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

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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.

Panorama by Dušan Šarotar

Panorama by Dušan Šarotar

Slovenian Fiction ? or non fiction > or just great prose

Original title – panorama

Translator – Rawley Grau

Source – review copy

Well I reviewed the first in the series yesterday and today I move on to the second of the three books from Slovenia istros books have published in partnership. This was the one I read first because of one passage on the back of the book describing it as reminiscent of W G Sebald , who else couldn’t pick it up the day it dropped through the door. Dusan is also a poet he has written four novels and collections of poetry and Short stories. This book is one of those books that really blends the line of what literature is and draws you into a personnel journey.

Like a mirage at the end of the road, without reflection or gleam,dark and grey, a geometric plane shadowed in pencil on a yellowed sheet of drawing paper – that’s what the sea looked like – shallow, motionless, monastery beer spilled into eternity on to a black stone floor, but mainly trapped in a wide, ever wider, nearly limitless landscape; the nearer I was to the shore, the greater, the more impressive was the bay, in the middle of which stood a black lighthouse on sharp rocks, no bigger than a wizard’s ring, hovering on the motionless surface, while the master’s pale hand, still wearing it proudly, had long ago sunk beneath the sea. Without braking, I went down off the asphalt road on to a wide, neatly mowed grassy area in front of the boathouse and rode up to the sea. I leaned the bicycle against a low breakwater that was protecting the lawn from the high tide and slowly made my way over the grey sand, between the slippery rocks, the black pebbles and the rotting seaweed, into the oneness, the residue and abandonment, the world that remained when that sunken, dead arm last unclenched its hand and released the silt on which I now stepped, I thought as the smell washed over me, as if I was standing in an old, abandoned, invisible maritime cemetery, eerily beautiful none the less, like the romantic landscapes of the Old Masters.

I’ve used one long quote today as it sums up so much I mention here and also the line a wizard ring matches up to line of Galway bay about returning to the claddagh ring

The book has 80 pictures that Dusan took on a trip from Ireland where he had been studying , we see him in Galway bay , I imagined the old irish folk song Galway bay which talked about coming into the town of Galway from the sea , a thing which a large number of people didn’t do more head the other way to the new world but this is the old world and a writer is seeing the storms drift in as he travels around Ireland  .He does this in the company of a driver his driver is like the writer is also from the Balkans an Albanian Gijini  who end up in Ireland and as a driver the two share many a conversation about place and times. there is also a strange sense of a switch of past and present he sees evidence of those that escaped galway back in the dark days as i said in a review last week I am always haunted by the pogues lyrics to the song thousands are sailing “on a coffin ship I came here and I never even got so far I could change my name ” a coffin in a boat is also an image we see in the book . We also see the writer heading back first in Belgium the old cities of the lowland country , I felt these place I visited on a school trip as a kid and drove through one night many year later on my own homeward journey to England from working alongside refugees and migrants in 1992 in Germany from the break down of Yugoslavia. Then back t the heart of the Balkans and Bosnia a sort of rebirth in Sarajevo  I remember the watching the film Torjiza about an orchestra escaping Sarajevo as the do a cow gives birth as they sing to calm the cow and this like the return is a rebirth of the writer.

THe pictures are real of the journey the words are what Dusan added after a way to show how the mind works and how images can make the mind fluid and words can mean more than pictures which is what Dusan wanted the images are there but maybe like those native americans photographed against there will as they felt it took their soul one wonders what they would make of todays Selfie obsessed culture ? Have the value of the photographic image is less than it use to be ? the title of the book is a homage to the artist Gerhard Richter photos and his photo realism in his paintings this is a book that shows that we still need a narrative to our photos . This is a book about language swimming in it like the cover art about what words mean how we use language  oplaces memories can all become a flurry of words more than a single image but a connection  like Sebald place leads to connection and like a fine line of a spider’s web from its centre in the Balkans Dusan works spins a thread around the old world meeting those like himself who have travelled from the home  a book about migration written before the migrant crisis hit but at its heart a story of the endless sense of migration man has been on the move  from those poor Irish souls drive by the poatoe famine to escape from Galway and many other place along that atlantic coast we see in those photos to the migrants that came from the polace that where run by countries to those displaced by war and persecution this is like  a sea of people and sometimes we see a tsunami and in other case a simple wave on settling like in Dusan book but another under the book and after the book that wipes out and redraws the lines that follows it like the simple plague to those lost irish souls , even in Belgium he is near the killing fields of Ypres another line changing event . So this book isn’t a novel or memoir . I discussed it with Susan and she told me about Dusan view it is just what is called in Slovenia Good prose , the idea of fiction non fiction is mainly an English language way of dividing books and then we have books like these that sail the line another watery line. Well I have written more than I have in a long time about a book such is this book it is one of those rare gems that hopefully will get the wider readership it truly deserves .

