway back to this book and the writer is well known as well she wrote her first book Baise Moi in 1999 which she also made into a film. Virginie has written a number of novels since then this is the first of a trilogy. She also worked as a rock journalist at about the time this novel starts.

Vernon had just had enough time to rediscover his love of a long lie in – for more than twenty years, come hell or hideous hangover he has rolled up the metal shutters on the shop six days a week no matter what. Only three times in twenty five years, had he entrusted the keys to one of his colleagues: a bout of gastric flu, adental implant fitting and an attack of sciatica it took him a year to relearn the knack of lazing in bed and reading in the mornings. It felt like it .

Vernin starts slacking after his shop revolver closes down.

The book follows the downward spiral of Vernon Subutex. He was once the owner of the most well-known record shop in Paris.A man that like Joe from empire records one of the great films from the gen x years a man people wanted be and has a magnetism for women.  His story is maybe a reflection of the music industry in a way. But also a thesis on Generation X. He finds he in the early 2000’s is without a shop and had been helped by a friend Alexandre a heavy drug user from his past.Is his help  to get by with rent and his daily life but when the friend dies he has to go round visiting old friends and spends time sofa surfing one of those homeless people that avoid being homeless till they have run out of them this is what we see with Vernon a man alone in the world after all his dreams have fallen spend time with old friends from an ex-lover that has a sterlie flat , a wife beating husband who he never really knew as he falls through these peoples lives we see a mryiadof the city of paris what happened to the hipsters when they aren’t hipsters anymore.

Friends are diffeerent. Spending years together listening to records, going to gigs, arguing about bands, these are sacred bonds, You don’t stop seeing each other simply because of a change of venue. But what had changed was that he had to call and arrange to meet, whereas before they could just come into the shop if they were in the neighbourhood.He was not in the habit of organising dinner parties, trips to the cinema.

I was remind in these lines of John Cusack character in High fidelity Vernon friends are shop friends.

This is a searing knife through the social lives of a generation cutting into the gen x lives and what has happened to them it is like a Parisian version of the slacker film as we follow Vernon going through those who moved up and down through those years as he had met them when he was hip. He is also a story of how music has suffered record shops where the hiding meeting and place to be seen a generation ago for me when I was young it was a shop called beat route  alas like Vernon shop it is no more as music is online these days the other thread is the last recordings he has of his friend and benefactor Alex Bleach a well-known star. I can’t wait for part two to see where it takes us with Vernon and like one of those classic works of French lit by Balzac or Zola more about how modern Paris treats those on the downward spiral. Which for me is always far more interesting than a rise from the bottom to the top what about you?Also, this is one of the most eye-catching covers in the last year I think also slightly disturbing.



The Dinner Guest by Gariela Ybarra


Image result for gabriela ybarra the dinner guest harvilThe Dinner Guest by Gabriela Ybarra

Spanish fiction

Original title – El Comensal

translator -Natasha Wimmer

Source – review copy

Well I had initially had decided not to do all this year’s man booker longlist. But when this year’s longlist came out. I had reviewed so little but read a number of the books. This was due to be reviewed this week so I have moved it forward as I now have a number of books to review and luckily have start ten days off work. Gabriela Ybarra is a new writer this is her debut novel. is from Bilbao but now lives in Madrid.This book won the Euskadi Literature prize.

The story goes that in my family there’s an extra dinner guest at every meal. He’s invisible, but always there. He had a plate,glass, knife and fork. Every so often he appears, cast his shadow over the table and erases one of those present.

The first to vanish was my grandfather.

The opening lines and the spare chair at there dinner table for the The dinner guest.

The book follows Gabriela as she looks back into her family history and two main events that have shaped her present. The first is the death a number of years before the birth of Gabriela her grandfather disappeared. When three men from ETA appeared at her grandparent’s house and took him away at gunpoint.He later dies after a failed kidnapping that led to his death. Then her own mother died of cancer as she was growing up. The title refers to the habit of living a space at the dinner table for a missing guest a blank space to be filled with the spirit of those once there. As she grows up Gabriela in the present decides to reach out and discover about her past using google , but as we do we see other rabbit holes on the internet she falls down like after reading a book by Robert Wasler leads her on a google search and shock when the second picture has a dead body in it. This is a story of families past present and trying to discover your own past when it has been clouded by family. Also discovering a grandfather she never knew a man that stood for so much and life was ended before she was even there.

