None So Blind by J A Gonzalez Sainz

None So Blind by J A Gonzalez

Spanish fiction

Original title – Ojos que no ven

Translator -Harold Augenbraum and Cecilla Ross

Source – personal copy

I reviewed a couple of books from Hispabooks that published a number of Spanish writers and their books into English based in Spain they broke through a number of the recent writers I have loved Navarro and Barba being two of note that they published first over here. This is the first book by the Spanish writer Jose Angel Gonzalez Sainz to be translated into English he has written a number of novels. He won the Herralde prize one of the big book prizes in Spain. He was the founder and editor of the magazine Archipelago He has also translated a number of works from Italian to English including the works of Claudio Magris with whom he is a good friend. Nine so blind is the first of his books to be translated into English.

Diaz carrion, Felipe Diaz Carrion, knew from an early age, from the first times his father , may he rest in peace, took him along on the road to the field, that Egyptian Vultures were the first vultures to arrive on the scen wherever there was carrion, Genrally they are quiet and quick, his father told him, impressing him to the point of awe, quieter and quicker than anypne else, and despite their large size they don’t make type of dramatic commotion other vultures do, so sometimes they go unnoticed even thpugh they’re always there from the beginning, going about their buisness.

Maybe felipe is like the vulture unnoticed at times a quiet man and his world

The book focuses on the life of Felipe Diaz Carrion a printer that has always work in print shops what we follow is his life the three generations his relationship with his father. His time with his wife. The book follows him leaving his g=hometown and the fields that his family had worked and lived in for many years there is a recurring image of a Vulture and Egyptian vulture that is white and as is point out at a distance looks like a stork at times a motif of life and death this is a story of a quiet man a no one but when he moves North when his wife suggested that they will have a better life and his work life will be better in the Basque region he works at a print shop but is always the outside and the sense of tension there is at the Basque of the time the book is set the height of the recent troubles seems to simmer all around them as things turn for the worse he has a son but they chose to not take the family name of Felipe so we have the third generation of the family with Juan Jose or  Juanjo as he is known growing up in the height of the Basque regions as the famoly start to get involved with the world around them and Felipe often turns a blind eye or maybe doesn’t want to see what is happening around him. This is a story of one man’s life a man with morals in a world of fewer morals a man that tries to do the right thing but is often at odds with those around him.

But the years, now marked by the rhythm of that commute, which had gradually become as familar as his old road to the field, were passing comfortably. Asun, his wife, after a difficult adjustment period seemed to be feeling more and more at home as time went on, and their son- their elder son, because a year after they moved there, they’d had another one, and withthis one he had insited, perhaps for reason of nostalgia, on naming him Felipe – was well into his teenage years and had began not only to go out with his posee of friends but to be out with them at what might call every waking hour, in fact. To him, there was nothing more important at his pose, and no household routine or opinon, or, in any case, not his fathers, held the least valuefor him compared to those his friend would spout.

Caught between tradition and the real world at times

There is a dark shadow over this book with the Basque ETA situation it adds to the world they come to when they move to the Basque region this is a man that seems to lose every way he turns a quiet man that leaves all he knows to move to for a dream. But the reality sinks in the recurring theme of the Vulture is hoovering over is like the death of a family in a way death of a tradition. For me, I was reminded of the undercurrent that I felt visiting Northern Ireland in my youth at the height of troubles the constant sense of undercurrent that was there the normal world that isn’t normal. There is also the ease one can get caught up in the passion and fury that is in that world.

Winstons score – B – an insight into one mans life.

Death at Intervals by Jose Saramago

Death at Intervals by Jose Saramago

Portuguese Literature

Original title – As Intermitências da Morte 

Translator – Margaret Jull Costa

Source – personal copy

I have had a real bout of readers block and reviewing block as well in recent weeks. I thought I had reviewed a Saramago early on in the blog but I hadn’t I just read a couple just before I started the blog. I decided to choose this as it had a lot of themes that Saramago used. The strange change of events here people stop dying. death it’s self a theme in other books I have read by him also it has the same style of the narrative he used in other books a stream of consciousness style and it was a later book in his writing career I always like seeing how writers wrote after the fame and Nobel win. It is over ten years since he died and Well maybe we need to read more of this great writer’s books.

