Shadow IFFP JURY 2015

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This year Tony and I have brought together the biggest shadow jury . But a truly global  jury for a prize for world fiction . We have bloggers from the US , UK , France ,India and Australia .I feel we will really get the IFFP noticed around the world .

Chairman Stu blogger at winstonsdad , champion of translated fiction and starter of this shadow IFFp prize bringing the world of fiction to the readers so far 500 books from a 100 countries .Also twitter fan at @stujallen started hashtag #translationthurs to promote translated fiction . By day a support worker working with people with learning disabilties for the last twenty years .

Tony Malone is an Englishman based in Melbourne who teaches English as a second language to prospective university students .He is interested in foreign languages and literature , focusing in particular on German , Japanese and Korean . He blogs about literary fiction in translation at Tony’s reading list and can be found on twitter  at @tony_malone  .

 

Joe Schreiber was born in the US, but has lived most of his life in or near Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He would really welcome a change should his adult children ever leave the nest. Presently on leave from a career in human services, he is finding more time for reading and writing. He has had a long standing interest in international literature, both in English and in translation, primarily from Europe and Africa. He blogs at https://roughghosts.wordpress.com/ and is learning to use Twitter at@roughghosts

 

Messy Tony backs up for his second IFFP Shadow Jury and having a long history of charitable work with other cultures he’s recently been a convert to learning about the many varied cultures through the literary eye. Blogger for Messenger’s Booker, Tony has been known to decline romantic dinner dates for a thick book and a blanket. Being an occasional Central Australian desert dweller, a good book helps with the isolation (maybe there’s a book in that???) tweets at @messy_tony

Emma Cazabonne is French and has been living in the US for 15 years. After university studies focusing on foreign languages, she has been an English-French translator for about 25 years. She is currently translating into French novels by Tanya Anne Crossby. She is also an online French tutor and the owner and sole operator of the virtual book tour company France Book Tours. She blogs at Words And Peace. She is especially interested in books in French as well as translated from the French and the Japanese. She can be found on Twitter @wordsandpeace

Chelsea McGill is an American living in Kolkata, India who recently got married and finished a Master’s degree from the University of Chicago. She is interested in the anthropological and psychological aspects of international literature. She blogs at The Globally Curious and tweets from @chelsea_mcgill4.

Julianne Pachico was born in Cambridge, grew up in Colombia and now lives in Norwich, where she is completing her PhD in Creative and Critical Writing at the University of East Anglia. She is working on a linked collection of short stories and blogs at never-stop-reading.com. Twitter: @juliannepachico

Clare started blogging at A Little Blog of Books three years ago. When she’s not doing her day job in London, she blogs mostly about contemporary literary fiction and particularly enjoys reading books by French and Japanese authors. Twitter: @littleblogbooks

Bellezza lives in the United States where she has been a teacher for 28 years. Her passion for translated literature has grown enormously since she began hosting the Japanese Literature Challenge eight years ago. This is the second year she has participated on the Shadow Jury for the IFFP. Her blog is Dolce Bellezza, and her Twitter handle is @bellezzamjs

David Hebblethwaite was born in the north of England and now lives in the south with a lot of books. He’s trying to read more from around the world, and to work out exactly how and why his reading tastes have changed recently. He blogs his thoughts at David’s Book World, and tweets as @David_Heb.

 Grant Rintoul teaches English in Scotland, where, amid towering piles of marking and bringing up two children, he somehow still manages to find the time to read. He blogs at https://1streading.wordpress.com/ attempting to keep his English language reviews proportionate to those from the rest of the world. You can follow him on Twitter@grantrintoul where, among all the literary links, he will occasionally irritate you with obscure references to Scottish politics.

 

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Who’s going to win the Independent foreign fiction prize 2014

Well the shadow Jury announced their winner yesterday it was Sorrow of Angels ,one that missed the real shortlist .So as you read this I’m on a train heading to the Bg smoke as I was grateful to be invited to the 2014 award night for the Independent foreign fiction prize 2014 .Tony did his round-up and thought on the shortlist and whom he thought would win .So I decide to be rather fun and go for an if this book was a footballer post for fun  and whom I’d think will win .So here are the books from the shortlist .

The Iraqi Christ by Hassan Blassim

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A collection of short stories , brutal at times and surreal at others .