Robert Walser 15 April, 1878- 25 December, 1956. Buried in 2011 with three hundred thousand other photographs of himself in google images.

In thins book the writer goes out for a walk one morning in 1917. He must have done the same thing that Christmas day, about four decades later.Perhaps sitting in his room at the Herisau asylum and thought it had been years since he gave up writing

The picture is of the dead writer Robert  Walser in a snow just a single file of footprints the picture is in the novel.

This is a style of book that Spanish writers seem to love writing a true life novel I have like the two novels in recent years by Javier Cercas  the Imposter and  Anatomy of a moment that have a similar feel to this taking real life and turning it to fiction. But not quite as closely as this has to Gabriela as this is her own family history she is disecting  not with the slashing cuts the Karl Ove does with his life this is a small piece of her life that she has put under the microscope and brought her Grandfather into the now an event six years before her birth has haunted and fascinated her life only the memory of what her late mother had told her. This shows how close the past can be through modern tech we are never far away from finding out what happened on a certain day something twenty years ago would have taken a few days to put together is now there at the touch of a button so this is a modern novel from a new Spanish writer and a great first step on this year’s man Booker longlist.

Carte Blanche by Carlo Lucarelli


Image result for carte blanche carlo lucarelli


Carte Blanche by Carlo Lucarelli

Italian crime fiction

Original title – Carta bianca

Translator – Michael Reynolds

Source – personal copy

I’m on too the second book for Italian Lit month and a crime novel. Italy has produced some great crime fiction over the years. A number of these have been brought to us in English by Europa Editions the English arm of an Italian publisher. Carlo Lucarelli studied History and Literature at university in doing research for his thesis he came across stories and events that he put into this and the follow-up novel of the De Luca series. He also with Marcello Fois and Loriano Macchavelli the Gruppo 13 group of writers.I have featured Marcello Fois twice on the blog.

The bomb exploded suddenly, with a ferocious blast, right as the funeral procession was crossing the street. De luca threw himself to the ground, instinctively, and covered his head with his hands as a section of wall collapsed onto the sidewalk, showering him dust. Everybody started shouting. A sergeant from the Republican National guard stretched a machine gun out over De Luca’s body and fired an endless burst that deafened him and brought a deluge of broken pantiles down onto the street.

The opening and De Luca is caught in a blast.

This is the first of a trio of novels Carlo wrote about Detective De Luca. This is set as the world war is drawing to a sticky end and Italy is in tatters. When a bomb is set off in Milan as most of the Italian fascists are travelling or in the city trying to escape from the American and allied forces as they move north in Italy. Someone is killed Vittori is a lady man and has a number of lady friend that is connected to figures high up in the fascist regime. The case is handed to De Luca a good guy in a world full of bad people a good old fashion cop. He has just arrived from being involved in the political police and has a first case that involves dark secrets sex and drugs all this as the country is falling apart and he is trying to find the killer. As others want him to finish the case as quick as possible.

He pulled a notebook out of his pocket and turned a page over. ” Rehinard Vittorio,” he read. “Born in Trento, on November 22 1920.Member of the Fascist Republican party since July 15, 1944. Membership passed thanks to the open sponsorship of Count Alberto Maria Tedesco. He had an assignment, was  secretary of the office responsible for the party’s relationships with the Holy see and in particular the diocese, but nobody in there if at party headquarters ever saw him. He sure like the ladies or rather the ladies liked him; they’d run fter him, and according to that officer.Rehinard was a kept man

The victim has a number of lad friends and is a ladies man .

I read almost blue from his other series of novels a number of years ago just before I started this blog. I liked the style of his writing then it has a dash of Hammett and hard-boiled crime fiction of America writers of the time the novel is set. De Luca has that feel of a man with the weight of the world on his shoulders trying to be the stand-up man in the big world. He has seen the world he knows falling apart Lucarelli captures in the world around De Luca the madness of Italy in 1945 the figures trying to leave the country. Lucarelli had researched the time for his thesis and I’m sure a lot of what he wrote is comparable with actual events, Policing during the fall of a regime is always hard and a lot of events like those in the book happened at the time.

