Winstonsdad books of the year

Well I reviewed less than other years this year so I am only going pick a few highlights of my year this year.

The Prophets of the eternal fjord by Kim Leine

the prophets of Eternal Fjord

Was an epic Danish novel following a priest sent in the 18th century to Greenland to try to wrestle the natives back to the christian line a tale of times now gone. This would make a great HBO series full of mud and ice .My review

The Dirty Dust by Maitain O Cadhain

 

This was one of two translation of this classic Irish novel into English. Set in a small village graveyard we here the generations buried there talk about their lives and the past they had together and the hates they had together and the loves together.My review

Byron and the beauty by Muharem Bazdulj

Bryon in the Balkans falls for a beautiful woman only to find she is out of his reach for once the bad boy of british poetry struggle to gets what he wants .My review

 

Sudden Death by Alvaro Enrigue

A fiction tennis match between an italian painter and a spanish poet is the backdrop to this tale that flows around the world of the time just as man is discovering science and thought the age of enlightenment is on them.My review

One Million cows by Manuel Rivas

 

ONE MILLION COWS

This was a gem of short stories by one of my favourite spanish writers Manuel Rivas by a press started by his translator her we see the shackles of Franco be shaken of a people return to spain other have their last day at school looking forward .I have recently read his debut novel also from small station press .My review 

Constellation by Adrien Bosc

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The stories of a plane that crashed told from the point of view of the flight but also the stories of those on board from the man from Disney to a group of poor Spanish shepherds .One of those french novels that remind how great french lit can be . My review 

Trysting by Emmauelle Pagano

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A book of voice another French gem this is clips of what love is bits of people lives this is love stripped to the bone no names places or times just the acts of love shown. My review 

 

Land of my Father by Vamba Sherif

A freed slave returns to Africa from the Us to Liberia but not all is as he imagines it , he has to follow his calling and try to convert the natives .My review

Revulsion Thomas Bernhard in San Salvador by Horacio Castellanos Mayo

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A man returns to sort his mother affairs and gives a speech during the evening denouncing the country of his birth and why he had to leave and become Thomas Bernhard on his passport. An homage to the great writer from a great latin American writer .My review 

Panorama by Dusan Sarotar

 

My book of a year by a country mile this is simply why I read books in translation that once a decade discovery of a voice so exciting and fresh yes part Sebald but also a new tale of traveling from the very western tip of Europe back to the Balkan heart of it.My review 

There are my books of the year been lots of other great books

Nocilla dream by Agustín Fernández Mallo

 

Nocilla dream by Agustín Fernández Mallo

Spanish fiction

Original title -Nocilla Dream

Translator – Thomas Bunstead

Source – Review copy

Agustin Mallo is one of those rare writers that cross field he Physicist by training that became  a writer. Cp snow used to talk of science and literature as being two cultures  .He was part of a new generation of writers in Spain pushing the boundaries of what fiction is the so-called Nocilla generation named after this book which got a lot of praise and prizes when it came out.Mallo has also made films of two to nine minutes of length on his blog.

It’s logical that in a brothel there are all different kinds of women, and even more so here in Nevada Desert. Whose Monotony, the most barron in the whole of the american Midwest , makes necessary certain exotic pallatives. Sherry having make- up applied in the ad-hoc backstage out back.Besides the now dry well.she doesn’t trust the lightbulb-frame mirror they have provided her.

the desert has a brothel that is exotic for its clients .!!

This is one of those books that proves the novel can live on I often here about books challenging the genre and get disappoint when they don’t so when I read this the first in the Nocilla trilogy I was blown away so much I want to wait to do two Mallo books together. this is one of this books that hasn’t a linear story just the fact that the action in places takes part along the line of Route 50 a road that goes across the desert to the glitter of Las Vegas so from a shoe tree where someone one threw up a sho and other follows this is the original tree one of many that form a back bone of small roadside attractions in  the us . Elsewhere we find a woman fall in love with a collector of found images .Mallo’s physics side is an event with small piece on the 113 chapters that form this book and then we have  bits on the birth of the personal computer and  even further afield is the story of a man staying in the airport in Singapore rather like Tom Hanks character in The terminal .An exciting mix of piece by Mallo and other writers mixed to one Oh and one piece is from Bernhard so a double thumbs up from me .

