62: A model Kit by Julio Cortazar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

62: A Model Kit by Julio Cortazar

Argentinean fiction

Original title –  62/Modelo para armar

Translator – Gregory Rabassa

Source – Personal copy

I said when I reviewed The boat in the evening, I had another book from 1968 to review. This is it the second book for this blog by Julio Cortazar. The novel was a spin-off from his earlier book Hopscotch. He states that this book like his earlier book. Could be read in any order as each passage could link in any way to any other passages. Julio Cortazar own life was rather like the book itself he spent time in France Paris is one of the man place mentioned in the book and also a number of the characters are from Argentina.

Then I’ll walk through my city and I’ll enter the hotel

Or from the hotel I’ll go out to the zone of toilets redolent with urine and excrement,

Or I’ll be with you, my love, because with you I’ve gone down to my city on occasion

and in the streetcar thick with alien, shapeless pssengers I understood

That the abomination was coming, that the Dog was going to happen and I tried

to hold you against me, protect you from fright, but so many bodies separeted us, and when forced you off in a confused movement

The barebones of story no names and no places at times but wonderfully written.

Now this book is probably one of the most difficult I have read but also compelling. The action surrounds a number of characters Juan an Argentinean is the main character, he is maybe a shadow version of Julio himself. Then two fellow Argentinean’s Polanco and Cala add a piece of comic relief Masarrat a sculptor and Nicole an illustrator add the artistic nature and student and an older woman mix it in this novel in the city now this is a city that may be Oslo, Paris or London. The characters meet in places but they describe the cities but it also could just be another unnamed city that reminds this rag tag bunch of characters as they meet and drink. Then we also have a Vampire subplot.

Of course, the argument have absolutely nothing to do with swallows, as anyone who understands the language of the two Tartars can testify.

“Of all the people I know, you’re the biggest Cronk,” Calac says.

“And you’re the biggest pettifor,” Polanco says.”you call me a cronk, sir, but it ‘s obvious that you’ve never boneyed your face in a mirror.”

“What you’re trying to do is start a fight with me, mister,” Calac says.

The two argetineans are also reffered to as Tartars at times they fall oout in a slapstick manor at times.

How do you describe the avant-garde fiction this is a muddled book at times but with the real beauty in his writing. Like his fellow Argentinean Borges this is a book of Mirrors on the prose sometimes you feel you’ve read something before but it is slightly different.Then the book is also lime the famous Mazes the Borges also liked. Julio Cortazar he stated the book could be read in a  jumbled up order.Like BS Johnson’s masterpiece The unfortunates which went a step further than this book and had all the prose piece in separate small pamphlets for the reader to order as we wanted. So what we never know fully is where when and how the characters are connected just that they are this is, of course, an Oulipo novel so like the other books by writers from that group I have read it is the prose that matter, not a narrative timeline or order. Calvino with his playing card inspired piece the castle of crossed destinies. Then we also have two other books Dear reader and The flight of Icarus both that play with narrative style. Icarus using two interlocking storylines and Dear reader looks at what is the future of the book itself. This was a challenge and thanks for the 968 club for getting me to buy it for the challenge.

The king of China by Tilman Rammstedt

 

The king of China by Tilman Rammstedt

German fiction

Original title – Der Kaiser von China

Translator – Katy Derbyshire

Source – Personal copy

Well, another book from Seagull books for my second German Lit month selection. Tillman Rammstedt is the son of a famous Sociologist. He studied Philosophy and literature at a university in German and Scotland. He is part of a group of writers that form the literature group Fön including Michael Ebmeyer and Florian Werner. He lives in Berlin. This book won the Ingeborg Bachmann prize in Germany.

We’re staying at the Bamboo Gardens, a cosy and tranquil hotel. The staff aren’t quite as helpful as we’d like but that has partly to do with the culture, Grandfather explained. The rooms are tastefully decorate, Ming fuinture, a small but clean bathroom, abundant foliage outside the window, but grandfather says the typical flair of the city is somewhere restricted by the modern residential block directly opposite. The room costs 680 Yuan, a mid range price as we found when we made a comparison.

The first letter reads like the travel guide bar the last words about looking at prices.

