Angel Station by Jáchym Topol

Angel Station by Jáchym Topol

Czech fiction

Original title – Anděl

Translator – Alex Zucher

Today I am in Czech Republic and a book from a writer who I have once before his book The devils workshop I reviewed in 2013. This book is part of a loose trilogy this is the second book being Sister silver (which is in the 1001 books to read before you die). Tool was in a rock band in the 70s and 80s he also because his father was a dissident he wasn’t able to go to university so he had a number of jobs such a stoker, construction worker and coal delivery man. I wonder if tat is where he observed the characters in the book.  and during the velvet revolution he wrote for the an independent paper at the time that would become an investigative magazine Respekt. He lives in Prague where the book is set it is set around the angel station which at the time the book was writer is a rough working class part of Prague.

His new job had seemed pretty fun at first. He’d never come across anything like it in his reading. But he soon realised it was wretched work, worse than all the rest, the kind of work that takes only the most severe extremes from the pristine flames and squalid filth that go into it, and first scars, then destroys whoever stumbles into the furnaces’ path. The guys who worked down in the factory basement were the true lowlifes. At first time he’d felt like a spy in enemy territory. Till it all ran together for him

I was remind of Hrabal

The book follows the lives of people that live in. and around angel station in the late 1990’s just as things in Prague are changing this is a place that has change this is a Moment caught in time. We have a collection of characters around the station we meet through or in passing with our main character Hooks he is a drug addict and has mental health problems at one point he is called Hooks the screw up and this is a man at the bottom of society an off relationship with Vera as he tries to get by in life. As we follow them shoot hop drugs and trying to get by along side this we see the other waif and strays around this rough working class station the religious preacher , the shopkeeper. this is a look at the harsh underbelly of a big city this is a time before Prague was the Prague of now the crime and dirt of the post soviet era is still there as we see capitalism creeps in.

But hooks, Hooks the Screw-up, says nothing. And Brownie comes again. And Hooks squints. And brownie comes again. With Jams, smokes, and stuff. Even a dirty magazine. He knows what comes in handy. But Hooks says nothing. Not out of stubbornness, he’s ashamed. He just can’t. He stopped talking little by little, like this: he turned see-ch-le-ss. But brownie talks. Including about Lubya

The crazies, who got used to Hooks like a new chair, and the doctors, who keep their opinion to themselves, everyone walks right past each other, jabbering away, just there somehow

Hooks is a twisted soul with lots of his own problems just trying to get by but is on as Nine inch nails put it a downward spiral.

this is a tale of its time which is the mid 90 it is like a lot of books around them The Will Self,  Irvine Welsh and Douglas Coupland to name a few it also has a dirty lit feel to it has nods to  Czech writers of the time (There is an obsession with rubbish I find sometimes in Czech Lit or is that just me) I was remind as the is a description of working by a furness and burning stuff (which has a bad scene in for animal lovers) which remind me of Hrarbal but also at times I was remind of Ivan Klima works of course these were writers before and around the time Topol started writing also I was struck with the black humour and world that could also remind me HIlbig the bleakness of this world of course both wrote curing and after post soviet Europe. I said in the intro this is a place caught in amber it is a place long gone in fact the sort of place described isn’t there or is there in big cities but isn’t at place like Angel station which is now been gentrified like many of the places that were like this in Prague or say Berlin. The book is a world of lost should in fact many years ago I used the term flotsam and jetsam to describe a novel set in a working class district in Paris and this is the same it is the washed mop and washed out of  society. I was a fan of Topol and Zucker his translator which always seems to capture the writers voices so well in his translations. Have you read any books from Either ?

Winstons score – + A lifting the stone and seeing those c aught underneath scurry around

Too loud a Solitude by Bohumil Hrabal

Too Loud a Solitude by Bohumil Hrabal

Czech fiction

Original title – Příliš hlučná samota

Translator – Michael Henry Heim

Source – personal copy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Winstons score — B a perfect little novella

 

 

 

 

Kafka’s Prague by Jiří Kolář

Kafka’s Prague by Jiří Kolář

Czech art/literature non fiction

Original title – Kafka’s  Praha

Translator – Ryan Scott

Source – review copy

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

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

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

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

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

Postumous writings and Fragments Kafka

14  crumplage from Kolar.

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

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

 

 

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

I, City by Pavel Brycz

I, City by Pavel Brycz

Czech fiction

Original title – Jsem Město

Translators – Joshua Cohen and Markéta Hofmeisterová

Source – personal copy

I’ve been struggling to get into books recently so I decided to go and have a good look through my shelves as I am a compulsive book buyer and find something to kick start my reading again so when I came across this from Twisted spoon press that I brought a few years ago I decided it was the one to try. As it turned out with reading the Lars Mytting about a fictional historical place that never existed here is a book that is a sort of remembrance of the loss of the heart of the writers home town in the sixties where the medieval heart of Most was brought down to expand the local mines. This is a story of that city told in a series of vignettes from various points of view.

