Kaputt by Curzio Malaparte

Kaputt

Kaputt by Curzio Malaparte

Italian Novel

Original title – Kaputt

Translator – Cesare Foligno

Source – personal copy

Now, it is a nice coincidence that my last read for NYRB fortnight happens to tale in with the 1944 club that officially starts tomorrow. There is a lot of talk recently about Autofiction being a trend but it has been around for years and here is a perfect example of Autofction. Curzio Malaparte was an Italian writer he was sent by an Italian paper to cover the eastern front. This book is what he observed and is an account of the inner workings of the Germans and how they were in eastern Europe during the final years of the war as he saw the end was near.

During the summer of 1941 i was in Pestchanka, a village in the Ukraine, and one morning I went to visit a large Kolkhoz close by  the village; the Kolkhoz Voroshilov. The Russians had left Pestchanka just two days before. It was the largest and richest Kolkhoz I had ever seen . Everything was left in perfect order but the cattle shed and stables were empty; there was not agrain of wheat in the granges, not a blade of hay in the lofts. A horse was limping  around the farmyard; it was old , blind and lame. At the end of the yard, under a long shed, were ranged hundreds upon hundreds of agricultural machines , mostly of Soviet manufacture, but many were Hungarian and some were Italian, germans , swedish and American. The retreating russian had not set fire to the Kolkhoz, to the ripe crops, or to the forest of sunflowers seeds.

He shows how the Russians didn’t leave behind ruins when the Germans taken over the countryside.

The book starts as the reporter at the center of the story is in Sweden after spending time in Finland this is a reporter with connections as the opening page sees him in the company of a Swedish prince. Then he is sent to Ukraine where he first sees the brutal side of the \german forces. this is based around real events he saw in 1941 in Ukraine. Then in the Balkans, as he goes around he chronicles the brutal and violent nature of the Germans and their views of the people whose countries they have occupied.as the book moves on he starts to see the cracks in the German regime. When Leningrad happened it seems in this as it proved a turning point. One of the hardest scenes in the book is where he is shown around the Ghetto and how proud the Germans were of this but he shows how there were so many people living in such a small space. This is a glimpse behind the lines of world war two and the Nazi when they were still at the top but the downfall had started by the end of the book.

The German soldiers returning from the front line, when they reached the village squares, dropped their rifles on the ground in silence. They were coated from head to foot in black mud, their beards were long, their hollow eyes looked like the eyes looked like the eyes of the sunflowers, blank and dull. The officers gazed at the soldiers and at the rifles lying on the ground, and kept silent. By then the lightning war, the blitzkrieg, was over, te Dreigjahrigerblitzkrieg, the thirty year lightning war had begun. The winning war was over, the losing war had begun.

Malaparte sees the war turning in the face of the soldiers returning from the front.

This is one of those books I wasn’t sure I would like to read Malaparte himself is a questionable character. But he did manage to get inside the German regime and see far more than many other people did the inner workings from the Generals and leaders hobnobbing it and living it largely to those in charge of the Ghetto, those SS troops and the horror of what was happening to the Jews and others around Eastern Europe. Through the disdain, the troops on the ground felt as the war was turning near the end of the book. What makes this readable is the way Malaparte describes the world and the is unblinkered in the full horror of what he was seeing. You feel the decay decadence sheer horror of this world where the people were turning a blind eye to the horrors or saw what they were doing as normal. Malaparte used his own experience in this novel and he used them to make the episodic nature of the book it has no real plot as such just follows a narrator as he observes the places he is sent to and the people he meets. The cover is also wonderfully creepy. This is a great example of Autofiction and makes some of the modern versions seem pale in comparison.

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The Moon and The Bonfire by Cesare Pavese

 

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The Moon and The Bonfire by Cesare Pavese

Italian fiction

Original title – La Luna e i Falò

Translator – Louise Sinclair

Source – personnel copy

I purchased this book, after reading Not to read. I was going to wait for the Pavese novella that Penguin is bringing out soon. But after seeing Zambra talk about going to Piedmont area of Italy to try and find the world Pavese had described in his books. I felt that as Zambra had connected so much to his work Pavese must be a writer I should try so when I found a bargain set of four books from Peter Owen who had published his book in English before I couldn’t resist. Pavese spent time in prison and most of his writing came in the last few years of his life and his books mainly set in the Piedmont area. He also translated a lot of books into Italian from English.

