A Long way off by Pascal Garnier

A long way off by Pascal Garnier

French noir fiction

Original title – Le grandes Loin

Translator – Emily Boyce

Source – review copy

Well, here we have the last novel that Garnier published in his lifetime. Over the years I have reviewed his books five times before on the blog and he is a writer who I have enjoyed for his black humor and use of everyday characters in his works. There is still a couple I think to be translated into English as on his french Wikipedia there was a book that came out after his death. Anyway, let’s see what his last book is like?

He had spent a good hour leaning on the railing of the motorway bridge and would have probably be there still had it not began to pour with rain. Often when driving he had seen people perched above main roads like a melancholy birds of prey. The sight of them engaged in this sad and usually solitary activity had always intrigued and sometimes worried him. You could imagine almost anything about thme – perhaps they were about to throw themsleves off, of their bicycle, since they usually had one propped beside them. What were they looking at ?

A great insight into some one sad and lonely as marc looks over the bridge !!

As I said Garnier loved the normal folk of the world in a way I often think he was like a french version of the league of gentlemen. Where we meet normal people but with a slight twist always. Here we have Marc he has retired but is bored with his life? He has a wife but is want a taste of freedom we see the mundane of his everyday life at the start of the book. For me, this is a usual character from Garnier I have found in his books he is great at the later life crisis in people. So with his adult daughter, Anne who he hasn’t spent much time with and who has recently left mental health unit and the cat decided to take a battered camper on a road trip heading to Agen which biggest claim to fame is its Prunes ( which made me smile) after they had visited a  channel resort they decide to head further south. But as they head on their way Marc is a little shocked by what his daughter does. As the trip starts to spiral out of control. as people disappear and destruction happens in their wake.

Despite the stick thin shop assistants laughing behind her back, Anne would not be swayed in her dubious choice of clothing.

“The red trouser. The yellow jumper. The green coat. The shiny boots.”

She didn’t Hesitate for a second before the rails”.That ,That and That.” Her pointing index finger brooked no arguements. It went much the same as the hairdresser.

“Frizzy”

“You mean you’d like it curled?”

“No, frizzy, like an Afro”

“Oh…but you have lovely natrual hair”

“Frizzy and yellow”

Marc felt as if he were watchong an island emerge

Anne here sound a bit like Peggy from hi di hi with the yellow hair.

Now, this has a whole lot of things that I had seen in the other books strained family relationships family not knowing each other which is a common thread in his books. Boredom and the later-life crisis. Getting stuck in a situation which at times reminds me of what I loved in Magnus Mills books another writer that is great at the ordinary people caught up in odd situations and that leads to dark humor. Here Marc and Anne could have walked off the set of the league of gentlemen they have that oddness to them as they struggle with this road trip,. This Garnier at his best which is a shame as it was the last in his lifetime.

M Train by Patti Smith

M Train by Patti Smith

American Memoir

Source – personal copy

A change today I’ve been down a bit so when I read a bit about this book by the singer poet Patti Smith a week or so a go I went head and ordered it. I’ve listened to her music over the years and had seen that she had published a number of books that had been well received in the music magazines I read. But it was just a fancy for a change in my reading and it was a welcome surprise how much I enjoyed it. It follows Patti in recent years after the death of her husband Fred smith from MC5 it is also littered with her own polaroids.

Cafe ino didn’t exist back then. I would sit by a low window in Caffee Dante that looked out into the corner of a small alley, reading Mrabet’s The Beach cafe. A young fish-seller named Driss meets a reclusive, uncongenial codger who has a so called cafe with only one table and one chair on a rocky stretch of shore near Tangier. The slow-moving atomshere surrounding the cafe so captivated me that I desired nothing more thn to dwell withinit. Like Driss, I dreamed of opening a place of my own. I thought aboutit so much I could enterit : the cafe Nerval, a small haven where poets and travelers might find the simplicity of asylum.

Her she dreams of various cafes she has visited and read about.