I was struck by the synopsis of this book when I was choosing a read for German lit month. As there isn’t many comic German novels out there, especially as the English had always a wrong idea that the Germans hadn’t a sense of humour.For me, this was shattered when I lived in Germany and this book is as good as any of the great comic English novelists.The book follows a trip to China by Keith and his grandfather. Now the trip doesn’t actually happen as they are just about to leave the grandfather dies. The trip was the choice of the grandfather from Kieth four siblings as a gift, but when Kieth lose the money he grandfather says to go alone, then passes away. So Keith instead of telling the family hides at home sleeping under his desk and outsight of his window. He also starts to send back postcards and letters to the family. They start of sounding like they are just from the travel guide but as they progress Kieth starts to invent things like a mad channel just showing teeth cleaning. Then there journeys in trains next to fairground arts. Intersped with this is the story of his grandfathers young with Franziska who the young Kieth is in love with her.

My dears,

To my left lies a trapeze artiste, to my right a lady contortinist, both asleep, and I too am actually far too exhausted to write, but so much happened today that I want to tell you about, even though the days are beginning to blur together, even though tey seem like years to me.

Another letter when Kieth has let his imagination go wild, rather like Billy liar.

Now, this isn’t a travel book it is a book in the tradition of books like Billy Liar about inventing a world or that of Calvino with his Invisible cities. What happens when a white lie runs out of control, When Kieth start to drift off from the travel guide, which when he writes the early letters sound just like he has written from the travel guide when he talks about the history of places and I have a huge life when he described the hotel as mid-price, quickly saying they decide so after seeing other prices. But it seems an odd thing to say. The letters are the imagined world of a young man with his own problems, but a love of his grandfather and even more of his younger grandmother. This would be herald as comic great here, I was reminded of a writer like Dan Rhodes here or more so Magnus Mills where like Mills he uses a situation to create the story.

 

 

Zurich Transit by Max Frisch

 

Zurich Transit

Zurich Transit by Max Frisch

Swiss play

Orginal title – Zürich – Transit

Translator – Brigit Schreyer Duarte

Source – Personel copy

Well, it has finally come round to November and that means one thing here German Lit Month one of the highlights of the blogging year. So when deciding this year’s books I choose to purchase some more books from Seagull books a publisher that has been publishing a lot of cutting-edge German lit. This is the second book I have reviewed by Max Frisch, a few years ago I reviewed one of his best-known works Homo Faber, I had intended to read him again since then so when I read this book it struck me as rather different.

Ehrismann, inside the flying Caravelle. Passengers are now allowed to unfasten their seabelts. He does so. But what next? when the stewardess comes by with a stack of newspapers, he asks for a Neue Zurcher Zeitung, then opens it to the obituaries as if turning to the financial or sports ection, searches bfiefly and finds/ a large obituary : Zurich, October 4 1965. Theo Ehrismann, Dipl-ing. Our almighty God has taken…/ His face, while he is reading his obituary./ Then ne stuffs the paper intothe pocket of the seat before him.

My Funeral was at 11 o’clock

Max reads about his own life and when his funeral is as he tries to get home .

Zurich transit was written by Frisch. The play is an expansion of an incident in the novella he wrote My name be Gantenbein. The story follows Theo Ehrismann a Swiss engineer and former sailor. He had decided to take a sudden trip to London and told no-one. So when his white Porsche is stolen and crash and the thief is burnt beyond recognition. So a natural mistake happens and everyone thing the body is Max himself. He only works out what has happened when he reads his own Obituary in the newspaper. But as he tries to let the family know he isn’t dead, he calls the family home to only be answered by his much-hated brother in law. answers the phone. So he travels back to home but arrives just as the funeral starts but hides in the background and listens to his life, but also looks at the life he has lived. Will he say there has been a mistake?

Ehrismann leaves, perplexed. / Again, the reckless-unhinged-otherworldy carnival music, the group of trumpets and drums, everything as before onlybriefer. And when the masked couple take off their masks we Monkika and the young guest worker, kissing

Why should Monika not have another man 

He sees things that may not be there any more.

This is the story of one man gathering about his life as he views what happens after he is dead a chance not many of us have to view how we are seen and in Theo case, it is an awakening as he sees that his life hasn’t the meaning he thought it had. This is shown when he decides to buy a ticket out of the country. The play is an expansion of man that appears in an earlier novel. There has been a number of attempts to make this into a film, this lack of the film getting made lead to a documentary about the attempts to make the film in 2011.  This is one of those books that h=is hinged on a single moment a car crash than an error that leads to one man’s journey into himself and those around him. Who are we? what are we? and what impression do we leave behind these are al, questions left behind when you read this book.

