Christened with crosses by Eduard Kochergin

Christened With Crosses

Christened with crosses(notes taken on my knees)  by Eduard Kochergin

Russian memoir

Original title – Крещённые крестами: Записки на коленках

Translator – Simon Patterson with Nina Chordas

Source – review copy

I often bang on about the small publishers I work with but the reason is this they tend to bring us the titles we wouldn’t see otherwise. That said this was a bestseller the second time it came out in Russia Eduard  Stepanovich Kochergin was born at the height of Stalinism in 1937 and his parents were considered enemies of the state and he as a young boy was sent away to state orphanage for children of political prisoners. This book follows that time and his six-year journey across the heart of Russia from Siberia to Leningrad his hometown.

In the next two wards there was a medical section – one of the most terrifying places in the orphanage, in our language the croakery or kaputka. Few of the children who were taken there returned upstairs. This section was led by a nurse called Absolute Drip. Her assistant, a deaf mute nursing aide, a dirty animal whose stench killed flies, did not clean up, but simply spread filt around

One his arrival to Pipsqueak ward he talks about the other wards, scarry to say the least !!

The book starts with him at home with his family and his christening at a church on Nevsky prospect and also his polish mother and Russian father firstly he was given poles for safekeeping.But was eventually sent to the state house and out to Siberia. We see him on a ward with other young orphans where he meets some other boys with names like the Toad and his deputy screwface. This is a brutal place but seen through a child’s eye Eduard or Stepanych becomes the shadow in these place and disappears. Living only at night when they are alone he grows sadder missing his parents and home, which leads to the young boy setting off on a six-year journey on the trains. He meets thieves. Then stumbles into a village where they still have a tradition of brewing.Gets taught how to make a fire all the time slowly making his way back home but does he?

Food was the main topic of our life. The dreams of the orphans mainly revolved around food, especially in winter and spring. During that time, as our hobbling lady said, we were liable to eat everything that wasn’t nailed down. In summer we ate weeds, rising catching a colon infection and falling into the clutches of the Absolute Drip.

This short passage reminded me so much of Dickens in  particular Oliver when he is at the orpahage as well.

I read this last week as my father was actually in Vladivostok a place in the far east of Russia a place he said still had a feel of its Soviet past. This is tale of a boy become a man but also a tale of post-war Soviet times the toughness of  when Stalin sent so many to the Gulags, this is the flipside of a writer like Solzhenitsyn as it is about the children of those prisoners those young souls we never heard about the brutal nature of the state orphanage. Seen through his eye but in the same way as books; like the boy in the striped pyjamas or curious incident in the night we see how violence can be seen but not really absorbed till much later. There is also a sense of adventure as we follow his homeward journey a sense of entering a wide world and learning skills and about danger first hand. Also glimpsing a dying rural world of Russia hinterlands with rituals and myths still alive in the 1950’s. A powerful memoir of one man’s journey to adulthood in a Soviet world that could have stepped out of a Dickens novel but 100 years on.

 

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The false Apocalypse by Fatos Lubonja

The False Apocalypse by Fatos Lubonja

Albanian Non-fiction

Original title – Nëntëdhjeteshtata – Apokalipsi i rremë

Translator – John Hodgson

Source – review copy

When one voice rules the nation
Just because they’re top of the pile
Doesn’t mean their vision is the clearest
The voices of the people
Are falling on deaf ears
Our politicians all become careerists

They must declare their interests
But not their company cars
Is there more to a seat in parliament
Than sitting on your arse
And the best of all this bad bunch
Is shouting to be heard
Above the sound of ideologies clashing

I ve gone for Billy Bragg song ideologies as this is a story of ideas falling apart

I love the fact that Susan at Istros books is publishing books like this one for I feel no one else would publish a book about Albania internal politics .Fatos Lubonja is the son of Todi Lubonja who was one of the closet aids to Hoxha , until the early 1970’s when he was arrested and Fatos , where Fatos then spent the next 17 years in Jail  , he is considered an outspoken critic on the post communist world of Albanian politics and also the writer Ismail Kadare .In the introduction he is called the closest thing tp an intellectual conscience in Albania .

