Seven Empty Houses by Samanta Schweblin

 

Seven Empty Houses by Samanta Schweblin

Argentinan  fiction

Orignal tile – Siete casas vacías

Translator – Megan McDowell

Source – Library book

This is the third book I have reviewed from Samantha schweblin. It is the first I have really connected with as a reader before I got them and why people loved them but it hadn’t been a total bowl over for me. The other books my fellow readers on the shadow just seemed to have connected with more than myself. She has been on the Man booker list with her three previous books, so it I thought it was a good idea to read her latest just in case it made the longlist. This is a collection of short stories. As with her other books, it has a dark side to her stories. Samanta Schweblin lives in Berlin and has written five books. One of them is currently being filmed by Netflix. So let us enter the Erie unsettled stories she has given us.

My mother, who was in the process of getting out of the car, freezes a moment and then drops back into her seat. I’m worried because night is falling, and I don’t know if I’ll be able to get the car out in the dark. The forest is only two houses away. I walk into the trees, and it takes a few minutes to find exactly what I need.

When I get back, my mother is not in the car. There’s no one outside. I approach the front door of the house.

The boy’s truck is lying on the doormat. I ring the doorbell and the woman comes to open the door.

“I called the ambulance? she says. “I didn’t know where you were, and your mother said she was going to faint again.”

The opening story of the mother and daughter None of that.

A mother and daughter head out in a car. Where they end up in the middle of nowhere and end up on a posh estate and the. other goes into a house. The mother starts to wander around the house as though drawn by some spirit and things just go strange as the oddness of the actions. Then the longest story in the book breaths from the depth. The story has a classic hook to it in the newcomer in the area when a single mother who moves next to her and her longstanding husband. They lost their sons many years ago. But Lola gets weary when her husband is drawn to the young boy next year all this is back as Lola’s health is waning. But who is this neighbour why does she feel familiar at times she is fat but there is something there. elsewhere people are caught between homes. A teen strips and redress in some underwear. I loved this collection.

The list was part of a plan: Lola suspected that her I life had been too long, so simple and light that now it lacked the weight needed to disappear. After studying the experiences of some acquaintances, she had concluded that even in old age, death needed a final push.

An emotional nudge, or a physical one. And she couldn’t give that to her body. She wanted to die, but every morning, inevitably, she woke up again. What she could do, on the other hand, was arrange everything in that direction, attenuate her own life, reduce its space until she eliminated it completely. That’s what the list was about; that, and remaining focused on what was important.

The opening of the longest story in the book breath from the depths

I loved the stories especially the short ones like when the mother and daughter head into the village in the middle of nowhere. Then into the backyard of the house and into the house itself. When she is drawn to a sugar bowl the story has such an undercurrent to it the sense of something more to it. Like Lola, I was reminded at times of the Pinero novel that made this year’s Booker list. As it had a similar feel to the character of a person in pain and with. A lot in their life. This collection uses the usual hooks in Horror fiction, strange places, haunted feeling houses, and people on the edge. But I think what She does so well is making the normal everyday humdrum characters. Seem just enough off-kilter and odd to be believed and not over the top. I love the cover art for this book. We have to ask ourselves will this make the longlist again , I think it may do the only reason it may not is if they want to give other writers a chance to make the longlist. Have you read any of her books?

Winstons score – +A Finally loved one of her books.

 

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Blue Jewellery by Katharina Winkler

Blue Jewellery by Katharina Winkler

Austrian fiction

Original title – blauschmuck

Translator – Laura Wagner

Source – Personal copy

It is that time of year again when it is German Lit month and this is the first book I read this year it is. I choose one of the books from Seagull books. This one is by the  Austrian writer Katharina Winkler this was her debut novel and won a number of prizes when it came out and has been translated into a number of languages.I picked it as my first read as it is based on a true story but is also one of those stories that need to be repeated it is a universal subject of abuse no matter where it is the result is the same as in the book. She has since published another novel.

I have to cut the wedding cake, and after that they will lead me to the bedroom. I stare at the icing on the cake and the white rose made from marzipan, the music stops and finally Yunus is standing beside me, and Yunus’ mother, who is now my mother, places a knife in Yunus’ hand and my hand on top of Yunus’ hand, and together we cut ourselves towards my virgin. Dessert plates with cake and marzipan roses on them are drifting all across the room, hands that end in people are stuck to their underside. Men, women and children with laughing mouths, who take their parties as they come, and who don’t mind my virgin. A plate is pushed into my hands.

