Homage to Czerny by Gert Jonke

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Homage to Czerny by Gert Jonke

Austrian fiction

original title – Schule der Geläufigkeit.

Translator – Jean M Snook

I return to Austria with my next stop on German lit month and a writer I have featured before with his book the system of Vienna an inventive novel based around the tram stops in Vienna. An experimental writer Jonke. He studied many things history, philosophy, music theory and german studies but never complete any of his studies. He won most of the big literature prize in German including the Austrian state literature prize. In this book, he is said to have wanted to explore remembrance and the present.

Everything should be exactly as it was at last year’s party, answered the photographer’s sister. Whispering so that I wouldn’t understand, she consulted with her brother, who was passing by, after which he looked at me sternly, sizing me up, and with an expression that showed he was aware of the great responsibilty wieghing on him, hesaid in his most serious voiceas if he werer entusting me with managing the empty coffers of the city council. If you promise not to talk about it and not to give anything away, we can tell you something important, albeit confidential

The nioght has taken plannning and is run like a three at drama.

The book itself is two stories a novella book and a short story. I am focusing on the short story as it captures the feeling Jonke wanted and the is a remembrance in the present. It focuses on Anton he is a photograph and his sister Johanna they live in an elegant house with wonderful gardens they have decided the theme of this years garden party they have this year is the theme is that everyone has to do the same thing as the year before. They hired a painted Florian to create a cycle of painting that exactly copies the garden and then cover the garden with exact copies in pictures of the garden a cellist has to play his cello music on a piano. The guest is a mix of the high-class art and city officials which have a bizarre discussion about smoke in a part of the city between two officials who Jonke just refers to by their titles town planner and city manager  and then they have a musical pond, But how can you keep everything the same in the year that has passed it is the feeling of trying to hard are narrator fritz is a guest and he is maybe an unreliable narrator the second tale involves to brothers fritz again and his brother Otto not as talented as his brother he is a piano mover by trade I lived this comic observation Saki in style almost. They are stuck in an attic with a lot of pianos.

Several ladies and gentlemen who held high positions in the city administration had seated themselves on a corner of the terrace where there was a good view of the city lights at night, of course they were always thinking and talking about many and diverse problems of the municipality and , relaxed by the festive mood of the evening, they were exchangong their opinons on these matters much more freely than usual and in an informal manner.

A sort tongue in cheek look at the absurd nature of the city council and its officals is the case in the book!

Jonke was interested in using fiction like a musician and this is a piece that maybe shows how he used rhythms and phrases the title refers to the man called the godfather of modern piano teaching Carl Czerny Jonke tries to lift his style onto fiction. I am not a huge fan of classical music but the title of the second story refers to a piano work from Czerny. For me, it has feel of last year in Marienbad which sees a man return to Marienbad and see a woman he saw the year before but she had forgotten him. it is a book about what we can’t capture no matter what they do they can’t repeat the past and the more they try the more distant they go from the year before so to copy the garden in every detail is like capturing a photo it is a moment but the same moment a year later is different. this also clicked to another film scene that of the film Smoke and the picture that Auggie takes every day at the same time initially the other character flicks through them but he is told to look and yes its the same spot but the moment light day even on the same day a year apart is never the same a repeat is always slightly different. This is a thought-provoking work and I am pleased I still have two more works from Jonke on my shelves to review in forthcoming years, Have you read him ? what do you think to his style of writing?

The Pledge by Frederich Dürrenmatt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Pledge by Frederich Dürrenmatt

Swiss fiction

Original title – Das Versprechen

Translator – Joel Agee

Source – personal copy

I move on my german lit month reading to a new to me writer and a book that I have had a while and wanted to read. Frederich Durrenmatt was a multi-talented writer his theatre was often compared to that of Bertolt Brecht he was called the most original theorist. He was a critic of crime fiction and with this book he had worked on a crime script that he felt hadn’t a realistic ending this is the work he wrote as a result of that.as the subtitle goes a requiem for the detective novel.

