Everyday life by Lydie Salvayre

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Everyday Life by Lydie Salvayre

French fiction

Original title – La Vie commune

Translator Jane Kuntz

Source personnel copy

Another short novella from Dalkey archive and this by a recent Prix Goncourt winner Lydie SlavayreIts been a while since I featured a Goncourt winner. Lydie was born to refugees of the Spanish civil war. She grew up in southern France. Trained as a doctor with a degree in Psychiatry. She has published a number of novels. In 2014 her book Cry mother Spain (English title ) won the Prix Goncourt. That book was published by Maclehose she has also had four books including this one published by Dalkey.

I omitted one detail. She stinks.

The new secretary wears a vetiver scent, and I detest the smell of vetiver. There’s nothing I detest more in the world than the smell of Vetiver (After milk). It makes me listless, it gives me the vapors, migraine headaches. It makes me dizzy, nauseous, It makes me vomit

Every morning when I crack open the door of my office, the obnoxious stench of her perfume smacks me in the face. I stager. I can’t help it, I ve grown allergic to it. Like a police dog , I could sniff out its trail miles away, that’s how allergic I’ve become. It’s crossed my mind that she might soak herself in the stuff just to put me off, to make me go in the opposite direction.

The scent affects her but the reaction seems more than that in a way to me!!

This is a classic slice of an Office drama. It is about two sectaries Suzanne the narrator of the book has been at her job as the secretary of Monsieur Meyer for more than thirty years. so when this younger woman arrives she sees this as a real threat to her position as Meyers favorite. She starts to pick apart this new younger woman as they work together. She dissects her rival bit by bit as she is doing so you see the pent-up anger in this older woman as she sees her rival become more important to Meyer as her grip on her life is starting to slip. This is a woman not only losing her job but there is a sense she is getting old and that is the reason for her replacement not just to learn from her but also to easily slide Suzanne into retirement and also accepting her problems. This is a slice of life in an office the jealousies of office rivals the older member like an old lion marking her territory but like in Lion pack or Gorilla families that Alpha in the head has to succumb sometime and this is the moment caught in the book that breaking of an Alpha.

Because I’ve had a dull ache in my chest for seventeen days, I go to the doctor. He asks me if the pain spreads towards the shoulder and along my left arm. No. It’s just in my chest. As if it were digging a hole that opens and close,opens and cloes. While hes gliding his icy stethoscope over my chest, he asks what happen right before the onset of this pain. Imagine you’re straight path, I tell him, wwhich you can follow with your eyes shut, it’s so familar to you. Then suddenly, you no longer recognize it, even though everything you see is identical to what was there before. Do you know what I mean?

Her we see Suzanne has more wrong than we see an underlying problem !!

This is a fun book and a touching book and to do both at the same time is great it is a Tragicomedy of a woman fall. We see Suzanne ripping into the new girl. I was reminded of the scenes in the Office as the David Brent tries to capture his Job as the new man takes his place and that loss of the Alpha role well this is the same the role of being Meyers main secretary is the prize and the Older woman is describing losing the grip but she is seeing it as thou this younger woman has pushed her out but in between the lines there is the sense she is failing in her job but maybe age has caught up with her. She isn’t as flexible as her younger counterpart having got set in her ways as the world around her has moved on. There was that bittersweet taste in the prose that I find in the work of Bernhard the satire of loathing he wrote so well. Lydie has caught what happens when one’s life falls apart in a simple monologue another nod to Bernhard in a way. I was touch by her fall it was a shame like one of those football stars that shone but has stayed on the pitch far too long!!

 

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Eleven Prague Corpses by Krill Kobrin

Eleven Prague Corpses

 

Eleven Prague Corpses by Krill Kobrin

Russian fiction

Original title – 11 пражских трупов

Translator – Veronika Lakotova

Source – personnel copy

I was saying I was overwhelmed with reviews and what is annoying I am reading fast than I can review so I let books slip and this was nearly one of those. This book grabbed me with the description of Krill as a writer he is interested in the cultural history of Russia and the Czech Republic. He is one of the founds of Russian Psychogeography and one of his novels is a tribute to Flann O’Brien. Oh, and he is also called the Russian Borges (i do hate that but I can see it here as Borges like twisting the detective short story as well).