My review  

If the book was a player it be Younis Mahmoud ,I struggled to find a Iraqi that had played in the Uk there is one that had been at Spurs but hadn’t played for them ,so I cast my net further afield and found Younis Mahmoud one the most capped Iraqi ,players watching a couple of you tube clips ,rather like the book Younis remind me of a classic old fashion centre forward rather like Hassan prose remind me of classic short story writers .

A Man in Love by Karl Ove Knausgaard

A man in Love

The second in the six book stgory of Karl Ove life seems him coping with early adulthood and becoming a father .

My review 

If this book was a player ,well one struck me straight away and that was the baby face assassin Ole Gunnar  Solskjær .As a united fan ,he is a player rather like Karl Ove made an impact straight away when he usually came of the bench like when we won the champions league .A folk hero character ,rather like Karl Ove that has his own mythology around him .

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tsNLo_a65sY

Strange weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawkami

the briefcase

A may to december story of a former Pupil and her former teacher fall in love in a sort of shared loneliness  ,I ve chosen the US cover as this was the book I read

My review 

Now if this book was a player ,I’ve picked Shinji Kagawa ,the player who United brought from Dortmund ,he has yet to fit fully into the team but has shown flashes of brilliance at times and what is to come and that is like this book flashes of great thing to come from the writer .

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vb4XN4R6YCE

A meal in winter by Hubert Mingarelli

a-meal-in-winter

Two soldiers , a Jewish man and a Pole stuck in a room sort of microcosm of the war share an evening as the snow traps them .

My review  

Well I initially thought of King Eric but actually settled for Laurent Blanc , he had a cameo at united and rather like this book we hoped to have seen more of him like we hope to see more of Mingarelli .

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MslBpe0CcSY

Revenge by Yoko Ogawa

revenge by Yoko Ogawa

A collection of dark interlink through motifs stories from a master of the short story form .

My review 

Hidetoshi Nakata is the player I imagine for this book a clever midfield that broke out of Asian football and played in Italy for a number of seasons .Like the book Nakata was a player you just loved to watch playing for his silky skills like Ogawa writing is one I love reading .

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N-6kuuV19Hs

The Mussel feast by Brigit Vanderbeke

the mussel feast

A family have cook a favourite meal of the absent father a book set just as the wall is falling in Berlin .

My review 

Well when I thought of this rather mad post ,this is the first player I thought of Matthias Sammer as one of the first East germans to player for the unified german team Sammer was amazing he was a commanding defender and sweeper that controlled games ,but had to retire early due to injury and maybe like this book as I’ve said what differenece would it have made coming out at the time ,what did we miss from Sammer due to that injury .

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gbd2yehoD1g

SO for me its between Mussl feast or A man in love to win ,I can not seperate those two and another is in with a chance which you may guess .Who do you fancy winning this year ?

 

The winner of the Shadow IFFP 2014

In 2014, for the third year in a row, Chairman Stu gathered together a group of brave bloggers to tackle the task of shadowing the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. It’s not a task for the faint of heart – in addition to having to second-guess the strange decisions of the ‘real’ panel, the foolhardy volunteers undertook a voyage around the literary world, all in a matter of months…

On our journey around the globe, we started off by eavesdropping on some private conversations in Madrid, before narrowly avoiding trouble with the locals in Naples. A quick flight northwards, and we were in Iceland, traipsing over the snowy mountains and driving around the iconic ring road – with a child in tow. Then it was time to head south to Sweden and Norway, where we had a few drinks (and a lot of soul searching) with a man who tended to talk about himself a lot.

Next, it was off to Germany, where we almost had mussels for dinner, before spending some time with an unusual family on the other side of the wall. After another brief bite to eat in Poland, we headed eastwards to reminisce with some old friends in Russia – unfortunately, the weather wasn’t getting any better.