Thus it was that for a long time I thought this village where I had not been born was the whole world. Now that I have really seen the world and know that it is made up of a whole lot of little villages, I am not sure that I was far wrong when i was a boy. You wander over land and sea just as the lads who were young with me used to go to the festas in the village round about and dance and drink and fight and bring home flags and barked knuckles together.

Eel returning to his village a changed man but reviewing the village he left many years ago.

This book was written in 1949 and is set in that time. It is a first-person Narrative of a man who left Italy twenty-five years before just as The Fascist had taken control of Italy in the early 1920’s. The Narrator is never named over than his nickname Anguilla. Which means Eel. Now returning home after the war. We see a man trying to piece together the present of a war-torn Italy post-war with the Italy of his youth. So over the chapters, we see a man reconnecting with a slightly elder childhood friend Nuto. The man starts to reconnect the present and his past. From the place like his godfather house, whom has new owners but even they remind him of his past as their son is a similar age to the man when he spent time at the house. We see how over friends where lost in the years he was away from the village he grew up in. He was a foundling child so he never felt part of the place but on return starts to feel part of the place he left to make his fortune.  Nuto is a great friend but he struggles to understand why his friend views the world the way he does. Then there is the child with crippled legs the sister he knew Irene, Silvia, and Santa three noted beauties of their age. They each had troubles in the years he was away two of them died one to illness the over to the Blackshirts. This is also about the village he grew up in.

We seemed to be fated. I often wondered why there was no one left now but Nuto and me, just the two of us, out of so many people once alive. Once upon a time I’d had a longing within me ( one morning in a bar in San Diego I nearly went mad with it) to come out on the main road, to push open the iron gate between the pine and the lime trees at the corner, to hear the voices and the laughter and the hens and say, “Here I am, I’ve come back, ” watching their bewildered faces – the farm hands, the woman and the dog, the old man and the grey and the brown eyes of the girls would have recognised me from the terrace

Such lament in these words a feeling of ghosts in the last line and those dead beauties.

A man returns to his past is a classic theme and this is Pavese describing how the horrors of war had scared his homeland of Piedmont and the fact that the narrator has been away twenty years he can see the contrasting time has caused. He described the village and place so well in the book. I got why Zambra wants to discover Pavese world when he visited Italy. This is a book about losing one’s childhood and discovering what happened to it when the Eel left. This is also a look at the rural life of Italy. It is a book of worlds now gone I was reminded of books like A month in the country in English that feel of a nostalgic world but also the damage that wars can cause. Pavese translated many writers from English pre-war like James Joyce and John Dos Passos. He must have used these when describing the early parts of the book set in the US before the Eel comes home.

The little Virtues by Natalia Ginzburg

The Little Virtues by Natalia Ginzburg  | Daunt Books Publishing

The Little Virtues by Natalia Ginzburg

Italian Memoir

Original title – Le piccole virtù

Translator – Dick Davis

Source – Personal copy

One of the writers I saw mentioned in the book Not to read by Alejandro Zambra was Natalia Ginzburg. Ginzburg was a writer when Zambra discovered he couldn’t decide whether to shout out about or keep just for themselves.But he let it slip very soon about him. Natalia Ginzburg. He first novel was published under a pseudonym in 1942 as she was Jewish.After that, she worked for the Italian publisher Einaudi that published books by the likes of Primo Levi, Cesare Pavese and Italo Calvino.Then in the fifties, this is the most productive period for Ginzburg as a writer she wrote most of the pieces in that period of time.

My shoes are worn out , and the friend I live with at the moment also has worn out shoes. When we are together we often talk about shoes. When we are together we often talk about shoes. If I talk about the time when I shall be an old, famous  writers, she immediately ask me” What shoes will you wear ?” Then I say i shall have shoes made or green sude with a big gold buckle on one side.

Worn out shoes is about her war time experiences using her shoes as a metaphor about the war and its experinces on the public.

