Russian stories by Francesc Serés

russian stories

Russian stories by Francesc Serés

Spanish fiction (or russian !)

Translator from Catalan Peter Bush

Translator from Russian Anastasia Maximova

Original  title Contes Russo

Source – review copy

Fransesc   Serés is a Catalan   writer he studied fine art and Anthropology at university ,after this he became a writer he has publish over ten books of novel and short stories in Spain and has also produced a number of stage works . He is also a professor of art history and a Russophile .

Consequently , if it weren’t for this confession of mine , nobody would know that Elvis Presley gave a concert in Moscow’s red square.

Yes , you heard me , a concert in Red square in 1958

It was one of the many demonstrations of strength the superpowers made during the cold war .A stupid one , but it was ,at the end of the day , a demonstration of strength .

Well imagine if the King had played in Moscow .

Frnacesc Serés happen in his love of Russian literature this lead him to coming  across a unmined wealth of lost , writing that hadn’t seen the light of day outside Russia .He gathered together 21 different stories from five new to us in the west  writers spanning the history of modern Russia .We start in modern Russia Ola Yevgueniyeva born in 1967 writes about Putin’s Russia stewardess contrast their world and the places they go and how their world is changing .Also a wonderful story of a chess match between an old gent and a young girl almost showing the change in modern Russia from the older player to the younger player .Then we move back through time with each subsequent writer .The next writer  Vera-Margarita she evokes the soviet past story of red square mentions of Lenin and Stalin .Then we get to Vitali Kroptkin and my favourite story Elvis Presley sings in Red Square ,did you know that Elvis had song in Red square in 1958 well he had new KGB files show ,a fun look at what could have happened had the King played in Russia .Then  we have Aleksandr Volkov he wrote of the post world war two soviet regime also how bizarre the state could be at times given the story about Voromians ,I liked this because it was just them remove the name and it is at heart of a number of incidents involving separate races with in the soviet sphere .The last writer Josef Bergghenko takes us to a pre world war two soviet times .

Voromians are pleasant , the odd one even looks at her as if he regonises her . one couple are called Var and Mirtila , like so many they ask her where they will be taken .She can’t think what to reply

A group that have been moved by the purges .

Sounds wonderful doesn’t it well it is amazing to discover these unknown writers ,ha nearly had you no the book is entirely made up by the writer francesec  Serés it is an homage to soviet writing but also a look into maybe what might have been written .He manages to pull it off with great style each writers piece do seem as thou they are from a different voice they are completely from the hands of Fransesc  Serés he has playfully mixed styles of contemporaries of the figures he is writing about so you get sense of these writers writing in their time echoes of kafka the fun of Bulgakov  .A book for fans of Russian literature but also the likes of Borges .I also discovered an interesting interview here it is in Spanish but comes across reasonably well via google translate .

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A naked Singularity by Sergio De La Pava

Naked_Singularity-398x600

A Naked singularity by Sergio De La Pava

US fiction

Source – review Copy

A Naked singularity  definition

A singularity is, roughly speaking, a region of extremely high density into which matter or light is attracted. While Steven Hawking Eric Weisstein’s World of Biography has proposed that physical singularities can occur only inside Black holes where they cannot be seen, physicists Kip Thorne and John Preskill believe observable (“naked”) singularity can exist

Source Wolfram 

Sergio De La Pava

Is a New york based Public defender ,he had spent nearly a decade writing this book and then five years and numerous rejections from publishers lead to him getting  a self publishing deal ,then the book grew slowly as word of mouth til first Us publisher Chicago university press last year and now Maclehose press have given the book a full publishing deal .The book arrived wrapped and with a letter from Mr  Maclehose telling  me ,how important they felt this book is ,this started me worrying ,was I worthy to review this book  ,but I was chosen so must have been .

“Fine ,if you define proof stringently enough ,I suppose I can’t really prove that unicorns don’t exist ,yet I perfectly reasonable in not believing in them .But all that is beside the point as it relates to our rat friend .Because whether god exists or not ,there is still such a thing as justice .Justice exists ,and this rat is getting what it deserves under its mandates .This rat is evil .

I loved this passage summed up a lot .

