Three loves, one death by Evald Flisar

Three loves, one death by Evald Flisar

Slovenian fiction

Original title – Ljubezni tri in ena smrt

Translator – David Limon

Source – review copy

At Last is probably the Slovenian writer with the longest career since the late 1960s Evald Flisar has been writing books and plays.He has also written many travelogues and studied comparative literature and lit theory in Slovenia then afterwards studied in london English language and literature. This is the second book by Flisar that Istros has published but the first I have reviewed and the last in the partnership with Peter Owen in the world series  on Slovenia.

 

As for Vladimir, we had to understand that he had a very young, flighty wife, who was sometimes too much even for a hero in possession of ten partisan medals for bravery. Peter’s notes on meteors and so on were, of course, a matter for discussion between him and the professor under whose supervision he should long ago have finished his degree in cosmology. Certainly, the earth would not crumble into dust merely because a naughty girl wanted to frighten her nearest and dearest.

‘And Vinko,’ said Mum in conclusion, ‘can explain himself who he is burying in the garden.’

Vladamir another one of the family and peter the star man .

Well this is a classic tale in many ways that we will all have seen in some way or another . It follows a family leaving the city in this case Ljubljana to the countryside to work on an old house this is told by the point of view of one of the sons.The family short-lived dream of peace and rebuilding this old house is shattered when various family members reappear in the families lives. The uncle Vicko an accountant but also a man who wants a glimpse of fame like growing the biggest cabbage forfilling the Warhol  saying of everyone getting there five mins of fame. Then we have aunt Mara and her daughter Elizabeth the one that all the sons seem to wa\nt the older son Peter has returned home to study the night sky making the most of the dark skies the house has given them but also a boy with many sexual cravings . Oh and last but not least the narrator a young son wanting to be a writer this book is part of a trilogy with the other book that Flisar has published by istros, then last is the other Uncle Svejk  a war hero by accident that joins the local fire brigade and looks after their old fire engine maybe like his Czech name sake he is is a character that gets in the most scraps and comic asides.

for  it was like nothing we had ever seen before. Above all, it had no flat surface on which to stand it. From the central mass, which had no discernible shape or function, there protruded without order or symmetry all different kinds of steel, aluminium and even wooden growths. With some imagination it was possible to recognize among them the cubist forms of spades, picks, hoes, perhaps sickles and scythes, perhaps rakes and other tools, but these were just the ends or beginnings of what they were supposed to be. In between, joined with other pieces, it was possible to discern the links of a chain, half a cogwheel, a toilet bowl, the workings of a wall clock, two weights and blackened frying-pan handles.

If only these parts or fragments had been bound together with wire or welded together into a whole! Then the entire object could be ascribed to the imagination of a modernist sculptor, and, by relocating it to the domain of art, where everything is possible and everything permitted, it could be deprived of the aggressive concreteness before which we squatted like helpless children.

A longer quote gives a sense of place a sort of junk yard of old communist pieces .

So we have sons after the cousin , three  men all trying to be head of the house in a way. This is a novel that shows the best of family life and the worst but also has some humour and dark parts. I didn’t know til I finished the book Evald had lived in the uk. For me there is almost something of the H E Bates about the story there is that comic look at country life but also with showing the human side of life and love one is remind of Mariette and how her power on men is similar to the power on the sons in this family of the cousin elizabeta.Yes had Bates been a Slovenian in post communist slovenia he may have written something like this. Evald  is a writer that you can see has travelled and brought what he has seen and read from around the world and brought it to a personal story of life in his homeland. I will be reading his other istros at some point in the next few weeks.

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Panorama by Dušan Šarotar

Panorama by Dušan Šarotar

Slovenian Fiction ? or non fiction > or just great prose

Original title – panorama

Translator – Rawley Grau

Source – review copy

Well I reviewed the first in the series yesterday and today I move on to the second of the three books from Slovenia istros books have published in partnership. This was the one I read first because of one passage on the back of the book describing it as reminiscent of W G Sebald , who else couldn’t pick it up the day it dropped through the door. Dusan is also a poet he has written four novels and collections of poetry and Short stories. This book is one of those books that really blends the line of what literature is and draws you into a personnel journey.

