Life begins on Friday by Ioana Parvulescu

Life begins on Friday by Ioana Parvulescu

Romanian fiction

Original title – Viaţa începe vineri

Translator- Alistair Ian Blyth

Source – Review copy

For my second book for Woman in Translation month I move west from Russia to Romania and to a EU prize-winning book Life begins on friday by Ioana Parvulescu. She grew up in Brasov , she came to Bucharest as an 18 year old and in her Eu prize-winning interview unlike most people from the town where she came from she fell in love with the city, fist with its good parts and then with its bad parts. She has written ten book this is her first to be translated into English. May I note this has an after word by Mircea Cartarescu whose book Blinding was hailed as a great book , why this equally challenging book for the reader has fallen on deaf ears ? This is maybe a reason we need woman in translation month.

The people of Bucharest were having a good day. It had snowed, there were still twelve days till the end of the year and twelve hours till the end of the day. The whiteness, which stretched from one end of the city to the other, from Cotroceni palace to the obor district, and from the serban voda cemetry to the flower beds on the Chaussee and then onward, into the horizon, was melting in the afternoon sun. The icicles looked as if they were coated in oil and here and there were beginning to drip onto the heads of the passer-by.

Bucharest in snow then in melts away under the sun in the day.

 

The book follows thirteen days in 1897 the end of that year . It starts when a man is found injured not really knowing who he is . The Man Dan Kretzu or as he is known in this time Dan Cretu has come back to this time from the present or the future (this is not really clear ) But we see him recovering in a house where the father is looking after him and The Daughter Julia is caught up in the world of the novel Vanity fair. This is a glimpse into a city that at this time was a shining light in Europe and also to an age where the human soul was maybe less  weary. But this is seen through modern eyes. Add to this there is also a murder in the background as it happened just by where he was found this 113 day glimpse in the past changes him and also all those he touches.

Today I experienced a great joy. A surprise. It was about time, otherwise I would have said that I was beginning to resemble Amelia from vanity fair, and heaven knows nowadays kind, weepy creatures are more unfashionable than Grandmother’s long nails and her bunches of curls hanging next to her ears.

Julia doesn’t want to be like the Naive Amelia n the book

Ioanna in the interview after winning the EU prize says the main character in all her books in the city of Bucharest and so it is here in this book. The city is full of life here as she choose this time as she felt it was an Epoch moment in both the city itself which shined bright at this time , but also in the sense of human nature she felt the soul of humans was different then we had a future to look forward to the world now has moved on so much. You can see this is Julia the way she is so drawn into a book and into that world of fiction vanity fair was cutting edge when it came out in how it viewed relationships. and Becky sharp was maybe one of the first woman of her own mind many young woman would read about. This is just one line of the book there is a few other threads but this is one of those books you have to read to fully get. I must note know the shame of brexit I have read so many great Eu lit Prize winning books over the last few years with money from the EU to bring us these books in English , which come UK leaving europe will happen no more a sad loss to all us fans of World lit.

Have you a favourite EU Literature prize winning book ?

Miruna , a tale by Bogdan Suceavă

Miruna ,a tale

Miruna a tale by Bogdan Suceavă

Romanian fiction

Orginal title Miruna, o poveste,

Translator – Alistair Ian Blyth

Source – review copy

Well I have review a number from the Czech based publisher both review and personnel copy they always choose gems so when this book by Bogdan Suceavă a Romanian writer ,that I had vaguely heard of I thought I give it a whirl especially when it was mention to have a fairy tale element to the story .Bogdan Suceavă is a mathematician he studied at both Bucharest and the Michigan state in the US ,he currently teaches at CSU in California ,he has written number of novels and books of poetry .This book won the Bucharest writers prize when it came out there .

But Grandfather was different from the others .The evening after our parents departed and for the first time we were left in our Grandmother’s care ,I heard him telling Miruna that this was the only place where you could see time passing ,where it was never entirely frozen .

The first meeting with their Grandfather they see how different he is .