The book itself follows the life of one man Casi he is a public defender in New York rather like the writer himself .Casi is 24 ,his caseload as a public defender is mainly immigrants ,their case give him much sorrow ,but he has also won all his cases .He is a sensitive soul ,but is slowly losing faith with the system ,The book like the definition is heading to a point a situation  where his perfect life may take a twist ,where Casi and Dane  his friend  try to work out how to talk about the perfect crime and how to do it .Then we also see his home life the neighbours including one that endlessly watches the Honeymooners just restarting every time he reaches the end of the show as he feels all life is in this one show  . Which leads to numerous discussions about the characters in the show particularly Ralph the main character played by Jackie Gleason .Here is a clip of that show for those unfamiliar with it  which I was but loved watch a couple of episodes .

Then we also hear Casi  talk about philosophers and life in general like many 24 year olds do what is life ? What does it mean ? then there is  also Boxing and boxers particularly the Peurto Rican boxer Wilfred Benitez.I ve upload a link to one of his most famous bouts with Sugar ray Leonard .

There is also a collection of different styles of writing ,court records ,letters ,poems ,recipes in fact loads of content .

David hume was his favourite Alyona once said .This was during one of our first real conversations ,at the end of which I think we exchange keys to our respective apartments although I almost immediately misplaced his ,I said I guessed there was nothing wrong with Hume provided it was acknowledged that Descates was the man .At the end of the conversation I went home and made this list

1.Descartes

2.Kant

3.Wittgenstein

4.Kripke

5.Lewis

6.Hume

Casi’s favourite Philosophers fromstart of chapter 22

So as you see this book is complex ,this is the modem New York ,not the one I know from watching Woody all or early Spike Lee films .This city is huge and its hard to pindown So Sergio hasn’t he has tried to show ones man journey through it as completely as he can .There is a number of ways of writing huge books Epic sagas ,Catching a moment and expanding it out .Pava has chosen to use one mans life and use it .Sergio is the anti creative writing writer for me ,because this book does everything your told not to do ,not make your book to long ,don’t mix style and keep to a simple story arc .No this book  is long, it mixes styles in a mix tape way he uses the best of what he has ,what he knows you feel with a lot of the legal based documentation is very close to real life ,Given his job is also a public defender (one of the things I feel after reading this is a greater insight into the New York Justice system ).Digression is something that he does superbly and realistically ,I for one am a person that can easily go from point A  to point K then back to point A .So to the rub what is the book like as a whole well I tried to think of other books yes there maybe is something of Deillo’s underworld in the scope and Of course I have seen numerous mentions in review of Infinite  Jest but having not got far in that book I can’t say .I fell the book is neared the new US TV shows like breaking the bad ,The Wire and The Sopranos .I could see a show with Casi as the leader character ,but the only think they would have to dumb it down because this is more complex than any of those series and is maybe what America has been trying to grasp for a while the current Great American Novel (I always view this not a one book more as a collection of books that catch the current Zeitrgeist ,which this does ) America is now a mixing pot of people and De La Pava has caught this wonderfully .

In the Dutch Mountains by Cees Nooteboom

in the dutch mountains

In the Dutch Mountains by Cees Nooteboom

Dutch fiction

Translator –  Adriene Dixon

Original title In Nederland

Source review Copy

Well I’ve cover his short stories before now and Also have an Interview with Cees Noooteboom  here on the blog ,he is the best known living Dutch writer and someone frequently mention for a Nobel Literature prize .This book is a reissue of his   1984 Novel and this one book is probably the  most perfect piece of writing I have ever read ,but also shows the Plaudits given to Nooteboom are due .This is one of two books Maclehose have reissued the other being Rituals which I hope to read soon .I would also suggest reading the Intro by Alberto Manguel .

I am a foreigner ,but I still remember it all ,and I don’t intend to keep quiet about it .My name is Alfonso Tiburon de Mnedoza .I am inspector of roads in the province of Zaragoza ,part of the ancient kingdom of Aragon ,in spain .In my spare time I write book .As a student I spent some years in Delft on a scholarship to study road and bridge building ,and I might as well say at once that the nortern Netherlands have always inspired me with fear ,a Fear that demands a capital letter .

He was touch by his time in Holland .

