Venice The Lion,the City and the Water by Cees Nooteboom

Venice The lion, the City and the Water by Cees Nooteboom

Dutch travel memoir

Original title – Venetië-de leeuw, de stad en het wate

Translator – Laura Watkinson

Source – review copy

I have featured three books before by the great Dutch writer Cees Nooteboom, I thought it was more oh well I have a few to add at some point. He is one of my favorite writers especially his travel writing I loved his letters to Posiden the yearly ode to the Spanish Islands he has spent many summers visiting.  here we have another place that seems close to his heart Venice he has been traveling there for over fifty years and he always tries to stay somewhere new in the city and he seems to have read most if not all the novels short stories and nonfiction books around the city itself.

A first time, there is always a first time. It is 1964, a rickety old train from Communitst Yugoslavi, final destination; Venice. Beside me, a young woman, American. The long journey here left its mark on us. Everything is new. We take the city as it comes. We have noexpectations, except for those asscoiated with the city’s name, and so everything is good. It is all stored away in the secret tissue of the memory. The train, the cty, the name of the young woman. We all lose touch, lead different lives, find each other our lives, find each other again, much later in the other side of the world, tell each other our lives. More than Fifty years after, that first day, in 1964, will find its way into a story, a story called “Gondolas”.The city, everything that had vanished in the meantime, will form the backdrop for that story.

The opening remembering his first time in the city.

Nooteboom is a wander whether on foot or the vaparetto that cross the city he first arrived on from a train from Communist then Yugoslavia in 1964 he has tried to discover something new each time. The city is full of tales he talks of the old city under the Doges. The earliest writers like Boccacio describing the city. The labyrinth nature of the city from Borges’s short story of the city he explanation of the word in Dutch which has a different meaning than in English. Then many great writers that had later written about the city he tells us of James and Mann Pound and Kafka. Later he later stays in a hotel that Kafka wrote his sad letters to Felice. This is a man that loves to discover anew the city every time he drifts from Rushkin’s time in Venice. Later we are discussing Cassanova and he reminds me of the books of Miklos Szenkuthy who write a book about Cassanova which had caught my eye a while ago. He brings to life the city its ghosts and the very fabric of the place.

A friend had once, long ago, spent her wedding night here, and she would later tell methat Kafka had written his sad letter to Felice in this hotel, a letter that probably read as if it were at last. That same year he had sent her more than two hundred letters and cards, so the message in this letter must have come as a nasty surprise. He has, he writes, reached the conclusion that art and love do not go together, he fears that nothing would come of his work. He expresses it more clearly in his diary:”Coitus as puinshment for the happiness of being together. I shall isolate myself from everyone, living as ascetically as possible, more ascetically than a bachelor, that is the only way for me to endure marriage”

His visit to the Hotel that Kafka stayed in

This is a book for any lover of Lit and Venice as he brings the city to life through those writers that have written about it, I have never been to Venice but love anything to do with the city ever have since seen Michael Palin working as a bin man the recent BBC series following the everyday folk of the city. Cees is a man of book and this for me has given me a list of books to read. As travel to the city is near impossible for the moment with the coronavirus meaning travel is hard you can see the city anew and vibrant through Cees eyes his fifty years of getting lost and discovering new things all brought to life by one of my favorite translators Laura. Have you ever read Cees travel writing?  Have you a city you want to visit at some time?

The Discomfort of Evening by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld

The Discomfort of Evening by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld

Dutch Fiction

original title –  De avond is ongemak

Translator – Michele Hutchinson

Source – review copy

I was pleased when this made the Booker longlist as I had already said I would review it today as part of a Bokenweek tour which I have taken part through over the last few years. I have long been a fan of Dutch lit so when the chance to review a book from one of the rising stars of Dutch Lit Marieke Lucas Rijneveld first came to notice with a poetry collection Calfskinwhich won a poetry prize. She grew up in the North Brabant area of The Netherlands where it is a large dairy farming area and religious as well. Her middle name was initially a fantasy friend when she was growing up but in her late teens, she took the name as a way to show her as an intermediate person. The discomfort of evening is her debut novel like the main character she also lost a sibling growing up.