Most’s poet finished his story, and approached the memorials, The portugeese poet read to himself the names of the long dead as well.

And, suddenly they became completely serious, and forgot the laugh for which they had come, No longer was the absurdity of the Internationale and the youth league shirts. only two of them and the shot dead remained, and the young men felt profound sadness for the fact that people sometimes don’t know how to be people

I am only a new city, not a person.

I am not a hero. I have never defended my walls. Nut when people on my streets and in mu house are truly human, I feel heroic.

I have remebered these poets

Last lines of the Vignette An appearance , heroic.

 

This is a strange novel as it hasn’t a character just a series of little vignettes and historical. They start with a series about the appearance of the city of Most.   Like the Russian occupation where men stayed in the bars and boys stayed men they said. Sports, The photos of Josef Sudek the man famous for his picture of Prague once came to take pictures of Most. The Gypsies those girls that are almost women he loved in the city. Being a man. As you see it is like peeling an onion of the city each pice is a little near the heart of what is Most not a beautiful city like Paris or Prague no this is an industrial place scared by the mining and with its heart torn out just getting by a tough place an industrial city like those other cities like that say Belfast, Newcastle or Glasgow. There is a darkness and humor on the way the city is looked at and her a touch of the magical at times. Moved for the mine the new Most is haunted by the ghost of the past but also the loss of its own soul.

An appearance , fairy-tale

I knew one old lady. She lived on Skupova Street. Her hair was silver and complexion pale

And eyes black, mysterious as her walks.

Where did she emerge from a walk, you never knew.In which place,in which contury.

Her  name was Eva Ezechielova.

Where did she have relatives? In Auschwitz. And in Israel.

Her relatives were there, but she lived her alone. Old and forgotten.From century to century, she took long walks.

She talked to herself.She fed pigeons, sparrows and tits, thought it was foolish. Everythingliving she fed. And with old fairy tales she fed her memories.

The opening and a description of a local character.

This is the work of a writer that has his heart in his home but is also the sort of writer that doesn’t dress it up as this is a place that can’t be dressed up. Clever use of short vignettes takes us to many places from the youngster and to the old from the church to the circus from the highest to the lowest in the city. A lament for the ancient heart now a mine and the soulless present like many modern cities in the sixties I imagine the concrete town of soviet housing and town planning making Most of the present a  practical town,  but soulless and that is the sense of the past haunting the present. This is a clever series of vignettes that slowly build a picture of the city. I wonder what took me so long to read this book. Another gem from the Twisted spoon collection.

All my cats by Bohumil Hrabal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All my cats by Bohumil Hrabal

Czech fiction

Original title – Autíčko

Translator -Paul Wilson

Source – review copy

I have a number of books from the Czech writer Bohumil Hrabal I read his books on the whole pre-blog he is the most translated Czech writer of the 20th century. I have so far on this blog reviewed his book once maybe his best-known work Closely observed trains which was made into one of the best known Czech films. Hrabal himself was born at the start of world war one he had a number of ordinary jobs a railway labourer, insurance agent, travelling salesman, labourer and paper packer as he was nearly forty when he became a full-time writer.  He around this time lived between Prague and his weekend cottage in Kersko which was known for the number of cats that he had living there. This is something that is paralleled in this story.

Back then, in wintertime, the cats would grow despondent, fearful of what would happen if I failed to show up. They’d sleep on the balcony or in the hay under the gazebo, and from that vantage point on the second floor they’d keep amd eye on the lane through the woods that  led in from the main road. When I’d arrived from Prague by bus and trudge in through the snow and reach a certain point on the lane. I culd see little cats’ ears poking up on the balcony.

Early on and the cats are then in force in his country cottage in the winter time .

The book follows an unnamed narrator and his wife and like Hrabal himself, his time is divided between {rague and the weekend cottage they have in Kresko. Whilst he is back in the city he worries about the five cats he leaves there all the time how are they feeding themselves but the biggest worry is they start breeding this happens and as he returns far from the five cats he and the wife like to be snuggled up in the bed in the nights in the country. They have all had a number of kittens and the cottage and there lives is starting to get overrun. Now if you are a deep cat lover stop here !! As our narrator decides the only course pf action is to kill the kittens and he decides to but them in a sack and smash them to death against a tree. This brutal act then comes back to haunt are narrator as he is unsettled and unease of his actions trying to justify this one act of barbaric against the cats.