In the Dutch mountain is The story of a writer retelling a classic fairy tale with a new setting .The writer is a Spaniard Alfonso Tiburon de Mendoza ,he works in the Zaragoza region of spain as a road inspector ,he is a failed man ,he has been writing ,but has never sold many copies of his book but every week he goes to a schoolroom and sits behind a kids desks and writes ,the story we join him on  his   retelling of the Hans Christian Anderson story the Snow Queen ,he has alter the name of the two main child characters too Kai and Luicia they are circus kids  the setting is now in Holland  the mountains of Southern Holland  , where Alfonso  spent some time years ago ,as we follow the story we also follow a bit of Alfonso life as we see the kids revisit  the fairy tale of  the snow queen as through the eyes of Alfonso .

Camino ,carretera, way ,street,road .It has always intrigued me that in Dutch the word weg ,way also means absent .In Spanish el camino is not only the road but also Journey .

I love how words can have dual means elsewhere myself .

This is what reading books in translation is about for me discovery and different approaches , I ve read books before about writers ,and them taking part in the writing process .But none have touched the mark as well as this one did  he really caught the whole process .Alfonso is the perfect embodiment of the failed writer, he has it all in his head but seems to have failed over time  in conveying it in what he writes ,through him we see how he is using a classic tale to try to spark his own writing but also use his own life to add to the fairy tale .A short book 150 pages it seems much longer (a cliché I know but its hard to say anything else its a real gem ) .I have books I know will stick with me for the rest of my life after I have read them for example rings of Saturn by W G  Sebald or Wonder by Hugo Claus , Now I ll be adding this book to that list .Nooteboom also tackles what a fairy tale is a Alfonso takes apart a classic tale and rebuilds it in his own version we get an insight into what makes a great fairy tale and that is the parts of it not the story more what the story in its parts tell you .

Have you read this book ?

What was the last book you read that you knew was going to stick with you ?

An Armenian Sketchbook by Vasily Grossman

An armenian sketchbook

An Armenian Sketchbook by Vasily Grossman

Russian Non fiction

Translator – Robert and Elizabeth Chandler

Original title – Dobro Vam

Source – Review Copy

Pleased to get this from Maclehose , as I’ve dabbled with life and fate  but never got far  into it and sat  finished the book .So this was the first full book I have  read by him .Vasily was born to a Jewish family in Ukraine ,he reported during world war two  this formed many of the views that he put in his great Novel Life and fate , he was a respect  journalist as well as a novelist .He sadly died four years after the journey he took in this book .

In October 1960 Grossman had submitted the manuscript of Life and fate to the editors of a soviet Literary Journal ,It was the height of the Khuschev’s “thaw” and Grossman seems genuinely to have believed that lif and fate could be published in the Soviet Union ,even though a central theme of the novel is that Nazism and Stalinism are mirror images of each other .

Just before he went to Armenian from the intro to the book

An Armenian notebook follows a Journey Vasily Grossman took during 1960 ,he was out of favour in a way his famous now book Life and Fate had been stopped by the soviets .So he had decided to take a chance and work on an epic Armenian novel that required a  better translation .So he head to Armenian ,one of the thrills in getting this is my own Knowledge of the region is very scant .So Grossmans simple clear prose brought to life this remote stone cover land and it quite unique people ,as we follow his travels .So we get to see each person he meets in little sketches about them and their life gently build a wonderful picture of the folks he meets .Armenian is a place that is caught between Asia ,Europe ,Russia and the persian world ,this leads to a very interesting mix of people .Vasily him self wasn’t in the best of health when he wrote this but still managed to inject a good deal of humour to his words .He is also fair in his observations,the  fact is  he has that great Journalistic skill of good journalistic writing in not being biased the best writing of place leaves it to the reader to make their minds up and this he does well here ,it would have been easy for Grossman to have made this book seemed very anti soviet to make this place seem as thou it was an out laying region with out anything good from Communism but it didn’t. He also made me want to read the book he was translating ,I never read a book from Armenian so if any one knows if it is available in English let me know .

A second day passed ,and a third .The new arrival ceased to think of himself as an exotic parrot in the mountain village .Now the people he met were beginning to greet him .And he was greeting them back .

