Byron and the beauty by Muharem Bazdulj euro 2016 post 3

Byron and the beauty by Muharem Badzdulj

Bosnian fiction

Original title – Đaur i Zulejha

Translator – John R cox

I have briefly met Muharem a couple of years ago when I was out for the day with his english publisher Susan and we bumped into him before the first Balkan day at the british library. It wasn’t till I sat to write this review I was remind of the fact I had met him briefly . He lives in Belgrade and has had a number of small piece translated before one was included in the best European fiction 2012. Muharem himself is a professor of English and AMerican Lit and has translated piece from Auster, Rushdie and Larkin to name a few. I choose this as we see Turkey in the opening game the other day of Euro 2016 play a fellow Balkan team Croatia so it gave me chance to shoehorn this book in as Croatia and turkey have been two of my favourite teams to watch over the last few decades as both fans have such passion and this is seen on the pitch.

Isak pointed towards the mountains. “North of here, and to the west ” He said : “A stern and beautiful land. I spent my youth there it is a perfect land, as a Turk once told me, wherever you dig, up comes potable water, and wherever a seed falls, there a tree will sprout. Nowhere is the water any sweeter, or the shade any more beautiful, my lord. This place you were speaking of, my lord , this sintra, seems to me to be complete sevdah, but Bosnia is at once Sevdah and Dert.

Isak tells byron what Bosnia is like in the most poetic way as Bosnia is considered the poetic heart of the balkans .

It’s interesting that Muharem has translated poetry and choose a poet as a lead figure in this book. The figure in this book is Lord Byron the mad bad boy of romantic poetry. We meet him here as we spend two weeks with him as he waits in the Balkans Byron his group of people and a man called Isak whom is the interpreter. Then there is the third character in the story a Bosnian beauty called Zuleiha who is part of the Turkish royal Harem. At one point Isak said her beauty is that much it can’t be described so we have an English man in love with an eastern beauty that he can’t have .They can’t even say he name after she married. We see Byron trying to work out how eastern culture works through his western eyes.

“No my lord” Isak replied, “her name has not been utter since the wedding. All those who’d been saying she would definitely appear re now as silent as can be. Such a story, however cannot be invented. She is here somewhere my lord; I can feel it; and I fear that we Iliad will miss her, that she will come to Yannina, and leave again, while I’m away

Isak talks about Zuleiha and her wedding and after .

Now another connection the mad bad boy of romantic poetry , grew up 20 miles from where I live in his family home of Newstead abbey ( I went a few years ago and Byron had some mad family members one who made the staff of the estate take part in naval battle in small ships with real cannons on the lake ) I knew I had read something similar by Byron and I rooted out my battered copy of Bryon’s poems that I have had for years .

20160617_105524

I found that after Childe Harold he had written a poem or turkish tale in fragments called The Giaour  a story with three character a woman from the Harem an Infidel (also the name given to Byron in the Bosnian edition ) as she is thrown to the sea after being involved with the infidel.But strangely the poem is also one of the first mentions of Vampires and given that most vampire storys start in the east is this maybe the start of it given that it is explained to Byron about the Bosnian Dert and Sevdah Black bile and blood  This book is a modern take on how Byron looked at the east back then how we in the west held eastern culture in such mystery at the time. It is also a tale of love that won’t happen a great lover that misses out on getting the great beauty maybe for the first time . There is no actual record of this two weeks but Byron spent time in-between turkey Albania and the Balkans in 1809  to 1811 on his grand tour when he fell in love with not just the Balkans but also the old Levant region of south eastern europe and north africa.

Have you a favourite book set in turkey ?

A whole life by Robert Seethaler

A Whole life by Robert Seethaler

Austrian fiction

Original title – Ein ganzes Leben

Translator – Charlotte Collins

Source – Library book

Every year on the Old IFFP and now on the first man booker there is a book on the list that I hadn’t heard of and a writer that is new to me and this was this years book. Robert Seethaler is an austrian writer, the german wiki page says he has sight problems so went to a school for the blind. Then drama school , he is an actor as well as a scriptwriter. He has also written five novels this is his fifth novel.His first to be translated . I am pleased to see his fourth novel The tobacconist is in the pipeline to be translated.

