Satantango by László Krasznahorkai


Satantango by László Krasznahorkai

Hungarian fiction

Original title Sátántangó

Translator – George Szirtes

Source -review copy

Well after a year of going how am I going do this wonderful book Justice and a rereading (which is rare for me ) .I feel with it being named on this year’s IFFP longlist I am finally able to review it .So László Krasznahorkai is probably alongside his fellow Hungarian write Peter Nadas the best know Hungarian writer .He studied Hungarian literature and Language at university and after he qualified he became a writer straight away .Satantango although his third novel to appear in English was actually his debut novel .The book was also made into a seven hour film by the well-known director Béla Tarr nine years after the book came out in 1985 .I did watch the film many years ago but remember it being slow and very tough to follow at point but the main feel was the feeling of an Isolate community in flux due to one man .

” I beg your pardon ,I didn’t get that ” .”Your Name!” “Irimias” His answer rings out ,as if he were proud of it .The captain puts a cigarette in the side of his mouth ,lights it with a clumsy movement ,throws the burning match into the ashtray and puts it out with the matchbox .”I see ,so you only have one name ” Irimias nods cheerfully “doesn’t everyone ?”

The first encounter with Irimias

So Satantango the novel its self is the story of a remote farming community working on a dying collective farm .The people who are there are drinking to forget and have a wholly bleak outlook on life .The book builds a glimpse of there lives when this man /devil arrives Irimias and his friend servant sidekick Petrina .Now when these two enter its starts a chain of events that seize the village and the people there in change greatly ,outburst of violence and revenge ,some horrific scenes to what is a bleak dark grey world already .Is he the devil well the is some feeling he has gone from the village and returned ,but has he change has the village change ,has the way he has changed set the village of the way it has ?

Quietly ,continually ,the rain fell and the inconsolable wind that died then was forever resurrected ruffled the still surfaces of the puddles so lightly it failed to disturbed the delicate dead skin that had covered them during the night so instead of recovering the previous days tired glitter they increasingly and remorselessly absorb the light that swam slowly from the east .

This place is so bleakly describe by Krasznahorkai

Well that is enough about the story it hard to describe without spoiling the book and the fact there is so much I could quite easily write a thousand words on the story but then it be spoiler filled .So where does this book fit in the grand scene of things ? Well it is easy to draw comparisons to feel central European figures writing at the same time or just before Krasznahorkai people such as Thomas Bernhard ,Peter Nadas ,Milan Kundera and Witold Gombrowicz it falls nicely in with them style wise it is what is described as modernist the book drifts from the observed ,to the imagine and back .Of course the bleak setting and over all feel of despair brings to mind Beckett for some review’s I’ve read .But for me I felt this book had a lot of central European mythology ,that has been brought to the modern age and also what makes myths, a man who may or not lived some where returns things happen ,this is what start the witch hunts of the past the return stranger ,a figure , a being ,even animals that have thus cause chaos ,in isolate communities strangers or people who have appear to change because they have been to the outside world are always the catalyst for change so here Irimias is that catalyst or as they have been called the bogeyman ,the devil or the many names that have appear in European mythology over the centuries .The book is also a hard-hitting polemic in the reason why collective farming in communism had failed the despair and hopelessness of the characters is there to see on the page .Although written nearly thirty years ago this book is still as fresh today as the day it was written in fact I would say its influence can be seen in other books particularly the book I read last year Hansens Children another book more recent about the fall of a remote community during communism .A tango with the devil indeed rather like the book that build from chapters up then down you be left breathless wanting more and thinking for the rest of your life about what happen in this book .

Have you read this book ?


The dream of the Celt by Mario Vargas Llosa

dream of the Celt Mario Vargas Llosa

The dream of the Celt  by Mario Vargas Llosa

Peruvian Fiction

Translator – Edith Grossman

Original Title -El sueño del celta

Source Library

Just other two yyears ago after he had won the Nobel prize for Literature I reviewed his novel the bad Girl which I enjoyed ,this is his latest book published in Spanish in 2010 ,this translation was published last Year and done by the Wonderful Edith Grossman .Mario Vargas is easily the most well known name from Peruvian fiction this book is his 15th novel in a career that dates back to 1959 and the start of the Latin American Boom .

