Weekend reading from a Mountain to the turtle in the tree

20151030_144950Well not going to finish these this weekend as I have just started both these epic books.Leg over leg is 400 pages plus another 100 of notes and a very large forward to read once I’ve read the book , the book follows the alter ego of the writer as we see him learning in his native Lebanon then further afield , this book opens with an eye-opening few passages around female and male sex organs the shapes and sizes of each, very unexpected opening bit even after thirty pages this morning before work I get a real sense of the writers playful use of language and imagery. Then well I maybe should be reading something at the lighter end of the reading rainbow of books I like to read but no I chosen Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann as we see the world on the brink of world war one as Hans Castrop heads to the swiss alps and a sanatorium, as he tries to find himself and the world around him but also the cracks that lead to world war one a ringing of a new guard in the German-speaking world that would lead them into war. I will probably be on these two for most november as I splatter a few shorter books in the mix . The Mann also crosses two boxes a German lit month novel but also for the 1924 club but rather late on as I think I won’t finish it till middle of November but I want to add a translation to this event. I am nearly all read for German lit month a bit disappoint few of the library books I had found haven’t appear so must be lost in the libraries it has happened before I have managed to read 11 books already for German lit month and hope to finish magic mountain and a couple of others before December .

How is your weekend reading shaping up ?

looking back and looking forward the year that was and the year to come

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 Picture credit 

Firstly hope everyone had a good Christmas , I did although working Amanda and I had the afternoon and evening together and although we had a tight budget I got a new reading lamp from my darling wife .I was just happy to have a nice day with my wife and eat some lovely food .So I got my annual report from WordPress , I haven’t published these I just like to see them for myself but the good point was the growth in number of post from last year ,also more comments than last year .My longest tun of post was 13 in a row .But beyond the figures , I enjoyed doing the Shadow IFFP  again and will be doing that again next year .It was a sad year with the loss of my dear boy and faithful hound  the name sake of this  blog Winston Allen .I also managed to reach to milestones of 500 reviews and a 1000 posts this year .So out with the old and in with the new  a new year is just around the corner and where is the blog going , well as ever trying to keep up with reviews to reading is a big thing so the first few months of 2015 I’m going try to slow my reading blog a bit more catch up on remainder of 2014 and get 2015 reviews going as bok read book reviewed not book read a month later I get to it as it has been the last few months .I will be adding a new page next year along side my books read , I ‘ll be doing films watched as well , I just signed up for MUBI a curated film streaming service that has a lot of films from around the world on to try to widen my film watching experience , but you will also see my love of bad movies as much as I love art house cinema ,I also have a love of the kitsch bad movies from the likes of sy fi channel or asylum films .The more surreal the idea behind the film , the better I like them .Next year will also see another IFFP shadowing , I have been trying to find a number of books I missed recently so I have as many from longlist read as possible when it comes out .I think another spanish lit month may be on the cards as well given my poor participation and running this year (due to the loss of  my boy ) .I hope to bring more interviews next year as well it is something I have dabbled with before and I wish to carry more with both writers and translators .I’m also looking to have a few more guest posts in the next year from around the world of Translated fiction .So happy new year to you all I will be back 1st January .

How was your year ?

What you looking forward too next year ?

Winston’s books of the year

Well its been a bumper year and I always find picking my books of a year hard so here we go with 12  from what I’ve read the year .of course there is many more I would have added but a dozen  seems a good number and  the dozen I chosen have challenge me in some ways and maybe pushed me as a reader .I also include a similar book this year on each book .