He already knew many people : the young women from the post office ,the man at the village shop ; the night watchman – a melancholy man with a rifle ,two shepherds ,the old man who looked after the thousand-year old walls of the Kecharis monastery

Grossman is drawn into a remote villages life

So what did I discover ,well a writer of Non fiction I love Grossman is such a beautiful and clear prose writer it is hard not to fall in love with his words and use of words .,He manages to catch the place as a whole the people ,nature ,building and even the feel in the air (if you know what I mean I always feel every place you go to have a spirit about it something in the air that you can’t quite put your finger on ,this he manages to capture ).The sadness of Armenian he talks about the link the Armenian feels of the horrific event in 1916 and the Jewish massacre during world war two .  My favourite parts where around his village to a remote Mountain Village ,as all follows of this blog will know I have a great love of villages  as they say so much more about people than big cities do .

Have you read this book ?

Brief loves that live forever by Andreï Makine

Brief loves that live forever

Brief loves that live forever byAndreï Makine

Russian fiction

Original title  Le Livre des brèves amours éternelles,

Translator Geoffrey Strachan

Source Review copy

I ve reviewed Maikne before on the blog twice before the life of an unknown man and Human love  ,so have said a lot about the siberian born russian that has made his home in France and now writes in French .He is also now being published by Maclehose press for the first time .So this is his latest collection I m not sure if its a Novel or a interlocking collection of stories my self .

All young lovers travel this road and all ,in their alarm ,have only one soloution :to put pressure on the limits our poor human bodies impose on us .We doubled the violence of embraces,seeking now the complicty of the sea at night ,now the solitude of water falls in the forest.

Love in the soviet era is grasped at for all it is worth

So as you see on  the cover art, you sense what this book is  about  before you  read this book well the  picture gave me a sense of something being  a  tale of past like the birds that fly away every year but are remembered .This book is at heart russian and about loss and love ,but also moments in life .The life in collection is that of Dimitri Ress ,now on his way out of life .But through these eight chapters / stories ,we glimpse the love in harsh times ,what love is how we view love from a child through growing to becoming an adult .All this is set against a backdrop of 60’s and 70’s Russia .We see the child in an orphanage ,via an older man who has come to see them able to touch the very beginning of communism as this man had met Lenin ,through a holiday affair ,a women visiting a grave in France ,the Afghan war Ress gets injured .The dark grim times I remember of Brezhnev  we saw in the west those news reports of what seemed a very grim place ,here don’t seem so grim at times and shows as ever love can win through rather like Nadas in Parallel stories love and sex or even the whiff of sex is all that remains given communism .The start of the book also remind me of the start of life of an unknown man as it is two men meeting and one telling his life to the other .The women he meets and loves and how he remembers them remind me at times of the lines from the film city slicker where Jack Palance talks about a women he saw but never meet and just the fact that he could she her outline against the sun ,this is how Ress remembers not the whole just the feel of the women .

At the time of our meeting almost thirty years ago ,these were the solemm word I believed were needed to sum up Dimtri Ress’s life:a revolt against a world in which hatred is the rule and love a strange anomaly .And the failure of God whose creation man is called upon to set to rights …

Near the end his friend sums up the man .

Well I love Makine  ,his books always strike a chord with me and this book has the classic hooks of his writing they are soviet russia ,love as in this case not always working out ,the struggle for a better life .Though he lives in France and has as I said before has written other books under an alias that made the French press think there was a new French talent but no it was Makine ,where as his own writing is distinctively Russian ,with a real sense of longing and asking ,but I do always sense hope in his works and ok it doesn’t always work out .I’m not sure how you describe the book a novel or episodic novel but it lingers with you after you’ve put the book down remember like a collection of old sepia photos you’ve just pulled from under your bed and gone through and tell some one Ress memories some how drift into your own .Just wonderful .

Have you read Makine ?

 

Every Seventh wave by Daniel Glattauer

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Every Seventh Wave by Daniel Glattauer

Austrian fiction

Translators – Jamie Bulloch(Leo) & Katharina Bielenberg (Emmi)

Original title Alle sieben Wellen

Source – Review copy

Now ever so often you read a book , the first in a series of books and you then  can’t wait to read the second part .This for me was the case with this book it is the follow-up to love virtually ,which was one of my favourite books of recent years and struck a chord with the romantic in my heart .Since the last book came out Glattauer has had another two vols of his articles for der standard and a novel.So as I write this having just listen to the Radio four version of this book ,which featured David Tennant as Leo and Emila Fox as Emmi here is a link to the Iplayer where it will be for a week .The earlier version of the first book appears to be available on you tube from links I saw earlier on twitter .

