Istanbul Istanbul by Burhan Sönmez

 

 

Istanbul Istanbul by Burhan Sönmez

Turkish fiction

Original title – İstanbul İstanbul

Translator – Umit Hussein

Source – personnel copy

I reach the second book from the three of the EBRD shortlist I have to read and this title was the one I knew very little around. Burhan is a prize-winning Turkish writer. He grew up speaking both Turkish and Kurdish. He moved to Istanbul to become a lawyer, he then took up writing first poetry, where he won two national poetry prizes. Then he turned his hand to writing novels this is his third novel his books have been translated into twenty languages. He now teaches literature.

It was cold in our cell. While I was telling the Doctor my story, Kamo the Barber lay curled on the bare concrete floor. We had no covers, we warned ourselves by huddling together, like puppies. Because time had stood still for several day we had no idea if it was day or night. We knew what pain was, every day we relived the horror that clamped our hearts as we were led away to be tortured.

Demirtay in the opening story talking about life in the cell for them.

This book is set just after the military coup in the prison in Istanbul. We are hearing the tales of four prisoners Demirtay the student, the doctor, Kamo the barber and Uncle Kuheylan. The four are being held and tortured.In between the guards taking them the four keep their spirits alive by telling stories from their lives.To spring their minds from outside there windowless cell  As they do they bring the city above them to life. From a meeting with one of those huge white dogs that grew up around this part of the world. A princess that has escaped from the Harem that has snuck on a boat and hidden in a lifeboat.But as one of them is told the stories have to reveal as little about themselves as the cell may be bugged so what we get is slightly fantastic stories. Thjis is interspersed with graphic images of torture particularly later on in the book a scene when a hammer is hit into a wrist is very hard hitting.

“A girl boarded a large ship in the port of Istanbul with great stealth, climbed up the steps, and hid in a large lifeboat. She wrapped herself in a sail and strained her ears to listen to any sound coming from outside.Once the ship had set sail she heaved a sigh of relief. Time aboard passed between sleep and wakefulness. She listened to the crew singingWhen the ship anchored in a port, she waited until evrything had turned quiet and darkness had fallen. She descended the steps unseen by anyone, and started running. She was heading towards a new world

A woman escapes the world of istanbul by a ship but what is here fate ?

 

This is an interesting book that brings the streets of Istanbul to life through the eyes of four men on the edge. There is a harder edge to this than Pamuk’s Istanbul this is the city we don’t see all the time the one of secret prisons and those trying to keep their minds open like the descriptions in Calvino’s Invisible cities the city comes to life. The book uses the four men in the cell as a framing device for the tales they tell each other this is like the Decameron or the Canterbury tales where we see a group using tales to illustrate their lives or values. These tales are in place love stories a little raunchy at times. But also the real side of life in a huge city at times. Tales that show how minds can transcend walls and iron doors that hold these four men in the dark there broken bodies and their minds not yet broken. This is what I had hope the books from the EBRD would be like a prize like this is why I read translated books to discover gems.

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3 from Maclehose and a Lithuanian crime novel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am showing some recent arrivals for the blog first we have three books from Maclehose press. First off is After winter by The Mexican writer Guadalupe Nettel I have featured her book The body where I was born   This is a novel set between Prais and new york, two people on either side of the Atlantic have troubled lives until they meet.Nettel is regarded as one of the best Mexican writers around.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next up is another writer from Latin America, that has also featured on the blog. this is the latest from Juan Gabriel Vasquez, he has featured three times on the blog. This is his most ambitious book The shape of ruins based on an actual event in Columbian history just after world war two, this event and one of the characters involved also inspired Gabriel Garcia Marquez in his book one hundred year of solitude.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The last book is the one I am most intrigued about. One clear ice-cold morning at the beginning of the twenty-first century by Roland Schimmelpfennig. Is the first novel from the renowned German playwright. It follows a wolf as he wanders one cold morning into the Heart of Berlin and sees the morning through his eyes. An unusual sounding book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then we have The music teacher the latest book from Noir books a publisher bring the best in Lit from Lithuania. This is their first crime novel. A small town police investigator who had an affair before with her music teacher. She is now investigating the murder of a teenage girl and her ex-lover now a local politician is putting pressure on too close the case.