In 1971, a group of hippies took over an abandoned military base in Copenhagen, Denmark proclaiming it the free state of Christiania: a micronation. After grappling with the Danish Government for a period of time, in 1987 it was finally recognized as an independent micronation.Among the eighteen students who occupied the base that night was Hans still a teenager then and as he lay on the floor in a greenish half-light that like a military effluvium seemed to float between the paving and the skylights high above.He made the decision to never wear shoes again : his bare feet a symbol of peace and nonviolence.Christiania present-day population comprises 760 adults, 250 children, 1500 dogs and 14 horse

The no wearing of  shoes here and shoe tree connect the two pieces in a way

 

I often wonder would fiction ever be like hip hop music or like the films of recent years I love like Amelia . Hip hop uses the music  which  is around the people making the music and this is what Mallo does in a way layering written piece , non fiction and fiction in a collage almost  a mix tape of Mallo’s mind. This is like going through a radio stopping for seconds in  some places then a longer time this is a book that A shows what fiction and the novel can be it isn’t a dying art it is a form that can be reinvented. There has been a number of German writers that have used similar techniques using other writers work to mix with their most notably Ulrich Holbein (not translated into english ) and Helene Hegeman whose first novel cause a storm as it used parts of another book. So Mallo is obviously a fan of Borges and Borges was always trying to push the fields of what stories do but in a novel form. Like AMelie this is a novel that darts from place to place and connects unconnected events even down to the finding of photios a main storyline in Amelie This is the first part of a trilogy I have the second part read ready to review soon. I am thankful for Fitzcarraldo as they show why small publishers are so valuable as with the two Enard novels they publish books for the love of words not to make money.

 

Three new arrivals from old favourites

I love to get new books from writers I have previously enjoyed as on the whole for a writer to get a second book published in translation is a success in its self and in this set of three books it is also a chance to read a debut of a writer I really admire.

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Now Manuel rivas is a writer I have reviewed Three times before and this is the second from small stations I have reviewed when Jonathan his translator said he was doing this book I was really excited The potatoe eaters is his debut novel. Follows Sam a drug addict from his hospital bed where he befreinds an old man and has a soft spot for a nurse to the villagew where his brother takes him to hopefully kick the habit. I’m looking forward to this probably next on my tbr pile.

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Then we have another short story collectuon from one of the leading Galcian writers Miguel-Anxo Murado this is also a second book from small stations by this writer his previous collection soundcheck which I read but didn’t get to review but I really liked it so may combine the reviews as the first collection was set mainly in the Balkans .

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I treated myself to this after reading a few good reviews anopther Patrick Modiano , since his nobel win when I know before that win it was fairly difficult to find a book by him but since then many books have come out I have all the Maclehose books but this from Daunt is about a man on holiday discovering a couple and they aren’t all they seem and what they tell him is half truths the usual Modiano themes of memory and identitiy which frequently crop up in his works.

 

The Boy by Wytske Versteeg

 

 

 

The boy by Wystke Versteeg

Dutch fiction

Original title  – Boy

Translator – Sarah Welling

Source – review copy

Well after a few days in Slovenia I  ove near home to The Netherlands and a prize-winning Dutch book. This is the second novel by Wystke versteeg  a rising star of dutch literature  .She came  to the notice of dutch readers with a non fiction book about her time working with homeless people called This is not a homeless person .. Her books have been said  to deal with the human condition like many of her fellow young dutch writers dutch writers. THis book won bng book prize in Holland.

When Kito was older, in primary school, I’d wait for him at the gate when my schedule allowed it, listening to the mothers.They all seemed to know each other very well, and they seemed born for there maternal role.Standing among them made me feel like an imposter. I tried to join in with conversation, but my voice sounded artificial even to myself.I told them how he jumped on the bed in the mornings and put his arms around me, how soft he was and how open. How he reminded me of something I’d forgotten a long time ago , how innocent he smelled

The Mum struggles with being a mother having not given birth to Kito

Well this book deals with every parents worst nightmare and that is the loss of their child . Kito an adopted Chinese child is drowned on a beach during a school trip.The son had been the glue of the family the father and mother have struggled to cope with the loss and drifted apart. The mother wants more answers so heads off after finding that the teacher whom was in charge of the trip Hannah, she has left here job and gone to leave in the back and beyond in Bulgaria so the mother sets out to meet the teacher and try to find out why Kito Killed himself. What she finds out is a side to her son she didn’t really know ? He was adopted after she her self a psychiatrist discovered she was infertile had to travel to china to find a son but she and her husband missed that Kito was a real troubled child one of those kids that is a square peg in the round hole of being at school that culminated in the tragic events as this is seen by the mother talking to Hannah her need to be their for some sort of revenge or just an answer  from  the teacher changes.As Hannah had tried to help Kito by using drama to help him

I don’t understand; I said . “What happened , what could have hurt someone your age so badly ?”