THE FOLLOWING DAY ,NO ONE DIES, THIS FACT< BEING ABSOLUTELY contray to life’s rules, provoked enormous and, in the circumstances, perfectly justifiable anxiety in people’s ,ind, for we have ony to consider that in the enitire forty volumes of universal history there is no mention, not even one exemplarycase, such a phenomen ever having occurred, for a whole day  to go by, woth its genrous ever having occured for a whole day to go by, with its generous allowance of twenty-four hours, diurnal and nocturnal, matutinal and vesoertine, without one death from an illness , a fatal fall or a successful suicide, not one, not a single one

The opening lines of the book on the 1 January  everything changes.

The book starts in a country landlocked and the new year has just turned and then all of a sudden everyone in the country stops dying. This at once see as a wonderful joy among the public as a whole when it is clear there is no more deaths. But soon turns bad when an elderly royal on death’s door can’t die and she isn’t the only one. As the cycle that carries on living the whole cycle of life and death is broken by death stopping it , putting a branch in the wheel of life. So those that are involved in the whole cycle of life are worried the prime minister of this small country with its one tv channel may be his nod to the closed years of Portugal’s own past. Then Death is a  back ut in the figure of a person. After her taking a break she is a woman as in Portugal the noun of Death is female she sets up a relationship with a cellist that has to avoid her calls for her time to be over sets up an interesting match up. over what time it is best to die this is a book that asks about are our own mortality, by a writer looking back on his life.

in this country in which noonje dies not everything was a sordid as we have just described, nor,in this soceity toen between the hope of living for ever and the fear of never dying, did the voracious maphia succeed in getting its talons into every section by corrupting souls, subjagating bodies and besmirching the little that remained of the fince principles of oldm when an envelope containing something that smelled of a bribe would have been immediately returned to the sender, bearing a firm and clear response

later the reality of no deaths. Finally sinks in to everyone

The book has a lot of threads that connect to his other books the church and immortality is a theme that is very Saramago he frequently attacks the church which is a powerful shadow over Portugal grew up in there is also nods to the Salazar regime in the one tv state here an insular country. Death as a woman is refreshing for an English reader as we have death as a male from the image in Seventh seal or the spoof of that in Bill and ted, here we have a younger death a woman in a battle with a middle-aged man a cellist the lead cellist a nod to certain pieces played that deal with death. This ask the question of what would happen if we lived forever. We are all dying that is a fact of life and this is what is evident after time here as good as it seems on the outset after the first day of no deaths. when the flip side of what happens when you can’t die !! Like many of the other books by Saramago, I have read this leaves you as a reader thinking he uses a mix of magic realism fables, philosophy, and his own life to mix a truly unique vision. Have you a favorite book by him? I will be reviewing another great Portuguese writer soon.

Winstons score – A a great late-career work from a Nobel winner

 

 

Working Woman by Elvira Navarro

Working Woman by Elvira Navarro

Spanish fiction

Original title –La trabajadora,

Translator – Christina Macsweeney

Source – personal copy

Another of the writers that were on the first Granta best Spanish writer list(note there is a new edition out if it is half as good as the first as there have been so many great writers from the first list) . Elvira Navarro studied philosophy at university and has written six novels and a number of collected stories. She has won many prizes for her writing. She is known for her innovative writing making her one of the leading writers of her generation most of her novels have been translated into English. This is the first book I had read from her.

Then one fall day, Fabio turned up. He was Mexican, thpough no would have guessed it, given his Irish looks. I had kind of an obsession with anything blond{She made a vague gesture, like a Thompson gazelle lying in wait for a camera in a wildlife documentary. I was about to say something, but..} One day my psychoanalyst said I was looking for the child I used to be all the blond men I fell in love with. A second shrink, Jungian this time came out with the idea that I worshipped the Ayran race{I looked at the floor, if susana wanted to beleive her, these ridiculous observations weren’t helping, but on the other hand, the part of me that curiously observed and envied her freedom in constructing an image of herself gave a faint signal of delight, I was accustomed to her exggarations , even to her lies

What is truth is a big part of this book who is real as well !

The book is a story of two roommates Susana and Elisa, Elisa is a copy editor and proofreader that has seen her job shrink and has had to move to a smaller place and then even couldn’t make ends meet she takes in Susana as her roommate. So she has left the center of Madrid and had to move to the outer suburbs. The book flicks between both their lives as at times we see Susana’s life through the eyes of her roommate as she writes down her roommate’s stories. What we see are to women struggling with their lives mental health is touched on the loss of dreams the struggle of life as the two are drawn Elisa is a lost soul as she wanders the town the graveyard both actual and the left behind abandon house half-built dreams in the dead of night. Susana an artist is making maps out of clippings and pieces of the local area. It is a story that sees you at the limit of what is life a woman on the edge is there even two women is Susana a sort of creation for Elisa to live out her fantasies in a way Susana is described in such a way she seems too good to be sometimes !! Is it a friendship or just a dream this is where Navarro does well to tread a line that as a reader you are never sure? Add to that all a relationship with a dwarf !!