The Gold-Rimmed Spectacles by Giorgio Bassani

The Gold-rimmed spectacles by Giorgio Bassani

Italian fiction

Original title – Gli occhiali d’oro

Translator – Jamie McKenrick

Source – library book

I announced in January that I was doing Italian Lit month in March well here we go I have read a few books not as many as I had hoped but hope to bring mostly Italian books over this month and I start with A modern Classic. Giorgio Bassani was considered one of the best post-war Italian writers A Jewish writer he ended up during the war in the same town as this book as a teacher in the Jewish school there. He married briefly after the war edited a literary magazine for a number of years. Where he started publishing short stories and then this was his second novel he had written on in the war years published under a fake name.

Soon enough, going to Fadigati’s became more than a fashion, became a distinct pleasure. Especially on winter ebenings, when the icy wind, whistling, threaded its way from the Piazza Catterdrale down Via Gorgadello, it was with a frank satisfaction that the rich bourgeois, wrapped up in his fur coat, using the pretext of the faintest of sore throats to slip inside the half closed little door,would climb up the two staircases and ring the bell at the glass door.

Fadigati is the toast of the town early on in the book but then he takes a downward spiral.

The gold-rimmed spectacles is the story of a Jewish Doctor.Athos Fadigati is a doctor.He is the one the upper class in the town like to use as he is considered cultured. But there are two things about him that we learn early on the first is he is Jewish the second he is Gay. So he is a well-known figure in the town of Ferrara. He tries to fit in mainly by keeping his homosexuality undercover. He meets one man whilst going on the train, this is where the narrator sees him. We see in the townsfolk of Ferrara as this novella unfolds a changing attitude towards the Doctor from Open at first. But as a former Lover lets go that they were together and this is after a few years of Mussolini ruling. So his patients start disappearing. But the attitudes are starting to change the town has a Jewish community, but as the rest of the townsfolk are wanting to follow the new rules their lives start getting harder. The narrator is a fellow Jew watching the Doctors life fall apart in front of him over time. Til he is left with few options as the town turns against him.

For quite some time, during the whole journey, he kept apart in his second class carriage.

Taking it in turns, profiting from stops the train made at San Giorgio de piano or San Pietro in Casale, one of our grup would leap out with the task of buying something to eat from the bar of the small station: rolls filled with freshly wrapped, raw salami , almond-studded chocolate that tasted of soap, half-mouldy Osvego biscuits. Turning to look at the stationary train, and then walking past the carriage after carriage at a certain point we could distinguish Dr Fadigati, who from behind the thick glass of his compartment, would be watching people crossing the tracks and hurrying back to the third class carriages.

The narrator tells of his trips on the train and the doctor going with them.

This is a study of what Bassani must have seemed himself in the small towns where over the years of Mussolini the Jewish people living there found their lives were getting hard by the day. This is the first in a number of books and stories he wrote about the small time of Ferrara a town where he taught over the war years so the sense of hatred and turn against people that were once your friends must have been so real to him and as he wrote so much about them.The book was made into a film. This is an interesting novella from one of the best post-war Italian writers I’m lucky to have a couple of other books by him on my tbr so maybe I may get to him again this month.


So You don’t get lost in the Neighbourhood by Patrick modiano


So you don’t get lost in the Neighbourhood by Patrick Modiano

French fiction

Original title –  Pour que tu ne te perdes pas dans le quartier

Translator – Euan Cameron

Source – review copy

I so enjoyed the last Modiano I decided to carry on reading another of the few by him I have on my TBR pile.This was the last of his books to be translated into English and the came out in French the same year as he won the Nobel prize. He has written one more book since but that hasn’t been translated into English. I said last time he has written the similar books and this is another twist on those themes.

“I should like to speak to Monsieur jean Daragane,”

A deary and threatening voice.That was his first impression.

“Monsieur Daragane? Can you hear me ?”

Daragame wanter to hang up. But what was the point? The ringing would start agan. withpu ever stopping, and short of cutting the telephone cord permanetly ..

“This is he.”