And so the kittens grew and got their first view of the world in the woodshed, and the old ugly cat continued to come in from the  soldats attic to our place to eat, and when the two mother cats met they would give each other kisses and lick each other necks, and a month after they’d given birththey had more time to themselves and they’d lie together for hours washing each other under the neck and they loved each other as they had before.

The kittens start arriving and the problems start for our narrator

This work shows maybe events that affect his own mind and life he was known for the large group of feral cats he helped and look after on his weekends in the countryside. It shows what happens when you leave these cats unchecked it is a warning to neuter the cats in the future rather than let them breed and breed. It shows how the kindness of the writer towards his cats but he is drawn towards madness as he sees more and more cats turning up and is drawn to that one horrific act in the present will continue to haunt and worry him at his own actions that the madness of all these cats drew him too. This is a personal work by the writer with one horrific at it heart but also maybe the worry of what to do with feral cats which all over Europe in some places is still very common I remember lots of kittens and cats at the apartments we stayed in at the Algarve many years ago. Have you read Hrabal?

Aviaries by Zuzana Brabcova

 

Aviaries by Zuzana Brabcova

Czech fiction

Original title – Voliéry

Translator – Tereza Novika

Source – review copy

I have long been a fan of the books that Twisted spoon press bring out not only as works of literature charting the world of Czech lit but also they have always made their books eye-catching and desirable to own. So this their last is no different it is the last novel by the Czech writer Zuzana Brabcova a writer who had worked as a cleaner, librarian and hospital attendant before the regime fell in 1989 she worked briefly in the government set up b Vaclav Havel who death is actually a starting point in this book. She also worked as an editor she publishes five novels this was her last novel and the book won the Skvorceky prize for it.

The hairs of the moment bristled

and it crouched and barked. In the chambers of Deputies, four communist MPS refused to honor the memory of the first Czech president, spearhheaded by the leader of the Prague communists, Marta Semelova, who instead congratulated tje nationon ridding itself of a pest

Marta Semelova used to be Alice’s first grade teacher.”Your daughter is extremely gifted, she’ll make something of herself one day”she said and covered Alice’s head with her palm like a fortune-teller.

Can the prophetic gesture of a communist even mean anything ? A bark, bristled hair , a pointed sneer ? no it meant absolutely nothing

What might have been for Alice when her teacher was Marta ?

The book is one of those which I love as it has a real fragment nature to it we follow a female Beta as she wanders around the modern and different Prague it opens with a diary entry that states that Havel has died the day before as the fragment build we see a woman on the edge of this city in so many ways as she has no life and is one of those trying to find work and kill time and this is what is her world the vision of the city her life but also the life of her other female relations are touched on her daughter a dreamlike a child that may be in a way is her hope at times and despair at others a sister also on the edge reduce to scavenging to get by and a mother that has maybe gone the way her two daughters will eventually to the pits of despair in depression and  trying to find a way out her life. Another female that recurs is Semelova she was Alice teacher and now a politician to me this is a clever mirroring of the two people Beta and Marta Semelova lives in this post-communist Prague one has risen the other has fallen but also we see the darker side of the city the outskirts the tourist never see she captures in the bums homeless and chav like kids of the city.

January 27, 2015

Seventy years ago, the red army liberated the Auschwitz concentration camp where Nazis had murdered over one million people : 960,000 Jews, 75,00 Poles, 21,000 Roma, 15,000 Soviets pows, 15,000 Czechs, Slovaks, Germans, Austrians,Ukrainians,French,Yugoslavians.In April 1947, Rudolf Hoss, the commandant of the liberated camp, was sentenced to death amd hanged symbolically in front of the crematorium of Auschwitz 1.

Don’t miss out! A tour of Auschwitz, a two day trip for two, 46% off

The book has facts like these scattered through this one got me with the last line so apt for the modern world !!

This is one of those books that is like a jigsaw we need to be patient as the piece are all mixed up but as you get into the work it starts to build up and the picture is built  that of a city where dreams have been broken and made were the communist ideals have been replaced even Havel dream of post-communist Czech has fallen apart. The brilliance is in the prose that captures both the everyday working of Beta life but also the dream or nightmare way she envisions the world around her as surreal and hyper-real at over time maybe even both at the same time. I was reminded of the grotesque films of Jiri Barta his strange stop motion films like the club of the laid off although set much earlier has the same impending doom as this book has. A fitting tribute a book that deals with both the plight of females and the mental health issues that can cause in modern Czech society from a writer that always addressed feminist issues in her works.