We finally left the snow and ice behind, only to be welcomed in Baghdad by guns and bombs. Nevertheless, we stayed there long enough to learn a little about the customs involved in washing the dead, and by the time we got to Jerusalem, we were starting to have a bit of an identity crisis…

Still, we pressed on, taking a watery route through China to avoid the keen eye of the family planning officials, finally making it across the sea to Japan. Having arrived in Tokyo just in time to witness a series of bizarre ‘accidents’, we rounded off the trip by going for a drink (or twelve) at a local bar with a strangely well-matched couple – and then it was time to come home 🙂

Of course, there was a method to all this madness, as our journey helped us to eliminate all the pretenders and identify this year’s cream of the crop. And the end result? This year’s winner of the Shadow Independent Foreign Fiction Prize is:

SOrrow of angels

The Sorrow of Angels by Jón Kalman Stefánsson
(translated by Philip Roughton, published by MacLehose Press)

This was a very popular (and almost unanimous) winner, a novel which stood out amongst a great collection of books. We all loved the beautiful, poetic prose, and the developing relationship between the two main characters – the taciturn giant, Jens, and the curious, talkative boy – was excellently written. Well done to all involved with the book – writer, translator, publisher and everyone else 🙂

Some final thoughts to leave you with…

– Our six judges read a total of 83 books (an average of almost fourteen per person), and ten of the books were read and reviewed by all six of us.
– This was our third year of shadowing the prize and the third time in a row that we’ve chosen a different winner to the ‘experts’.
– After the 2012 Shadow Winner (Sjón’s From the Mouth of the Whale), that makes it two wins out of three for Iceland – Til hamingju!
– There is something new about this year’s verdict – it’s the first time we’ve chosen a winner which didn’t even make the ‘real’ shortlist…

Stu, Tony, Jacqui, David, Bellezza and Tony would like to thank everyone out there for all their interest and support over the past few months – rest assured we’re keen to do it all over again next year 🙂

A few thoughts from me ,I have loved hosting this year as everyone has made a real effort to read all the books and 83 reviews out there is a great acheivement and wonderful way to promote the IFFP to a wider readership .

The sorrow of angels by Jón Kalman Stefánsson

SOrrow of angels

The sorrow of angels by Jón Kalman Stefánsson

Icelandic fiction

Original title – Harmur englanna

Translator – Philip Roughton

Source – review copy

I might have speculated on my chances of going to Heaven; but candidly I did not care. I could not have wept if I had tried. I had no wish to review the evils of my past. But the past did seem to have been a bit wasted. The road to Hell may be paved with good intentions: the road to Heaven is paved with lost opportunities.

Apsley Cherry Garrard from his book the worst journey in the world .via goodreads

Well yesterday I covered part one of this trilogy Heaven and Hell  ,so far Jón Kalman Stefánsson has written nine novels and in 2005 won the Icelandic Literature prize .Like the first in this trilogy I read this on more than one occasion the prose are very rich and need to be savoured on more than one occasion I feel .

It’s snowing .The snowflakes fill the vault of the sky and pile up on the world .The wind is gentle and drifts hold their shape ,The surface of the sea is calm and ceaselessly swallows the snow .

Weather but a little calmer than in other parts of the book .

Well I think that quote sums this book up well ,the book follows a journey taken by the still unnamed boy who was one of the main characters in the first book and Jens a postman as they seek to deliver a package for a doctor in the hinterland of Iceland .Now the boy an orphan whom in the first book lost his good friend seems a much more rounded character in this book one who because of his past has fallen in love with books .The journey sees the two battle each other and the elements around them and maybe grow to know each other from this shared journey .As they move from farm to farm to get the item delivered .

The coffee brews .

Oh, the aroma of this black drink !

Why do we have to remember it so well ;it’s been so very long , since we could drink coffee , many decades ,yet still the tast and pleasure haunts us .Our bodies were devoured to the last morsel long ago .

As a coffee lover Stefanssson often mentions coffee .

Snow ,snow ,snow ,cold ,wind this is maybe the book summed up in five words what we have here like the first book is a book is about man and his surrounds ,how we can conquer most things but the elements still even now (although this book is set a hundred years ago ) we struggle in the worst conditions to get by .Again the book is told in a collective voice ,an echo of a past gone but kept alive in these pages .The journey they are  undertaking is maybe an eternal one that man has been taken since the beginning of time  , the one that isn’t about getting there but about taking the journey .Philip Roughton has caught what I call the cold feel of the book ,I assume there is more in Icelandic about cold and cold weather but he has still managed to make you feel a real chill down your spine ,this would be a great book to read on a hot summers day as it will cool you down .This is another from this years IFFP it is on our shadow shortlist .

Have you read either of the books by this writer ?

