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.

 

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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.

 

 

 

Blue Self-Portrait by Noémi Lefebvre

Published 15th June 2017 / ISBN 978-0-9930093-2-7 / 160 pp / 180 x 120 / paperback / RRP: GBP 10.99 The inner monologue of a woman haunted by German composer Arnold Schoenberg’s portrait, following a complex romantic encounter with an American-German pianist-composer in Berlin. As the irresistible, impossible narrator flies home she unpicks her social failures while the pianist reaches towards a musical self-portrait with all the resonance of Schoenberg’s passionate, chilling blue. A contemporary novel of angst and high farce, Blue Self-Portrait unfolds among Berlin’s cultural institutions but is more truly located in the mid-air flux between contrary impulses to remember and to ignore. Yet music is shown to continue to work on and through us, addressing past trauma while reaching for possible futures. This book is supported by the French Institute (UK) as part of the Burgess programme, and is the recipient of a translation grant by the Centre National du Livre (CNL).

Blue Self-Portrait  by   Lefebrve

French fiction

Original title  – L’autoportrait bleu

Translator – Sophie Lewis

Source – review copy

I move a step closer to 100 books from France . With another intriguing novel from the new publisher Les Fugitives, who are trying to bring the brightest female French voice to us in English. Today we have  Noémi Lefebrve A writer who studied Music and Fench and German identity. She then became a political scientist. She has published three books since then. This is her first book to be translated into English.

Nonetheless, he hung the Blue Self-Portrait in the here and now of the Brandenburgian countryside, as if this was the only thing to do at this precise moment: bring together the living memory of Schoenberg as captured in the painting and the deathly precence of Brandenburg nature, conversely bring together still and temporary life with the natural memoryof Schoenberg captured in paint .

The description of Schoenberg famous self portrait in Blue.

I liked the first book I read from Les Fugitives Translation as Transhumance. Blue self -portrait is an internal monologue of a female, as she visits Berlin. What unfolds is an internal trip around the Cultural highlights of Berlin. Told from this woman. This is mixed with her haunting views about the works of Schoenberg. The title derives from the title of his Self-portrait in Blue that haunts her. She is getting over a failed romantic encounter with American German pianist that played was known for the way he could interpret  Schoenberg. She has also been reading Theodor W Adorno is someone, she has been reading. This, of course, this links also to Schoenberg as he played him as a trained pianist. He is also one of the leading lights in the Frankfurt school of philosophy. A female worrying about her place in the world. Her troubles with men and also her future. whilst wandering around the places to be in Berlin.A journey to the heart of a soul from her thoughts.

After reading Schoenberg’s letter to the Reich’ culture minister, the pianist had gone back to the Blue self portrait intending to examine the portrait’s blue, had registered the blue’s chill negativity, had taken a few steps back because of the negativity, this reflex which was unfolding a scene at once musical, Nazi and fashionable.

A pianst tries to enter his mind using the pic and How schoenberg went to the US to escape the Nazi’s

This is a trip with one mind through one city. Like Walter Benjamin’s trip through the arcades of Paris. We see places, culture and characters. That are all interlink in the thoughts of one woman as she tries to work out her life. The prose has a flow similar to that of a writer like Thomas Bernhard or Proust like the later she is recounting her romantic failures at times.This is a sort of anti-sex and the city for the modern girl it is more what not to do its as if Lena Dunham had written sex and the city. The theme of loss is a recurring motif in the book,  from the repetitive views of Cow that has lost his calf, to her own lost love and lost chances in a way.  This in a way is the opposite of the short film  Torsion which saw a cow giving birth as a choir escaped war-torn Sarajevo. There is a feeling of loss within this novel of being blue not just like Arnold Schoenberg in his picture, but also Blue inside ourselves is maybe a disease of the modern age. Schoenberg liked islands and maybe this proves we are all islands drifting in the deep blue sea of life as we try to moor with one another. A wry look at the modern female world y an up and coming writer.

