Atlantic Hotel by Joao Gilberto Noll

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Atlantic Hotel by Joao Gilberto Noll

Brazilian fiction

Original title – Hotel Atlântico

Translator – Adam Morris

Source – personal copy

Well, it is back to Brazil and a second helping of Joao Gilberto Noll. I so enjoyed the quiet creature I decided to try another and of the two I had this one appealed. Even thou he died a few years ago, he still has a lot of works to be translated into English. He was a guest writer at Kings College in London in 2004 which lead to the other book I have by him called Lord which I will review at a later date the book is set in London partly.

I glanced at the time: eight thirty. It took some effort to get up; my legs hurt. I slipped my blazer on and went to the bathroom, steadying myself on things, feeling a sort of disability- the image of a convalescent getting ready to leave the hospital came to mind.

In the mirror I saw deep circlesunder my eyes, skin all scaly, parched lips. I slid my tongue along an inflamed cavity in one of my teeth, figuring it wasn’t doing me any good to stay here emumerating thesigns of my body’s deterioration.The time to leave has come.

After his first night in the hotel. This remind me a lot of DOA the way he said he was falling apart.

This is a very different book from Quiet creature was. The book opens with a narrator who arrives at a hotel. The Atlantic hotel and has a room where a murder had occurred, he had just flown in he said but has very little luggage and asks what happened in the room but then he is a taxi and the narrative becomes like the road trip from hell, as we follow him from dark seedy motes to motel as he starts to meet people like Susan on a Bus but she is a troubled soul like a narrator as she takes fatal overdose this increases the sense of death and the world drawing in around our unnamed narrator. later he seeks refuge at a church but who is the narrator as the man says various jobs he has done and various things he has done to the people he meets along the way. As he is accused of something who is this man what has drawn him to be the way he is on the run through Brazil but always being close to death as he does almost as though he has a cloak of darkness that tinges all that is around him.

I was drinking coffee with milk and eating a thick slice of butter bread, in Father Anselomo’s old frock. Antonio was sitting in the same chair I’d found him when I arrived at the house. Only hehad bow turned the chair in my direction.

He told me he lived in Rome for four years.There he’d known hunger , absolute misery. He’d wandered the streets in rags. Eaten whatever he was given Sometimes he sat in the doorstep of a fancy restaurant until a cop gave hium the bootor a waiter brought him something to eat- the ramains of the customers meal into a cardboard carton.

Everyone he meets have dark stories to tell him in this road trip around Brazil.

I felt this was more Lynchian than his last book the feeling of our narrator falling down a dark hole as he like the main character in Mullholland drive seems to be drawn into a dark seedy world that he isn’t quite sure what he is doing. There is as I said that sense of disjointedness that is in his works I was reminded of Toby Jones character in Berberian sound studio where he is drawn into the world around him without seeing it happen and the darkness of the film he was doing the sound for. The other film I was reminded of was a classic film noir that was made twice and that is DOA the man on the run here is obviously trying to escape something dark from his life it says early on that he aged forty years overnight at the first night at the hotel. Like the film his world becomes stranger as the days move on like in the film, his world draws in around him and his body starts to fall apart. Have you read this book at all ?

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The Hedge by Miguel Delibes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Hedge by Miguel Delibes

Spanish fiction

Original title – Parabola del Naufrago

Translator – Frances M. Lopez-Morillas

Source – personal copy

I again add an older writer and her it is one of the stars of post-war Spanish writing one of the Generation of 36 writers Miguel Delibes sat on Chair E of the Spanish Academy from 1975. He wrote about mainly city dwellers that had lost touch with the natural world. He was also considered one of the leading Catholic writers of the second half of the 20th century like Greene and Boll. He won most of the major Spanish lit prizes. His books in English seem to be out of print.

He (Jacinto) appears to be rather meticulous man and he yearns for personal security. A few months ago he went through a very uneasy peroid when he observed the progress made by the adding machines in the office, thinking that the expert calligraphers were a dying breed, but Don Abdon, who is a father to everyone, reassured him with his end-of-the-year speech, when he said that the most perfect electronic brain wasn’t worthy to untie the shoes of a good solid craftsman. That was what Don Abdon said, Don Abdon who is a father to evryone, and this calmed Jacinto, who often, in view of the conquests of technology, belives that he is dispensible and lives of charity.

The quiet Jacinto and his changing workplace as machines take over.

The book follows a caligrapher Jacinto working in an office for the overpowering as he is described Don Abdon he runs the factory but also the town they live in and he is Jacinto’s boss. Jacinto is a loner a sort of everyman. But he is also worried that his job is about to be automated. The boss is described as” the father of them and the mother of the fathers” It is when he has a relatively series of zeros to copy out this meek man finally breaks it is shown when the language we see has the punctation spelled out so it is comma this and full stop that almost showing his mind breaking. He is sent to the town’s country retreat in this remote cabin but far from getting away he is given a bag of seeds to plant and then wakes up the next day to find the cabin he is in cover and surround by one almighty hedge and one of his colleagues is now dog he tries to tunnel burn and otherwise get past the hedge whilst himself seeing his body grow fluffy hair.