“But he’s not dead” Mum said to the vet. She got up from the edge of the bath and extricated her hand from a pale blue flannel. She’d been just about to clean Hanna’s bottom, otherwise there was achance she’d get worms. They made little holes in the cabbage leaves. I .  was old ebough to make sure I didn’t get worms and I wrapped my arms around my knees to look less naked now the vet had suddenly come into the bathroom

The vet tells the mother it is fatal but this is the start of the world they know falling apart.

When ten-year-old Jas loses her older brother and one of her five siblings through a skating accident. At this point her world starts to fall apart.she is on the cusp of being a teen discovering her body but also struggling with the loss of her brother. From believing her family ios hiding Jews in the cellar aftermath of Foot and mouth is still felt in the community times are hard for the family these are dark times. From toads under her bed to strange events with cows on the farm Jas is trying to bring her brother back and help her siblings. As her mother stops eating and the father buries his head in the farm. Matthies is dead and they can’t mention him as the family struggles this is a portrait of a meltdown viewed from the eyes of a ten year but a ten-year-old with a weird way of dealing with her grief her self.

“How’s it going in the basement ?”

I don’t look at my mother but fix my gaze on  the floweery meadow on her apron, It’s possible that mum will move into the basement one day ; that she’ll find the family, the Jewish people that live there, nicer than us. What wikl hapopen to the three kings then, I don’t know: Dad is still incapable of evening heating up milk for coffeee. and if he lets it even tht boil over, how could he ever keep his children at the right temprature?

The family is spliting before Jas eyes.

This is a slow unravelling of a family through grief it is heartbreaking dark and mesmerizing at times. In the hinterlands of Holland, a ten year old narrates as her family falls apart from the loss of the eldest son. The parents are there but aren’t there this takes the book into a similar territory of books like lord of the flies. As Jas her sister and brother start to do thing that are strange and odd rituals touching animals touching each other as they have no outlet for their grief their actions turn. As they grapple with the cusp of adulthood and also sexual awakening tinged with disbelief at loss add to the odd world. I was reminded of Gerbrand Bakker twin in the setting a dairy farm in the hinterlands of holland also dealing with death. But this is a darker book than that was it is brutal death is never far away as anyone how has grown up in the countryside nature and farming can both be brutal at times. What are your thoughts on these books ? I reviewed this as part of a boken week tour her are the other stops

 

 

Shadow Child by P F Thomése

Shadow Child by P F Thomése

Dutch autofiction

Original title – Schaduwkind

Translator – Sam Garrett

I was out a few weeks ago when I saw this slim volume fro this prize-winning Dutch writer. I read the blurb it concerned the death of his young daughter Isa and struggling with the words to cope with this death has been so touched by the book by Carl’s book by Marie Naja Aidt which saw her coming to terms with her son’s death in his teens. I wondered the father version of the same loss would deal with it. The words on the back of the book some up the title may be “missing word. A woman who lives longer than her husband is called a widow, a man without his wife a widower. A child without parents is an orphan. But what do you call the father and mother of a child who has died ?”

We, who were no longer allowed to take our child in our arms, adapted immediately. We learned to read lips, eyebrows, fingersI eben read backs and shoulders. I read footsteps,doorsm=,silences. Later they brought in the equipment, more and more equipment, We learned to read that as well, we learned the numbers and their relationship to respiration,pulse rate, blood pressure, We learned to ignore certain beeps, and could distingush unerringly between various drips and tubes, They provide us with explanations, the only ones at our disposak. We wanted to understand everything.We sought a handheld in every fact, in order to keep from falling,.Into bottomless nothing.

