The independent foreign fiction prize shortlist 2013

The Detour by
Gerbrand Bakker
Translated from the Dutch by David Colmer
Harvill Secker

Bundu by
Chris Barnard
Translated from the Afrikaans by Michiel Heyns
Alma Books

Trieste by
Daša Drndić
Translated from the Croatian by Ellen Elias-Bursac
MacLehose Press

The Fall of the Stone City by
Ismail Kadare
Translated from the Albanian by John Hodgson
Canongate

Traveller of the Century by
Andrés Neuman
Translated from the Spanish by Nick Caistor and Lorenza Garcia
Pushkin Press

Dublinesque by
Enrique Vila-Matas
Translated from the Spanish by Rosalind Harvey and Anne McLean
Harvill Secker

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My Independent foreign fiction Prize shortlist 2013 Winstons choice

Well after the longlist was announced I quickly got two of the books I ve not read from my local Library ,then brought another and finally after my birthday I had enough too afford a Kindle and a voucher to get some books and got the Last two books from the longlist which early Monday morning I finished In praise of hatred .We from the shadow jury are busy giving our views on the list and compiling a shortlist .But as shortlist is announced tomorrow I decide to pick my personnel six books and then later in the week will share our shadow Jury shortlist .

Winstons shortlist

Satantango by Laszlo Kraznahoraki

SatantangoSatanTango was one of my favourite books from the last year ,I felt his prose are like wading through Treacle sticky , very tasty and tough going ,but should all books be easy ?

Traveller of the century By Andres Neuman

traveller of the centurySet in an imagined town in medieval Germany ,Andres Neuman showed why he is so lauded in Spain and Latin america .

A death in the family by Karl Ove Knausgaard

Death in the Family, AMaybe this is hyped or maybe not but I found the way he made the everyday and family life sparkle as never before ,grim at times but hey life isn’t a bed of roses .

Trieste by Dasa Drndic

trieste dasa drndicWell I felt this ahd HhHH are similar both quite stylistic books Iread both last year ,but it was this one that I still think over and am still touched by more than HhHH .

Dublinesque by Enrique Villa -Matas

DublinesqueA Joyce fan by Vila-Matas is writes a homage to his hero and the city he was from Dublin .Riba is also in the publishing buisness what is not to love .

In praise of hatred By Khaled Khalifa

In praise of HatredWell I’ve yet to review but this openss Syria up although set in the past one can see the horrors people have had to endure .So much it was banned there .

So there we go ,I ve read all the books thought over ,digested and absorb and this is Winstonsdad’s view of this year longlist and my Favourites I must admit this years jugdes did a stunning job choosing this years longlist ,I Know there isn’t a bad book on the list having read them all .

 

 

 

The last of the Vostyachs by Diego Marani

last-of-the-vostyachs1

The last of the Vostyachs by Diego Marani

Italian fiction

Original title – L’ultimo dei Vostiach

Translator – Judith Landry

Source – Personnel copy on Kindle

Well I was surprised when Diego Marani name appeared for a second year in a row on the Independent Foreign fiction prize longlist .As last years book was very near to winning in my opinion ,so although I hadn’t read this one , I had it on my Radar to read at some point .So to Diego Marani , he still works for the European Commisson in the department dealing with translation .,he also writes a number of pieces for the culture section of the Italian Paper Il Sole 24 Ore.

Since that day Ivan had not uttered a word .He had carried on washing stones in the pool of icy water ,had split rocks with his pick axe ,had pushed the wheelbarrow along the steep ,slippery path ,had gone about all his work with lowered eyes ,had endured all manner of humiliation ,eating without looking to see what they poured into his mess tin ,getting up at dawn and going to bed at sunset with out a word .

Ivan in his Camp days .