Exclusive extract of Craving

I am luck to bring you below an exclusive extract of the book Craving by Esther Gerritsen , as part of a tour for the Dutch annual event Boekenweek that is all about books and sees a special book published ever year Ester Gerritsen was the chosen writer in 2006 with her book ” Broer ” .

The relationship between Coco and her mother Elisabeth is uneasy, to say the least. Running into each other by chance, Elisabeth casually tells Coco that she is terminally ill. When Coco moves in with her mother in order to take care of her, aspects of their troubled relationship come to the fore once again. Elisabeth tries her best to conform to the image of a caring mother, but struggles to deal with Coco’s erratic behaviour and unpredictable moods.

Publisher Twitter handle: @WorldEdBooks 

Publicist Twitter handle: @RKBookPublicist

craving was describe by Alice Sebold as  –

‘Cool, sparse, and delicious, Esther Gerritsen’s Craving hits all the right notes. This is an author who is unafraid of both complex characters and complex emotion (Thank God!).’—Alice Sebold, author of The Lovely Bone

 

My extract –

‘Nothing is as nice as fresh sheets,’ Coco says as she pulls the fitted sheet over the mattress. Elisabeth doesn’t say that she should have put on an underlay first.

She is sitting on the sofa next to the bed, looking at her daughter as though she’s five years old again and wants to help fold the wash but only makes it worse by helping.

‘Do you know that Dad said you locked me up in my bedroom when I wasn’t even eighteen months old?’

Elisabeth hears her daughter’s attempt to sound breezy. So she replies just as breezily, ‘Did he say that?’

‘Yes, he said that.’

‘That father of yours.’ She does her best to fit in with Coco, over and over. The previous evening she’d even tried to eat more, if only to show her that they weren’t that different after all, though she knows otherwise.

‘It’s not true is it?’ Her daughter looks at her.

She doesn’t reply fast enough. Now there’s no going back. ‘Your father wouldn’t make a thing like that up. Why would your father make up something like that?’

‘You locked me up?’

‘Do you remember anything of it?’

‘So it’s true?’

‘But can you remember it?’

‘Mum, you locked me up when I was a year and half?’

‘Times were different, you know,’ Elisabeth says, trying to sound like the hairdresser.

‘You don’t lock up a one-and-a-half-year-old child.’

‘You didn’t cry any louder when you were in your room. You really didn’t. It didn’t make any difference.’

‘A year and a half?’

‘Would you pass me that plastic bag?’ She points under the bed. Coco bends down and gives her the bag from the chemist’s.

‘A year and a half?’ she repeats.

Elisabeth gets the morphine plasters out of the bag and puts them next to the sofa.

‘Did Dad say a year and a half?’

‘You mean he’s lying?’

‘Lying? How do you figure that one out?’

‘You’re avoiding the subject.’

‘Am I?’ She unfolds the information leaflet.

‘Yes, you are. Can’t you do that later?’

‘Oh sorry, is it bothering you?’

‘Yes.’

Elisabeth puts everything back in the bag.

‘The pain’s not that bad really. Methinks.’

‘What?’

‘Methinks.’

Her daughter looks at the bag.

‘Well, put it back.’ She gives her daughter the bag. ‘Then we can have a nice chat. Just ask me, I don’t have any secrets. What do you want to know?’

‘Why would you lock up a child of a year and a half?’

Elisabeth wants to give her an honest answer, but her thoughts have already digressed. ‘A playpen is a kind of lock-up too, isn’t it?’

‘Mum, I asked you something.’

‘You need to put an underlay on.’

‘Huh?’

‘You need to put on an underlay underneath the fitted sheet.

Yes, I’m just being honest. You want me to be honest, don’t you?’