Becoming an indepedent contractor had been the first step. Then they started getting behind with my paychecks, only making them promptly when i complained. They used to say this courtsey- meeting their obligations- was a sign of how much they valued me. When winter came around, I hadn’t been paid for two months, and I’d started without much success, testing the waters at other publishing houses.I wirker till late on galleys that left me without the slghtest desire to read to go on looking at the screen, and then I’d need to get outside , walk and have a couple of beers.

The tough publishing world has woirn her down and seen her move out of the city

When I saw on the back cover that Lina Meruane had called her disturbing and had an eye for the unusual I was drawn in and her novel seeing red I loved. This is a story of two women or is it one woman Elisa is failing in her job as she is working on editing a memoir she has a psychiatric condition which she is trying new meds is this all an illusion is Susana a character created to comfort her to inspire her with her tiny maps and her being the opposite of Elisa or is she real. Navarro has drawn the two roommates so well as at times the story goes between them and at times Susana’s story is told by Elisa. Not the easiest read it sees how easy it is for us to all fall into despair and a downward spiral. I do wonder if Navarro is a soft cell fan with the whole dwarf side story reminded me of the song of theirs from the 80s sex dwarf! Have you read her ?  which book would you recommend next?

Winstons score – -A near-perfect gem from a talented writer.

Gold Dust by Ibrahim al-Koni

Gold Dust by Ibrahim al-Koni

Libiyan (Tuareg) fiction

Original title – التبر

Translator – Elliot Colla

Source – Personal copy

I shift from Spanish lit to join in Lisa Indigenous lit week for this year and the Libyan Tuareg writer Ibraham al-Koni a book that I have had for a long time. al-Koni grew up as a child in the Desert not learning to read and write Arabic till he was twelve he then went on to study comparative literature in Moscow. This is where he discovered the Lit theory of Geroge Lukac about the novel can’t be outside the city and then decide to set the novel he has written in the desert world he knew thus working against Lukac theory. He has produced over 80 books there have only been a few translated to English. He has taught all over the world and is considered one of the best Arabic writers alive. he was longlisted for the man booker international prize a number of years ago.

When Ukhayyad received the camel as a gift from the cheif of the Ahaggar tribes, he was still a young colt. Back the, on moonligh nights, Ukhayyad liked to brag about the throughbred camel to the other young men of the tribe, taking pleasure in posing questions to himself and then answering them

“Have any of you ever seen a piebald Mahri before ?”

“Never !”

“Have you ever seen a through bred so graceful so light of foot and so well proportioned?”

“Not until now.”

Have you ever seen a Mahri who could compete with him in pride, fierceness, and loyalty?”

“Not like this one”#”Have you ever seen a gazelle who took on the form of a camel?”

“Of course not”

He loved his camel ? a gift the two become close the camel is almost human at times it seems

 

The book focuses on a young Tuareg man as he rejects the wife his father has chosen for him after being persuaded by his wife’s cousin  Duda to divorce her which he pays him in gold dust.  and has thus had to go into exile with only his camel which he was given as a gift by the chief of the Ahaggar tribe it is a thoroughbred camel his pride and joy a piebald camel. The tale is of these two a man and their camel as the two try and survive in the desert as Ukhayyad tries to avoid the men of his tribe the war in the south of the desert as we follow them. The two have a bond that is almost like a pair of best pals the camel at one point saves him from a well when he has fallen down. The camel who like his owner drifts from good health to being on the edge of life as the desert takes it toll on the two of them. the two end up in caves where the walls are covered in prehistoric painting where we see Ukhayyad dream of a house deserted as he hides away from those chasing him.