So as before with his earlier book “” new Finnish grammar” this book is set around Finland and in particular its language . The action is actually all in Finland unlike New Finnish grammar .We meet a Linguist who is on a field trip trying to research trying to find the missing link in the development of the Finnish language (a language that only has connections to Hungarian and Estonian) .When out of nowhere appears a man Ivan this man was in the forced labour camps of the soviet era and hasn’t spoken for a number of years living in the back and beyond of Finland since his release for twenty years ,when he does speak its strange to Olga as he is the last member of the Voystach speakers an old language that links finnish to a number of other theories she has had ,this language links and is the missing link Olga has been looking for .So she packs this wild man Ivan has spent years in the wilderness to Helsinki ,what follows is a battle as She presents her results to a Meeting of Congress of Finno Ugric ,a Note professor tries to sideline her findings ,meanwhile Ivan isn’t really suited to the city and soon finds himself in trouble in the big city .Plus a number of creatures escape from the zoo and dead bodies appear .

Ivan woke up in a sweat .He sat up in his bunk not knowing where he was ,and gazed around him in bewilderment at the dimly light cabin .He was hungry and thirsty .He felt around ,on the shelves ,in the drawers of the bedside locker among the covers .He pulled on a handle found himself faced by a row of bottles ; there were also bars of chocolates.

Ivan struggles with city life .

So Like New Finnish Grammar and again the Finnish Language ,I can see the attraction to him I remember Michael Palin talking to Finnish people on a bus about their language in his series pole to pole and since then have been intrigued , as it is such a unique language and difficult to master with little connection to other European languages .I think this is the point that gave Marani a starting Kernel for this story” what if there is a language X out there ?” to fill in the gap in the history of Finnish ,rather like the constant clues for the stages of Human Evolution .This books differs from the last by him ,as it has a wit mainly due to the human condition, Ivan being a man out of water in the city ,the linguist trying to out do one another .The book has a thriller feel about it but a clever version of this genre with twists and turns the struggle between Olga and the professor and the man caught up in this the pawn Ivan .Also a lot of history of the region is involved mainly Russian rule and influence over the country and area ,We see this in the fact Ivan hates Russian being spoken .

Have you read this book ?

Bundu by Chris Barnard

bundu

Bundu by Chris Barnard

South African (Afikanns ) literature

Original title – Boendoe

Translator Michiel Heyns

Source – review copy sent for iffp review

Well I must admit of all the books on this years Independent foreign fiction longlist ,this one came out of right field for me ,I was unaware of Chris Barnard and must admit haven’t read many Afrikaans novels from south africa .So this one has been for me a journey of discovery ,first to the writer .Chris Barnard ,studied art at the university of Pretoria in the fifties ,he then became involved with the Afrikaans writing group Die Sestigers a group of Afrikaans writers including Andre Brink (whom I have read ) ,Breyten Breytenbach (whom I have archipelago books collection by him they published a couple of years ago on my tbr pile ) and a few others .Any way they sought to voice their opions against apartheid from the Afrikaans point of view .Chris Barnard is also a well-known film and Tv producer in his home country ,his second novel Mahala is consider a south African classic ,he has written 18 books this was his last novel to be published in 1999 .

The Baboon troop had originally not really been part of my research .simply because quite a bit of my research had previously been done on every aspect of their feeding habits .But Eugene Marais’s more or less scientific writings on his observations of Baboons in the Waterberg had fascinated me ever since childhood ,even though initially it had been a romantic enchantment rather than scientific interest .

Brand tell how he got there

Well Bundu ,is set in Mozambique ,near the border with South africa in a remote part of the country ,in a small struggling Clinic ,we met them among them is pious nuns ,a drunken pilot ,the clinic volunteers and Brand `de le ray who is studying the local Baboons .During the course of the novel we see this group of people struggle as the rain have failed to come and we see how man is the same as the world around him when this happens we all need water and substance to survive ,along side this runs a love story involving Brand and someone from the clinic , as the tragic figures in this remote place are caught and waiting for much-needed help, are struggling to get by .Will Help get there ,how much have we in common with nature ? what is the aftermath of the war that happened between South africa and Mozambique .

Sister Roma and Sister Erdman were both out of sorts ,and I spent the rest of the day helping Julia and Vukile in the clinic .There was a child with what seemed to be a broken arm and I tried to devise a splint .I sterilized syringes and carried a wet mattress out into the sun and helped make beds and fed weak patients .I tried to steer clear of the smaller ward with the seriously ill patients .

The situations starts getting worse for the clinic all hands to the pumps .