1.Heaven and hell / The sorrow of angels by Jon Kalman Steffanson

The first two books of a trilogy of novels that I finally got to read this year set in Iceland follow a young man’s journey through Iceland ,.Both these need two readings by myself but in the end I feel in love with Stefansson poetic vision of the world . also butterflies in November by Audur ava Olafsdottir

SOrrow of angels

2 The search warrant by Patrick Modiano

Well a quick jump in his betting before winning the Nobel prize prompt me to try the only book that was readily available at the time . A man trace a young Jewish woman’s journey during the war , but also finds intersections with his own life .Great that he won the Nobel so now we can get more of his book to read ! also The safety net By Heinrich Boll

 

 

 

 

3 Zone by Matihas Enard

Zone follows a man’s train journey through Italy as he remembers how europe fell apart and how he has in his case the secrets to this and the chance to redeem himself by selling this to the vatican also the tower by Uwe Tellkamp

zone_cover

4 The corpse washer by Sinan Antoon

A gem discovered via this years IFFP prize a young man in Iraq’s dreams shattered as he returns to his father’s career as a corpse washer during the war . also The Iraqi christ by Hassan Blasim

The Corpse Washer

5 The ingenious gentleman and poet Federico Garcia Lorca ascends into hell by Carlos Roja

Well it wins the title for the longest title this year a clever novel that follows the spanish poet Lorca through hell as he relived parts of his life .also The sermon on the fall of Rome by Jerome Ferrari

Carlos Rojas the ingenious gentleman and poet Federico Garica Lorca ascends to hell

6 Bilbao – New York – Bilbao by Kirmen Uribe

A writer think ing about his novel he is writing about growing up in a small fishing port on a flight to New york . A clever ode to a dying world of his family and their fishermen lives . also A notebook by Agota Kristoff

 

 

7 A french novel by Frederic Beigbeder

Auto fiction a story of a night after he won a prize and was arrested and then remembering the relationship he has had with his brother . also Liveforever by Andres Caciedo

a french novel

8 The false apocalypse by Fatos  Lubonja

The collapse that followed capitalism dawning in Albania is captured and told on the national and personnel level by one of the leading minds in the country . also Sworn Virgins by Elvira Drones

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9 The Neruda case by Roberto Ampuero

A young solider is enlist by the great Chilean poet to trace the woman in Neruda’s life to find out what happened to them a journey that takes him around the world . also twilight of the eastern gods by Ismail kadare

10 Zenith Hotel by Oscar Coop -Phane

Well I am on the cover of this book quote a woman sits in  a hotel as the flotsam and jetsam of the local city sleep with her we hear her story and their stories .also The people in the photo by Helene gestern

zenith hotel cover

11 Dead lake by Hamid Ismailov

The story of a man that stayed a child after swimming a lake in the former soviet unions hinterland .Also Solar plexus by Rustam Ibragimbekov

the dead lake

12 Harraga by Boualem Sansal

Two women bought together in a house one young a modern arab woman the other dreamy and quiet a typical arab woman see the changing world of Algeria outside them .also Barbarian spring by Jonas Luscher

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Winston’s Top 5 albums of 2014

Well still debating what is going be on my books of the year so I will start out with five albums I have loved this year a mix of the new and the reissued albums for the last twelve months that I have been listing too .

1. Benji by Sun kill moon

Well this has easily been my most listen to album I have always been a fan of mark kozelek from his early days as red house painter .But this album just sees him turn into a true confessional singer the songs are so heart breaking mainly about people he has lost in his own life or his loved ones .

2 Scott walker and sunn 0)))

Well was there ever a better combination for a album Scott walker has been getting more avant grade in his singing and music ever since he went solo , so in my mind it was only a matter of time to this happened he got in expermential rock band Sunn 0))) to do his latest album adding a meancing background to his surreal lyrics .

3 Spiderland by Slint

Now a classic album that has been reissued this year spiderland was slint ‘s second album and a classic of the fast slow fast style and has long been a favourite of mine maybe one of the best post rock albums .Good morning captain was in the film Kids years ago so many of you will maybe know it .

4 Gentlemen by Afghan Whigs

Another reissue by a singer and his first band that for me never quite became as big as they should be Greg dulli voice sits somewhere between barfly , soul singer and rock god .Maybe that is reason he is hard to pigeon-hole , so it was great to see this come out again after 21 years .

5 Way out weather by Steve Gunn

 

An album that saw a great guitarist finally step into the limelight he has played with a number of great bands in particular with Kurt Vile in recent years so his solo album was a real treat for me to listen too .