She doesn’t answer my question.When she starts talking again she sounds deep in thought like she’s forgotten I’m sitting next to her

“I was young then, I mean not like I am now but softer, stupider. I didn’t understand how things worked. I didn’t want to teach but it was what I was doing.Children need someone they can beleive in, i didn’t even beleive in myself

A glimpse at what Kito death had on Hannah seen through the mothers eyes .

this is one of those stories that seems popular at the moment a book mainly about a character and his life that is dead through out the book. A sort of autopsy of what happened rather than seeing what happened.This is a story about two things in a way adopting kids and how hard it can be for those kids , especially in Kito  case coming from another place sets him out to be a target and that is the second thread in this book how hard it is to stop kids being bullied and Kito is an extreme example , no I’m wrong there no I read about many kid like this that have taken their life due to bullies . Hannah and the mother both tried to help but neither had the full picture this is shown when the two meet and finally the piece of this sad 15 year olds life come together.I could see this making a great film at some point

 

 

Three loves, one death by Evald Flisar

Three loves, one death by Evald Flisar

Slovenian fiction

Original title – Ljubezni tri in ena smrt

Translator – David Limon

Source – review copy

At Last is probably the Slovenian writer with the longest career since the late 1960s Evald Flisar has been writing books and plays.He has also written many travelogues and studied comparative literature and lit theory in Slovenia then afterwards studied in london English language and literature. This is the second book by Flisar that Istros has published but the first I have reviewed and the last in the partnership with Peter Owen in the world series  on Slovenia.

 

As for Vladimir, we had to understand that he had a very young, flighty wife, who was sometimes too much even for a hero in possession of ten partisan medals for bravery. Peter’s notes on meteors and so on were, of course, a matter for discussion between him and the professor under whose supervision he should long ago have finished his degree in cosmology. Certainly, the earth would not crumble into dust merely because a naughty girl wanted to frighten her nearest and dearest.

‘And Vinko,’ said Mum in conclusion, ‘can explain himself who he is burying in the garden.’

Vladamir another one of the family and peter the star man .

Well this is a classic tale in many ways that we will all have seen in some way or another . It follows a family leaving the city in this case Ljubljana to the countryside to work on an old house this is told by the point of view of one of the sons.The family short-lived dream of peace and rebuilding this old house is shattered when various family members reappear in the families lives. The uncle Vicko an accountant but also a man who wants a glimpse of fame like growing the biggest cabbage forfilling the Warhol  saying of everyone getting there five mins of fame. Then we have aunt Mara and her daughter Elizabeth the one that all the sons seem to wa\nt the older son Peter has returned home to study the night sky making the most of the dark skies the house has given them but also a boy with many sexual cravings . Oh and last but not least the narrator a young son wanting to be a writer this book is part of a trilogy with the other book that Flisar has published by istros, then last is the other Uncle Svejk  a war hero by accident that joins the local fire brigade and looks after their old fire engine maybe like his Czech name sake he is is a character that gets in the most scraps and comic asides.

for  it was like nothing we had ever seen before. Above all, it had no flat surface on which to stand it. From the central mass, which had no discernible shape or function, there protruded without order or symmetry all different kinds of steel, aluminium and even wooden growths. With some imagination it was possible to recognize among them the cubist forms of spades, picks, hoes, perhaps sickles and scythes, perhaps rakes and other tools, but these were just the ends or beginnings of what they were supposed to be. In between, joined with other pieces, it was possible to discern the links of a chain, half a cogwheel, a toilet bowl, the workings of a wall clock, two weights and blackened frying-pan handles.

If only these parts or fragments had been bound together with wire or welded together into a whole! Then the entire object could be ascribed to the imagination of a modernist sculptor, and, by relocating it to the domain of art, where everything is possible and everything permitted, it could be deprived of the aggressive concreteness before which we squatted like helpless children.

A longer quote gives a sense of place a sort of junk yard of old communist pieces .

So we have sons after the cousin , three  men all trying to be head of the house in a way. This is a novel that shows the best of family life and the worst but also has some humour and dark parts. I didn’t know til I finished the book Evald had lived in the uk. For me there is almost something of the H E Bates about the story there is that comic look at country life but also with showing the human side of life and love one is remind of Mariette and how her power on men is similar to the power on the sons in this family of the cousin elizabeta.Yes had Bates been a Slovenian in post communist slovenia he may have written something like this. Evald  is a writer that you can see has travelled and brought what he has seen and read from around the world and brought it to a personal story of life in his homeland. I will be reading his other istros at some point in the next few weeks.

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