“It’s abput your address book, monsieur”

Giles rings up but is slightly threatening at first to jean

Again like in the last book the main character in this novel is a writer. Like in the last review he is called Jean but we get his full name in this book Jean Dragane. The story in this book is like the last review set of by the discovery of something old. This time a man has got hold of the old telephone book of Jean. The book has the name of Guy Torstel someone Jean had once been acquainted with many years ago. At the time he knew this person there was a murder.At the time he lived with a showgirl Anne in the seedy part of town. He is helped by the girlfriend of the man who has phoned him when he meets the man, to discuss his old telephone book. That man is  Giles Ottolini and his girlfriend, Chantal. A man that since then has drawn away from the world and lived as a recluse writing books one that may have a clue into what happened in the past. The past is a lost country in this book and Jean has to revisit it.

And so would the name Torstel which had once used in a novel.Simply because of its resonace. That is what Torstel  conjured up for him. There was no need to look any further. It was all he had to say. Gilles Ottolini would no doubt be disappointed. Too bad. After all, he was not obliged to give him any explanation. It was none of his buisness

The name from the past inspired a character in a novel but what about the real Torstel ?

As I said there are themes in his books. Jean is almost a mirror image of the writer having grown up in the dark post-war days. He also lives near Paris and spent time with a showgirl in the seedy part of Paris where there are twist streets and never quite sure what is around the corner the same Paris as Maigret walked in books like Maigret sets a trap. Then there is what I would be called missing memories another recurring theme of a misty past that the main characters seem to want to forget their Past. I feel Modiano is working his own past and his love may of a good mystery into books. I enjoyed this as I have all his books the Nobel win was such a treat for us the English reader as pre-Nobel I had struggled to find a book to read in the weeks before the prize and so many have come out since.

The Black notebook by Patrick Modiano


The Black notebook by Patrick Modiano

French fiction

Original title – L’Herbe des nuits

Translator – Mark Polizzotti

Source – review copy

I’ve been having a slump in reading and reviewing the book this last couple of weeks. I have started, maybe half a dozen books and just not been settling in them and had finished a couple of these books. Then not felt like reviewing them. So then I decide yesterday to have a good look through my pile of books and decided on something to try and click my mind back into the groove and I decided , I had three of the Maclehose Modiano books to read and as I have only reviewed one since his Nobel win, two in total, as I had reviewed him before the prize, came out.

No it wasn’t a dream. The proof is that I still have this black notebook full of my jottings. I need precise words in this haze, so I look in the dictionary. “Note: a short piece of writing that is used to help someone remember something.” The pages of my notebook contain a succession of names, telephone numbers, appointments and also short texts that might have something to do with literature.But what catergory should they be listed under? private journal ? fragments of a memoir?

Jean discovers his old Black notebook and the time with Dannie


The Black notebook is the story of a writer called Jean, who is sorting through some old items when he comes across the black notebook of the title. What follows is him reading through the notebook. As he does he is remembering a time in 1960 and reliving and retracing his footsteps at the time. When he started dating a woman he knew as Dannie, she had some involvement with Morrocan security. He ends up meeting her mostly at night in the Montparnasse region of Paris. He gets involved with the characters around a certain hotel in that part of Paris. The Unic Hotel were he spent time with Dannie, Paul Chastagnier, Aghamouri, Duwelz, Gerard Marciano and “Georges”. All seem shady characters, Dannie, as Jean discovers over the course of reading back through the notebook had a number of Alias. Now the past seems shady, but at the time he said he was of the age when being in seedy places at night seemed ok. Weekends in a mysterious country house. As he retraces his steps,. early on in the book.  He remembers this is also the Paris area that Gerard De Nerval, a man famous for walking a lobster. But also one of his most famous books is about a man dealing with the loss of three ladies. He wonders what happened and what was real and what he added to the notes as a writer.

On the day we met, I’d written “Dany” in my notebook, she had corrected the spelling, using my pen: ” Dannie”. Later, I discovered that the name. Dannie was the title of a poem ny a writer I admired at the time, whiom I occasionally saw leaving the Hotel Taranne on Boulevard Saint Germam, strange coincidences do happen

Jean is remembering but is he also inventing Dannie as he does .

Modiano is a writer I fell in love with his style the first time I had read him. He is a writer that use familiar themes in his books. The first is a missing person or people, in this case, Dannie is the main person that is missing even though we found out he knew little about here Jean. He tells s her name isn’t even Dannie. The second is place Paris is like London for Dickens or Dublin for Joyce you sense Modiano can relive his own past as he writes about the streets in Paris. He uses Jean as an avatar for revisiting the Paris he has grown up in living a different life similar a writer of crime fiction, who may have been involved on the very edge of a crime.Modiano maybe writes books that seem similar all three I have read have similar topics a missing person, Paris and a sort of detective story as someone piece thinks together as a fragmented nature to his stories. This, as I read in his book pedigree, as he writes about his mother than he barely knew.