Miruna , a tale is the story of a family the two grandchildren and their grandfather ,he tells the two children many stories one of the Miruna absorbs a lot of these stories but also that ability to see things  via her dreams .The grandfather weaves a world around them with the stories he tells them where real and surreal mix ,the stories try to tell the story of the last century in Romania  their great grandfather that went to Greece on a ship ,mainly in the place where they live which is the Carpathian mountains .He shows them how what happened changed the world and also how they can keep themselves tied to their past .So we see the Germans come but also werewolves and giants a sort of folk tales to tell the kids what happened but without letting them see the full horrors by making them seem like fairy tales .It also showed how their village and valley had seen so many changes but also tried it hardest to stay the same .

During the summer hoildays when we were told the story of the journey to Hellas ,Miruna had a fever and her first nightmare ,Our parents were not in Evil Vale at the time when something happened that frightened her .It was that summer we learned that the encrusted face of christ can be seen on a grain of wheat .

Miruna starts seeing things in her dreams .

 

I loved this short book it captured a world that is fast dying and that is the one where kids listen to the grandparents tell them the oral history but also mix in fairy and folk tales .Bogdan in his after word on this book mentions in the first line how much as a youngster he loved the works of Tolkien  ,I could see this as I know the main inspiration for the lord of the rings was the horrors that he had seen during the world war and use it for a cautionary tale .This book shows Romania which when you look at its history over the last hundred years has been at the centre of a lot of turbulent times  so he used similar tools by mix fact and fantasy .Also it showed how some places and people don’t always want the modern world as it is and love to cling to what has been great .If you loved the books of Sjon this is one I’m sure you will love .

Have you  favourite book with fairy tales ?

 

The Testament by Elie Wiesel

the testament

The Testament by Elie Wiesel

Jewish fiction

Translated by Marion Wiesel

original title – Le Testament d’un poète juif assassiné

Source review copy

Elie Wiesel is probably one of the best known Jewish names in the world .Born in Romania he grew up in a house speaking Yiddish.His father encouraged him to read and learn Hebrew .He was caught up in the war and end up in one of the Nazis Concentration camps he has the number 7713 , he was lucky to survive and since the war he has taught Hebrew and publish many books on his experience and Novels like this about the War and the Jewish experience in the war ,for his work in highlighting the holocaust he was awarded The Nobel Peace prize in 1986 as the committee said Elie Wiesel was ” A witness for truth and justice ” .This novel was published in 1980.

Grisch , my son

I am interuoting my Testament to write you this letter when you read it , you will be old enough to understand it and me .But will you read it ? Will you receive it ? .I fear not .Like all writing of prisoners it will rot in the secret archives . and yet … something in me tells me that a testament is never lost .Even if nobody reads it ,its content is transmitted

Paltiel writing at the start of the book to his son Grisch

The testament is a book that has an ambitious scope to it as Elie Wiesel has tried to capture in some way the changing face of Europe throughout the 20th century .The person describing this journey is A “mute poet ” Paltiel Kossover  ,he is Jewish and grew up in Russia before Lenin and Stalin took power .Now Paltiel has two things we should know about him the first is he believes in Communism ,this takes him some part to spain to fight in the civil war there .But he also like many writers in Stalin time ends up in Jail for his thoughts .But he is also Jews this brings him into conflict with the Nazis and leads him to go the holy land .This book is a letter or Testament to a son that he will never really know .We see the europe he saw unfold before us .

In my dream

my father

Asked me

if he is still

my father

 

I hold his hand

and I ache

I talk to him

and I ache

the First two verses of one of Paltiel Kosovers poems from the book .

Now any one that has read this blog for a while will know I have a real soft spot (is that the right term a needing to read ,learn and thus impart to others ) books about the war and Holocaust .Elie Wiesel is someone I had read years ago he alongside the likes of Levi is one of the strongest voices about what happened during the Holocaust  .So this novel thou not directly involving The concentration camps skirts the times ,Does show another Jewish life in the Europe off the time  and one that has equally had its ups and Downs the choice of a man who can not speak gives this story a feel have been written by an observer as Paltiel see ,hears but doesn’t speak it all .Elie has managed to capture how it felt to be some during the Russian revolution  fight in the Spanish war .Also the purges and dark times of Russia under Stalin this is one for anyone that like 20th century history .