Love and Garbage by Ivan Klima

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love and Garbage by Ivan Klima

Czech Literature

Original title – Láska a smetí

Translator = Ewald Oser

Source – Library book

I have a number of his books on my shelves, but in my recent visit to the library, this book by the great Czech writer Ivan Klima struck me as a perfect holiday read as i t was under two hundred pages. Klima has lived an extraordinary life where his family and he ended up at a concentration camp aged ten, then as he grew as a writer he spent time in prison due to his writing and even had to take a simple job as a street cleaner which inspired this novella. He has written more than thirty books and has had a good number of those books have been translated into English.

I wrote , for hours and days and weeks. Plays I would never see staged and novels which I assumed would never be published in the language in which they were written. I was working, but at the same time I was afraid that the silence which surrounded me would eventually invade me, paralyse my imagination and kill my plots. I would sit at my desk and be aware of the weight of the ceiling, the weight of the walls and of things which might overwhelm me at any moment with their indifference.

Kafka ran through this also how could you write and write and never have it seen by anyone.

This was published three years before the fall of the Czech regime, but when it did finally get into print in the Czech Republic it sold 100,000 copies. The book follows a street sweeper, but he is also writing a thesis about the great writer Franz Kafka, a piece he knows will never see the light of day. The narrator has a lover Daria she is the sculptor , which is tough as he already married. So as he describes his coworkers a mixture of hard workers that have to be on the job, fools, youngsters as he wanders the streets he thinks of his country the troubled past, Kafka, Daria, writing and Struggling to be heard and appreciated, He feels like the Garbage he is sweeping is the life he is living that he is seeing how human souls and dreams are thrown away like the trash.

Thus I moved in my orange vest through the little streets and lanes of my native city whoch was slowly giving up its spirit, my companions at my side as witnessses. We were cleaning  the town on whoch refuse had fallen and soot and ashes and poisoned rain and oblivion. We strode along in our vesys like flamingoes, like angels of the dying, sweeeping away all rubish and refuse, angels beyond life, beyond death, beyond all , scarcely toyched by the jerkish  time, our sppeech resembled our  age-old brooms, it came from a long way back and it moved along

I loved this Orange vest and flamingoes comparison

Kilima is one of those voice of the Soviet era, that still rings true now. It seems so distant but I remember the scenes when the Soviet bloc fell they seem distant and it is hard to remember how hard it was for those writers like Klima. The narrator in this book is part Klima own story at the time he lived part of what the character did, part Kafka character in the hopeless nature of his existence, writing but unable to be read or heard. The book stands the test of time as the nature of the writing jumps of the plate, the characters in the book his fellow street sweepers the dark sense of foreboding and feeling of oppression on the streets as they sweep. Managing to keep a wife and mistress happy at this time.A lot of action and thoughts in 200 pages.

Have you read Klima?

The Attempt by Magdaléna Platzová

 

Image of Magdaléna Platzová’s “The Attempt”

The Attempt by magdalena Platzova

Czech Fiction

original title – Anarchista

translator – Alex Zucker

Source – personnel copy

the end of last year I was reading through the world literature todays best translations of 2016 and decide to order a couple that caught my eye and this by the Czech writer Magdalena Platzova caught my eye. She Studied philosophy in the Us and UK after this she became firstly a journalist then she became an editor and  also writes a weekly column. She has published a number of novels this is her second book to be translated to english and is based partly on the true story of Alexander Berkman and his life long partner Emma goldman and the attempt to kill the industrialist Henry Frick in 1892 .

One of the books, published by a small university press in the United States, was an anthology of biographies of the most important anarchists.Andreis B wasn’t one of them, but he did play a supporting role in the story of Louise G .. an anarchist of Russian origin

There were two photos of him. A portrait from 1892 , when he attempted to assassinate Kolman and a snapshot from the mid-thirties: Andrei on the promenade in Nice, wearing a light suit, cane and straw hat in hand , running to catch up with a group of friends, dominated by the short, broad frame of Louise G

The book about the two that Josef has leads to a theory Jan maybe her great granddaughter .

 

The book set in the present day as we follow a Czech historian Jan as she is trying to find out more avout Andrei B he is a fictional version Of Alexander Berkman , and his affair and life with Louise G a fictional version Emma Goldman , One of jan’s friend a fellow historian has a theory that Jan’s on family line comes from the child of these two. So Jan has become entranced with these two and like them decides to cross the ocean to America. This is just at the time that anarchist’s are in the forefront of the news with the occupy wall street movement is in full turn. Jan is here to study the Kolmans files about the time the Kolmans is a stand in for the Henry Frick who was the real target in the real life events of the attempt on his life.