When in Liverpool with his cousins ,Roger sometimes conquered his timidity and Asked Uncle Edward about Africa ,a vontinent whose mere mention filled his head with Jungles ,wild animals and interpid men .

The first time we see the draw of Africa on Roger Casement

This book focus on the well Known Irish nationalist figure Sir Roger Casement ,I say well-known before I read the book I knew he was associated with Ireland had been executed by the british and he was part of some sort of scandal .So to the book Yes Roger Casement was from Ireland and the book takes you through his youth there then to time spent in Africa ,Peru and the amazon basin then back to Ireland .The book is about a man’s journey  Form Idealist , British Diplomat to Disillusioned ,humanitarian and Irish freedom Fighter .We see  this youth In Ballymena (just thought mention this it isn’t a large part but my step mother is also from this town in Northern Ireland ) he is a quiet and quite shy young man growing up much different to the figure he later became ,Then in his late teens  joining the British government as a diplomat . Where he ends up being sent to Congo ,where he see the horrors of the dying embers of the slave traders and How the white Europeans treat the natives ,whilst in Congo he meet two well-known figures in History ,the Explorer Sir Henry Morton Stanley and the Novelist Joseph Conrad .Then he is sent to sort out and report back on a dispute in Peru involving the Local tribes of Indians Seven in all and The rubber company .The Indians have decided they need more rights ,because we see people whip and mistreated for not following the company lines or doing what was expected .Following all this he returns to Ireland where his views on his own home land and nation have changed radically and he ends up on the Gaol waiting to be killed  .Well  a lot as you see ,oh and he was gay and tend to like younger men than himself (rather well handle by Llosa it is easy to make this the main theme of the book ,which it could but this is a book on the wrongs of Empire really ) at a time when this was against the law .

O what has made that sudden noise?
What on the threshold stands?
It never crossed the sea because
John Bull and the sea are friends;
But this is not the old sea
Nor this the old seashore.
What gave that roar of mockery,
That roar in the sea’s roar?

The ghost of Roger Casement
Is beating on the door.

John Bull has stood for Parliament,
A dog must have his day,
The country thinks no end of him,
For he knows how to say,
At a beanfeast or a banquet,
That all must hang their trust
Upon the British Empire,
Upon the Church of Christ.

The ghost of Roger Casement
Is beating on the door.

Instead of a second quote I choose to put two verse of the W B yeats poem about Casement which is also quoted in the book

So I suppose like me reading this book on the blurb , the first name that came to mind with this book Is Conrad ,Yes it is similar settings but this is more a view of the natives downfall through a European eyes that Conrad’s books are ,I was also reminded of the recent novels by Bernardo  Atxaga  seven house in France  which I review  here and other book dealing with  the horrors in the Congo at roughly the same time as this book .Another book Ithat sprung to mind was the last but one book by Juan Gabriel Vasquez which I also reviewed on here The secret history of Costaguana another book which set in Latin america and based on a Conrad novel .Vargas has tried to show through one man the wrongs of empire and also how empires are able to fall .The horror of the treatment the locals around the world is eye-opening to you as a reader ,but also to Casement and lead him down a new path seeing these horrors .

Have you read this book ?

Where I left my soul by Jérôme Ferrari

where I left my soul Jérôme Ferrari

Where I left my soul by Jérôme Ferrari

French Fiction

Original title – Où j’ai laissé mon âme

Translator – Geoffrey Strachan

Source Review copy

Now sometimes you read a book love it but it unsettles you in some ways ,this is what happened with Where I left my soul ,I read it late last year ,but decide to sit on it and let the book settle in my mind as  it is quite a powerful book that unsettled me but one that I feel people need to read  .Now one has to admire Christopher Machlehose and his team for yet again getting a great book out for the writer to then win a major prize Jérôme Ferrari latest book in France last year won the Prix Goncourt ,this book had won four  literary  prizes in France  and one of my tips for this years IFFP .Jérôme Ferrari is a rising star of French fiction , by day he is a philosophy lecturer ,he has live in Corsica and Algeria and is currently professor of Philosophy at the French school in Abu Dhabi .So to where I left my soul .

He sat facing Tahar .

“We won’t touch you ,you know ”

“I ask no favours ,Capaitaine .I’m ready to receive the same treatment as my Comrades ”

“It’s not a favor .It’s nothing to do either favors .It’s a matter …. a simple matter of Logic ,you see .You can’t denounce yourself ,can you ?