 In 1910 a school was built in the village, and every morning, after tending to the livestock, little Egger sat with the other children, in a classroom that stank of fresh tar, learning reading, writing and arithmetic. He learned slowly and as if against a hidden inner resistance, but over time a kind of meaning began to crystallize out of the chaos of dots and dashes on the school blackboard until at last he was able to read books without pictures, which awoke in him ideas and also certain anxieties about the worlds beyond the valley.

I was reminded of the Herzog actor Bruno S a man who never is in time with the world either .

I must admit I am so pleased this was on the longlist as it may have passed me by maybe until,a german lit month. This book is the story of one mans life Andreas Egger a man who arrives and then spend the rest of his life in one small mountain valley. This is the early 20th century and the world Andreas is living in is slowly giving way to the modern world as we see through his eyes bit by bit his life but the world he lives in getting to grips with the modern world. From his arrival to work on his uncles farm where he first met the woman he loves over time Marie but this is a love that will never be.So as Andreas First build cable cars, then help electricity then the war take him away from the farm and the valley he always come back to the world he is meant to be in. As much as he tried to escape .

That was in the late fifties. It was only much later, in the summer of 1969, that Egger had a second encounter with the television – which in most households by then already constituted the central focus and primary purpose of the evening family gathering – that made a profound impression on him, albeit in an entirely different way. This time he was sitting with almost a hundred and fifty other villages in the assembly room of the new parish hall, watching two young americans walk on the moon for the first time.

A world no gone without tv or wanting to see a tv Eggger is really a man out of time in his valley .

I must admit I loved this book  it is a really pretty gem. I was reminded of  one of my favourite books Stones in a landslide Andreas life and the way he lives in the valley that is sort of out of time with the world around them remind me of the world in Stones in a landslide. I also pictured this in a way as being a lost script for a Werner  Herzog film on the other hand Andreas is a simple man like most of the classic roles in the 70’s Herzog films, a man who has the world against him in the way like the classic Bruno S films  Herzog made . A beautiful world of the valley is like quicksand slowly killing the man but not just the man but also his spirit is slowly dragged into the ground of the valley.As for man booker I feel the simple sparse nature of the narrative that as the Irish times review saaid remind that review of Stoner as for me I felt this is a better book than Stoner which I may be the one person that felt stoner was like a  afternoon film of one mans life. No egger is a character you believe in he is like a man in the background of Heidi brought to the fore.

Have you read this book ?

Mend the living by Maylis De Kerangal

 

Mend the living by maylis De Kerangal

French Literature

Original title Réparer les vivants

Translator – Jessica Moore

Source – review copy

I said earlier this year I wanted to reach a 100 french novels this year, the main reason is there is so much great fiction coming from France in recent years and here is another writer I have found to add to the list . I know Maclehose have high hopes for this book and I as a reader can see why they have .This is Maylis De Kerangal fifth novel and the second one to be translated to English she has won a number of prizes in her native France. She lives in Paris.

Christopher Alba, John Rocher, and him, Simon Limbeau. The alarms were ringing when they pushed back the sheets and got out of bed for a session planned by text a little before midnight, a session at half-tide, only two or three like this a year – rough see, regular waves, low- wind and not a soul in sight. Jeans , shirt, they slipped outside without a bite, not even a glass of milk or handful of ceral, not evena crust of bread

Hungry and early in the morning simon and his mates head to the Surf on a day that will be like no other for him .His last !