Now this is a book that if it hadn’t been for the IFFP longlist I wouldn’t have picked up ,although vaguely aware of the Die Sestigers via Brink and Breytenbach .Barnard is different to brink but what shines through his prose is a love of the land and also how closely man is connected to the land we live on and the creatures around us .Strange I was reading this as I listen to Simon Savidge and Gav reads pod cast the other day about Literary fiction and Plot driven books ,well I must say this is one of the most plot driven books I have read in a long while ,also fast paced writing you can almost feel a speeding drum beat as you read drawing you ever near to the end of the book

Have you a favourite South African writer ?

Have you read many books translated from Afrikaans ?

The fall of the stone city by Ismail Kadare

the fall of the stone city

The Fall of the Stone city by Ismail Kadare

Albanian fiction

Original title – Darka e gabuar

Translator – John Hodgson

Source Library

Well when this was named on the longlist for this years Independent foreign fiction prize longlist I was please ,not being a big fan of reading completely the works of writers ,I was pleased to have a chance to revisit Ismail Kadare ,this is the fourth book by Him I will have read ,I have also under review the pyramid .The big difference between that book and this one is the fact this one has been translated directly from Albanian not French like a number of the earlier novels were as secondary translations .Ismail Kadare is probably the best known Albanian writer (there are others dalkey archive have published one I know off ),his books have opened the lid on Albanian life for more than fifty years .He was born in Gjirokastër which happens to be the setting for this novel .

And what happened was this :on the afternoon that preceded the dinner ,after the tanks and armoured vehicles had rumbled and rattled their way into town ,there stepped out from one of the military cars onto the city square Colonel Fritz Von Schwabe ,commander of the German division and bearer of the Iron cross his legs still stiff ,he stood surveying the scene and announced “Gjirokastër I have a friend here .”

The colonel arrives and remembers his friend the doctor

This book starts in the second world war and just as the Germany army is heading in Albanians direction as they look to grab land and recourse .They arrive in Gjirokastër. A troop of soldiers is sent to the town they are led by a Colonel Von Schwabe .This Nazis officer is happy to be coming to Gjirokastër as he has a very old friend that lives in the town ,the town doctor ,with whom he studied when younger .So he is invited to the Doctor Gurmante for dinner .The next day we see the troops move out of the town the doctor is called a hero by the people in the town ,are these two events connected ? what will happen after the war to the doctor when the communist take over the country .The facts are clear the Germans were bad ,but then the authoritarian regime that followed the war was also very brutal .This book shows war and the aftermath in one place ,on one man and what repercussions happen due to friendship he had with a german officer .We see one man go from Hero to villain over the course of this book .

As evening fell ,another man was listening carefully to the tumult from the upper floor .The unhinged Remzi Kadare ,the former owner of the house ,huddled in army blankets added his own expletives to the bedlam above .”you tart ! You whore !” he shouted ,addressing the house that had been his own house before he lost it at poker .

Is this a member of Ismail Kadare’s family ?is kadare a popular name in Albania .

Well this one shocked me I have found in the past Kadare uses a lot of imagery like in the pyramid where the building of a pyramid in egypt echoes events in communist Albania .But, no this felt a much more personnel book from Kadare than pother by him I have read ,I think because it is set in his home town of Gjirokastër ,there is a character with the same surname as him in the book makes me think this is Kadare want to talk about his childhood ,he seven when the Germans invade his home town .In some ways the way the story is worked is like a child remembering what happen ,there is truth and there is lies ,the germans came but didn’t leave as in the book .Was there a doctor ? well to me it doesn’t matter at the heart of this book is a discourse on extreme regimes and their effect on the public whether right-wing or lef wing it is the way they treat the people who is remembered .I felt Kadare’s writing follows better in this book sure that is due the nature of it being a direct translation .But part of me thing that fact this is published after the Albanian regime has fallen Kadare is free to speak about past events than before .

Have you read Kadare ?