The arrival of a boatload of sugar , whose sale would pay off all his debts , was the last deception used by the mastermind of the pyramid scheme to palm off the daily demands of his creditors .Qorri has made this boat the focal point of the novel , a symbol of people’s hope and trust in the victory of capitalism over reality of socialism ,The arrival of the sugar boat would solve everything .

The premise of the Novel Fatos Qorri called Sugar boat about one pyramid scheme .

The False Apocalypse is a story of the years after the fall of communism within Albania .The book has two narratives one that follows the greater picture of Albania at the time  the government of Sali Bershia that was the leader of the country at the time .The problem with the regime was the fact they let to many fraudsters take over the country , in particular a number of Pyramid schemes (the schemes used new investors to pay old investors whilst appearing to make money , the only ones that made money where the leaders of the scheme ) , these schemes had grown since the fall of Hoxha and the fall of communism in 1991 , the schemes had grown and grown so in 1997 the collapse of them was going to take the whole country down with it .As the public start to protest and riots begin as scheme after scheme collapses .The second narrative thread in the book is the personnel story of Fatos Qorri ( akter ego of fatos lubonja ) describes the events of 1997 through his own eyes through diary entries . He is in the process of writing a novel in fact about the pyramid schemes and as he is doing so the events take over him .

The victory of the guns in Vlora created a nightmare for thee Tirana government .Could Berisha weather these events ? The Government was on the brink of resignation , with dozens of deaths laid at it’s door State institutions had collapsed , Vlora was in rebellion with fighting in the streets , and the nation faced bankruptcy .moreover , after what had happened , Albania was split in two and Berisha’s people didn’t dare set foot in the south .

The first real crack appeared at Vlora the first of many .

Now I remember the aftermath of this when the west rode in to save the government of Berisha .What I enjoyed about lubonja book is the way he used his own personnel experience at the time and mixed it in with the wider picture of what was going on in Albania at the time .what we see is a country trying to run before they have learnt to walk .A government that has really lost control over the schemes and the country as a whole , this is what happened when the prisons were opened , the gangs are allowed to take control . The former secret service has also  become a force to be watched after it was not taken apart from the fall of communism .What we get is the chaos explained , what happens on the wider scale when a country starts to fall apart but also on the personnel scale to the man on the street .This book appeals to anyone that has an interest in the fall of communism and maybe wants to learn more about Albania .

Have you a favourite non fiction book in translation ?

John and George the dog who changed my life by John Dolan

 

John and George the dog who changed my life by John Dolan 

Memoir

Source – review copy

King went a-runnin’ after deer
Wasn’t scared of jumpin’
off the truck in high gear
King went a-sniffin’
and he would go
Was the best old hound dog
I ever did know.

Old king by Neil Young source 

I had planned to write the review for this wonderful memoir the day Winston fell ill and al that happened since it has taken till today where i have felt like talking about this book .I have said in the past one of my guilty pleasure is memoirs of dogs or about dogs and owners .So John Dolan’s book is one of those books .John Dolan had spent many years homeless when two things changed his life ,a dog called George and a rediscovery of a love of drawing .He has now had a number of sell out art shows and is  making a living as an artist .

It was the winter of 2009 when George came into my life , and I was living alone in a temporary council bedsiit above a newsagents ,down the road from the tower of london .I’d been fortunate enough to have been there for two year on and off ,which was about the omly good thing I had going for me .I was struggling in just about every way a person could struggle .

The opening chapter of John and George .

George is staffy ,as you see on the cover he is a very pretty staffy and his life and John’s meet at just the right time .George was a dog that had a rough start and end up in John’s flat via a couple he knew that were looking after him for someone else .John had this small flat but for years had been struggling with living on the streets and drug habit .George was a timid fellow when he meet JOhn and JOhn didn’t know what to do with a dog but really thought he had to do what was best and take care of George .So they started their life together john start to draw again and drew the area of london he was in Shoreditch and of course George .He started to sell these pictures to passers-by ,one of these passers-by happened to been the owner of an art gallery that ask John if he would want to do a show ,from their the art and pictures sold well ,the project involved using one of John’s images of Shoreditch skyline and getting well-known street artist like Roa ,broken fingaz and sever’s .