The boat in the evening by Tarjei Vesaas

 

The Boat in the Evening

 

The boat in the evening by Tarjei Vesaas

Norwegian fiction

Original title – Båten om Kvelden

Translator – Elizabeth Rokkan

Source – personal copy

Well when Karen and Simon announce the last year club this time around it is  1968 , I decide I would get at least one book for it so I set to the internet and find a  book published in 1968. I found two books published in their original language in 1968. This is the first and is by Norwegian writer Tarjei Vesaas, he has long been on a list of writers I have been wanting to feature on the blog. He grew up in the remote Telemark region of Norway. Where he had the chance to take over the family farm but didn’t do it. This one event influenced his later life and writing he is considered the best Norwegian writer since the second world war.

There he stands in sifting snow. In my thoughts in sifting snow. A father – and his winter-shaggy, brown horse, in snow

His brown horse and his face. Sharp words. His blue eyes and his beard. The beard with reddish tinge against the white. Sifting snow. Blind, boundless snow.

Far away, deep in the forest. Sunken roads in the drift, gullies dug out of the drifts, logging roads walled in by snow

The opening lines give a sense of the wintery nature of the world Vesaas lived in

This book is a series of pieces that are all set in the wild north of Norway. They all draw on the nature of the land around that region. From watching the cranes arrive from the south and later glimpse the magical dance they do as a child.A man is drifting done a flooded river with just a log clinging to his life.This is a man looking at his homeland in an abstract nature the land and weather and creatures of the land drift off the page in his faint sketches. This is a world of tough nature and land.From the family caught in their home by a snowstorm view the white world around them. The stories are hard to capture as they are more meditations on the world and draw you emotionally into the world, rather than narratively.

The cranes intensify this feeling. One can always find out more. As long as the mirrored head or the upsight head is above the surface. As long as one manages to travel accross floating, shivering tussocks one can find out more.

From these bewitched birds one can find out more.

If only one could give them a message about this, telling them to dance ore and to dance differently, very differently. They look as if they can do it

The cranes mating being watch by father and son

 

This is a complex book that is more like a skeleton leaf caught in the ice the very fragile nature of what it once was is there and this is the same here in Vesass prose have a  sense of what might have been. The fragile nature of the world he lived in, there is no names to his character. But people living on the edge of nature. A man gripping a log, a family in the white out of a snowstorm. A father and son glimpsing the cranes the child’s wonder at the dance. But at the heart of this is the world he grew up in this is a novella that will make you want to wear a jumper as you read it. As you view human life as just a flake in a snowstorm of nature its self and how powerful nature is and what memories it can lay on a man’s mind. I see why he was actually nominated eight times for the Nobel prize this is a work of a thoughtful and deep writer more the sort of writer we want winning the Nobel. Also a testament to the catalogue of Peter Owen books

 

in the name of the father by Balla

 

In the name of the father by Balla

Slovakian fiction

Original title – V mene otca

Translators – Julia and Peter Sherwood

Source – Review copy

I bring the first book from Slovakia tonight , I’m shocked as I have a lot of Czech novels on the blog but so far not many Slovakian books. Anyway Balla is the name Slovakian writer Vladimir Balla goes by.He studied Economics at Bratislava and then took a job at the district office of Nove Zamky. He has been writing since the 1992 and has published ten books. This book won the book of the year in Slovakia. Balla is often called the Slovakian Kafka for his style of writing.

The era of the great blackout began with the drawing of the drapes across our kitchen window. My wife announced in the semi-darkness that the window would stay covered so that people outside wouldn’t see what we were up to.She claimed the neighbours could see into our kitchen.She ascribed fundamental importance to this. She got into her head that our neighbours sole purpose in life was to spy on the family:

His wife goes slightly mad, but wasn’t every one watching at one time !

