The Tunnel by Ernesto Sabato

The Tunnel by Ernesto Sabato

Argentian fiction

Original title –El túnel

Translator – Margaret Sayers Peden

Source – personal copy

I was kindly sent this a few years ago by Annabelle of the blog Annabookbel here review is here . I had left this on my shelves to long Sabato is a writer I had wanted to try for a while, I ‘m always wanting to find older writers from the countries I have a lot of reviews for to add depth to the reviews so everything isn’t shiny and new and I could add depth. Sabato is a little like the well known English novelist as he was both a scientist and a writer the two cultures as Snow called them. He had a PHd in physics but at the same time he was talking in the evening to Surrealist writers and starting his own writing life. This was his debut novel and was considered a fine example of Existentialism at the time it was written has got good reviews from Camus.

In the annual spring art show I had exhibited a painting entitled Motherhood. It was painted in the style typical of many of my earlier works: as the critics say in their unbearable jargon, it was solid, soundly architectural. In short, it has all the qualties those charlatans always saw in my canvases, including a “profoundly cerbal je ne sais quoi.” In the upper left-hand corner of the canvas  was a remote cene framed in a tiny window : an empty beach and a solitary woman staring at the sea. She was starring into the distance as if expecting something, perhaps some faintand faraway summons. In my mind that scene suggested the most wistful and absolute loneliness.

The detail Maria saw in his painting Motherhood that lead him to follow her.

 

The book is the story of a Painter Juan Pablo Castel he is now writing his account of what lead him to Murder. The woman he killed Maria Irbane he became obsessed with. The story starts when he has an Exhibition and finds a woman looking closely at what is one of his favorite paintings “Motherhood” it’s not the fact she is looking at the picture but at one detail he put in the painting that he felt no one would notice but she had. So when she leaves the exhibition he decides on impulse to follow her. This leads him to meet her as he finds where she works and then engineers a meeting. But there is more to Maria than first meets his eye, he figured here for a single woman, in fact, he discovers her husband but also the fact she has kept her own surname and this sends Juan in a paranoid downward cycle. As the ideal image he had of this woman and the real person fall further apart he gets stuck in a tunnel that leads to the events that meant he had to kill her.

Again she stared at me as if studying me, but said nothing.She fixed her eyes on a distant tree

In Profile, she did not remind me of anything. Her face was beautiful, but there was something hard in her expression,Her hair was long and chestnut coloured. Physically, she seemed not much more than twenty-six, but there was something about her that suggest age, something reminicant of a person who had lived a long tim. Not a gray heir or any physical indication but something underfined, surely spiritual.It may have been her expression, but how physical can an expression be ?

Early on in the relationship he spots something not sure what but something in Maria.

This is a classic story of obsession one mans dream view of a woman is shattered. Juan Pablo Castel reminded me of a lot of character I have read in other books that seem stuck on a slippery slope. Blaugast the character fro the Leppin Novel that falls into a world of sex and depravity like Castel is on the path to disaster. Both the main characters in this book are people you wouldn’t like in real life Maria is never fully honest with Juan and is maybe in a perverse marriage. I also wonder if there is more to Catel story we may have clues like the detail in the picture of Motherhood. Had he mother issues and the detail was there to find someone like his mother as they would only notice that detail? There is a real sense of the clinical world Sabato was used to there is a clipped nature to the prose an observant feel to the prose more non-fiction at times than fiction.

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That was the month that was June 2018

  1. Soumchi by Amos Oz
  2. Blood of the dawn by Claudia Salazar Jimenez
  3. Smoking Kills by Antoine Laurain
  4. Ambiguous Adventure by Cheikh Hamidou Kane
  5. The Radiance of the King by Camara Laye
  6. The kites by Romain Gary
  7. Fleeting Snow by Pavel Vilikovsky
  8. King Stakh’s wild hunt by Uladzimir Karatkevich
Fleeting snow is the book of the month. I always like books that make you think after you have read them and also would consider rereading this title has both of them a journey into what is life and memory also who are we what is the meaning of our names in a way. The first Slovakian title from Istros book was a real joy as much of there books have been.
Next month
Looking forward I have a Columbian writer I have featured a number of times with what for me is his best book. The lost debut novel of a Portuguese great as the first couple of Spanish-Portuguese lit months books. I also have the 100th French title for the blog and a Baltic novel.
Non-book discoveries

Well the latest Album by Sons of bill came out a band I have been a fan of a  for a number of years. Oh and the world cup started, I have watched some games. But somehow I am still not as spirited as I have been previous years  Maybe as we move on England I may get the spirit somewhat. I have returned to work and am back on track being a bit more open and facing things that have happened. But back to the books looking forward to seeing what everyone chooses for Spanish Portuguese lit months.