None like her by Jela Krečič

 

 

None like her by Jela Krečič

Slovenian fiction

Original title –  Ni Druge

Translator – Oliva Hellewell

Source – review copy

I am as many of you know A huge fan of Istros books , this is the first in a series of books they are doing in a new partnership with Peter Owen , where they will release three books  from one country and the first series is books from Slovenia. This is the first of the three books in the series is a novel for Jela Krečič , she is known for being the wife of Slavoj Zizek, she is a journalist her most famous piece is an interview with the Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.

As he focused on her face, he saw that he liked it. It was pale distinguished by her severe, uneasy expression and stern feature but softened by her lip.And ,if he was not mistaken, by her big blue eyes too, although with the enormous amount of black eyeshadow all over them he couldn’t be quite sure of the colour.Her lower lip punctured with a piercing, a decoration repeated once more on her eyebrow. A red-head version of Larsson’s girl with a dragon tattoo

How ofter do we see this type of girl about whether in Ljubljana or London .

Well this book is an odyssey in a way the title refers to Sara the former partner of Matjaz. He is obsessed about her but to get over her or get her back he has decided to go on a quest to find other woman.What follows is a series of relationships as we see what the women as like in Modern Ljubljana , Each chapter is a different relationship Matjaz is a strong macho man he is a photographer , he is one of this men that uses at times his power over women making them feel less , although at one point this is turned on him when he meets a red head that reminds him of the lead character in the dragon tattoo who doesn’t fall for his patter. For me it is an interesting look at modern balkan relationship. The types you can meet anywhere a TV for example her runs into in a gay club and what one would call a cougar an older woman who husband left her for a younger woman so she now finds younger men. This is a journey of one man to becoming a real man a modern man.

checkmate by the very fact of being born. That’s why she always liked names where she could see the beginnings of a ‘mate’: Matej, Matjaž, Matko, Matic, Matija, Matilda, Mateja, Matahari and so on. But Grandma is dead, he said to himself, he was convinced of it – she had a headstone at Žale cemetery, along with dried flowers, burned-out candles and all of that. Then maybe he was just imagining it; maybe the heat was messing with his head. Finally he looked up – and he saw her. Sara.

She was coming towards him with a crumpled newspaper and her distinctive smile, which struck him right in the stomach. ‘Your newspaper’s crumpled,’ he said upon greeting her, slightly embarrassed. He hadn’t seen her for more than a year.

Late in in the book we meet the woman who started it all  Sara .

This is a clever juxtapose tale with a female writing a male main character, whom she said in an interview she based on those french film stars of the fifties. . But what really works in those women that matzaj meets they are more than just a type Jela manages to make these types see real in the dialogue between the characters. This is a story of Love lost and a hunting of love obsessive love. This is how one man lost in life and obsession through this group of women he finds himself. I love how easily people fall for this guy he is like the Fonz of ljubjana but also like the Fonz character at his heart is a broken soul yes a strong man behind leather jacket but like Fonz , Matzaj is that tragic comic hero in a way the Fonz is yes girls fall at his feet but at his heart he is sad , but there is also a pinch of classic bad boy as well the way he treats his woman as Jela says like a fifties male with that feeling of position of male over female being held.

 

Revulsion : Thomas Bernhard in San Salvador by Horacio Castellanos Moya

 

 

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Revulsion : Thomas Bernhard in San Salvador by Horacio Castellanos Moya

El Salvadoran fiction

Original title – El asco, Thomas Bernhard en San Salvador

Translator – Lee Klein

Source – personnel copy

Now I saw this shortly after it came out in the summer, I was searching for some Bernhard books and this from a writer I have featured twice before on the blog appeared . Horacio Casrtellanos Moya is an ex pat salvodoran writer, he has written eleven novels . This book is the reason he left El Salvador when it came out is was considered to political many calling for it to be banned and his mother received death threats and Horacio himself fled. He now teaches at Iowa university.