Matthai had a hard time making senseof that jumbled report, the chief continued. “it was one of his old “clients” calling from Magendorf, a little hole in the wall near Zurich. The man was a peddlar named Von Gunten. Matthai wasn’t really in the mood to take this up this case on his last afternoon on his job. He had already brought his plane ticket, he’d be leaving in three days. But I was away at a conference of police chiefs and wasn’t expected back to the evening.

How Matthai is drawn in the case is by chance and meant his carreer never really ends

The book starts with a crime writer meeting the former head of Zurich Cantonal police who criticized his works as he says Chance plays no role in his works. So the writer then thinks up a new story and that is the main bases of the book that follows lieutenant Matthai. He is sent to find the killer of a small girl in a small town. The girl Gritli Moser was found in the woods killed with a razor. Matthai has to tell the parents about the loss of their small girl  . The crime was reported by von Gunten who found her but he is later convicted of something else and is connected to the two girls that earlier died in a similar way to Griti he is interviewed He then confesses. Matthai is just about to leave when he is drawn in another way by this case that initially then seemed shut as the young girl is buried but there is also the young girl’s drawings in the weeks and days before her death with images that may be known she may have known her killer? Matthai made a promise to get the killer and ends up running a petrol station to finally sort this case out or is it just a wild goose chase for this serial killer.

Back in Magendorf, Matthai met with his first difficulty. The emergency squad’s large van had driven into the village and was waiting for the inspector. The scene of the crim and its immediate vicinty had been carefully searched and cordoned off . Three plainclothes policemaen were hiding in the woods. Their assignment was to observe the passerbys. The rest of the squad was taken back to the city.

The other old crime novel cliche of the killer return ing to the scene of the crime here .

This shows the foibles of crime fiction and that is chance the obvious story Von Gunten fits that old inspector  Morse line that the person that finds the body may also be the killer. There is the picture pf the young girl that leads them in another direction what is the meaning of the hedgehog? What happens when you have got a confession and it was the wrong man it shows how someone can be haunted by that giving it all up to trap this killer to have that petrol station it is a strange twist in this book that shows how far one man will go with his pledge to the mother of the dead child. This is a book that reminds me of Paul auster at times another writer that has taken a different twist in his detective fiction this is a postmodernist crime novel that twists the tales and characters as far as you can. It has been made into a film I haven’t seen the recent us version but I believe it cuts a lot of the framing device out and resets the book in the US. The English version from the 90s seems near to the book and it has Richard E Grant in so I hope to watch that at some point.  Have you read this book? what do you think of the twists and turns in it ?

An answer from the Silence by Max Frisch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An answer from the silence by Max Frisch

Swiss fiction

original title – Antwort aus der Stille

Translator – Mike Mitchell

Source – personal copy

I have twice before featured Max Frisch on the blog twice before those works were both out after the second world war and later works by Max Frisch. Now the fact that later in his life Frisch refused to have his earlier works in his collected works as he felt they didn’t represent his writing he in fact burnt the original manuscript of this book. So it hadn’t been widely read until this translation from Mike Mitchell. The book is said to have paralleled in some ways the change that Frisch took in his own life when he moved from a journalist too become an architect this was about the same time as he became a writer as well.

Or perhaops the solitary walker is thinking back. It’s a long valley and thirteen years is a long time ancd ge keeps going farther and farther back into his memory. Some things make him smile, a faint smile, either from embarassment and unacknowledged envy, it was at this wooden bridge that he told his grown-up brother , who had just got engaged, in youthfully open and impudent tones, that getting married was irdinary and that he, the seventeen year old, would never get married, for he wasn’t an irdinary person but an artist of inventoror something like that .

His first visit as he brother was in the same place as he is many years later .

