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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The shape of the ruins by Juan Gabriel Vásquez

 

The shape of the ruins by Juan Gabriel Vásquez

Columbian fiction

Original title – La forma de las ruinas

Translator – Anne McLean

Source – review copy

I read this a while ago but as the world cup unfold in the last week and it being Spanish Portuguese lit month I waited to review it. I have long been a fan of Vasquez books having reviewed three of his books. He uses the history of his country and has said he tries to avoid the Rhetoric of the Magic and marvelous Latin America. He has been on the IFFP shortlist in the past and his last novel in English the sound of things falling won the Impac award.

April 9 is a void in Colombian history, yes, but it is other things beside; a solitary act that sent a whole nation into a bloody war; a collectibe neurosis that has taught us to distrust each other for more than half a century. In the time that has passed since the crime we colombians have tried, without sucess, to comprehend what happened that friday in 1948, and many have turned it into a more or less serious entertainment and their time and energy have been consumedby it.There are also Americans – I know several – who spend their whole lives talking about the Kennedy asassination, its details and most recondite particulars

The parallels explained at the dr party early on in the book.

This book is in many ways the most personal book from Vásquez as the writer himself is at the center of the book. He is at a party held by Dr. Benavides a family friend when he meets another man Carlos Carballo over this evening they discuss a couple of events in the past of Columbian history an event the Carballo compares with the Kennedy assassinations of JFK and Robert. The first killing is that in 1948 of Jorge Gaitan a progressive liberal politician that was shot to death by Juan Sierra. This man was later killed by a mob. This assassination does echo the JFK and the killing of  Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby. Then an earlier killing of another liberal Leader and Senator who was hacked to death by two men in Bogota. We see Vasquez and the two other men look into their countries past. Carlos is a man that sees conspiracies and a long dark arm going through Columbia history. There are pieces of each story they discover have gone missing over the coming years. But we do see the spine of Gaitian in a Jar an eerie look at the death like those relics of the JFK Killing that leads those like Carballo to those wild theories of what happened. Along side this we see the everyday life of Vasquez the writer, his marriage, his wife giving birth. A man looking at his own countries dark past.

“My Father believed there’d been a second shooter” said Benavides,” At least for a time”

He was referring to one of the many conspiracy theories surrounding Gaitián’s assassinatin. According to this one, Juan Roa Sierra did not act alone on April 9: He was accompanied by another man, responsible for the other shots and one of the lethal bullets. During the 1950’s , the theroy of the second shooter was gaining groundm in large oart due to an uncntrovertible fact: one of the bullets that killed Gaitian had not appeared in the course of the autopsy”And of course, peoples imaginations does what it does said Benavides

Missing Bullets and other missing parts to the case lead to questions of what really happened.

I loved finding out about these two deaths this is what Vásquez does well as a writer and that draws you as a reader into his homeland’s history. This shows that everywhere has it conspiracies There is many Carlos and also many people like the Dr and Juan that are drawn into uncovering these stories of their own countries dark past. The feeling of him diving down the rabbit-hole of these deaths does remind me of the interviews and claims Oliver Stone made around the time he made JFK the parallels of these stories with the US killing is easy to see there are gaps in each story that can draw people into making their own stories of what happened. The character of Uribe in a twist back to Marquez was the person he based Aurelio Buenida in 100 years of solitude. So as England face Columbia tonight maybe you could try a great novel from there.

Skylight by José Saramago

 

Skylight by José Saramago

Portuguese fiction

Original title – Claraboia

Translator – Margaret Jull Costa

Source – Personnel copy

I start this Spanish and Portuguese lit months with a Nobel winner. But this is one of those books that we wonder should have n=been published. Lost for years this was found at the publishers and dated from the early fifties thought Lost Saramago hadn’ t want it published in his lifetime. The publisher had wanted to release it in the 80s but Saramago said no and left it to his family to decide which they did. I am never sure about this type of work, I reviewed the lost debut novel of Georges Perec a few years ago that unlike this was different to the other Perec books I have read in this book there is a connection with the male characters to the other Saramago books I read years ago. I was surprised that I hadn’t review Saramago over the time of the blog anyway maybe this is a good intro to him on the blog the first work. I have a few others on my tbr pile to read.