Maurice approached me at the fuenral. He said – stuttering as usual and as usual in broken English – ” An apprpriate way of dying for a former restaurant critc isn’t it ? Professional, so to speak. Acute Pancreatitis. Caused by what ? by the excepitonal Czech dumplings pork, and beer. Anf of course, by always exceptional czech doctors. Dammned Prague.” It started to drizzle, the heavy scent of the earht mixed with the smell of damp clothes.It was difficult to breathe. “Dammned Prague”I agreed.” Dammned Central Europe”

His dislike of his hime is shown here but also the inkling of the first death being more than it seemed.

The series of Stories in this collection is narrated by an unnamed narrator. Now I am never sure as it is one guy or a collection of guys all Russian that all have a strong dislike of the home Prague. So the eleven short stories all tell various stories of deaths in and around Prague and how are the narrator was connected to them. From the death of a restaurant critic to the death of a teacher our narrator at times is an obituary writer and seems to be there or hear about these events shortly after they happen from people involved in a High school massacre in the US turning up in Prague. He hates the city and sees it as too Kafkaesque at times the shadow of Kafka hanging over his world as the deaths keep plying up. But Like Holmes he has logic on his side and clearly cuts through each death.

The next day I rang the Private British school to nail down some of the details of the late Mr. Lengthy’s life. Of course, of course, Mr  Taborsky. Such a sad loss for us. Yes, yes, we’ve sent everything you’ll need for the opbituary. Nothing to add. A detail? A striking detail? Hmmm you might be interested – the russian students of our school called him”London Dandy”. Yes yes, in russian “dan-dee Long-dong-ski” You unerstand russian ? oh excellent . Mr Lenghty wasn’t a fop, no, don’t imagine that please, nuthe did dressin an impecable was, and he took special care of his hands. A little old fashion isn’t it?

I was remind of a watson description in a Holmes cases here of small characteristics of people.

This is an interesting take on the detective short that has lots of Nods to classic writers like Doyle and Christie, in particular, there is a sense of this in the use of a British restaurant critic and English master in two of the stories. There is also a sort of Russian distaste of Prague underlying the stories as well the feel of him not fitting into the city now. The sense of Kafka looming over the city. Prague itself is a character in this book rather like the London of Doyles Holmes of the Devon setting of Christie’s books. The Borges claim holds up as the books have that sense of twist styles and shift settings and using plots from other writers in new ways that Borges did so well in his own stories. The narrator has a pinch of Holmes, Poirot and for me a nod to those hard-boiled crime detectives of classic American Noir. There is a clear logical min there like Holmes a man out of place like Poirot the Belgian in England. But also a world-weariness of the classic American detective those that hate there beat at times that are drawn to the dark side of the city.

What is up

Just a little overwhelmed with reviews sorry

Explosions by Mathieu Poulin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Explosions (Michael Bay and the Pyrotechnics of the imagination) by Mathieu Poulin

Quebecian fiction

Original title – Des explosions

Translator – Aleshia Jensen

Source – review copy

A quick return to one of my favorite place to read books from Quebec and one of my favorite publishers QC. Now after a thoughtful short book we have a clever comic book. Mathieu Poulin initially was a film fan (which given this book is easy to guess), but a teacher inspired him into books and writing. He has cohost a culture show in Quebec and also writes the comic piece about sport this is his debut novel.

At the age of Two, Michael Bay was adopted by Harriett Stamper, a professor of Literature at the University od California, Los Angeles (UCLA) specializing in American and French Poetry(her doctoral thesis, defended in 1964, was titled ” Transalantic Filiations: from Whitman to Ginsberg and Aragon”), and Jim Bay, a plastic surgeon in the midst of forging a reputation as a “magician” and “career-booster” among women with acting or modelling ambitions.

this gives the perfect mix of maybe what made Bay poetry philosophy and films in the beauty of films.