The book is the Novella and three very short stories by Balla. The main story “in the name of the father” has been described as being his most Autobiographical work to date. It follows the life story of an unnamed narrator. As he reflects on his life of woes. From the opening lines where he is told not to bear children by a doctor that hate the army and uniforms, where he turned up in his. Then he ends up in a weird house that his brother has built there is a number of rooms below the surface that the brother keeps a number of weird items. Then he starts to tell how his life has been. But there is a sense he feels the victim in his life but as his story unfolds we see he has been the instigator of a lot of his troubles.From his parents to his wife who goes mad and his own two sons. They all mix with the world around them which is a world of shifting nations and people drifting and also a sense of a new post-soviet world of people being individuals rather than a collective, rather like his own family fracturing apart. The three stories follow similar threads of home a woman at home whilst her husband is away. Then a weird tale of two men sharing a house. The first asked his friend to join, only to find he actually hates this chap. But there is also an echo of the wider world changing around them as he is ignored by his friends as if he has a contagion which happens to be the title of the story.

What soon became even more unpleasant was the gap that opened between how my friend and I perceived the process of contamination of our immediate eviroment, To cut a long story short, there came a point when the contagion engulfinfing the furniture and the walls began to affect my friend much more rapidly and with greater intensity than it affected me, his fresh fits manifesting themselves almost as soon as, say, new fuinture had been delivered, the walls repainted or the floor replaced.

From the story contagion a friend sees his friend as an enemy but also the world around him change.

There is a hard thing to call someone the “Kafka ” of somewhere, it isn’t always a title. I like attached to writers. Now that said there is a sense of people being in a world they don’t know but these are post soviet worlds where the goals of peoples lives have changed. hen there is a sense of self-persecution that  Kafka gave his character is very much. In the main narrator of In the name of the father. He feels the world has loaded him with what is wrong with it. The house is maybe a metaphor for this world they built it him and his brother to be a dream home but it ends up not being that.what he has captured are the shifting nature of the post-soviet world of shift border,s people and a change in the nature of people and their attitudes for others.That has been on many books. From Krasznarhorkai satantango a village on the edge, or Andres Ban in the recent Dasa Drndric novel a man also summing his life in the post-soviet world. He is using human nature in all its flaws and a wonderful post-modern look at the world around him. A great intro into Slovakian fiction from a new publisher for this blog Jantar.

 

Translation as Transhumance by Mireille Gansel

Pub date: 1 November, 2017 ISBN 978-0-9930093-3-4 / Flapped paperback 190x130 / 128 pages / RRP GBP10.00 A slim half-memoir, half-philosophical treatise musing on translation's potential for humanist engagement by one of the great contemporary French translators. Hansel has lived her life as a risk-taker. Going back to her childhood in post-war France she reflects on her origins as a translator; then she evokes her encounters with banned German writers in 1960s East Berlin. During the Vietnam war, Gansel went to Hanoi to work on an anthology of Vietnamese poetry. With the city under bombardment, this section of the book is a fascinating account of wartime danger, hospitality and human kinship.  Photograph by Natasha Lehrer

 

Translation as Transhumance by Mireille Gansel

Translators memoir

Original title – Traduire comme Transhumer

Translator – Ros Schwartz

Source – review copy

I bring you today a complex memoir from a French translator Mireille Gansal from German to French. She also has translated a lot of the first books of poetry from Vietnam into French after she lived in Hanoi in the 1970’s and discovered the writers of that country. This is another from the new publisher Les Fugitives a small press wanting to bring the most interesting French female voices to English. If this is and the two of the first three books I have read My review of Eve out of the ruins is her  There will be a review of a Blue a self-portrait as well soon. They are a publisher bring us real gems.

If translation is building a bridge between tow foreign shores, I realised that night how important it is for each one of the piles to be firmly anchored .

Translation is also about taking the byways that lead to distant places. The ultimate refuge: poetry as the language of survival, of unassailable liberty.

Two short quotes fromGansel about the art of translation ?

Mirellie Gansal grew up German during the post-war years, but as we find out her family heritage is one of Hungarian with Yiddish being the main language her father spoke growing up. She tells in on passage her wonder of letters arriving from family in Hungarian and how strange those words look, or visiting an aunt who language was a mix of Hungarian , Yiddish , German as she spoke the young Miriell a girl that would grow to love language and her describing the German of writers like Appelfeld and Kerstez the german from beyond Germany .Then to her first journey into that world of the translator when hit by one word a word that can not be held by strict dictionary definition and thus opening the oyster of the translators art and that is to discover the pearls from the words they are translating into English and this is what the book describes also how she discovered the wonderful poetry which she has translated into French and discovered whilst in Hanoi.Then she tells us about Nelly Sachs the Nobel winning Swedish poet that was German escaped Nazi persecution as a German Jew and then wrote about the tragedy of the Jewish people and was also a friend of Paul Celan.

