A whole life by Robert Seethaler

A Whole life by Robert Seethaler

Austrian fiction

Original title – Ein ganzes Leben

Translator – Charlotte Collins

Source – Library book

Every year on the Old IFFP and now on the first man booker there is a book on the list that I hadn’t heard of and a writer that is new to me and this was this years book. Robert Seethaler is an austrian writer, the german wiki page says he has sight problems so went to a school for the blind. Then drama school , he is an actor as well as a scriptwriter. He has also written five novels this is his fifth novel.His first to be translated . I am pleased to see his fourth novel The tobacconist is in the pipeline to be translated.

 In 1910 a school was built in the village, and every morning, after tending to the livestock, little Egger sat with the other children, in a classroom that stank of fresh tar, learning reading, writing and arithmetic. He learned slowly and as if against a hidden inner resistance, but over time a kind of meaning began to crystallize out of the chaos of dots and dashes on the school blackboard until at last he was able to read books without pictures, which awoke in him ideas and also certain anxieties about the worlds beyond the valley.

I was reminded of the Herzog actor Bruno S a man who never is in time with the world either .

I must admit I am so pleased this was on the longlist as it may have passed me by maybe until,a german lit month. This book is the story of one mans life Andreas Egger a man who arrives and then spend the rest of his life in one small mountain valley. This is the early 20th century and the world Andreas is living in is slowly giving way to the modern world as we see through his eyes bit by bit his life but the world he lives in getting to grips with the modern world. From his arrival to work on his uncles farm where he first met the woman he loves over time Marie but this is a love that will never be.So as Andreas First build cable cars, then help electricity then the war take him away from the farm and the valley he always come back to the world he is meant to be in. As much as he tried to escape .

That was in the late fifties. It was only much later, in the summer of 1969, that Egger had a second encounter with the television – which in most households by then already constituted the central focus and primary purpose of the evening family gathering – that made a profound impression on him, albeit in an entirely different way. This time he was sitting with almost a hundred and fifty other villages in the assembly room of the new parish hall, watching two young americans walk on the moon for the first time.

A world no gone without tv or wanting to see a tv Eggger is really a man out of time in his valley .

I must admit I loved this book  it is a really pretty gem. I was reminded of  one of my favourite books Stones in a landslide Andreas life and the way he lives in the valley that is sort of out of time with the world around them remind me of the world in Stones in a landslide. I also pictured this in a way as being a lost script for a Werner  Herzog film on the other hand Andreas is a simple man like most of the classic roles in the 70’s Herzog films, a man who has the world against him in the way like the classic Bruno S films  Herzog made . A beautiful world of the valley is like quicksand slowly killing the man but not just the man but also his spirit is slowly dragged into the ground of the valley.As for man booker I feel the simple sparse nature of the narrative that as the Irish times review saaid remind that review of Stoner as for me I felt this is a better book than Stoner which I may be the one person that felt stoner was like a  afternoon film of one mans life. No egger is a character you believe in he is like a man in the background of Heidi brought to the fore.

Have you read this book ?

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A cup of rage by Raduan Nassar

A cup of rage by Raduan Nassar

Brazilian Fiction

Original title – Um Copo de Colera

Translator – Stefan Tobler

Source – Personnel copy

Now this may be the oddest title on the first Man booker international longlist as it is hard to place is it a long short story a short Novella or something else this book is under fifty pages long. I had just the week before the longlist had been announced looked for this title on my local Library system but had only found the other book penguin had brought out by the Brazilian writer Raduan Nassar. He is a now a farmer retired. He wrote the two books mentioned and worked in news papers as an editor. Then in 1984 he gave up the writing as he had bored with it to become a farmer.

My coming nakedness and soon I heard her breathing in deeply, over by the chair, where she had perhaps already given in to her desperation, struggling to take off her clothes, getting her finger caught in the straps slipping down her arm, and I , still faking , knew that all of that was real, oh how I knew her nightmarish obsession for feet, and for my feet in particular, their firm step and well shaped form, a little bony around the toes perhaps and nervously marked with veins and tendons on the instep, though they hadn’t lost the shy manner of a tender root.

Early on in bed the man and woman start getting frisky and he remarks how she likes his feet.

Now it is strange he choose to be a farmer as this is the setting for this most unusual story told in a classic stream of consciousness  it is told from the point of view of an older man as he awakes starts his day making love to his younger wife. He then is sidetracked by some ants and other things in the house which leads to an argument between the two . The wife then heads out . Now that is it a lot to fit in under fifty pages . I think this is one over the next few year I will read and reread and still wonder every time I do so .

Under the shower I let her hands slide over my body, and her hands were inexhaustible, and they ran searchingly through all the foam, and they came and went tirelessly, and our soaked bodies now and again pressed against each other so that her hands could reach my back in an embrace, and I enjoyed all this movement, sinuous and vague, that provoked sudden, hidden jolts, and seeing that those hands were already taking advantage of my darkest corners – even combing through the threads at the badly stitched seam of the groin (and secretly weighing the soapy packet of my member) – I said ‘wash my head, I’m in a hurry’, and then, pulling me out from under the stream of water, her hands immediately penetrated my hair, rubbing firmly with her fingers, massaging my scalp with her nails, scratching my nape in a way that sent me crazy, to my core

And after the bed they meet in the shower he manages to get the feeling just right I feel .

The fact I was already looking into reading Nassar, means I felt he was a writer I would enjoy. Nick Lezzard also wetted my appetitie in his review mention Thomas Bernhard, but for me the only real connection to him was the fact that he like Bernhard isn’t very keen on a full stop. The whole story is like one long thought in the mind of the older man. No for me I was reminded of the classic modernist piece like Joyce’s Ulysses which in the sex here you can see in the later passages of Joyce’s piece. A relationship not working or problems reminded me of Woolf’s Mrs Dallowway and of course like both these works the action is set over the course of one day . Now that isn’t to say this hasn’t connection to other writers in Latin america of course Lispector a fellow Brazilian and also a writer using Modernist ticks in her writing . I was also reminded of one of my favourite Cuban writers Infante three trapped tigers like this is set over a day and has a similar rhythmic feel to the prose. Now that is enough praise my main problem was what is this it is like a clip from a great novel or a long-lost short story from a great collection . I wanted more than this as wonderful as it is it is like going for a meal and leaving after a wonderful starter if you know what I mean . Stefan piece in the independent about meeting him is very interesting . Now for Man booker I thing this will probably make shortlist as it is a challenging read and different to anything about at the moment .

Have you read this book or ancient tillage ?

 

Man booker international prize prediction post 2016

Well today is the day before the Man booker announce the first Man booker international prize longlist, the new name for the Indpendent foreign fiction prize. I don’t see much change in the books being picked this year Boyd is still the chair and so I feel the list may have a similar feel to other years. Last year i was miles of the mark with my predictions so lets see how I do this year with my 13 choices .

1.

The great swindle by Pierre Lemaitre

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This won the French Prix Goncourt slow burning book but very much an homage to french writing of the time the book is set ww1 and just after . My review 

2

The Meursault investigation

themeursaultinvestigation

I said this when I reviewed it every few years a book in translation seems to break free and become a  favourite of every one and this book is one such example. A retelling of Camus outsider from the Arab point of view .My review

3

Exiles by Ciler Ilhan

This was my favourite short story collection from last year and Ciler bravely touch many taboo subjects in Turkish society such as Honour killings . My review  

4

Submission by Michel Houellebecq

MichelHouellebecqSubmission

A dystopia france where a Arab led coalition has taken charge seen from a laid back lectures point of view who doesn’t see whats happening to it is too late. This is the one that was on the cover of Charlie Hebdo the week the magazine was attack My review

5

The vegetarian by Han Kang

A triptych of stories around a womans choice to become vegetarian and also her sexual awakening in a way. I like this book although was a tad over hyped by some. My review 

6

She is not me by Golnaz Hashemzadeh

 

She Is Not MeI think one World edition title should be pn the longlist they took uk by storm publishing 21 titles last year most of those in translation I loved this tale of trying to fit in as a teen in Sweden.My review 

7

Wilful disregard by Lena Andersson

 

A love story a woman falls for an artist and it is down hil from there . I loved the beauty of the writing in this one .My review 

8

What became of the white savage by Francois Garde

 

A man become shipwrecked in the 1840 and goes native in the Australi of the time . This is the story of that time ansd what happened when he returned to france a Priz Goncourt first novel winner .My review 