The first exchange between the Capataine as Strachan has chosen to keep him from Tahar’s view and Tahar .


For the book Ferrari has chosen Algeria where he has lived before ,but to an earlier and more turbulent period in the country’s history and the year  is 1957 ,this falls in the middle of the war for independence from france .the setting is a french army camp and the interrogators have got a Algerian freedom fighter Tahar an idealistic  man willing to do anything for his country and willing to face the consequences is the rebel leader and called” the Pure  ” .The French are represented by two main characters Captain Degorce   he is an older French solider that has been impression and interrogated himself and was also impression in Vietnam ,Then the is the younger Lieutenant Andreani also served in Vietnam with the captain ,but this man has a very vicious streak .What follows is a tale of three men and what war makes people do and except as being caught .The events in the book take part over three days as we see what happens between the three men and how they end up there  .

Your contempt does not matter any more  than mine ,mon capitaine ,it is powerless against the force of this love I have never managed to eradicate from my heart ,for it has been rooted there like a weed ,full of vitality ,and I know nothing will eradicate it .

powerful words from  Tahar near the end of the book

The heart of this book is beliefs truth and how to stay human in war .Thou set in 1957 during what is regard as the most violent and hard-fought war of the 20th century the war of independence of Algeria .The title is even a play on the mind of you as a reader as who has left their soul? ,who has soul?  ,who hasn’t  it ? and maybe can a pure soul be defeated ?.It’s a story of three men and how even thou the captain and Tahar are from different sides and he has seen what the lieutenant has   to the man they call Tahar the Pure .Ferrari has said he want the book to show” the moment we open our eyes to Horrors ” and this is what trouble me I have read accounts of torture before but something in this book had touched me .But it is a timely remind of the fact that eye for an eye tactics in war ,don’t really work and when we casually use words for torture it is maybe remove the effect on the people being tortured and also those doing it in the long-term .One is remind of the main times you hear of torture on the news at present it is sryia but as the book shows it is a harrowing experience .

Have you read any books set during the Algerian war ?

Every Seventh wave by Daniel Glattauer


Every Seventh Wave by Daniel Glattauer

Austrian fiction

Translators – Jamie Bulloch(Leo) & Katharina Bielenberg (Emmi)

Original title Alle sieben Wellen

Source – Review copy

Now ever so often you read a book , the first in a series of books and you then  can’t wait to read the second part .This for me was the case with this book it is the follow-up to love virtually ,which was one of my favourite books of recent years and struck a chord with the romantic in my heart .Since the last book came out Glattauer has had another two vols of his articles for der standard and a novel.So as I write this having just listen to the Radio four version of this book ,which featured David Tennant as Leo and Emila Fox as Emmi here is a link to the Iplayer where it will be for a week .The earlier version of the first book appears to be available on you tube from links I saw earlier on twitter .

Subject: Query

Good evening ,Mr systems manager .How are you? Quite chilly for March , don’t you think ? Still after such a mild winter I don’t think we should be complaining .Oh yes since I’m here ,I’d be grateful if you’d answer a query .We have an acquaintance in common .His name is Leo Leike .Unfortunately I appear to have mislaid his current e-mail address .Would you be so kind and possibly …? many thanks

With my warmest virtual wishes ,

Emmi Rother

Emmi at the start when Leo still not there talking to herself in e-mail

So we are back to the story of Leo and Emmi .Last time Leo had ,left to go to america and had stopped using his Email account and all Emmi was getting is a systems manager message saying the email account was no longer in use .So the books opens and it is a few weeks later Emmi tries to e-mail then six months still no reply barring the system manager reply .Then lights are observed in Leo’s old flat and guess what she e mails to say so and no System manager reply hopeful she then gets a reply from Leo ,he is back and thus starts this strange e relationship the e-mail start slowly and cautiously .Whats happened in between ? who is Pamela ? what happened between Emmi and Bernhard her husband since Leo left ? All these questions get answered and what the hell does the title mean ? Well I suppose I can give that away whilst e mailing on Holiday Emmi Tells Leo about an old saying on the island where she and Bernhard are having a Holiday that every seventh wave that hits the shore is a bigger and stranger wave than the other ones.