What have been your albums of the year ?

Beside the Sea by Veronique Olmi

beside the sea 1

Beside the Sea by Veronique Olmi

French fiction

Original title – Bord de mer

Translator – Adriana Hunter

Source – review copy

I can live with the sky falling out from above
I can live with your scorn, your sourness, your smug
I can live growing old alone if push comes to shove
But I can’t live without my mother’s love

I can live flying round at an impossible pace
I can live with the bad etiquette that’s falling on this place
I can live with anything you’ve got to throw in my face
But I can’t live without my mother’s embrace

A sons love of his mother Sun kill Moon song I can’t live without my mothers love  , but what happens when a mother has despair at her sons and her life !

can it really be five-year I said to myself a couple of months ago , when I decide to revisit the first three books from Peiene press .They’ve been publishing books in translation as long as I’ve been running the blog and they have provided in that time some of the most thought-provoking books I have read .So back to the book beside the sea seems to be a favourite book from Peirene still after five-year among people who have read their books .I maybe the first time round wasn’t as grabbed as many readers were but this time I felt a greater connection to the book .

When they were both asleep it was hard for me .The talking started all on its own in my head , I hate that , thinking is a nasty piece of work .sometimes I’d rather be a dog , you can bet dogs never wonder what their place in life is or who they should follow , they just sniff the air and its all recorded , in there for ever .And they stick to it

The mother starts to think over night as her boys sleep

Beside the sea is the story of a mother and her two sons , on the surface we seeing them going on a holiday , maybe out of season but to the seaside as the three of them arrive on a bus late in the evening and find a hotel to stay in  . The mother is unnamed but her two sons are kevin and Stan , she is a single parent we are told little bits about how she had the boys and what the boys are like  at home and together how the older brother watches the younger brother and looks after him .But throughout the book this time you get a  sense all isn’t right  with the mother and the thoughts in her head .This time I read the book noticing a lot more little things that lead up to the end moment of the books ,when the mother makes a decision that will affect her and her boys for the rest of her life !

I dreamt of the sea , I remember , of Stan running towards the sea , into the sea , but not drowning, and me with no words left to call him back …  Where was Kevin ? I don’t know , I could feel him but not see him , it was like the sea was only there for Stan and two of them understood each other so well tht it couldn’t hurt him .

She pictures the boys beside and in the sea .

Now I have yet again in the summary of the book , I’ve  not mention the big event in this book because for me if someone hasn’t read the book its like when we told people who hadn’t seen the sixth sense at the cinema what had really happened to Bruce Willis .But in reread the books the clues are there through the books in the thoughts and way the mother talks about her sons .At the time of the first reading I had read a lot less French fiction but now five years on this book is easier to place in the French cannon .The way French fiction can explore emotions and actions maybe even thoughts that a writer has had and never carried out  , but where these actions and thoughts  could lead so one of the first French novels on this blog becomes the 51st French book on the blog .In my original review I mentioned Kitchen sink drama as an English equivalent of this  book , but now years on maybe this book is nearer the sort of film Ken Loach would make there is a real natural feel to the prose ,but because Olmi obviously knew what was going to happen at the end we get little bit thrown through out the story that point us when we get to the main event in the book .I also think this is a book that would have more of an impact if you are a parent yourself , I’m sure many people have felt the despair that this mother feels about her sons .

Have you read this book if not why not ?

The tango singer by Tomás Eloy Martínez

 

The Tango Singer by Tomás Eloy Martínez

Argentinean fiction

Original title –  El cantor de tango

Translator – Anne McLean

Source – personnel copy

Will they marvel at the miracles I did perform
And the heights I did aspire
Or will they tear out the pages of the book
To light a fire

With the rain on my face
There is no place that I belong
Did you forget this fucking singer so soon?
And did you forget my song?

The last two verses of the song The singer by Nick cave remind me of Julio in a way .