The book opens and Patti drinks a black coffee at her favorite cafe where she is shocked when Zak her favorite waiter and maker of coffee is due to leave and open a beach cafe this reminds her of the beach cafe she read about in a book translated by Paul Bowles, we find out how she meet Bowles in Tangiers as she spoke in a conference about Beat writers she was friends with Wiliam Boroughs since her early twenties. This is a wonderful reflection on a reader and her love of books from Beat writer Jean genet whose grave she visits then takes a visit to Berlin and her love of Bulgakov on her last visit a sideline about various angels made me smile as it mentions that ode to Berlin wings of desire. Then another trip is Japan and Murakami a writer she said like Bolano and Bulgakov she got fully drawn into. Then she mentions the master of Japanese cinema Ozu and Akira Kurosawa via one of the few filmmakers to work with them both. Then a visit to Zak  Beach cafe a meeting with an old friend this is a warm book tinged with the memories she had with Fred as she revisits places for the first time alone.

MY BERLIN HOTEL was in a renovated Bauhaus structure in the Mitte district of former East Berlin. It had everything I needed and was in close proximity to the Pasternak cafe, which I discoverd on a walk during a previous visit , at the hieght of an obsession with Mikhail Bulgakov’s The master and the Margarita. I dropped my bags in my room  and went directly to the cafe. The proprietress greeted me warmly and I sat at the same table beneath the photograph of Bulgakov. As I was taken by pPasternak’s old wolrd charms. The faded blue walls were dressed in photographsof beloved Russian Poets Anna Akhmatova and Vladmir Mayakovsky.

Another city, another cafe this time Berlin.

A change but when you read smiths taste in books it is very much a reader I would share a lot in common and it also has influenced Smith writing style there is a touch of Sebald here for me it is full of her own experiences around the world as she visits various graves and thinks of Fred there is a sense of her love of books and life but also the sense of her own mortality which really touched me. Then there is smiths love of Itv 3 as a fellow crime drama fan I so agree wh=ith the way she just falls into watching them. Smith has a great chance to do all this as she is well Patti Smith a true one-off and has the chance to go place and see things that we don’t so it is a glance into a world that is unique. I loved her polaroids as well they speak so much from Bolanos chair to Frida Khalo crutches. Have you read any of Smiths other books

A House in Norway by Vigdis Hjorth

A House in Norway by Vigdis Hjorth

Norweigan fiction

Original title – Et norsk hus

Translator – Charlotte Barslund

Source – personal copy

I brought will and testaments earlier this year then remembered I had this by the Norweigan writer Vigdis Hjorth. Vigdis grew up in Oslo she studied Philosophy, literature and political science and has been writing both adult and children’s fiction. She writes about the dilemmas of living in Modern society, her character struggles to come to terms with a rapidly changing world and to find a meaningful way to integrate with others and realize their own potential. She has won many prizes and has a number of her books translated into English she said her influences are Dag Solstad, Bretold Brecht and Louis-Ferdinand Celine. This is the first book by her I have read.

A few days later a woman phined and introduced herself as the interperter for “your tennt Slawomira Tzebuchwaskai”. She spoke broken, but clear coherrent Norweigan. It was concerning her tenant’s housing situation. She said and she wanting to meet with Alama. And Alma was delighted and said yes because she wanted nothing more that to resolve the tenant’s housing situation. The interpreter would visit. Alma in a few days, and the pole would be there as well, almaunderstood, so did this mean that she was moving back in ?

After her husband has to return to Poland she is left as a single parent Alam still willing to help ?

The book follows the life of a divorced textile artist. She lives in an old villa that has an apartment that she has rented out once unsuccessfully so when she lets a Polish Family move in she sees them as steady and she starts work on a large commission doing a tapestry to celebrate a centenary of women’s suffrage in Norway. But then as the Famil have kids and things start to happen like the Husband has to return to Poland leaving the wife and the kids alone in the apartment but they start knawing at Alma like the Mouse that her Polish neighbor says she has but won’t take the traps out like this and other little things start making Alma regret her decision. this leads to a series of letters rent rise changes in the size and description of the apartment it size. This carries on will she get her house back will she finish her commission?

Alma wrote the long-planned letter to her tenant in order to make same demands of her as she would have done of a Norwegian by informing her of the Norwegian attitude to electricty consumption. To be more conscious of her usage and turn down the radiators at night, sort her rubbish for recycling and not mixpaper and cardboard with other waste, and she also requested that she parked her car alongside Alma’s and always in the tarmac rather than on the ground between the treesfurther down where Alma wanted the grass to grow in the summer .

The crack in their relationshipo start after her husband isn’t their little things that build up over time.