Fleeting Snow by Pavel Vilikovsky

Fleeting Snow by Pavel Vilikovsky

Slovakian fiction

Original title – Letmý sneh

Translators – Julie and Peter Sherwood

Source – review copy

I now move over from France to Slovakia and the second book from there I have reviewed. Also, the first to be published by Istros press from there as they move a little further afield. They have chosen a writer considered the greatest living Slovak writer. He only wrote two books whilst communism was in control of the country. but since the regime change, he has written over a dozen books. This was his latest Novel to come out in Slovakian. He is also a leading translator of books from English into Slovak including great writers like Faulkner, Conrad, and Woolf. It is great to see more Slovakian fiction coming out.

1.B If, as the saying goes, every person is unique, their name ought to be unique too. Except that it doesn’t work like that. What is unique about say, Stefan Kovac, whose name is about as common as Stephen Smith is in english? In this country, no first name can ever be truly unique – the church and the clerks at the register office have seen to that – and if your surname happened to be Kovac the to boot, you’ve had it: you’ll end up being known as Kovac up the valley, or Kovac the shepherd. Slovak is a garrulous language, we don’t mind throwngin an extra word here and there, but even with additional piece of information, does a name convey anythingunique about a person?

the second part of the first story about how come the name is but also how they use extra wrds to identify a stefan Kovac who is ours ?

This is a book that has five interweaving stories at its heart. This is a fragmented book almost like a snowflake with the five points coming out. The first story is the tale of a man at the end of a long marriage that seems to be losing his mind early on we hear he is called Stefan Kovac but has now taken the name Cimborazka and is a self-declared Cimborazka. The second story tells us about a pair of step twins and talks about the soul. The third starts with an avalanche and the fourth story strand a scholar called Stefan, that has recently had a book about North American Indian languages in the US. This fourth links to the first story and where we have a talk about certain US place names that may have Native American origins. The fifth strand finds someone looking through old photos. The strands of the stories cross and the link they are about life, language particular Slovakian and old age. The loss of memory in old age. The snow is the metaphor in a way for so much in this book memories fade like snow old age leads to dementia which is like an avalanche that clears that top layer of one’s memories leaving what was under.  There is a sense of the fleeting nature of life art tines and what makes us as people who is Stefan Kovac a name we are told early on is as common in Slovakia as Stephen Smith is here.

1.J My real name is Cimborazka but I haven’t told ayone. What would be the point ? It would be the same changing your phone number: your friends will remember your new number but the will still use it to ring the same person as before, the same idea of a person. But I don’t want to receive letters addressed toDear Mr Cimborazka, which would be like addresssing a different person each time. Cimborazka is a clean blank sheeet; a reminder that I am a person – not an entity, just a being, albeit a human one. And that every human possibility is therefore still open to me each and everytime. It is a silent, secret challenge to honour my name

What is a name like the first quote another on identity as Kovacs becomes Cimborazka or does he .

This is a meandering book about the nature of life in a way questioned in many ways. Language and how it is used the short passages that make this book up reminded me of the little snippets in books like The book of Disquiet or Zibaldone thou this has more narrative and a central figure that of Stefan Kovac is he the same person, or a step twin or just another character. As in the end all the strands end in one final passage as a couple talk about how many words are in Slovakian and then as they wander on to find a disk on the ground showing distance to place and maybe placing them back in their world with a thrown word over the fact that Vienna is only 57 kilometers away. This is a writer in his old age trying to write a series of themes that must have been important to him in his life like Slovakian for a translator which is a language he mentions for how many more words there are in it. What we are what he has written about what lies after the writer’s life is gone or like the snow what remains when it has melted just the memory of it.

Daša Drndić, At true great of European fiction has passed.