“You can’t come back here ,” Gerry said

he was staring me straight in the eye ,like he really meant business .I had walked out of prison with a small carrier bag of belongings and taken a train straight to Presidents house .I kne Dot and Gerry wouldn’t exactly be hanging out the bunting ,but i had definitely not been expecting to be turned away flat like this .

John’s family story is a complex one of secrets .

The  book is more than the story of George and John it is the story of John’s life how do you end up homeless and on drugs ? well like John’s story it isn’t one big event it is a series of small events that over time wear someone done together with growing up in a family where there was a big secret that effected John  .I was touched when John talked about the effect George had on his life ,I could really connect with this feeling Winston came in my life at the right point .The power of dogs to do good in people’s life is what shines through the book ,George story as well is one of why people who treat their dogs right are important ,his life hadn’t been ideal before he meet John ,he was on the verge of being wayward and uncontrollable ,but John’s love and time made his life better than it ever was .Well that’s it I am already holding back the tears as I think if my boy Winston and our story .

IMG_1190

one of my boy I did with a photo app

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And a wonderful drawing by John of his boy George .

Have you a favourite dog or even cat book .

My prizes an accounting by Thomas Bernhard

my prizes Thomas Bernhard

My Prizes an accounting by Thomas Bernhard

Austrian non fiction

Original title Meine Presie

Translator Carol Brown Janeway

Source personnel copy

Well I am running late these days I was meant to have posted this last week but I’ve had a lot on at home and not been able to thinking to write posts .But I’ve decide to just sit today and try to write a post about this short work by The great Thomas Bernhard .The book is made up of nine pen sketches of events or reasoning’s about the events surround the nine major prizes he won during his writing career .Now as one imagines there is a lot in here for such a small book .

I picked the best-known gentleman’s outfitter with the descriptive name Sir Anthony , if I remember correctly it was nine forty – five when I went into Sir Anthony’s salon ,the award ceremony for the grillparzer prize was at eleven ,so I had plenty of time .I had intended to buy myself the best pure-wool suit in anthracite ,even if it was off the peg ,with matching socks ,a tie ,and an arrow shirt in fine cloth striped blue and grey .

If only getting all this was so easy .

My prize starts at the first prize he won the Grillprazer prize .We see how he describe thinking two hours before the show maybe a suit might be required to attend so he rushes to buy a suit for the event visits a well-known shop but actually a simple task is harder that it first seems  .Elsewhere we maybe gather some real insight into why he hates the arts in Austria so much for when he wins a later prize the Austrian state prize for literature ,we gain an insight that he had asked for money at an earlier date and been turned down by them .I could easily pick bits up from each of the pen sketches of the prize-winning but that for me would spoil the joy of you as a reader discovering this little gem and in turn supporting a small publisher as it is published by Noting hill editions a specialist in non fiction .We also get three of his speeches for winning city Bremen prize ,Austrian state prize and the largest prize he won the Georg Buchner prize which is a German language prize .Needless to say reading between the lines in these we can see a lot of bile and also just about that wry humour .

Honoured ministers ,honoured guests ,

There is nothing to praise ,nothing to damm ,nothing to accuse ,but much that is absurd ,when one thinks about death .

We go through life impressed ,unimpressed ,we cross the scene ,everything is interchangeable ,we have been schooled more or less effectively in a state where everything is ,mere props but it is all in error

the opening words of his Austrian state winning prize .

Well this happen to sync  nicely with another book I was reading at the same ,that I had  been sent by Pushkin press called the parrots by the Italian Flippo Bologna ,  that follows three writers in the build up to a big book prize that they are up for, so it was quite interesting comparing the fiction  story of writers up for prizes and the factual version of these accounts .I feel thou short  this book ,we do get a lot of clues to what made Bernhard the man he was ,yes he hate prizes ,but needed the money to carry on living as a writer .So he was caught in a catch 22 situation ,in not really like the whole prize system but having to take part to make a living .His often frank words a refreshing we all see the prize system from the outside and I have been lucky to have been to three prize nights ,have spoken to writers but to get Bernhard’s insight into this is amazing he really is a writer that doesn’t .But we do see other parts giving so money he won to a charity .A shock as well he did really like one of the prizes ,now I won’t say which but he did go to Hamburg to see it given out .