Subject: Query

Good evening ,Mr systems manager .How are you? Quite chilly for March , don’t you think ? Still after such a mild winter I don’t think we should be complaining .Oh yes since I’m here ,I’d be grateful if you’d answer a query .We have an acquaintance in common .His name is Leo Leike .Unfortunately I appear to have mislaid his current e-mail address .Would you be so kind and possibly …? many thanks

With my warmest virtual wishes ,

Emmi Rother

Emmi at the start when Leo still not there talking to herself in e-mail

So we are back to the story of Leo and Emmi .Last time Leo had ,left to go to america and had stopped using his Email account and all Emmi was getting is a systems manager message saying the email account was no longer in use .So the books opens and it is a few weeks later Emmi tries to e-mail then six months still no reply barring the system manager reply .Then lights are observed in Leo’s old flat and guess what she e mails to say so and no System manager reply hopeful she then gets a reply from Leo ,he is back and thus starts this strange e relationship the e-mail start slowly and cautiously .Whats happened in between ? who is Pamela ? what happened between Emmi and Bernhard her husband since Leo left ? All these questions get answered and what the hell does the title mean ? Well I suppose I can give that away whilst e mailing on Holiday Emmi Tells Leo about an old saying on the island where she and Bernhard are having a Holiday that every seventh wave that hits the shore is a bigger and stranger wave than the other ones.

Subject : A stranger 

For an hour I’ve been deleting chunks of e-mail in which I’m trying to describe what I thought of you at our meeting .I can’t seem to collect my impressions .No matter what I write it sounds banal , clichéd

Leo tries to absorb their first real meeting …….

As you can tell I love this book and would hate to give away too much to you as the reader  I think it is a book that every romantic person should read and discover what happens for themselves .Yes there are relationships hurt because of Leo and Emmi but at the heart of the book is the courtship a dance so to speak .We again see Glattauer using e mails to give life again to the epistolary novel .We also see a change in the dynamic the last book saw Leo as the main one pushing the romance this time the tables are switched it is Emmi that is the driving force trying to turn the virtual in to the real world romance  .Yet again the couple behind the translation have worked wonders by giving Emmi and Leo ever so slightly a male and female voice in English  as they translated each character .For me I was so reminded of Amanda  and myself’s romance we meet online and lived apart and used to text a lot so I got the times when Leo said it is hard to tell what mood Emmi was in by Email alone it is .I also thought the way he brought the novel to an end so suited to this story .

Do you have a favourite romantic book ?

The Human Part by Kari Hotakainen

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The Human Part by Kari Hotakainen

Finnish Fiction

Original title – Ihmisen osa

Translator – Owen F Witesman

Source – review copy

Well day two of Maclehose press celebration here on Winstonsdad .I now move north from Italy to Finland and one of the most acclaimed writers Kari Hotakinen .He is a multi talented writer .He started as both a poet and Journalist,he is a columnist for the finnish newspaper   Helsingin Sanomat. He started writing novels in the mid nineties  this is his tenth novel,and his latest and the first I’ve read by him .It won the Runeberg prize Sofi Oksanen has also previously won this prize which awarded every year . .

My name is Salme Sinikka Malmikunnas ,and everything that I say will be printed word for word in this book .The author promised me this .In alarm he even suggested that my words be printed in italics ,which apparently emphasizes the importance of the words .

The opening lines of the novel .

So the premise of The human part is a sort off retelling of the old story of some one selling their life to someone else .In this case it is Salame an elderly lady who ran a button shop ,the cover is rather clever a red thread flows through the city and back to Salame at the bottom , she happens to  meets a writer he has writers block and is looking for a story ,so after much persuading and a wad of money she agrees to sell him her life story she had four but only three are still alive and they all have their own problems but their ,mother tends to view their lives with rose-tinted specs .So she starts her story  to the writer ,tell the story of herself ,husband  and her childrens lives .But what is the writer putting down in  writing as she speaks  and is her vision of the family the same as his vision of her family ? What will he write about her kids lives ? ,What will he make of the dark secret that lies at the back of the family ? All this and more is revealed as you move through her life and that of her kids as well  .