This follows a few days in the life of Dr. Phil Balz Leuthold he is 30 years old and is due to marry his 21-year-old fiance Barbara. When he decides he wants to go and tackle the north ridge in the Alps this reminds him of a trip he took when he was much younger with he now in Africa married and distant older brother this is the opening as he remembers that trip with his brother.As he remembers he is by a stream and starts to carve a ship. He isn’t sure he is being watched by another person it is a Danish woman there to hike. Phil is embarrassed about the fact he was being like a child carving a ship. So he  then feels the need to impress her as he is drawn to this Danish women and her spirit they hike on and spend a night together this then makes Phil want to tactile the North ridge then he disappears for a number of days but what will happen to him will they find him what effect will it have on his life which of the two women in his life will he end up with !!

“Yes – the North Ridge”.

He sys it very modestly, very simply and natrually.But the young foreign woman desn’t know what it means; she doesn’t know she’s the first person he’s told and perhaps he’s telling her so there’s no way back for him; she just gets her knitting together, very calmlu as hi he’d been talking about some ordinary outing –

So he say himself that the North ridge was not supposed to be easy, at least no one has ever climbed it yet

And he wants to climb it now ?

The task he is facing the never climbed North Ridge

 

This is a novel of a turning point Phil hs lost his brother and is now facing that change from being a single man to being a married one so he goes to the Valley initially to clear his head but then thinking about his youth and the earlier visit to the same valley , he uses the lines that it felt smaller coming back which is something I think we can all associated with as we see things one way in youth and then another way ion adult how but then we still as adults want to cling to the past to that earlier summer by carving the shi. Then there is his indecision after meeting Irene in the valley and spending the night together that leads to him heading to the north ridge ! that time he spends there is what will shape his future his true turning point. I don’t understand why he distanced himself from this book in later life it is a great coming of age work.

Concrete by Thomas Bernhard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Concrete by Thomas Bernhard

Austrian fiction

Original title – Beton

Translator –  David McLintock

Source – personal copy

It is German lit month and it wouldn’t be right for me not to review a Bernhard I have reviewed six works by him on the time on the blog and hosted a Bernhard reading month. I was pleased when Faber brought some new editions out last year and this year as I had still a few I need to get by him and to read. It has been thirty years since he passed away hence the five reissue from Faber of Concrete, Extinction, woodcutters, The losers and Wittgenstein’s nephew I have linked to the ones I have reviewed by him.So here is the first of their two from Faber I hadn’t read I hope to get to the other Faber nook Extinction before the month runs out but let’s see how I get on.

Everybody suffers, my dear little brother, but you despise life, That’s your misfortune, That;s why you’re ill, that’s why you’re dying. And you soon will die if you don’t change, she said. I could hear it clearly now, more clearly than when the words were uttered in that cold, unfeeling manner of her. My sister the clairvoyant- absurd! she’s probably right though, that it would be a good thing to get away from Peiskam for a while but I’ve no guarntee of being able to start my work anywhere else, let alon get on with it.

His sister points out some things to Rudolf about himself.

As ever we have Rudolf our narrator at the heart of the Bernhard book as he is suffering for his art he is a writer about classical music but has had a bad bout of writer’s block. We also have another piece of Bernhard writing that is Music he has a man that is set on writing a piece about the composer he is working on a piece around Mendelssohn Bartholdy has taken him a ten ear to get the perfect tart to this work. Then he has a sister that he has let into his private world in the house he has inherited from his parents this is another mirroring of Bernhard’s own life in the book. Rudolf lives in the outreaches of Austria this is the same Area the Bernhard himself lived on his farm .near there on Ohlsdorf in Upper Austria. Rudolf’s sister was successful and a person that was at the heart of Viennese society this is, of course, a prime candidate for what is a Bernhard Alter ego to hate.  Rudolf also recounts when he takes a holiday to try and get this book finished the year earlier when he went to the same place in Mallorca and met a young widow whose husband had recently died but a year later he discovers she took her life. This reflects Bernhard’s own life that was full of losing those close to you.

