The Buddha’s return by Gaito Gazdanov the 700th book review

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The Budha’s return by Gaito Gazdanov

Russian fiction

Original title – Vozvrashchenie Buddy

Translator – Bryan Karetnyk

Soure – library book

Well today I return back to Pushkin press fortnight with last but one of the books I read for the week I had two books by Gazdanov to choose from this and The spectre of Alexander Wolf , as the later is a personal copy  i decided to read the one from the library . Gaito Gazdanov , fought with the white guard in the civil war and after that he managed to flee to Paris where for many years he was part of the émigré lit scene there as well as being a taxi drive at night his work was well admired by Maxim Gorky . His first novel appeared in 1930 he wrote a number of books this was written in the late 1940’s . His works were never published in Russia in his lifetime .

I died . I have searched long and hard for the right words to describe what happened , and , convinced that none of the usual , familiar terms will do , have finally settled on one asscoiated with what seems the least imprecise of realms : death. I died in the month of June , at night, during one of my first yers abroad .This however, was far less remarkable than my being the only person to know of this death, the only one to have witnessed it.

The opening passage our student or is it , has he died or did he dream it ..

 

This is one of those odd crime novels that is more about the people involved in the story. The novel follows a student that is in a state of dreaming the world away , so much that he has trouble splitting his dream world from reality . Our story is told by someone who appears already dead as he describe falling of a cliff. A second body of a billionaire turns up and then we have a missing Buddha statue that is worth a small fortune that has disappeared . The statue owned by a russian that had been in the war and an Officer Pavel .,So did the other russian student kill the first man and what has the narrator to do with it is he the student , if so why does he talk about his own death !! . But is this maybe all part of the students dream we are never sure . This is full of classic noir touches and a large nip of existentialism .

 Then this calm man sank into total silence , which he did not break during the course of those three days that passed I awaited the next interrogation, at which – if i were to believe him – such incredible things were to occur.We were given food twice daily ; at first I was unable to eat it, as it was so disgusting.Only on the third day I managed to swallow a few spoonfuls of some clear-grey liquid and a crust of poorly baked bread .

Is it a breakthrough after three days or the fact the prison food is so bad he will be too weak to hold up to it again !

this is a quirky book , I had a sense and was right when I read it was originally published as a piecework in a russian magazine in the late forties . the novel has ups and downs like you do in the classic piecework where you are left on the edge for next weeks story . The is also a sense of entering a world of Kafka in a way a surreal world of a man being arrest for a crime , but this called all be that mans dream . Then we also have a fellow Russian that has come and become a buddhist and lose his Golden Buddha , which stuck me as a classic piece of setting for a noir story of the time , the Maltese falcon for example to turn the story into a caper somewhat . I liked this book it is quirky enough to suit my taste for crime which is books that take a sideways look on the whole  crime . This does it mixing Ex pats  , Noir Paris ,  two dead bodies  one a billionaire and oh yes a gold Buddha . Oh and a small point this is my 700th review on the blog !!

The mystery of the three orchids by Augusto De Angelis

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The mystery of the three orchids by Augusto De Angelis

Italian crime novel

Original title – Il misterodelletreorchidee

Translator – Jill Foulston

Source – Library

Well I do the second from Pushkin Vertigo series tonight and this time we are in Italy and one from the classic Italian series of Giallo novels those old yellow bound books that also sparked the films . Augusto De Angelis started of writing a spy novel inspired by the writing of Joseph Conrad and then a few years later he wrote his first crime novel after that he came on Inspector DE Vincenzi as his main character in fifteen novels , he even was made in the 1970’s to a tv series by the Italian broadcaster RAI .

Slowly and cautiously , she approached the bed .This was a big mess , and on the day of a show too. Why , though had Christina O’brian fainted in her room with a man’s body on her bed when she should have been down in the showrooms watching the models and studying her clients reactions ?

Madame Firmino could now see , below those wide-open eyes , the rest of the dead man’s face. A handsome youth, almost a boy, with fine, perfectly regular features. Long black hair thrown back and naturally a bit messy now .

The first murder victim in the bed as a show went on and with an orchid by him what does it mean .