 

Jacqui review the infatuations by Javier Marias

the infatuations

The Infatuations by Javier Marías
Translated from the Spanish by Margaret Jull Costa

When someone tells us something, it always seems like a fiction, because we don’t know the story at first hand and can’t be sure it happened, however much we are assured that the story is a true one, not an invention, but real. At any rate, it forms part of the hazy universe of narratives, with their blind spots and contradictions and obscurities and mistakes, all surrounded and encircled by shadows or darkness, however hard they strive to be exhaustive and diaphanous, because they are incapable of achieving either of those qualities. (pg. 310)

When something happens in life, how do we ever know if someone is telling us the truth, that their version of events is accurate? Or do we just have to accept the impossibility of ever knowing anything (or anyone) for sure? These questions are central to The Infatuations, the latest book by Javier Marías.

The novel is narrated by María Dolz, a woman in her late thirties, who works for a publisher based in Madrid. Every day, María has breakfast at the same café where she sees a married couple who also take breakfast together on a daily basis. María can see how much this handsome man and woman enjoy each another’s company, as they talk, laugh and joke ‘as if they had only just met or met for the very first time’. María never speaks to her ‘Perfect Couple’ (as she thinks of them) but simply seeing them together and imagining their lives lifts her mood at the start of each day.

One day, the couple (Miguel and Luisa) are absent from the café; at first María assumes they have gone away on holiday and, deprived her morning fillip, she feels a little bereft at their absence. Later, she learns from a colleague that Miguel has been stabbed repeatedly and murdered by a homeless man in what appears to be a tragic case of mistaken identity. In fact, María had already seen the newspaper report of the murder (coupled with a photograph of a man lying in a pool of blood) without realizing that the victim was the husband from her Perfect Couple.

A few months later, María sees Luisa at the café again, accompanied this time by her two young children. After a while, the children depart for school leaving Luisa alone and María decides to offer the widow her condolences. She soon learns that Miguel and Luisa had also noticed her at the café; indeed they even had their own name for her, the ‘Prudent Young Woman’. Luisa is keen to talk, so she invites María to come to her home that evening where María meets the intriguing Javier Díaz-Varela, one of Miguel’s closest friends. Although María doesn’t see Luisa again for some time, she bumps into Javier purely by chance during a visit to the museum and the two become lovers. As María continues to see Javier, she learns a little more about his relationship with Luisa and uncovers other information which causes her to question Javier’s true motivations and desires…and these discoveries cast a different light on events and circumstances surrounding Miguel’s death.

What Marías does brilliantly in The Infatuations is to use the events surrounding Miguel’s murder to weave an elegant meditation addressing fundamental ideas about truth, chance, justice, love and mortality. There’s a philosophical, meandering, almost hypnotic quality to Marías’s writing. His extended sentences seem to capture a person’s thought process by giving us their initial perceptions or ideas, often followed by qualifications or even an alternative theory. And he softens the boundaries between thoughts and speech, too; once immersed in the middle of an extended passage, it isn’t always easy to tell whether you are listening to a character’s inner reflections or observing their conversation with another. This technique might sound a little confusing, but it isn’t at all; Marías pulls it off with tremendous skill and style, and Margaret Jull Costa’s translation is simply wonderful.

During this meditation, Marías offers us reflections on a number of existential themes. For example, how we cling to the dead, feeling ‘an initial temptation to join them, or at least to carry their weight and not let them go’; how the dead should never come back, however much we would like them to; how an unexpected or a particularly dramatic death can dominate our memories of that person, almost stealing part of their existence from them:

You could say that those who die such a death die more deeply, more completely, or perhaps they die twice over, in reality and in the memory of others, because their memory is forever lost in the glare of that stupid culminating event, is soured and distorted and also perhaps poisoned. (pg. 75)

Marías is particularly insightful when it comes to grief and how the death of a loved one affects those who remain. In this passage, María Dolz observes Luisa’s daughter, Carolina, with her mother in the café. It’s almost as though mother and daughter have swapped roles as Carolina tries to look after Luisa:

She kept one eye on her mother all the time, watching her every gesture and expression, and if she noticed that her mother was becoming too abstracted and sunk in her own thoughts, she would immediately speak to her, make some remark or ask a question or perhaps tell her something, as if to prevent her mother from becoming entirely lost, as if it made her sad to see her mother plunging back into memory. (pg. 41)

And the following passage on grief reflects some of my own experiences following the sudden death of my mother (many years ago now). There’s no finer example of why The Infatuations resonates so deeply with me:

And so, sooner or later, the grieving person is left alone when she has still not finished grieving or when she’s no longer allowed to talk about what remains her only world, because other people find that world of grief unbearable, repellent. She understands that for them sadness has a social expiry date, that no one is capable of contemplating another’s sorrow, that such a spectacle is tolerable only for a brief period, for as long as the shock and pain last and there is still some role for those who are there watching, who then feel necessary, salvatory, useful. But on discovering that nothing changes and that the affected person neither progresses nor emerges from her grief, they feel humiliated and superfluous, they find it almost offensive and stand aside: ‘Aren’t I enough for you? Why can’t you climb out of that pit with me by your side? Why are you still grieving when time has passed and I’ve been here all the while to console and distract you? If you can’t climb out, then sink or disappear’. And the grieving person does just that, she retreats, removes herself, hides. (pg. 64-65)

I loved The Infatuations (its Spanish title is ‘el enamoramiento’ – the state of falling or being in love, or perhaps infatuation). It’s intelligent, thought-provoking and superbly written; one to savour and revisit in the future. I don’t want to say very much more about the novel’s plot or Miguel’s death, but Marías sustains an air of mystery and ambiguity through to the finish leaving María Dolz to contemplate: ‘the truth is never clear, it’s always a tangled mess.’ (pg 326)

The Infatuations is published in the UK by Penguin Books. Page numbers refer to the paperback edition. Source: personal copy.

My review is here 

Shadow IFFP SHORTLIST

Tomorrow see’s the official independent foreign fiction short-list comes out .So we decide to announce ours today as with last year we choose to read as many if not all the 15 long listed books from the 2014 list and we have reviewed them my fellow jurors David ,Tony reading ,Tony messy ,Jacqui (who has been guesting on all or blogs ) and Bellezza .SO we have read ,given scores and dissected this years long list.We have yet again made a short-list of our own from the 15 books on the list just to show the strength of the list and how it can be viewed by different readers  .Its been a journey from Japan ,china ,Iraq ,Germany ,Spain among the few stops .We tackled connect story collections ,memories of Russian youth ,a family waiting for a husband to return ,a son following his fathers footsteps and a stories around the ten commandments .SO after all that we look at the book ,the translation and the long lasting nature of the book for the first time it is hard thing to say but we can try and sense if a book will hang around or just disappear from view .so with out further a do I present the shadow IFFP SHORTLIST ,we will choose our winner from these six books .

The infatuations by Javier Marias .

the infatuations

A women’s journey with a couple she see’s evry day at a cafe ,it shows the difference in what we view and what is real .

My review 

Brief loves that live forever by Andrei Makine

Brief loves that live forever

A russian youth partly remembered in a collection of short stories ,touching in points .

My review 

The Sorrow of angels by Jon Kalman Stefansson

the sorrow of angels

An eerie tale of 19th century Iceland where reality and myth seem to cross .My review this week

The Mussel feast by  Birgit Vanderbeke

the mussel feast

A wonderful insight into an east german family as the wall is falling .But where is the father ?

My review 

A Man in Love by Karl Ove Knausgaard

A man in Love

Part two of the Epic my struggle we see Karl in the book struggling with the early years of fatherhood .

My review

The Corpse washer by Sinan Antoon

The Corpse Washer

A son tries to escape his father’s life with art but the war in Iraq and his mother being ill draw him back to being a corpse washer .

My review

Well that is our list ,you will have to wait to tomorrow to see what matches up with the Official Iffp list .

Which of these six have you read ?

 

The Iraqi Christ by Hassam Blasim

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The Iraqi Christ by Hassam Blasim

Iraqi fiction (Short stories )

Translator – Jonathan Wright

Source – Personnel copy brought on Kindle

Well to another short story collection from this years IFFP longlist .Also the second Iraqi title from this years list .Hassam Blasim is some what of radical figure in Arabic fiction as the stories he writes are Genre bending to say the least .Hassam Blasim Fled Iraq in 2004 when he had made a  documentary film about the Kurdish area of Northern Iraq ,since then he lived in Finland originally a film-maker he has since made four more films for a Finnish film company .He also start writing at the same time ,this is his second collection to be published the first the madman of freedom square ,mad the Iffp longlist four years ago .

We were meant to camp in an old girls’ school and some of the soldiers decided the best place to spend the night was the school’s air-raid shelter. Daniel the Christian picked up his blanket and other bedding and headed out into the open courtyard. ‘Of course, Chewgum Christ is crazy,’ remarked one of the soldiers, a man as tall as a palm tree, his mouth stuffed with dry bread.