Like a mirage at the end of the road, without reflection or gleam,dark and grey, a geometric plane shadowed in pencil on a yellowed sheet of drawing paper – that’s what the sea looked like – shallow, motionless, monastery beer spilled into eternity on to a black stone floor, but mainly trapped in a wide, ever wider, nearly limitless landscape; the nearer I was to the shore, the greater, the more impressive was the bay, in the middle of which stood a black lighthouse on sharp rocks, no bigger than a wizard’s ring, hovering on the motionless surface, while the master’s pale hand, still wearing it proudly, had long ago sunk beneath the sea. Without braking, I went down off the asphalt road on to a wide, neatly mowed grassy area in front of the boathouse and rode up to the sea. I leaned the bicycle against a low breakwater that was protecting the lawn from the high tide and slowly made my way over the grey sand, between the slippery rocks, the black pebbles and the rotting seaweed, into the oneness, the residue and abandonment, the world that remained when that sunken, dead arm last unclenched its hand and released the silt on which I now stepped, I thought as the smell washed over me, as if I was standing in an old, abandoned, invisible maritime cemetery, eerily beautiful none the less, like the romantic landscapes of the Old Masters.

I’ve used one long quote today as it sums up so much I mention here and also the line a wizard ring matches up to line of Galway bay about returning to the claddagh ring

The book has 80 pictures that Dusan took on a trip from Ireland where he had been studying , we see him in Galway bay , I imagined the old irish folk song Galway bay which talked about coming into the town of Galway from the sea , a thing which a large number of people didn’t do more head the other way to the new world but this is the old world and a writer is seeing the storms drift in as he travels around Ireland  .He does this in the company of a driver his driver is like the writer is also from the Balkans an Albanian Gijini  who end up in Ireland and as a driver the two share many a conversation about place and times. there is also a strange sense of a switch of past and present he sees evidence of those that escaped galway back in the dark days as i said in a review last week I am always haunted by the pogues lyrics to the song thousands are sailing “on a coffin ship I came here and I never even got so far I could change my name ” a coffin in a boat is also an image we see in the book . We also see the writer heading back first in Belgium the old cities of the lowland country , I felt these place I visited on a school trip as a kid and drove through one night many year later on my own homeward journey to England from working alongside refugees and migrants in 1992 in Germany from the break down of Yugoslavia. Then back t the heart of the Balkans and Bosnia a sort of rebirth in Sarajevo  I remember the watching the film Torjiza about an orchestra escaping Sarajevo as the do a cow gives birth as they sing to calm the cow and this like the return is a rebirth of the writer.

THe pictures are real of the journey the words are what Dusan added after a way to show how the mind works and how images can make the mind fluid and words can mean more than pictures which is what Dusan wanted the images are there but maybe like those native americans photographed against there will as they felt it took their soul one wonders what they would make of todays Selfie obsessed culture ? Have the value of the photographic image is less than it use to be ? the title of the book is a homage to the artist Gerhard Richter photos and his photo realism in his paintings this is a book that shows that we still need a narrative to our photos . This is a book about language swimming in it like the cover art about what words mean how we use language  oplaces memories can all become a flurry of words more than a single image but a connection  like Sebald place leads to connection and like a fine line of a spider’s web from its centre in the Balkans Dusan works spins a thread around the old world meeting those like himself who have travelled from the home  a book about migration written before the migrant crisis hit but at its heart a story of the endless sense of migration man has been on the move  from those poor Irish souls drive by the poatoe famine to escape from Galway and many other place along that atlantic coast we see in those photos to the migrants that came from the polace that where run by countries to those displaced by war and persecution this is like  a sea of people and sometimes we see a tsunami and in other case a simple wave on settling like in Dusan book but another under the book and after the book that wipes out and redraws the lines that follows it like the simple plague to those lost irish souls , even in Belgium he is near the killing fields of Ypres another line changing event . So this book isn’t a novel or memoir . I discussed it with Susan and she told me about Dusan view it is just what is called in Slovenia Good prose , the idea of fiction non fiction is mainly an English language way of dividing books and then we have books like these that sail the line another watery line. Well I have written more than I have in a long time about a book such is this book it is one of those rare gems that hopefully will get the wider readership it truly deserves .