The start of Filiz Horrors begins not long after her wedding day

The book is based on the true story of a Kurdish woman and the inner life of her marriage. The two meet in their early teens Filiz is swayed by the beauty of Yunus. The pair marry against her family, but the sense is this can lead them to freedom from the small village in the Anatolia mountains and head to the west. The book sees the young Yunus see other women with what she calls Blue Jewellery is hidden away. The marriage soon takes a turn as FILIZ s sees the true nature of Yunus when he starts to abuse and attack he giving her her own Blue Jewellery this cycle continues as the pair dream of leaving but each time she is attacked she becomes more to his beatings and hiding the marks of it as they have children. Yunus becomes closed to the world of their home veiled and at the mercy of Yunus and her world shrinks around her.  They do eventually head to Austria via Istanbul with their young family Will fillip and her children Halil, Selin and Seda escape? what will happen? How far will the cycle of violence go?

When the girls from the Neighbourhood come and the giggles flow into the courtyard, I cannot remain a silent shadow. The giggles reach up  to my knee, and my heart beats.

I am a child , wife that I am

I join the giggles and hug the girls, and I laugh and show my open mouth.

Younus is beating me

He has to beat the child out of my bones

The girl put of my guts

He has to beat the wife into my bones

These lines so haunted me when I read them

What this captured so well is how often Abuse can be viewed as normal and how can a young girl’s life change so quickly at one point she said he beat the girl out of me and the wife into me struck me as so sad this is what she had as a marriage and accepted it. The start of the book almost made the abuse seem part of everyday life. I was reminded of some of the scenes in. Call the midwife this is a society caught out of time where the male role and role model have been skewed. The fact this is based on a real story is even more horrifying. As I said this is a universal story though it isn’t just a Kurdish story abuse happens everywhere and that is the important side of the story to highlight to make sure people know it’s wrong.The book has a sparse poetic nature to it. So if you like stories of village life a marriage doomed and a tough woman at the heart of it this should appeal to you as a reader if you like books like this.

Winston’s score – A – I wish I had read this last year a powerful insight into an abusive marriage

Walking in Berlin by Franz Hessel

Walking in Berlin by Franz Hessel

German Non-fiction

Original title – Spazieren in Berlin

Translator – Amanda DeMarco

Source – personal copy

I managed to just squeeze the third read in for this week’s 1929 club and it was one I saw on the list of books when the year was announced earlier this year and was reminded about it I had seen it when it came out and had intended to look at it then but it had passed me by. So to get back to it Franz Hessel he was a friend of the great Walter Benjamin who has an essay at the start of the book about the book. He calls how Hessel a flaneur should look t the city afresh. The city of his birth with fresh eyes. Hessel himself with Benjamin had translated the works of Proust into German.

In the half-light of tinted lamps hanging in a number of smaller halls and rooms in the north as well as the west, same-sex couples circulate, here the girls and there the lads. Sometimes the girls are dressed, in a more or less pleasant manner, as men, and the lads as ladies. Over time their appetites, once a bold protest against the dominant moral laws, have become a rather harmless pleasure, and visitors who like to dance with the opposite sex are also allowed into these mellow orgies. They find a particularly favourable environment here. The men learn new nuances in tenderness from the female cavaliers, their partners learn from the masculine ladies, and your own “straight”-ness becomes a peculiar stroke of luck, as it makes you seem rather exotic. Oh, and the light fixtures are positively magnificent: wooden or metal lanterns with serrated frames, reminiscent of the fretwork of our boyhood.

I was reminded of cabaret her and imagine Isherwood sitting in his Berlin

I loved the idea of this book as I had just rewatched the two films Tilda Swinton had made more than 20 years apart, in fact, they could be seen as a cousin of these the first was just at the cusp of the wall falling and the second is the unified Berlin. She covers the same route on a bike across Berlin many points on her route  Hessel visited in his book. t Hessel had walked his Berlin in the late twenties what I first got from the book is that he had a way of looking but not jading the times one passage in the book really grabbed me about girls looking like boys and boys looking like Girls those characters that had fallen out of Cabaret or an Isherwood novel of the time. He captures a city that has underneath the horror that happened in the 15 years after he walk the city. meandering the city that would a few years later be gone. The longest piece is on a tour called the tour of the churches like St Peters etc. Also the old Royal buildings of Berlin, and the National Gallery. This is a flaneur a wander of the city this metropolis his fellow citizens. Then the Zoo places like the Newspaper district a place I wonder is dead like Fleet Street its London counterpart.