I was reminded when i sat by my mothers bed as she opassed away with all the equipment around her and having the feeling of bottomless nothing.

There is a lot about the future here and the moment of loss from Pieter’ point of view a stone that had broken. As his girl drifted off from them. The future they saw is broken a book shut what wasn’t anymore.It doesn’t linger on the reason for her death what was wrong but the aftermath and the space left by Isa the trying to carry on. The betrayal in those writers he lovedNabakov and Flaubert who had both written about child deaths in the prose here, Pieter, in his vignettes feels they let him down even says in Goethe’s piece about the erlking which ends with the line But in his arms, the child lies dead. Pieter says this should have been the opening line no the closing line of the piece. The vignettes show how grief can rip your heart out as we have lived with our grief for the last year since my brother in law took his own life these words are touching and show the raw emotions of grief.

You don’t have ablank page anywhere, there’s nowhere I can get through to my own blanket ignorance. You put full stops everywhere and pull doors shut behind you (Yes, even you. Herr Gehemrat Goethe. your poem should not have ended with ” In sienen Armen das Kind war tot * ,.That’s how it should have started)

*In his arms the child was dead.

Even Goethe wasn’t a comfot of those writers he lived to read just seemed pale in the darkness.

The lines on the cover about the missing word for the loss of a child this is like carls book was a heartfelt work on personal grief and if you have grief in your own life is worth reading to show that you are not alone on the journey and the journey maybe be short or long everyone’s trip through grief. With it short chapters and drifting in time we see how Piter meditates on this moment of loss and the problems it brings to the parents of a shadow child the gulf of loss or a future never had the coming to terms and the loss of Isa her self those last days of her life that he relives from various angles and approaches. I was pleased to have found this book it came out 15 years ago here so it has been out of print for a while. But if you find a copy it will be worth reading.

The death of Murat Idrissi by Tommy Wieringa

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The death of Murat Idrissi by Tommy Wieringa

Dutch fiction

Original title De dood van Murat Idrissi

Translator – Sam Garrett

Source – personal copy

Now the last visit to a writer I have read before on this year’s Man Booker Longlist. I read Tommy Wieringa novel a few years ago but never reviewed it he has had a number of his books translated to English. He studied history and journalism at university. He had a number of jobs as a light seller and on the railways before he became a full-time writer. His breakthrough came when his third novel Joe speedboat won a big ditch book prize he has since then 18 more works. This is the short book on this year’s longlist at just a hundred pages but as you can tell by the cover and title it is a powerful little novella and maybe one of those books that should notice more than it was.

It’s her uncle’s fault that she was born in Holland. In 1975, her father arrived in France from Targuist – that was all fairly easy back then, hos brpther convinced him to travel on to holland. They worked in shifts at the Hoogoven mills, and shared a room in Beverwijk. They married and were laid off during the steel crisis in the early eighties . Life beat them down. Her uncle rose to his feet again , her father remained lying, he was the weaker of the rwo.But her uncle was dead and her father was still alive.

The iuncles death is part of the reason for the trip and shows how they started out in Holland by chance.

The book is the tale of Two Dutch women whose families are originally from North Africa who has decided to take a trip back to their parent homeland Morrocco. The two Thouraya she is as you would say is the pretty on the beautician and driving force of the two girls the other Ilham is the larger girl and worries she will have to settle down as her parents want her to as a usual Morrocan wife. The two arrive and immediately when having to hire a bigger car an Audi car. The two even as tourist feel that they are second class citizens due to there cultural heritage. They end up in a tight squeeze when a charming young man Saleh he takes it on himself to help and guide them around Morocco where to they meet in a seedy part of the town Murat and his mother and realize their savior has a price to his help them and that is to take Murat back to Europe he was once in France but was then set back. So these two unlikely traffickers have to bring this boy/man back to Europe in their car. But a cruel twist in the tale leaves them scarred for life about what happened to the young man in the time he was with them.