As a result of the prednisolone my resistance is virtualy nil. When once I’ve caughta cold it takes me weeks to throw it off. And so there’s nothing I dread so much as catching a cold. Even a slight draught is enough to make me take to my bed for weeks, and so at Peiskam I live most of the time in fear of catching cold. This fear almost verges on madness and is probably one of the reasons why I find it so hard to begin any protracted intellectual work

Bernhard himself suffered himself with a lung condition so one imagines this fear is his own fear infact it was what eventually leasd to his death.

 

Well, this is yet another Bernhard book that is full of his bile for his homeland and the upper echelons of it especially those like Rudolf’s sister that get into those her parts of Viennese society. There are even echos to other books mention of knowing Wittgenstein’s nephew at one part which is, of course, another Bernhard book. Music in the loser has a failed musician here it is a failed musicologist. All these characters are a reflection of Bernhard himself now with Handke winning the Nobel we could turn and say if Bernhard hadn’t had such bad Health would he had been the winner imagine the bile of him winning the Nobel I loved his prize-winning speeches book my prizes. So another German lit month and I am now at book seven from Thomas Bernhard I have three more on my shelves and a couple I could buy so I think I could be doing him for a couple more German lit months in fact maybe even another Thomas Bernhard week?

Air raid by Alexander Kluge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Air Raid by Alexander Kluge

German fiction

Original title – Der Luftangriff auf Halberstadt

Translator – Martin Chalmers

Source – personal copy

I have wanted to review a book from Kluge for a while he is one of those great German writers that hasn’t broken the English speaking market. He was a member of the influential writer’s group Gruppe 47 he was known for his short stories. In his fiction, he is known for using various styles and types of writing in his works. He has written 500 short stories and a number of longer works. On top of that, he is also one of the best-known filmmakers in Germany founding his own production company. He has made 57 films which in 2007 came out in a boxset for his 75th birthday he was part of the new german cinema movement.  a true polymath as he s also a philosopher who was born in the small German town of Halberstadt.

The Lenz family, who were staying in Marienbad at the time, had still not been informed. It was impossible, however, for the cinema manageress to get to a telephone. She circled the plot with the fuin of the cinema and from the courtyard of the neighbouring building managed to reach the cellar emergency exit. She had got hold of solders, who helped force there a way in with pickaxes.In the cellar corridor lay some six members of the matinee audience, the pipes of the cenrtal heating had been ruptured by explosions and poured a jet of hot water onto the dead.Frau Scharader wanted to establish some orderhere at least, placed the boiled and scattered body parts.

The opening part follows the manageress of the local cinema following the bombing,

As I said in the last line of the intro Alexander Klug was living in Halberstadt as a child when on April 8th 1945 it was bombed by several American bomber squadrons. This wasn’t a planned attack no the bombers where actually heading elsewhere when they were asked to change plans and it happened they dropped the bombs on Halberstadt what Kluge does here is using that event as a starting point and tries to build a  fuller picture of that day he starts with the cinema and then the local air raid defenses slowly he talks about the bombs dropped the formation of the bombers on that day. The day that wiped put 80% of the city he lived in viewed by Kluge as a teen. He assembles a collection of piece thoughts of those on both sides of the attack during and after this is a sort of 360 views of the event rather than a personal account of the day. When the decision to carpet bomb finally got through to the crews on the ground and in the air as shown here when the other target for that day was chosen Halberstadt.

( the unknown photographer) The man was apprehended by a military patrol in the neighbourhood of the Bismark Tower/spiegelsberge. He still had the camera in his hand, exposed films, unused films, photographic equipment were found in his jacket pockets, Close to the scene of the pffence, I.e.close to the spot where he last took photographs, are the entrances to the underground facillities which have been blasted out of the rock and in which armaments production is housed.

The leader of the patrol meant to prove the guilt of the unkown person of spy without more ado, and so asked him : What have you been photographing

The book has a collection of photos some one took on the day of the bombs landing and the damaged they have done.

I have been eyeing his books for a couple of years he was described by the pother great unsung German writer and critic Hans Magnus Enzensberger wrote: “Among well-known German authors Kluge is the least well-known.” What was true then is even truer now, still more so outside his own country. Kluge has described his films as construction pieces. His work here is similar as the book builds up the broad picture of that particular day at its effect on those in the town from the cinema projectionist the air raiders and even the young Alexander himself. Have you read anything by Kluge what would you suggest next from him ?

That was the month that was October 2019

  1. Agnes by Peter Stamm
  2. Under pressure by Faruk Šehić
  3. The jeweler by Caryl Lewis
  4. Faces on the tip of my tongue by Emmanuelle Pagano
  5. Bellevue by Ivana Dobrakovoa
  6. Vile bodies by Evelyn waugh
  7. The Rebels by Sándor Márai
  8. Murder at the vicarage by Agatha christie
  9. The Funeral Party by Ludmilla Ulitskaya
  10. The night circus by Uršuľa Kovalyk
  11. Falstaff: Apotheosis by Pierre Senges

I managed to read eleven books this month and I have got back on course to read 100 books this year. I read books from eight countries and I had books from three new publishers to the blog I start off with a german Novel set in the US a story of a unit in the Balkan conflict. A jeweler that connects with the people who owned the jewels the quirky french countryside a Slovenia girl goes to Southern France for a Job in care. Then it was to the swinging thirties in London then a group of Hungarian schoolkids and back to a small English Village and a Murder in the Vicarage. Then back to the Us and a Russian Emigre dies another set of quirky stories this time from Slovenia and then to finish of a reworking of Shakespears Falstaff’s life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book of the month

I joined the Kickstarter for this book I had read his first book to be translated into English. The book is an interlinking collection of short stories that tell one unit’s time in the Balkan conflict, Faruk himself lead a similar unit so this is a wart and all account of the Balkan conflicts. A great pleasure to see how Kickstarters are able to bring us books in translation maybe a few more publishers should try for those unusual or that second book from a writer.

Non-book events

I have been swimming for the last few months and am now starting to feel the benefit of it and although I am not losing weight I am feeling fitter and healthier. I have also been a fan of a new band last while the band Warmduscher has a wicked single midnight dipper very catchy song. How was your month ?

Falstaff:Apotheosis by Pierre Senges

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Falstaff: Apotheosis by Pierre Senges

French Chapbook fiction

Original title –Falstaff : apothéose

Translator – Jacob Siefring

Source – review copy

I was pleased when I was sent this from a new small publisher in the US Sublunary editions that are specializing in shorter text pieces and prose they also have a monthly mailing which is the cornerstone of the project. They have also brought some chapbooks out. That is how I first saw them when Jacob the translator of this chapbook and some I follow on twitter had sent me his translation of a length for the novel by Pierre Senges which I loved. Seneges is an unknown writer to us in English he has a baroque style and is clever in using characters from other works as the cornerstone of his works as  Jacob says in the Afterword his initials are the best guide to his writing a post scriptum. As Jacob says in his afterword Senges belongs among the likes of Calvino and Borges as he uses actual and fictional historical figures as a starting or as Javier Cercas says a blind spot.  Senges here uses a single piece that in scene five when Falstaff falls and appears dead and Percy Hotspur is wounded. Here is what Falstaff said in HenryIV

Didst thou? Lord, Lord, how this world is given to
lying! I grant you I was down and out of breath;
and so was he: but we rose both at an instant and

fought a long hour by Shrewsbury clock. If I may be
believed, so; if not, let them that should reward
valour bear the sin upon their own heads. I’ll take
it upon my death, I gave him this wound in the
thigh: if the man were alive and would deny it,
‘zounds, I would make him eat a piece of my sword.

A quote from Shakespeare’s HenryIV falstaff about his death that wasn’t on the battlefield.

What Senges does is build a short tales that reinvents his loveable rogue cowardly that spends his days hanging around the Boars head drinking with the wrong sort. Here that is changing and his playing dead on the field of battle and reinventing the man as a heroic knight. How avoiding death lead to him choosing to die as he puts in one part to be the master of ones of death. Even the drunken Falstaff in his bed is raised to a heroic form with his sheets from Holland, silk from China and cotton from France. He says about Falstaff on the floor Falstaff dying he will get back up again once the assassin has flown. Falstaff being tranquil to keep silent like the sunflower.

Falstaff’s Apotheosis was to have played dead on the battlefield, to have tricked the assasin without letting tje spectators down, to have gotten back up without a single witness, and to have gone on living a year por two after that first droll sacrifice.Back at the tavern, newlly confronted with his never ending money troubles, his unpaid bills, his promise to old maids, friendships looked on like platters of seafood, Falstaff is a harbinger when the dinner bell rings, for the ressurection of glorious bodies.

Falstaff Apotheosis opening lines.

This is an interesting little chapbook taken from a piece he wrote for a Quebec based magazine Les Ecritsin 2012. There is a dry wit here in the books Jacob says this in his afterword that his editors saw this as well in the book. He also described the Fineline in the translation of the work walking a Fineline between the past and present in the syntax and diction that sounded right. Senges is clever at using historic figures and rewriting them in his own tales he is like Borges in that regard. Borges chose to inherit Shakespeare’s memories as his turning point for a Shakespeare based tale. As in the afterword, the need to invent a character is bypassed especially when one chooses a character as rich as Falstaff to work a new tale around this is something \senges has done in his other books from Captain Ahab the german scientist and aphorist Georg Christoph Lichtenberg and Antonio de Guevera in the Major Refutation which I reviewed here . He is a master of baroque twists of great characters of the past. Have you read Senges?  this new chapbook is a great little intro to an interesting and so far overlooked writer.

 

The night circus by Uršuľa Kovalyk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The night circus by Uršuľa Kovalyk

Slovakian fiction

Original title – Travesty šou

Translators – Peter and Julia Sherwood

I come to the second of three Slovakian writers currently touring the UK in part to celebrate 30 years since the velvet revolution. Her we have another strong Female writer. Uršuľa Kovalyk is a feminist writer and also works as a social worker. She has published three she has won the short story collections and two novels one of them is also available from this publisher Parthian. She has won the most prestigious literary prize in Slovak the Anasoft litera award and also the bibloteka award.

“That hair of yours is going to blind me one of these days” I say,  winding the car window down. Paula tosses her red mane and bares her teeth at me flirtatiously. A predator, I think. Not even a corpse could resist Paula’s sex appeal. She isn’t all that young or beautiful nor even particularely fit, but every time I see her I’ m ensanred by her charm, like a fly falling into a pot of honey. I tried to puzzle out what makes her so attractive. It must be her velvety voice or perhaps those taut blue veins on her beautiful neck that put me in this wicked frame of mind.

Predator her friend isn’t stunning but is appeal to twist men around her fingers.

This is part of the collection mention but has had a few stories added it is still a very tight collection of stories mainly female voices and also very short stories this collection is 98 pages long and in that we have 16 stories. We start with two women driving in a car that picks up a hitcher but one of them warns the other one Paula who she says is a predator, not a woman that lets the men hunt her but hints the men so when they pick up this man she is told to leave him alone. An unnamed person wakes in a room with a fridge that has parts of a large white dog that opens into another world. This story is maybe the most surreal in the collection. THen a woman Julia has sex with a man but her mind seems elsewhere before during and after the act itself. she is described as a porcelain doll, in fact, is described as a ghost.  A dying woman talks about sex with her three daughters. The title of the original collection Travisty show sees a fading star that was a famous singer but over the years her demand wained until there is a time when no invitations to events arrive at her door until a reunion invitation where she ends up at a strange stage show of her life with earlier versions of herself.

The evening takes the faintly lit room in its lazy embrace. Julia has just finished washing her body under the shower. It seems even paler than usual against the backdrop of brightly coloured towels hanging in the bathroom, She rubs in some aromatic oil and looks at her face in the mirror, lost in thought. The sound of an engine starting can be heard through the open window. He is waiting in bed. Julia is rubbing the oil into her dry skin, \slowly, her skin gfeedily devours the greasy drops of oil. It is white. Like a china bowl,Julia thinks.

Julia a pale girls just about to sleep with her partner but her mind seems elsewhere.

This is a tight collection of stories no weak tales each has a strong female voice the only one that is different is the dogs in the fridge which is a surreal tale. the others are mainly set at home. from the Julia in her bathroom then the bedroom, three daughters around the bed of there dying mother. There are other strange events transporting us to the rainforest. The real world is here but just to the left at times each character views the world through there own prism making this an interesting collection of stories of modern women’s lives in Slovak. Slithers of life and like real life itself some of these tales haven’t that big punch but leave you thinking. Have you read anything by this writer? I must also not this is one of my favorite covers this year.

The Funeral party by Ludmilla Ulitskaya

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Funeral Party by Ludmilla Ulitskaya

Russian fiction

Original title -Веселые похороны

Translator – Cathy Porter

Source – personal copy

when the Nobel was due a few weeks ago there were a few betting sites giving odds less than normal but as ever I marked a few of the names that I hadn’t read and haven’t  got books by and the Russian writer Ludmilla Ulitskaya was high on the list and has had a lot of books translated into English over the years. Her first novella was published in 1992 in Russian she has won the Russian booker and was up for the old Man booker prizes and has won awards around the world. She is known for not delving into the past of her characters but the present and moving forward with the situations they are in.

The heat was terrible, with one hundred percent humidity. It was as if the whole of this great city, with its inhuman buildings, its magical parks, its different coloured people and dogs, had reached the point od a phase transition and at any momentits semi-liquefied people would float up int the soupy atomsphere.

The shower was permanently occupied, with a que of people standing outside, For a long time they hadn’t bothered with clothes, although Valentina wore a bra to prevent her large breasts chafing in the heat; normally she never wore one. Everyone was dripping wet, the sweat failed to avaporate from their bodies, towels didn;t dry and hair had to be dried with Hair dryer.

The opening lines give a view of the heat that summer in New york in Alik’s  small apartment

The book follows the last days of a Russian Emigres Alik an artist as he is dying. Those gathered around him remember him and also in the background there is the Uprising in Moscow where tanks came into the city in 1991 as it is a red hot summer in New York. As his wire Nina a drinker but also religous wants him to come back into the church. He has done artworks around the last supper and is an agnostic but will agree if there is also a rabbi with the priest! Alik has fallen on hard times and his bills are being sorted by another of the women around his bed Irina she maybe shows how some Russian Emigres came to thrive in the US. She was an Acrobat and former lover of Alik but has become a reasonable succesful lawyer and pays her old friend’s bills. The woman he was meant to marry in the US Valentina is there a marriage that never happened. Maria an older woman a motherly figure that is trying to save him with her mix of old fashion herbal remedies. One few other men is Firma a Russian doctor reduce to a lab assistant as he isn’t able to pass his US medical exams. What we see is how each has interacted with this Artist that until now was the glue between these people and a vibrant man to be around. As they visit him this hot summer some of his old lady friends get too hot and a strip off this is all part of the comic side of this book.

Father victor arrived at about nine, without socks and in sandals, carrying an attache case and a bulging plastic bag. He was wearing a baggy hirt tucked into light, shortish trousers, and a baseball cap with the innocuous letters “N” and “Y” on it

He tyook off the cap as he came in and rested it on the crook of his arm, greeting everyone with a smile which wrinkled his short nose.

Because it was Saturday there was a large number of visitors: valentina, giola with the little grey dostoyevskt under her arm, Irina, Maika, Faika, Libin and his girlfriend, all the usual crowd. Also present were the Beginsky sisters, recently arrived from Washington

The crowd around his dying bed every day.especially at the weekend

This book captures the myriad of emigres experiences from the settle and succesful to those broken by coming to the US to follow there American dream Alik himself has seen both sides of this world since his arrival in America. He is a womans man given by the women around him in his last days his wife the woman that should have been his wife his ex-lover and the motherly figure all have deep connections to this man this is what Ludmila does so well in this book and that is build up the layers and connection in each characters life. There is a comic tone at times in this book it isn’t all doom and gloom in this small room as some of the women around strip off shocking some of his other visitors. Lisa reviewed this book a number of years ago, I said then I must get a copy I finally did and enjoyed it tis is a writer I will be reading again at some point Nobel win or not !!

 

Murder at the vicarage by Agatha Christie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Murder at the vicarage by Agatha Christie

English crime fiction

Source personal copy

When I read the list of books for 1930 online I saw that I had the three I have reviewed this week on my shelves so I decided to read them I usually read all translation but I got chance to revisit two writers I have enjoyed in my gran was a huge Chrisie fan she had all those gory fifties and sixties paperbacks wish I wish I had saved a few when she passed many years ago mine is a retro hardback. I picked this copy up in Devon on my Honeymoon as it is set in the quintessential Devon village which is where Christie grew up and Miss Marple lives.

Griselda is nearly twenty years younger than myself. She is most distractingly orettyand quite incapable of taking anything seriously.She is incompetent in every way, and extremely trying to live with. She treats the parish as a kind of huge joke arranged for her amusement, I have endeavoured to form her mind and failed, I am more than convinced that celinacy is desirable for clergy. I have hinted asmuch to griselda, but she has only laughed,

The vicars wife is very much younger and he worries she may have her eyes elsewhere later on in the book ?

Now I have seen both the tv versions of the book both miss bits from the book which I forgot when I reread this book. The book revolves around the Murder of Colonel Protheroe. He is a churchwarden and wants to see the vicar about a problem in the church accounts the opening is narrated by the Vicar where he says that Prfotheroe is the type of man to make a mountain out of a molehill and very much wants the  ways kept as they are not like the new high chuch curate wants it in the church. So when he is due to meet the vicar at the vicarage and is found dead by a shot in the head. Miss Marple is well placed as she lives next to the vicarage and has been in the garden at the time the shots where heard and saw the comings and goings firstly the Colonels with before the shot and the artist in the vicars garden. The Artist Lawrence is painting a number of ladies in the village the vicars younger wife Griselda who around this time says she has been somewhere but was seen elsewhere?  he is painting the colonel’s daughter who has a huge crush on him and hates the colonel’s current wife. A mysterious woman renting a local house that the colonel may have known an odd acting curate. An archaeologist and his secretary that has been working on the colonel’s grounds. The Vicars maid the spinster next door a Mrs price ridley all could have done it as the vicar said the man dead would make the village a better place! even Miss Marple says there could have been seven suspects who did it who will put their hands up and what time did he die all these set the tale twisting and turning to a shocking ending.

“If miss Marple says she had no pistol with her, you can take it for granted that it is so” I said “If there was the least possibility of such a thing, miss Marple would have been on it like a knife”

“THat’s tru enough. We’d better go and have a look at the studio”

The so-called studio was a mere rough shed with a skylight. There were no windows and the door was the only means of entrance or egress. Satisfied in this score, melchett announced his intention of visiting the vicarage with the inspector.

The chief constable and inspector know MissMarple so respect her insights into the dress the colonels wife was wearing that day!

This is the classic christie mystery in a way a cast of characters an unlikable murder victim that means there is a whole host of possible victims then we have the twists of the crime what time did he die ? was it a shot that Marple heard that killed him ? each means the closer we are getting to the truth. How is the mystery woman and why did Lawrence redding chose this particular village to set himself up as a painter ?why did the archaeologist and his secretary come to the colonel’s land for the dig? when these are answered we get to the bottom of the tale this is a classic book from the golden era of crime that uses a microcosm of a small village to show how easy a turn here and there can have wider effects on people’s lives. A nice final choice for 1930 club wonder where we will end up next time round?

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