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 !!

Octavio’s Journey by Miguel Bonnefoy

 

Image result for miguel bonnefoy octavio gallic

Octavio’s journey by Miguel Bonnefoy

French fiction

Original title – Le Voyage d’Octavio

Translator – Emily Boyce

Source = review copy

I hope to reach 100 french books under review on the blog this year and one of those publishers that has helped me reach that total is Gallic books they mainly publish french fiction and this is the first book by them I have reviewed this year and it is one that was a runaway success in france for a debut novel . Miguel Bonnefoy was born to a Venezuelan Mother and a Chilean father he spent his childhood in France, Venezuela and Portugal this book was on the longlist for the Prix Goncourt for a first novel .

Don Octavio was born of this land,

He lived on the hillside in a modest , flimsy , slate clad house to which he held no deeds. The space must have formed a single room, was decided into a living room and bedroom ,  wardrobe stood beside a glassleess, curtainless window typical of the tropics , with a camp bed and rush-seat chair nearby. At the back of the living room , candles burnt on a little altar, casting flickers of light on the walls. Apostle figures were carved into beroom handles and also etched on glass which had been filed with rum to guard against misfortune . The scent of wild herbs hung in the air

His humble home was a simple beginning for Don Octavio

This is one of those books that maybe short but seems much longer the book follows the life of Octavio , we meet the young boy as he is unable to read as he is sent by the doctor to the chemist luckily whilst embarrassed a woman named Venezuela like his homeland opens this young boys eyes to the power of words as the two fall in love , Don Octavio grows and we drift into the past of his homeland as the church arrives land is saved by a lemon tree that is seemed as a miracle . Then Don Octavio journey to the heart of his country and the jungle and sees how the country is and decides to stay there .This is one mans journey to the heart of his country and feeling in doing that .

Venezuela suffered from acute insomnia , which meant that for the past twenty years she had to nap at odd times of the day . She had grown used to irregular bedtime, sometimes eating in bed and getting up in the ,middle of the night roam her apartment. the doctor advised ger to stop taking her sleeping pills. Out of embarrassment, she began avoiding pharmacies where she might be recognised and ventures out to the little chemists shops in the suburbs where she could buy what she needed unnoticed amid the anonymity of the crowd

The woman who teaches Don Octavio to read but is she also an allegory for the home land in recent years .

This is of course a book that owes a lot to Marquez and even in someway I felt Calvino . There is a magic realism at work When Don Octavio seems to move back through the history of his homeland and that is what is at the heart of this book an ode to Venezuela , we here much of their recent trouble this is a look back at what is the beauty at the heart of the country a woman , the forest and the chance to make something of yourself like Don Octavio he is maybe a sign of what can happen in Latin America where one can become someone from none . Another books I was reminded of is G Cabrera Infantes book a view of dawn in the tropics which also like this book mixed fiction with the history of his homeland in Infante’s case Cuba here we see Bonnefoy in an ode to his homeland and a fable like tale of what was and maybe a feeling that is lost . This is under hundred pages long a perfect evening read .

 

 

 

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