The book follows a series of Murders the first is at a fashion house .The victim is found with an orchid now DE Vincenzi  is there a body on the bed upstairs at a Milan Fashion house . The owner of the fashion house Christina is acting oddly , he ex husband is also there but why . is he still there as another body and Orchid turn up. then De Vicenzi  is not a clue man no he is one of these detectives that sees the whole  thing as a puzzle of psychologically to be broken up and assembled as he goes from here to there .

De Vincenzi saw the body, Christina and the orchid. By now he was used to seeing bodies and women – how many inquests had he racked up, each with at least one body and always lots of women ? – but less used to seeing orchids though he loved them quite a bit more

So her stopped to look at the flower for longer and with greater pleasure. An  unnatural flower made of flesh, born of rotting slime , grown in a tropical atmosphere

Why an orchid these exotic flowers are always hard to grow  and keep

This isn’t a complex crime ,their isn’t a lot of too and froing no, this is a simple plot .I was reminded of those great american  crime radio dramas where the crime is all wrapped neatly up in half an Hour . Philo Vance is mention on the cover , but I was thinking  some one like rocky Jordan for the exotic nature like that it felt ,more like Milan set via america than Italian milan  or Inspector thorne  as a straight forward crime solver in mould of Vicenzi  or Maigret  from those forties dramas which of course came out of the pulp fiction  rather like the start of the Giallo series which was mostly american crime novel . There is also the fact that De Angelis at the time he write the book was falling very foul as being seen as an Anti fascist by the fascist Italian government of the time . Like the Italian crime novel of the time I have read I will have vengance by Maurico De Giovanni , which also owed much in its writing to American pulp fiction also set in the 30’s in Naples instead of Milan the setting for this book , both have the undercurrent of fascism creeping into there world .

Dear Reader by Paul Fournel

Dear reader by paul Fournel

French fiction

Original title – La Liseuse

Translator – David Bellos

Source – Library book

Well we enter the second week of Pushkin Press fortnight with a quirky french book. Fournel is a culture icon in France , he has worked in publishing and has written a number of novels he is also the secretary and president of the Oulipo , the french writing collective whose members include Italo calvino , Georges Perec and Harry Mathews te later with whom Fournel wrote a book with. he has also been a cultural attaché in London and Cairo .

The big boss , Monsieur Meunier , told me too ..

“Is that what he is called ?” Meunier ”

“Don’t you know him ?”

“only too well ”

So you know, He told me to bring you this ”

“This being what , precisely?”

“Er, it’s a reader, A kindle , an Iclone .One of those gizmos He said he’d put all your weekend manuscripts on it, it would take a weight of your shoulder.Do you want me to show you ? Look it’s like a screen with all your manuscripts on it .They’re on your genuine wood style virtual bookshelf.One tap and they open . There’s a heap of them . you’ve never going to get through all that in two days !Look this is how you open a book .”

Dubois get his device to read his scripts on instead of good old paper .

This book is an ode to books in a way , this age of e readers we meet an elderly french publisher looking back at Robert Dubois , is looking at the present this middle aged man is struggling to get up with the modern world of e books  and how his younger colleagues dress and talk ,  whilst struggling with the tech he looks back at a life in the books in france and even further a field with a piece about publishing in England. . So what is the constraint on this book in line with him being a member of Oulipo , that was to make the book that couldn’t be c hanged .His view was that in the future what the reader will interact with the written works they are reading so the works will be fluid .

I’ve set aside tomorrow morning for what I consider to be the finest bookshop in Europe: Mr James Daunt’s establishment in marylebone . It’s got a modest exterior but inside turns into a labyrinth. Yopu go from room to room and pass on section to another . Nothing but dark wood, stairs , gangways and books – all as English as its leather armchairs.Adele is daydreaming in the long room on the lower floor that constitues the travel section .daunt is a courteous host and takes me on an owner tour

His favourite bookshop is one of the great bookshops of London

This is both quirky and an Ode to the written world I was reminded of other books about reading and books. Thank you for not reading by Dubravka Ugresic , her book like this laments the changing taste of readers in her case the celeb world of books , in fournel book interactive books and reading may be on the way . Then there was Dublinesque by Enrique Vila-Matas  another publisher looking at the changing world of books as he take a pilgrimage to Dublin maybe to bury the modern book  and publishing like Dubois struggling with the move towards e-books .This is work on the paper of books and what that means , for books aren’t just the book but the art work the item themselves as it is pointed out here you can’t keep notes on an e-reader screen can you !!