 

Well I’ve left it till near the end to finally join in Richards Argentinean theme writers of doom event for last three months of 2014 .I finally choose another book by a writer whose two previous books I have reviewed here and enjoyed .Tomas Eloy martinez I have reviewed on the blog  Santa Evita and Purgatory  , two books  for me that  rank among my favourite books from Latin America so I’m surprised it took me this long to get The tango singer which has sat on the shelves for a good few years .Martinez was Journalist and academic as well ,being a writer , he passed away in 2010 .

No one knew why Martel performed in such inhospitable places , without charging a cent .At the end of spring of 2001 there were lots of clubs , theaters , bars and Milongas in Buenos Aires that would have welcomed him with open arms .Perhaps he was ashamed of exposing a body mercilessly abused by illness day after day

Julio just plays in dark corners of the city that are hard to follow .

The tango singer follows the story of Bruno Cadogan , who has been given the chance as a student to go to Buenos Aires to study .But he is happy because he has become gripped by Tango singers and he has heard of one such singer from the city Julio Martel , who has never been recorded singing and doesn’t really do concerts more turns up and starts singing never announced. His voice is considered the best Tango singer ever .So Bruno arrives in the city and is hunting to see this old man sing , but along the way we find out Julio story how he became such a star and how sad is life is .Add to this Bruno is a bit of a literary romantic so wants to see the city of Borges , the story Aleph by Borges gets mentioned quite a lot as a reference point maybe for Bruno own journey through the city and finally meeting this mysterious singer .

A few days after arriving I visited the house at 994 Maipu street where Borges had lived for more than forty years, and I had the sensation that I’d seen it somewhere else or , which was worse , that it was a scene destined to disappear as soon as I turned my back .

Borges crops up a lot in the book his ghost still seems to haunt both the city and Martinez in this book .

I love the layer Martinez builds in this book as we take its twists and turns  .Julio and Bruno are like two planets orbiting  around the city of Buenos Aires and Borges is like the sun of the centre of the  city and eventually these two planets will eclipse one another .Oh I can be a little abstract at times, this book is  really an ode to a city warts and all , to the writers and singers that live with in that city .Martinez builds the tension as Bruno gets closer to Julio but also in the dark past of the city makes this feel like a thriller at times .I would picture this book making a great film the young man on the quest to find the old sage of a singer . Martinez manages to capture the good and bad of a city which he spent some time in but he had lived many years in exile and this feels more about the city he remembered than the city at the time the book is set .If you have read any other of his books I’m sure you will love this one and if you need an introduction to him this is maybe a good one to start with as it has bits of each of the other two books I’ve read .Well can’t see it be too long before I read The Peron novel by him .

Have you a favourite book about music or singers ?

The whales in Lake Tanganyika by Lennart Hagerfors

 

The whales in Lake tanganyika by Lennart Hagerfors

Swedish ficion

Original title – Valarna i Tanganyikasjön

Translator – Anslem Hollo

Source  – Personnel copy

 

Africa land for preachers gold
Land for everybody young and old
The place that holds for some bright future,
But for others the future tend to torture
Ma’ Africa.

What went wrong with your brains?
You kill each other you destroy human dignity
People of Africa lets stand together
And make it the land of hope!

I want to tell everybody about myself

ma africa by One giant leap featuring  The Mahotella Queens & ulal maybe captured the book a bit .Africa is a character in this book .

One of the things I love about shops like Oxfam that seem to get donate quality books is looking through the shelves and finding books that I’ve never heard off , and in this case titles that gr
.ab me .Lennart is a swedish writer , but had spent time in the Congo as a kid as his parents were missionaries .He is a literary critic as well as a writer , he has written twenty plus novels in Swedish .This looks to be the only one of his books to be translated into English in the late 1980’s , yet another Oxfam Chesterfield gem !

“My name is Stanley . Henry Morton Stanley  I am a correspondent for an american paper , the New York herald .Its manager , young James Gordon Bennett , jr has sent me out to lead an expedition into the heart of Africa .I am offering you the position of third man – you would be the third white man in the expedition .