The pic is of Dasa when I meet her the day at the IFFp in 2013 when her first book to be translated into English. Trieste had been shortlisted for the prize. I had a good half hour chat that evening with her. She told me about how the Italian edition of the book Trieste had a tear-out section of the list of names of Jewish people killed in Italy and the idea was that people could take out a name they knew and over time as the pages went like the losses of the people the book became unstable like the loss of all those voices on society. This is a perfect example of the power of her as a writer. I have reviewed the three books she has been translated into English they are Trieste, Leica Format and Belladonna. She also paid me the highest compliment in say she had read my blog, although I could do with an editor she said. She also commented a few times on the blog which for me was touching. Her books dealt with big subjects and showed the brutal heart of Europe a writer that needs to be read. I’m sorry to hear of her passing today and remember a warm summers day I meet her a number of years ago. Her words when her last book was up for the Croat book of the year sum her views up well.

We live in a very sick time, in a time that destroys spirit, thought, freedom, individuality, joy, beauty, knowledge, and love, and at the same time destroys ourselves. Just like a carcinogenic pancreas, whenever it eats the bodies surrounding it, it disappears alone. To those who write this topic to pretek. Within this globally collapsing, decaying world (the world), floats countless stories of small and large, known, unknown, for literature more than enough. After all, those who read (and increasingly reads a leafy, quick and easy digestive book with enough additives to absorb the original flavor of ‘material’) are at least at times privy to their voyeur passion, a foolish fool, in English called the ‘pacifier’. So the everyday life remains cloudy, and the imaginative readers are unaware of their existential limbo.(a google translation but gets the spirit of her words)

 

Not to read by Alejandro Zambra

Not to read by Alejandro Zambra

Chilean essays

Original title  – No Leer

Translator – Megan McDowell

Source – personal copy

I was talking last week on twitter on #Translationthurs about what books people are reading. Jeff a fellow translation fan said he was in the middle of this book the latest by Zambra to be translated into English and also the first non-fiction to be translated into English.I have reviewed his novel ways of going home and his short story collection My documents. Which like this collection came out on Fitzcarraldo editions. I loved his short story collection so was looking forward to this as it was a collection of short essays.

The Mexican Josefina Vicens preferred the slippery simplicity of natrual phrases, even if she had to spend years searching for them. In one of the few interviews she granted. She tells of that time Julio Rulfo asked her why she was taking so long to publish another novel. The joke made sense, since in the end of Vicen’s oeuvre turned out to be even smaller than Rulfo’s: her two novels were recently published together in a volume that could fit in a shirt pocket.

Her most well known work El libro Vacio (the empty book), from 1958 which took eight years to write and which depicts the process of a man fighting against a blank page

A novel about writers block , I hope this books gets reissued at some point.

This is a collection of short piece where we discover what drives Zambra as a reader. From the first piece Obligatory reading about those books that we tackle in school. He talks about what he feels of the choice of Madame Bovary, where he learns for the first time movie adaptions can be a little liberal with the story. Then we have a piece about the great Argentina writer Julio Cortazar. He talks about how good the writer is and how he is a fond memory from school. The essays are like discovering little gems,  as the essays go on we see times he read photocopies of great books passed around when he was studying. He  mentions writer after writer, people like Josefina Vicens  and Nicanor Parra the first a great Mexican writer, I looked up but only one book translated and it wasn’t available at a sensible price then we have the great Chilean poet Parra who passed earlier this year, a number of his poems can be found online he is was called the alpha male of Chilean letters. Later he visits the hometown of Cesare Pavese, now one of his books is due out this summer from Penguin and Peter Owen have also published a number. Zambra talks about how he was searching for the settings of the books as he wandered around where he lived.

Only now do I fully take in the landscape. A tranquil green lingers in the eyes and it seems I can take everything in with just one long look: te valley , the hill. the church, the ruins of a medieval tower. I search for the setting of the moon and the bonfire . I adjust the image to position the Belbo river and the road to Caneli, which is the novels vanishing point, the corner where the worlds begin.

Zambra visiting the home town of Pavase and trying to find the setting for one of his great novels.

