Moonstone The boy who never was by Sjon euro 2016 post 2

Moonstone The boy who never was by Sjon

Icelandic fiction

Original title – Mánasteinn – drengurinn sem aldrei var til

Translator – Victoria Cribb

Source – personal copy

Well a new book Sjon is always a welcome treat, I have reviewed a couple of his books on the blog and met the translator of this book and his earlier books at the IFFP a few years ago so I knew there was other books to come out by him as she had translated more books by him. Sjon is maybe one of the best known names from Iceland not only as he is connected to the band sugarcubes in the past who were one of the first connection I had with Iceland .They are also making the first appearances in a major football championship and one of the players was the first I remember playing in Britain is still in the Iceland team Eidur Gudjohnson was part of Big Sam’s Bolton team back in the day with his fellow club mates from all round the world 17 years later it was great to see him part of the team last night for the first euro match.

She appeared on the brink like a goddess risen from the depths of the sea, silhouetted against the backdrop of a sky ablaze with the volcanic fire of Katla; a girl like no other, dressed in black leather overall that accentuates every detail it is intended to hide, with black gloves on her hands, a domed helmet on her head, goggles over her eyes, and a black scarf over her nose and mouth

Imra Vep in her death like outfit in the film Les Vampires that engulfs Mani as he watches it .

Anyway back to the book Moonstone is for me one of his best books the story of Mani Stein he is a 16-year-old boy , but one of those boys that almost fell out lf a dickens novel this is a boy who lives on the edge of society in Iceland making his way through encounters with men. But at the same time living his life in a dream world of the cinema and imaging his life drawn into the films and heroines of the films he loves to watch in one of the two cinemas in the capital. Add to this it is 1918 and a boat has just arrived and brought the Spanish flu to the capital. So as death rides over the town we see one boy trying to avoid death as it calls on Iceland. Will he avoiding him as he swoops like the black glad figures he loved so much in the films of the time.

He overhears them saying that some of the Botina’s crew are ill with the same influenza that swept through the country last summer, and that the ship will be delayed while new hands are found to take their place. The boy knows the illness from personal experience. He was sick as a dog for five days, with a headache and a high temperature, a cold and an upset stomach, and missed the films From Headquarters and The black owl, neither of which, to his great dismay, had been shown again.

He had got through last time but will he this time when one boat brings it back to Iceland

Sjon shows his love of early cinema this book is a treat for anyone interested in what films to watch from the early year of cinema such as Les Vampires a french epic told in ten parts starring Imra Vep the heroine Mani so looks up too as a black dress vampire committing crime in Paris. THe images of the film in me  also evoke Bergmann death in his film seventh seal and you feel death is a character in this  book never mention but always in the hinterland. I love Mani the way he loved film this is a darker northern version of Cinema Paradiso a young boy in love with the moving image but also in trouble in his own world. But this boy has no Alfredo to save him or for him to save. As ever Sjon walks the line between fairytale and reality without ever making the story feel to surreal but with the sense of otherness we all love in his writing.I may also remind you Sjon has been interviewed by me here 

Have you a favourite Sjon book ?

Holmes but will the book be like the films or better ?

hound of the baskervilles ,my 1982 copy

Now Amanda is organising a read along of this classic in October .Now this has set me think ,I think I’ve mention my love of crime tv shows and films ,well my all time favourite is of course Holmes and this story in particular .It’s been twenty plus years since I’ve read it but less than a month since I watched a film version of it that time it was the Ian Richardson and the Basil Rathbone in the same day ,and in the last year or two I’ve watched the hammer version ,Jeremy Brett version ,Matt frewer ,BBC version of the original and of course the Homage of the modern Sherlock series .Each is different in little ways ,not as much of course as the versions of Buchan’s 39 steps are ,but what has been missed from each and will I now be able to separate the films from the book  ?  Do we fix in our mind when we see a film a character ? I often find I have my own vision of characters I’ve read completely different to the actors cast in the film versions ,but in hindsight when think of the book years later see the actor that played the character .I want to break this and enjoy this readalong afresh as it is a classic I loved and think I still will love and also gives me an excuse to buy or get a new copy of the book to read along with ,have you a favourite edition  of the Hound of the Baskerviles  that is out now ?

The Mirror of Beauty by Shamsur Rahman Faruqi

the mirror of beauty

The Mirror of Beauty by Shamsur Rahman Faruqi

Urdu fiction

Translated from Urdu by the writer himself

Source – copy via Musharraf Ali Farooqi

Well I have raved about this Epic written by the renowned Urdu Literary critic , publisher and editor Shamsur Rahman Faruqi .He is the publisher of the well-known Indian Lit journal Shakhoon .This is his debut novel but he has in the past published a four volume study of the well-known poet Taqi Mir .The reason I held of on my review of the book is a feeling that this book would at some point get a Uk release but a few months on it seems not yet and I really want to share my love of this book .Which for me is easily the best piece of Indian fiction since and if  not even better than midnight children .

Wazir Khanam ,ALSO and perhaps better known as Choti Begam (Younger lady ) , was born around 1811 .She was the third and youngest daughter of Muhammad Yusuf ,maker of plain gold ornaments .She was born in Delhi but Muhammad Yussuf was not native to Delhi .His ancestors were from Kashmir .How and when these people reached Delhi , and what befell them in Delhi is a very long story .

The intro to the book explains where Wazir came from .

The novel is set just as India is changing the East India  company is gaining a foothold and the Mughal’s are still about  but their power is on the wain .We see this world through the eyes of Wazir Khanam ,she is a rare beauty and a rare women .Through the book she takes two lovers , also has two husbands along the way gives birth too a number of children among those is  Dagh a well-known poet .But this is his mother’s story she is a women that has lovers from both sides of the India she lives in both  British and Indian .She is almost a new women, not a figure we have been portrayed in other books about Indian  in this time ,no this is a strong-willed women that loves her life and her world and likes to be in control of it as much as she can .She first meets and marries a charismatic English man  called Blake, so  she moves away from Delhi but the marriage ends when he is killed and she returns to that  city .She then meets Nawab Khan and she also has many other lovers .This also sounds like a well lived but actually Wazir life is a battle and a lot of her loves end badly .But she loves her world the world she lives in is moving from the regal Mughal empire into the commerce and chaos at times of the British and the East India company .We see a world of painters ,carpet makers ,the desert of India  to the valleys of Khasmir and finally the chaos of the Metropolis Delhi through one women ,her husband ,lovers and children .We she her effect on the world a ripples in time and the people she touched and her family touch move in this changing India ,rather like the children born on the stroke of midnight in Rushdie’s midnight children Wazir and her family and friends move the world  of their time .

It took a great deal of argument before Wazir could persuade Marston Blake to approve the name Badshah Begam for their first daughter ,He refused to consider any other name than Sophia ,a name that identified her as a Christian .After a great amount of discussion in the first instance , he agreed to Masih Jan a name that was vaguely Muslim and could also be taken as Christian .

She cross the western and Asian world so well at times and fought for what she believed in

Well as you see this book some how captures a world now gone and little written about  .Faruqi is like an Indian dickens ,or even Hillary Mantel the lives touched in this book are the ones you don’t know a lot about ,the ones just down from the top Nobel men ,high-ranking officials but not the big ones ,but people near the top and how this women effect them and her .He captures a world I  loved that of the Darlymple books. But he brings it  to life of the page .I feel the fact he took six years to translate from his original Urdu book to this  English translation has made every word seem as thou they were written originally in English it is flawless .I feel this is maybe the greatest Indian novel and feel my heart sink that it isn’t even getting an Uk issue you can buy it via Amazon and I strongly urge you to buy it as like me you will no doubt be blown away by its beauty and world .Faruqi really weaves 19th century India he said in an interview his love of Urdu poetry at the time lead to the figure of Wazir and as he wrote he check up facts and built the story that way .I really enjoyed the arts and crafts described in the book from poets to carpet makers their jobs and lives opened up .

Who is the greatest living Prose writer ?

 

The world cup for the greatest living Prose writer

Well as ever the backlash of the booker winner has started and it is about the comment that Peter Stothard made about Hillary Mantel being the greatest English living English prose writer (Pleased he said that because for my mind if it was world-wide she’d not be near the top ) .So the guardian have open  thread on who is the greatest English prose writer ,well I’m wanting to  go further and ask you all who is the greatest living prose writer ? I feel maybe a discussion that is less Anglo centric be interesting as I feel the best prose aren’t from english at the moment (but that may just be me so steeped in the translation ) so what are your views ? I ll throw three names in the hat to start with –

Peter Nadas – reason able to show the complexities of the human soul and sexual desire in the written word better than any one else .

Cees Nooteboom – travel writer ,prose writer ,novelist ,poet and Holland greatest living writer a jack of all trades and quite possibly a master of them all .

Goncalo Tavares – my current writer I want to read more off and champion . the Portuguese writer is push the bounds of what is fiction unlike anybody has in English for decades .

Dublinesque by Enrique Vila-Matas Bloomsday tribute

Dublinesque by Enrique Vila-Matas

Spanish fiction

Translator -Rosalind Harvey & Anne McLean

Enrique Vila-Matas is probably one of the finest writers in modern spain .He published his first novel in 1973 and is hard to define I ve read a couple of his books and they are hard to put in a genre ,but maybe the metafiction tag works a bit for the books I ve read as they seem to mix characters from other books and take them into a new direction .He was a founding member of the order of Finnegan a society that meets at the Martello tower and walk to the Finnegan pub in the Dalkey are of Dublin so every 16th june they go over and read Ulysses on the day it is set ,so with that in mind we come to his latest translation Dublinesque

Unexpected, inspired tirade from Ricardo when they’re already a few yards inside the cemetery and he says he’s had a sudden revelation and understood everything all at once .He now sees how pertinent the funeral for the Gutenberg age is ,for we mustn’t lose sight of how much Joyce loved word play .

“and I don’t know if you’ve realised that Bloomsday “he says ,”sounds like Doomsday .And the long day Ulysses takes place on is nothing less than that .

this passage struck me as wonderful .

Dublinesque was originally published in Spanish in 2010 ,but here in english two years later and as it happens 90 years after the publication of Ulysses because this book is Villa-Matas ode to that book but maybe also an ode to the written word ,also to Dublin and it many writers .The centre character of Dublinesque is Samuel Riba ,he is a spanish publisher and is turning 60 .It easy to see parallels with Leopold Bloom the main character of Ulysses there are numerous times you see the crossover maybe this is also an honor to Odysseus and Hamlet the two works that partly inspired Joyce’s book as you see the crossover in Ulysses of the books that inspired it .Riba has a dream of going to Dublin and being there on Bloomsday even thou he has never been to Dublin in his life ,this man who feels like Cervantes don Quixote in being the last real publisher a proper editor and paper book lover fighting the battle against the digital word .So he travels to Dublin on bloomsday ,the ghost of his past and Ireland’s past mingle is there a Beckett like figure trying to give him that gem of a book ,a mackintosh figure echo the figure seen in Ulysses by Bloom at the funeral .So rather like Jason in the argonauts he has been hunting a golden fleece in Riba’s case that golden fleece is a book like the ones Beckett and Joyce wrote a writer that breaks the mould and is there to be remembered .So in going to Dublin he maybe buries his dreams like the late Paddy Dignams funeral , as he is a man at a crossroads a career ending a new turn in his life a lament for his broken dreams .He also faces is he drinking too much (is Dublin the best place to face this one does ask ?) also his marriage is wobbly .Know I’m making this feel to formal no it is a wonderful witty book at times with lots of clever ticks to Joyce work that are helped if you’ve read Ulysses but isn’t totally necessary I ve also not read Beckett seen a few of his plays on TV so some of the Beckett reference made me want to read him .

So We have another wonderful piece inspired by James Joyce’s masterpiece Ulysses in my opinion one of the greatest books ever written .So Vila -Matas Like Joseph Beuys who made many drawings about Bloomsday ,Phillip Larkin who’s poem Dublinesque is inspired by the book as well and also shares its title with this novel,Burgess nothing like the sun which Harold bloom noted had parallels with Ulysses .I think you’re getting the idea I loved this book in fact I had to hold my self back from writing about til today as I wanted to publish it on blooms day to honour the book the day and also give a taster of Spanish literature just before Spanish lit month next month .The books cover also honours both the book its self and Ulysses as it uses the same font in yellow that was used in the early hardback editions of Ulysses and it honours the book as it shows a man leaping maybe this is Riba the man leaping between one dream and another or from work to retirement .This book takes the micro of Joyce’s work which covers one day in a book then flips it and takes the macro vision of Riba’s whole life lived in a few days in Dublin .A history in publishing remember the books he’d seen float in front of him ,I m reminded of something I once heard Shane MaGowan says about songs being floating round just needing to be grabbed and written ,maybe novels are the same waiting there to be grabbed .If in the UK you may want catch BBC radio four today which has a day long tribute to Ulysses today .

Have your read Vila-Matas or Joyce ?

What you doing this Bloomsday ?

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