Sometimes Jacinto loses his footing , the bend or fork of the hedge fails him and he is again submerged in that vegtable sea and observes that he is asphyxiating and  moves his arms and groans until he comes to the surface again and then he sighs deeply, but as night falls , and the yellow petals closes over the stamens and the enervating odor of the flowers began to spread, Jacinto thinks the end has come , but he tries no to give in he rejects the intoxicating prefume and yells “Damm You!”

The hedge is all around and is hold Jacinto with inside it as he tries to escape it !

This is a strange book Delibes was known for his playful use of language it is shown here in part when we see the punctation seep on to the page out of the reader or Jacintos mind as we see him breaking before he moves to the county and faces a struggle with nature and maybe finally becomes part of nature. It is easy to compare this to Orwell it tells me that on the back of the book itself written in the later years of the Franco regime it is obviously a sideways punch at Franco with the Don Abdin character obviously a veiled Franco esque character . For me I was reminded of the book restraint of beast in the later part of the books as we see the character Jacinto getting trapped in the hedge was like the characters in the book restraint of beast that see themselves fencing themselves in separate from the world.It also showed Delibes love of nature and how he felt people were losing touch with the world around them which it seems was a theme in a lot of his books. Have you read any books by Miguel Delibes ?

 

The posthumous memoirs of Bras Cubas by Joaquim Maria Machado De Assis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The posthumous memoirs of Bras Cubas by Joaquim Maria Machado De Assis

Brazilian fiction

Original title – Memorias Posthumas de Braz Cubas

Translator – Gregory Rabassa

Source – personal copy

I always like adding depth to the blog some older writers from around the world.So here I review the second book on the blog from the Brazilain writer Machado De Assis He managed a successful career as a Bureaucrat as well as become a successful writer first with poetry then a series of novels it was when this book came out that he became a really well known in Lit circles in Brazil. The book followed the death of a friend that left him melancholic and thinking about death.

For some time I debated over whether I should start these memoirs at the beginning or at the end, that is, whether I shuld put my birth of my death in first place. Since common usage would call for beginning with birth, two considerations led me to adopt a different method: the first is that i am not exactly a write who is dead but a dead man who is a writer, for whom the grave was a second cradle, the second is that the writing be more distinctive and novel in that way. Moses, who also wrote about his death,didn’t place it at the opening but at the close: a radical differecne between this book and the Pentateuch.

The opening lines explain the choice of style for the book

 

This is a strange book as it is the memoirs of a dead man that he wrote after he died he tells us this early on in the book. As we follow Bra Cubas life as he tells us in a quirky style of short chapters that vignettes of his life from his childhood onwards. but he was a spoilt rich child maybe this explains why his life is never quite right. He also abused the slaves his family had at the time. He then goes on to study law. His wilder years before he settles   Sleeping and falling in love with a prostitute that all the boys loved at the time. He also deals with his mother’s death and ends up in Rio. This is where he starts to meet Virgilia a woman that is the love of his life they never quite get it there she marries someone else he decides to become involved in politics. But he is a man that always sees his world as half empty and his relationships and life all reflect this so when he re-meets Virgilia and they see each other things still don’t go his way. His political career grows but he then is out of favor and starts a pape as a  member of the opposition.

Virgilia ? But, then, was it the same lady who some year later ….? The very same. It was precisely the lady who was to be present during my last days in 1869 and who before, long before, had played a ample part in my most intimate sensations. At that time she was only fifteen or sixteen years old. She was possibly the most daring creatureof our race and, certainly, the most wilful.I shan’t say that she was already first in beauty, ahead of the other girls of the time, because this isn’t a novel, where the author gilds reality and close his eyes to feckles and pimles.

I liove this description of the love of his life .

This is an amazing book for the time it mixes the absurd style of a book like Lawrence Sterne’s Tristam Shandy another fictional biography. De Assis said he was influenced by this book and also the French masterpiece journey around my room by Zavier De Maistre which is another unusual and unique book in style.  But he also mixes realist lit of the day from the likes of Zola and Dickens which showed the world warts and all. We are given this view of the world  Bra Cubas gives of Brazil he grew up in. It captures the wide range of people in Brazil from those nameless slaves to Bra Cubas and those he sees go above him in his life in the upper reaches of Brazilian life. Bra Cubas is  a man that is a normal man, not a hero never really successful in fact in a lot of ways he is a man that things never quite pan out failed romances the sense that he is maybe marked for his younger days in later life. I liked this much more than the other book by De Assis I read a few years ago I see in this how well read he was it is said he read in five languages and you can see what an influence he was for the Latin American writers that followed him. Borges for example in the short choppy chapters that could each be like the small gems  of short stories  that Borges did so well. Have you read De Assis ?