Translation as Transhumance by Mireille Gansel

Pub date: 1 November, 2017 ISBN 978-0-9930093-3-4 / Flapped paperback 190x130 / 128 pages / RRP GBP10.00 A slim half-memoir, half-philosophical treatise musing on translation's potential for humanist engagement by one of the great contemporary French translators. Hansel has lived her life as a risk-taker. Going back to her childhood in post-war France she reflects on her origins as a translator; then she evokes her encounters with banned German writers in 1960s East Berlin. During the Vietnam war, Gansel went to Hanoi to work on an anthology of Vietnamese poetry. With the city under bombardment, this section of the book is a fascinating account of wartime danger, hospitality and human kinship.  Photograph by Natasha Lehrer

 

Translation as Transhumance by Mireille Gansel

Translators memoir

Original title – Traduire comme Transhumer

Translator – Ros Schwartz

Source – review copy

I bring you today a complex memoir from a French translator Mireille Gansal from German to French. She also has translated a lot of the first books of poetry from Vietnam into French after she lived in Hanoi in the 1970’s and discovered the writers of that country. This is another from the new publisher Les Fugitives a small press wanting to bring the most interesting French female voices to English. If this is and the two of the first three books I have read My review of Eve out of the ruins is her  There will be a review of a Blue a self-portrait as well soon. They are a publisher bring us real gems.

If translation is building a bridge between tow foreign shores, I realised that night how important it is for each one of the piles to be firmly anchored .

Translation is also about taking the byways that lead to distant places. The ultimate refuge: poetry as the language of survival, of unassailable liberty.

Two short quotes fromGansel about the art of translation ?

Mirellie Gansal grew up German during the post-war years, but as we find out her family heritage is one of Hungarian with Yiddish being the main language her father spoke growing up. She tells in on passage her wonder of letters arriving from family in Hungarian and how strange those words look, or visiting an aunt who language was a mix of Hungarian , Yiddish , German as she spoke the young Miriell a girl that would grow to love language and her describing the German of writers like Appelfeld and Kerstez the german from beyond Germany .Then to her first journey into that world of the translator when hit by one word a word that can not be held by strict dictionary definition and thus opening the oyster of the translators art and that is to discover the pearls from the words they are translating into English and this is what the book describes also how she discovered the wonderful poetry which she has translated into French and discovered whilst in Hanoi.Then she tells us about Nelly Sachs the Nobel winning Swedish poet that was German escaped Nazi persecution as a German Jew and then wrote about the tragedy of the Jewish people and was also a friend of Paul Celan.

To my delight , the section of the letter my father was reading was about me . He initially translated a word used by his brother or one of his sisters as “beloved” stumbled over the next word and repeated this – actually rather ordinary- adjective once, stumbled again and then rrepeated it a second  time.That triggered something in me. I dared to interupt him. I asked : But in Hungarin, is it the same word? He replied evasively:”it means the same thing!” Undettered I pressed him : But what are the words in Hungarian ? then one by one, he enumerated, almost with embarrassment, or at least with certain reticence, as though there were something immodest about it, the four magic words which. I have never forgotten :Dragam,Kedvesem,aranyoskam,edesem.

Her early wonder at hungarian but also what is in the meaning behind words .

I loved this Gansal brings to life so well her world that of a translator, her reaching out and connecting to the writer’s reality when she translated Reiner Kunze, she hit that nail so well the way a great translator looks beyond the words to bring the writers world to life. then I also was drawn into her early life she may have been one of the last true Mittel Europeans those families that came from everywhere Germany, Austria Hungary and had wonderful stories to tell of their lives. She also shows how she discovered the new voice in Vietnam at a time when America was trying to bomb them back to the stone age she discovered wonderful poets and their works. I feel this is a must-read for any fan of translation and translators and maybe the start of a new trend in translator memoirs?

The Portrait by Antoine Laurain

 

Image result for antoine laurain the portrait

The Portrait by Antoine Laurain

french fiction

Original title –  Ailleurs si j’y suis,

Translators – Jane Aitken and Emily Boyce

Source – Review copy

I edge towards a hundred books from France this is book 92 and the fourth by one of my favourite writers or recent year Antoine Laurain is a witty lighthearted writer that writes the perfect summer reads for me with his last three books have brighten my summer evenings over the last few years so when his latest arrived a coup,e off months ago I read it the day it came. This was actually his debut novel in French.

That portrait of me, painted two and half centuries ago, which I came across in my forty-sixth year, was to turn out to be the high point of a collection I had been adding to for years .Ech successive year , each successive object, and each successive docket had been leading me here to this late morning in room eight of Drout auction house. But it is to the very beginning of my life as a collector that we must return , to my very first purchase. I was nine years old and , being a the good lawyer i am , I shall name that episode the “Eraser Affair ”

The first and last part of the collection maybe led him to his final piece.