There is twelve piece in Little Virtues. From the first piece about the winters in her home region of  Abruzzi where she says they only really have Winter and Summer with her saying the spring is like winter, she describes how the region deals with the conditions and how many of the workers come home from the summer work for Christmas. Then a wonderful piece written about her war experiences called worn out shoes about how she managed to cope with just a  single pair of Shoes and how her friends also have to. It ends with lines about having to learn to walk in worn out shoes. Then my favorite piece is called England a Eulogy and lament. is a witty piece about how she found England when she visited not the most flattering view of our country but funny and I was reminded of the Black and white films of the late forties with the grey smog filled country she describes the English stations as the place where England is most openly gloomy. Then she talks in the later piece about types of silence and her relationships

England also expresses its sense of fantasy in its cafes and restaurants. They often give them tfoerign names to make them more attractive- “Pustaza”, “Chez Nous”,”Rome”,”Le Alpi”. When you look through the windows you see wispy climbing plants, Chinese lanterns, shap oeaks of rock, the blue of glaciers. Or you see skulls and crossbones black walls , black carpets, funeral candles – and because these place are oftendeserted a mournful silences reigns.

Enland through her eyes is a strange and and odd place.

Natalia Ginzburg is due to have a revival with this recent reissue of this book and a couple of others in recent years like me a new generation of readers can discover this great female Italian voice. The pieces in this collection started in the world war two Italy to post-war England and glimpse into her personal life. Her style is conversational at times you are drawn into her essays and feel as she is describing her world as thou you are next to her. There is subtle wit at times behind her writing especially her times in England, which has a wonderful dry view of drab post-war Britain. I want to try one of her novels next. It is great to see more non-fiction in translation.

The day before Happiness by Erri De Luca

 

 

The day before Happiness by Erri De Luca

Italian fiction

Original title – Il giorno prima della felicità

Translator – Jill Foulston

Source – personal copy

Another of the books I recently brought on holiday. There was something about this cover the cheekiness of the boy on the cover and it is a coming of age story. Which I really enjoy. Erri De Luca is a well-known writer in Italy but not in English so far.  He has been writing since his twenties but wasn’t till later in life he got his first book published. Since then he has published over seventy books, had them translated into a number of languages. He has also translated a number of books into Italian from Hebrew as a self-taught translator. He is also a keen climber and has been active in the opposition to a rail line between Turin and Lyon. He grew up in Naples.

I went to the school. My adoptive mother enrolled me, but I never saw her. The porter, Don Gaetano, looked after me. In the evenings , he’d bring me a hot meal, and in the morning before scholol, I’d take back the clean plate while he warmed me a mug of milk. I lived in a little room, the Sstanzino, by myself Don Gaetano hardly spoke at all. He’d grown up as an orphan too, but in an orphanage, unlike me. I was free t come and go in our building and around the city

Intially Don Gaetano says little but as the book goes pon he opens up to the young boy.

This is a story of a childhood in Naples told through the eyes of young Orphan. He is living with his adoptive family. But as it is said early on they are rarely there for him and he is mainly looked after by Don Gaetano he is the elderly caretaker of the blog of flats where the young boy lives. He starts of trying to fit in by first rescuing a ball and trying to join in with a game of football with the older boys but he never fits in. But he catches a glimpse of pretty girl via reflections in the window this is a sign of an early sexual awakening in the boy. later he meets an older woman. He also discovers books reading a book a day during the summer holidays he borrows from a shop. He also learns the city via the older man telling him of the Naples he knew during and before the war also how he hid a jew during the war.

Don Gaetano missed nature as he’d known it in Argentina. On the plains where herds grazed freely, lighting struck to the rhythm of the tarantella, and the earth was the sky’s dance fllor.”It was normal to be an orphan there. Everyone was, animals and men alike kn the plains ias vast as the ocean. Theives defrocked priests, anarchists, the Irish.. Argentina lifted the wieght off your heart and gave you back all the spaceyou could ever want.

The old man spent time in Argentina and opens the boys eyes with tales he tells him making him see beyond the city at times.