‘Why did you lock me up?’

Elisabeth searches for something true she is happy to share. She has a good memory. She says, ‘I put cushions down everywhere. In your room. All the cushions from the sofa and the big ones from the old easy chairs. I used belts to tie cushions to the corners of the cupboards so that you couldn’t bump yourself. I left you three bottles. Two with water and one with freshly squeezed orange juice. You liked that. I broke up biscuits into small pieces and put them in plastic bags. At the time you didn’t eat well unless you could get the food out of small plastic bags yourself. You liked that.’

Her daughter doesn’t say anything.

‘And there were toys,’ Elisabeth says, ‘cardboard cubes, from big to small, that fit inside each other. A wooden lighthouse with coloured rings. A book with animals that made sounds. A big cow that mooed when you pressed her belly.’

‘How long did you leave me there?’

Elisabeth looks at the paler strands in her girl’s hair and then her eyes descend to the fleshy neck.

‘I liked to kiss your neck,’ she says. ‘My face fit perfectly into the space between your throat and your shoulders. You smelt so lovely as a child.’ They don’t know that you love them, you have to tell them. Again and again. ‘I love you. That’s what I’d say when I tucked you in at night. Bye-bye little girl. I love you.’ Elisabeth’s gaze wanders off. She looks out of the window and thinks about the matt-grey Mercedes. Then her daughter tears the sheet from the bed.

‘Are you angry now?’

‘Why would I be angry? You have to put an underlay on, don’t you. Explain it to me, Mum, why would I be angry?’

‘Because I locked you up. You’re angry because I locked you up, aren’t you?’

‘Yes, don’t you think?’

‘You weren’t at the time. Not at the time, you know. You were angry when I didn’t lock you up too. You were always angry. It didn’t make any difference.’

‘And you blamed a child of one-and-a-half for that?’

‘No, darling, you don’t have to feel guilty about it—you couldn’t help it.’

‘I don’t feel guilty!’ Coco says. ‘What do you expect?!’

Elisabeth has that strange feeling in her chest again. Perhaps it’s indigestion. Her daughter walks away, out of the room.

‘What is it now?’

‘I’m fetching an underlay!’

The book is published by World editions and is available here 

 

 

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 book of Tbilisi

 

The book of Tbilisi by Various

Georgian fiction

Stories translated by Philip Price, Mary Childs, Maya Kiasashvili, Nino Kiguradze, Tamar Japaridze and George Siharulidze.

Source – review copy

I am never the most proactive at reading short stories, but sometimes when I get the chance with a collection like this it is a wonderful chance to get a glimpse into a new country. I’m not sure how many books from Georgia are out there to be read. As Ann Morgan point out on her world tour, this is changing as the government of Georgia is putting money in translation. So as Comma as brought its latest collection of city-based stories to Georgia to the capital Tbilisi and these writers.

 Ina ArchuashviliGela ChkvanavaErekle DeisadzeShota IatashviliDato KardavaLado KilasoniaZviad KvaratskheliaBacho KvirtiaIva Pezuashvili & Rusudan Rukhadze 

I’ve included the links to the comma bio pages of each writer.

Like most men, Baldy looked old for his age. He lit up his cigarette and asked Redhead what it was that couldn’t wait until the morning. In reply, Redhead said he wanted a story, a real one with blood, corpses – in other words something scandalous.

Baldy took him to his neighbour, a former investigator who had seen a lot in his time, having worked for both Soviet and Georgian police forces.

The rookie reporter listens to the older mens dicatapes.

The collection has ten tales in it. The first we meet a rookie newspaperman called Redhead is shown a tape by his fellow journalist Baldy an older man. That thinks he has found a gem of an old story about the killing of a man a few years ago. We follow him as he listens to the tapes from the time the tale of Uncle Evgeni a popular figure when the country first gained independence even sparking protests. in Dato Kardava story the naive reporter listens to the tapes and as the past unfolds he learns what happen back then. Then we see a piece of graffiti on the side of one of these old block of flats about a couple. This causes all the locals to go to facebook and find all Thea to see just who she was in the piece that said Anzor and THEA = LOVE. Then a young boy is looking after his sister as she is dying and he is getting no help from the state a sad tale. Then a quiet woman is the talk of three blocks of flats after she moves in with her husband but speaks with no-ones until the last line of the story after she is suspected to have run off. There are six other tales.