What  is your favourite book about Publishing you have read ?

Summer before the dark by Volker Weidermann

Summer before the dark by Volker Weidermann

German fiction

Original title – Ostende. 1936, Sommer der Freundschaft

Translator – Carol Brown Janeway

Source – Library book

When Lizze mentioned doing a second Pushkin Press week , the first book they had brought out in the last year was this one . I am a cover junkie at times and this remind me of those old Railway post in the UK from the same time , It turns out the post was a Belgian railways. The book is the second book from Volker Weidermann , He was literary editor at the German magazine Der spiegel .This is his first book to appear in English .

It’s summer up here by the sea , the gaily colored bathing huts glow in the sun. Stefan Zweig is sitting in a loggia on the fourth floor of a white house that faces onto the broad boulevard of Ostend, looking at the water. It’s one of his recurrent dreams, being here,writing,gazing out into the emptiness, into summer itself .Right above him, on the next floor up is his secretary, Lotte Altmann, who is also his lover, she’ll be coming down in a moment , bringing the typewriter, and he’ll dictate his buried candelabrum to her, returning repeatedly to the same sticking point , the place from which he cannot find a way forward. that’s how it’s been for some weeks now .

Perhaps his great friend Joseph Roth will have some advice .His friend ,whom he’s going to meet later in the bistro.

The two meet when Roth arrives in Ostend to talk .

The book focus on one summer just before the otbreak of world war Two. It focus on two writers , I wonder if the idea came from the photo at the end of the book that shows Stefan Zweig and Joseph Roth sat together in 1936 in Ostend . The resort at this time was a hip hangout for the great writers of the day Arthur koestler , the other half of Irmgard Keun Joseph Roth girlfriend at the time . We see how both writers are coping with the struggles of the Nazis taking over Germany. The two writers are both at the top of their game but their lives are going different ways Roth is in a relationship that is destructive and as we all know after he only had three years after this . Zweig was working on his last work his only novel at the time . This shows a group of writers as ordinary people . But also maybe slowly waking to what was happening back home as their publishers where either going or changing .Rather like the book I read last year the Decision  about Thomas Mann at this time having to decide what way he was going to go, unlike him Zweig and Roth both Jewish writers were already doomed .

Nineteen thirty-six is a year of farewells and decisions for Stefan Zweig .His German publishing no longer publishes him, the German market is lost to him , along with Austria , his collection and his magnificent house – all of ir is now nothing but a wearying burden.Its not easy to jettison what one has built up over the years.An entire life.

The world is closing in and the Nazis are killing the Jewish writers world

This is a wonderfully craft novel about a time that has long gone a last summer before the darkness descended . Stefan Zweig is a household name in many was due to Pushkin Press . Roth is a writer I see growing every year since I started blogging Granta has been bringing his books out in very nice new additions. What Weidermann has done is weave a novel out of the bits he found from all those involved their letter ,diaries and interviews .The last chapter tell you what happened to the writer Roth sad decline, Zweig in Latin America but killing himself just six-year later Koestler was recovering from the Spanish civil war when he was there then went on to write his masterpiece Darkness at Noon . Keun never reach the heights ,  she was at before she meet Roth , she is another writer whose works have appear in English over the last ten year.This is a book that can be read in an evening as you settle into the art deco Ostend and behind the public face of these writers .

Have you read this book ?

 

Bird in a cage by Frédéric Dard

 

 

Bird in a cage by Frédéric Dard

French Noir fiction

Original title – Le Monte-charge

Translator – David Bellos

Source – Library book

This is my third choice for Pushkin press fortnight and the first from the Vertigo range I have read , which is a collection of Crime and Noir novels from around the world . This one really caught my eye after Jacqui’s review . Now Frederic Dard is another like his fellow French language writer Simeon that had written an amazing number of books over 240 , a large number of those are from the series San-Antoine , a french detective whose name he choose by pointing a figure on the map of american and choose the nearest place to his finger he wrote 170 books in that series. Pushkin is translation a number of his books into English.

The place was like a fairy grotto piled high with glittering treasures. Christmas tree decorations were stacked on the shelves : glass birds, paper Father Christmases, baskets of fruit made of painted cotton and all those dainty balls as fragile as soap bubbles that help make a tree in a fairy tale.