Excursioners in light-colored skirts and shift dresses climb the steps leading up to the station. Those lucky things, enjoying such a nice autumn day. Some also go through the narrow entrance to the little Wannsee train station. What I’d really like to do is follow them. A sail. boat, or even just a paddleboat.1 Potsdam and the Havel. see, the secret soul of Berlin, otherworldly places here on earth! And today a weekday. But now we’re arriving at Potsdamer Platz. The first thing to say about it is that it isn’t really a plaza at all, but rather what they call a carrefour in Paris, a crossroads, an intersection; we don’t really have the right word for it in German. That Berlin once came to an end at the city gate here, with country roads branching off from it–you’d have to have a well-informed eye to recognize that from the shape of the inter-section.

Part of the longest section of the book the Tour which remind me of Bois as Homer as he walked down Potsdamer Platz

Another image that came to mind when I read this was of Homer played by Curt Bois in Wings of desire (I so want the blu ray box set of Wenders going out soon but it is out of my price range I’ll have to wait). Bois’s character is seeking what was Potsdamer Platz in the rubble of the city in the late 80s. Bois walk also has old film of Potsdamer back in the day (Hessel is by Potsdamer in the section Fashion around Fashion houses and shops in the city and also the tor section). It’s a Shame Hessel died in the early years of the war in France a follow-up to this would be great like Swinton and my own remembrance of the city I have only been for a day and wish I could go back to Berlin it is a city that has had so many changes in the nearly hundred years since this book came out. This book is a forerunner of Psychogeography a distant cousin of Benjamins Opus to Paris Arcades (I have been reading this on and off for years ). Have you read this or any other great flaneur works of people wandering cities on foot and just taking it in like it was new and fresh to the writer’s eyes.

Winston’s score – A- a gem from this week’s 1929 club reminds me of a place I’d love to go and explore more and each for his ghosts and the ghost of what happened.

Some Prefer Nettles by Junchirō Tanizaki

Some Prefer Nettles by Junchirō Tanizaki

Japanese fiction

Original title – 蓼喰う蟲 – Tade kuu mushi

Translator – Edward G. Seidensticker

Source – personal copy

I’m back and the strange thing is I had covid last week so the break was a good idea as I wouldn’t have blogged last week it also means I’m probably only going review two books for this weeks 1929 Club but here I am with the first book for this week and it is a book from Japan. I always get the list of books published on the year for the club and try and find the ones in translation first that I may like to review. This title jumped out at me as I had featured a later book by Tanizaki in the 1956 edition of the club. Tanizaki is one of the best regarded and considered one of the founding figures of Modern Japanese fiction in the 20th century as his books follow both the working of the family and the changing times around him.

‘YOU THINK YOU might go, then?’ Misako asked several times during the morning.

Kaname as usual was evasive, however, and Misako found it impossible to make up her own mind. The morning passed.

At about one o’clock she took a bath and dressed, and, ready for either eventuality, sat down inquiringly beside her husband. He said nothing. The morning newspaper was still spread open in front of him.

‘Anyway, your bath is ready?

Oh.’ Kaname lay sprawled on a couple of cushions, his chin in his hand. He pulled his head a little to the side as he caught a suggestion of Misako’s perfume. Careful not to meet her eyes, he glanced at her – more accurately he glanced at her clothes – in an effort to catch some hint of a purpose that might make his decision for him. Unfortunately, he had not been paying much attention to her clothes lately. He knew vaguely that she gave a great deal of attention to them and was always buying something new, but he was never consulted and never knew what she had bought. He could make out nothing more revealing than the figure of an attractive and stylish matron dressed to go out.

the opening of the book we see the problem at the heart of the marriage.

This is described as his most personal book it focuses on the collapse of a marriage as we see what has caused the breakup. The couple Kaname and Misako are trying to navigate splitting up even on the first page there is a sense of distance when Kaname says he hadn’t noticed what Mistake had been wearing lately. He also early on laments the potential loss of his father I law which he feels he may miss more than his wife. He let his wife take a lover. The father-in-law is a very traditional man even his wife is like a doll ( in a very traditional dress and style even down to blacken teeth) This is part of the pull of the book is how the traditional world of Japan is disappearing as the book shows these two views modern western ideas versus tradition. The father-in-law is in the traditional world he loves traditional puppet theatre. The juxtaposed problems and themes in the book are how women are viewed and how the modern Misako maybe just wants her lover and not marriage and her son, as unlike her father’s view of a woman. It follows what happens when neither person in the marriage is brave or strong enough to say not is over. which creates a sense of inertia and causes tension also the fact they have a young son the status quo isn’t ideal as you sense the simmering tension but lack of wanting to end this marriage.

The images of the dolls, Koharu and O-san, were still vivid in Kaname’s mind. He was on edge, however, lest the old man begins his discourse on the serpent, the demon in a wife’s breast, and he found it difficult to stay politely through the lunch.