The book follows one day and a number of lives that follows one death and that is the death of the title character Simon a 19-year-old surfer full of life, he has woken very early  to catch the surf  as he usually does, what we see is the early morning race to the beach he has made many times before  and the group of surfers there on the beach the sights and scents of being a surfer  . Then this scene is blown open, when  we see the accident  that has happened to Simon and he is in an ambulance the action then follows to a nurse as he arrives at the hospital and his parents decide to donate his organs.We see how one man has touched so many over the space of one day from his friends and family to those he donates to and all those along the way in this rollercoaster last day of a French Surfer.

He’ll be a donor

Sean is one to make this statement and Thomas Remige gets up from his chair abruptly, shaky, red thorax expanding with an influx of heat as though his blood was speeding up , and walks straight towards them. Thank you. Marianne and Sean Lower their eyes, planted like stakes in the office doorway, wordless their shoes mark the floor leave sludge and black grass, they themselves are over whelmed by what they’ve just done, by what they’ve just announced – “Donor” “Donor” “don-ate” “Aban-don” the words clang together.

The minute his parents choose to let him go their Simon.

 

What we have here is an event that takes place every day and that is that  someone dies, but they choose  to  live on in the donations they make of their organs. What Maylis has done is taken the moment this happens. This is like the Hadron collider of a book Simon  on one side and the people he will help on the other side.  are like the two particles waiting for that one moment this two collide  and start a new life at the  moment of creation ! This book is about heart Simons heart which goes to the heart of France Paris to be reborn in an Old woman.So Young man gives an older woman life from his own death. The prose is written in a fast furious style  almost like the surf that Simon has ridden through his young life you are on the crest of a wave a vibrant writer and a vibrant translation by Jessica moore make this a ride that will leave the reader breathless.

Have you read this book ?

 

The boy whole Stole Attila’s horse by Iván Repila

theboywhostoleattilashorse

The boy who stole Attila’s horse by Iván Repila

Spanish fiction

Original title El niño que robó el caballo de Atila

Translator – Sophie Hughes

Source personnel copy

I was looking at some of the books that came out last year that may be on the man booker radar and this one I remember when it appeared last year seemed to get a number of good reviews in the papers and around the web so when I was in Sheffield earlier this week I decide to buy myself a copy to read. This is Ivan Repila second book in Spanish but his first to be translated to English. I can see why it may have been chosen as the first by him to be translated into english it has a certain universal nature to the story. A book that remind me so much of a Japanese film.

It looks impossible to get out, he says. And also: “But we’ll get out.”

To the north, the forest borders the mountain range and is surrounded by lakes so big they look like oceans. In the centre of the forest is a well. The well is roughly seven metres deep and its uneven walls are a bank of damp earth and roots, which tapers at the mouth and widens at the base like and empty pyramid with no tip.

The impossible to get out of well they are in, these are the opening lines of the book .

The book is the story of two brother Small and Big. They are stuck in the bottom of a well, we are given no idea how the pair arrived there. What follows in this short novel is the struggle to survive and the slow madness that comes to them both as they are stuck down this hole. Repila has a way of the horrific days and months of there being stuck there seem poetic in a brutal nature. As the bigger brother starts to try to keep small alive. This seen remind me of the Grave of the fireflies an early Studio Ghibli film that like this film follows siblings in that case a brother and sister , but we see the same brutal and sad demise as the two retreat to a small cave by a river and feed on the insects around them . (this is the one film I won’t watch again it is so sad be warned this one rather like this book can rip your heart out )

Small is so hungry that he can no longer control his body. He baulks, puts out his hand, into which Big places a colossal maggot, as juicy as a ripe apple.

“Abuser. Nasty pig. I hate you”

Finally he eats. He chews the gelatinous fibre of the maggot a dozen times and the bitter juice that oozes from it dances on his tongue. He drools like a hungry dog. It doesn’t taste of chicken: It’s better than chicken he bursts into tears like the little boy that he was.

“You’re the best. I love you. I love you.”

The feast goes on all night.

This scene and a few others reming me of the film The grave of the fireflies, I also like the chicken line here!

