pick up a penguin for a pound !


Penguin has done another series of small books for a pound each. This time they ask a number of the editors to pick small titles that reflected the 20th century and came up with a list of 50 titles which has a number of Translations in the list Penguin Modern. Or as penguin says here –  fifty new books celebrating the pioneering spirit of the iconic Penguin Modern Classics series, with each one offering a concentrated hit of its contemporary, international flavour. Here are authors ranging from Kathy Acker to James Baldwin, Truman Capote to Stanislaw Lem and George Orwell to Shirley Jackson; essays radical and inspiring; poems moving and disturbing; stories surreal and fabulous; taking us from the deep South to modern Japan, New York’s underground scene to the farthest reaches of outer space.There is in the list two new translations in English for the first time. The Dialogue of Two Snails by Fereico García Lorca and Of Dogs and Walls by Yuko Tsushima  are both in english for the first time .

The Hanged man of Saint Phoilen By Georges Simenon

the hanged man of Saint Pholien

The Hanged Man of Saint Pholien by Georges Simenon

Belgian Crime fiction

Orginal title –  Le Pendu de Saint-Pholien

Translator – Linda Coverdale

Methought I heard a voice cry “Sleep no more!
Macbeth does murder sleep,” the innocent sleep,
Sleep that knits up the ravell’d sleave of care,
The death of each day’s life, sore labour’s bath,
Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course,
Chief nourisher in life’s feast

Macbeth after he killed the King and felt Guilt 

Well another stage on the trip through the new translation of the Maigret series ,this is the third in the series which is coming out in order of release .So 72 after this to review (well I’ve read number four and part way into number five) .

The man was shabby and looked for all the world like one of the chronically unemployed found in every big city, always on the lookout for an opportunity. Except that he was pulling thousand-franc notes from his pocket and counting them, after which he wrapped them in grey paper, tied the package with string and addressed it. At least thirty notes, 30,000 Belgian francs! Maigret had frowned at that, and when the unknown man left after paying for his coffee, the inspector had followed him to the nearest post office.

What made Maigret follow the man in the first place

Now this focus on Maigret following his nose ,he sees a man of disheveled  appearance ,whilst working in Brussels .He observes this man with a very large amount of money for his appearance .So the Inspector being the inspector follows the man ,we see him having his case change ,Maigret sharing the room next to him and then next day the man commits suicide .This leads him to a case full of bloody clothes after some investigation he finds the mans name is Lecoq initially he was thought to be Jeunet but when Maigret discovers his real name we start to see what brought this man to this point it was an event ten years earlier that involved Lecoq ,Van Damme (now a business man ) and a few others that where students at the time .a secret club they where in lead to them trying a killing this is what drove the man to suicide after they had killed a man ten years earlier and left him hung in a church .

Maigret found a seedy-looking hotel at 18, Rue de la Roquette, right where it joins Rue de Lappe, with its accordion-band dance halls and squalid housing. That stretch of Roquette is a good fifty metres from Place de la Bastille. Every ground floor hosts a bistro, every house a hotel frequented by drifters, immigrants, tarts and the chronically unemployed.

The hotel was Jeunet /lecoq ended up living ,

Now this isn’t really a straight forward crime novel ,no its more a dissection of a man’s life after he has died .When Jeunet as he thought at the time committed  Suicide had caught the inspectors eye and had just decide to follow which lead to the mans earlier history as he tried to find out why this guy had all that money and what had driven him to kill himself .That then lead to the second case the killing of the man ten years earlier .I enjoyed this one it was maybe to compact for the complex nature of the plot so although you got the crime in full it maybe felt you were blinkered at times as some of the minor characters were quite one-dimensional .So next time I will bring you a tale on the Canal and Maigret .

Sarajevo Marlboro by Miljenko Jergovic

Sarajevo Marlboro by Miljenko Jergovic

Bosnian fiction

translator Stela Tomasevic

This book was sent to by my friend Simon of Inside books .I was happy he sent it as it was one I d meant to get around the time it came out but hadn’t and then it had dropped out of my mind .The book is a collection of stories set in and around Sarajevo the capital of Bosnia before and during the war .As I mention before I work in Germany around this time and many of the people in the factory I worked were refugees from Bosnia and Croatia.So as I got to know many of them I heard similar things to the stories in this book . My favourite story is one called Bosnian hot-pot we follow two young women Elena and Zlaja  around the the city  of Zagreb during the war for a clay pot to make a Bosnian hot-pot  like they would in Sarajevo .This story is familiar as it partly metaphor for the city pre war every one made the same hot pot of many parts like the city they had Bosnia , Croat and Serb  living side by side in a harmony  in the pre war Sarajevo .

For a long time Elena and Zara searched everywhere in Zagreb for a clay pot .In the end they found two pots – at opposite ends of the city – that were ideal for preparing the traditional dish .

they find the pot .

Other stories look at pre war and like many of the people I worked with the former Yugoslavia  president Tito is mention as the man who held the country from the second world war ,he was respected and in some ways feared by all .We meet people who lived in Sarajevo that have got out and now looking at the horror unwind from the sidelines ,upset and not understanding the horrors .Then we find how the book got its title in the story The Gravedigger as A man offers the gravedigger packet of cigarettes wrapped up that turned out to be  some old Sarajevo Marlboro (it turns out Philip morris allow each country and even places make slightly different versions of this brand ,I can acknowledge this as I smoke Marlboro for many years and always notice subtle changes when in different places ) .This makes the gravedigger wonder what the man an american makes of them maybe he things we re all mad he says .

the american is curious too ,but he has no idea what I’m doing at last I undo the  cigarette packet to reveal a Marlboro wrapper the old brand from  Sarajevo

we discover the meaning of the title of this collection from the story the Gravedigger .