We are all aware of the films that Michael Bay has made. those all action films that are full of explosions and violence and a bit OTT. Well, what we have here is a book that reimagines Michael Bay as a left field man that has used his films to bring a subtle message across. He thinks everyone gathers that is what his films are about? We imagine he was into philosophy and those long films I love but my other half always says at the end what happened!! Directors that made a difference. What is shown is a man want to strive but also one that doubts he is given the appreciation he is due.So instead of bad Boys being a buddy cops film, it is a commentary on colonization hence all the badies in the film being white and Miami is a replacement for Africa. Then other films like Pearl Harbor is a thesis on what is freedom his. The rock is about understanding one’s peers. Then Armageddon is what would happen if the earth end. This rips apart Michaels life then rebuilds it as a very different version of who he is and what his movies mean. He also struggles with his being adoptive at times. But his adoptive parents are the ones that inspired his discovery of books and philosophy.

A brilliant yet restless student, michael studied and was particularly interested in the examination of identity in Shohei Imamura’s films, the influence of Noveau Roman narrative techniques in last year in marienbad , porter’s aesthetics of tableau, the poetry and temporal relationship in Tarkovsky’s stalker, the ethical dilemas raised by Serge Dubrvsky’s fiction, the post colonial discourse in Conrads Heart of Darkness, was also one of the first note the ground breaking theoretical importance of French Philosopher Gilles Deleuze’s the movement Image.

Michael was attractch to the great thinker of cinema and writers Like Conrad.

As you see this is a clever twist on the Autobiography. I know very little about Michael Bay other than his films are very OTT and sometimes more about the special effects than the story. now it is believable he could really be a man trying to be the new Goddard trying to show the woes and mistakes of the modern world through the lens of his camera. An unsung hero underrated and misunderstood! This what Mathieu has done so well this tongue in cheek book is fun. He has taken a character that has often been held up for the dumbing down of cinema plowing the same furrow when he made follow-ups to the transformer movies. It is a book that can make you laugh out loud at times it is one of those books that shows you how comic novels should be. So nect time you lick on to a Ba film just linger and think what is behind this film really !!! then turn over.

 

My ten all time favourite tv shows

I haven’t done a fun sunday post for a while so I’d thought I’d  pick my all time favourite tv shows –

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  1. Around the world in eighty days with Michael Palin. I have loved all his shows but this the original one the first based on the Jules Verne book open my eyes to places around the world as a young lad but also was part of the reason for this blog to travel the world in books.
  2. ER I’ve been rewatching this recently and forgot how good it was there is a lot of talk about modern shows being great but this for me when it came out made our UK show casualty seem plain and wooden this was fast paced and had a number of stories each episode and a character development over the years as the team grew.
  3. Babylon 5 I was always a tv sci-fi fan when younger but not so much these days but the one show I have watched through a few times is this it was such a clever series with the story developing over the five series as we saw good versus evil and theories of the way we should live order versus chaos. It had great special effects for the day.
  4. X files  I have the complete series it had it all two partners that love and hate each at the start but grow closer. There is everything from creature feature to aliens to ancient creatures and Indian myths.I’ve not loved the new ones so much as they seem to be trying to hard to capture what made it great.
  5. Homicide life on the streets – Before the wire this was set in the same city and had the same gritty feel as the wire but a number of great stand out characters especially detective Munch who has turned up in many a series since.
  6. P’tit Quinquin a short french tv series by the french film director Bruno Dumont a body has turned up in a small seaside town we have a quirky detective and a small boy in an odd drama that goes nowhere but is engrossing.
  7. Brideshead revisited I loved this as a kid even more as an adult we don’t see enough Waugh. This just oozed quality and had so many great scenes I loved visit castle Howard a few years ago it reminded me of the scenes set there. I could mention Holmes with Jeremy brett another series from the eighties I loved.
  8. Twin Peaks The first two series I have watched not the recent one yet but this had it all the quirkiest director of his age let loose on tv was a rare event and hasn’t happened much since. A feast of oddball characters cracking quotable lines like its damm fine cherry pie etc etc
  9. American horror story – for me no modern series is as good as this the clever twist of using the same actors, on the whole, each series but in different roles and scenarios has worked every from witchcraft to sideshows clown and even tv and how we view ghost stories in a clever series that had a real and staged version of a story that was supposed to have happened. The last tackled Cults can’t wait for the next as it is always interesting.
  10. Stranger things – I have Netflix but in whole streaming hasn’t made to many great series that have grabbed me this one did it has so many nods to classic 80’s films by the likes of Speilberg and writers like Stephen King the only other Netflix series I have like is the crown.