None like her by Jela Krečič

 

 

None like her by Jela Krečič

Slovenian fiction

Original title –  Ni Druge

Translator – Oliva Hellewell

Source – review copy

I am as many of you know A huge fan of Istros books , this is the first in a series of books they are doing in a new partnership with Peter Owen , where they will release three books  from one country and the first series is books from Slovenia. This is the first of the three books in the series is a novel for Jela Krečič , she is known for being the wife of Slavoj Zizek, she is a journalist her most famous piece is an interview with the Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.

As he focused on her face, he saw that he liked it. It was pale distinguished by her severe, uneasy expression and stern feature but softened by her lip.And ,if he was not mistaken, by her big blue eyes too, although with the enormous amount of black eyeshadow all over them he couldn’t be quite sure of the colour.Her lower lip punctured with a piercing, a decoration repeated once more on her eyebrow. A red-head version of Larsson’s girl with a dragon tattoo

How ofter do we see this type of girl about whether in Ljubljana or London .

Well this book is an odyssey in a way the title refers to Sara the former partner of Matjaz. He is obsessed about her but to get over her or get her back he has decided to go on a quest to find other woman.What follows is a series of relationships as we see what the women as like in Modern Ljubljana , Each chapter is a different relationship Matjaz is a strong macho man he is a photographer , he is one of this men that uses at times his power over women making them feel less , although at one point this is turned on him when he meets a red head that reminds him of the lead character in the dragon tattoo who doesn’t fall for his patter. For me it is an interesting look at modern balkan relationship. The types you can meet anywhere a TV for example her runs into in a gay club and what one would call a cougar an older woman who husband left her for a younger woman so she now finds younger men. This is a journey of one man to becoming a real man a modern man.

checkmate by the very fact of being born. That’s why she always liked names where she could see the beginnings of a ‘mate’: Matej, Matjaž, Matko, Matic, Matija, Matilda, Mateja, Matahari and so on. But Grandma is dead, he said to himself, he was convinced of it – she had a headstone at Žale cemetery, along with dried flowers, burned-out candles and all of that. Then maybe he was just imagining it; maybe the heat was messing with his head. Finally he looked up – and he saw her. Sara.

She was coming towards him with a crumpled newspaper and her distinctive smile, which struck him right in the stomach. ‘Your newspaper’s crumpled,’ he said upon greeting her, slightly embarrassed. He hadn’t seen her for more than a year.

Late in in the book we meet the woman who started it all  Sara .

This is a clever juxtapose tale with a female writing a male main character, whom she said in an interview she based on those french film stars of the fifties. . But what really works in those women that matzaj meets they are more than just a type Jela manages to make these types see real in the dialogue between the characters. This is a story of Love lost and a hunting of love obsessive love. This is how one man lost in life and obsession through this group of women he finds himself. I love how easily people fall for this guy he is like the Fonz of ljubjana but also like the Fonz character at his heart is a broken soul yes a strong man behind leather jacket but like Fonz , Matzaj is that tragic comic hero in a way the Fonz is yes girls fall at his feet but at his heart he is sad , but there is also a pinch of classic bad boy as well the way he treats his woman as Jela says like a fifties male with that feeling of position of male over female being held.

 

Crumbs by Miha Mazzini

Crumbs_Cover_web.270

Crumbs by Miha Mazzini

Slovenian fiction

Orginial title Drobtinice

Translator Maja Visenjak-limon

Source – review copy

It was strange after reviewing The germany lottery in January by Miha Mazzini for the Scottish based publisher Freight books to issue for the first time this books Crumbs it is also known as The Cartier Project .This book was out in the US about ten years ago and written in 1987 .So I was thrilled to read another novel by Mazzini after enjoying The germany lottery so much .

Asa child I loved Guilvers travels .The only children’s book where the her shits and pisses .And even thou that hadn’t really been written for children .It just never happens to anybody else because you can’t live without doing it ,you get a feeling that you’re different a dirt complex .