Her name is Peride. She doesn’t talk to anyone, and doesn’t pay attention to anyone either. It’s a blessing that I remember when she and her rusband first moved here more than thirty years ago. Otherwise, I might have believed she was not of this world, and that they’d brought her here from a parallel universe.

A woman moved in to the block years ago but never talks to her neighbours.

This is a great glimpse into a country that is just waking from its Soviet past. The one thing you found in the sense of a new world emerging after the bleakness of the place some were very sad especially the sister died in the rail carriage it made you feel how lucky we are. As with other collection I have read over the years like the Granta writer series the Spanish one, I do hope we get to read some of these writers in either fuller story collections or novels there is a wonderful chance with these ten stories to turn them into ten books and thus grow a library of Georgian fiction where we find out more about this country where neighbours are close and nosey and the world they are living in is bleak at times but also showing the small glimmer of want to grow and flourish again.

 

Italian Lit month March 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I know I do Spanish lit month with Richard, but I was sat the other day in my book room and started looking at how many books from Italy. I thought I would love to do an Italian lit month since reading most of Zibaldone last year one of the defining books of Italian literature. I have been wanting to add a few more titles to my Italian list.So I decide March is a quiet month for me blog-wise I would suggest doing a lit month for Italy. I also like to throw in a couple of films at some point not quite made mind up which two to pick to watch.  I have on my shelves from Alberto Moravia and Italo Svevo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Both of whom I have read but neither is on the blog.Then I have read and reviewed a few books from Italo Calvino and a couple by Claudio Magris

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Danube is one I want to feature after finishing river recently another book based around a river . Then I also have a couple of books by Giorgio Bassani and Giovanni Verga .Then I have a number of books by Europa editions which is an offshoot of an Italian publisher.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They have published crime novels, lit fiction and of course Elena Ferrante.HAve you a favourite Italian writer?

Some websites and lists

Best Italian novels on Goodreads.

Tim parks five books from Italy .

10 modern Novels from Italy 

15 Italian writers who aren’t Elena Ferrante

Italian cultural institute  .

Complete review Italian lit under review.

My Italian reviews.

OUP  blog why read Italian Literature 

Europa Editions

 

 

Winstons Dozen my favourite books of 2017

I read and reviewed more than in the last couple of years so have decided to pick 12 books of the year.

Brothers by David Clerson

 

QCFINF16 - CoverBrothers_v9

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two brothers go on a quest to find the father in a mythical coastal world. The older brother has an arm missing, the arm is his younger brother with his stumpy arms and legs. One of the first reads of this year and one of the funniest and strangest books I have read.

Havoc by Tom Kristensen

Danish modernist novel one mans downward spiral from journalist to drunkard. A lost gem of European modernist fiction coming out in 1930. Partly inspired by the writer’s own life.

Summer before the dark by Volker Weiderman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The fictional meeting of Stefan Zweig and Joesph Roth in Ostend in the summer of 1936 two men at the height of there fame. Both their lives will take different roots after this meeting.

Compass by Mathias Enard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A lament for a lost world of Syria and for a lost love as a man goes through a sleepless night as Franz dreams of Sarah and his romance alongside their travels.

The Major Refutation by Pierre Senges

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An imagined thesis that discredits the discovery of the new world another quirky book that has had a champion it like a lot of the books on this list.

Bricks and Mortar by Clemens Meyer

Post east german history told through the oldest profession and the characters involved in that industry as they go from simple german girls to digital and woman of all nations. Another Fitzcarradlo novel on the list.