Do you like writers writing about the prize process ?

I was born There ,I was born Here by Mourid Barghouti

I was born there ,I was born Here by Mourid Barghouti

Palestine memoir

Translator – Humphrey Davies

Source – Review copy

I was sent this late last year read it but never got to review it but just at the moment seems the right time to review it ,with the current situation in Gaza .I reviewed his earlier book I saw Ramallah .Mourid Barghouti is a Palenstine Poet   .He grew up in Ramallah in Palenstie ,he went in the late sixties to study in Egypt and was caught in Egypt by the six day war .Thus he spent the next thirty years in Exile first in Egypt where he married a well known Egyptian writer ,then he spent time in Hungary as a representative of the PLO.He returned in 1996 for the first time to Palenstine ,this made up the earlier book I reviewed I saw Ramllah ,this book is kind of a follow up .

The passengers don’t appear particularly upset at the news of the impending attack announced by Mahmoud .In fact ,the fat passenger sitting in front of me in the middle seat comments sacastically “as if the film needed more action! every day they kill us retail and once in a while they get the urge to kill us wholesale .Big deal !

From section with the driver Mahmoud the everyday living under attack

I was born There ,I was born Here is a collection of snippets of life through Barghouti eyes ,we meet his driver whilst he is Palestine at a literature festival Mamhoud ,we see him telling Mourid his view on life in Palestine ,living under constant attack  and how they just cope with it as part of there lives .Elsewhere we see how the world of writers have been involved when he meets Jose Saramago a writer who once compared Ramallah’s situation to that at Auschwitz .There is a great story about the struggle to get from place to place when they are stopped by some soldiers at a roadblock in Israeli .Showing his son his birth place in Deir Ghassana is a touching moment .

“You are in violation of the law ”

“What’s the driver’s license got to do with you ? Are you a traffic policeman ? Only the Palestinian traffic police can punish me ,which it will have the right to do .This is what the argeement between us says ”

“I don’t know anthing about agreements .Screw agreements .Here the only law is the law of the state of Israel understood ?

A conversation when there car is stopped en route to Deir Ghassanah

Like I saw Ramallah the poet in Mourid Barghouti has a keen observer eyes among the struggle of everyday life in modern Palestine is a dry wit ,the fact that yes life is hard but they can most of the time see humour in the situations they find  . Now it hard to take sides in the conflict between Palestine and Israeli .But I find reading books from both sides makes you think how bad things are especially for the Palestinian people that seem to have been given the rough end of the deal completely after the formation of Israeli . I do often wonder where all this will end up (having grown up with half my family from ulster ,I know there can be some hope for many years ago that situation seemed to be with out end the some how managed to sort itself out ) .So I hope you read this book and get an insight into the everyday in Palestine.Another wonderful translation by Humphrey Davies from Arabic .A last wordfrom me  my heart goes out to those on both sides that have needlessly lost there lives in recent days  .

Do you have a favourite Palenstine writer ?

A journey to nowhere by Jean-Paul Kauffmann

A journey to nowhere (detours and riddles in the lands and history of Courland) by Jean-Paul Kuaffmann

French non fiction

Translator Euan Cameron

Jean-Paul Kaufmann is a french Journalist ,he was born in Mayenne france .He became a Journalist and started working for the french press agency in Beirut in Lebanon in the 80’s in 1985 he was kidnapped and held for three years ,after the intervention of the French government was freed .He returned to France and started a magazine ,and at this time he started writing travel books and then in 2007 wrote about his captivity in Lebanon .He also wrote a book about Napoleon and St Helena ,this won a number of prizes  This book was published in 2009 in french and this year by Machlehose press in English .