Istanbul Istanbul by Burhan Sönmez



Istanbul Istanbul by Burhan Sönmez

Turkish fiction

Original title – İstanbul İstanbul

Translator – Umit Hussein

Source – personnel copy

I reach the second book from the three of the EBRD shortlist I have to read and this title was the one I knew very little around. Burhan is a prize-winning Turkish writer. He grew up speaking both Turkish and Kurdish. He moved to Istanbul to become a lawyer, he then took up writing first poetry, where he won two national poetry prizes. Then he turned his hand to writing novels this is his third novel his books have been translated into twenty languages. He now teaches literature.

It was cold in our cell. While I was telling the Doctor my story, Kamo the Barber lay curled on the bare concrete floor. We had no covers, we warned ourselves by huddling together, like puppies. Because time had stood still for several day we had no idea if it was day or night. We knew what pain was, every day we relived the horror that clamped our hearts as we were led away to be tortured.

Demirtay in the opening story talking about life in the cell for them.

This book is set just after the military coup in the prison in Istanbul. We are hearing the tales of four prisoners Demirtay the student, the doctor, Kamo the barber and Uncle Kuheylan. The four are being held and tortured.In between the guards taking them the four keep their spirits alive by telling stories from their lives.To spring their minds from outside there windowless cell  As they do they bring the city above them to life. From a meeting with one of those huge white dogs that grew up around this part of the world. A princess that has escaped from the Harem that has snuck on a boat and hidden in a lifeboat.But as one of them is told the stories have to reveal as little about themselves as the cell may be bugged so what we get is slightly fantastic stories. Thjis is interspersed with graphic images of torture particularly later on in the book a scene when a hammer is hit into a wrist is very hard hitting.

“A girl boarded a large ship in the port of Istanbul with great stealth, climbed up the steps, and hid in a large lifeboat. She wrapped herself in a sail and strained her ears to listen to any sound coming from outside.Once the ship had set sail she heaved a sigh of relief. Time aboard passed between sleep and wakefulness. She listened to the crew singingWhen the ship anchored in a port, she waited until evrything had turned quiet and darkness had fallen. She descended the steps unseen by anyone, and started running. She was heading towards a new world

A woman escapes the world of istanbul by a ship but what is here fate ?


This is an interesting book that brings the streets of Istanbul to life through the eyes of four men on the edge. There is a harder edge to this than Pamuk’s Istanbul this is the city we don’t see all the time the one of secret prisons and those trying to keep their minds open like the descriptions in Calvino’s Invisible cities the city comes to life. The book uses the four men in the cell as a framing device for the tales they tell each other this is like the Decameron or the Canterbury tales where we see a group using tales to illustrate their lives or values. These tales are in place love stories a little raunchy at times. But also the real side of life in a huge city at times. Tales that show how minds can transcend walls and iron doors that hold these four men in the dark there broken bodies and their minds not yet broken. This is what I had hope the books from the EBRD would be like a prize like this is why I read translated books to discover gems.

Maryam Keeper of stories by Alawiya Sobh

Maryam keeper of stories by Alawiya Sobh

Lebanese fiction

Original title Maryam Al-Hakaya

Translator – Nirvana Tanoukhi

Source – personal copy

Well, this is a great day for the blog it sees the 800th review and this book seems fitting all the time I have run the blog. I have run shadow juries connected to translation prizes. So for this to be the first in my new shadow EBRD prize jury is a real treat. Alawiya Sobh studied English and Arabic literature at university and has been writing since the early 1980’s and was editor of a leading woman’s magazine. This book won the sultan’s prizes in 2006 four years after it came out, her other novel was also longlisted for the Arabic Booker prize.

Before the war ended, Alawiyya did come sporadically. Somwtimes, she would be gone for days, weeks or months, but in the end she would return to knock on my door. I rarely left the flat. Often, I would only only go to the firm to collect my slary at the end of each month, since regular attendance wan not enforced. Particularly during the early years if the war when the fighting was at its worst, I spent most of my time at home in my room, unless I had arranged to meet Abbas. Ibtisam and Alawiyya, for their part, went to the fronts and disappeared for days. they wandered off like a sheep and grazed in the war meadow only to be brought back to my little stable where they regurgitated their tales.