To my delight , the section of the letter my father was reading was about me . He initially translated a word used by his brother or one of his sisters as “beloved” stumbled over the next word and repeated this – actually rather ordinary- adjective once, stumbled again and then rrepeated it a second  time.That triggered something in me. I dared to interupt him. I asked : But in Hungarin, is it the same word? He replied evasively:”it means the same thing!” Undettered I pressed him : But what are the words in Hungarian ? then one by one, he enumerated, almost with embarrassment, or at least with certain reticence, as though there were something immodest about it, the four magic words which. I have never forgotten :Dragam,Kedvesem,aranyoskam,edesem.

Her early wonder at hungarian but also what is in the meaning behind words .

I loved this Gansal brings to life so well her world that of a translator, her reaching out and connecting to the writer’s reality when she translated Reiner Kunze, she hit that nail so well the way a great translator looks beyond the words to bring the writers world to life. then I also was drawn into her early life she may have been one of the last true Mittel Europeans those families that came from everywhere Germany, Austria Hungary and had wonderful stories to tell of their lives. She also shows how she discovered the new voice in Vietnam at a time when America was trying to bomb them back to the stone age she discovered wonderful poets and their works. I feel this is a must-read for any fan of translation and translators and maybe the start of a new trend in translator memoirs?

Jacob’s room is full of books by Susan Hill

 

Jacob's Room is Full of Books

 

Jacob’s room is full of books ( a year of reading) by Susan Hill

Lit memoir

Source – personnel copy

I think I saw a picture of this book on facebook a few weeks ago and was reminded how much I had loved her first Lit memoir Howard’s end is on the landing. Which I reviewed when it came out, a few years ago.So when I saw this followed a year of Susan’s reading. She is also a  reader that has previously Judge on the Booker prize. Susan Hill won the Somerset Maugham prize and is best known for Woman in Black and her crime series Simon Serrailler.

The hound of the Baskervilles is the best of all Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories. Other people might pick other stories, and it is surprising, given their lasting and worldwide popularity, how few of these there actually are, though Conan Doyle wrote plenty of other things .

Sherlock Holmes has become not just a Victorian detective in a series of short novels and stories ,he has become one of those iconic literary figures who take on a life of their own, out of context of their books.

I agree with this , i love the lines about the Lord running and his heart bursting in Hound !!

Now like the earlier book we see a year of what Susan Hill reads, I found this an interesting insight into a reader’s life. But also I discovered a reader that like me at times can go off at a tangent like reading one spy novel then three more straight after that. Also the insight into how writers drift in and out of fashion, she mentions reading C P Snow a writer who I have been collecting his strange and brother series of novels, which have dropped out of fashion. There is also insights into books like Stoner those books that grow by word of mouth. Great, she mentioned Embers an old book that was also a huge word of mouth and a bonus a translation. She also rereads a number of book. Where she shows how books change over time and we view them different every time we read them.

During the Last Man Boooker prize I judged, we had heated arguments, and the Late Ion Trewin, most loved of bookmen, had almost to wade in and separate one or two of us.But when we had decided on the shortlist, we then asked him to tell us how many novels by woman we had selected and to give us the break down on which publishers had books on the shortlist. We genuinely had no idea about either because neither had been relevant.

The  last line got me they matter of sex of the writer not being relevant is spot on it is the words .

Now this is yet another lit Memoir , but I liked ita lot.  For me as a reader these type of books are almost like a palate cleanser between books or a spa break that leaves me refreshed for new challenges and discoveries. Now I do have one little quibble with Susan’s reading that is in a year of reading about a hundred books that only six of them were Translations, it was also noted that she lists a group of writers she hasn’t read Kafka, Pamuk , Knausgaard and Svevo among them she noes a lot aren’t english, but also all were male. I could write a list of female writers I haven’t read but I felt maybe she had lost something by not trying these writers especially Pamuk and Knausgaard both great chroniclers of their times and worlds. I also agree with Lisa who noted that there maybe has been a few to many lit memoirs in recent years. But this is a vibrant look at one readers life and one that has been inside publishing and books for most of her life so know’s what she likes , just love her to try a few more translations.