When the herders brought their camels to the well, they found the young man’s emaciated, bloody body stretched out naked beneath its edge. His foot was still fastened to the tail of the throughbred Mahri that looked as if he had been skinned alive, The camel sttod over his head using his body to shield him from the scorching sun, They carried him into the shade of a nearby lote tree. Under that thick canopy crown, ther dunked his head into a bucket and poured water over him, An older herder hasten to light a fire and heat a kettle of water . The man rifled through his belongings and returned woith a handful of Fenugreeek seeds that he proceeded to cook. The camle herder served the broth to him with a spoon, all the while holding his head like mothers do when they breast feed their children.

ukhayyad nearly dies in the middle of the desert to saved by some camel herders

I have had this on my shelf for too long I know it is considered one of the best books from Arabic and one of the best about desert life as I said this is a buddy book the man and his camel but there is a third character and that is the desert itself the harsh world of the Tuareg is opened up as we follow Ukhayyad and his camel through the Sahara the changing environments as the two on the run try to get by in the tribal world where he has rejected that world when he divorced his with for a bag of gold dust. It is a book about man, desert, tribal life, Sufism, and the natural world. Ukhayyad is a character that isn’t easy to like but you feel for him and the [redicment he has got himself into. A great choice for Lisa’sindigenous lit month ! Have you read any of his books ?

Winstons score – -B an interesting insight into the tuareg world

 

 

Ramifications by Daniel Saldaña París

Ramifications by Daniel Saldaña París

Mexician Fiction

Original title – El nervio principal

Translator – Christina MacSweeney

Source – personal copy

I’m rather late starting this month’s Spanish lit month well I have started with another Charco press book before I get to the week one book of a perfect cemetery. I have both the books that have been translated by Daniel Saldaña París into English which is the reason I decided it was time to read one of them. He has been in the list of the best Mexican writers that came out in 2017 and the Bogota 39 list of the best writers under forty from Latin America. He started with three poetry collections and then has written four novels two of which have been translated into English. This book follows one man looking back on his childhood as he is laid confined to a bed.

Teresa walked out one Tuesday around midday. I can’t remember exactly which month, but it must have been either the end of July or the beginning of August , because ,y siter and I were still on H=holiday. I always hated being left in the care of Mariana, who systematically ignored me for the whole day, barricaded in her bedroom with the music playing at a volume that even to me a boy of ten, seemed ridiculous. So that Tues, I resented it when, Mumgot up from the table after lunch and announcecd she was going out “look after your brother, Mariana”, she said in a flat voice , that was the way shegenerally spoke, with hardly any intonation, like a computer giving instructions or someone on qutismspectrum(Even mow, when no one else is around, I sometimes imitate her, and it’s not beyond the bounds of possibility that writing this is, in some form, an effort to find an echo of that monotone voice in the written world).

The opening lines and his mother walking out in 1994

This is a novel that our unnamed Narrator traces a man’s childhood as he tries to piece together what happened in his youth when his mother Teresa  just left him and his sister and father on a Tuesday. As our narrator tries to piece together the past.why his mother just left to join the Zapatistas and left them with a father who is distant a man that struggles to cope. Our narrator becomes obsessed with origami which he did to occupy time but also made him a quiet boy as his 10-year-old mind fills the gaps, but it also meant he grew into a quiet lonely man. So in the story, as he recalls this we question what we remember as now 32 he is laid in a bed the family bed that his father had passed away from a few years earlier. It is that he is sorting through his family’s papers as he learns some truths that have struck him down. he is unable to get out of bed. So he thinks of the time in 1994 when this all happened. It is a story of growing up with a huge void in one’s life but it also questions how we remember our lives when we are so young what do we recall is it colored by what we read and saw at the time. It is a book about coming of age amidst the chaos that was Mexico at the time when a man that is a reclusive soul looks back at what may be made him that way all the years ago.

My attempts at origami grew worse by the day, or at least that was my impression. Beforethe mastering the crane and the frog, I launched unto more complex figures. The result; unrecognisable lumps of paper that had been folded and unfolded too many times (Pper has that drawback; it’s made to remember all our errors, whether it’s when writing on it, as I do noe, or when folding and unfolding it, as I did then.)

His hobby shuts him of from the world but is maybe the way he remebers the past fold by fold but are they in the right order !

This is one of those books that hasn’t a lot of plot but a lot of how the world was for one small boy as the action flicks between the action of the past and the present it is a  book about what makes our memories of these timelines twist at times as we see how the present can ooze into the past. I enjoyed the pieces where he recalled the world cup in 1994 which I remember as at the time I was living in Germany as was visiting the Uk with my German partner at a time shortly after some of the events in the book when Bulgaria that had earlier played Mexico knocked out the germans. like is origami this is trying to fold the past into a swan or something without missing the folds memories fade and get blend with what we learn after them this is what we learn here. A story of a lonely boy as a lonely man piece together his past.