Like his other books has an item as a thread for the story and also like his other books follows one persons obsession with the said item. The item in this book is a Portrait that has been purchased by Pierre Francois a collector of art , even thou this picture isn’t by a great name the second he saw the portrait,  he saw a bit of himself in the sitter of the painting. His family and friends are unable to find what Pierre sees in the painting himself. But pierre is like a dog with a rabbit trying to find out as much as he can about the sitter and artist of the said portrait  a key to this is a small coat of arms in the picture . As he sees a way to drift into the world of the painting as the history of the picture gives him a chance to escape his world. Like his other books we follow one man  journey through the past and  the city of Paris.

After driving for three hours and forty minutes , I parked my Jaguar in the little village square. Here  I was in Rivaille . There was almost no sign of life at that time of the morning, just an old Renault 4 , a clio and a little van . I got out of the car and took some deep breaths of fresh air.It’s only when you’re in the countryside that you notice how polluted, stale , and , worst of all , stupefying the air in Paris . I moved my head side to side ,stretched my arms then shut the car door as I caught sight of the nearest cafe . la jument Verte , with its “Lotto ” and “Tabac” signs I headed there for a double espresso and croissants, after which  I’d ask for directions to the chateau

Pierre nears the end of his journey into the painting .

This is a whimsical look at the life of a collector and how one can easily fall down a rabbit hole when one sees something of ones self in the art we enjoy , as a way of escaping the present. His other books always use the said item of the title the presidents hat takes back through a nostalgia for 80s and the great french leader, a notebook leads to a couple who meet across the city. A long-lost letter and tape reunites friends and this one use the Portrait to reignite a mans passion for his life  and a journey like the other books it is look back at a past and how this great city was in the past. This is almost like the Scene in Woody Allen where Owen Wilson character is given the chance to step back to the 1920’s in Paris , but we also see a looping as a character in the 20’s has a chance to go back to the 1890’s as she finds the 20’s that the Wilson character finds so exciting boring and this is also a  theme that is in the book Pierre francois is a man who has used collecting art to hide away the true sadness in his life .

 

 

Mourning Diary by Roland Barthes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mourning Diary by Roland Barthes

French Memoir

Original title –Journal de deuil

Translator – Richard Howard

Source – personnel copy

I said I got this after reading a piece about books written after losing a close family member. This was also a chance to add Barthes to the blog , I have his Mythologies on my shelf that i read many years ago. He was one of the best known french thinkers , literary theorist , semiotics and was of the school of structuralism and post structuralism  . This was published many years after Barthes own death which happened a couple of years after the diary when he was hit by laundry truck on the way home from a dinner given by the president Mitterand

Every morning  around 6:30 in the darkness outside , the metallic racket of the garbage cans.

She would say with relief: the night is finally over (she suffered during the night , alone , a cruel business)

His mum was Ill like my mum sometimes suffering is best gone .

 

Having lost his father at a very early age , so was very close to his mother , so when he lost her in october 1977 he started to writer these short passages about his live, his mourning , his mother and how he is coping over the space of two years. We see the emptiness of the world with out his mother , he worries about how long he should feel this and that . The way grief can overtake him all of a sound .

Reread for the first time this mourning diary, tears each time there was any question of her – of her person – not of me

So emotivity returns

fresh as on the first day of mourning

I know this feeling so well-looking back is sometimes to hard I am going head long into a new life!!

This is a tough book to describe it is like a collection of thought more than a straight diary . The form of it was notes of paper he collected over those two years that he hadn’t done much with, he did after this write a piece about the pictures of his mum and who he felt about them , almost as thou he had healed more than when  these piece were left. two years earlier. We sense this is the first real taste of death that made him Barthes question his own death in a way it is more following the journey of grief that we are meant to take , I will show examples of each from the diary its self.

  1. denial isolation -“In the sentence “she is no longer suffering “, to what , to whom does “she ” refer? what does that present tense mean ?”  He has a sense of deinal to the present of the no suffering .
  2. Anger -“.. That this death fails to destroy me altogether means that I want to live wildly madly and that therefore the fear of my own death is always  there, not displaced by a single inch.” I sense anger here driving him wildly and madly to danger !
  3. Bargaining -“My overcoat is so deary that I know Maman would never have tolerated the black or grey scarf I always wear with it , and I’m keep hearing her voice telling me to wear a little colour .For the first time , then , I decide to wear a coloured scarf (scotch plaid)” I sense him bargaining with his mother
  4. Depression -” autumn 1921 Proust nearly dies (overdose of veronal).- celeste “we’ll all meet in the valley of Jehosphat”-“Ah! do you really believe there’s a chance of that? If I were sure of meeting Maman again , I’d die right away ” A sense of depression in the way he said he would die to meet his maman again .
  5. Acception -“- I write my suffering less and less but in a sense it grows stronger, shifting to the realm of the eternal since I no longer write it ” Acceptance of a sort that the writing stage is over for him.