This is just a small glimpse at the writers mentioned in the book. As with his novels and short stories, Zambra is the master of the small. He is almost like a Bonsai master his piece are so neatly trimmed that they are almost like a gallery of his trees the root of his writing is that of him as a reader for to be a great writer one must also be a great reader. Here we see those roots of him as a reader but also why he reads this book over another book a sort of system of choice he makes. Also what he finds in writers from the Julio Riberyio a fellow Chilean, who is very shy or as he say when Mario Vargas Llosa called him “the shyest man he has ever met ” and that from the least shy writer from Peru as Zambra puts it. A great collection and a wonderful journey with a reader around the world lit and in particular Latin American fiction, I have added a few writers to my list of writers to read

Death in Spring by Mercè Rodoreda

Death in Spring by  Mercè Rodoreda

Spanish Catalan fiction

Original title –  La mort i la primavera

Translator – Martha Tennet

Source – personnel copy

Well, I read the first of my post-holiday reads in a day. This book came out a few years ago in the US and earlier this year here as part of a new penguin series into European voices. Merce Rodoreda was considered one of the leading novelist of her time. her novel The time of the doves has been considered the greatest Catalan novel. She lived most of her life in Exile in France and Switzerland away from the Franco regime only returning later on in her life to Spain towards the end of the Franco years.

I craned my head out of the water. The light was stronger now, and I swam slowly, wanting to take my time before leaving the river. The water embraced me. It would have seized ,e if I had let it , and – pushed forward and sucked under- I would have ended up in the place where nothing is comprehended.Reeds grew in the river; the current bent them, and they let themselves be rocked by the water that was carrying the force of the sky, earth and smow.

The opening lines have that feel of nature cling to the people of the village .

Now I said this was a novella I wanted to read as I saw it as a male version of the book Stones in a landslide.Which was one of my favourite novels of all time. But this is a very different coming of age novel. This is a visceral novel of a boy becoming a man in a remote village that still clings to the past. There is like the scenery around the book vines and forest of death as it is called there is a sense of a world. Being caught out of time and maybe for our narrator, there is no way out of it. Nature captures people, like the dead body in the river. returned to the river.The bridges that never seem to be used a dense forest give the Narrators world a closed in feel. The other characters his father dying, his stepmother the Blacksmith and his odd son all give this a sense of the beauty and horror of nature. A boy becomes a man in a strange world a wonderful narrated world of mountain villages.

When they pulled the boy from the river, he was dead, the returned him to the river. Those who died in the water were returned to the water. The river carried them away and nothing was ever known of them again.But at night, at the spot where the bodies were thrown into the water, a shadow could be seen.Not every night. Not today or tomorrow, but on certain nights a shadow trembled,They said the shadow of the dead returned to the place where the man was born.They said that to die was to merge with the shadow.

I was so remind of Marquez with this lines and the river which in his books is a powerful prescense as well.

This is a novella that like many great shorter books seems much more than its parts. It is full of descriptions of the world around them at times this is maybe a metaphor for how Franco strangled the country. There is also for me an echo of the works of Marquez the village her is a Spanish cousin of Marquez’s Macondo village. The same sense of a place cling to its customs and superstitions of the outside world this is a world the character is trapped in like those vines and even if he escapes there is moss to slip on, bridges to cross and rivers to survive. Hope is always there but like a dim light in the valley below the village.

Holiday books a Mexican death and some great new books

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, I failed in reading Middlemarch, I didn’t actually read much on this holiday as I wanted to spend time with Amanda my in-laws and their foster baby who bless her she is only nine months old. It was a joy to see her experience, so much for the first time. It was also the first time since our Honeymoon eleven years ago. Amanda and I had returned to Torquay. Unfortunately, the restaurant where we had our meal on honeymoon in. We had hoped to return but it had gone in the years in between Which was a shame. But we did manage to take a steam train ride and a tour of a replica of the golden hind.Lots of nice meals and I couldn’t resist a few books along the way. When I decide after fifty pages of Middlemarch this maybe wasn’t the holiday read for me.But here are my book buys