 

This is done exactly what the description of her writing does in the book we have Alma she is a fair mind woman in her eyes her kids come ever so often. especially Christmas but in your heart you feel she is only renting the apartment for the money and no matter who was there she would eventually pick fault and her we see this she wants to be fair but at the back of her mind is the wanting a quiet life and the things like clearing the snow which when she contact the landlord advice line she does this a number of times not wanting to be seen as a bad landlord. This is all about manners and trying to be polite but there is a simmering undercurrent slowly growing in Alma that silent anger that is hidden just under the surface we see it building I was reminded of the few books I read by Anne Tyler a writer that also is great at capturing a woman at a certain age that simmers so well like Alma does here. Have you read Hjorth?

Spanish Lit Month 2020 July/August

I will take a quick post here as it is Bloomsday and in a sort of strange link will mention this year’s Spanish Lit month. Richard and I have run this for a number of years I have reverted this year to just the Spanish speaking world for this year the last few years we had to add Portuguese lit. But this year we will stick to Spain and the Spanish speaking world. Well here is to the Link to Bloomsday that is in the first month July I love [eople to review a book by either Javier Marias or Enrique Vila- Matas the two giants of Spanish lit have mention James joyce or Ulysses in their books.  Vila-Matas is inspired to write Dublinesque by Joyce’s great book and Marias wrote about Joyce in his book Written Lives. You are free to read any other book over the two months but a few reviews of each writer would be great.

Then In August, I give you a choice of two reads that have been compared to Ulysses the first is Three trapped tigers by Guillermo Cabrera Infante. A book I reviewed a number of years ago here. I mentioned then the feeling of a Latin American Ulysses with a jazz beat. The second book and the book I will be reading is Antagonía part one Recounting which is part of a four-book series that Dalkey Archive is bringing out over the next few years hopefully. 

What recently from the Spanish speaking world have you enjoyed this last year? Any recommendations for your fellow readers?

Grove by Esther Kinsky

Grove by Esther Kinsky

German fiction

Original title  – Hain

Translator – Caroline Schmidt

Source – review copy

One of the things I love best about blogging for so many years is the chance to read the second and third books that get translated by writers you had loved first time round and this is such a case River the debut translation in English from the German Writer/ Translator Esther Kinsky. It was a book that touched me her wonderful view of the world around her a wonderful observation of nature and the world around us. This book was written not long after she lost her husband the German to English translator Martin Chalmers. The narrator of this book has gone to Italy to get over a bereavement of her husband.

It is winter evening comes early. When darkness falls , the old village of Olevano lies in the yellow warmth of streetlights. Along the road to Bellegra, and through out the new settlements on the northern side, strtetches a labyrinth of dazzling white lamps. Above on the hillside the cemetery hoovers in the glow of countless perptually burning small lights, which glimmer before the gravestones, lined up on the ledges in front of the sepulchres. When the night is very dark, the cemeterty, illuminated by Luce Pertuea, hangs like an island in the night. The islanf of Morti above the valley of the vii

The unnamed narrator looks out in the dark over the village this passage really touched me.

Our narrator’s loss of her husband two years earlier she has decided to head to a small Italian village in winter to live there and try and work through her bereavement. In the early part of the book, we see her observing the village as it ebbs and flows in front of her as she sits on the balcony of her small cottage. Visiting the graveyard and seeing the names are the same as those in the shops she has been visiting. But then the feel changes as the woman remembers her childhood trips to  Italy. These sepia-toned memories of her family holidays seeing the old ladies of the villages. Carnivals and the variety of life they saw then. Then she heads to the river Po like in her book river the book springs with the world of the river the gardens around the river that she sees with that wonderful eye this is a book that sees the beginning of winters and people visiting graves then we have the remembrance of her past that seems to bring her to the now and remembering in the end of the works of Fra Angelico. A painter I had run across in a book by the Italian writer Antonio Tabucchi.

Once we stayed in Chiavenna. We found a guest house, managed by a woman with a severe expression. Every piece of furniture and every step creaked. We were given a family room, which smelled of mothballs. the beds stood sombre and massivein in the large room, as if randomly placed and lefty there standing.My parents had an argument ad ,y father went out I lay under the stiff sheets pretending to sleep. My mother sat at the window, waiting for my father.