Honorable mentions – Juliet bravo 80s small-town crime nothing much happens but is a window on how the police used to be before PACE.

The Bill the first few series same as above before we need murders and gangsters to keep us viewing

Wild Palms underrated Oliver Stone about a tv show and two groups wanting to shape the future of the world!!

What series do you like to watch and what classics you into?

Drive your plow over the bones of the dead by Olga Tokarczuk

 

 

Drive you plow over the bones of the dead by Olga Tokarczuk

Polish fiction

Original title –  Prowadź swój pług przez kości umarłych.

Translator – Antonia Lloyd Jones

Source – Review copy

I read flights but one thing and another last year I never reviewed it which was a shame as I really liked it as it turned out it was well reviewed and my little review would have been a small piece in a larger yes for the book. So when I was sent her latest to be translated I decide I pull my finger out and review it as soon as it came out. Olga has been writing since the late 80’s and has twice won the NIKE prize in Poland which is their version of the Man Booker prize. She also won the Man Booker international prize last year. This book is very different to flights.

The naming of Big foot occurred in a similar way. It was quite straightforward – it suggested itself tp me when I saw his foor prints in the snow. To begin with. , Oddball had called him “Shaggy”, but then he borrowed “Big Foot” from me. All it means that I had chose the right nam for him.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t choose a a suitable name for myself. I regard the one that’s written on my identity card asscandalously wrong and unfair- Janina. I think my real name is Emilia or Joanna. Sometimes I think it’s sometimes I think it’s something like Irmtrud too. Or Belldona. Or medea.

Meanwhile Oddball avoids caling me bymy name like the plague. That means something too.Somehow he always finds a wa to address me as “You”

The use of names bring the human characters near the animals in a way.

The book opens with the main character Janina Duszejko a sixty-year-old that is a translator of William Blake, works at the local school. She also is interested in Astrology ad loves her animals. She is with another local Oddball at the home of another neighbor Bigfoot a local hunter who has died. In bizarre circumstances choking on a small deer bone. The two of them dress him before the police come. But they can’t explain the animal footprints around the dead man and the exact cause of his death. Now for Janina, this seems like the animals are maybe getting the revenge she even starts seeing this in the stars she likes to read the signs she says are in the movement of the planets. This idea grows when more local hunters and people that abuse animals start turning up dead around the local Valley. But the valley has also changed in recent years this is told in a long spoken warning by Janina. Then Janina tells the police but they think she is just an old busybody. Who is the real killer?

That evening, just after dusk, Big fFoot’s dog began to bay again. The air had turned blue, sharp as a razor. The deep, dull howling filled it with alarm. Death is at the gates, I thought. But then death is always at our gates, at every hour of the day and night. I told myself. For the best conversations are with yourself.At least there is no misunderstanding.I strtched out on te couch in the kitchen and lay there, unable to do anything else but listento that piercing wail

The dog of Bigfoot miss his master.

I like this it had a piece of classic Noir. In other places, it drifts into Magic realism as Janina sees the Animals doing the killings as she sees how the stars have written what is happening in the way she is reading them. I also felt echoes to classic crime writers the use of Endless night by William Blake which is also used as a title for an Agatha Christe novel. The busybody nature of Janina is rather like Miss Marple if Miss Marple had been written by Gabo she’d have been Janina reading the stars and living in her own world of Blake. But she starts to scare her pupils with her ideas.This questions on what we would do if the animals did turn on us we have seen this in other media over the last few years the tv series Zoo that saw animal turning on people. But the nearest comparison for me was the video for Queens of the stone age video No ones knows which saw a deer attacking humans. This is a thought-provoking work about the changing world of hunting how we treat animal development in rural areas. Add to that The words and thoughts of William Blake a man that had a lot to say about good and evil. This is a novel that subverts crime and noir and uses a different lead character that isn’t a detective but at the heart of the events happening.