This is one mans touching journey a book of thoughts regrets and making his way through his personnel grief . I was so touched in so many ways this is a book that will linger with me for the rest of my life .

 

 

The Santiago Pilgrimage by Jean-Christophe Rufin

The Santiago Pilgrimage by Jean-Christophe Rufin

French Memoir

Original title – Immortelle Randonnée : Compostelle malgré moi

Translator – Martina Dervis and Malcom Imrie

Source – Review copy

I have reviewed one novel by Rufin before Red collar ,which I loved and him as a person I felt was an interesting character he was an early member of Médecins Sans Frontières and also action against hunger . He has also been an ambassador for France to Senegal and Gambia . He has also won two versions of the Prix Goncourt in his time the one for the first novel with his debut and the main prize for his book Red Brazil .But this non fiction work grabbed me when it dropped through the door earlier this year.

What makes the camino de santiago different is that it is not a punishment but a voluntary ordeal. At least , that is what you think, though this view will be swiftly challenged by experience.Anyone who walks the Camino will sooner or later end up thinking they were condemned to it . The fact that they condemned themselves alters nothing; the punishments we impose on ourselves are often no less rigorous than those society inflicts.

Before he sets out he tries to find out more about the camino

The reason I was grabbed bu this book is because I have a small interest in the way of st james or as it is called Camino de Santiago a group or pilgrimage paths across  France and Spain and earlier ones that go into england as well  . We follow Jean Christophe across the Northern route which is the coastal path  the northern route as he considered it a quieter route and would meet less pilgrims on the way but also the journey he recalls the place this one takes in a number of cities along the way Bilbao and Ovideo both of which Rufin describeds very well and then the few pilgrims he meets he describes in breif pen sketches their reasons and where they are from for the journey .as he recalls his time on the Camino .

The third category , not so much romantic but no less touching, is composed of those who knew love a long time ago , entered into the sacred bonds of matrimony, and then suffered its trials and tribulations until their greatest wish was to be free again but the freedom they seek is of the kind and considerate sort – they don’t want to break up a happy families or hurt anyone, they just want a breather,with a little help from Saint James

The man he met from the saint James association was from this third group that take Pilgrimage.

The book is written after he completed the walk , so he kept no notes so what is kept is the bare bones pf what he remember . He took it as a challenge , a journey of discovery but he wanted a to take a less trodden route the northern one .I first came across the way of Saint James in the series Brian Sewell did in the early 2000 about his journey on the camino back in the 1960 when it wasn’t quite as popular as itis now , with 200,00 plus people a year taking the route from barely a 1000 in the early eighties . Another story about the Camino is the 2010 film which  Martin sheen starred in a film directed by his son called the The way about a father completing his late son journey on the camino . The we also have Cees Nooteboom book . Like Rufin they all reveal how people are effected by the camino. The journey is more followed now maybe the pilgrimage is like the third type of pilgrim is a way to clear your slate in the modern age a trip into a  mythical past of monks churches getting your stamps as you follow the way if st james and it scallop shells and get your pilgrim card stamped

 

The Principle by Jerome ferrari

The Principle by Jerome Ferrari

French fiction

Original title – Le Principe

Translator – Howard Curtis

Source – review copy

Well from a new French writer to me yesterday with Pierre Senges to an old favourite of this blog Jerome Ferrari has had his two earlier books translated into English The sermon on the fall of Rome and Where I left my soul.  He won the Prix Goncourt with his last novel and lived in Abu Dhabi where he teaches Philosophy. but now lives in Casablanca , like his other novels I have read this is a look back at recent history this time he has looked back at those fever years of the war when scientists where trying to build the Bomb.

You were twenty-three years old , and it was there, on that desolate island where no flowers grow, that you were first granted the opportunity to look over god’s shoulder,There was no miracle, of course, or eve to be honest , anything resembling God;s shoulder, but to give an account of what happened that night, our only choice, as you know better than anyone, is between metaphor and silence . For you , there was first silence, then the blinding light of an exhilaration more precious than happiness

This the time he made his famous uncertain principle

we are drawn into the world of Germany in the  early 1930’s  and onwards when the country falls under a dark shadow of the Nazis,  we follow the life of Werner Heisenberg , a man best known know for his uncertain principle .We glimpse into his world one of knowledge , but he was best known for something he worked out many years earlier his principle . we see his life unfold drawn into the Nazis world of the hunt for the Bomb as he was the one that made classic science become the atomic age of science he is at the forefront. What we see is how a man of science and his own principles has to walk a tight line of the age he is trying but not trying if you know what I mean ! Faced with a world he didn’t expect to be in from those early days  of discovery .