I wqas remind of a guest house we stayed in Devonwith an old fashioned own and stiff sheets like her.

This is for me even better than the river it is so personal its hard to not think of it being Esther’s own story of how she got over her own personal loss that of her husband. The book is a path of that recovery in a way starting as cold as the unnamed narrator arriving in the small village of Olevano an outsider in the winter slowly opening as the world goes on around her but in many ways still detached as she sees those villagers visit the graves and she ventures to see the names and t=in a way this is a path to her own remembrances of her past and then the last section the Po flows to the sea and toa wider world. An insight into grief and the struggle we all make with it and the different ways we can find to get over it. A book that is rich in the world around her and insight into a human soul. Have you read either of her books ?

Tazmamart by Aziz Binebine

Tazmamart by Aziz Binebine

Moroccan Memoir

Original title – Tazmamart

Translator LuLu Norman

Source – review copy

When this arrived I decided it was a good time to read a few other books from Morroco alongside this one and I found I had two others both of which had a connection to this book. Aziz was a young officer when by chance he was caught up in the attempted coup on King Hassan 2nd. His brother is a prize-winning Moroccan writer Mahl Binebine. The story of his time in Tazmamart prison which he told his fellow Moroccan writer Tahar Ben Jelloun which he used as the bases of his novel this blinding absence of light.

By evening,everything was ready. The drill had been rehearsed a few minths earlier, but with different actors, this time, the finger of fate pointed to us. After a hard day’s work, we gathered for supper in the officers mess, in combat uniform of course, with guns and ammo.as he entered the mess, ithe school’s doctor, a young Feench Lieutenant doing his military service, exclaimed “My god, you look like you’re planning a coup!” A burst of laughter greeted his remark, but a seed of doubt had been sown.

The night before the coup that was meant be an exercise but could be seen as a coup!!

Aziz Binebine was an officer and from a family close to the King his father was an adviser to the king when one day he was told of an exercise the next day that they were doing. At the time he jokes it could almost be a coup so when this exercise was an actual coup the young man was caught and captured and then sentenced to ten years in prison he initially went to a normal prison but then after another coup he and 57 fellow prisoners are taken to a special underground prison the king had built so these men will be forgotten. The only escape is death in their tomb as he calls it they are fed poorly and have to live through illness and sickness they survive through keeping each other spirits up in Aziz part that is through retelling the novels he remembers over and over again. Baba Driss his fellow prisoner a man that imagines he is being attacked by snakes as he loses his grip a close friend from his academy days also loses his will to lie this is a story of Aziz but also those around him.

At midday the guards arrived, they served us a smallbread roll and a carafe of chickpeas boiled in water with a little salt. This would be eternal, unchanging menu, with a pot of pasta, again boiled in a slightly salted water

Ass the transfer had taken place in mid-augusty, we each received a khaki canvas shirt and trousers, the classic military summer uniform. The striped uniform of civilan prison were taken away, through we kept the plastic sandals we’d arrived wearing.we swapped our clothes quite cheerfully. Deep down, we were almost relived to take off that shameful apparel in favour of the more or less reputable uniforms of the army, to which – after all we still belong.

The arrival at the new prison is grim food wise for them.

Now, this sounds familiar as it was a three-hour interview he gave many years ago to Tahar Ben Jelloun that was the base of his prize-winning novel but since then he has said he had neem pressured into the interview and in an open letter denounced the book. I will be reading that book later in the month. But this is a personal account the names are the names not like in the novel where a character has been made up. This is his memory of those 18 years in Tazmamart the horror of having to do surgery on oneself to live, to remember works of literature which remind me of the recent NYRB book that captured  Józef Czapski’s lectures on Proust as he recalls retelling those great Russian writers he loved this shows the hope literature can give as I read in Albert Manugels history of reading where there is a section about books that have been read by prisoners over various times. The other thing he does is show the loss of his inmates over the 18 years half of those 58 prisoners didn’t make it to see the light of day most of them ending up going mad with the despair of their situations. Have you a favorite book from Morocco

 

 

Obscurity by Phillippe Jaccottet

Obscurity by Phillippe Jaccottet

Swiss fiction

Original title – l’Obscurite

Translator – Tess Lewis

Source – personal copy

Lizzy Siddal is doing a Seagull books fortnight well I decide to choose the books I own I have downloaded the 28 free ebooks well the ones I didn’t have. This is the debut novel of one of the best known French-language poets. Phillippe Jaccottet has written a lot of short verse prose pieces about nature. I read this qi=uote translated from french on his wiki the Jaccotean writing is “an aesthetic of measure and of the unspoken that in a way summed up a lot of what I thought of his novel. He has also translated a number of poets and writers from various languages.