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Waterstones in Torquay was the first bookshop. I found these two from not a great selection of translation. Well for someone that read as much as me there is not many that I hadn’t read but there was a few Georges Simenon and this the latest Maigret was one that was most interesting as the great man is looking back on a case he may have got wrong. The I have read nearly all my current Modiano books. This is the one I next wanted as I know Frank the translator really wanted to translate this book. It is his first three novels all link by being set during the occupation of France or the effects of that on people.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then We visited Totnes and they have a great independent bookshop. In which I found these three gems. The day before happiness by Erri de Luca an orphan boy coming of age and his relationship with the guardian. It is also an ode the city of Naples where the book is set.Then I am really keen on this one Death in spring another coming of age novel of a teenage boy in the Catalan mountains. It reminded me of the great book Stones in the landslide which is also a coming of age tale. But a young woman in the Catalan mountains. Then A book by Arto Paasilinna, I loved his year of the Hare so hope this one is as interesting.It follows a man called Gunnar restoring a MIll in a small village but  Gunnar isn’t all he seems.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now I find an Oxfam shop hard to resist when I see one like the one in Totnes and here I found two old Penguin modern classic. Boris Pasternak’s Last summer came out long before Doctor Zhivago and heralds the last summer before world war on and the Russian revolution. Then a lesser know Faulkner work he is a writer I loved when younger but haven’t read for years and have been adding to my copies of his lesser known books. The Tove jansson this is her only novel and seems to have similar themes to her other adult books. The Noght wood a classic modernist novel that I have heard is quite a challenge to read. 

Then there was the sad news of the passing of Sergio Pitol. A writer who I have on my kindle after kindly been sent it by his Publisher Deep Vellum had passed so I felt as I had never got to this great man’s books. This trilogy is about his life and those writers he meets and what inspired him as a writer.I ordered these and they were here at home when I arrived home today off holiday.Also, I had three other books.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then I had these books at home Scenes from a childhood is a selection of Short stories from Jon Fosse the Norweigan writer is often cited as a future Nobel winner I reviewed him a few years ago Then Romain Gary last novel one of the great French writer and also a twice Goncourt winner the only one as he used an Alias to writer his other winner. Then last is The blind spot essay of fiction by Javier Cercas and the line between fact and fiction which is one his own books walk like a tightrope at times.

Happy Easter that was the month of March 2018

  1. The gold rimmed spectacles by Giorgio Bassani
  2. Carte Blanche by Carlo Lucarelli
  3. The dinner guest by Gabriela Ybarra
  4. Vernon Subutex by Virginie Despentes
  5. The white book by Han Kang
  6. Six Memos for the next millennium by Italo Calvino
  7. Die, my love by Ariana Harwicz

The White book by Han Kang

 

Image result for han kang white book cover

The White Book by Han Kang

Korean fiction

Original title – 흰

Translator – Deborah Smith

Source – personal copy

I must admit first up for me as a reader, I was never as swept away by the vegetarian as some other readers were. So when this Han Kang’s latest book was on the longlist ,I wasn’t maybe as keen to read this as some as the others on the longlist. This is the third book from Han Kang to be translated to English and was published in Korea in 2016. It is also a different book from the first two books as for me it is a narrative prose piece for me.

Faced with that question, it was this death that came to me. It was a story which I had grown up inside.The most helpless of all young animals. Pretty little baby, white as moon shaped rice cakes. How I’d been born and grown up in the place of that death.

“White as moon-shaped rice cake” which never made sense until at six, I was old enough to help out with making rice cakes for Chuseok, forming the dough into small crescent moons. Before being steamed, those bright white shapes of rice dough are a thing so lovely they do not seem of this world.

I loved this image of the rice moon and child’s face.

Now for me as an English reader the white book as a title seems less dark than if this book was called the Black book , but in a way that  should be the real title of the book. It is a series of small vignettes split into three sections that mainly focus on the birth of Han Kang’s older sister that was born and died after two hours after her mother 22 gave birth. A child that is described as looking like a rice moon cake when born the first section the vignettes seem to interlinking with a few recurring motifs in the prose pieces a list of white objects , but as the pieces unfold we see how white is never really white. From the child’s face to a moon rice to snow in all its forms from thick blizzards to sleet showers. An ode to a sister that was never known but also to the colour of mourning in Korea which is white and things connected to mourning in Korea like rice also the is a colour connection of Blood mention and the fact in Korea Red chilli powder is put in the rice at a funeral. A wonderful mix of piece that draw you as a reader into a young woman”s grief but also a poetic vision of grief and mourning.

sleet

There is none of us whom life regards with any partiality. Sleet falls as she walks these streets, holding this knowledge inside her. Sleet that leaves cheeks and eyebrows heavy with moisture, Everything passes. She bears this rememberance – the knowledge that everything she has clung to will fall away from her and vanish- through the streets where sleet falling, that is neither rain nor now, neither ice nor water, that dampens her eyebrows and steams from her forehead whether she stands still or hurries on closes her eyes or opens them

Such a poets mix of life and death in a vision of sleet.