This tickled me as it is so true it only that book I remember this happening .

 

Now The book was published in 1987 it does to remember that it is set in a working town ,where the main industry is a foundry .We meet Egon he is a writer ,in fact a writer in the model of the characters of books from Paul Leppin or Knut Hamsum Egon is a man living on the edge struggling for his art and also kicking against his art as he rants about writers at times .He is a chancer ,womanizer and idealist in some ways .He is chasing a dream of a life he may never have but also at the same time he is viewing the country around him change ,of course this is the time the Yugoslavia start to split back up to the smaller states that originally made it up .We also have a chase by Egon for a bottle of the after shave Cartier pour L’homme .Egon is a user in many ways and constantly with his band of friends tries to make the most of the world around him .

The postman was putting letters in mailboxes ,We said hello and exchanged a few polite sentences .No I didn’t intend returning to the post office .Maybe we’d have a drink another time .

I was struck because the main character in German lottery was a post man and now here is an Ex postman .

Now this book is a lot gritty than the German lottery and in some ways a far more complex books their is a lot of aliuson in this book the after shave maybe is a metaphor for statehood Egon maybe is a the nation struggling to capture the riches and promise that a dream like a fancy bottle of aftershave can bring you .Freight choose this as it feels the situation Egon is in and the Yugoslavia of the time when it is wanting to split is similar in some ways to the current Scottish situation with the vote for independence due .It was his début Novel and wrote it whilst working as a night-watchman .writing in the day this gave the novel its choppy style as he was looking after his daughter and  had to keep checking her .Egon is a character that is based in a type of character that is slightly different from the usual ones in Slovenian fiction .I watched a great interview with Miha about the book here .The style he says is absurdist and it is we follow the country around Egon falling apart and he is focused else but other events are happening .The book was made into a film .I found a clip here .It shows the Punk ethos and that Egon is a punk ,I hadn’t got this so much from the book more just a bohemia type with a dark edge .

I love the cover to this one as well .

The German lottery by Miha Mazzini

Mazzini

The German Lottery by Miha Mazzini

Slovenian fiction

Translator – ,Urska Zupanec

Source – review copy via his agent

Orginal title Nemška loterija

Well I was happy to get an email from the US agent of Miha ,whom I had mentioned in a post about literature from Slovenia ,I had also not known I had read a short story from him that was the first translated story to be featured in the Fiction desk collection of stories .Miha Mazzini is a slovenian writer and filmmaker ,his website tells me he has written 27 books all of which have at some point been translated into other languages ,he has written two award-winning screenplays and also made five films to name a few things more info at his website here .

“Good day ,comrade .Are you Zora Klemenc ?”

“Yes ?”

“A registered letter .Can you prove your indentity ?”

“Gladly comrade postman ,just wait a minute ”

“What pride I took in saying those words ! A profession dosen’t only need a uniform ,it needs its own language that sounds strange to the uninitiated ,new words that knit us into a community .

Toni first meets Zora and the letter what is that about ?

The German lottery is set in 1950’s ,but has a feel of a story that could have only be written after the fall of the iron curtain we join Toni a young post man who is drawn into a world of the German lottery after he deliver a package to a women ,the scheme run by the women’s husband ,also  he gets the locals to play the German lottery and thus make some money ,giving  them hope and  a little wealth to the poorest of the locals ,at first Toni thinks he is doing the world of good .But all is not as it first seems and then things fall apart ,but he has also fallen in love which adds to the complications around the story .

Pass me a handkerchief , please

would the magic chain still work ?

Well sure .Everything built on greed is timeless .

I’ll tell you tomorrow …..

the closing lines at a much later time  post communism greed is still there .