Have you a favourite book that looks back on 20th century history ?

Nadirs by Herta muller

Nadirs by Herta Muller

German Fiction

translator Sieglinde Lug

Nadirs published under the title Niederungen was her debut collection from the Nobel prize winning German writer ,it was published by University of Nebraska press and was the first to be translated into English  .Like the other book Passport , I ve read by Herta Muller  it is again set in the romania of her youth (she was born and grew up in Banat the german speaking area ).The book is formed of one long almost novella length story that of the title Nadirs and then 13 shorter stories som less than a page  ,I will leave nadirs for you to read  and mention a couple of the short piece .One I loved was Swabian Bath at just over a page long it descibes a family having the weekly bath in front of the fire .as we see the family one after another jump in the bath .

Grampa must be in the bathtub ,Gandma thinks .Grandma closes the bathroom door behind her. Grandpa drains the bathwaterfrom the bath the little gray rolls of mother, of father ,of grandma and of granpa swirl round the drain .

saturday night bathing from The swabian bath .

another really short one workday does what it says on the tin and that is describe a day bit by bit from waking in the morning getting there and then work day and journey home .I love the imagery in Mullers writing she uses unusal terms to describe things so we get things decribes as black toad like ,rotten pear like .I believe a lot of this is due to the style of german that Muller writes and speaks in, that due to being broken off from mainland germany since the second world war has retained a lot of the old high german style of speaking and writing .She also has a dream like feel to her stories as they walk that fineline between realism and magic realism very well .Now this said Nadirs isn’t the easiest read it has abuse alcoholism animals been mistreated all contained within the  118 pages .But that said you get a great insight into growing up and being part of minority in another country as the people in this book are .Muller was a real shock when she won the nobel relatively unkown outside germany ,but even in this her debut collection that is now nearly 25 years old you can see a writer that is destined for the greatness and accolades she got later in her writing life   .I ve seen some people say the translation isn’t great but having read passport I think it is just Muller use of words that sometimes seem odd to us the english reader .

Source – library .

Have you read Muller ?

the passport by herta muller

the fourth on the around the world is this book from Romania .I first came across Herta Muller about a week before last years nobel prizes were announced when @milestyle Stewart from world lit forum mentioned her as a possible winner .Being the sort person that loves to find out about new writers i google her and looked on amazon for her books to find little or none in print ,then she went on to win this years nobel prize for literature ,and both granta and the lovely serpents tail choose to reissue books from her .

  the book its self is a mere 90 pages long  set in the small german speaking enclave in Romania and follows a small village miller as he struggles for a passport ,but by no means a simple read as there is no real start to end narrative ,other than a thin thread about Windisch the main characters quest for a passport .In parts the book verges in to the surreal with dreams of dry frogs and an owl that settles on roofs as a harpenge of death .In other places you sense the corruption of the Ceausescu regime with Windsche having to bribe officials with corn and flour .also there are deep sexual and religious undercurrents with a tree being burnt for being possessed by the devil .Muller has a wonderful way of describe the surrounding weather it badly painted walls or the smell of the apples exploding in the fire .for the most part this novel is obviously autobiographical as Hertha herself had to wait to travel to west germany ,grew up in a small village in the same area as the novel is based .Windisch and his wife spooky echo millers own parents as her father was a solider and her own mother had spent time in a soviet work camp .

The priest had stood behind the apple tree ,praying loudly .the church choir stood alongside the boxwood hedge, singing the long songs .it was colds and the breath of the songs was drawn in to the sky .the women ad children prayed quietly.

a scene just before they burn a devilish apple tree .

the cover is a green photo of a cyclist the passport is the english title the translation of the german title is “man is a great pheasant in the world ” which is maybe more intriguing .this was published late last year by serpents tail

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