The opening of the title story of the collection The Iraqi Christ .

I said Hassam was a radical figure ,it is more his style of writing in this collection we move from the Iraq was in the title story Iraqi christ ,we meet Daniel the gum chewing soldier as he fights in the war He is one of the few christian fighting alongside his comrades  .Elsewhere we travel into the utterly surreal in a story like dung beetle a man or is it a man talking to a doctor in Finland but his is from  Iraqi  ,as he spouts out to the doctor .Drama post war in the Green zone living in the   post war Iraq with the westerners .More traditional sounding stories like A thousand and One Knives ,an obvious play on the most famous Arabic story One thousand and one Nights .Elsewhere a crossword setter is driven to the edge as he is haunted or more possessed by one of the victims of a bomb he narrowly missed .

Doctor, I can identify my feeling at that moment as a desire to kiss, to stand in front of the station gate like the people who give out free newspapers and adverts, to stand in the way of people in a hurry and to stop them to kiss their hands, their shoes, their knees, their bags. And if they allowed me to bare their arses for a few minutes, to kiss them too. Excuse me, madam, can I kiss the sleeve of your coat? Please, sir, accept from me this kiss on your necktie. Kisses for free; sad, sincere kisses. And very often, doctor, I don’t just want to kiss people, I want to kiss the vestiges they leave on the pavements: kisses for cigarette butts, for a key that an old woman lost, for the beer bottles the drunks left behind last night, for the numbers on discarded receipts; kisses that combine the maternal instinct with lust, as day and night are combined in my head.

A passage from my favourite story in the collection the dun beetle .

I read Tony’s review the other day he compared some of these stories to the Magic realism of Marquez ,he has touches of that ,for me other writers leap to mind my favourite story in the collection was the dung Beetle ,which for me had huge echoes of classic mittel European short stories .There are other bar room stories a man returns from the bar to find a wolf in his room then it is gone when awakes ,this could come from the pen of the grand masters of short fiction Italo Calvino or Borges .The collection shows a writer that obviously loves short stories and loves playing with the form as a writer himself .I felt this is a collection of a writer that has big things to come in the future ,the stories in this one vary from sublime to surreal but maybe jar to much of the collection in comparison to the other collections on this years IFFP longlist .I will be reading his next collection for sure as I can just see Hassam Blasim getting better over time as he works through his obvious love of short stories and writers of short stories as he develops  his own twists and style even more .

Have you read Hassam Blasim ?

Exposure by Sayed Kashua

Exposure

Exposure by Sayed Kashua

Israeli fiction

Original Title – גוף שני יחיד

Translator – Mitch Ginsburg

Source – Personnel copy brought on kindle

 

Sayed Kashua is a well-known figure in Israeli ,he publishes a regular column in an Israeli newspaper .He is also the writer behind the hit comedy show Arab Labour which has been a runaway success in Israel .Exposure is his fourth book .I’ve found a clip of the title actually full episodes are available on you tube it is a sitcom following Arabs and Israelis living together .

He looked at his watch and saw that the store would be closing in ten minutes. He already knew which book he was going to buy: he had seen it reviewed in that week’s

paper, had spotted it on the shelf, and knew that after a quick walk through the classics he would return to it. As he browsed, The Kreutzer Sonata caught his eye and he remembered that his wife had asked him once, as the resident expert on books, whether he’d ever read the novella by Tolstoy. The lawyer had been surprised by her sudden interest in books and she explained that The Kreutzer Sonata came up in class whenever her professor discussed Freud. He pulled the book off the shelf and walked over to the new-books section, where he picked up Haruki Murakami’s most recent novel. “I’d like this one gift wrapped, please,” he said, handing Meirav the used copy of The Kreutzer Sonata, adding, “my wife’s studying psychology and she’s been nagging me forever to get her this book.”

The lawyer buys the book in question .