Well a journey to nowhere ,is a real journey to nowhere .We follow Jean-paul who via a french Canadian called Mara  when he is national service ,discovered this place called Courland in the book on the french king louis XVII he sees the mention of a prince from this place he ask Mara she says find out about it that is what Jean-paul does that on his return from national service .Now I didn’t know about Courland til I opened this book ,it turns out in the opening pages the french writer Marguerite Yourcenar called Coup de grace was set the it is in the Baltic region  and makes up what is now called Latvia but it’s  Northern half  the costal part of latvia .So when the chance arrives to goand find out more he goes  to Riga and then on it what was Courland. Jean-Paul takes the chance to see what happened and what remains of this once special little nation .So we arrive and he is using a red Skoda to get round this country .We see how the duchy of Courland was quite a enlighten place with even its own two small overseas post one in Gambia the over in Tobago became a part of first russia and the germany and finally  part of Latvia till now their are few that even remember it all even call themselves Courlanders .We discover the little country the knights of the Livonia til 1500 then the duchy .We meet present day people who live there how varied there reactions are ,figures from the past like Eduard Von keyserling a writer that was maybe a link between Turgenev’s writing and the likes of Franz Kafka .We see Jean-Paul like a Holmes of the Baltic piece together the bits of this land then and now .

“we haven’t come to Courland for its gastronomy “, says Joelle

She could not have put it better .People’s relationship with food seems purely functional here,but that may only be an impression .We are what we eat ,popular wisdom decrees .Jean-Jacques Rousseau maintained that the English ,with their love of very rare roast beef ,could not be a perverted and violent people .What are the Courlanders ,then ? To judge by the restaurants we’re visited ,the cuisine is peasant based .Pork and potatoes reign supreme

the cuisine of Courland discussed .

Well this book is one of those books that could sit on the shelf next to my  Bruce Chatwin’s ,W g Sebald’s or last years favourite Edmund de Waal .It is one of those books where the narrative digresses here and there , in fact in this book they drift from the grand past of Courland to the grey post communist Latvia as we see Jean-Paul ,piece it all together in  piffy chapters .I found he had a dry humour and a very keen eye on the world around him picking small details up and expanding them out . Almost like a clever tie together of great blog post  written about this place but these are all written by Jean-Paul but each chapter seems like another piece of a huge jigsaw .So if you want to see what happens to the little country of europe maybe read this ,I was reminded of the film the Mouse that roared this little place had manage to go out to Africa and the Caribbean and set up shop .one for all lover of travel with history books I think any way ..

Have you read this book ?

Have you read the Yourcenar book ?

 

 

Treblinka A Survivor’s memory by Chil Rajchman

Just read this book !!!! 

Treblinka A survivor’s memory by Chil Rajchman

The hell of Treblinka by Vasily Grossman

Holocaust memoir

Translators (Rajchman ) Solon Beinfeld ,(Grossman) Robert Chandler

Chil Rajchman Was a twenty eight year old Pole when he enter the Death camp of Treblinka .He was on of the few survivors as Treblinka had a reputation as the most evil of the death camps .The camp killed an estimate 850,000 people during the war .Chil was among a group who manage to cause an uprising in the camp and escape in august 1943 he wrote his memories of the camp at that time   on scraps of paper .He later settled in Uruguay worked this into the book Treblinka which he want published after he died to remind people of what had happened to him during the war

There was a difference in appearance of the dead from the small and from the large gas chamber .In the small chambers death was easier and quicker .The faces looked as if the people had fallen asleep , their eyes closed .Only mouths of some of the gassed victims were distorted ,with bloody foam visible on their lips .The bodies were covered in sweat .before dying people had urinated and defecated .

to find out the horrors of the large gas chamber read the book .

When this book arrived I was excited as I had want to get the hard back when it came out ,Rajchman’s account as one of the few survivors of the horrific Treblinka is an important document of Jewish history and Holocaust literature .Even 70 years after the events in this book took place we could all do with a remind of the horrors of mankind .I read the book in a day as I was gripped but the sheer bluntness of Rajchman memories ,he didn’t sugar coat a word this is like uncut diamond full of wonder and natrual beauty and you the reader have to cut the diamond to carry round and pass on to other readers and any one that mentions the war or says it wasn’t so bad it was that and more .I did just want put a short review up here and that would be

Just read it please

I m still not sure that is the best thing to have said as I as a blogger have to try to get you to pick this book .All I can say is the statement just read it some stories need to be read .This will make you feel like crying it did me .I choose today to put up my review as we see the horror of right-wing extremism raises it ugly head in the trail of the mass murderer in Norway Anders Brevik ,when today I heard him try to justify his actions it made me angry and I decide to do this review today .Chil entered Treblinka with his family the last time he saw them and because he was lucky or able to do jobs that no one else could do was able to survive and pass on this testament to future generations.Many hundreds of thousands couldn’t .