I was next to be served.There were people waiting behind me

“What can I get you”

I pointed to a silver cardboard birdcage sprinkled with glitter-dust. inside it an exotic bird mak=de of blue and yellow velvet stood on a golden perch

The birdcage but also a dream like feel to the shop .

This is one of Dard’s novel of the night series , a series rather like the Roman Durs of Simeon that look at the darker side of human nature. The novel set in the build up to \Christmas and follows  Albert a man return to his home patch , his mother has died and it is christmas eve and he is back home  in his childhood home for the first time in a long time to bury his mother . He goes to the local area to remind himself of the past , he buys a little silver birdcage that some how reminds him of an image from the past . He then goes for a meal in  a local bar and  he’s meets a mysterious women who  is their with her daughter, but is this woman all she seems   how invites him to her apartment . But is she all she seems and is she leading him into the darkness. and maybe into a trap

She was leaning on me heavily.I could feel her womanly warmth spreading through my body. A troubling desire for her had been nagging me ever since we started walking side by side , with our hips brushing each other.

Ar one point i felt a shiver go through her.

“Are you cold ?”

“A bit”

“Do you want to go into a bar ?”

“i don’t want to see anybody ”

Albert’s  woman as they leave the bar is it a shiver of cold or something else !!

I was remind somewhat of works of David lynch with this where you are never quite sure if you are in a real world or a dream world there is a sense this is maybe Albert’s nightmare world . Did he get to his mothers and fall asleep and all the has followed is a dream. What is the mean of a birdcage , is he cage by his past , of is he now like a wild bird caught in a cage to be an attraction for some else . I kept half expecting a dwarf or a giant to appear like in a Lynch piece  . Dard use the bare bones to guide you through the story rather like Simeon his great friend there is a sense of the darkness with in the human soul . Another writer I was reminded of is Magnus Mills a writer that use the labyrinth of time and being drawn into situations so well in his books I was remind how easily his characters fall into a world they don’t know . I still shocked Dard hasn’t capture the English reader before if this is an example of his novel of the night series of books  I will be visiting the other Pushkin have been publishing as this is a classic dark evening read one of those books you can sit and read in a sitting no problem . Have you a favourite from the Pushkin Vertigo range ?

 

 

The crew by Joseph Kessel

 

The Crew by Joseph Kessel

French fiction

Original title – L’Équipage

Translator – Andre Naffis-Sahely

Source -Library book

Well today on the second day of Pushkin press fortnight , I move to France and a book written nearly a hundred years ago this book came out in 1923 just five years after the end of the great war . Its writer Joseph kesssel in the first part of the century was in of the best known french writers Joseph Kessel was a member of the French academy and  legion of honour. His best known book was Belle de Jour which of course was made into a great film in the 1960’s . A number of his books were made into films as this was in 1928 a silent film .

“There he is, captain.”

A biplane swerved to the right above the field and its landing gear grazed the ground. The pilot was the first to climb down. He was wearing his flight suit and leather helmet, with his goggles resting on his forehead. He looked like a deep-sea diver of the skies. Jean couldn’t make out any features except for a scar that ran all the way from his mouth to the edge of his aviator hood. He was limping

The first time Jean meet Claude as he landed his plane that they would later both be in

 

The book focus on those brave flyer of the first world war a french squadron and its day-to-day life .There job is t photograph the battlefields a daily job that is a great risk . Two of these men Jean Herbillon and Claude Maury are mates in the squadron until they gather that Jean miss tress he left  and  Claude wife are one and the same  and they have  fallen  for the same women this wedge means every time they go in the air they may be a chance one may not come back but may also not get back  as the other has killed his love rival . This is largely autobiographical as he was an aviator during the first world war so the sense of danger that each flight could be there last and the scenery all jump of the page as you are up in the clouds with these two men and there comrades as the first world war rages on .

Herbillon forgot about everything else as he savoured the pleasure that went with being strong and healthy, and flying into thee blue at dawn

The captain’s plane was first to reach high altitude, and Jean saw his comrades follow suit like brown rockets. Then the group headed towards enemy lines, having assumed a triangular formation.