They’re all bored to death

Something in them becomes gradually worn pout over the  endless weeks

Professor Heisenberg plays Mozart sonatas, by heart on the piano. Nobody listens to him anymore. Every day, Professor Hahn walks for hours in the garden, never tiring .He calculates the distance he’s covered. If he’d walked straight ahead , he would have crossed the sea. By know he would have been ages in Germany

They struggle to get the Bomb made .

This was a clever novel that is a good autobiography in a novel form of a figure , that was at the heart of the burning atomic age a man who provide the turning point in the way people thought of Physics. Like his earlier books lament and sorrow under lie the main character in a way also like his earlier books he deals with how people deal with those situation where we have no chance to turn and the world seems in utter chaos. In Where I left my soul it was the Algerian war and the sermon which was an angrier look back at his childhood homeland  as ever using his poetic writing style to look at one person struggle in this world . Here it is the madness of the Nazis and Hitler wanting the Bomb before the allies. There is similarities in style too In search of Klingsor by Jorge Volpi which was also a look at the same group of people in this novel from a different angle where they try to find the top man in the programme. An interesting look at the times .

The Major refutation by Pierre Senges

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The Major Refutation by Pierre Senges

French fiction

Original title – La réfutation majeure

Translator – Jacob Siefring

Source – review copy via translator

I have from time to time be contacted by the translator to review their latest book and this was the case with Jacob , whom I knew vaguely via twitter and the fact he has been championing this writers work. He has translated a number of works by Pierre Senges . Pierre Senges start initially as a jazz musician , this I note as later I do wonder if this hs influenced his style of writing . He has been a writer since the 1990s and has written over fifteen books and also a large number of works for radio in France. He is noted for his baroque style and the way he twists history with a way of keeping the original style to his works .

If this New world actually existed, if its measure could be had in hectares and in tons, or maliciously in carats to reflect the value of its diamond mines, or in nautical miles because it is semmingly capable of devouring an entire hemisphere as a crab would , going from north to south and from east to west- if this were the case , then adventures would have set foot there long ago ,smugglers failing to find better use for their discovery would have taken it as their refugee

From the opening page of the Major Refutation , this seems true how could something so large be unknown !

This book is meant to be a work that was written by Antonio De Guevara , this is a work that was mention supposedly and lost then found and it is a work The book is a work about trips to discover what is the new world then to send people these  written as a treatise to Charles V  , about the falsehood of the new world. this is back in a time when of course some people thought the earth was flat and places unknown on maps were often just marked with the words here be monsters ! De Guevara argument is that the new world isn’t all it is meant to be and is a creation by others to deceive the king and other and De Gueveara brings many arguments to why this is the case in what are letter like chapters.

The invention of the new world and of the useless islands supposed the invention of evidence, fabricated on this side f the earth, on the continent, in the portuguese colonies perhaps but always brought back into port; for it is impossible to make a country of fog,of phantoms and of gleaming gold exist out there with out having some exotic but tangible scraps wash up on our beaches .Some talk might have sufficed; our taverns are full of those boasters returned from afar, full of one-armed men who clasped in an embrace the great Khan of China and the incestuous gang of prester John

The New World is made up of lies , boasters and false goods

When I started blogging the real hunt for me wasn’t just world lit , no I could just count countries I do but not in a race . For me the reason I blog is to be like an explorer of books a discoverer of fiction , an adventure on the edge of what the novel is and this is why getting connect with guy like Jacob and been introduce to a writer like Pierre Senges this book is a book that has thanks to the time Jacob spent translating it , you can find out more on Jacobs blog . This is a book that defies pigeonholed .For me the fact in his early life he was into jazz and was a musician plays a part in this book , great jazz can take something ordinary and twist it and bend it into something totally new.so like John Coltrane in his working of my favourite things we have some part of the original . Well lets break this down Fray Antoino de Guevera was a preacher and his preaching was about peace and a different vision of what empire was , Charles the fifth was the spanish lead at the time the new world was discovered. So  the parts are their want Pierre Senges has done is create a rift on the two men and the idea of there being a treatise on there not being a new world . I loved this as Jacob said it is a unusal book and one that if he hadn’t pushed we wouldn’t have read , one great thing is so many transltors have there pet projects and maybe publisher need listen to them more (a sublte nod here to Horcynus Orca which I know is a pet project of Andrea Camelleri translator ), how many more are out there !!

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