Lost Empress by Sergio De La Pava

Lost Empress_HB.jpg

 

Lost Empress by Sergio De La Pava

US fiction

Source – review copy

I don’t often review non-translated titles these days. But there is maybe one writer I would always review it would be Sergio. Naked singularity was a great slice of modern America the madness and chaotic world of the legal system. So when I saw this book took two more uniquely American themes. That of Sport, which for me as a none American has always fascinated me the way the stats to these sports become such an integral part of the sport. Also, the nature of Franchise in sport is an American idea that I hope doesn’t creep into UK sport. The second thread is Prison the overcrowd privatize nature of American jails is also a trending coming over here.

Legless woman runs out of time

A Bronx woman, who a decade ago lost her legs following a vicious assault by her boyfriend, was killed yesterday in the apartment of that same man, when he savagely beat her to death using one of her prosthetic legs.

Miranda Johnson, 39, apparantly crawled on he belly to dial 911 during the assault, but was then unable to speak into the line provide any information. 911 operator 7744 was unavailable for comment, but her inability to procure the information is beinf viewed ad a proximate cause of the tragedy.

One of the 911 calls, this had a slightly dark humour to it.

The book follows two lives. Nuno DeAngeles An inmate of Rikers Island that has been locked up apart from Dia who is the Love of Nuno life. But she Dia is the deputy of the other main character Nina She is the daughter of a wealthy sports team owner and had been running the Dallas Cowboys where she had to lead them to a number of championships. But when her father passes, she is only left with a small indoor football team the Paterson Pork.he arrives there and we see a glimpse of Paterson a town famous for the poems of Wiliam Carlos Williams and the recent film from Jim Jarmusch set there. So when her brother no in control of the Bigger Dallas cowboys gets greedy and causes a lockout of all NFL games. She tries to attract the crowds to watch the less popular Indoor game. Then we have Nuno who is a criminal that is on the ladder each time he commits a crime he is going up the ladder of the scale of crime so he wants to escape the prison to get to the money that he sees will get him back to Dia. These three lives are a slice of the various class and worlds in Modern America. Nuno is wanted to avenge a death of a young boy and this is why he has to get free to avenge a mistake in the justice system.. He is a strange character he asks for the books the Tunnel in Spanish and Man without qualities in German when first in prison. Add to this a third storyline some different items like 911 logs, pamphlets. Then we have a thrilling climax but I leave that to you to find out.

What the hell is Paterson, New Jersey anyway? That the pork are based there is close to happenstance. Their original owner, Marion Bent, a highly respected Mobster who was dogged by constant rumors that he had ties to egtimate buisness, had essentially exhausted what little community goodwill there wasfor his Edison Emperors.One night, or early morning, under the cloak of darkness(a cloak that was entirely unnecessary as no-one really cared), he loaded all Emperor chattel, most of which had already been heavily lienedon, into several company trucks whose acquisition involved more broken thumbs than Bent’s nearby littlest league catchers Camp nd translorted everything north into the welcoming arms of the then-Mayor of Paterson

How the team arrived at Paterson could never see an English fooball team moving town but who knows it has happened once !

I used to want to try the great American novel and over the years have read books that fall into this category. From Moby Dick through the Great Gatsby, Herzog the rabbit books the epics of Norman Mailer. I only fell down of Infinite Jest which is a shame as this book has a sports theme like that one did. But I did read Underworld which for me was the great American novel of the later 20th century and for me, Sergio is writing books that capture the Trump world of America the overblown nature of sports is shown here. The nature of the world were sports is overblown run by money. I was reminded of the film Idiocracy where the sport has become primitive and overblown over time. Nina shows how sports are run and when her team isn’t on tv it is unknown outside New Jersey she tries to get the contract to fill the void left by the lack of NFL. Then we Have Nuno and his prison his trying to help his cousin who had lost his son and felt justice hadn’t been done. Again like in Naked singularity bring the cracks in the US legal system to light like the myriad of podcasts that have appeared since Serial first came out a few years ago. When books capture the Zeitgeist of the time they may be called the great novel of that time and maybe this is what Sergio is doing in his books. This has a lot of threads and isn’t at the time the easiest to follow but if you want easy you’d not be reading this blog or trying a 600 page novel about indoor football in New Jersey and a prison break from the unbreakable Rikers Island!!