Replia has chosen two strange quotes at the start of the book one from Margaret Thatcher (why anyone would quote her is beside me ) About free trade and being rich and poor . The a Brecht quote from his poem To posterity about death and uprisings. I think we are meant to read Big and small as a wider story of survival in people and stripping the two lead characters of all identity barring their size has given this a fairy tale feel a timeless nature to the story. I was reminded of another Spanish novel I read last year Out in the Open   another story of human suffering like the two boys in this book, maybe this is a modern take on a Spanish tradition that can be traced back to the books of Cela that take a look at the brutal nature of human life-like his book The family of Pascual Duarte life is brutal for some like big and small only one is destined to come through this ordeal.

Have you read this book ?

The Meursault Investigation by Kamel Daoud

themeursaultinvestigation

The Meursault investigation by kamel daoud

Algerian fiction

Original title – : Meursault, contre-enquête

Translator – John Cullen

Source – personnel copy (books for Syria from waterstones )

Every year there is a few books in translation that seem to break free of being just in the circle of fans of translated fiction well last year this was one of those books, it made a lot of the end of year lists.It is also the winner of three prize in France. All this from a book that is based in an older book by the French writer Albert Camus  for what kamel Daoud has done is taken part of the story from the novel the Outsider where Meursault the anti-hero of The outsider kills an Arab(that is all we are told even thou this killing is mention as the main character in the book say 26 times the person killed is never mentioned just refered to as the Arab) .Well this is the story of The Arab as told 70 years later by his brother .

I’ll tell you this up front: The other dead man, the murder victim, was my brother. there is nothing left of him only me, Left ti speak in his place, sitting in this bar, waiting for condolences no one’s ever going to offer. Laugh if you want, but this is more or less my mission: I peddle offstage silence , trying to sell my story while theater empties out. As a matter of fact, that’s the reason why I’ve learned to speak this language, and to write it too so I can speak in place or a dead man, ao I can finish his sentences for him.The murder got famous, and his story’s to well written for me to get any ideas about imitating him.

Harum in the bar talking about his brother the dead Arab from the Novel The outsider.

This is the story of Harum , who tries to describe what happened 70 years earlier in the events that lead to the death of his Brother Musa, that killing on a sunny beach in an act of random killing by a French man on a sunny day  in Algeria seventy years ago as the country tried to break free of France. But the story follows harun life after that event as he starts to tell the wider story of post colonialism and in some ways the rise of islam in his country all this is a strange mirror to events that happened in recent years with the Arab spring seen as a freeing of the Arab world, which maybe it is could Daoud have written this book twenty years ago ? But also the heart of this is what has happen in France in the last years with a number of the people involved in the attacks having connection to north africa . A timely story of what scars remain from France’s time in North africa , well any western nation it could easily be india or pakistan the story could have come from a kipling story say .

Oh what a joke! Do you understand now? Do you understand why I laughed the first time I read your hero’s book? there i was , expecting to find my brothers last words between those covers, the description of his breathing, his features, his face , his answers to his murderer: instead I read only two lines about an Arab. the word “Arab ” appears twenty-five times, but not a single name, not once

Camus book doesn’t mention Musa name just calls him an Arab in the novel The outisder .

What Daoud has brilliantly done is taken a small character in a well-known book and given him a real life and a name. I reviewed The secret history of Costaguana by Juan Gabriel Vasquez , which took a character from the great Latin american novel of Conrad Nostromo and told his story from a native point of view rather like this book flipping the story to tell it from the other angle almost like a reply to the first book . why was Musa just called the Arab was he just the same as those bit part actors in the original Star trek given a red tunic and expected to die with no real name or back story.Daoud highlights what Camus missed the real person. This is the first of a number of books from last year I will be reviewing in the coming weeks as I look forward to the first longlist in the new man booker international coming in March as I try to wrap up some books i missed from the last year.

Have you read any great books based on another novel to start with?

 

Previous Older Entries

March 2017
M T W T F S S
« Feb    
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031  
%d bloggers like this: