Mirror , Shoulder , Signal by Dorthe Nors

Mirror, Shoulder , signal by Dorthe Nors

Danish fiction

Original title – Spejl, skulder, blink

Translator – Misha Hoekstra

Source – personnel copy

This was the second book I read after the longlist was announced on th train home from london book fair is where I read this book although only a few weeks ago it seems an age . I was in two minds about this one first I had read some great Scandinavian female writers in recent years . But Dorthe Nors first books was rather hyped when it came out and I am always wary of hype . So this short novel was one of two books I brought in london yes even after two pushkin press weeks i rarely get books sent by them shame . So this is hype or not hype

He pointed to the spot on her throat where they were supposed to imagine her breathing had gotten blocked. He did the Hemlich on her , his fingers up in her face, inside her collar up and down her arms.At one point he put her into a stranglehold, but that wasn’t the worst of it . The worst was when they had to do the exercises themselves. It was humiliating to be placed in the recovery position by a boy of eighteen,It also made her dizzy .

At the driving school Of folkie she has to do first aid and a nod to her balance problem

the story follows Sonja , I must admit now I have been thinking about the book today I actually connect a bit with Sonja more than I did when I read the book she is like me in her mid forties . But unlike me her relationship she is a translator (another odd connection !! lol ) and her partner a fellow translator has left her he is translating a big star of Swedish crime fiction !thou she finds this crime fiction overly bloody at times  so she tries meditation and she is now trying to reconnect to her sister and also like me I have just decided to start driving . She has two instructors thou they won’t even let her change gears yet , she is their oldest pupil . Then add to this she is drifting in her m ind ot her past maybe in a way retracing those steps she took that lead her to where she is now . This is a woman in a sot of modern mid-life crisis that isn’t a crisis she has lost her connection to the world with no partner and no family tie she is drifting .

Sonja’s come to a standstill in front of her mirror .A  short while before, she was on her way through the bedroom , sandal in hand, when she caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror on the inside of her wardrobe. It looked as if kate were standing in the wardrobe . That’s weird , she thought. Kate and I never resembled each other, So She stepped over to the mirror to have a proper look.

Kate’s got two sons and her husband Frank.When they’re in Copenhagen , they make a beeline for Tivoli, but other wise they go around  trying to disguise the facts that they’re from Jutland.

Sonja thinking on the sister she has no contact with now .

I initially really didn’t get this book , but since I read it .I have grown to like to Sonja is hapless in a way more of a character that is in a classic comic works by the likes of Wodehouse . The way she is hapless in her various quests to reconnect to her sister  no joy , driving her instructors holding her back and even her job she get pain typing and hates what she works on at times . This is bare of lot more a link series of adventures rather like the cuisine that has swept Denmark in recent year where everything is local but is the also cut back so everything in the meal is just enough to give ut taste and not to many tastes . Like the other Danish novels I have read by Pia Juul and Helle Helle plot is twisted this is a midlife crisis stripped to the bare a woman struggling to get balance , even she has an inner ear problem meaning that this is both actual and literal balance she is struggling for in her own life .A quirky fun novel about struggling to be middle aged and with no one !

 

Black Moses by Alain Mabanckou

Black Moses

Black Moses by Alain Mabanckou

Congolese fiction

Original title – Petit Pimen

Translator – Helen Stevenson

Source – review copy

As I limp on trying to get through the man booker list , well that said I am reading the last book on the list and just have my reviews to write-up . Today i catch up with the latest from one of the most featured writers on the Blog Alain Mabanckou  widely regard as one of the best African writers of his generation called Africa Samuel Beckett . this is also the third book he has had on the short and longlist for this and the old independent foreign fiction prize. So to  Black Moses

Back on the platform again , still with hid escort of wardens , Dieudonne Nguoulmoumako launched into grand-orator mode, explaining how we were the builders and protectors of the scientific socialist revolution. On his jacket , just above “where his heart beat” as some people put it, gleamed a badge with three letters on : CWP . You had to get up really close tp read , in small writing under the letters : Congolese Workers Party

The Orphanage under communism and their leader

This follows one boys coming of age story in the Congo of the 1970’s , like many other places in africa at that time the country had swung to the left and fallen in with Communism , like many regimes of the time this was just an excuse for a man called Ngoulmouako and his henchmen to try to run the orphanage where our Hero Mose lives and what follows here is a modern twist on the orphan made good story that made so many great books from Charles dickens , it’s not Oliver twist  or pip no Moses has it hard but he is in the town of Point-Noire the colourful town that has been at the centre of most of Mabanckou fiction Moses gets help from Maman fiat 500 whom he tells her he is called little pepper , part of his robin hood fantasy (I love this name classic Mabanckou) the mistress of the local whore , who finds him a job as a docker and tries to help him out he spends time with her  and the girls.he gets in many scraps with his group of friends as they hang out with Mamans Zairian girls  Then the world start to turn dark Maman disappears the girls are forced out as there is a drive for girls just from Congo as they are driven out we see the dark side of the regime .

Anyway, what’s your name ?

“Little Pepper …”

She looked surprised :

“What kind of a name is that ? You must have a real name , like everyone else?!

When i didn’t react she sighed “Never mind, we’ll call you that ! My name is Maman fiat 500!

She took out a ten thousand CAF franc note and held it out to me .

Here , Little Pepper , that’s for you, buy yourself a shirt and a pair of horts ,what you’re wearing looks like you live in a cave , for good sake !”

Moses and Maman meet for the first time

 

This feels like a writer loving his homeland , after his last book which saw Alain return for the first time in many years to his home town of Point Noire , which is the setting for the novel , I feel this maybe is part of a story he heard on his retutrn that he has woven into a tale of growing up in the town on a different path to his own Moses is a take of the orphan story rather more like artful dodger with his gang of friends and then there is Maman story , her story is almost like the Harlots Progress  as her girls follow the path and rise and then fall like in Hogarth’s etchings  as with Mose is maybe like tom in the rakes progress series of etchings , even to the end where we see mose is in a cell in a prison for the criminally insane . He has revived the classic orphan tale in a Congo under the yoke of communism where the bad take control .

Fever dream by Samanta Schweblin

 

Fever dream by Samanta Schweblin

Argentinean fiction

Original title – , Distancia de rescate

Translator – Megan Mcdowell

Source – Personal copy

Now this was the first book I read after the longlist came out as it was the one we may have called in I feel if it hadn’t made the longlist. Samanta is another from the granta list of the best Spanish language writers under 35 that came out a few years ago , I wish they would do a few more of these books for other languages that list has produced some of the best books I have read over the last few years and Samanta is one of the names of that list I had want to try long before I actually got to this book .

They’re like worms

What kind of worms ?

like worms , all over

It’s the boy who’s talking , murmuring into my ear. I am the one asking questions.

Worms in the body ?

Yes, in the body

Earthworms ?

No, another kind of worms

It’s dark and I can’t see.The sheets are rough, they bunched up under my body. I can’t move , but I am talking .

The opening lines leave the question why is the sheet rough on Amanda is she even alive ?

The english title is maybe more to the point of what this book is the spanish title means rescue distance , which in itself is a question where as the english title is Fever dream and that is just what we have here . Two people in a hospital room the first Amanda she lies waking from a fever or in a fever and beside her is a boy , not her son David he is trying to guide her in his own young way , she talks of worms around her he gets he to try to rec all what exactly happened to get them there .Then earlier Amanda in her dream talks to Carla about her son that fell ill six years earlier Also called David .We also see a bleak land that of Patagonia , this land where the Gauchos still farm like they did years ago but is this also a sign of how the world she lives in has changed recently ? Amanda story is one that has very few answers to us as the reader more questions which even thou this book is only 150 short pages it has me two weeks later think about what it is all about ,

How can it not be ? That’s the story we need to understand

No , that’s not the story, it has nothing to do with the exact moment. Don’t get distracted.