Silvestre returned to his place at the window, wondering hiw the mistake could possibly have arisen. He knew full well that his handwriting was not of the finest, but it was, he thought pretty good for a cobbler, especially when compared with that of certian doctors. The only explanation seemed to be that hte newspaper had got it wrong. he sure it hadn’t been his mistake; he could see in his minds eye the form he had filled in and he had definetly put the ground floor, right. While engaged in theese thoughts, he remained focused on his work glancing out at the stree now and then, with the aim of spotting amoung the few passer bys anyone who migt be coming to see the room.

Silvestre misplaced the ad for the room but is at the window silent again .

Skylight is the tale of an Apartment building in Lisbon just after the end of world war two in 1952. Six flats mostly females that live in the flats. An elderly Cobbler Silvestre who we learned served in world war one and his rotund wife. They have been forced to take in a lodger a young man Abel a man who is about the age Saramago was when he wrote this book. I said this was the place to start with Saramago Silvestre is the typical male figure in a number of the other books I have read other the years by Saramago the working man getting on silently with life is a classic Saramago character. Then we have a pair of sisters spinsters as they would have been called then Adriana and Isaura listen to Beethoven turned up loud almost as they use their love of music as a substitute for Sex. Then a salesman Emilio and his Spanish with who have a very rocky marriage and use their young son as a weapon to try and can the upper hand in their marriage. A beautiful young typist who has a leary boss again sexual tensions.Elsewhere some one is selling their body for money.aetano and his wife coping with the loss of a child and in a brutal way at times.  A huddle of working class people some going up some of the level and other facing the void all living close to each other so much so that each of their lives is partly known to the others so.

Caetano was not looking at the photo, therefore his smile had nothing to do with his daughter’s. The smile in the photo bore no resemblance to his. The one in the photo was open and happy, and it was inly its fixed quality that made one uneasy. Caetano’s smile was lubricious, almost repellant, When grown up smile like that, they should not be in the prescence of childrens smiles, even smiles in photographs.

After leavinfg work, caetano had a little “adventure”, a sordid adventure – the kind he liked best. That’s why he was smiling. He enjoyed them twice over, once when he was experiencing them and again in retrospective.

Caetano a trubled character as shown above in this passage about a photo and a smile.

I have always been a fan of books set in buildings I mentioned Perec early on as this reminds me of his Life a user manual in a way as it shows the inner workings of this building. Another book I was reminded of was the yacobian building  by Alaa Al Aswanyt   the egypitian novel about another building like the Building in the Skylight a working class world a similar feel of fading world is in both worlds.  Another book was Taxi another egyptian novel with short glimpse and pictures of world as people catch a taxi. This is a discetion of the world Saramago saw at the time. The book has a strong undercurrent of sexual repression and desires were maybe to much for the Portugal of the time when he first wrote the book in the middle of the Salazar regime although this isn’t really about that more about being working class in the Lisbon of the time. and a great place to start with Saramago on the blog and his silent men.

Have you a favourite Saramago book?

What do you think about books that weren’t published in the writers life coming out ?

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.

King Stakh’s Wild hunt by Uladzimir Karatkevich

King Stakh's Wild Hunt

King Stakh’s Wild hunt by Uladzimir Karatkevich

Belarusian fiction

Original title – Дзікае паляванне караля Стаха

Translator – Mary Mintz

Source – review copy

I move further east and to another new country for the blog a second, this month with the first book from Belarus Uladzimir Karatkevich was one of the leading figures in Belarusian literature. He learned to read at an early age and was always interested in Belarusian history and folklore. He went on to study literature but always had the history in his homelands past. He started this book whilst at university but then spent a number of years working at it. This was considered his greatest novel. It was also made into a film although it seems the film only used part of the plot.

“What family is this?” I asked imprudently.”Where am I ?”

The old woman’s eyes blazed with anger.

“You are in the castle of March firs. And you ought to be ashamed of yourself no to know the owners. They are the Yanovskys. You understand the Yanovskys! You must have heard of them!”

I answered that I had, of course, heard of them. This statment of mine must have reassured the old woman.

With a gestiure worthy of a queen, she pointed to the armchair, approximately as queens do in thetheatre when they point to the executioner’s block ready for their unlucky lover. “There’s your place, you ill fated ine”. Then left me alone.

The creepy nature of the place is clear when Andrey ask where he is on arrival at the Marsh Firs.