Miha has pulled of something great in this book using the past to reflect the present .Greed is the driving force in this book as the locals see what a glimpse of the west can bring forth through the winnings they are seeing .But there is more to this it isn’t as it seems and poor old Toni are the hero in this book is a bit naive and is drawn into a dark world of someone making more money than he imagine from the poorest people around him .This reflects a lot of the modern world ,I read an interview in translation with Miha where he said it was meant to reflect what has happened in Slovenia since communism fell ,I did say on twitter the other day talking about this book the other day it was a dark post communist satire ,but then didn’t follow up why and this is the reason reflect how one small village is driven crazy by greed now reflects the wider world of post communist europe .So thanks to his agent for sending it as they said it is one that seemed to have fallen between the holes in the reviewing world This is part of the reason I love my blog and the ability to bring books like this to you my readers so you can get the chance to break the normal cycle of what your told to read and find something different !!

What gems have you discovered like this one by chance or through a kind person connected to the writer ?

Joyce’s pupil by Drago Jancar

Joyce’s Pupil by Drago Jancar

Slovenian Fiction

Translators -Andrew Wachtel and Lilla Potpara

I saw this on the library shelf and the title grabbed me as well as the cover as a fan of James Joyce a book that has a story that is a spin-off from Joyce appeal to me and since reading Slazoj Zizek  The Slovenian Thinker and non fiction writer .I ve been wanting to try some Slovenian fiction .So what is Joyce’s Pupil ? it is a collection of short stories  twelve in all (i ve mention three in the review leaving nine for you to find)mostly set  in the Slovenia or nearby eastern Europe .The main title story is a wonderful story a unknown Slovenian man goes to Trieste university where at the time 1914 James Joyce is teaching them by making them describe an oil lamp ,this is something he would do as a recent show on british tv talking about Irish Gaelic said how very descriptive a language it is and they have many ways to describe a single thing .We then move forward to the second world war and the man has had to runaway from his homeland and ends up as the voice of the BBC radio service for Slovenia broadcasting during the war years to his homeland .But this leads to him being accused of  being a british spy by the communist authorizes .Even thou we don’t know the man or even what he looks like you get the feeling you know him as you see his mortal coil unravel in front of you on the page .Thou the Joyce link is only a bit the thought of bring his pupil would be great idea to any book lover .

The teacher sits back and asks the pupil to describe the oil lamp in english .The pupil gets hopelessly tangled in technical expressions ,and the teacher takes over from him describing the oil lamp in exhaustive detail .He goes on for a full hour indulging a habit that many years later the student will call descriptive passion

Joyce tells the student how to describe in English .

This collection isn’t terribly long at 160 pages but is a great introduction to one of the most respected writers in eastern Europe/ Now Jancar Has that Middle  European eye of questions ,suffering  and alienation all crop up   in his  fictions and not always answering the questions but making you think about them  .stories such as  A  man in a meadow  that gets caught up in something .,a creepy story about eyes  that has two different strands to it one old and one new .all leave you wondering after you have read this collection  .All add to this rich tradition of middle european fiction .He himself was involved with other writers in the Slovenian independence movement ,he is also found of a liberal conservative movement called rally for republic in Slovenia .He was also president of Slovenian Pen in the late 80’s .The translation was divide between the two translators each doing some of the stories .It ‘s a reasonable translation not best nor the worst I’ve read .He has a novel due out next year from Dalkey Archive  called the galley slave .

Have you read any Slovenian fiction ?

first as tragedy ,then as farce by Slavoj ZIZEK

Slavoj Zizek a Slovenian is one of the major thinkers on the left ,this is his most recent book .A collection of thoughts ideas and musing on the world and particularly the last decade ,how post 9/11 both sides of the political spectrum have had to reevaluate there positions a move away from Liberalism and on the other hand with the credit crunch and financial meltdown a move towards state socialism has been called for .Zizek brings in many different arguments for the changing face of the left reference both academic works and items for popular culture .Elsewhere globalism and ethical trading are discussed with the Starbucks model of trading .i feel this book will take a few readings over time to fully absorb all the information within its 156 pages .if you ve an interest in current affairs or politics this is a great book to read ,

On account of its all-pervasive ,ideology appears as its own opposite as non-ideaology. as the core of human identity underneath all the ideological labels .this is why Jonathan Littell’s outstanding les bienveillantes(the kindly ones) is so traumatic ,especially for germans :

Zizek on ideologies

 do you like philoshpy books ?

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