The doll as the object is part of the values and image of a woman dealt with in the book

I have reviewed three other books by Junichirō Tanizaki over the years it is hard to describe I am a fan but not a fan his books are slow-moving art times and aren’t the quickest to read but then the themes he deals with the clash of cultures the traditional world and modern world is something that I have always loved in fiction.I was reminded of those great books from Africa that followed a similar theme or even Pyre I reviewed recently that had marriage and traditional values at their heart. He is very good at the inside views of marriages. the inner workings of families. The things pulling at this couple from every side but also why divorce is really needed to solve the problems we see in this couple. I like way he describes how cultures clashes. Have you read any books from Him, what books have you chosen for this week’s 1929 club?

The Dry Heart By Natalia Ginzburg

The dry heart by Natalia Ginzburg

Italian fiction

Original title – È stato così

Translator – Frances Frenaye

Source – personal copy

I mentioned on Twitter I was struggling to finish and concentrate on reading books recently. So I decided when I was in Macclesfield the other day to look for a short novella that was from a writer I have enjoyed before as maybe a way to kick start my reading as I hadn’t finished any book for more than a week. So when I saw this from the Italian writer Natalia Ginzburg which I’m sure I’ve seen this month around twitter of this book and others by her. she is one of those writers `I read and knew I would read everything I could get my hands on. Ginzburg, she worked for one of the best publishing houses in Italy. A publisher that had published the likes of Carlo and Primo  Levi, Cesare Pavese and Italo Calvino some of my favourite writers. Since she has been republished in the last few years she has had a revival and after reading this it is welcome to see people reading her.

‘TELL ME THE TRUTH, “I said.
What truth?’ he echoed. He was making a rapid sketch in his notebook and now he showed me what it was: a long, long train with a big cloud of black smoke swirling over it
and himself leaning out of a window to wave a handkerchief.I shot him between the eyes.

He had asked me to give him something hot in a thermos bottle to take with him on his trip. I went into the kitchen, made some tea, put milk and sugar in it, screwed the top on tight, and went back into his study. It was then that he showed me the sketch, and I took the revolver out
of his desk drawer and shot him between the eyes. But for a long time already I had known that sooner or later I should do something of the sort.

The opening is also the end in a way of the relationship

The Dry heart it is told from the perspective of a wife. The book opens as she shoots him between the eyes as she puts it what follows is a sort of remembered version of their time together of her meeting and falling in love with Alberto. She met him one day in the cafe but from the first, there is a sense the relationship is one-sided he asks her about her but when she tries to discover. more about him he is evasive about his life.The two form a bond she likes his interest in what she sees as her boring life as a teacher. They get close but he is always at at a neutral place like cafes or by the river. But then it isn’t til something happens to his mother that she finally gets a glimpse behind Alberto’s facade when he greets her in a dishevelled state. This maybe makes them see him as more human. But she still senses there is a real sense of two souls that shouldn’t be together coming together. Ginzburg draws you into this relationship and how it started and then fell apart from the perspective of some caught in the car crash of a relationship told in a way it is subtly explained and drawn in

BEFORE WE WERE MARRIED, when we went for a walk or sat in a café, Alberto enjoyed my company even if he wasn’t in love with me. He went out of his way to call on me; yes, even if it was raining he never failed to come. He sketched my face in his notebook and listened to what I had to say.

But after we were married he didn’t sketch my face any more. He drew animals and trains, and when I asked him whether trains meant that he wanted to go away he only laughed and said no.

The changes after they marry are the start of the relationship crashing

As I said I wanted a writer that I had enjoyed and this was the case with Ginzburg I had read the little virtues I had thought it was only a couple of years ago it turns out it was four years ago at the time I knew I want to read another from her but hadn’t thought it be so long anyway this is a book that even thou written in 1947 shows the power of great writing as it feels as thou it was written yesterday. it shows the dynamics of relationships are the same. The narrator tells the relationship in a fragmented nature we see how she ends up at the end which is also the beginning of the book shooting Alberto. It shows how a relationship is built bit by bit but like if you build a house on the sand the house is never stable and won’t ever last and this is the case here you read between the lines of the relationship growing there are gaps which we see in this relationship as they get drawn together but even the narrator sees this herself but is in denial or maybe just wants to ignore the faults she sees this is maybe what I like most about the book the sense of human nature in it how blindly we move at times through the world especially those nears to use we sometimes miss the faults and Alberto is a man that has many. it6s the fly on the wall that looks at a relationship from the female perspective that even 75 years later sounds familiar. Have you read any books by Ginzburg if so which should I try next?