The two custom men don’t eave you past, they simply ignore you. Two cars in front of them, a mercedes is pulled out of line .

“Okay baby”, Thouraya says “Here we go ” sheputs on her film star face, and in a soundless dream they cruise past the customs officals , left and right. Before them them suddenly , there are twice as many lanes of asphalt . “Was that it ?” Ilham hears her own strange , high voice.

The two get through with Murat so easily at first little to lnow what will happen later on !

The shortest of the books on this Man Booker international list may actually have the most inside it as it tackles so many issues. Personal identity the two girls show the two sides of peoples cultural heritage Thouraya shows those that try hard and blend and move in and her friend likes to still keep her heritage but both initially view themselves as Dutch it isn’t to they get to the cultural homeland they then see how they may be western but will forever be Morrocan at heart. the four character incapsulate the vicious cycle of trafficking the two girls drawn into bring Murat to Europe to fulfill the immigrant dream of riches and a better world and life escaping the poverty of his home and then there is Saleh those who make a life of getting people in whatever way to Europe with little care for how it is done. For a book under a hundred pages it touches the soul of the reader and shows them the dark side of trafficking in a personal light in the story of four people that maybe are the voice of the thousands trying to get to Europe from North Africa.

Cheese by Willem Elsschot

 

 

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Cheese  by Willem Elsschot

Dutch fiction

Original title – Kaas

Translator – Sander Berg

Source = review copy

I was contact by Alma books as they are want to highlight  some of their back catalogue gems , I choose this and a book by Louis – Ferdinand Celine . I choose this as I had a happy memories of Holland and cheese , My father has done a lot of business in the Netherlands over the years and  about twenty years ago got a gift of some Cheese socks which he passed on to me the had a Edam hole style cheese with a little mouse looking out of a hole on each one , I loved those socks so a book about cheese , which from my time on the borders of Netherlands and spend a number of days in Nijmegen and surrounding area I know the dutch take the cheese seriously.

This Mr Van Sconnbeke comes from an old, wealthy family .He’s a bachelor and lives by himself in a big house in one of our most beautiful streets.

he has plenty of money, as do all his friends. These are for the most part judges , lawyers , merchants or retired businessmen.every member of this company possesses at least one car, with the exception of Mr Van Schoonbeke himself , my brother and me .But Mr Van Schoonbeke could own his car if he wished, and no one knows this better than his friends. Indeed, they think it’s rather curious and sometimes speak of him as “that old devil Albert”

The main reason for Frans is his friendship with Mr van Schoonbeke

Frans Laarmans is the main character of this book , he starts as a clerk in the novel in Antwerp . But has a chance to further his career and becomes a merchant in a much larger company egged on by his posh friends to take the job . This is where the problems begin with this new job where in a chance to impress his bosses and prove that a simple clerk like him is worth the job . He gets in a tangle with one supply with ordering to many as he get confused over what he has ordered with him then twenty tons of cheese turns up . Then he tries to get it sold but with no hope , his wife and children suffer as he starts to fall apart in a way .

The twenty tons were waiting for me on four trailers in the courtyard. They’d quickly offloaded the cheese last night to avoid paying demurrage to the railway company . That’s how I was able to witness my cheese being locked away in my safe . I stood in the middle of the cellar, like an instructor in a manege, keeping a close eye on everything until the last crate had been brought in

The large pile of cheese he has to get rid off before it goes off .

This is meant to be a comic masterpiece of comic  dutch literature . This is a novel of social-climbing Frans is a man who is wanting to climb it is similar in some ways too Wodehouse ,Frans is one of those oddly name side character from Jeeves and Wooster in a way one of those small stories that get told as an aside in the Wodehouse stories  . this is a classic man trying to better himself but with a dry look at failing at it a man who hates cheese ,drowning in cheese. I not sure it fully works when I first mentioned I was reading this a connection on twitter said they had thrown it to one side half read . I said and still hold by it that humour is hard to translate, in parts it works . I feel there is another level that maybe we miss that is some what Belgium humour , I was reminded of what Jonathan meades observations about the odd ways belgium is so different yet so close to us the quirky way they have small museums for everything and the way each street is individual in their look . Laarmans is a character that Elsschot used in his other big novel and again in his other books he wrote , he was considered to be semi biographical reflection of the man himself.