The Croat writer  said of the many book written about Bosnia that it is perhaps the best collection of stories .I couldn’t agree more this brings you into the besiege city and the people that live there or lived there .I ll end with a video of a song from  Passengers  featuring Pavarotti called  miss Sarajevo about the city and a beauty pageant that went on in the city during the war .

Have you a read any books around the Yugoslavian conflict ?


Penguin product (RED)

books for a cause

I brought these yesterday ,they are part of a series of  8 books Penguin have published with a partnership with the Global H.I.V fund   product red  ,hopefully i will try to get some more when i can ,as i think it is a good cause and the cover designs all look great .they also added to my classic collection ,which is good as I ve not read nearly enough classic fiction .So if your out and about why don’t you pick up one the titles are –

Dracula by Bram Stoker

Therse Raquin by Emile Zola

Anne Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

The secret agent by Joseph Conrad

Great expectations by Charles dickens

The turn of the screw by Henry James

Notes from the underground by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

The house of mirth by Edith Wharton

75 Penguins for penguins 75th


This year is penguins 75th birthday ,the idea of Allen Lane who wanted to provide cheap books for the masses ,the orginals where 6pennys ,very cheap at the time and had the design classic orange /white /orange strips ,On the picture i feature a row of different strip designs the earliest is my 1940’s George Bernard Shaw ,I ve try to use all ages of books from 50’s onwards .This year to celebrate penguin has brought out the decades series using a group of designs with connections to the choosen decade ,my favourite in picture is my 3 vol Proust as i have yet to read it .

Habe you a favourite penguin ?

The peasent poet -John Clare

john clare

Is probably the greatest nature poet that lived ,he was born to a farm labourer in Northamptonshire in 1793 ,he wrote poems in his local dialect about the natural world that surrounded him .sell his earliest poems to save his family’s home ,in later life he was locked in a asylum for a few years .this period of time gave Adam Fould the idea for his booker shortlisted novel the quickening maze .Clare also reworked some of Byron’s poems during his later life ,as it is national poetry month I d thought I d highlight a poet who’s works have brought me pleasure

birds in alarm

The fire tail tells the boys when the nest are nigh,

and tweets and flyes from every passer bye,

The yellowhammer never makes a noise ,

but flyes in silence from the noisey boys ,

the boys will come and take them every day ,

and still she lays as none were taen away

the opening of birds in alarm by John Clare .

Last year penguin brought out a wonderful volume containing Clare and loads of other poems about birds .

the poetry of birds

 good luck to all readthon peeps today .

what is your favourite nature poet ?

when is a penguin book not a penguin book ?

This may look like a huge book but it is actually a huge set of penguin postcards ,released late last year ,after some tweets from Joe the publicist over at penguin about it i went straight to amazon to place a ordered for two on to keep and one to use as many of my twitter and blogging friends know i always like to put a postcard or two in any books i send on to people .these cards range from the early block cover penguins through some of the most iconic covers such as clockwork orange ,john lennon’s book ,drowned world and Roald Dahl .the old orange and whites always look great as ever ,the variety of designs is great


 This is Neate’s fifth novel,and his most accomplished in my opinion ,a many head story that moves back forward in time and across the world ,a study in what we are as English people where we ve come from and where we re going .Neate is a wonderful storyteller seamlessly weaving the stories together like a master weaver ,interweaving the strands of the story ,Neate performing tales comes through as the founder of bookslam ,you can imagine section of this book being read aloud .

 The story itself is three tales from present and past set in England ,South aArica and a make-believe african state ,the two stories in africa are separate by a century the first set in Boer war following a solider involved ,the later story set in a African state similar to some of the dictatorship in the recent past and present-day ,it involves the imprisonment of an english man as he falls foul of the whims of said dictator ,i feel these show the changing view of how we perceive ourselves and the african perceive us now and then it shows how the our place in the world has changed .the third story follows Preston a entrepreneur a child of Thatcher and Blair an urban music fan and label owner like a modern-day Anthony h Wilson it follows his rise and shows what happens when you reach the top when he becomes embroiled in a scandal over the song Jerusalem .elsewhere we encounter the quaint side of english culture with bushy and morris men .

“what’s this ? Preston asked . I think its Jerusalem ,innit ? I know that i mean what is it ? who is it ? Errol checked his i-phone .He shrugged .geezer calls himself nobody . Preston leant forward and started to nod to the music as the vocal dissolved in to mc’s rhymes .he took off his sunglasses . he said track him down , would you ? Errol said sure ,tubbs

have you read Patrick Neate ,have you a favourite ?

do you like books with intertwined stories ?


Legend of a suicide by David Vann

                The legend of suicide is the first book by Alaskan born david vann ,the book had been round agents for a number of years before seeing the light of day ,thank goodness it did .the book itself is a novella and 5 short stories .Around the story of Roy and his father a failed dentist and fisherman ,the story is based partly on Vann ‘s own life .

                 the story of Roy and his father is a one of the wilderness ,despair ,divorce ,failure and not giving too much away the ultimate climax .the way the stories are structured is the novella tells the main story of Roy and his father .The shorter stories are like a deluxe dvd  with those great extras that give depth and perspective to the main tale by describing the incidents leading to and during the main tale use different people as the narrates

                Vann’s writing is vivid with the words floating of the page engulfing you in roys world .The details are painted well with a light hand as Colm Tobin says one detail is enough to set the scene .

“they went inside and he pulled out the coals with tongs he had brought for the purpose and laid them in the pan ,then set a small grate over them that fitted down into the pan and pour a large handful of alder chips on top “

from sukkwan island ,as roy and his father smoke fish together .

            The cover is a clever design by dan funderburgh for penguin ,it has a clever detail which a first glance of the cover isn t obvious .the book came out this week on penguin

legend of a suicide

March 2023


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