Winstons score – B A strong story of childhood recalled after the space left by a mother that has gone !

To The Warm Horizon by Choi Jin-Young

To The Warm Horizon by Choi Jin-Young

Korean fiction

Original title – 해가 지는 곳으로(

Translator – Soje

Source — review copy

I move to Korea and one of the rising stars of Korean writing Choi Jin-Young initially both a poet and fiction writer her first works appeared in the early 2000s.  Whilst working part-time in a cram school. Then when she took up writing full time she treats it as a job working office hours whilst she writin was initially in the style that was described as Kitchen table fiction. But this owes more to the writers she has said she likes in interviews which are Franz Kafka, Jeon Sungtae, and Cormac McCarthy the latter of these for me was a huge influence on this book especially his book the road. as this is another post-apocalyptic world.

I think about only pone thing: to never leave Joy behind on her own. So I must survive no matter what I must do my part as someone who’s stiull alive. This imperative is a Da sap eithout a Fine, a prayer I dedicate tomyself. As  mom died, she asked dad to look after us. As dad died, he asked me to look after joy. Like a secret key in some legend. Joy was handed down  from Mom to Dad, from Dad to me. What could I ask od Joy in my dying moment ? I love you. I Will ask her to look after love. Joywith my love handed down to her, will survive somehow. Withlove in her arms, she’ll dash towards the end of the world.

Dori and her sister she has to make sure is safe after their parents died.

What we have is a group of Koreans that are on the road to head to a place that may be in Russia that is clear of a virus that has wiped out the world around them. What we have is the story o the story is told by each character from the two younger women Dori that is with her deaf sister on the way to the warm horizon. Then Jina who is heading with what remains of her family being lead by her father the stories twist and twine overlapping as they head to what is viewed as a safer place. Then the is an older voice Ryu he fills in the background to all that has happened to lead to all the characters being on the road and how the world they lived in fell into chaos. There is also the falling in love of the two younger women among the chaos of the world they are faced with. The threads are woven together in the end with an epilogue that fills in the gaps of what happened.

Jina wore lipstick every day. ANd she was alway by my side. We slept together, and we ate together. WE scavneged through the cities rogether. What i used to never glance at, things were completely useless in these times, which wer easy ti procure because they were useless- things like makeup or a hairpin or a scar, which made Jina happiuer above all else – became jusr as important as canned food and matches .I never walked past those things anympore I started thinking about whether something would look good on jins or if it was something she would like.

Jina on the road again but trying to keep up her appearance as she heads on the road.

Well, this isn’t a book full of joy and hope no it is maybe with the way the world is a warning a virus that keeps mutating and thus making vaccines useless as we see how the population of Korea was wiped out in the hundreds of thousands a day until there is a handful of souls trying to find a place to rebuild the world. But are they even there there is a passage near the end where one character says they feel like a ghost walking in a ghost world are they? is this a book of souls trying to find peace on the warm horizon? When they hit the cathedral in what may be Russia they see what they feared the full effect of the virus on the world as it has wiped out most of the world. Yes as I said in the intro this has a nod to McCarthy’s the road and other books like Stephen Kings The Stand or even films like Mad max or tv shows like survivors which i recently rewatched there is the same sense of the empty world they see of empty buildings and nature creeping back in. A book that with what has happened since it was written 4 years ago maybe seems less sci-fi than real life !!

Winstons score – +B a slice of a post-apocalyptic world that maybe seems more like real life given recent events.

 

The Cheap eaters by Thomas Bernhard

The Cheap Eaters by Thomas Bernhard

Austrian fiction

Original title – Die Billigesser

Translator – Douglas Robertson

Source – personal copy

It has been two years since I reviewed a book by Thomas Bernhard I have reviewed eight books by him so had to limit myself as I only have a few unread books left to review or buy. Bernhard would have been eighty this year but he passed away over twenty years ago. He has long been one of my favourite writers so when I saw there was a new translation of one of his novellas that hadn’t been in print for a number of years had a new translation. of the cheap eaters out I knew I had to get it. It is among the last few I have left on my shelves to review.

While talking the walk that had been raking for the purposes of his studies every late afternoon for weeks- and also routinely at about six in the morning for the preceding three days, a walk that had passed through Wertheimstein park, in which he said he had once again been able, owing to the ideal natural conditions prevailing solely in Wertheimstein park, to return after rather long interval from a worthless trains of thought regarding his physiogonmy to a useful, indeed, ultimately uncommonly profitable one and hence the resumption of his workon his essay, an essay he had neglected for the longest imaginable time owing to his inability to concentrate

He is a grade A procastantor 16 years on this essay is his life work but he has been dodging it for years.