I need to measure the danger, other wise it’s hard to calculate the rescue distance . The same way I surveyed the house and its surroundings when we arrived, now I need to see the green house, understand its gravity .

When did you start to measure this rescue distance ?

It’s something I inherited from my mother. “I want you close ” she’d say to me . “let’s stay within rescue distance .”

The spanish title explained her in a detached conversation from Amanda .

This is a very unsettling book that has echos of so many thinks , I do wonder myself if it is just one person with two voices , is David a soul that Amanda meet when she was at the hospital before with her own child , like the landscape she lives in is he a shepherd to guide either one way or the other to the light of life or to the light of being with a daughter she may have lost . Maybe this is like the sixth sense or the film the passenger where those that are dead never really accepted  that they are like Bruce Willis or Anne Hathway in both those films need to be guided to the other side . The book to me has a feel of Beckett in a way Amanda and David detatched voices remind me somewhat of Vladmir and Estragon waiting in a room somewhat in limbo trying to get from one place but waaiting for some to guide them. Amanda voice at times remind me of the way Beckett wrote in something like Not I her life tumbles out of her at a great speed , this is wonderfully drawn out in Mcdowell’s translation . For me this will make the shortlist and may just make our shadow shortlist.

Shadow Man booker prediction 2017

It is a few day til we see the longlist for this years Man booker international prizes , this is the first in the post Boyd era Boyd Tonkins being a judge in all the IFFP and the first man booker so it will beinteresting to see if the panel changes tack with the books on the list. I have select only from books I have read in the last twelve months since the prize .

Sudden death by Alvaro Enrique

A tennis match spreads around thew world at the start of the enlightenment , the second book by him I have read and the best mexican novel from last year .

 

Image result for sudden death alvaro enrigue

Affections by Rodrigo Hasbun

 

A second spanish language novel , last year was a great yeaer for spanish lit yet none made the longlist , this follows a mad german explorer and his family in 1950’s Bolivia .

 

The winterlings by Christina Sanchez-Andrade

Another spanish novel this follows two ssters returning home after somehting cause them to leave the village many years ago .

Moonstone by Sjon

I am a huge fan of Sjon and the story of Mani is dickensian in style with a backdrop of classic films and a flu epidemic

Consteliation by Adrien Bosc

A french pklane crashes and we have pen pics of the crew and paassengers a cross section of the modern world from the disney merchandise cheif to some spanish shepards on hunt for a better life .

Constellation

Trysting by Emmanuelle Pagano

love broken into bare words stripped of who and why beautiful in its brittleness like a leaf skelton of love

Trysting_B_Format_LoRes_RGB_120DPI

Land of my Father by Vamba Sheriff

A freed slave returns to Africa but then want to convert the locals to God at what cost

None like her by Jela Krecic

A man goes on the hunt for lovve a slovenian fonz tries to find the one

 

Panorama by Dusan Sarotar

Simply this is what translated fiction is about the ripple effect of a writer like Sebald hits Slovenian and produces a true gem , as I’ve said I can’t see why Istros haven’t been on the list !!!!!

 

2084 by Boualem Sansal

A new take on 1984 in a ISlamic style country , powerful writing from one of the best writers around

 

Compass by MAthias Enard

Another look at the arab world as a man can’t sleep we see his previous love and the run around the arab world that is no longer there , also the influence of east on western culture .

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Book 12 –

Of books I haven;t read here is a selection I think could be there –

War and War laszlo Krasznahorkai

Fever dream by Samantha Schweblin

Transmigration of bodies by Yuri Herrera

are three that may make it also as ever Peirene have had three good books the empress and the cake is a great look at eating disorders .

 

 

 

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