9

Signs preceeding the end of the world by Yuri Herrea

Signs Preceding the End of the World_CMYK SMALL

A sister takes two messages to her brother in the US a mythic like trip as Yuri has removed any sense of place or time to the story. My review 

10

My documents by Alejandro Zambra

Another short story collection this time by the Chilean Aljandro Zambra, I loved these I said when I reviewed his novellas he would be a great short story-teller . My favourite was one about a disgraced footballer that fake an injury during a world cup match . My review 

11

Tram 83 by Fiston Mwanza Mujila

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A high octanne look at  life in Congo as there is no law and people trying to make money steal money and some just to get by the best they can in this mad world . My review

12

The boy who stole Attila’s  horse by Ivan Repila

theboywhostoleattilashorse

Two boys fell down a well this is the tale of what happened after that .Well written .My review

13

Well I decide to name a trio of Spanish books that just on the edge in my opinion two I reviewed on I am part way in .

Out in the open by Jesus Carrasco

The Ilogic of Kassel by Enrique Vila-Matas

In the night of time by Antonio Munoz Molina

 

The Meursault Investigation by Kamel Daoud

themeursaultinvestigation

The Meursault investigation by kamel daoud

Algerian fiction

Original title – : Meursault, contre-enquête

Translator – John Cullen

Source – personnel copy (books for Syria from waterstones )

Every year there is a few books in translation that seem to break free of being just in the circle of fans of translated fiction well last year this was one of those books, it made a lot of the end of year lists.It is also the winner of three prize in France. All this from a book that is based in an older book by the French writer Albert Camus  for what kamel Daoud has done is taken part of the story from the novel the Outsider where Meursault the anti-hero of The outsider kills an Arab(that is all we are told even thou this killing is mention as the main character in the book say 26 times the person killed is never mentioned just refered to as the Arab) .Well this is the story of The Arab as told 70 years later by his brother .

I’ll tell you this up front: The other dead man, the murder victim, was my brother. there is nothing left of him only me, Left ti speak in his place, sitting in this bar, waiting for condolences no one’s ever going to offer. Laugh if you want, but this is more or less my mission: I peddle offstage silence , trying to sell my story while theater empties out. As a matter of fact, that’s the reason why I’ve learned to speak this language, and to write it too so I can speak in place or a dead man, ao I can finish his sentences for him.The murder got famous, and his story’s to well written for me to get any ideas about imitating him.

Harum in the bar talking about his brother the dead Arab from the Novel The outsider.

This is the story of Harum , who tries to describe what happened 70 years earlier in the events that lead to the death of his Brother Musa, that killing on a sunny beach in an act of random killing by a French man on a sunny day  in Algeria seventy years ago as the country tried to break free of France. But the story follows harun life after that event as he starts to tell the wider story of post colonialism and in some ways the rise of islam in his country all this is a strange mirror to events that happened in recent years with the Arab spring seen as a freeing of the Arab world, which maybe it is could Daoud have written this book twenty years ago ? But also the heart of this is what has happen in France in the last years with a number of the people involved in the attacks having connection to north africa . A timely story of what scars remain from France’s time in North africa , well any western nation it could easily be india or pakistan the story could have come from a kipling story say .

Oh what a joke! Do you understand now? Do you understand why I laughed the first time I read your hero’s book? there i was , expecting to find my brothers last words between those covers, the description of his breathing, his features, his face , his answers to his murderer: instead I read only two lines about an Arab. the word “Arab ” appears twenty-five times, but not a single name, not once

Camus book doesn’t mention Musa name just calls him an Arab in the novel The outisder .

What Daoud has brilliantly done is taken a small character in a well-known book and given him a real life and a name. I reviewed The secret history of Costaguana by Juan Gabriel Vasquez , which took a character from the great Latin american novel of Conrad Nostromo and told his story from a native point of view rather like this book flipping the story to tell it from the other angle almost like a reply to the first book . why was Musa just called the Arab was he just the same as those bit part actors in the original Star trek given a red tunic and expected to die with no real name or back story.Daoud highlights what Camus missed the real person. This is the first of a number of books from last year I will be reviewing in the coming weeks as I look forward to the first longlist in the new man booker international coming in March as I try to wrap up some books i missed from the last year.

Have you read any great books based on another novel to start with?

 

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