Hair everywhere- Tea Tulic 

A family saga told from the daughter in fragments of stories as her mother is dying of cancer another wonderful choice from Istros books.

Belladonna  by Dasa Drndric

A novel for today a warning of ignoring the rise of right-wing rhetoric as a retirng academic looks back and forward on his life. from one of my favourite writers.

The ultimate Tragedy by Abdulai Sila

The Ultimate Tragedy

Ndani story in postcolonial Guinea Bissau is the testament to what many young women have to do in her position to get by working in a family homemade to join the church and avoid the advance of the male head of the householder.

That’s how whales are born by Anxos Sumai

THAT’S HOW WHALES ARE BORN

This follows a young woman who had escaped to study whales in Mexico but her mother ill health bring her home to her Galician home and the secrets of the past.

Three days by Thomas Bernhard

A film he made years ago has a companion book a wonderful insight into a great writers feeling. I still love the lines I am a story destroyer.

The house of remembering and forgetting by Filip David

A man remembers his survival of the death camp and recalls it all after visiting an exhibition. I have loved the six peter own istros titles this year but this was my favourite of them.

A common thread in these books is families, loss, past and remembering. In the year I lost my mum this list maybe reflects my journey and how books help us get over things. What have been your books of 2017?

 

 

Blue Self-Portrait by Noémi Lefebvre

Published 15th June 2017 / ISBN 978-0-9930093-2-7 / 160 pp / 180 x 120 / paperback / RRP: GBP 10.99 The inner monologue of a woman haunted by German composer Arnold Schoenberg’s portrait, following a complex romantic encounter with an American-German pianist-composer in Berlin. As the irresistible, impossible narrator flies home she unpicks her social failures while the pianist reaches towards a musical self-portrait with all the resonance of Schoenberg’s passionate, chilling blue. A contemporary novel of angst and high farce, Blue Self-Portrait unfolds among Berlin’s cultural institutions but is more truly located in the mid-air flux between contrary impulses to remember and to ignore. Yet music is shown to continue to work on and through us, addressing past trauma while reaching for possible futures. This book is supported by the French Institute (UK) as part of the Burgess programme, and is the recipient of a translation grant by the Centre National du Livre (CNL).

Blue Self-Portrait  by   Lefebrve

French fiction

Original title  – L’autoportrait bleu

Translator – Sophie Lewis

Source – review copy

I move a step closer to 100 books from France . With another intriguing novel from the new publisher Les Fugitives, who are trying to bring the brightest female French voice to us in English. Today we have  Noémi Lefebrve A writer who studied Music and Fench and German identity. She then became a political scientist. She has published three books since then. This is her first book to be translated into English.

Nonetheless, he hung the Blue Self-Portrait in the here and now of the Brandenburgian countryside, as if this was the only thing to do at this precise moment: bring together the living memory of Schoenberg as captured in the painting and the deathly precence of Brandenburg nature, conversely bring together still and temporary life with the natural memoryof Schoenberg captured in paint .

The description of Schoenberg famous self portrait in Blue.

I liked the first book I read from Les Fugitives Translation as Transhumance. Blue self -portrait is an internal monologue of a female, as she visits Berlin. What unfolds is an internal trip around the Cultural highlights of Berlin. Told from this woman. This is mixed with her haunting views about the works of Schoenberg. The title derives from the title of his Self-portrait in Blue that haunts her. She is getting over a failed romantic encounter with American German pianist that played was known for the way he could interpret  Schoenberg. She has also been reading Theodor W Adorno is someone, she has been reading. This, of course, this links also to Schoenberg as he played him as a trained pianist. He is also one of the leading lights in the Frankfurt school of philosophy. A female worrying about her place in the world. Her troubles with men and also her future. whilst wandering around the places to be in Berlin.A journey to the heart of a soul from her thoughts.

After reading Schoenberg’s letter to the Reich’ culture minister, the pianist had gone back to the Blue self portrait intending to examine the portrait’s blue, had registered the blue’s chill negativity, had taken a few steps back because of the negativity, this reflex which was unfolding a scene at once musical, Nazi and fashionable.