The book centers on a group of four men that meet every day for the cheapest meal that is available at the Vienna public kitchen every day of the week. When they were he happened upon by Koller as he was meant to be heading to the park. But decided to go to the VPK  but the decision changes but Koller life and the way he is working on his essay. So when he ends up in the kitchen where he sees and eventually becomes part of the cheap eaters’ group. He lost his leg years ago after a dog bite he is a typical world-worn and down-trodden figure. When he found out about the cheap eaters could be the center of his work the exact people he had spent the time search for. He has been working on a character study and writing a piece about Physiognomy he isn’t the quickest he has been working on this piece for 16 years and now the direction has been changed after the chance meeting of the cheap eaters Koller life has become about by a number of chance events the loss of his leg, the length of time spent on his work, the chance meeting sets Koller life into a spin and a new direction. Why are they the cheap eaters there and will Koller ever finish his work?

he had already formed thi impression that the cheap eaters were uninterruptedly concentrated on eating the cheapest food at the VPK even before he had sat down at the cheap eaters table; he had already straightaway been able to infer for his purposes, to infer it first solely from the cheap eaters physical comportment and physicsl movement, and then later also from theit intellectual comportment and intellectual movement. he had inferrred that they were born and personified cheap just as he had always been a born and eaters.

Koller is so caught by the cheap eaters when he happens to chance on them by accident.

This has a tongue-in-cheek feel to it and the world he spirits up of the cheap eaters and the world that revolves around the cheap meals Mon to Fri and why they do this.  that soon ends up drawing in Koller to them and their world. but it also sees a man that isn’t much for the world as a loner a typical sort of Bernhard character down beaten by the world. This is a less ranty Bernhard character not as hard pushed by the world a sort more of a loner than an embittered figure that we usually meet in his work. This is maybe a great intro to Bernhard it has the character traits of his work long paragraph that strong voice that marches on as the book goes on. There is more of a comic edge at times to this world and not quite the bile that he has in other books. But he is yet another figure on the edge of society that Bernhard was so good at writing. I think I will next read his debut work Frost which has sat on my shelves for a few years. Have you read this translation or the earlier Osers one ? have you a favorite Bernhard?

Winstons score – -A maybe an entry-level Bernhard novella

Eulogy for the living by Christa Wolf

Eulogy for the living by Christa Wolf

German Memoir

original title – Nachruf auf Lebende

Translator – Katy Derbyshire

Source – personal copy

I have a lot of books from Christa Wolf on my shelves but haven’t reviewed a book by her here on the blog until now. I have decided to start with a book about the start of her life, with a work that was published after she passed away found in her writings was this piece which she wrote in a four week period in the early seventies she had tried many times to write about her childhood here own families experience at the end of the second world war where here family left the home which after the war became part of Poland this is the period that covers that times as she has her last day at school as the family head further towards the center of Germany to avoid the oncoming Red Army. This was an experience and time she had tried many times to write about this time.

it embittered me that the Fuhrer’s portrait was torn from the walls in all the houses in the town. Our Fuhrer was an oil painting, sixty by forty centimetres, dressed in tones of grey. A red ribbon ran around his elegantly tilted grey peaked cap, the cord at the front was also grey. He didn’t look at us, insteadgazing rather precisely at the sliding glass door between the dining and living rooms, a door that made my friends consider our home modern, and displaying his strong straight nose to us in oprofile along with a single grey-blue eye, which was rigid and whiochwe therefore thought was firm. He gazed firmly, Not always, Frauelun Dr strauch had told ius when we talked about the uprising of the goths-

The loss of the pictures shows the changing tide and the quote from her favourite teacher later tried as a leading Nazis.

The book ties in with another work on her childhood patterns of youth she also wrote about her early years. But this is just about the escape from her hometown as they head to safety. As her family Leaves her hometown of Landberg on the Wrathe. so on 30th January in 1945. When her mother decides it is time for the family to head out of the town. As the story unfolds the young Christa can’t grasp how the regime has fallen apart the spot on the walls in the town where the Fuhrer portrait had been taken down as the locals await the appearance of the red army. Her school the Herman Goering school. her favorite teacher later arrests as a leading Nazi this is a young girl’s view of this world her family settled middle class her family ran the grocer’s shop like when her mother considered bringing the fur coat with her shows the class of her family. She finds it hard joining the escape as she had the doctrine from Nazis in her question of whether heading to safety is the best. This is a short period of time looked back at with a clear sense of the time. it is easy to see why Wolf struggled writing about this time.