 

 

African Titanics by Abu Bakr Khaal

African Titanics by Abu Bakr Khaal

Eritrean fiction

Original title –  تيتانيكات أفريقية

Translator – Charis Bredin

Source – personnel copy

I have reviewed a few books from the small publisher Darf over the last few years. I picked up this recently as it was a book from a country I haven’t read from, but also a story that appeals as it is  the tale of many people trying to seek a new life in Europe. Abu Bakr Khaal followed the route described in the book and himself spent many years in Libya and the in a refugee camp in Tunisia.Before living in Denmark.

I do wonder how many nicknames. I’ll bear throughout my life. In Khartoum I was known as Awacs(The Airbourne warning and Control System) because I’d refuse to go to bed at night til I’d garnered evryy last useful scrap of information from the world of immigrant smuggling, by land, sea and air. From mt lodgings in Khartoum I kept track of the number of Titanics that left North Africa’s shores bound for Europe evry Summer.I was always informed of the most recent departures and whether or not the boats had reached dry land.

The Gamble they all take using these make shift crafts to reach their dreams in Africa.

This book mix the present with the past as we follow one young man’s journey from his home in Eritretooo Libyia and then Europe. Abdrar has been hearing tales of life in Europe and we get to follow his journey from his home first to Sudan Khartoum after he is arrested at home .In Khartoum, there are many smugglers there to  take people on  their journey north through the mainland of Africa.  We see how they charge people different amounts for here they come from. All the time there is a thread of folk tales and previous migrants stories underlying the tale. Till they arrive in Libya and take what they call those African Titanics, those makeshift and often overcrowd former fishing boats and other put together ships that the refugees sail on. The latter part of the book is like a collective tale of these people a fellow traveller Malouk who you may sense might even be a ghost tells tales and then is lost at sea, but then is seen again in the Med by other people on one of the African Titanics!

To all the pounding hearts

In feverish boats

I will cut

Through these paths

with my own liberated heart

And tell my soul

To shout of your silenced deaths

And fill

Palms of dust with morning dew

And song

I Choose the end lines as they are so powerful a song sung by the ghost Malouk on the Med.

This is a short but hard-hitting Novella that is the voice of many those lost and the trail to Europe that Abdar and many others through the years have followed to Libya to Tunisia and then frequently to drown in the Med. The style of this story reminded me of the early books by Ben Okri that mix so well African folktales, Magic realism and realism into a story that like the smoke of the refugee’s fires at night drifts in the air and becomes a collective voice for the many. It also highlights the horrors faced and the Exploitation of those seeking a new and better life away from their horrors of their homelands. May I also point out that Darf is running a fundraiser for the second part of The Confines of \shadow by Alessandro Spina I reviewed the first part a couple of years ago.

This is a review of a fiction novel and no person in the text is based on a real character or organisation.

 

 

Abba Abba by Anthony Burgess

Image result for abba abba anthony burgess

Abba Abba by Anthony Burgess

English fiction / Italian poetry

Source – personnel copy

I said earlier in the year I intend to try to review a Burgess novel or work as this year saw the 100th anniversary of his birth, but as ever I found other things to read so a few months later I return to a second book. This time it is a historical novel, which Burgess wrote a number of in his lifetime and like some of his other historical novels he uses historical fact to construct a novel from and the actual fact is that the English Poet John Keats lived in Rome at the same time as the Italian poet Guiseppe Gioachino Belli.

Giovanni Guliemi, doctor of letters of the university of Bologna, had a small private income derived from the rents of the land in Lazio  left him by his father, who was untimely dead of Naples cholera, some british gold invested with the banker Torlonia, and what he got from the tenants of the first and second floors of the large house facing the Basilica of Santa Cecila in the Piazza named for her in the Tratevere district og Rome. The third, top , floor was enough for his mother and himself.

Another fatherless man also the connection between Keat and Belli whose poem he translated into English

 

So what Burgess imagined is that these two great poets actually meet in Rome. Belli was well-known for writing his poetry in a rough Italian dialect. We find Keats a man who is in his end days he is dying at a house near the Spanish steps where he can hear the music of a nearby fountain. The two meet as Keats gets hold of a translation of one of Bellis earlier poems a poem about manhood. We see the two men try to converse as best they can as neither speaks the other’s language as they connect via French. The second part of the book is a brief description of how JJ wilsom the translator of the Belli works in the second half of the book. explains how a Salford Schoolboy discovered Belli and decide to translate his works as he studied Italian as well as English as  a student a later discovery of his complete works in Italy.