A pianst tries to enter his mind using the pic and How schoenberg went to the US to escape the Nazi’s

This is a trip with one mind through one city. Like Walter Benjamin’s trip through the arcades of Paris. We see places, culture and characters. That are all interlink in the thoughts of one woman as she tries to work out her life. The prose has a flow similar to that of a writer like Thomas Bernhard or Proust like the later she is recounting her romantic failures at times.This is a sort of anti-sex and the city for the modern girl it is more what not to do its as if Lena Dunham had written sex and the city. The theme of loss is a recurring motif in the book,  from the repetitive views of Cow that has lost his calf, to her own lost love and lost chances in a way.  This in a way is the opposite of the short film  Torsion which saw a cow giving birth as a choir escaped war-torn Sarajevo. There is a feeling of loss within this novel of being blue not just like Arnold Schoenberg in his picture, but also Blue inside ourselves is maybe a disease of the modern age. Schoenberg liked islands and maybe this proves we are all islands drifting in the deep blue sea of life as we try to moor with one another. A wry look at the modern female world y an up and coming writer.

My top ten albums 2017

I’m at work the today and tomorrow so I wrote this as a short post about my albums of the years

There is a Spotify playlist Here in no order are the ten Albums

  1. Goths by The mountain goats- I have been a fan of this band for about 15 years since there album on 4ad. A quirky album here remembering the goth bands of the eighties this track is about the sisters of mercy lead singer going back to his hometown.
  2. A crow looked at me by Mount eerie – A new band to me I was touched as this is a lament to his late wife and has some of the most touching lyrics I have ever heard.
  3. Pure comedy by Father John Misty – This album has been one of my all time favourites especially this 13 minute dig at the music industry and moving to la to be in a band. He may be a bit outspoken in real life but I liked this album a lot.
  4. Salutations – Conor Oberst – another favourite the former Bright eyes singer came back with the songs from the album ruminations with a band this time, both albums show how these songs can be fragile and full on at the same time.
  5. I tell a fly Benjamin Clementine – a mad second album about migration aliens and just surreal lyrics the man with the most distinctive voice of recent years made a personal rather than a commercial second album and it is utterly brilliant.
  6. New facts emerge – The Fall I always been a fan, thanks to my early years listening to John Peel. Mark E Smith carries on making great records after nearly forty years in the business.
  7. Together at last by Jeff Tweedy – He revisits some of his old songs it is more than twenty years since I brought Being there his second Wilco album. Great see him putting an acoustic turn on his songs.
  8. Hitchhiker- Neil Young – done in one night in 1976. He then sat on it until this year. Neil’s voice is at his best soul searching and tender in places.
  9. Mount the air by The Unthanks – I have been a fan for a while, but when the track Magpie was used on The detectorist, I had downloaded this album again The magpie is a real earworm.
  10. At Saint Thomas the Apostle Harlem – Diamanda Galas I been a fan of her since my college years her voice is disturbing and eerie. This was her first album in ten years this and a new studio album.

I suppose the only theme is these aren’t happy songs, but more ones that make you think.

 

International translation day 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saint Jerome is the patron saint of translation and it is the day we celebrate translation on international translation day. Well, maybe a look back over the eight years of this blog 750 books 90% in translation. Has seen me travel in my armchair with books from Afghanistan to Yemen in books. But also has seen an explosion in people publishing books from Peirene, Istros, tilted axis, honford star and Noir to name a few, have seen books reach us in English that would have not have done when I started the blog. The future is bright with two new prizes in the pipeline for books in translation and Booker behind what was the Independent foreign fiction prize, people seem more willing to try world lit . As for me the blog has grown and still gives me pleasure especially discovering places and writers. I now start to try and improve navigation of the blog as I want to divide  the reviews into a number of sections such as war, village life, experimental, family, cities, crime and short so as to show the common themes we see in literature no matter of place. How do you think translation has moved on in the last eight years ?

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