This uses a classic myth of the Wild Hunt which is a myth about a group of riders on a Black horse and black dogs that hunt. The story starts when a young man that is a folklorist ends up at the castle of Marsh firs. Andrey Belaretsky is stuck there in a storm. He meets a young woman there Hope Yanovsky she is from an old aristocratic. He father has died due to the hunt and she has struggled after this and is sleepwalking. So stays in the castle. The young man falls for this young woman and tries to find out what has happened to her and her family. Why have they fallen foul of the wild hunt? A relative Gregory isn’t all he seems he has more to do with her father’s death than Andrey first knows. Another claimant on the title employed the midget to scare Hope. Then there is the midget an oddly shaped man like a character from a Herzog film that has strange features. He is there to maybe aid the mistress of the house descends into Madness Can Andrey help her find out what is really happening and work out why the hunt has targeted this castle.

“I saw him theree times and each time from afar. Once it was just before the death of my father. The other two, not long ago. I’ve also heard hom perhaps a hundred times. Nor was I ever frightened, except perhaps the last time ..just a litle, a very little.I went up to him, but he disappeared. It is really a very little man, he reaches up to my chest, skinny, and reminds one of a starved child. his eyes are sad, his hands are very long, and his head is unnaturally long. He dresssed as people used to dress 200 years ago, only in a westen manner. His clothes are green

The Midget brought in by another heir to scare Hope decribed by Hope.

 

This is a classic piece of folklore it has echoes of many myths from Dracula with a woman going mad and a man getting stuck in a castle. The wild hunt is a myth that is common in Belarus and Germany. The piece to first mention of this myth was written by the Grimm’s in the folk tales. I see why the film version of this book which I watched briefly on youtube as it had no subtitles but had a real feel of Hammer horro about this and I kept picturing those eerie castles in the hammer films and strangers end up in them like Andrey does. There is a romance as the young man tries to help Hope a cursed woman as she sees it but he starts to unravel it. He was called the master of historical detective novels and this is in a way a detective novel he tries to find out what the truth is behind what has happened to the Yanovsky family. I was also reminded of the moor scenes in Hound of the Baskervilles sometimes the places in this book at to the scary feeling of Hope the marshes near the castle reminded me of the Grimpen mire of Hound of the Baskervilles. I love that Glagoslav can publish writers like Karatkevich to us in English.His wiki page in Belarusia a long one says when roughly translated said he had a twenty-five vol collection of his works published he was a major writer.

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.

The Kites by Romain Gary

The Kites by Romain Gary

French fiction

Original title – Les Cerfs-volants

Translator – Miranda Richmond Mouillot

Source – Review copy

I looked back and it has taken a good while to get from book 90 to 99 from France. I have slowed down blogging wise this last year.I remember thinking after the eighth year anniversary it would be that year I would hit a 100 books from France and I hadn’t so I looked at the last two spots and this is the first my 99th book and the first from Romain Gary on the blog. I think I so=hould have featured him earlier I have had a couple of his books other than this one sat around for a couple of years. His life reads like a novel he was a Diplomat, resistance fighter, filmmaker and also the only writer to have won the Prix Goncourt twice when his non de plume won as well. This was his last work before he committed suicide.

“I don’t have any parents. I live with my uncle”

“What does he do?”

I sensed vaguely that “rural postman” wasn’t quite the right thing

“He’s a kite master.”

She seemed favourably impressed.

“What does that mean?”

“It’s like a great captain, but in the sky.”

She thought for a little while longer then got up.”Maybe I’ll come back tomorrow”, she said. “I don’t know. I’m very unpredictable.How old are you?”

“I’m almost ten.”

“Oh, you’re far to young for me. I’m almosrt eleven and a half. But i like wild strawberries, Wait for me here tomorrow at the same time,. I’ll be back if there’s nothing better to do.

The first meeting in the field of the young couple that starts a love that last for years

 

 

The story starts in the early 1930’s when a young boy Ludo, he is the nephew of a man famous for his unusual and daring Kites Ambrose Fleury. The story starts when this young boy meets by chance one day a Polish aristocrat in a field. Lila a woman that grabs the young boys attention for the rest of his life. This sets forth his life from this point in a whole new direction as he falls in love with this slightly older girl. But also as he loses her in the war and sees what happened. His uncle has already got in trouble flying a kit based around Jewish star of David the Jews had to wear. This sees the war through a young man’s eyes as his village and those he grew up with try to resist the Germans. The activity in the village centers around the Cafe Clos Joli as they cycle around the Germans passing messages and he tries to find out what has happened to Lila. Locals like a Jewish prostitute who changes her self from that to an exiled Lady within the village, A wonderful insight into the way everyday French people tried to resist the Germans. As we see Ludo move from a boy to a man and His love for Lila change.