Stanley offers Shaw the chance to join him .

The book follows Stanley’s journey through Africa( I keep saying africa as it is how it is described in the book it actually congo we are in )  to find David Livingstone .We are told the story by one of the other two white men that went with Stanley on this Quest to find Livingstone , John Shaw a drinker and ex sailor , but someone who has been in Africa a while and has let the place and people soak into him as a person and lets it still give him wonder he loves what he sees the wonders of the nature around him  , but in may ways is maybe a weak man who is in  love with world  around him .Then we see Stanley through his eyes this brash american has come to tame africa , has no time for customs or Shaw at times .This shows what is a well-known moment the meeting of  Stanley and Livingstone , through another’s eyes .But also shows the way westerns view on Africa  at the time . We follow the two men all the way to they meet Stanley .

Then Stanley got to his feet again slowly .

“Dr Livingstone . I presume ”

The old wretch barked a little laugh but then looked terrified again ..

Those famous words left Livingstone bewildered it seems here .

Now in some ways part of this book can be dated , but maybe inline with the way people spoke and view the world at the time and at times the speech used by Shaw and Stanley would be very offensive now .It also shows that one event remember the meeting can be viewed differently when seen  from another’s eyes .Lennart spent time in Congo which is of course where the actual meeting took place .Shaw was on the expedition with Stanley but  had left before he found Stanley so the part of the book where he sees the meeting is imagined .What we do see is Stanley maybe a brutal strong-headed man set on finding this man .Shaw is a softer figure a broken man in many ways but one in total awe of all that surrounds him .I was reminded of books like the secret history of Costaguana , a book that also tells another tale of colonial life all bit in latin america but the is parallels in how westerns treat the native folk .Well a gem from Sweden brought second-hand a real one evening book to read but you find yourself in 1870’s Africa in the deepest jungles struggling to find a missing Scottish man .A great way to spend an evening .

Have you a favourite books set in 19th Africa ?

Harraga by Boualem Sansal

 

 

Harraga by Boualem Sansal

Algerian Fiction

Original title – Harraga

Translator – Frank Wynne

Source – review copy

Out of my Algeria
they made the prisons taller
than the schools.
They sullied the nocturnal roots
of the People,
the serious Tree
of the remote Berbérie…
They denied the certainty of our Land,
they tore apart Islam, its color,
its fantastical tribes, even the shame
that makes them live.
They denied the Vital Fire, our Flag
They exiled the humble joys of our huts
slow at the return of corn…
Blind! Blind!

Well I had hope to get this book last week as it is one I feel we all need to read .Boualem Sansal  had a government job in the  early 2000’s til he start complaining about the government , his books since then have been critical of Algeria in particular how the vast money made from Oil is being spent and in this book womans rights .Boualem Sansal still lives in Algeria as he says the his country needs artists to pave the way to peace and democracy .He has won many awards and written six novels .He is one of the strongest critics of his country’s regime .

This is how a whirlwind sweeps into your life .Nothing absolutely nothing in my past led me to suppose that one day i would open my door , open my life to such mayhem .I opened the door because that’s hat you do when someone knocks , you answer .

Lamia just after Cherifka arrives at her door and the effect she has on her life .

Harraga is the story of two women , Lamia , who up to now had lived a quiet life behind the wall of her house , just living in her own world and Cherifika a 16-year-old unmarried pregnant girl arrives in the middle of the night at Lamia ‘s door , she was sent to her by Lamia brother Sofiane .Sofiane is also the inspiration  for the title the only member of Lamia family left alive he is a Hararaga , some one trying to escape Algeria for Spain across the sea .Meanwhile the two worlds of Lamia nad Cerifka start to clash , Sherifka is having to lay low but is struggling to do this in a way she is  a new woman wanting to be equal wanting to be heard but this is dangerous for a girl with child that is unmarried could be killed for Honour .This is what Lamia is trying to do ,whilst seeing the world anew through this young girls eyes making this meek woman who maybe is an example of what woman have been in Algeria she gets stronger .As the two woman adjust to each other and the world outside .