Winstons score – a – it is amazing how it is still relevant and reads as thou not was written yesterday.

Moderato Cantabile by Marguerite Duras

Moderato Cantabile by Marguerite Duras

French fiction

Origin title – Moderato Cantabile

Translator – Richard Seaver

Source – personal copy

I picked this up earlier this year with Woman in translation month in mind and it is strange as the book I reviewed yesterday had slight echoes to Duras Lovers as it is set in Vietnam and had a man from Vietnam of Chinese descent at its heart.(I have reviewed lovers a long time ago and another from her a few years ago). So this is my third book from Duras and this is the earliest book from her. I have read the one that put her in the spotlight as a writer when it came out and sold half a million copies. Duras was born in Vietnam or as it was then French Indo-china she lived there most of her early life eventually studying in Paris and living in France during the war where her husband end up a t Buchenwald she nurse him back to life after the war she was part of the Nouveau Roman moment this book was made into a film.

The growing clamor of voices of both sexes rose from the dock. Everyone seemed to be saying the
same thing, but it was impossible to distinguish the words. The sonatina went innocently along, but this time, in the middle of it, the lady could take no more.
“Stop.”
The child stopped. The lady turned to Anne Des-baresdes. “I’m sure something serious has happened.” They all went to the window. To their left, some twenty yards from the building, a crowd had already gathered on the dock in front of the café door. From the neighbouring streets people were running up to join the crowd. Everyone was looking into the café.
“I’m afraid this part of town.” the lady said. She turned and took the boy’s arm.”Start again,one last time, where you left off.”
“What’s happened?”

The event happened during the Child’s lesson.

The book follows Anna she is the wife of a factory owner the book opens as she is at a piano lesson hence the title of the book when the piano teacher asks her child what Moderato Cantabile means`( he is referred to as just the child) as the lesson happens the attention is drawn outside the lesson to a cafe just by them it seems as they something is happening as they stare on the cafe the police come. It turns out there has a murder opposite a lover has killed the woman he was in love with. Well Anna is drawn in so next time she goes she visited the cafe where she saw the action last piano lesson what follows is her revisit the cafe where she meets a worker from her Husband’s business and pumps him for info of what had happened her imaging why it happened the day it happened as he Chauvin fills in the gaps of what happened. As the two are in the cafe on a Friday as the child has lessons. she starts to see this new man in her child at points saying he has similar eyes. This meeting is repeated this describes their lives this is a book where nothing but everything happens if that makes sense most of the book is about the same meeting at the cafe over a number of weeks.

The patronne picked up her red sweater, and didn’t answer. Another tugboat, loaded to the gunwales, entered the port. The child shouted something unintelligible. The man came over to Anne Desbaresdes. “Won’t you sit down?” he said. She followed him without a word. As she knitted,
the patronne followed the tugboat’s every manoeuvre. It was obvious that in her opinion things were taking an unfortunate turn.The patronne picked up her red sweater, and didn’t answer. Another tugboat, loaded to the gunwales, entered the port. The child shouted something unin-
telligible. The man came over to Anne Desbaresdes.
“Won’t you sit down?” he said.
She followed him without a word. As she knitted, the patronne followed the tugboat’s every manoeuvre. It was obvious that in her opinion things were taking
an unfortunate turn.

Red is a recurring motif in the book.

This is one pop those books that subtly hits you as a reader it is about the memory of a place in a way I can see this influence on other French writers including one of my favourites Modiano it is a book heavy on the sense of place. But with a lot of imagination to events by them both that for me in a way mirrors British books around this time I think the relationship between Anna and Chauvin is similar to those of certain books like Billy liar the relationship between Billy and Liz the way the real and imagined events blend or ike in a taste of honey where imagination and reality clash. It is a connection between class also that feeling of her as a repressed wife meeting this rougher man and making a connection. The book is as short as Peirene would call a movie book a book read in a couple of hours falls into that category. It was made into a film but it isn’t online to stream I hope to catch it one day as it is meant to be a French classic film. This is my favourite of the three I have read as it is one of those books that you think is easy but then days later are still making connections and going oh there was this and that there in this book. Have you read this or any books by her ? have you a favourite?

Chinatown by Thuan

Chinatown by Thuan

Vietnamese fiction

Original title – Chinatown

Translator – Nguyễn An Lý

Source – subscription edition

I now move to a book from Vietnam that in some ways seems to mirror part of the own writer’s life. She grew up in North Vietnam where she grew up with a love of Vietnamese literature and the greats of French literature like Balzac, Hugo and Flaubert. Then she got the chance to study in Russia which expand her reading more. Then lead to her moving to France to live Paris. This is the latest from my Tilted axis subscription and as they did so well last year in the booker international prize I decided this year `I would get to the books when they arrived and this was a perch choice for this month as it is from a female writer from Vietnam and also it is the first book from Vietnam I will have reviewed on the blog.