Maryam talks of her friend and them going to,the front, I loved this image.

Maryam is a Lebanese woman, she is in Beruit.But she is just found out she is going to leave and go to live in Canada away from the war. She is worrying that the stories she has told her friend the writer Alawiya haven’t been used by her. Even thou she promised. So we see Maryam recounting the tales she had told her friend. She worries about why ALwiya hasn’t asked for more of her stories.So we see Maryam struggle as the war raged on but also times before a place that is now lost.Then we also see her parents yes her mother is a bit of a character there is some great interaction between and the father who the mother has just in the place she wants him. Like the tales of her various aunts like the slow one. Then we see the wider picture of the city and the conflict, which for me at the time was bewildering and complexed.

My sister prepared to carry out Mother’s orders and stood guard over the brad for fear of puinishment,But my older brother Ahmad slipped by her, stole some loaves and escaped down the valley to eat them there. My sister ran after him, but he was faster and soon disappeared from her sight. He devoured the loaves in the orchard while, bacj at the house, fear devoured my sister. When Mother returned and heard about my brother’s “big Belly”, she broke into a rage and ran after my sister to thrash her.

The mother was feared and made the daughters hold the line .

This book has an interesting take on Maryam narrating, but a writer called Alawiya in their lives that had promised to tell the story. There is a feeling is this Maryam or is Alawiya being Maryam? It is good to see a female voice on the Lebanon war, I have read a couple of books from the male perspective. It was great to see the bonds between mothers daughters and friends keep their spirits up in the darkest times. A family saga set during a dark time shows how the family pulls us through the darkest times and also the humour we find within families even in the dark days of the war there is still humour here. I wouldn’t have read this without it being on the EBRD literature prize shortlist so I am pleased it was on the list.

Berlin Alexanderplatz by Alfred Döblin new translation

Berlin Alexanderplatz by Alfred Döblin

German fiction

Original title – Berlin Alexanderplatz

Translator – Michael Hofmann

Source – review copy

This is the first time in the seven years I have been blogging I am reviewing a book for the second time. I reviewed Berlin Alexanderplatz. But that was the first translation by Eugene Jolas, which had cut some of the original out and was inspired by Jolas fondness for Joyce. So when I heard Hofmann a translator, I admire was doing a new translation I was looking forward to it so to get sent a review copy was a treat. Alfred Doblin studied medicine in the years before world war one which meant he got to avoid the war. But the war had an impact on his views he wrote from 1915, but this book was the one that raised him to a national and international standing when it came out and is considered a masterpiece of German modernism.

Our hero has been successfully brought to Berlin. He has sworn to mend his ways, ad we wonder wheter we shouldn’t simply stop here.An ending her would be optimistic and straightforward, an ending seems to be at hand, and the whole thing wouuld have the advantage of brevity.

But Franz Biberkopf is not just abyone, I have not summned him for my own amusment, but for his heavy, true and iluminating fate to be experienced.

Franz Biberkopf has been burnt, now he stands there in berlin, feet apart and merry, and when he says he wants to be respectable, we believe this to be the case.

You willsee how for several weeks he succeeds. But that’s just a period of respite

The opening of chater two captures well his life cycle of Franz Biberkopf


So the approach Hofmann took was to make the book seem more like its German version where it is a wonderful mix of the world around the main character in the book. Franz Biberkopf. We meet Biberkopf as he is released after surviving a sentence for manslaughter. He has determined to try and go on the straight and narrow. He initially is drawn into a story told by a Jewish man who takes him to a rabbis house. But he manages to get out of what is a strange situation and ends up selling things we see him going through a number of different trades. Alongside this, we see the city around him as each small chapter is made up of a what happens to Franz but also the city around him.As he meets woman after woman. He also has a scene in a slaughterhouse where he sees how the meats that are sold are made. He tries to stay on the straight and narrow but he is a man drawn to the darker side of the town, But when he meets a man called Rheinhold a friend at first but later attacks Franz he has to head down the path of crime and gangs.As he gets involved more with the Pums gang.Franz is a man drawn by fate and maybe a liking for the darker easier side of life as he sees it.