THE CLOS JOLI CONTINUED TO PROSPER< BUT MARCELLIEN DUPART’S reputation in the area began to suffer; he was accused of serving the ocupier to well; as for comrades, they hated him cordially. I knew him better than that and defended him when my friends called him a bootlicker or a collaborator.Truth be told as soon as the ocupation began with German superior officers and the entire Parisian elite already flocking to his “galleries” and his “rotunda”. Duprat made his choice.

The Clos Joli serves great food so has many imortant customers that come through it.

This is one of those books that cuts across genres. War story in part, the story of a village in the war. A heartsong to the France of those years one Gary would remember as he served in the resistance. The similar feeling I remember hearing from some of the old people I looked after thirty years ago that were involved in the war about the spirit that brought people together in those time seen. A romance where the love is maybe one-sided as Lila is very much above the young boy that has fallen for her. A coming of age novel. Yes, this has it all in also I often felt the relationship between Ludo and Lila was similar to that of pip and Estelle in great expectations the aloof nature of Lila is similar to that of Lila. The Clos Juli remind me of the cafe at the center of Allo Allo which like the one in the Kites was the center of village life like most cafes of that time and was also the main center of the resistance whilst still operating as a cafe. The last book of his lifetime and here nearly forty years later in English for the first time. The 99th book for this blog from France not long til I get 100 up.

Happy 9th blogiversary

 

 

 

 

 

I like the App tells you now when the anniversary of the blog. Well, mine was last night nine years have flown with 832 books under review on the blog averaging nearly a hundred books a year over the course of nine years also a total of 1568 post over that time as well a post every other day over the course of the nine years. I have enjoyed many things through this blog and have met many people over the course of the last nine years. I move on to the decade of this blog next year I want to try and add a few more countries and maybe get nearer the 1000 books under review. Many thanks to all that comment and like the post over the last nine years.

The Radiance of the king by Camara Laye

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Radiance of the King by Camara Laye

Guinea Fiction

Original title – Le Regard du roi

Translator – James Kirkup

Source – personal copy

I said with the post the other day I had felt the variety of place I had blogged from had narrowed in recent years from the early years when I would have a number more African title in the mix. So I have had this on my shelf for a few years I like to keep a few titles from places I haven’t read from in reserve for the day I really struggle to find somewhere new. Camara Laye was born into a family caste that was traditionally Blacksmiths and Goldsmiths. He studied Mechanics and became an engineer via his studies. He like many Guinean males of the time was circumcised this form the story of his debut novel the African child. This was his second novel and unlike the debut is an allegorical novel.

“What right?” asked the beggar, as if the word had startled him.

“Wasn’t that mor or less what you told me? Wasn’t that  what you were hinting at, at least ?

Clarence was now speaking with great bitterness

“I spoke only of “Favour” “said the beggar “You are quite wrong to think I said anything about “rights” of any kind. As far as I’m concerned, I have nevered claimed any kind of “rights” I have always resticted myself to soliciting favours.I’ll say no more than that I expect these favours tobe granted.

They have just meet and the Beggar is a strange man .

This novel tell the strange tales of Clarence he is a penniless white man who has got stuck in an unnamed African country with no money and no one apart from the locals to help him.We see over the three parts of the book as Clarence tries to get to see the King get him to help to get home. A job with the king would help him get home. He has lost everything to a game shortly after he arrives. He has been helped initially by a beggar. This beggar is a strange character as he says he has a way for Clarence to get to the King. They do at one point see the King but then learn he has headed south for a while. Then we meet another strange pair a couple of Naoga and Noaga whom with the beggar set of to a village in the south. They get drunk on the arrival in the Village and the beggar has a strange look at Clarence then leaves the village on a donkey !! THen Clarence ends up in a cycle of drinking and getting stuck into village life feeling a lazy way of life coming over him and the king coming seeming more distant as he tries to get the answer to when the king is coming! while he escapes returning home? Will he meet the King?