 

His name is David by Jan Vantoortelboom

His Name Is David

His name is David by Jan Vantoortelboom

Dutch fiction (Flemish)

original title – Meester Milraillette

Translator  –  Vivien  D Glass

Source – review copy

I was sent this by the dutch based publisher World editions it is their latest novel in English  by Jan Vantoortelboom is a Flemish writer born in Zeeland he still lives in rural Zeeland . he wrote his debut novel in 2011 which won three regional book prizes . This is his  second book won a booksellers book of the month and also Zeeland book of the year and is his first to be translated to English. The book was also on a dutch talk show as one of there book club reads .

The closer we got to the village tof Elverdinge-the tram had just passed the stop of brielen, the village before elverdinge-the edgier I felt. Wheat country, meadows with Islets of daisies and buttercups.Field of maize. Everything slowly drifted past me. occasionally, some boys would leap on the footboard to chug along for a bit before being chased off by the ticket collector.my belly rumbled a mixture of excitement and fear.

David on the tram to his new job is full of joy and fear for what is ahead .

His name is David is the story of a teacher in a small rural school in Flanders which he had been sent to work at by his father. This rural village is a small village that has descend into back biting and hatred . David is a sensitive soul . He wants to try to teach the children that what they see in the elders is wrong he does this by getting them involved in a play about good and evil black and white as he splits the class and shows that life is more than black and white to his pupils . But in doing so he has made enemies but he also made a friend in one of his pupils and has feeling for the boy’s mother. This is all told in flashbacks since the at the start we see David is facing a firing squad and then we also see what made david the way he was his father a handy man pushed his son ti be better but also in a way pushed him away , but that past has one event that colours his life today .

You don’t want to get off on the wrong foot , eh? You’re new to Elverdinge. you need to make friends, not enemies. I hear things about you and they aren’t all good. Don’t look so surprised. You don’t believe me ? You’ve already stepped on the toes of a number of people here. And those fellows don’t forgive and forget. No, schoolmaster. men like them are quick to take offence, and settle their scores in their own time .

david is warned to calm things down in the school as he has upset some folks already in the village

This is a book about morals and good and bad and I think maybe a very Flemish book , I read a piece about this book that mention another Flemish writer who I aim to feature at some point. Stefan Hertmans that says the great problem with world war one is it left Belgiaans questioning their own moral values after the war. This book is a perfect example of those moral issues and also the small mind world they lived in pre war . David is a catalyst for change but he is interrupted by the war that will engulf them all and leave them all change. This is a wonderful insight into a village on the verge of collapse due to it being so wound up in its own world in the verge of the great war.

The Boy by Wytske Versteeg

 

 

 

The boy by Wystke Versteeg

Dutch fiction

Original title  – Boy

Translator – Sarah Welling

Source – review copy

Well after a few days in Slovenia I  ove near home to The Netherlands and a prize-winning Dutch book. This is the second novel by Wystke versteeg  a rising star of dutch literature  .She came  to the notice of dutch readers with a non fiction book about her time working with homeless people called This is not a homeless person .. Her books have been said  to deal with the human condition like many of her fellow young dutch writers dutch writers. THis book won bng book prize in Holland.