Don’t forget what a wonderful childhood you both had! My mother had words like these at her disposal, she would put her hand on your shoulder to say them, and there was no face you could present to words like that. Why are you acting so stiff? we did have a wonderful childhoof and now it’s over, we were walk-ons in a oplay guaranteed a happy ending on the days of our birth, and now they were casting us into the midst of a tragedy, its laws absolutely unknown to us- although it is a little flattering in the far corner of one’s conscious mind to be entrusted with such a difficuly and productive role. fear immediately ceases once the loss one trembled at the thought of has come to pass. All at once, the thin dew of boredom that settles on circumstances too long immobile is blown away.

I loved this passage it shows how as children even the hieght of Nazism a perfect childhood could be had.

This was found in her writings after her death wolf was best known for the way she looked at the east german regime her first book coming out in the sixties. She wrote often at odds with the Stasi but with a socialist heart to her works, she only wrote one book that came out after unification which she was opposed to which question the Stasi’s actions at the time. the subtitle of this book is called taking flight as we see the young Christa loved her school her teachers her home and in a way was blinkered at that age to the wider vision but her experience is a personal testament of the time which is drawn from her own experience of the time. It is easy to see why it was a struggle to write about without inhibitions as she said as she looked back on the time and how her mother reacted through her eyes her mother strength shows through. I have the latter part of her life next on my list of Christa wolf’s books the last part of a series of diary entries she wrote for the same day for over fifty years. Have you read a book by her?

Winstons score – B  an interesting insight into her life that was a struggle to write

Lamentation for 77,297 victims by Jiří Weil

Lamentations for 77,297 Victims by Jiří Weil

Czech Prose Poem

Original title – Žalozpěv za 77 297 obětí

Translator – David Lightfoot

Source – personal copy

I now review a very short but powerful work from the Czech Writer Jiri Weil best known for his work Life with a star which was long champion by the writer Philip Roth. It wasn’t until after the war Jiri Weil starts to write about his Jewish Heritage before the war he had only once mentioned his Jewish heritage. But after the war, he was one of the first writers to address the Holocaust and what had happened. After the war, Weil became the librarian for the Jewish Museum in Prague and his style of writing started to change. This is where he came across the boxes that contained the list of the names of all the Jews that had died in Bohemia and Moravia. Weil survived the war by faking his death. He wrote two well-received novels l

Smoke from nearby factories shrouds a countryside as flat as a table, a countryside stretching off to infinity. It is covered by the ashes of millions of dead. scattered throughout are fine pieces of bone that ovens were not able to burn. When the winds wcome, ashes rise up to the sky the fragments of bine remain on the earth. Qand the rain falls on the ashes, and rain turns them to good fertile soil, as befits the ashes of martyrs. And who can find the ashes of those of my native land; there were 77,297 of them? I gather some ashes woth my hand, for ony a hand can touch them, and I pour them into a linen sack, just as those who once left for a foreign country would gather their native soil so as never to forget, to return to it always.

The opening lines of pieces

The prose poem uses a style that mixes a number of styles of writing it opens with him talking about the factories and ashes from them and then the lament of the ashes of the 77,297 victims then the poem continues with a narrative strand about the events of the shoah. Then there are personal accounts of the people their age, job, and how they died. Then we have passages from the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) these build a portrait of those lost voices of the dead from Josef Friedmann an immigrant from Vienna, through to Adolf Horovic a seventy-year-old that waited hours for a meager hand out. The prose ends as those lives are ending with Weil telling us about the victims and how they were shipped out in their thousands to the various camps around Europe with thousands going and as few as 2 of the 100o come back when sent to the horrors of places like Treblinka this is a slim work that conveys the horror of the Holocaust in its full power from a writer that lived through it.