Since Christmas is icumen in, Franz makes a switch into seasonal products, for a few mornings and afternoons it is shoelaces, first on his own, then with one Otto Luders, luders been out of work for two years, his wife takes in washing. Fat lina brought him along one day, he’s her uncle. For a few eeks in summer he was the Rudersdorf peppermint man with swizzle sticj and uniform. He and Franz wandered through the strets together, go inside the houses, ring doorbells and meet up afterwards

Franz is slipping down and getting in with the wrong sorts as the book goes on .

This manages to capture the world of Doblin book so much clearer than the Jolas did. we see a world this is different to Joyce’s modernism of an internal voice. No this is the world without filters Doblin tries to capture every detail to give the reader a full picture of the Berlin of the time the smells sounds and feeling of the place jump of the page. Franz Bibeerkopf is the dark side of the Isherwood World of Berlin, this is a man that has been to prison and tries to go straight but is drawn in by the wrong people as he spends his nights in Bierkellers and with women of a certain type. If John Dos Passos, Tom Waits and Charles Bukowski had a bastard child it would be Doblin this is like Dos Passos modernism a way of capturing the wider world and the personal struggle at the same time. Franz is like a character from A Waits song or a Bukowski novel a loser but trying to be more than he wants to be. I still say watching the Fassbinder series is worth it I watch it after reading the book the first time and am midway through a rewatching of it. As my next review is the 800th on the blog I pleased to meet a new version of a book I loved first time around.

Have you read either translation of the Book?


Love/war by Ebba Witt-Brattström

Love/War cover


Love/war by  Ebba Witt-Brattström

Swedish Fiction

Original title –  Århundradets kärlekskrig

Translator – Kate Lambert

Source – Review copy

I was lucky to get sent the second book from Nordisk books. After Havoc, I wondered what they would choose for the second book. They have chosen a modern novel that has a lot of style about it. It is written by Ebba  Witt-Brattström a well-known figure in Sweden for her feminist setting up one a feminist party in Sweden, which she has since left she is also a professor of Nordic Literature in Helsinki. This is her first book to be translated into English.

He said:

I duppose this morning

wasn’t worse

than usual.

It wn’t get

any better than this.

It’s far more probable

that from now on


on either side

will decrease

by a few percentage points

a week.

I don’t know

what could possibly

turn that process


The opening lines of the book show the husband as cold in his way as he accepts the way things are.

We have a novel that is in the form of two voices the two voice indicate just as he and she throughout the book. They are a married couple. what we see here is an unleashing of  two minds that in many ways are the same but due to a lifetime spent together there paths have gone in a classic mid 20th century marriage where the man has been allowed to take the lead and the “classic male role” and what we see is the pent-up anger of  the wife, but also a husband that  has allowed his wife not pursue her dreams and has over time underappreciated her role by calling her a pussy a sub. She has grown afraid of him the love that burnt so bright has turned to pure hate. The final nails in the coffin of a marriage seen in the last conversations they take at each other. Like two expert fencers diving in the point of a blade in the form of words trying to draw blood from one another.

She said

speak for yourself.

Ypur idealisation of

the woman’s feelings for the man

doesn’t seem to apply to the man’s

feeling for the woman.

Love is a story of a couple.

not the conditional submission

of one party

to the needs of the other.


You are only enthralled

by the woman’s sacrifice.

you call that love.

My arse

She said:

Now I have dreamt two nights in a row

that I was happy and carried a knife in my hand,

a bloody knife, and my heart was as light as a bird

She puts her anger so well her the way she has felt like his slave during the later part of the marriage now she has seen love turn to hate.

I loved the detached nature of the voices. As the book unwinds we are given breadcrumbs of their lives as we gather what lead them to this position. I was reminded of Beckett in the voices .The way the work is just voices brought to mind the classic piece by him Not I, which was a female voice like this one that is full of bile of a lifetime of being put in her place this is the voice of a woman that has had her dreams spurned. This is the story of a marriage splitting, a battle voiced in words that has the feeling of being very real. the fact the writers own marriage broke up around the time this book came out it. The books original title in Swedish is a nod to another classic Nordic work that of the love of the century by Martha Tikkanen the Finnish writer.where a woman tries to voice her anger towards her alcoholic husband.

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