When Kito was older, in primary school, I’d wait for him at the gate when my schedule allowed it, listening to the mothers.They all seemed to know each other very well, and they seemed born for there maternal role.Standing among them made me feel like an imposter. I tried to join in with conversation, but my voice sounded artificial even to myself.I told them how he jumped on the bed in the mornings and put his arms around me, how soft he was and how open. How he reminded me of something I’d forgotten a long time ago , how innocent he smelled

The Mum struggles with being a mother having not given birth to Kito

Well this book deals with every parents worst nightmare and that is the loss of their child . Kito an adopted Chinese child is drowned on a beach during a school trip.The son had been the glue of the family the father and mother have struggled to cope with the loss and drifted apart. The mother wants more answers so heads off after finding that the teacher whom was in charge of the trip Hannah, she has left here job and gone to leave in the back and beyond in Bulgaria so the mother sets out to meet the teacher and try to find out why Kito Killed himself. What she finds out is a side to her son she didn’t really know ? He was adopted after she her self a psychiatrist discovered she was infertile had to travel to china to find a son but she and her husband missed that Kito was a real troubled child one of those kids that is a square peg in the round hole of being at school that culminated in the tragic events as this is seen by the mother talking to Hannah her need to be their for some sort of revenge or just an answer  from  the teacher changes.As Hannah had tried to help Kito by using drama to help him

I don’t understand; I said . “What happened , what could have hurt someone your age so badly ?”

She doesn’t answer my question.When she starts talking again she sounds deep in thought like she’s forgotten I’m sitting next to her

“I was young then, I mean not like I am now but softer, stupider. I didn’t understand how things worked. I didn’t want to teach but it was what I was doing.Children need someone they can beleive in, i didn’t even beleive in myself

A glimpse at what Kito death had on Hannah seen through the mothers eyes .

this is one of those stories that seems popular at the moment a book mainly about a character and his life that is dead through out the book. A sort of autopsy of what happened rather than seeing what happened.This is a story about two things in a way adopting kids and how hard it can be for those kids , especially in Kito  case coming from another place sets him out to be a target and that is the second thread in this book how hard it is to stop kids being bullied and Kito is an extreme example , no I’m wrong there no I read about many kid like this that have taken their life due to bullies . Hannah and the mother both tried to help but neither had the full picture this is shown when the two meet and finally the piece of this sad 15 year olds life come together.I could see this making a great film at some point

 

 

The decision by Britta Böhler

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Well this was the first book I was sent this year and I always like the way books seem to interlink  with books I have read or tried to read and this one is no different. I tried to rush through Magic mountain for German lit month but decide halfway through it needed a slower reading from me, so I put to one side for this years German lit month. But I had also tried to order from my library a book that collected together letters sent between Thomas Mann the main character in this book and his fellow writer Herman Hesse, I wish the library copy had turned up as I could looked up his letters around this time.I love the way books overlap this one even overlaps with one of the earliest books on the blog. Another thread of the book is how important Mann considered his book Joseph which was being published at this time this is his longest book and also one maybe least spoke about now in his cannon.

Hesse would probably lecture him because if the Korrodi letter. He can see it now, Hesse’s thin face would be even thinner than usual, there would be reproaches and exhortations, and perhaps even more than that. Lose another friend is that worth it ?

It’s all very well for Hesse to talk. When you’re not in the middle it’s difficult to stay out of things. Hesse hasn’t lived in Germany for decades; he became a swiss citizen long before the trouble in German started.His books are also published by Bermann ; he has german readers, but doesn’t live in the fatherland and doesn’t want to return.

The relationship between Mann and Hesse is shown here when in those three days he visits Hermann.

It’s 1936 and in switzerland the writer Thomas Mann has taken the decision to write and open letter in a swiss paper denouncing the Nazi regime and the actions. What follows in the book is the three days from him writing the letter and  it’s being published. The writer Britta Bohler a well-known Dutch lawyer has filled in the gaps in the story, as Mann’s diaries of the time mention very little of the time between the letter writing and being published.Mann confronts the ghosts of his past and fear of the future.One man well Mann struggling to choose exile other bowing down.