During my ten years at school, I came to understand that the pig brains for which my father queued from morning till afternoon were not a reward for my ten in literature, but to guarantee that I
would bring home another ten, in history or military exercises. That was why his pig brains needed no dill, pepper, or MSG, and no attempt to enliven their presentation. Even now I can still see
them, aluminum bowls in the steaming rice pot, and taste the metallic tang of blood which no amount of salt could mask, and which I always had to down in one gulp. I didn’t care for steamed
pig brains, I had no disease to be cured by them, but every other day I closed my eyes and my nostrils and downed them in one, because they were most nutritious, especially for the brain, and
most of all for a child’s. It was my duty to turn catjang soup and steamed pig brains into tens and praise

This is an evocative passage that caught me when I was reading.

The book has a framing device and that is the narrator is waiting on a platform on the metro for a train when a package is discovered and the police are coming to have a look at what it is. Our narrator is caught in her thoughts and this takes us through her life from her early years in Vietnam but then we see how she met the man she would marry Thuy a Chinese man from Vietnam this is set as there is a war between the two countries and she meets him in class this leads to trouble;e with her family the book isn’t linear more it is wonderfully evocative as it seems like how we would remember love or the way you look back on a past love that one Thuy reminds me of an earlier girlfriend I had for a number of years and lived with that first big love and that when I look back event aren’t in a linear narrative more it jumps at times and her it is similar we see how they meet then spend time apart. but then meet and married and it showed how hard this was at the time in Vietnam which it is the 80s there is a huge Chinese feeling in the country and this is one of the things that highlights the deep divide in the two cultures at the time as the two falls in love and the knock out effect on the tow na their families then we find her later in France and how she andThuy drifted apart and eventually she hadn’t seen him in years. Add to this is her studying in the Soviet Union at this time and then moving to France this is a globetrotting book.

 

my Sino-Vietnamese wedding that actually took place, they opted not to attend. Neither did Thuy’s parents. The day went by in a flurry. The only guests were my few friends from
Leningrad. They came with their children. Their children born in the USSR, who’d had just a taste of butter and milk before boarding the plane to the homeland. The wedding was their first time
meeting Thuy. They asked me in Russian, so this is your architect beau. He didn’t understand. He just smiled awkwardly. He stood there embarrassed. Then they asked him, in Vietnamese, where are
you working, which office, which department. This time he was even more embarrassed. His smile grew fixed.

Another about getting married.

Thuran is a translator and a huge fan of French literature and I can see part of some of my favourite writers for me it has a pick off Modiano (maybe cause been talking about him a bit recently ) there is a flip in the sex of the character usually it is a male character in his book looking back on memories here Madame Au is looking back on her love the bare bones of the story is similar to the writer’s life but she then said in an interview she hadn’t wanted to duo memoir this is deeper more mediative around love across a divide exile and looking back at times that love affair. I was reminded in a small way of the English patient the love affair in that novel se t against war and Ondaatje is another writer heavy on memory, love, war and division. The book is dense in it style but worth the effort and is a great book from a new writer. It has part of the new novel movement, Proust and a love story all in one. Have you a favourite book from Vietnam ?(I had a nam le on my shelves but want something translated as my first book from Vietnam ) . My third book of this month and the first new country for a while on the blog.

Winstons score – B is a solid book from a new voice her first book to be translated into English she has more so hopefully we will get more from her.

Thread ripper by Amalie Smith

Thread Ripper by Amalie Smith

Danish fiction

Original title – Thread ripper

Translator – Jennifer Russell

Source – personal copy

The last couple of years there has been books from the publisher Lolli editions on the Booker international longlist so I decided rather than wait I would get their latest and this is it. By Danish writer Amalie Smith, she is a graduate of the danish academy of creative writing. and has got a three-year grant to write. This is her second novel to be published in English. I have really enjoyed all the books in the last few years I have read from Denmark they always seem to take a fresh angle on writing styles. So when I read up on this apart from its eye-catching cover with a small picture of Ada Lovelace (someone who does feature in the book) it has a lot of narrative threads to the book. So will it be their book for Next year’s International Booker?

PART 1
THE WAVERING PENELOPE
While Odysseus is away on his long journey, Penelope weaves. Her loom, I imagine, stands by the window. On the road, outside stand her 108 suitors. Penelope leans out. ‘Suitors,’ she says, ‘let us make an agreement. I am weaving a burial shroud for my father-in-law, Laertes. Not until I have finished this shroud will I remarry.