The euphoria of flying was still new to Jean. The engine’s gigantic breaths, the propeller’s vortex, the furious winds, all combined into a vast, brutal symphony, which left hum stunned.he’d barely begun to be able to distinguish all the instruments .

The thrill of flying still captures the younger man , I love this description of them taking off

This capture the early days of flying like his fellow french writer Antoine de saint-exupery Kessel manages to capture in words what it must have been like to fly in those open cabins of those early planes also the danger that is involved in the flying of that time from the ground , air and the craft themselves not being the most reliable vehicles . Two men on new to the job in search of glory Jean a young man untainted by war left his life to go and fly and the woman only to discover that woman was his captains wife , he is a man scarred by the loose he has seen around him one that sees the grim reality of war and not just the Glory . We see these two men fly as they try to live through the horror of war this is a real tribute to those early flyers and those flimsy planes they so bravely flew and the daily horrors they faced . I can see why this was a huge success when it came out it has a mix of boys own adventure , romance  , jealously and bravery .

 

Two weeks to Go to Pushkin Press fortnight mk two

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A quick reminder that it is two week to the second Pushkin Press fortnight . I am super excited I have order nine books from my library system to go with the three I have already to reading including the The evenings which has been on my radar for ages.file_000-5

I have also ordered from the library Summer before the dark the story of the year beofre the war and a fictional meeting between Stefan Zweig and Joesph Roth in the seaside of Belgium .

 

I have also ordered a couple of the Vertigo crime Novels The Dard novel Bird in a cage that Jacqui reviewed so well . Also Mystery of the three Orchids , it has been a while since I read a Italian crime novel. What have you lined up to read  for Pushkin Press fortnight ?

Journey into the past by Stefan Zweig

journey into the past

Journey into the past by Stefan Zweig

Austrian fiction

Original title –  Widerstand der Wirklichkeit

Translator – Anthea Bell

Source – Personnel copy

I couldn’t do two weeks about Pushkin press without at least once reviewing or mentioning Stefan Zweig ,as he is the writer most associated with them in my mind anyway .I have perviously reviewed his books Letter to an Unknown women   and although not published by Pushkin press the post office girl .I have also read Amok for this fortnight .In my mind Zweig is a true one-off writer that thanks to Pushkin we have gotten to read in English .At the height of his fame in the 1920’s and 1930’s he was one of the best known writers in the world .This is one of a number of books by Stefan Zweig that is published by Pushkin press .

“There you are !” He went to meet her with arms outstretched , almost flung wide.”There you are ” he repeated , his voice climbing the scale from surprise to delight ever more clearly ,while his tender glance lingered on her beloved form “I was almost afraid you wouldn’t come !”

“Do you really have so little faith in me ? ”

Ludwig arrives and meets the woman in the opening lines

So too the Journey into the past was only discovered in the seventies and published in the Germany .Ludwig is German engineer and in love with a women whom happens to be married ,but he is sent for a short trip to Mexico to work on opening a mine ,but whilst he is doing this the first world war breaks out leaving him stranded in Mexico .We see him recalling the past as he returns to see if his love is still there what has happened to her .As he travels back to his homeland the memories of their  past  as they await meeting again on the station . The narrative drifts through time past and present mingle .

They left the station , but no sooner were they out of the door than stormy noise met their ears , drums rattling , the shrill sound of pipes – it was a patriotic demonstration of veterans  associations and students in support of the Fatherland .Like a wall on the move ,marching in ranks four abreast ,flags flying ,men in military garb were goose stepping along ,feet thudding heavily on the ground .

The early signs of the Nazis and Ludwig and the woman leave the station .

Well this was a book that supposedly Zweig had worked and reworked this novella for over twenty years ,you can see how it has been cut and edited at just 81 pages it actually feels more like a 300 page novel than a short novella .Zweig has left fact bare and concentrated on the feeling ,memories and broken love  and dreams .Ludwig was a different character than I had previously encountered in Zweig works as in the previous book I have read he has mainly used female characters .I loved the sense of lose and longing we got from Ludwig a man caught by time ,the woman isn’t named we know she is married to a councillor so is maybe an older muse for the young Ludwig whom is in his mid twenties .You also see the changing times and how Zweig worked more recent times into the narrative like the fact when Ludwig arrives back there is a nazi parade taking place almost a small signpost to the future events that drew Austria into the second world war .If you love a tale of lost dreams and loves and longing this is one that you will love .