The memory of Germany is a nostalgic remembrance, a memory of times long gone. Times that don’t return. How did Proust say it ? “The really that I knew no longer existed.” No, he doesn’t want to be able to return to present-day Germany. He wants his fatherland to become again the country it once was. His homesickness is pain in time, not in space, and staying in Germany would not have changed that. He switches on the reading light and looks at the clock. He still has enough time to stretch his legs for half and hour before the evening meal; the radio broadcast can’t wait until after dinner.

I loved this passage as it sums up Mann’s thoughts in the book a struggle with Germany’s so to speak.

 

Mann wonders the knock on effect of the letter his publisher is Jewish and may be in trouble more because of the letter. He ponders what it is to be German, The thought of being German and not in Germany in fact against the German regime. He see how other people have dealt with the Nazis. The way Wagner has been embraced by the Nazis. we see Mann as not the bold writer we know but as a man on the edge, having to make The decision. I was reminded of one of the earlier books I read on the blog. Brecht at night  by Mati Unt which followed a fellow German writer Bertolt Brecht as he escaped the German regime. in his case via Finland to The US .In the book Britta has brought a time the Mann his self wrote very little about and filled three days in his life into a novel that shows the greater struggle between good and evil.As The open Letter from Thomas Mann to Korrodi about Germany and Exile writers is due to be published in feb 3 edition of the NZZ newspaper in Switzerland. A move that sees Mann become and exile himself.

Dutch literature

Original title – De besilissing

Translator – Jeannette K Ringold

 

 

You have me to love by Jaap Robben

Jaap robben

Well the first review of 2016 is one of the last books I read in 2015  Jaap robben first adult novel, he is well-known in Holland for his children’s poems and short stories. There is a video of Jaap talking in English about this book that his uk publishers World editions made, where he talks about what inspired the story. It was two events the first was a story of a father drowning after saving his son from drowning, the son come ashore they turn back only to find the father had now drowned after passing his son to help that appeared. The second is when Jaap was helping at an old people’s home and an old lady said what nice legs he had he said thank and again she said “you’ve lovely legs ” and have you a girlfriend. These two pieces made  the kernel that became the book  you have me to love .

I tried to shine the torch in the direction she was looking. Any second now, Dad would surface, coughing and choking, and here she was, ready to grab hold of him and haul him up onto the beach. Any second now. He would emerge from the water. He had to. Especially now that mum was here. We’d see his head above the waves, like a football floating towards us.” look ! look 0ver there ,” I’d shout, jumping onto mum’s back and catching him in the torch-light .

I was reminded in part with this passage of the Stevie smith poem drowning not waving .

Anyway into the book the book is set on a remote Scottish Island and follows the vents during and after a drowning of a man the man is father to Mikael, he is nine years old and watched his father just disappear in the sea as he tried to get hold of Mikael’s ball. Then there is the widow Dora that is left behind. Also on the island is Karl a fisherman unmarried and Augusta although dead plays a part in this story as Karl had a fling with her then there is the crew of the ship that takes everyone back to the mainland. The story is set in the weeks after the drowning happened when Dora and Mikael struggle with the guilt and also the added isolation this brings them. The second part of the book brings you back to the island a number of years later Karl has moved closer to Dora and Mikael has nearly grown into a man and looks very like his father at the same age.

It’s a little gull. Legs folded. Bones as thin as twigs, barely held together by a film of skin. Both his eyes are missing his skull is an empty walnut shell. His body creaks as I pick him up by the tips of his wings and spread them. Empty. A hollow cage of ribs. it’s as if he shrunk away to nothing so he can ft back into his egg.

It’s my fault. His mother has pecked him to death, and it’s my fault I should have never locked them up.

This one scene maybe echoes Dora’s and Mikael relationship after the father has gone in their isolation.