Subject : A stranger 

For an hour I’ve been deleting chunks of e-mail in which I’m trying to describe what I thought of you at our meeting .I can’t seem to collect my impressions .No matter what I write it sounds banal , clichéd

Leo tries to absorb their first real meeting …….

As you can tell I love this book and would hate to give away too much to you as the reader  I think it is a book that every romantic person should read and discover what happens for themselves .Yes there are relationships hurt because of Leo and Emmi but at the heart of the book is the courtship a dance so to speak .We again see Glattauer using e mails to give life again to the epistolary novel .We also see a change in the dynamic the last book saw Leo as the main one pushing the romance this time the tables are switched it is Emmi that is the driving force trying to turn the virtual in to the real world romance  .Yet again the couple behind the translation have worked wonders by giving Emmi and Leo ever so slightly a male and female voice in English  as they translated each character .For me I was so reminded of Amanda  and myself’s romance we meet online and lived apart and used to text a lot so I got the times when Leo said it is hard to tell what mood Emmi was in by Email alone it is .I also thought the way he brought the novel to an end so suited to this story .

Do you have a favourite romantic book ?

Necropolis by Santiago Gamboa


Necropolis by Santiago Gamboa

Columbian Fiction

Original title Necropolis

Translator Howard Curtis

Source Review Copy

Well I had a load of long and complex novels last year but two I had left to mull over in my mind before reviewing .This was one the other being Laszlo Krasznahokai ‘s Satantango .So Santiago Gamboa is considered one of the rising stars of Latin American literature .He studied literature at Bogotá university before moving to Europe and settling in Paris where he furthered his studies studying Cuban literature .He published his first novel in 1995 aged 30 ,this Necropolis is his seventh novel and his first to be translated into English .The book won the  Premio La Otra Orilla award .

Dear writer ,in view of your work ,we have the pleasure of inviting you to the international congress on biography and memory (ICBM),to be held in the city of Jerusalem from 18 – 25 may

part of the invite that starts and is the framing device for the story .

So Necropolis is a novel is  about an unnamed Columbian  writer,who has been struggling for a couple of  years with his craft of writing and illness .But he is very intrigued when he receives a very strange offer from the ICBM (International Congress on Biography and Memory ),Now at first he wonders why but it seems legitimate so he says he will attend ,even thou he hasn’t in his mind written anything overtly biographical .So he sets off from his base in Rome to the conference which happens to be in Jerusalem.So he receives a copy from the ICBM OF attendees at the conferences and it is far to say apart from one man who also comes from Columbia like the writer these people have little in common .So we go to the conference and we see the first speaker talk this is mixed with our narrator as he meets his fellow delegates and listens to the talk by Jose Maturana ,this is about a church he became involved in and the collapse of this  cult like church and how the main man one Walter De la salle disappeared  .Next think is this guy turns up dead and we have what maybe a murder or a suicide ? then the action moves away from this to the other people and there stories at the conference an Italian  porn star ,a businessman who has been trying to deals with the Farc ,( a terrorist group in Columbia )  and a pastor each of these stories we hear are about fifty pages long  finally we return to find out what happen to Jose and was it murder ?

  The life story I am about to relate is a harsh and sometimes even macabre one, so I hope there are no young people in the room ,There are situations that the inexperienced or the innocent may find disturbing .I’m not sure on the conferences policy on this ,and I shall certainly go ahead and tell my story anyway .But it might be a good idea to check at the entrance that all members of audience are of legal age just for today .

Sabina telling her story to the conferences

Well that is  brief description of  this.It is very hard to grasp without getting  to in-depth with the story or stories .This book has a feel of ambition about it and scope .The book is set up really as a collection of stories and a murder story ,it has a feel rather like those classic tales of literature .In  a number of reviews I saw The Decameron is mentioned as one such  collection ,but I felt Canterbury tales could also work as the book is set round the conference it is a framing device like the trip the pilgrims took,  these people have been drawn together  at the king David hotel too essentially tell their stories .The tales we are told by the delegates are about love ,sex ,good and evil . Ambitious as you can tell ,it works and one feels the could be a number of other stories come from this one book in the future . Santiago Gamboa has assumed the mantel of writers like Marquez and Bolano .

Have you read this book ?

Do you have a favourite latin american work of fiction ?

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