Well the show is a good starting point for the book although the book isn’t comic ,but touches a lot of the same ground and the is identity in Israeli from both side Arab and Jewish .The book is formed of two stories that unfold side by side the first is the story of an Arab lawyer .but he is a high-flying lawyer trying to escape from his Arab background and get accepted in the mainstream Jewish life as a lawyer . The lawyer  by chance finds a copy of Kreutzer  sonata  by Tolstoy a book that his wife recommend to him  to read in this second-hand book he discovers a letter in Arabic that appears to have been written by her wife to the books previous owner of the book. the previous Yonatan is the link to the second story ,but back to the first he of course now want s to find out from his wife who this was and why she wrote the letter .The second story is about a young Arab man Amir  struggling to get work ,then finds himself working as a carer at night looking after a young Israeli who is called Yonatan ,Amir starts to look into this young man’s life his likes and dislikes .Takes things like his camera and then decides he could become Yonatan ,so is he the one in the first story ?

Well the book is as Tony put it is very easy read and it is but it tackles a lot of subjects close to the heart of Israeli and to some one like Sayed as he is an Arab Israeli that is their place in modern Israeli ? How close can they come to be a full part of Israeli life without taking Amir’s path and stealing an identity or the Lawyer (we never get told his name )  where he has really sold his soul to be where he was and of course the first story on its line of marital betrayal  , jealousy could be a spin on the Tolstoy story which Thou I’ve not read it is about a marriage ,a wife’s betrayal and the husband in that book kills his wife .(an  aside to this is I had said I will get this book by Tolstoy next time I see it and low and behold last week I brought a second-hand copy a little bit of a deja vu moment .) .I feel this is very much an IFFP book as it tackles issues but also is one that serves well as a book group book with many points to dive off from about it .This was the third book by Kashua to be translated to English another book apart from this one had been on the longlist for the IFFP .

Have you read him

 

Jacqui reviews Ten by Andrej Longo

ten Andrej Longo

Jacqui is back again to review Ten for the Shadow IFFP Jury

Ten by Andrej Longo
Translated from the Italian by Howard Curtis

Andrej Longo’s Ten consists of a series of hard-hitting short stories set in Naples. Each story takes one of the Ten Commandments as its theme and we see regular working-class people struggling to get by in the face of temptations and challenges that come their way.

In the first story we meet a teenage boy who wants to keep his head down and stay on the right side of the tracks. But he gets caught up in trouble during a night out with his girlfriend, the consequences of which will set his life on a different trajectory. Another story centres on a talented singer who becomes too ambitious and greedy. We follow his rise and fall into a life of drugs and debt – in the end his only way out is to become a guinea pig, thereby enabling his dealer to test the safety of each batch of coke:

I get off at the terminal. I lean on the wall to stop myself from falling and drag myself to where there’s an open space. I sit down in the sun or the rain, it’s all the same to me, and I wait, leaning against a pillar, like the others. I wait for them to bring the syringe, already filled, look for a vein that still has room, and put the needle in. And they wait to see the effect it has, and whether you live or die. (p. 34-35)

The mafia are never very far away — to the fore in some stories, in the background in others — and we see how people have grown accustomed to living their lives under this shadow:

Maybe Ricardo was right. Maybe like he said, to avoid asking myself too many questions, I’d stopped taking any notice of what was happening around me, the mountains of rubbish in the street, the murders, the bag snatching, the parking attendant who asks for money even when there’s a meter. I’d got used to keeping my eyes down to avoid trouble, paying so that I could drive my lorry in peace, without them slashing the tyres or breaking the windows. Maybe it was it was like he said but I didn’t want to admit it. (p. 113)

All this might sound rather grim, but some of these stories capture moments of love and longing. In one of my favourite stories from the collection, ‘Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy’, a woman longs to spend a Sunday with her husband but is unable to because her man can only find work in Rome. He returns on a weekly basis, but always Tuesdays, never at the weekend:

We’d been living like this for thirteen years. Seeing each other only on Tuesdays. Just so we could pay the mortgage and provide for the kids as they grew. But now the mortgage was almost entirely paid off. And the kids were grown. They were working now, making a living for themselves. I know there’s never enough money. But I could look for a job. Anything. Just as long as he came home in the evening and slept in our bed. Just as long as we could spend one Sunday together every now and again. Go for a stroll somewhere, without counting the hours, without feeling that time was slipping through our fingers. A Sunday together like everybody else. (p. 50)

Longo is a critically-acclaimed writer of short stories as well as pieces for the theatre, radio and cinema. When he isn’t writing, Longo works as a pizza-maker in the city of Naples and he draws on his understanding of the city to great effect in this collection. He takes us through the backstreets and clubs of the city, into the homes of its inhabitants and in doing so gives us a real sense of the place, its culture and social landscape. Knives and guns seem common place here and it’s an environment where kids and teenagers often have to grow up ahead of their time to survive.