Have you read Zweig ,if so which is you favourite book ?

The break by Pietro Grossi

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The break by Pietro Grossi

Italian fiction

Original title – L’Acchito

Translator – Howard Curtis

Source – Personnel copy

I’ve been meaning to try Pietro Grossi ,after a couple of years ago Rob of Rob around books raved about his previous book Fists  .I also knew its would be a winner when I mentioned on twitter I was reading it for Pushkin press fortnight and two people from over publishers tweeted their love of this book .Pietro Grossi is an Italian writer ,he was born in Florence is a huge fan of Hemingway and J D Salinger ,started writing age eight ,he has won a number of prize in Italy and has written five books so far .Pushkin have translated two his previous book the short story collection Fists made the Independent foreign fiction prize short list in 2010 .

When Dino got home ,Sofia was at the far end of the living room ,making soup in the kitchenette ,surrounded by steam and sliced vegtables .

“Hi” Dino said .

Sofia turned with soiled hands ,a look of suprise on her face “Oh” she said. “You’re early ”

“Yes it wasn’t my night ,” Dino said

“Weren’t you winning ?” Sofia asked ,turning away again ,and although she had her back to Dino ,he knew there was ironic smile hoovering on her lips .

Great interaction of the couple .

The break is the story of Dino a stonemason and huge billiards fan .His life is steady ,he lives in a small town and does dream of travel and others things with his wife .But isn’t really going anywhere ,then his wife tells him she is pregnant .This cause Dino to maybe face up to his life and future more than he has done before ,he also enjoys a huge success via an old mentor in a billiards competition .Add to this secrets of bribes in the local area and Dino needs to pull himself together and start facing his life ,wife and future .

They had a big notebook with a thick  coloured cover ,where they wrote down  everything in preparation for when they left .They had called it The travel book ,which wasn’t much of a name when you thought about it ,and yet every time they mentioned it or took it in their hands there seemed to be something great about it

Dreams can be great ,like Dino Amanda and I have many we need to start living .

I connected with Dino ,I am not a billiards player of talent ,but have played snooker and pool in my time so that part of the book I could connect with but the billiards is also used as a metaphor because Dino suddenly discovers clarity at the game but also maybe discovers clarity in his own  life  at the same time .I also connected with Dino as a person I myself find my life at this point as rather like Dino’s at a point of treading water ,I like dino have maybe settled for a simple easy life and have let life pass me by at times .I enjoyed Grossi vision in this Dino is a character that anyone in mid-life can connect with the book is about those huge turning points in people’s life ,in Dino’s it is a baby on the way and the responsibility that will bring  and wanting to live out some of his dreams .I like Dino need to finds some drive in my own life and maybe stop treading water on my life .The book is a small part of the modern world ,his trade a stone mason dying out but also overlooked due to corruption ,coping with a new baby ,getting on in the world these are all questions that face all of us in some ways in the modern world .

Have you ever really connected with a character in a book like I did with Dino ?

 

Welcome to Pushkin press fortnight 2014

I would  like to welcome you all to the first  Pushkin press fortnight two weeks celebrating one of the true champions of fiction in translation in the Uk .For me they have brought a number of names to me as a reader , that I wouldn’t have read other wise ,the biggest of course is Stefan Zweig but also modern writer like Andres Neuman ,Peter Stephen Jungk and Pietro Grossi .

Some recent reviews from me are

Pushkin_JackMortimer

 

I was Jack mortimer by Alexander Lernet-Holenia – tense noir is fictrion ,as a man takes over a dead man’s identity .

parrots Flippo BolognaThe parrots by Flippo Bologna Italian wrioter compete for a to[ prize one is young one in the middle of his career and another considered a great writier near the end of his career .

traveller of the centuryTraveller of the century by Andres Neuman the wonderful book set in Europe a wonderful book on translation book shifting realities one of the best books of recent times also he has a new short story collection out soon .

This next two weeks I ll be reviewing two books from Stefan Zweig Amok and other stories and Journey into the past .The break by Pietro Grossi and Oliver VII by Antal Szerb all of which I have read I also have Butterflies in November by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir and from the fatherland with love by Ryu Murakami to try and read .

Have you a favourite book from Pushkin press ?

 

 

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