The author interrupted to say that he didn’t intend to turn the Dictaphone on for the whole time we were meeting .As he said this he took a notepad and pencil out of  his pocket .I said he needed to put those away while I was speaking as well .The author shock his head and reminded me that he had paid for goods that he would be taking with him in some form ,

The telling of her tale begins .

So its easy to see Salame and the writers pact to sell her story  to him .As a twist on the old Faustian tale of selling your soul to the devil of course the writer isn’t the devil but he does  makes Salame  begin of view her life in a darker way than she did  .the book is also a clever critic on modern Life in Finland but not just Finland ,we all see the world our own ways and we all see our families one way , because they are our family .This book yet again shows we live in an age of changing values of  the general public  and how much  people willing to reveal all about themselves if the  money  is right .Via this story we see pain and suffering with in the family unit in modern Finland  .This is a book that even thou it is set in Finland  , can ring true to every one in this modern world  .

Have you a favourite Finnish writer ?

 

Memory of the abyss by Marcello Fois

Memory_Abyss_HB

Memory of the Abyss by Marcello Fois

Italian Fiction

Translator –  Patrick Creagh

Original title – Memoria del vuoto

Source – review copy

Well he we go its been five-year since Maclehose press started publishing their wonderful  books. I’ve been reviewing their books since the blog started ,so I came up with the idea of Maclehose press week ,to highlight the wonderful books they publish ,it also helping clear the backlog of books I ve read and not reviewed .So here we go with Marcello Fois  this is his second book to reach us in english .He is Italian writer ,playwright and screenwriter he studied Italian at the university of Bologna ,he then published his first book in 1992 aged 32 and has since published 25 books in Italian ,he has also written a libretto for an opera ,also episodes for an Italian TV series .

That he would be called Samuele was decided by Father Marci :

“Samuele was one of god’s knight .The fact is that every time the children of isarel failed to keep the covenant which they made with god which was honour him above all things.

Even his name has a mythical beginning

Memory of the Abyss is set in Sardinia  like an earlier book I read by Maclehose also set in Sardinia  from a female perspective  that was Accabadoa by Michela Murgia this book is told from a male perspective and roughly at the same time  ,So the book is set in Sardinia just as Il Duce has come to power and the main character is returning to  Italy after being in North Africa .This Guy  Samuele Stocchino is a well know Italian gangster ,what Fois has done is taken his return to Italy and his battle with the fascist forces and reimagined him as an almost mythical figure .We see him as a youngster enlist in the army go to North Africa to fight for the italian army against the natives .He returns disliking the empire italy has built ,but also still very proud of being Italian .He also hates what Il Duce and his fascist followers are doing to his homeland .Thus we see how this man takes on the authorities ,killing and genrally causing trouble as he does so the price on his head  grows as he ends up battling with just one figure from the regime who really want to get Samuele  ,but  his legend grows .So we see a mythical figure appearing from the pages a man of legend .

I saw Stocchino when everyone was saying he was dead ,and the Manai and Bardi clans and all their friends had paid for a mass and a new processional rob for the madonna ,embroidered by the nuns ,as well as jewels and a crown of solid silver .

Near the end his myth is huge he almost becomes a myth .

This book fits in the field of lack comedies dealing with war ,So the real life gangster Stocchino becomes like an Italian robin hood or kray twins where the fact he is a killer is overshadow by the fact he is fighting Fascism and trying to keep hold of an older vision of Italy he loved .The language of this book is very rich one imagines Patrick Creagh had a real task trying to get the beauty of Fois writing into English and I think he has succeed ,Fois imagery at times reminds you the richness you find in the Italian masters where you look and keep seeing more and more detail ,this is like that I kept finding myself turn back and rereading passages to get full beauty of the words .Yet again the feel of Sardinia is a world of old values and traditions fighting the changing world rather similar to the world of  Michela Murgia painted in the earlier Maclehose book I’d read also set in Sardinia .