The second part of the book is Vasily Grossman’s account for the russian papers when he was the first journalist to reach Treblinka after the camp was liberated .He wrote the history of the camp an exact description of what he saw when he enter the lay out .These lines struck me

The ashes and crushed cinders swish softly .We enter the camp .We tread the earth of Treblinka .The Lupin pods spilt open at the least touch they split with a faint ping and millions of tiny peas scatter over the earth .The sounds of the falling peas and the bursting pods come together to form a single soft sad melody it is as a funeral knell

This sums up how fragile human life is just like those lupin seeds

I can’t say any more I d love to se reviews of this every where as it is such a touching memoir and one to pass on  to all .I wait to review this to a day when it would mean something and today seems like that day to me .

Londoners by craig Taylor

I won this just before Christmas on twitter  and was intrigued by it and london in general as a northern and proud of it , who has only visited London on half a dozen occasions I wanted to see if this book by Craig Taylor, who is also  the editor of seven dials magazine would give me an insight into what it is to be a Londoner and is there any peace in the madness as it seems to the outsider .Craig spent over seven years interviewing people from all walks of life on what effect London has had on them and what they do every day  .The book is loosely organised in sections following an arc of arriving in london too what happens every day the people how entertain, feed and look after us whilst there and ultimately the people who see us into then next life .these range from pilot that bookends the book arriving at the airport and leaving as he puts it moving away from all that life in the city .

But london has cross winds .Nothing’s stable .Nothing’s set it can be tough work too. if it is rough you might duck into grey cloud pilot

Kevin Pover on landing in london but this nugget seems to sum up London a bit as well .

I loved Taylor’s style of interviewing letting people chat and obviously editing it into little nuggets and gems and getting rid of waffle whilst still keeping the feel of every person via the grammar and use of language .I felt like I spent seven years on a tube train every day talking to a different person or in a pub for seven years .Craig has done for modern London what the mass observation project did in the second world war ,captured it like a fly in amber  for all time .Some of my favourite people in the book where the Pakistan currency guy that had marfan syndrome just because he had that as a tall thin man this syndrome was often mentioned to me as something I may have due to my build and shape , till my mum took me for tests and I hadn’t it but his story remind me of that time .

I also has some problems with my health .Some eye problems .I had retinal detachment -I have a genetic reason for that ,Marfan Syndrome ,which makes me tall and causes eye problems . karman Sheikh currency trader talks about his health problems a syndrome I was suspected of having but didn’t .

The funeral director that show the cosmopolitan nature of London has led to him working with people in Poland and Nigeria on a regular basis even opening a branch in Nigeria as he was shocked at the facilities .

I went into one mortuary and there were bodies lying on the floor at various stages of decomposition when they’d not kept up the payments .

The ambulance man talking of delivering babies here there and every where also the fact he delivered babies of all races and every one is the same when it come to child-birth .this book is the best non fiction book I ve read all year and one everyone should read I think .

U&I by Nicholson baker

U&I BY Nicholson Baker

Literay non- fiction

Granta books

Nicholson Baker is an american writer ,I reviewed Vox a few weeks ago as part of the new Granta reissue series and now bring another from the four reissued books with their lovely Village green designed covers .

So U&I what is it about ,well it is about John Updike (a point to note here for the readers is I share a birthday with mr Updike so have a huge soft spot for him ) it is about John Updike books yes and no ,is it about John Updike the man well yes and no ,this book is hard to pin down to a non fiction category ,the book starts with Baker deciding to write a piece for the Atlantic magazine about Updike but as he starts on this it obviously grows into this book .Baker takes us on a journey through his mind and how his mind has absorbed John Updike’s works and his numerous interviews he has read over the years .As we go along this path we dart here and there into Bakers wider reading habits and how he interacts with books and how he has viewed Updike’s criticism in the past ,Updike was a great critic in his day and some one who you feel Baker admired .Now your asking did they know each other well they meet once at a Harvard lampoon party where he got Updike to sign a copy of rabbit is rich ,he was amazed to find out that Updike had read one of his short stories .