This is a short novella it is just over a hundred pages and like most great novellas it seems so much more. This is the story of a boy growing but without his parents, Don Gaetano does his best to help the boy. The relationship between the two brought to mind to me the relationship between Salvatore and Alfredo in Cinema Paradiso. Like that film, there is also so a large character of the Place her in this book it is Naples that city of the Southern Italy that at one point the narrator says is more like a Spanish city. This book came out of course after the success of the Neopolitan novels of Elena Ferrante. Erri De Luca has been around longer than Ferrante but it is good to see as a knock on of the \Ferrante novels other books set in Naples have been published.

Six memos for the next milennium by Italo Calvino

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Six memos for the next millennium by Italo Calvino

Italian Non-fiction

Original title –  Sei proposte per il prossimo millennio

Translator – Patrick Creagh

Source – personal copy

I have been rather remiss of Italian lit month, so I have decided to extend it into April so I can get a few more titles up on the blog. Today I have chosen a non-fiction work by a writer that I have featured a number of times on the blog Italo Calvin a writer whom I have featured four times before on the blog. This collection unfinished is the last thing he was working on before he died a series of lectures for the Charles Eliot Norton lectures. He had written five of them which are featured here.

After forty years of writing fiction, after exploring various roads and making diverse experiments, the time has come for me to look for an overall definition of my work, I would suggest this my working method has more often than not involved the subtraction of wieght. I have tried to remove wieght from structure of stories and from language.

In this talk I shall try to explain – both to myself and to you – why I have come to consider lightness a value rather than a defect; to indicate the works of the past in which I recongnizemy ideal of lightness; and to show where I situate this value in the present and how I project it into the future.

From the first lecture Lightness on how he lightened his workover time.

The five lectures are titled lightness, quickness, exactitude visibility and Multiplicity. He opens in the first lecture by saying in the lectures he wants to show his journey as a writer of forty years from a realist to a member of the Oulipo group.He references over the first four lecture many writers he has been touched by as a writer from Ovid to the German writer Robert Musil. One writer that recurs through the pieces in the great Italian poet and writer Giacomo Leopardi best known for his epic collection of notebooks the Zibaldone,  which I got two thirds through the other year. Calvino describes how he wrote so clearly on Astronomy when he was just fifteen. Then later a connection between the infinite nature of writing and maths. The last piece is the one I will describe more fully as it is the one that grabbed me it is called multiplicity and is about the multiple nature of narrative. He starts with a description of Gadda as he says he is a writer that isn’t often read in the US. A piece very much connected with the later period of Calvino’s writing he mentions how he used this concept in his book  The Castle of cross destinies, which I reviewed it is a story using a pack of cards to direct the narrative. He also mentions his fellow Oulipo writer Perec work Life which like the castle has multiple narrative threads in it.

Carlo Emilo Gadda tried all his life to represent the world as a knot a tangled skein of yarn; to represent  it without in the least diminishing the inextricable complexity or, put it better, the simultaneous presence of the most disparte elements that converge to determine every event. He was led to this vision of things by his his intellectual training, his temperament as a writer, and his neuroses.As an engineer, Gadda was brought up on the culture of science, equipped with techincal know-how and a positive fervorfor philosophy.

I was remind of CP Snow and his talk of the two cultures

This one will appeal to fans of Calvino want to know more about what drove him as a writer. The piece almost follows his career from the first lecture where he talks about at first trying to be a realist writer this is shown in his book Into war which I have also reviewed. Then he later talks about being drawn to Folktales and writer like Petract drew him to write Italian folktales in the middle part of his career. then he explains how he was drawn towards Oulipo and the multiple nature of narratives and what they can do. I enjoyed this I have a number of his other books on my shelves so this is a great companion to them and what drove him as a writer. Have you a favourite book by Italo Calvino.

Carte Blanche by Carlo Lucarelli

 

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Carte Blanche by Carlo Lucarelli

Italian crime fiction

Original title – Carta bianca

Translator – Michael Reynolds

Source – personal copy

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

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

The opening and De Luca is caught in a blast.