The suitors accept and retreat from her window. Penelope continues her work at the loom. During the day, she stands by the window – weaving as agreed but at night she returns and unravels the days work.

The opening and we see Penelope waiting for her husband’s return and holding off suitors by needlework.

The book has a number of threads the main storyline follows a woman in the present that is working on a big commission to weave a tapestry. Then the narrative then rips apart as we get various threads of thought and as we go from Penelope wife of Odysseus as she is working on her tapestry waiting for the return of Odysseus we are never told what she was working on her loom. it also looks at computers using Ada Lovelace the mother of computing programming as a sort of thread to tie it to. Threads like the moth that originated the term Computer bug which in the late forties was an actual bug, not a programming bug like now but an actual moth. The term had been used earlier but this was the use that came to be used in modern-day stems. Then it threads around invasive plant species like a Japanese bamboo All these treads like the main character working her complex tapestry weave into a work that is unique work.

I select a combination of wool, silk and acrylic fibres in ten colours and, by programming a variety of
satin weaves on the loom, the colours are mixed to create 42 different shades that appear in a gradient at the bottom of each woven swatch. The fibres are dyed using plants and chemicals I’m not familiar with. We continuously adjust the colour scale, either by switching out the fibres or altering the weaves on the computer.

Neural networks see with the eyes of the paranoiac: there are faces concealed in flowers and flowers in faces. Everything is a sign. Space and scale collapse.
Details come flooding in the nuances, in the gradual
transitions.

The loom’s algorithms, on the other hand, are never in doubt: the weft goes either over or under the
warp, never through. How to transfer the images generated by the neural network to the loom?

In the present the complex nature of her commission is shown here.

As I have come to expect this is a complex and compelling work from Lolli edition the books that have made the booker prize the last couple of years have been the ones on the list that have challenged me most as a reader and this is a perfect example it hard not to compare it the tapestry that forms the main character in a way in the book as the threads from programming a complex tapestry in the present to Penelope working and weaving a. shroud as suitors await as she waited Odysseus return. Then the thread around computers Lovelace a female history of computing I love this as I knew about Lovelace but some of the other historic events like the origin of the term Computer bug I wasn’t aware of how the term had come about. This is a fragmented work that weaves a line through tapestry and computing the automation of weaving and how women have been involved over time. I hope this makes next year’s booker as it is a unique work one I won’t forget quickly and will be rereading as it grabbed me so much the first time around. Have you a favourite book from Lolli edtions? Have you a favourite book from Denmark?

Winston’s score – +A is an unusual book mixing the past and present and history.

Mona by Pola Oloixarao

Mona by Pola Oloixarac

Argentine fiction

Original title -Mona

Translator – Adam Morris

Source – Personal copy

So I start this year’s Woman in translation month with a talented Latin American writer. That I have also been featured on this blog before on the blog. when I reviewed Dark constellations by Pola Oloixarac a couple of years ago. She was one of the hugely talented writers that were picked in the Granta list of young Spanish writers in 2010 (is it that long ago, so many great writers have come from that list. This is the third novel she has also written for the New York Times and Rolling stone in the past. Last year she won a writers award at the Hay festival. This satire on being a writer but also an insight into the Lit world in its way as we follow Mona as she heads to Sweden to see if she has won a prize. She is also a female writer of colour so she is something of a novelty at times when she arrives in a small village in Sweden.

TWO hundred thousand euros, thirteen finalists, one winner. Hailing from all four corners of the earth, the finalists convened for the Great Meeting: Sweden’s most prestigious literary festival, held to commemorate the legacy of Edmond Virgil Basske-Wortz, Alfred Nobel’s best friend. And if she won? She’d ditch Stanford for good and make straight for the jungle, penetrating deep into
the forest until she lost herself in the wetlands of the Brazilian Pantanal. If you moved to the Pantanal, you could survive on a hundred dollars a year and then use the rest of the money
treating all the infections and diseases you’d contract. You could easily spend the remainder of your life in the jungle–because you wouldn’t last long! Great idea! Silenced on her phone, Antonio’s voice prattled on in her head. Airplane mode was ideal for guys like him, the ones who felt the need to comment incessantly on her life.

The prize as she heads on the plane to see if she wins.