When I returned to our native country, several years had passed since I’d last seen my master – I called him this because under him I’d learnt the essentials of what guided me. It was he, in fact, who had imposed the separation- he fered, no doubt rightly, that i might confuse the two of us, that in fiollowing him to closelty. I would lose all sense of personal existence. Becaues I was on another continent anc he had almost completely given up all involven=ment in public life his retirement to the country allowerd him, in a sense, to extingush the splendour of his reputation – I’d heard nothing more aboput him. i didn’t even know if he was still alive.

The return of his disciple to the homeland ?

The book has two parts and reflects on the return of a disciple of a Philosopher. Who has spent many years in the city spreading the word of his master’s philosophy hen he left his master was a happily married man with children. so when he loses touch with him he chooses to return to the small town where his master lived. There he finds the family home has disappeared and his master is no longer about. He tries to find out what happened then he remembers that his master was a fan of a certain poet he then tells him of his master downfall and he tracks him to a single room where he finds a changed man the second part of the book is the struggle of master and disciple when the master has now decided that his views and ideas were wrong and has since dived into the dark the firey brilliant mind that has been destroyed by his master when he lost his with and he sees a man crumble by disbelief when all he values in his philosophy has been shown up death.

Again he remined silent for a long  time, as if he really were considering the question and his possible guilt or perhaps simply because he was overcome with fatigue. As for me, I was exhausted from the sadness, the discomfot, the strain of paying attentio. I had seen the lights in the window go out one after the other, except for one or two. the facades behind these windows would soon be nothing more than expansesof shadow of black. The glass ceiling iver the basement gleamed in spots. I asked permission to light the candle I’d notice on the mantlepiece, left there no doubt for the power filures that were frequent in these old buildings.

He gets the sorrow of what happened to his master whilst he was away.

This is a poetic work with no names or location it is two lives one that looked up at one then on the return after years of promoting and belief in his master that he saw as a brilliant mind a successful man with a set of beliefs that work has been broken. As it says in one part nothing is true,  nothing except the pain of knowing it. This shows what happens when time breaks down on man and builds another over time. this is one of the reasons I like Seagull books and other the last few years have been buying within my budget as many as I can as this isn’t a book that is commercially appealing as it is philosophical with very little details about the characters in a way I was reminded of Beckett Godot it is sometimes what isn’t said or is there that is what matters in this book. Have you read Jaccottet? I have another of his books on my shelves that I plan to read this fortnight.

I Remember by Georges Perec

I Remember by Georges Perec

French Memoir

Original title – Je Me souviens

Translator – Philip Terry (with notes and Intro by David Bellos)

Source – personal copy

When I saw Gallic was bringing this out on the newish imprint Gallic Editions which has classic french lit. I decide I try this and have the JMG Le Le Clezio. I have featured Georges Perec three times on the blog and am working through his lesser-known books I initially reviewed Life a user manual which I reviewed alongside an art show inspired by his work.  Since then, he has featured his lost debut novel and a short novella. This is a collection of Aphorisms originally published as weekly pieces in Les Cashiers du Chemin between 1973 and 1977.

I remember that at the end of the war, my cousin Henri and I marked the advance of the allied armies with little flags bearing the names of the generals commanding the armies or the army corp. I’ve forgotten the names of almost all of these generals (BradleymPatton, Zhukov,etc.)But I remember the name of General De Larminat.

I remember thsat Michel Legrand make his debut under the name of “Big Mike”

I remember that a 400-meter spriotner was caught stealing in the cloakrooms of a sport stadium(and that , to avoid going to prison.He had to sign up for Indochina)

I remember the day Japan capitulated

I remember a piece by Earl Bostic that was called “Flamingo”

Here is a selction of them personal distant memoires and the war ending.