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

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

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

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

The Gold-Rimmed Spectacles by Giorgio Bassani

The Gold-rimmed spectacles by Giorgio Bassani

Italian fiction

Original title – Gli occhiali d’oro

Translator – Jamie McKenrick

Source – library book

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

A different sea by Claudio Magris

A different Sea by Claudio Magris

Italian fiction

Original title – Un altro mare

Translator – M.S.Spurr

Source – Library copy

Claudio Magris in yesterdays list of Nobel hopefuls, earlier in the summer. I read this short novella by him. But have waited till now to review it. Claudio Magris has won many prizes with his books like the Stega for his book Danube. Which I hope to bring to the blog at some point. He has also won some prizes for the body of his works like the Prince of Asturias and Franz Kafka. 
In those brief, still days, Enrico had seen the threads of his destiny, had seen the coins of his life thrown up high  and glitter for a moment as they turned over in the air. When Argia was not on the beach she was indoors playing the piano, Playing Beethoven for Carlo she revealed the abyss that comes between the individual and his destiny; she annulled time and with it the misery and transcience of life, and she demonstrated the tragic joy to be gained by living only for the moment.
This piece shows how Enrico lived his life, like his friend had said .
 
This book follows Enrico, a young Greek man, in the early part of the twentieth century. He is good friends with the Italian Philosopher Carlo Michelstaedter. A man who passed away to young. But his philosophy was about living in the moment by living in the moment is how a man can set him free. There is a third friend, Nico whom Enrico keeps in contact with over time. We Follow Enrico after his friend died. He sets forth to try and live in the moment By setting off to Patagonia. The life there where he lives with his Greek books and the idea of his friend. He spends over a decade working herding animals. Whilst he reading as he escaped National service by escaping to South American. He then returns to Trieste and the Istria coast. In those inter-war years, as we see through his eyes. The political landscape  of the time in that region and also what living in the moment can make on one’s life. 
After all , he left the country to avoid military service, and he is fed up with hearing about the Great War. What do they expect of him, sitting there at their desks? Let them learn the aorist tense: that is already enough
In patagonia he kept in his pocket both the Odyssey and the Agamemnon edited with commentary in Latin by Simon Karsten. But a discourse on the fate of the sons of Atreus, or on the suffering of Electra- Carlo liked her best of all – would be out of place in front of these boys.
I was remind of my step grandfather who carried Dickens in his pocket all his working life .
 
This is a sparse novella, that shows how to follow an idea of what happens. When one chooses to live in the present as Carlos had chosen to do so. It is a wonderful insight into the lone life on the Pampas as he searches for a life free of Social falsehoods. The search for who we are set off by the early death of a friend and also wanting to act out on his ideas of Michelstaedter. A man I knew very  little of her is an interesting piece about him here.I liked this novella it left  me thinking of what life is about and also the world they lived in which when Enrico returns is one that is in flux as the clouds of the following years are seen through the world of Istira and Trieste.

The mystery of the three orchids by Augusto De Angelis

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The mystery of the three orchids by Augusto De Angelis

Italian crime novel

Original title – Il misterodelletreorchidee

Translator – Jill Foulston

Source – Library

Well I do the second from Pushkin Vertigo series tonight and this time we are in Italy and one from the classic Italian series of Giallo novels those old yellow bound books that also sparked the films . Augusto De Angelis started of writing a spy novel inspired by the writing of Joseph Conrad and then a few years later he wrote his first crime novel after that he came on Inspector DE Vincenzi as his main character in fifteen novels , he even was made in the 1970’s to a tv series by the Italian broadcaster RAI .

Slowly and cautiously , she approached the bed .This was a big mess , and on the day of a show too. Why , though had Christina O’brian fainted in her room with a man’s body on her bed when she should have been down in the showrooms watching the models and studying her clients reactions ?

Madame Firmino could now see , below those wide-open eyes , the rest of the dead man’s face. A handsome youth, almost a boy, with fine, perfectly regular features. Long black hair thrown back and naturally a bit messy now .

The first murder victim in the bed as a show went on and with an orchid by him what does it mean .

The book follows a series of Murders the first is at a fashion house .The victim is found with an orchid now DE Vincenzi  is there a body on the bed upstairs at a Milan Fashion house . The owner of the fashion house Christina is acting oddly , he ex husband is also there but why . is he still there as another body and Orchid turn up. then De Vicenzi  is not a clue man no he is one of these detectives that sees the whole  thing as a puzzle of psychologically to be broken up and assembled as he goes from here to there .