Maclehose is five years old lets celebrate by reading their books

The Maclehose Press  is five week 20th – 27th January 2012

Maclehose Press is five years old this year .Christopher Maclehose set the press up after he left Harvil when they were sold to random house .Together with his wife he has brought us a wonderful  mix of well-known writers from the world many of those in translation , established names  Cees Nooteboom to  newer names Marie N’diaye ,many of which have won the big prizes around the world .Here is an interview from the guardian with Christopher Maclehose about setting up Maclehose press and how they choose books . To find a book you may like here is a link to their web site which is really easy to get round .So at the end of this month 21-25 January they will spend time celebrating their five wonderful years and hopefully to many more .so I ask you to join me and  post a review of one or more of their books .sign in here  I’ve add the custom WordPress form .

 

Trieste by Dasa Drndic

Dasa Drndic she is a Croat novelist ,playwright and critic ,she has spent time in Canada and now is a professor at Rijeka university in Croatia .

Trieste is her first book to be translated in english and I for one am so pleased it has been as I feel it is a truly important novel .When this arrived I had a flick through the book and saw it was very unusual containing a number of photos and lists and host of over literary devices .But as you dive into this book it all becomes clear .The initial glance made me think of Sebald and the fact that this book is about the second world war and Seblad’s Austerlitz touched in part that time as well but this is the story of southern europe of Italy in particular but also the neighbour places and it spreads out from the two main characters Haya Tedeschi a women who as we find out she had a son via the Lebensborn programme the Germans ran to produce a perfect Aryan race .Early on we find out her story as she waits for her son how she end up father her son and her family’s wartime story.

For sixty-two year she has been waiting .

She sits rocks by a tall window in a room on the third floor of an Austro Hungarian building in the old Gloriza .The rocking chair is old and ,as she rocks it whimper .

Haya waits for her son and thus we find her story .

The father of this babe was a ss officer that was one of the most notorious ,as he was a savage guard at Treblinka camp .The other character is Haya son she hasn’t seen him for over sixty years and now their meeting but before they do we see how this happened and this is what is most inventive in this book ,how that story is told in a number of ways that sets it apart from normal fiction written about the war as most of the people mention in this book are real people ,The ss officer Kurt Franz although I myself prefer the title murderers that Chil Rajchman in Treblinka calls them but he singles out Franz and his dog that is pictured in Trieste ,he had taught this dog to bite prisoners anyway I m getting sidetrack here my review of Treblinka will come in the next month .

A thirty year old German in a uniform comes into her tobacco shop.Oh ,he is handsome as a doll .The German already has the polish nickname Lalka ,but at this point ,when she first see the dashing German Haya knows nothing of that,the dashing german tells her later .

DOll or Lalka was due to Franz doll-like face .explained here

Another devices to shock and make the reader think is printing all 9000 plus names of the Italian jews that died in the second world war I was initially going to flick through this but no I read through and was hit by the effect tens even hundreds of people with same name and probably the same family wiped out by the war ,this is a real eye-opening device and brings the true effect of the holocaust.

Fritz Schmidt ,SS – Unterscharfuhrer born 1906 in Eibau ,Germany .Guard and chauffeur in Sonnenstein and Bernburg 1940-41 .chauffeur and head of garage at Treblinka in 1942 ;looks after equipment for gas chambers .In Trieste in 1943 .Arrested by allies in Saxony .In december 1949 sentenced to nine years in prison ,but escapes to West Germany and no-one cares .Dies in 1982

One of the many pen picture portrays of Treblinka guards .

Elsewhere Dasa uses little pen picture biographies of the guards from Treblinka ,slowly build the character of her sons father bit by bit you feel your skin cringe as every man record is told and what happened to them post war.I feel Dasa achieves here what Bolano tried in part in his Nazi literatures in the Americas using small bios to highlight a great whole of course that was neo Nazis in the America’s but the feel is the same using the bios to build a picture of the whole in this case the true horrors of Treblinka .Dasa has managed to do what seems impossible that is too mix real life and fiction at one of the darkest times and not make it seem not right which it could have easily been .But she has done it seamlessly ,without making the story seem like it is fiction and on the other hand with out it making it seem to outlandish to be true .This is one of those books you want place in people hands and just say read and then discusses ,this needs to be talked about to highlight the holocaust but also the Lebenborn programme that I for one knew little or nothing about .Because the further we get from this time the more it needs reinforcing in people’s minds the horrors that happened .This books sits well along side the books of Levi and such .

Dasa Drndic is visiting uk and is here at Jewish book week on 26th February

 

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