Cherifka is bored .I’ve noticed that she’s become less voluble , less frivolous , she is brooding , preoccupied serious .I scarcely recognised her .She is like a caged bird that has forgotten how to sing , to splash in its bath , to hop and skip for joy – a joy it can scarcely remember , one too distant and to fleeting to gladden the heart .

Lamia sees how being held up in the house is affecting Cherifka , these lines remind me of the lines of Maya Angelou in a way .

This is in some ways a classic odd couple story , the pair Lamia and Cherifka in some ways to me reflect the two faces of woman in the modern Arab world Lamia has hidden herself and in her own way is a romantic living behind a wall in her own world with ghost but not really living as she has settle for the life she has .Cherifka is the modern girl wanting to live , having a boy before being married , wanting to be seen and heard in a world where woman should really be meek like Lamia .Boualem Sansal has lifted the veil on being a woman in Algeria , but not just that through Sofiane and his trying to leave Algeria he has shown the problems in the country a country rich in its own world with oil money but only for the few .Then there is the house and the city t,the house has itself been part of Algeria and its history and through these two woman is seeing another turn in the country’s history .I know Frank the translator really hopes this book gets a wider readership because its writer has a voice that needs to be heard , silenced  in his own country even here this book hasn’t really got the coverage a work of its quality and insight needs .

 

Have you a favourite book from Algeria ?

iffp library books and a couple of new nordic gems Winstons books

Well as the year ends I always tend to try to look for any books that may have slip under my radar for next year IFFP , I decide to order two from the library that had caught my eye in recent months and had both been on the IFFP before David Grossman , his latest book a mix of poetry prose and a play like dialogue  .I do wonder if this will be entered for the IFFP , but Falling out of time sees  bereaved parents looking for there lost children starting in a small village and meeting the folk that live their .The other book is by Per Petterson I refuse  a story pf two boys one lost his mother that has gone the other with his own parents , sounds a bit like he is on his usual ground but I have enjoyed his other books .

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Now the strange thing is as I order one Nordic novel and collect the Petterson than on the next two days I have two more nordic novels arrive in the post the following two days  ,it must be winter calling !

image (2)

Now the fist is The wandering Pine by Per Olov Enquist , a third person account of his own life and the strange events that have happened to him ,events such as lost days and partying .The mention of this being as elliptical as Karl Ove Knausgaard is exhaustive another remarkable sounding book from Sweden .

imageThen today this dropped through the letterbox .The winter war by Philip Teir a Finnish writer that writes in Swedish .The book follows the Paul Family the husband Max is about to turn 60 and what on the top seems a great live when under the surface is actually just about to crack open a wife he doesn’t love and kids with problems , what caught my eye on this is comparisons to Yates and Updike but with a cooler Nordic temperament mmm sounds good .Any way that some recent arrivals I’ve been offline over a week just spending time with family my mum visited , Amanda and I had a couple of days off together and just spent time together , I shall catch up on comments etc this week  .I’ll be back tomorrow with a new review of a great French translation from Algeria . Have you had any gems through your doors recently !

 

Classics in translation anyone want join in ?

Well this is a sort of feeler post to see if any one would be interested in reading a few classics in translation , I’m 300 pages into Giacomo Leopardi’s Zibaldone and already have a  list of writers mentioned by him with in these first few hundred pages plato , Virgil, Montesquieu Plutarch to name a few , I read a bit of Homer years ago and maybe three or four other books but that is about it and reading leopardi has made me want to fill this gap and learn more about these writers that so inspired him in thoughts about history and language .So maybe a small club reading three or four of these books a year  maybe starting in the middle of next year .I’ve not look fully into availability translations etc yet . I’m hoping a number of these writers  will be easily available as Oxford classics or Penguin classics .Maybe by the end of Zibaldone I’ll do a reading list of books I want to try if any one want to come along for the ride .

Have you a favourite classic in translation ?

 

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