De Vincenzi saw the body, Christina and the orchid. By now he was used to seeing bodies and women – how many inquests had he racked up, each with at least one body and always lots of women ? – but less used to seeing orchids though he loved them quite a bit more

So her stopped to look at the flower for longer and with greater pleasure. An  unnatural flower made of flesh, born of rotting slime , grown in a tropical atmosphere

Why an orchid these exotic flowers are always hard to grow  and keep

This isn’t a complex crime ,their isn’t a lot of too and froing no, this is a simple plot .I was reminded of those great american  crime radio dramas where the crime is all wrapped neatly up in half an Hour . Philo Vance is mention on the cover , but I was thinking  some one like rocky Jordan for the exotic nature like that it felt ,more like Milan set via america than Italian milan  or Inspector thorne  as a straight forward crime solver in mould of Vicenzi  or Maigret  from those forties dramas which of course came out of the pulp fiction  rather like the start of the Giallo series which was mostly american crime novel . There is also the fact that De Angelis at the time he write the book was falling very foul as being seen as an Anti fascist by the fascist Italian government of the time . Like the Italian crime novel of the time I have read I will have vengance by Maurico De Giovanni , which also owed much in its writing to American pulp fiction also set in the 30’s in Naples instead of Milan the setting for this book , both have the undercurrent of fascism creeping into there world .

The french Father by Alain Elkmann

 

The French Father by Alain Elkmann

Italian fiction

Original title – Il padre francese

Translator – Alastair McEwen

Source – personnel copy

Well I chose this to be the first book of the second Pushkin Press fortnight .A s I felt its writer maybe in his own life a captures Part of what Pushkin Press are about international literature and this writer has a truly international flavour  . Alain Elkmann  is an American born son of a french industrialist  and an Italian mother , who has spent most of his life in Italy and was married to the daughter of the boss of Fiat. This was his second book to be translated into English. He has written twenty books and writes a regular piece for a number of Italian Newspaper. I must note it is also Pushkin Press 20th anniversary so lets hope they have many more. May I also note I have had or made no contact with them about this fortnight. This year also sees ten years of Maclehose press more about that at a later date !!

After a step or two, I saw a new grave, on which a white stone bore the name “Roland Topor” in Black letters .I knew that Topor had been an artist, a writer. I had met him with my ex-wife and recalled having seen reports of his death in the newspapers. I remembered him with a glass of red wine in his hands, laughing in a coarse way and smoking a cigar .It had been one night in Paris, at the house of a painter friend

He had once meet his fathers new neighbour

The story starts when a son pays a visit to his father’s grave in the famous Parisian cemetery Montparnasse , like him his father was Jewish it is a while since he has been to his father’s grave but in line with tradition he has to visit on the eleven month with his sisters . When he sees that there is a new grave next to that of his fathers that of Roland Topor the well-known French Polish surrealist. Alain the son then sets about finding out as much as possible to discover as much as possible about the man sat in the ground next to his father as he seems so different to his stiff upper class father a man of the old french world of power and honour . As the story unfolds we see the son discovering more about Roland and his family . the two men below the ground are all so talking about themselves and naturally with two men at such different ends of the spectrum they argue about their lives and how they lived it .

“No I don’t feel like talking about my father . It’s not something I can do yet ”

“I should like to go to the cemetery with you , Your father’s grave is very spartan . My father is buried beside his parents .How is it that your grandparents aren’t buried beside your father”

“Just a minute who are you ? I don’t even know you. I’ve told you that I don’t want to talk about this matter, you ask me and you expect an answer ?

Alain asks Roland’s son about him , but later thinks he may have gone about it the wrong way

 

This is a quirky book and if I had said in less than a year after reading The dirty dust I would be reading another book about people talking in their lives in their graves I would have laughed but no here is another book where the dead talk about their lives. It’s a class of french Upper class lives and the Bohemian world of france sharing two graves next to each other . Then there is the son drive to discover more about his fathers new neighbour which drives him into his own investigation of Roland Topor , he knows he wrote a book that Roland Polanski made into a film and he was quite  a character in his time but not much else as he untangled his past and discovers more than he thought . This is all packed  into 120 pages , this is one of those quirky novellas that have you thinking for ages after you have put it down and finished it. So this is ,my first Puskin Prees fortnight review , what from them have you been reading ?

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