This is a selection of memories there is no real order it is just single aphorisms that all start with the two words I remember from personal insights such as his cousin Henri, A number of post-war memories like the yellow bread that France had immediately after the war, scarves made from Parachute silk. Then cultural references radio shows even crystal radio sets, actress in films, jazz performers. Sport a number of cyclists mentioned. What builds as Perec remembers and that isn’t the big things just no those little things make this an interesting insight into the man I’ve always been a fan of lists of peoples favourite films books etc and things like Desert island disc the little things that make us what we are and here we have lots of little crumbs of Perec’s life and loves. It is an interesting insight the 480 pieces build into a history of him as a person.

I remember that in the jungle book, Bagheera is the panther, Mowgli the boy, and Bandar Log the monkey (But what are the names of the bear and snake!)

I remember that Fausto Coppi had a lady friend called “The Woman in White”

I remember a cheese called “La Vache Serieuse”(“La Vache qui rit” took the manufacturers to court and won).

I remember a Mexican comic actor called Cantinflas(I think he was the one who played Passepartout in Around the world in Eighty days).

I remembrer the swimmer Alex Jany

I remember jaacques Duclos’ pigeons.I remember that Jean-Paul Satre worked on the script of John Huston’s Freud.

I felt a connection here I love cycling and I have read Satres Freud script I have to review it some day soon.

 

This was inspired in part by the American painter Joe Brainard who also wrote a number of a different list like this of aphorisms called I remember. He has a huge fan in Paul Auster and I was reminded of Auster story Augie march which got made in part to the film smoke which he took a picture each day which like this list seems not a lot but when you slowly work through the list it makes a picture of Perec and thee sort of chap he was. I feel it is like a collage of the man especially what he like listening to those old radio talent shows, certain French singers. Another work inspired by this work was Edouard Leve’s Autoportrait another series of Aphorisms that builds a picture of a writer. This is a nice collection of a writer that I for one have found fascinating over the years. Have you read this book?

The end and Again by Dino Bauk

The end and Again by Dino Bauk

Slovenian fiction

Original title -Konec. Znova

Translator – Timothy Pogacar

Source – review copy

I move to another small press and one of my favourite over recent years Istros has been brought us all wonderful titles from the Balkans and here we have a Debut novel from a former lawyer and civil servant Dino Bauk.  He was a columnist and began writing short stories. Before this came out it was his debut novel it won the Best debut novel at the Slovene book fair in 2015. It was also longlisted for another book prize in his homeland. This book is set in the years of the break up in the former Yugoslavia and focus on the members of a band.

“So you must be sister something!”

“I’m Mary ”

“Of course, the virgin Mary, who else?”

He felt that his child like didn’t anger, but amused her. She rewarded him with a changed teasing smile, which fuelled his courage. He rose from his seat to take an equal place amoung the small group and push closer to her as she stood behinf her two brothers and sister. One of the two slich=k assholes tried to guide the conversation, but Denis was communicating with her onl, turning the other three Mormons into uslessappendages, which they themselves understood afters severak stops, and gradually retreated into their own cnersation

Denis meeting Mary with her fellow Mormon when he was younger.

The book has a fragmented nature is made of vignettes of memories and a stream of consciousness style. The story is around the break up of Yugoslavia and the effect on the four members of a band Peter, Goran, Denis, and Mary. The band is rather like the famous Serbian band EKV which at this time huge. Denis is the main character in a way he was one of those that lost his identity in the middle of this story he has no place to live being expelled from his homeland due to a problem with his paperwork. whilst his bandmates remain Slovenian and they get caught up in post band activities and make money and corruption as one becomes a manager and the other works in local government whilst their bandmate is near via the books he read whilst on the front reading books in a roofless library and finding out what is going on in the world via his books. Mary is the one that connects them all a Mormon and friend of them then they were sixteen and in the band. Then in the future she tries to find out what happened to Denis and she had seen the world. It is a story of growing and forming one’s identity and what had been lost to some in that and overs that disappeared at the time.

Recording 4

Denis, peter and Goran laugh out loud, at first genuinely, then as theu og on, it’s more and more forced, like teenagers who wanted to show as many passers by as possible what a good time they;’re having, Peter and Goran walk ahead, handing off a bittle of wine, which they alsooffer Denis. She doesn’t drink at all, and Denis declines a swig as well, probably because of her. They had emptied one in the park, before the evening fell and peter and Goran will clearly finish the second on the to the condcert hall.