The last time my mother came to Montreal twelve-year ago, she warned ,e. Moya , she said I had to return when she died, I couldn’t be an ingrate.Now here I am, even if it’s only a month, even if it’s no more than thirty days, I don’t intend to stay here a day longer, although we haven’t been able to sell my mother’s house; I’m here a place I never thought I’d return to, to which I never wanted to return.Nut IO don’t understand what you’re doing here, Moya , this is something I wanted to ask you, this worries me the most, how could someone who is free to live in another country, some place minimally decent ,prefer to stay in this shithole

The hatred is clear in this passage near the start of the book Vega hatred of the place .

Now the title is a give away here the book is very much an homage to the style of writing that Thomas Bernhard became known , so the book is a single paragraph and in the best Bernhard tradition the main character is miserable . The book is formed of a couple of hours one evening between to men . Vega a professor how escaped the country and was living in Canada till his mother died and a writer called Moya (another nod to Bernhard he has put himself in his books as well) Vega is talking about the country and the way it has changed and go down hill a tirade against Salvador of the time but this is somewhat tongue in check in style there is a dark humour at times. This is a classic pub scene in a way with two men talking about the world one returning has seen the world and wants to tell his friend about how bad this place was .The Bernhard connection is also the last lines of the book as Vega took his name as an alias back in the day as he liked him as a writer.

Television is already a plague; sure, in Montreal I don’t have a television, but here at my brother’s house, where I’ve stayed until this morning, they’ve forced me to watch television whilst eating meals; you wouldn’t believe it, Moya , the television is in front of the dining table,it’s horrible , you can’t eat normally, you can’t have any sort of normal meal, because of television’s on ready to disturb your nerves.

I like this part Bernhard but also partly hilarious in its tones from vega .

I loved this short book Moya is a marmite writer I think you will either love his works like I do or hate them they tend to be grim and like this rather uneventful but full of life , it is easy to see why the book when it came out twenty years ago but not long after the end of the civil war in El Salvador a glimpse into the abyss that was the country before told by Vega and the way he saw the peace. This book is also an homage to modernism ala Bernhard but also Joyce with the action taking place over the space of two hours in an evening as the two get drunk and try to relive their earlier life . Have you read a Moya book , never sure why he isn’t as considered as highly as  Bolano for me he is actually a better writer and in this translation Lee klein has brought the Bernhard side to life for me.He is the master of capturing those dark times of the late 20th century in central america where violence , dark police forces and violence where just below the surface.

From Germany to Germany by Gunter Grass

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From Germany to Germany by Gunter Grass

German Non fiction

Original title – Unterwegs von Deutschland nach Deutschland.

Translator – Krishna Winston

Source – Personal copy

Well I was late review my German reads for German lit month. I always try to include a Grass novel or as in this case a work of his non fiction . This came out a few years ago. But it was the clock turned back nature of this book Grass thoughts on 1990 a man who really didn’t like to keep a diary felt that the year after the wall fell down. The East German government fell in December 1989. Grass felt compelled to write his own thoughts on the events of the following year including the first free elections in east Germany.

I fear my planned trip to the GDR is going to take place during the let-down after the first successful revolutionary rush. But old power structures are proving durable, as might have been expected. The mass exodus continues. The opposition is weighed down with organizational problems. Maybe in June and august I’ll be sitting on Rugen or in the Elbe sandstone mountains writing about progress of the German-pPolish cemetery association.

We all remember those pictures of abandon Trabants all round Germany as people from the east came west.

The year follows not only the world of German politics Grass was an active voice in the spd the German socialist party. Happy as he is that Germany has become one again he worries that the rejoice could turn into something dark from the past of Germany that he remembers and that is nationalism. We also see him struggling to write his latest novel the call of the toad. A novel that at its heart is more about Grass a man than German he was born in Danzig a German in a part of the world that is Polish but not only is Grass German he is Kashubian by birth a nationality he says at some point is part way between being what is German and what is Polish so in some ways he still views German events through this part of his being.We see him meet many figures of the day like a trip to meet Vaclav Haval the czech writer like Grass himself a face of the times. Elsewhere we get glimpse into Grass personal life his wife Ute the time spent in the Algrave were we also see Grass talent as an artist with all his drawings in the books.