I so pleased this has come after the vegetarian as anything after this would be a let down for me as a reader this book has a fragile nature like a pile of rice barely held together. It has a sense of the fragile nature of life the sense of grief of losing a daughter so early in ones own life. But also the poetic side of the list of white things that litter the book. The ones around snow I found so poetic the way sleet turns to water on contact with skin almost like the daughter life a brief moment of time this is about how brief life. This is a perfect choice of why I read world lit these books that open our eyes as readers to the wider world poetic visions and grief so

 

Man Booker international longlist

The Man Booker
International Prize 2018
Longlist Announced
#MBI2018
#FinestFiction
 The 13 longlisted books have been translated from 10 different languages, across
Europe, Asia, South America and the Middle East
 Previous winners Han Kang (2016) and László Krasznahorkai (2015) are both on the
longlist
 Frank Wynne has two translations on the list: one from French and one from
Spanish
The Man Booker International Prize has today, Monday 12 March, revealed the ‘Man
Booker Dozen’ of 13 novels in contention for the 2018 prize, which celebrates the finest
works of translated fiction from around the world.
The prize is awarded every year for a single book, which is translated into English and
published in the UK. Both novels and short-story collections are eligible. The work of
translators is equally rewarded, with the £50,000 prize divided between the author and the
translator of the winning entry. In addition, each shortlisted author and translator will
receive £1,000 each. The judges considered 108 books.

The longlist

The full 2018 longlist is as follows:
Author (nationality) Translator Title (imprint)
Laurent Binet Sam Taylor The 7th Function of Language
(France) (Harvill Secker)
Javier Cercas Frank Wynne The Impostor
(Spain) (MacLehose Press)
Virginie Despentes Frank Wynne Vernon Subutex 1
(France) (MacLehose Press)
Jenny Erpenbeck Susan Bernofsky Go, Went, Gone
(Germany) (Portobello Books)
Han Kang Deborah Smith The White Book
(South Korea) (Portobello Books)
Ariana Harwicz Sarah Moses & Die, My Love
(Argentina) Carolina Orloff (Charco Press)
László Krasznahorkai John Batki, Ottilie Mulzet The World Goes On
(Hungary) & George Szirtes (Tuskar Rock Press)
Antonio Muñoz Molina Camilo A. Ramirez Like a Fading Shadow
(Spain) (Tuskar Rock Press)
Christoph Ransmayr Simon Pare The Flying Mountain
(Austria) (Seagull Books)
Ahmed Saadawi Jonathan Wright Frankenstein in Baghdad
(Iraq) (Oneworld)
Olga Tokarczuk Jennifer Croft Flights
(Poland) (Fitzcarraldo Editions)
Wu Ming-Yi Darryl Sterk The Stolen Bicycle
(Taiwan) (Text Publishing)
Gabriela Ybarra Natasha Wimmer The Dinner Guest
(Spain) (Harvill Secker)
The longlist was selected by a panel of five judges, chaired by Lisa Appignanesi OBE, author
and cultural commentator, with Michael Hofmann, poet, reviewer and translator from
German; Hari Kunzru, author of five novels including The Impressionist and White Tears;
Tim Martin, journalist and literary critic, and Helen Oyeyemi, author of novels, plays and
short stories including The Icarus Girl.

I have reviewed just The Imposter by Javier Cercas 

have read a further five books which I will review first and have ordered all the others bar the one that isn’t out I will be longlisting again and if one or two of you fancy joining I ‘d be happy to set a small shadow up just reviewing the books. 

I love the scope of this list and it is a real change from IFFP lists also great see Charco press there.

 

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