Black Bazaar by Alain Mabanckou

Black-Bazaar_large

Black Bazaar by Alain Mabanckou

Congolese fiction

Translator -Sarah Ardizzone

Source – Library

So after a few days away from the blog I return with another of this years Independent foreign fiction prize Long-listed books and this time it is From the Congolese writer Alain Mabanckou .This is the third book from him I have reviewed on Winstonsdad ,I have previously covered Broken Glass and Memories of a porcupine .Now the big change in this book than the two previous books which have both been set in Congo is that this book is set in the Paris ,but more the Paris of the African immigrant a very different one than the one we know and also the story of one Man and the people he knows .

Because he keeps going on about the Hippocratic oath ,we’ve ended up nicknaming him Mr Hippocratic .Seeing as he can’t insult the whole earth, he takes it out on me instead .Mr Hippocratic likes to cultivate his garden at my expense .He says ,for example ,that most blacks he knows ,I always put the cart before the horse ,I’m not worth Peanuts ,I’m a cabbage head ,with an artichoke for a heart

The racist neighbour of the Buttologist .

The main character in this book is a Congolese man from the capital of Congo ,the same as Alain Mabanckou ,but our man character is a colourful chap who has earned the name Buttologist ,he is one of these chaps that has a swagger about him a modern-day Dandy .He is one of a group of guys that have a certain air around them .This is almost a keen to the English gang novels of Richard Allen who charts the life of Joe a skinhead that then becomes a young man in his other books .This is the story of a man coping with the world around him .The title is a reference to a diary that the Buttologist keeps .He is a man in mourning not for someone who has died, but for his women the women called Original Colour by Buttologist and his friends she earned the name because of the deep colour of her skin ,well she has taken of with his son, who with a midget ,she has gone back to the Congo and left the Buttologist .We see how Buttologist copes with this loss but also through what his friends say a large picture of being African in Paris .But also how being African has been shaped in them the books the read ,the music they like ,how they perceive life .

I buy books from the rideau Rouge .And what do I remember from what I’ve read ?

A dazzling truth: it’s thanks to colonisation that Cameroonian Ferdinand Onyono wrote The old man and the medal and Houseboy ; it’s thanks to Colonisation another Cameroonian ,Mongo Beti wrote cruel Town and The poor christ of Bomba .

I read this and Smiled I have read Mongo Beti’s king Lazurus last year but never got to review it yet so will be tomorrow .

I love Mabanckou ,this is my third read from him ,every time I go wow .He is a writer that seems the same yet different in every book ,if that makes sense he has grown as a writer of the books but also has kept what I loived the first time I read him in the heart of the book and that is the interaction of everyday people .Buttologist is a guy you often see around ,not always from Congo the sharper dressed African is some one I ve meet via work and like Buttologist what on the outside the maybe brash dandy looking chap isn’t what they are all about .The other thing I love in Mabanckou writing is a dry and dark wit subtle and shows the clashing of African culture and French culture but also ,the clashing of different african nations as one passage about living in a house with a few Nigerian women and how they argue made me laugh .I see why this was picked for the IFFP longlist ,Sarah Ardizzone has done a great job on keep what appears from talking to Tony who has read it in the original French a vibrant book alive .

Have you read Alain ,which is your favourite by him ?