Stu has already talked about how this collection illustrates what great short stories can do; they give us a slice of the world as we glimpse people for the briefest of moments. One of the things I liked about these stories was their directness and raw honesty. Longo’s prose is quite stripped back but he quickly creates a sense of tension and atmosphere as he pulls us into these individuals’ lives.

I also liked the shifts in tone, mood and pace across the stories. We experience flashes of violence, situations with a pulsating sense of urgency, but there are times when the pace shifts down a gear as characters reflect on their regrets, their hopes and fears.

One of the reasons I wanted to get involved in shadowing the IFFP was to discover exciting examples of world-lit with a real sense of place, fiction that vividly captures the voice and the essence of a specific location and/or culture. And that exactly what Ten delivers.

Ten is one of three collections of short stories longlisted for this year’s IFFP. The other collections are Revenge by Yoko Ogawa and The Iraqi Christ by Hassan Blasim (and one could also argue that Andrei Makine’s Brief Loves That Live Forever reads as a series of interlinked stories). As for Ten’s chances in the IFFP, I’m at the halfway point in reading the longlist so it’s a little difficult to tell at this stage…but it’s an excellent collection of stories and one which I’m very glad to have discovered.

Ten is published in the UK by Harvill Secker.
Source: personal copy

My review of Ten 

The dark road by Ma Jian

the dark road Ma Jian

The Dark Road by Ma Jian

Chinese fiction

Original title –  阴之道

Translator – Flora Drew

Source – Library copy

I have reviewed Ma Jian before his book stick out your tongue , which was like this book a book that had made the Independent foreign fiction prize list ,This is my first review after the long-list was announced and it is a writer I have enjoyed before .Ma Jian was born in Qingdao ,his education was cut short due to Mao’s cultural revolution .So he set about studying  a Chinese dictionary word by word ,moved to Bejing working as a photojournalist and also painting in the early 80’s he became involved with dissident movement .He published his first book in 1987 the one I read   a couple of years ago stick out your tongue .

“Keep out of this !” he replied , rubbing his cold red hands together .”Haven’t you read the public notice ? I f a woman is found to be pregnant without authorisation ,every household within one hundred meters of her home will be punished .You should reported her to the authorites before the child was born .As her next-door neighbour ,you’ll be fined at least a thousand Yuan .

The way the keep people in line making everyone a nosey parker and potential stool pigeon .

The dark road is another book set in the heart of china the china we don’t see .Melli is the main character in this book born into a peasant family ,we follow her journey down the Yangtze river with her husband Kongzi ,he was the teacher at the school in the village ,the pair have a daughter but due to the stringent One child rule at china (one that has only just been partly relaxed ) .The pair want a son so have to hit the road in this case the road is actually the river as we see them head through china to the south .Kongzi isn’t what he seems and is desperate for this second baby the son to carry on the family line .Along the way we see the ruin the rapid industrial growth of china has brought to the towns and river itself ,Also people lives who have been broken by the river a man looking for his mother that Melli briefly seems to connect with .Also over scandals like fake milk .All this as the pair try to avoid the state taking a potential second baby .

“Wait until your baby is born before you leave ” says Bo’s wife ,a scruffy women called Juru “You can give birth in the backstreet clinic behind the Family planning centre .The midwife only charge three hundred Yuan .

An example of the wry humor at times the backstreetclinc is next to theoffical family planning clinic .

This is a journey into the heart of darkness that is parts of modern china .Ma Jian is well-known as a critic of certain policies of the reigme ,but seeing this journey through Melli’s eyes it is hard not to avoid being critical of the regime ,from the piles of rotting junk at one point they work on sorting through ,to fake baby’s milk being sold .Then there is the vicious nature of the family planning police controlling the one child policy  also the widespread corruption .For me my heart just poured out for Melli a simple yet loyal woman who has a husband that rapes her ,people wanting to take her baby and then having to do a variety of vile jobs . The chapters all come with helpful bullet words at the start relating to the vital parts of each chapter  ,Thou the book has a dark sense to it ,there is also wry humour at times the sort of gallows humour that a world as dark as part of china in this book can bring  .As for translation it is near perfect as Flora Drew is Ma Jian wife and has already translated five of her husbands books .

Have you read Ma Jian ?

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