Icelandic Nobel Quartet

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s rarely you come accross such a great second hand find as I did the other day, when I found four of the old Vintage international books from the Icelandic writer Halldor Laxness. I have three other books from him on my shelves and had intend to try and read one of them for the blog this year at some point so the addition of three more is a welcome bonus. The Four books are –

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paradise reclaimed – a farmer from a small farm goes in search of the promised land of Utah as he takes his wife and two children on a disastrous journey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Iceland Bell follows a man who happened to make a bawdy joke about the Danish King in the 17th Iceland under the rule of Denmark. He becomes a fugitive .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A young Emissary from the Bishop of Iceland is sent to snaefells glacier to find out what is going on and finds a community that thinks it is the center of the world. and creation is a work in progress.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A lonely Orphan who wants to become a poet we follow his affairs poverty, loneliness and the scandals he becomes involved in.

A great haul and I love the simple cover art in the series as well.

Endless blue sky by Lee Hyoseok

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Endless Blue Sky by Lee Hyoseok

Korean fiction

Original title 벽공문한

Translator – Stevenn D Capener

Source – Review copy

Honford star is another of those rising band of the small publisher that is cutting its own corner in the world of translated fiction with bringing out works from Southeast Asia Korea in Particular. They have chosen works from modern classic writers from Korea. Lee Hyoseok is another example of the writers Honford star have been brought to us. He studied English in the early thirties in Keijo university. He was a fan of the works of Thomas Mann and Anton Chokov. But was most influenced by the group of nine writers of his fellow Korean writers. Which he was a member of. Where they all influenced each other in there writing.

Ilmas’s duties as a cultural envoy were actually quite simple. He was to go to Harbin and negotaite the invitation of a symphony orchesra. Although there was no mention of an ocupation on Ilma’s nuisness card, while writing commentaries on current cultural topics and critical essays on music, he had natrually come to be considered, by himself and others, as a culture mediator, Recent displays of his talents in the field, inculding successfully arranging for the performances of renowned theatrical troupes from Tokyo had brought Ilma to the attentoon of certain people.

how he got his job in Harbin that would lead to him falling for Nadia.

This is a romance but it is also the story of various cultures clashing just before the world they all know was to descend into the darkness of the second world war. We follow Ilma a Korean Journalist. He has been sent to Manchuria to be a cultural Envoy by the editor of Hyundai Daily. He has also been sent to get an Orchestra to play in Korea. What follows is the falling in love between Ilma and a Russian dancer Nadia. They both fall for each other’s worlds in a way he tells her about the breaking cosmopolitan nature of Modern Korea. But the city of Harbin where they are feels a lot more western as it is more liberal than Korea. They talk in a shared language of English and she tells him about life in the west. But there is a thorn in their sides an Actress that Ilma knew Daneyeong that isn’t happy that he is seeing a none Korean. From watching western films like the southern carrier a film about the early pioneering aviators. Then we have a kidnapping (common at this time in this part of the world) then Drug taking as well. A couple falls in love on the cusp of world war two.  but in the background is what lies ahead.

“Who are you talking about?”

“Whaddya mean who? Nadia, of course.”

“Nadia asks about me? Ilma stood with his mouth open his heart suddenly aflutter. “Truth be told, the first thing I think of when I come to Harbin is Nadia. Did she really ask about me ?

When he first gets a glimmer of the fact that Nadia likes him !