I leave it there it isn’t hard to put together what might happen later in the book, the video of  Jaap talking about the book reminded me of a scene in a film Smoke where one of the character recounts a story of a father lost in the artic who is found as he was in ice and seen by his son who is now the same age as the father when he died. Well the later part of this book is the mother looking at the son and seeing an echo of his late father. There is another horrific scene where is there is a mother and child Gull that Mikael has in his room were the mother gull kills the baby chick. The beauty of the book is setting it on a small isolated island means the grief and recovery from the grief is twist by the sheer isolation of the place. The book won the Dutch bookseller prize and is currently being made into a film. This was also my favourite cover of last year.

Dutch fiction

Original title – Birk

Translator – David Doherty

 

Ventoux by Bert Wagendorp

 

Ventoux by Bert Wagendorp

Dutch fiction

Original title – Ventoux

Translator – Paul Vincent

Source – review copy

 

L’enfer du Nord: Paris – Roubaix
La Cote d’Azur et Saint Tropez
Les Alpes et les Pyrennees
Derniere etape Champs-Elysees
Galibier et Tourmalet
En danseuse jusqu’au sommet
Pedaler en grand braquet
Sprint final a l’arrivee
Crevaison sur les paves
Le velo vite repare
Le peloton est regroupe
Camarades et amitie

 

Well what is a better choice than kraftwerks Tour de France , this band like the writer of this book are huge cycling fans .

Now Bert Wagendorp is a journalist that has worked on a number of cycling magazines and reported on cycling . He has also been the London Correspondent for the Dutch newspaper “De Volksrant ” .This book sold over a 100000 copies in Holland .The book has been made into a film in holland .Now today seems the best day for this book , I have saved it til the Tour de france was on and tomorrow the Tour starts to head uphill so to speak as the first mountain stages of this years tour . All this for the non cycling fans among you is the title of this book is among the most famous finishes for a stage in the Tour de France Miont Ventoux is a bare piece of rock with a road that goes up it .

In 1970 Eddy Merckx won his second tour de france . I was six , watching TV with my father  , and saw Merckx , the cycling marvel . “The cannibal ,” said my father . “So young and already so good . He’s going to sweep the board .No one can compete with him .

bart remember his first tour with one of its great champions winning it .

Ventoux follows two journeys up Mont Ventoux the first by six friends Five boys and a single girl in the summer of 1982 . This is the time of the great Dutch cyclist Joop Zoetemelk , the man who always seem to finish second in the tour . So as the six friends start by setting up camp then three of them set off up the huge mountain . But as they start to descend the mountain one of the three men a young poet and the most handsome of the group falls off the road and dies in an accident .Now thirty later Bart a man whose marriage has fallen apart , with his teen daughter has gathered the group of friends together to once again try to cycle the mountain but mainly to finally grasp what happened in the summer of 1982 . Laura the girl they were all in love with , David who Bart kept in touch with as the plans the trip , he starts to track the other two friends  down .The book is about how friendships can split and what happens if that summer like the one in 1982 , when you are on the verge of becoming men goes wrong where does that lead onto . One friend is on drugs charges .

Peter had something serene about him .He did not seem to belong in a floating brothel , which come to that applied to his father and mother too . They were more like an extravagant gallery-owning couple ,specialising in Russian art

Peter the poet and most attractive in the group had a history behind him .

Cycling is a metaphor in this book the climb is like that climb to adulthood , but there is a lot of mention of Raleigh and that team at this time was one of the dominate force of cycling and a Dutch review of this book shows me that the team had one 9 of 11 team time trials over this time in the tour .Like a team trial where the team does best with all the riders the loss of peter lead this team to crack and loose themselves to now find themselves together again a little larger and with a lot more baggage than first time . It’s a book about lost friends and lost friendships .A book for all those summers we had camping and luckily none of this happened to me . I loved the references to cycling and music at the time . This was just the time I first maybe knew of the tour Joop and his era were huge names . The dutch are great fans with the famous orange corner on the other grand old climb of the Tour Alp’d’Huez .

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