Robert aufman was returning home from the Branik quarries to his apartment in Karlin. He was dead tiredfrom unaccustomed labor and was barely able to keep ion his feet, since he was not allowed to sit down on the tram. In Podoli a German wirh a badge on his lapel boarded the tram. When he sa w the star he grabbed kaufman by the shoulder, kicked him, and threw him from the moving tram. Kaufman fell on the hard stone of the rail lin, lacerating his face till it bled and breaking a leg. He lay there for a long time until he was taken to the Jewish hospital. He was takenl ha wheel barrow. On the way Kaufman roused from Unconsciousness and moaned in pain

Remove thy stroke away from me

This is a touching piece that can be read in an hour it has an afterword that describes the original work which featured photos of what remained of the  Prague Synagogue in a small photo with touching cover art. It also tells us that one of the first reviewers said it captured the events of the two nights that saw most of the Jewish victims removed on March 8/9, 1944. The prose can be read in a number of ways it set out here or the three sections can be read separate the Personal tales, the history of the shoah, and the passages of Tanakh.   This is a writer exploring how to describe the indescribable of the holocaust. How to capture the full effect of war and the loss of all of those voices. It is a testament to those who lost those voices gone and deserves to be sat alongside the best of Holocaust literature  From a writer that faked his own death to get through it all. Have you read any works from Weil?

Winstons score – +A a powerful, work on the horror of the Holocaust

Red Milk by Sjón

Red Milk by Sjón

Icelandic fiction 

Original title – Korngult hár, grá augu

Translator – Victoria Cribb

Source – Personal copy

Well I know head up to Iceland and to an old friend of the blog a writer who I have reviewed three times before here but it has been five years since I reviewed a book by Sjón. I have Codex 1962 on my tbr that I was kindly sent by a twitter friend but this jumped out at me and I alway love a novella a book that can be read in the evening which his other books have tend to be. He has a way of drawing the reader into the world he is writing in the after word to this book he said he had touched on Nazisim in two previous books so decided to look at what made some one get drawn into the far right world.

The other policeman is holding a notebook. In it , he writes in pencil ” Blond hair, grey eyes“,below which he produces a deft sketch of the body and the railway compartment.

The policeman who had finished going through the dead man’s pockets turns to his colleague and shakes his head. They both look out of the carraige window. A small crowd has gathered on the platform to watch what what is happening inside the compartment. Neither officer noticed the three men in black shirts hurrying away from the train and disappearing into the station building

The end of the opening chapter and gunnars men in black shirts where there.

The drawing into the far right world that sjon based the book on follows the life of Gunnar Kampen the book opens in 1962 at cheltenham station as he is found dead on a train, but who are the men on the platform of the staion wearing the black shirts. This  part of the book  is were the Icelandic title of the book is from as he is described as Gunnar is described as  Blond hair, grey eyes. That is how it opens then we are drawn back to his youth and find out how he ended up on the path he did and dead in that train and this starts at the second world war in iceland listening to all that was going on from his fathers radio. But when events in Norway change he ends up meeting his aunt he hair had been shaved of and his uncle is in prison this is how he gets drawn into the far right world. This is where Sjon uses a number of real life well known far right figures in the post war era and there attempts to set up a world wide Nazi network. He use Gunnar trip down this poath showing how this young boy get drawn in bit by bit then when he discovers Savitir Devi and writes to him he gets further into the far right world.til he is on a train in the Uk to meet some men in Black shirts and deeper into the world wide net of Nazis.

Icelander take great interest in the affairs of their brother nation, There are a larger number of Norweigans living here,as well of people of Norwegian descent like us, Every year, books are published about recent events, there are talks aon the radio and plays staged. Ofically, they all toe the same lie. Recently, I was meeting of a current affairs club I belong to, where the topic of the day was Norway. A fter the meeting had finished, a man (O.P), who had known you kn Oslo came over to talk to me. He told me where you were, why you were there and how many years you had left.

As his family come back from Norway he gets the first onnection to the far rigtht world via his Uncle and what he did in Norway!

 

This is part Bildungsroman and part thriller and also part cautionary tale. Sjón weaves a web around Gunnar so he ends up like a fly trapped in the web of Nazism as it gabs him bit by bit how easy it can be for a normal boy like Gunnar  can get caught up in this world. It is insoired by one of the real life leaders of the Red milk an Icelandic right wing group. The book is about how people fall down the rabbit holes it is what Sjon wanted to do and that is find how this happens we don’t get a full explination to what it is makes people do this but an insight into one mans world. It is most of all a cautionary tale of gunnars life. He use a number of different styles of writing epistolary, historic novel, thriller and mystery. If you have read his earlier books this will appeal to you ! Have you a favourite read from Sjón ?

Winstons score – B An interesting novella of how the far right can draw people in. a cautionary tale.

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