Gerbrand Bakker interview

The Detour mmp 9780099563679

I ‘m pleased to bring you an interview with the Independent foreign fiction prize longlistee Gerbrand Bakker .His longlisted book The detour (ten white geese in the Us) Has Just come out in paperback in the UK ,So when I was offered chance to ask him a few questions I jumped at the chance
1.Why do you goes such isolated locations for your books?
I like to put people away from distractions, big cities, hustle and bustle. Just to see what happens to them. And in a very strange way I’m – even though I live in Amsterdam – not really able to write about a city and all the things that happen in them. Just like I’m not really able to write about skating, and skating (speed skating) is what I’ve done for 15 years, including competition. It always looks strange, reads strange.
2.Have you a connection with Wales, and is that why you choose it for The Detour?
Because I’ve been there quite a number of times. In fact, I have the strange habit of wanting to climb Snowdon once a year. The land there feels old, ancient, mysterious. I always wanted to use it for ‘something’ and somewhere in 2009 Emily Dickinson, a woman (and a feeling) and North-Wales came together in my head.
3.Did you pick Emily Dickson first as the poet to be the one Emile taught or after as she fitted the character?
No, the book started with this poem, that’s why I choose it as the motto. So the woman (Emilie/Agnes) had to fit in with Dickinson, and not the other way round. And then, when I was writing, I discovered (and the woman discovers) that there are some similarities between her and Dickinson. So there is a sort of love-hate relationship between them.
4.How closely did you work with the translator on this book?
Quite close, closer than on any other book. Because there were some real problems in the translation. For instance: how do you translate a book that in Dutch deals with the translation of an American poem into Dutch? I thought the book couldn’t be translated, but David Colmer is very calm and he said: “Don’t worry, I’m the translator, let me do my job.”
5.What impact did winning the IMPAC prize for The Twin have for you?
I bought a house in The Eifel, Germany. I’m renovating it at the moment and there is going to be a wonderful ‘writing-room’ in it, which can only be accessed via a stairway on the outside of the house. There is going to be a log burner in it, as the whole house is heated with log burners. That is what happened in the end with the IMPAC money. I did (not yet) buy a carthorse with it. It also gave me the opportunity to NOT write for a while. I’ve not been inclined to write for a couple of years now, and the money partly enables me to do this. The IMPAC did not make me think: wow, I’m a real, big writer now, also because I myself have been in jury’s and I know how things work. There is always a bit of luck and bargaining involved…

Bakker, Gerbrand c. Eimer Wieldraaijer (1)
6.I Asked Cees Nooteboom about Dutch literature last year he described it as ‘inward looking’. What is your view?
I presume that he meant this not as a compliment, and that he is not an inward-looking writer? I don’t think one can make such a general statement. There are enough writers who to me don’t write inward-looking, like Anon Grunberg or Peter Buwalda. But it is maybe true that Dutch writers take it on them to write about for instance world politics, maybe because in the end we are a very small country. And not many Dutch writers have the stature of Orhan Pamuk. I cannot think of one Dutch writer who ever became ‘big’ in the UK or the United States. There is also a reverence for especially English and American writers here. If you look at the bestselling books at the end of a year, there’s hardly a Dutch book to be found in the top 10. I don’t think that’s the case in the US or the UK. And nobody can convince me that American or English books are intrinsically better than Dutch books.
7.What you currently working on?
Nothing. I’m working in my house and garden, and sometimes I write articles in magazines. I travel a lot for my work these days. To Germany, but also to Argentina, the US and South-Africa.
8.What is your favourite Dutch book not written by you?
Het Bureau (The Office), written by J.J. Voskuil. A book that consists of seven parts, 5000 pages in total, about a man who works in an office for 35 years and is struggling with that. Only recently the first book was translated into German, it has not been translated into English. That would be a mammoth-task for any translator…

Many thanks Gerbrand and good luck with the IFFP 2013

Here are my reviews of his two novels

The twin

The detour

Silent House by Orhan Pamuk

silent_house

Silent House by Orhan Pamuk

Turkish Fiction

Original title Sessiz Ev

Translator Robert Finn

Source – Personnel copy

Well I ve read four Pamuk Novels before this one and as is the case in the world of translation ,I’ve read them out-of-order of publications in Turkish I start with my name is read followed by Snow then Back to an earlier book Whit Castle ,then his latest the Museum of Innocence.Now this has arrived in English and was the second novel written by Orhan Pamuk , but is the ninth to be published in English and the first to be translated by Robert Finn .I have previously mention a lot about Pamuk in the other books I reviewed ,he is Turkeys best known writer and has won the Nobel prize for literature .This book is a double hit for me as it is the fourth from the Man Asian Short-list I ‘ve read but also the tenth book I ve reviewed from this year’s independent foreign fiction prize .

But tomorrow they’ll come and I’ll think again . Hello ,hello how are you ,they’ll kiss my hand ,many happy returns ,how are you ,Grandmother ,how are you ,how are you , Grandmother ? I’ll take a look at them .Don’t all talk at once ,come here let me have a look at you ,come close ,tell me what you have been doing ? I know I’ll be asking to be fooled and I’ll listen blankly to a few words of description!