They drink but Denis is influneced a bit by Mary into not drinking .

This is a layered book as we see all the four-character go from the starting point of a band at 16 and the way post-war in Slovene. The path of each character reflects on things that happened. From the quick wealth post-war that was available and corruption in the two men that remain Peter and Goran. Denis’s tale is a fragmented one as he has disappeared from the people’s lives but also his lies pf place and identity than being in a library of books and discovering a wider world as he read through from one ward. Then Mary is an outsider looking in one the three boys and their lives it is about what haunts them in that boast the loss of a friend but also they in some cases have lost themselves to the future. It is a small window into the war years and aftermath one four people in Slovenia without giving us a solution to there actions or an end or as the tile say the end and again!  Remember to support or small presses through this madness!

shadow Man booker winner 2019

The official announcement of the winner of the 2020 International Booker Prize has been postponed until later in the summer, to give readers more time to get and read copies of the novels.

But our shadow jury of bloggers and reviewers of translated fiction has already completed our reading and re-reading, so it seems fitting to announce our Shadow Winner on the original date of May 19th.

As a reminder our own shortlist was, in alphabetical order of the original author’s name:

The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree by Shokoofeh Azar (Farsi – Iran), tr. Anonymous (Europa Editions)
The Other Name: Septology I-II by Jon Fosse (Norwegian – Norway), tr. Damion Searls (Fitzcarraldo Editions)
Hurricane Season by Fernanda Melchor (Spanish – Mexico), tr. Sophie Hughes (Fitzcarraldo Editions)
The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa (Japanese – Japan), tr. Stephen Snyder (Harvill Secker)
Faces on the Tip of My Tongue by Emmanuelle Pagano (French – France), tr. Sophie Lewis & Jennifer Higgins (Peirene Press)
The Discomfort of Evening by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld (Dutch – Netherlands), tr. Michele Hutchison (Faber & Faber)

We were collectively impressed with all of these books, indeed all six had their champions among us.

And three books in particular were so close in our deliberations and our voting that it was almost tempting to go one further than last year’s anglophone Booker judges.  But instead we’ve kept with one winner, but decided to acknowledge two books as Runners-Up.

Runners-Up:
The Other Name: Septology I-II
and
The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree

Jon Fosse’s “slow prose”, unfolding his story in one long, flowing stream that reads with great fluidity, took us deep inside his narrator Asle’s mind and thoughts. And we were caught up in the heady mixture of Persian myth, story-telling and magic realism of The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree, a true ode to literature and to the deeply soothing role books and stories play in our survival of trauma.

But the winner of our 2020 Shadow Jury Prize is:
Hurricane Season, written by Fernanda Melchor, translated by Sophie Hughes and published by Fitzcarraldo Editions

Comments from some of our judges:

“Hurricane Season is an appropriate title for a novel that roars into the unsuspecting reader’s mind, with its long and winding sentences, and its refusal to flinch from the brutalities of its world.”

“There is anger, pain, and the understanding of the role literature plays when it comes to compassion and empathy.”

“As author M John Harrison said of Melchor’s novel ‘…she had shown me things I needed to be faced with.’ and expanded my understanding of lives so very different from my own.”

“It unflinchingly portrayed a world apart from us and artfully created another layer of distance from subject through the use of mythologized violence. That she both creates distance and ‘makes us look’ simultaneously was incredibly powerful for me.”

“Melchor’s prose, in Hughes’s stunning translation, is raw, brutal and so, so necessary.”

“As readers and intrepid voyagers down Melchor’s Dante-like vision, we are like riveted inmates, incarcerated either by law or by economics or gender, who stand to witness the depravity, despair and pain being inflicted upon this part of the world. The real evidence and reward here is not in unmasking the Witch’s killer or killers or in finding out why this happened, the true recompense of Melchor’s novel is to pay tribute by listening to the dead’s testimony,‘there is no treasure in there, no gold or silver or diamonds or anything more than a searing pain that refuses to go away.’“

And our congratulations extend to the publisher Fitzcarraldo Editions who provided two of our top three, and also now have two Shadow Prize wins in three years.

I would love to thank the fellow shadow Jury People for letting me join them I have dropped behind and have to review our winner but its be great to be involved again in these strange new times of ours.

Now it’s over to the official jury for their decision.

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