They were made aware if its proximity by an odur which ought to be described, not merely because Clarence was especially sensitive to smells, and very curiously affected by them, but also, and above all, because this odur was particularly representative of the whole character of the south

The odour was a subtle combination of flower perfumes and the exhalations of vegetable moulds, It was certainly a strange and even suspect fragrance, not disagreeable, or not overwhelmingly so, but strange, and suspect, a little like the turbid odour of a hot-house full of decay blooms

The fragrence as they head south has a almost mad=gic realist description about it !

This is an unusual novel as it has a white man turning African and not an African becoming western. Clarence gets drawn into village life. He is also a man that has to face challenges this is like the temptations of the flesh and mind. From the off were he loses his money, then the temptations of the women of becoming lazy all challenge him in meeting the King as he sees others around him trying like the blacksmith does in the village to make the perfect axe for the King. Clarence also is like a Kafka character, the book starts with the Kafka quote and there is a sense to a similar dream world in Clarences being stuck in the village in the middle part of the book. This is another early work of Franco African literature coming out in 1954 for the first time. I hope to try African child at some point by Laye. My copy was a Fontana modern from the early seventies with as you see a rather old-fashioned cover

Ambiguous Adventure by Cheikh Hamidou Kane

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ambiguous Adventure by Cheikh Hamidou Kane

Senegalese fiction

Original title – L’Aventure ambiguë

Translator – Katherine Woods

Source – personal copy

I enjoyed the early years of the blog when I didn’t get sent as many books as I do know as it meant I had search books from the library or what I found in these early post on the blog one of the areas I  covered more than I do now is  African literature. I have long been a fan of the African writer series and still have a number on the shelf unread. So as I am trying to cheer myself up I looked back on what this blog means and discovered I have been missing those chance finds and books that set me apart in the past. So this by one of the most widely regarded early postcolonial African writers this book won the Grand Prix d’ literature d’ Afrique Noire a prize for the best French-language work from Syb Saharan Africa this was the second ever winner in 1962.

“The peace of God be upon this house. the poor disciple is in quest of his daily pittance.”

The sentences, plaintively spoken in a quavering voice by Samba Diallo, were repeated by his three companions. The four youths, shivering in their thin rags of clothing under the blast of the fresh morning wind, stood at the door of the Diallobe chief’s spacious dwelling.

“Men of god, reflect upon your approaching death. Awake, oh awake! Azreal, andel of death, is already breaking the earth for you. Itis about to rise up at your feet. Men of god, death is not that sly creature it is believed to be, which comes when it is not expected, and conceals itself so well that when it has come there is no longer anyone there.”

The boy enters his fathers hut a mixture of Islam and tribal words early on in the book.

I said yesterday I loved books that feature culture clashes and this is one such book. It is set in those early post-colonial years when places like Senegal were finding their feet but still some of the locals looked to France as the center of their world. This is the story of one Boys journey to manhood in those years. Sambo Diallo the boy and the main character of this take is the next in line to be Chief of his people the Diallobes. We see him as he is being taught by his teacher in a hut by the fire the Koran off by heart. This teaches him what the text means to him and also in the wider sense of the tribe. His father did the same as a child and is all for this being his only education. But his Aunt The grand royal his father sisters think the boy will be better for spending time in France. In the end, the boy is sent to Paris and studies Philosophy among other things. He loses his homeland and his strict Islamic identity but also is never treat as French and is always viewed as that African when in the company of others. He struggles to find his place in his two worlds together.

Like Paul Lacroi, he did not express this thought aloud. He said, instead:

“I believe that you understand very well what I want to say to you. I do not contest the auality of the truth which science discloses. But it is a partial truth; and insofar as there will be a future, all truth will be partial. Truth takes its place at the end of history. But \I see that we are setting out on the deceptive road of metaphysics”

Samba much changed in tone after some time in France when he speaks but also a sense of no trust in the world he is in here.

This is a classic tale of a boy journey to manhood it has classic eye-opening scenes like when he sees the bigger world when he arrives in France. But he also struggles to fit in the struggle of who he is now he has seen the wider world leaves him questioning the world he grew up in.  This is one of the reasons I started the blog to discover about the past and present around the world those grinding of our western world . up with the traditional world tribal lives that were still evident in the 60’s. I was pleased to see the other month that the ebook catalog of the African writer series had been brought for academic use it seems I tried to find the piece but haven’t. It is nice see people get the chance to look back at some of these works ok times have changed but these books are as important as English and American novels people regard highly from the same time. This is a great insight into traditional Islamic culture in Senegal and that clashing with arriving in sixties Paris.

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