Fatima the night before the hoards descend on here

So Silent House well the title is a bit of joke because this is anything but a book about silence or a silent house .The book is set in the early eighties a turbulent time in Turkey and we are with Fatima and yes at start as she await the hoards to descend (her extended family of grandchildren to arrive for the summer ).The family arrive one by one and each member of the family is like a jigsaw piece as they arrive we learn a bit more about the family ,but also about turkey as a whole as each one of her grandchildren represent a different face of turkey Faruk is the idealist a troubled historian ,the sister Nilgun that is part of a new elite in turkey with money ,a drop-out ,a right-winger ,As they arrive the hose becomes very vocal and the house becomes a micro version of The turkey of the time .The book is set in 1980 just a coup is in the offering .

It’s well after midnight ,but I can still hear them moving about what could they be doing down there ,why don’t they go to sleep and leave me the silent night ? I get out of bed ,walk over to the window ,and look down :Recap’s ;light is still on ,lighting up the garden:what are you doing there ,dwarf ? It’s frighting ! he’s so sneaky ,that one every once in a while I catch him giving me a look ,and I realize he notices everything about me , watching the smallest gestures ,

The house is loud and what does Recap the dwarf know ?

Where does this lie in the body of Pamuk’s work ,well it is very different as one would imagine with a second novel .The book is a book of voices but also a clever way of discussing the turkey of the time without Pamuk using his own voice as he uses the myriad of character in this book to show the troubles with in his own country ,but also to show how these troubles affect people on a personal every day level .The children also in there own ways show how politics effect people in different way , burying your head in the bottle ,being to rich too notice troubles ,joining a gang of fascists and following the latest causes .Then there is Fatima her self the sort of women that runs a large family in her ninties but has the respect of all and she also has a dwarf servant Recap .I did enjoy this more than I have recent Pamuk novels .Now the question is would this have been better published at the time ,part of me thinks yes then another part thinks it is still happening turkey is still a country with many faces and problems of its own and the book still shows how far they have come and how far they have to go .

Have you read this book ?

Do you have a favourite Orhan Pamuk ? mine is my name is red

The shadow Iffp 2013

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Well I nearly got it right with my guessing post ,last week but the offical Independent foreign fiction prize is out .Like last year I will be doing a shadow jury for this prize I am again joined by Lisa ,Tony ,Gary and Mark.We will be trying to read as many of the longlist as we all can in the time between longlist and shortlist .I have a great start as I have read eleven of the book and have reviews for nine of them on the blog .We will again choose our own shortlist and winner ,my feeling is ours and the actual shortlist may be quite near as there to me are a number of great books on this list that be on a shortlist any year .I ll be doing a page with links to reviews by everyone when we have a few as at moment it feels like I am showing off reading so many .If you want get involved with reading this year and want read less the Booktrust have organised a reading group from the shortlist stage here ,be lovely to see some other blogs join in that maybe don’t read many translations to expand the discussion on this wonderful year .Paul at Maclehose on twitter called it the best ever longlist I agree it is the strongest in recent years .

Death in the Family, A

A Death In the Family by
Karl Ove Knausgaard
Translated from the Norweigian by Don Bartlett

The Detourby
Gerbrand Bakker
Translated from the Dutch by David Colmer

hhhh laurent binet
HHhH by
Laurence Binet
Translated from the French by Sam Taylor

 
The Sound of Things Falling by
Juan Gabriel Vásquez
Translated from the Spanish by Anne McLean
The Last of the Vostyachsby
Diego Marani
Translated from the Italian by Judith Landry

Shadow reviews
Cold Sea Stories by
Pawel Huelle
Translated from the Polish by Antonia Lloyd-Jones
The Fall of the Stone City by
Ismail Kadare
Translated from the Albanian by John Hodgson
Black Bazaar by
Alain Mabanckou
Translated from the French by Sarah Ardizzone
Bundu by
Chris Barnard
Translated from the Afrikaans by Michiel Heyns

Dublinesque
Dublinesque by
Enrique Vila-Matas
Translated from the Spanish by Rosalind Harvey and Anne McLean
In Praise of Hatredby
Khalid Khalifa
Translated from the Arabic by Leri Price