I said this has a twin storyline(it is more looking back at why she has certain marks on her body) it has in the fact that along the way events in Mona’s life are mentioned, we meet her as she like me prepares for a flight (I am not a fan of flying I don’t drink of taking drugs but can connect with how you may want too) she sits by the window. But hey has she a newish Peruvian writer been put up for this prestigious writing prize in Sweden the most important writers prize? The Basske-worth prize is somewhere between the booker and Nobel and she is heading to see if she has won. Where when she arrives she mixes with the other writers that are up for the prize. I did wonder whom she had based these characters on, I think most successful writers go around the world meeting fellow writers and I imagine this has a little of some of the people she had met over time. They are mainly mentioned as where they come from. alongside this, we have Mona looking at herself and some off the marks we see on her body and the violence connected with them. Also, Mona is a woman that likes sex from masturbating on the plane to cam sex and other things that litter the book.

That night, Mona dreamed of a black body of water ascending from the lake, carrying with it a silent cargo of dead animals drowned by the tide. The dark liquid entered through the keyhole and took her by surprise in bed as it spread across the floor. The chair clattered against the desk,knocked into it by the current. The windows were open. Something was watching her from outside, panting. Better not to scream, she thought, or the hungry beast prowling around out there will come in and find me. She woke up shaking, drenched in sweat.

A wonderful description of a nightmare that Mona had

The book is an insight into the fickle world of books and how it is sometimes who you are more than what you write that makes the judges pick you. Mona is an example of this world. But as we follow here down the rabbit hole of being involved in a prize and the writers there. I love to know which writers she has based the cast of characters we meet in the book ( who are they in real life), I laughed as some who have been to a few prize ceremonies over the years weren’t like this was Wirth the backstabbing but it is interesting meeting writers in a more social setting like the old IFFP  were I could share a cigarette( shows you how long ago it was I haven’t smoked for a number of years) with a number of writers that were up for the prize it was great meeting writers like this in a relaxed event. But for a big prize like this one, it must be hard I look at the old booker videos and wonder if the writers are more competitive. Also the loneliness of being a writer. Also, the very go round of ego and prizes. This is a book that is different to the other book by her I had read by her which shows she is a writer that is developing I will be reading her next book for sure. Have you read her?

Winstons score – A – lifting the veil on literary prizes alongside sex and violence from the main character.

July round up and next months plans

  1. 12 birds to save your life by Charlie Corbett
  2. The Heeding by Rob Cowen
  3. Still born by Guadalupe Nettel
  4. The instant by Amy Liptrot
  5. Space invaders by Nona Fernández
  6. The shape of Bones by Daniel Galera
  7. Empty words by Mario Levrero

This month start with how birds saw someone deal with grief and loss and how they can inspire a writer at the hardest of times. Then a collection of poems written during the lockdown that so how nature shone through during that time. Then two woman go there ways with their decisions to have or not have children with a book that questions why  ? Then we have a writer moving to Berlin from Orkney and seeing the beauty of nature in the everyday and also trying to find love at the same time as she rebuilds her life. Then classmates grow as one of their class is the daughter of a high official in the Regime we see how they get over the years. Then a man goes through his old neighbourhood and his past and present start to join together. Then a man struggles to write so he starts a daily writing exercise as we see the results. This month saw me fall back onto translations near the end of the month a few weeks away and I was ready to go back to the usual diet of this blog I will still be reading a few nature books as I do love them so much.I didn’t get to my Spanish lit month books but did manage four other books for the month.

Book of the month

Still born was the book that I connected with a lot this month that tale of these two women lives I just got drawn into. That said for me  it was a great months reading and although I read less than last month but I went away we had a heatwave which I worked nights through and the sleeping during the day meant I read nothing for a number of days.

Non – book events

We spent time in Northumberland on Holiday which saw Amanda and I finally get to `holy island  on a nice day. We loved it so much we are going back in a couple of months but we will be going to a few places in Scotland.I watched Only murders in the Building which is a clever comedy that takes a side swipe at true crime podcast. I manage to get an offer for to get Apple TV back so I watch theTom Hanks film finch which Amanda and I loved. I listen to the record store day collection of Patti smith that was compiled on two albums for record store day I have wanted to listen to more of her work since I read one of her books I had horse like most people do but hadn’t looked much further into her albums so this will be a great intro.The blog reviews also passed 1200 books under review

The month to come-

it is Woman in translation m month next month and I have decided to challenge myself as I worked out I had seven books read from woman writers in translation this year and also had a further 7 part read so I decided to try and review a book a day I may fail but I’m going to give it a good go. I was inspired by Simon from stuck in a book who did it the other m month posted 30 reviews in a month.I have no nights next month which usually mess with my reading and reviewing as I get a brain fog during my shifts and for the couple days after so I should’ve a good chance to review as many as I can.

What are you plans? any for woman in translation month?

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