I hit on the plan of how to get to Kolman’s daughter while I was in the reading room of the New York Public Library, looking through a book about Kolman house that Eleanor herself put together thirty years ago.

I was amazed at how much kolman’s taste changed in the space of a few years , how perfect the New York collection seemed in comparison with what was on display in the rooms of the first family residence. It encapsulated the difference between a metropolis and provincial city , between the mentality of cultured art dealers like Duveen brothers and the outlook of an unsophisticated businessman, who accumulated works of art solely for his own pleasure .

Jan finds a way to get to the Kolman home to find out about them

This is a clever look at the past that serves at a look at the present. A clever use of  letters notebooks build the picture of the past whilst in the background we see what drives Jan to find out about the characters driven by Josef theory . This is a clash of Ideas Europe against american the growth of wealth that has been the driving force behind the american way of life those collections Kolmann like the real life Frick had seem so opposite to what Jan knows from his european ideas then there is what drives us is money freedom well,no from what we discover about the family but also on the other end of the scale can Anachists  ever be the answer ? well no because some of us need guidance. This is modern and past america viewed through Czech eyes we get the madness of it all like we do in the works of Kafka or more so Skvorecky like Magadlena spent time in North America in his great book The engineers of human souls . that also followed a czech across the atlantic but also looking to europe as in his case he tried to escape his past her we try to discover the past to get the present and as that book title came from Stalin saying of writers being the engineers of human souls this is a book about searching our souls .

Innocence or murder on steep street by Heda Margolius Kovály

Innocence or murder on steep street by HedaMargolius  Kovály

Czech fiction

Original title –Nevina

Translator – Alex Zucker

Source – review copy

Tonight, tonight, I say goodbye
To everyone who loves me
Stick it to my enemies tonight
Then I disappear

Bathe my path in shining light
Set the dials to thrill me
Every secret has its price
This one’s set to kill

Too loose, too tight
Too dark, too bright
A lie, the truth
Which one should I use?
If the lie succeeds
Then you’ll know what I mean
When I tell you I have secrets to attend

Crime scene no1 by the afghan whigs is perfect match dark and brooding music like this book

 

Well today sees me in Eastern europe for Woman in translation month and a writer best known for her Memoir under a cruel star a memoir of her time in Auschwitz during the war . Well she wrote this novel in the years after the war when The Czech republic fell under soviet control , at the time she wrote the book it wasn’t allowed to be published and luckily a copy of the book managed to be saved to finally see the light of day in the 1980’s in Germany .Heda worked for many years translating book from English into Czech on of the writers she translated a lot of was the crime writer Raymond Chandler which is a obvious influence on this book .

“Believe me , I know .You can’t keep a secret at the Horizon .Anyway , if she did find somebody new  everyone’d badmouth her for runnin’ around on her man in the clink ,Meanwhile if the shoe was on the other foot and she was the one locked up her husband would find another girl in a week and people’d say

Helena and Karel he worked for the government and she had a better job before she went to the Horizon cinema .

The book revolves around a murder a young boy is found dead in a cinema and the staff of this cinema the Horizon  , the first section of the book is told from the perspective of on of the usherettes Helena .this first section tells what happened and then see some of the characters that crop up in the book like  people working in the cinema , the husband of Helena , Karel whom is in trouble with the authorities . the last two-thirds of the book are told by a nameless observer that watches why the boy was killed , who works for the government in the cinema , what really is happening ? which usher did it or was it them ? As we see the inspector trying to get to the bottom of it all .

The fat man hunched over in his chair and thought a moment

“Steep street is practically made for a knife ” he said .His voice was slow with sleepiness and husky , perhaps with the memory of the darkness on steep street .He laid a palm on his eyes and rubbed them as if trying to erase the sight from his mind .

I loved piece like this as they could have jumped of a hard-boiled american novel ,she caught that style of writing so well and Alex Zucker has retained in his translation .

 

This is an homage to two things firstly to Czech lit there is tones of Kafka here it is hard to avoid the feeling of Helena falling into one of those  Kafka like rabbit holes here as things started to fall into place.As every one isn’t what they first seems  and it is very easy to get caught up in the government web that is being woven  . The other is homage to Chandler and that style of crime novel , lots nods to american crime novels .The female character are like Chandlers but to me are maybe more rounded in the writing . There is feeling red herring and such here . The ushers whom fall suspect of the death of the young boy each have a connection and could be the killer . This is a book for lovers of both hard-boiled crime or Kafkaesque fiction . We are lucky it managed to avoid being destroyed by the censors .

Have you a favourite book in translation influenced by american fiction , but still keeping it identity ?

 

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