The creation of the world

One day the bakers god and son set to

and baked, to show their pasta-maker’s skill,

This loaf the world, though the idd imbecile

Swears it’s a melon, and the thing just grew,

They made a sun, a moon, a green and blue

Atlas, chucked stars like money from a till,

Set birds high, beasts low, fishes lower still.

Planted their plants, they yawned: Aye that’ll do

First verse of a Belli poem translated by Burgess himself from Italian

This is a short book the first part is a mere sixty pages of Keats in Rome a city which Burgess himself had a flat for many years , so we get a real feel of the city and also of the character like Elton,  Severn  and Bonaparte’s daughter all were part of Keats life at the time(I googled Isaac Marmaduke Elton as that named seems a little surreal he was a real character and friend of Keats.  We have the meeting of the two great men may be like a brother relationship between Keats and Belli as Abba means father, they also both lost the fathers very young as well. They had a lot in common as poets. Belli is relatively unknown and was a poet that Burgess championed with his translation of his works into English. This shows what Burgess did well in other books like a dead man in Deptford and this is to use a piece of history here Keat in Rome and the fact that something else occurred that Belli was there at the same time. He did the same with Marlowe in the dead man in Deptford making him into a spy and much more than he was. That is the brilliant touch Burgess had to just imagine the scenario and build his book around it.

 

Year of the Drought by Roland Buti

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Year of the drought by Roland Buri

Swiss fiction

Original title – Le Milieu de l’horizon

Translator – Charlotte Mandell

Source – personnel copy

I saw a few reviews around the web a few weeks ago of this book.One from Melissa  and another from Grant it sounded like a book I would like.So I went and brought a copy for myself. It won the Swiss literature in 2014. Roland Buti studied history and became a history teacher in his hometown of Lausanne he has written a number of novels .But this is his first book to be translated into English.

Rudy was the son of a distant cousin in Seeland. He had come to live in our house before I was born.For me he had no age, as if he had never been a child  and would never grow old. His ruddy thick skin was a barrier that kept him separate from the outside world and this seemed to me part of a very particular form of bearitude that was his alone.

When I was right, I learned that he had Down’s syndrome,By then I had realised that Rudy’s status in our family was different from mine and my sister’s

Rudy remind me in some ways of Lennie from” of mice and men”

This is a story set in that hot summer of 1976 in a small swiss valley in the french speaking part of Switzerland. We follow this summer through the eyes of Gus the son of the farm that lives in the valley a rural and isolate place he lives there with his Father A big strong farming man , iut one that is trying to rescue the farm out of the hole it is drifting into due to the Summer. Jean the father does this by getting chickens but with the summer heat as the temperature inches up the dead chickens start piling up . The mother a stand offish woman who has led a sheltered life and wants her kids to have more . A sister Lea a musician then we have a cousin a lad with Downs that is struck by every woman he runs into maybe the woman for him. But he ends up in trouble, he remind me in some ways of Steinbeck’s great character Lennie. The summer isn’t going great when Cecile an old friend of the mother appears she sets the young man alight at first when he caught her one night in a night-gown, but then sees her with his own mother. But elsewhere Gus has awakenings with his friend Maddy as his world starts to fall apart and his father Jean starts to collapse as a man in front of his eyes as his farm and marriage implode in Heat and they year of the drought.

The dead hens in the dry grass looked as though they had never been animals. The stunted, twisted , pale bodies  were no longer part of nature; they were different from the assorted rubbish at the municipal dump.The anicent pact has been broken.

The farm is like the dead chickens and the Pact with the land has been broken by this summer.

This was compared to the seethaler novel a whole life . But this is much more a glimpse of that moment when a boy becomes a man. Also in the way Seethaler caught a world dying this is the end of a farm like the dead chickens drying in the sun and smelling out the place its a rotting corpse of a farm. This also follows Gus starting to notice the other sex , but also maybe seeing the cracks in the world around him for the first time. Buti build the tension , I was also reminded of Steinbeck in the way you see Jeans efforts as hopeless trying to get by but failing was a trait in Steinbeck’s books. A perfect summer read this book but as Grant says some of the images in the book will stick in the mind with you.

 

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