 

The Murder of Halland by
Pia Juul
Translated from the Danish by Martin Aitke

Satantango
Satantango by
Laszlo Krasznahorkai
Translated from the Hungarian by George Szirtes
Silent House by
Orhan Pamuk
Translated from the original Turkish by Robert Finn
Traveller of the Century by
Andrés Neuman
Translated from the Spanish by Nick Caistor and Lorenza Garcia
Trieste by
Daša Drndić
Translated from the Croatian by Ellen Elias-Bursac

 

Satantango by László Krasznahorkai

Satantango

Satantango by László Krasznahorkai

Hungarian fiction

Original title Sátántangó

Translator – George Szirtes

Source -review copy

Well after a year of going how am I going do this wonderful book Justice and a rereading (which is rare for me ) .I feel with it being named on this year’s IFFP longlist I am finally able to review it .So László Krasznahorkai is probably alongside his fellow Hungarian write Peter Nadas the best know Hungarian writer .He studied Hungarian literature and Language at university and after he qualified he became a writer straight away .Satantango although his third novel to appear in English was actually his debut novel .The book was also made into a seven hour film by the well-known director Béla Tarr nine years after the book came out in 1985 .I did watch the film many years ago but remember it being slow and very tough to follow at point but the main feel was the feeling of an Isolate community in flux due to one man .

” I beg your pardon ,I didn’t get that ” .”Your Name!” “Irimias” His answer rings out ,as if he were proud of it .The captain puts a cigarette in the side of his mouth ,lights it with a clumsy movement ,throws the burning match into the ashtray and puts it out with the matchbox .”I see ,so you only have one name ” Irimias nods cheerfully “doesn’t everyone ?”

The first encounter with Irimias

So Satantango the novel its self is the story of a remote farming community working on a dying collective farm .The people who are there are drinking to forget and have a wholly bleak outlook on life .The book builds a glimpse of there lives when this man /devil arrives Irimias and his friend servant sidekick Petrina .Now when these two enter its starts a chain of events that seize the village and the people there in change greatly ,outburst of violence and revenge ,some horrific scenes to what is a bleak dark grey world already .Is he the devil well the is some feeling he has gone from the village and returned ,but has he change has the village change ,has the way he has changed set the village of the way it has ?

Quietly ,continually ,the rain fell and the inconsolable wind that died then was forever resurrected ruffled the still surfaces of the puddles so lightly it failed to disturbed the delicate dead skin that had covered them during the night so instead of recovering the previous days tired glitter they increasingly and remorselessly absorb the light that swam slowly from the east .

This place is so bleakly describe by Krasznahorkai

Well that is enough about the story it hard to describe without spoiling the book and the fact there is so much I could quite easily write a thousand words on the story but then it be spoiler filled .So where does this book fit in the grand scene of things ? Well it is easy to draw comparisons to feel central European figures writing at the same time or just before Krasznahorkai people such as Thomas Bernhard ,Peter Nadas ,Milan Kundera and Witold Gombrowicz it falls nicely in with them style wise it is what is described as modernist the book drifts from the observed ,to the imagine and back .Of course the bleak setting and over all feel of despair brings to mind Beckett for some review’s I’ve read .But for me I felt this book had a lot of central European mythology ,that has been brought to the modern age and also what makes myths, a man who may or not lived some where returns things happen ,this is what start the witch hunts of the past the return stranger ,a figure , a being ,even animals that have thus cause chaos ,in isolate communities strangers or people who have appear to change because they have been to the outside world are always the catalyst for change so here Irimias is that catalyst or as they have been called the bogeyman ,the devil or the many names that have appear in European mythology over the centuries .The book is also a hard-hitting polemic in the reason why collective farming in communism had failed the despair and hopelessness of the characters is there to see on the page .Although written nearly thirty years ago this book is still as fresh today as the day it was written in fact I would say its influence can be seen in other books particularly the book I read last year Hansens Children another book more recent about the fall of a remote community during communism .A tango with the devil indeed rather like the book that build from chapters up then down you be left breathless wanting more and thinking for the rest of your life about what happen in this book .

Have you read this book ?

 

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