This is a book of its time a writer trying to cram as much of his world at the time as he can. The world that was in a way the setting is the late thirties southern carrier came out in 1937 and the book was written in 1941. So I feel he is trying to capture that world just before the world change. I have long been a fan of books that show clashing cultures and this is shown here from the Western Harbin a cosmopolitan gem that is what people like ILma and his Editor world like Korea to be. Then we have the feeling of falling in love at the wrong time. I was reminded of the loves of Charles Ryder in Brideshead another book that followed those years on the cusp of war. Even a book like Isherwood’s Goodbye to Berlin another book that captures that crazy pre-war world of new ideas and liberal values!! The world that like Hyoseok saw the barriers and cultural world changing slightly. I enjoyed this it is a busy book packed full of threads of stories but it serves a dollop of a world that is gone. The book has a great intro from the translator, he is a real fan of the writer. The book is also has a specially commissioned cover based on the book by a Korean artist.

In every wave by Charles Quimper

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In every wave by Charles Quimper

Quebecian fiction

Original title – Marée montante

Translator – Gull Lefebvre

Source – Review copy

I have a real feeling that I am lucky to have been let in the Library of books from Quebec it is like a small room in Borges Dream Library one that we who know about the great books from Quebec have the secret knowledge and so to the latest. This is an amazingly short novella from the writer Charles Quimper he has previously been a bookseller and written to a number of magazines. I read an interview where it said he had tried out working on a trawler only to find he has seasickness. He is married and has two children.

A BIRD GLIDES OVERHEAD. Could be a cormorant, maybe an albatross. Might be just a seagull.I have no idea.

It’s there first thing in the morning and follows me all day, circling above, tracking me accross the seven seas.

Cracked skin, calloused hands. My body sculpted by the sea

The steady rhythm of the gallery inside me. Turmoil and rain filled sorrow. A hint of something sweet, clear and amber. A mournful melody. I think of you every day, seeking your shadow in the boat’s wake, finding nothing but the sea

The recurrent them of the water her again in this poetic passage early on in the book.

In Every wave is narrated by the father of Beatrice. She had drowned one summer whilst swimming. Now the water is a recurring theme in the book. The narrative has a broken nature as we drift through the past and the present. From memories of camping playing Marco Polo , the actual day of Beatrice drowning rerunning what happened maybe to see if it could have been different then the aftermath his with underwater in the bath motionless her way of dealing with there loss. The distance between the husband and wife after the event is like a tide slowly drawing in and cutting them off to there island. He has a boat maybe he is trying to sail back to her or even to his wife but he just sees a bird in the distance every day.

That day

I swear , I tried. I tried everything. Our fingertips brushed together. I grabbed you by the forearm, but the current was too strong, and you were being pulled down too fast. I swear by your name engraved on my skin. On the head of my dead bird.

I can’t even swim, but there I was, swallowing water by the bucketful, spitting, coughing, desperate to get back to shore,howling your name. Cramped,gasping, and spent.Spittiomg up saliva and snot and despair. Someone pulled me out. Without you.

That day he replays again near the end trying to grasp at the water for his Beatrice.

This is such a short book 78 pages Long. It is strange I am just reading Knausgaard’s the End well that book was started with the death of his father. Well, it turns out the kernel for this book was Charles own fathers death he was young when it happened. Knausgaard books are a forest or words this short novella is a single autumnal leaf one of those leaves that had just the bare skeleton of the leaf this is the bare bones of coping with a death whether it is a father or a Child. This uses the sea and water so well as a recurrent theme from the boat, the drowning, the wife in the bath and the sea water forming salt on the skin a lasting impression of what the sea is like the tears we cry at times like this salty. I was so touched after reading this I tweeted this was one of the most touching books I have ever read it is a real gem a short book that lingers long in the memory of the reader. You will feel the unnamed fathers sorrow and guilt. I for one now both feelings so well in recent times especially the replaying the last days of what happened as the Counting crows one said in a song.” If dreams are like movies, then memories are films about ghosts, You can never escape, you can only move south down the coast”. Another gem from the library of Quebec. Please go preorder this gem I review it earlier than normal as I felt it was that good!!!!

 

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