Finished Malte Laurids Brigge. The last third makes for disappointing reading: the precise observant and previously mentioned oddities drown in sentiment and in vagueness more typical of Rilke. The scenes set in Denmark are as strong as I remembered them: the loud dying of Old Brahe, or the mothers fear of needles.Remarkable how the book’s demand for a death of one’s own contrast with illness (cancer) of Ute’s mother, which will probably result in death.

I have a new translation of this Rilke work which I plan to review . It makes me think of how does a book change as you age ?

This didn’t come out to after Grass had died, I do wonder if he wanted it published maybe he left instructions after his death. I loved the personal and public mix of his life I mean at the time he was maybe one of the best known german figures and to have his views on this time one of the most significant in my life time. I was on germany a few years after this in 92 and 93 and remember the sense of hope. A sense I think which has now vanished some what. But I also remember a few people being worried as Grass was about the skeleton in the cupboard so to speak. Piece like this only give a small glimpse into a great writers life, he tackled the unification more in his later novel too far afield which follows two older German men around Berlin and is well worth reading .

Land of my fathers by Vamba Sherif

Land of my fathers by Vamba Sherif

Liberian fiction

Original title – Het land van de vaders

Translated – by the writer himself from his dutch book

Source – review copy

I always get a tingle when a new country is put on the list of countries  I have read books from, not so much in a planespotter way of ticking of places for me it is discovering new voices and placing them in the context of where the writer is from and their history Vamba Sherif is the best known writer from Liberia , he studied in kuwait and then traveled to Syria whilst the first Gulf war was happening. Finally settling in Netherlands where he studied Law .He published this his first book in 1999.He as since written a number of books .

One morning , on a wet autumn, i caught sight of the ship in the distance and hurried towards it. The salty sea aire bore excited voices towards me, and it was not long before I became part of the bustle,Shouldering my luggage consitsting of clothes, some valuable books and expedition materials.I climbed on board.The ship was crowded with men and women.There were no children

I was reminded of the lines of a pogues song here “on a coffin ship I came here”

This is one of those stories you are thankful there is publishers out there finding writers like Vamba Sherif . This story is  a tale of a reverse journey at a time when people well slaves in a way were going from Africa to the Americas. Later on in this time some freed slaves went back and claimed a part of Africa. Liberia (land of the free ) is the oldest republic in Africa. This is the tale of one freed slave he got free after falling for Charlotte another freed slave whom he fell for  his wife fulfilling a promise after being freed of return home to Liberia . Edward Richard a freed slave and preacher is returning with his wife to Liberia, not knowing the full picture in a way and he is shocked when he arrives and her that many of the tribes aren’t friendly on the ex-slaves returning home and even worse than that have no god in their life. He and Charlotte settle in the town but over time he is compelled to preacher to the tribes and discovers a wonderful man on the way there in the later part we follow the descendents of these two men that met in the wilds of Africa.

The townspeopkle came to bid us farewell, a large crowd which spread across the road like ants. It was a solemn affair.The wind whistled a mournful rune as though it were sweeping across a deserted place.Turning to look at the town, I wondered whether i would ever see its mountains and its many paths again , its treesunder which elders rested at midday.At the main junction where the road forked into four paths that formed the main thoroughfares, i saw the blind Tellewoyan being led by a relative.

Is Richard blind in his journey heading into the tribal lands to preach to the locals /

This is a journey many freed slaves made in the day but like many dream journeys it isn’t as it seems like many of my forebears in Ireland that made the journey from Ireland to the land of free only to find themselves in an underclass Richards journey is one that initially they look forward to till they discover the locals have many religions and many gods. A modern tale in a way of a journey to a place of safety that isn’t safety Vamba wrote this story himself about his homeland in a refugee camp trying to discover about his homeland. We all need place and that is what is seen here through the eyes of the people richard Halay the native he meets show the need for place but also the place religion plays in Peoples lives. I for one learnt more about Vamba homeland like many males of my generation we knew this as the home of the George Weah that mercurial player of PSG and Milan back in the day . So if you want to discover a bit about the early days of this country this is the novel to read .

 

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