AT the offices of the Harvard lampoon ,in november 1984 ,I sprang out in front of him near a plate of ham cutting as he was hurrying leave the post Harvard-Yale game party .

Baker braving first meeting

Hi I’m Nick Baker

I’m John Updike

I know

and they chat briefly

SO what did I make of this book ,I loved it ,I like Bakers loose stream of consciousness style in the book ,it feels like you’re in his head holding a conversation with him ,this is definitely a bibliophile’s book as it is so full of book love ,he mentions so many books and why he likes them I feel I got a hold new insight into some books I ve missed by his slight mentions of them ,as for Updike and I ,the I in this case being me Stu the writer of the blog ,well I ve read four of his book like most people three of them are the rabbit books ,which I feel are the best insight into the  post war american experience the other is the eastwick book .I ve a few of his other books on my shelves am I in a rush to read not really I have a soft spot as mention but I also have another 40 plus years hopefully in front of me to get to them so like Baker who has also not read Updike’s Cannon ,I m in no rush to tick him off my read list as I want to experience Updike for years to come and also I feel the same about Baker so the review of the other two reissues will be a some point in the future .

Have you read this book ?

Have you read Updike ?

The Most Beautiful walk in the world by John Baxter

Source – Review copy

John Baxter is an Ex-pat australian writer that has lived in Paris for a number of years ,he is also well-known for writing Film biographies of people such as Steven  Spielberg and George Lucas to name two .He currently gives guided Literary tours of Paris and has done so for a number of years ,this book is a collection of thoughts memories and information he has gathered in doing this for the past few years .He has also written two earlier books on Paris .

Now the books the most beautiful walk in the world is set up in short chapters each a little tale about the city and the people who have lived there .One main area’s John touches on is the 20’s the swinging paris of Hemingway , Fitzgerald ,Joyce and Gertrude Stein .He evokes the Spirit of these writers books as he describes ,Joyce’s Ulysses being published by Sylvia Beach the owner and publisher that ran Shakespeare and company in the 20’s ,Now that great shop keeps cropping up ,you sense John’s love for it history and how much it has touched writing  and writers in the past .Elsewhere we get the darker side of paris ,opium dens ,Underground attractions that were scary and popular in late 1800’s .He also tells of his and his families connection to the city christmas there ,meeting people and just the everyday ebb and flow he experiences .Another thread of chapters is of course food and cafes ,from how important the right tin of sardines can be to a french man to the great cafes of the twenties and how they have faired through to the present day .

Connetable produces a “vintage” sardine that retails for $14 a can.Buyers are advised to “put down” these like wine for a few years ,turning them occasionally to spread the flavour .

“what really threw me “,tim said later “was the fact you didn’t bat an eyelash .I thought it was some sort of practical Joke.”

He should have realized that the french ,serious at the best of times ,become positively reverent when it comes to food .

John buying sardines ,this made me laugh at how serious the french can be !!

I m so please I picked this from the e-mail I get from time to time from Harper perennial .It was one of the best travel books I ve ever read John’s love for paris just drips of the pages and like a good Bordeaux ,slowly gets you drunk with the city your self ,he breathes life into the figures you know that lived there ,but he makes the spirits still seem part of the fabric of Paris today .The short chapter and constant flow of little nuggets of info make you want to continue turning the pages ,he flies from places to places keeping the reader interested from page one to the end .I wanted to jump on the next flight with My darling wife and spend a week reliving this book Visiting the Various sights and sounds he described ,trying sardines at $14 dollars ,having a coffee in a famous cafe ,seeing Gertrude Stein favourite garden  .I ve had a brief visit to Paris a number of years ago and this has made me want to return more than ever to breathe up more of this wonderful city  ,but also pick up his two earlier books also about Paris .John has a website ,you can e-mail him to maybe try a walk in Paris with him ,if I do get to go there I may well do that and bring this book along !!!

What cities do you love ?

Have you been to Paris what did you enjoy ?

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