Quiet creature on the corner by João Gilberto Nollrr

Quiet creature on the corner by  João Gilberto Noll

Brazilian fiction

Original title – O quieto animal da esquina

Translator – Adam Morris

Source = Personal copy

I move from Spanish lit to Portuguese lit well Brazilian lit and a short Novel I have been wanted to read for a couple of years. Gilberto Noll wrote his first short story in 1970 at a very young age and went on to Study at the Iowa writers workshop in the early eighties which is when he started publishing novels and short stories collections around the early eighties as well. He also ran a twice-weekly short story in a Sao Paulo daily paper. He published a number of novels before passing away two years ago in the city of Porto Alegre which happens to be the setting for this book as well.

Suddenly I realized I was so close to the singing girl that I could almost feel her breath- I didn’t say anything, she stopped singing, I noticed there was a speckled wall that hid us from the building – I hit her with a kiss and she fell with me onto the wet earth, my tongue passing through a murmur stifled in the girls mouth, for sure a scream if I were to take my mouth off hers, and it was to late,

He goes round to the singing girl but this leads to him goinjg to far but I like the waty he noticed the speckled war that seems sinster in a way !!

The book is narrated by a 19-year-old poet, a drifter it seems having lost his job within the first lines of the book. Still living at home with his mother early on in the book whilst his mother slept. So he decides to sit and write a poem taking the most of the silence but then he is interrupted ! he goes round to a neighbor who is singing and covers her mouth to stop he screaming and then has sex with her thus he has raped her. return to the shredded sofa at his mother’s house next morning he sees the police around and fails to escape this is where things get strange he is arrested but within a few moments he has ended up in a large country estate  were he is held captive by two people a couple Kurt the German and his wife Gerda also Otavio in this strange house. Where he has been whisked to. The estate is different all they want is for him to write poetry for them, just that.  But why? this is a disjointed world where one moment our narrators is in one place then arrives in another.

At the lunch table there were three people besides me: Kurt at one-end, Otavio at the otherm and a woman with blue rinsed white hair across fromme. Kurt introduced me: Gerda, his wife, silent most of the time she asked my age then drank a sip of white wine from her glass.

Kurt had the same solemn air as his wife, Otavio did not. otavio seemed like the Plebeian of the household, besides the miad, obviously, lowering here eyes threatrically when they encountered mine.

He meets Kurt and his two companions as things take a really weird turn and things start getting surreal.

It’s easy to see why he has been called a Brazilian David Lynch for his writing style it has that sense of drifting place that Lynch has done so well in his later films where we think we are on one path only to be abruptly turned onto another. Our narrator is a troubled man a man that has just lost his job cleaning the drains and really wants to be a poet the world he describes is poetic as it makes what is a dark part of the city of Porto Alegre. Then he ends up in the mansion with the German Kurt this part is like Kafka in a way our narrator has no idea why he is there other than having to write Poems. The title of the book is one of the poems he writes whilst there. This is a jumpy book that sometimes feels as thou he has taken some parts out of it to make you the reader work like I feel Lynch does so well in his films why do we need to know the full picture sometimes filling in the gaps is very interesting. I have two more books by him on the tbr pile so don’t be surprised to see him crop up again in the next couple months.

Vlad by Carlos Fuentes

Vlad, a novel by Carlos Fuentes

Mexican fiction

Original title – Vlad

Translators – E.Shashkan Bumas and Alejandro Branger

Source – personal copy

I move to Mexico for the second stop on this year’s Spanish and Portuguese lit months. I am reviewing the writer that until the last ten years was the best-known writer from Mexico Carlos Fuentes. One of the great figures of the Latin American boom this was the last book he published while alive. He is best known for the death of Artemio Cruz he wrote over twenty novels in various styles and was often considered as a possible Nobel winner although he didn’t win that prize he won all the major prizes for Spanish language fiction.

“I wouldn’t trouble you, Navarro, if Davila and Uriate were available. I’m not going to call them your inferiors- subordinates sounds better – but neither will I forget that you are a senior partner, primus inter pares, and so are higher ranked in the firm. I am entrusting this task to you because first and foremost, I consider this a matter of utmost urgency ….”

Weeks laterm when the awful adventure had ended, I recalled that, at its beginning, I had chalked up the absence of Davila dn Uriate to luck. Davila was off on honeymoon in Europe and Uriate was tied up in a Judical embargo …

He is given the case it seems great as he is just getting back to work after his recent loss Yves.

This is a short book and is a clever take on the Vampire story. It imagines that Vlad the Impaler has decided he needs to leave Europe and has chosen Mexico city as his new home. The book opens as an estate agent is Yves Navarro a lawyer and he estate agent wife is tasked with finding a fort like home which will be easy to defend, against intruders,  have an escape tunnel and Blacked out windows. The two of them and their daughter are just getting over the death of their son. This is all for the strange  European Vladimir Radu. but maybe is he really Stokers  Vlad the Impaler. Vlad is putting himself into the couples live as he tells the narrator he loves his wife’s smell. Slowly, as he starts to get his way into the lives of this grieving family as he has viewed Mexico city and the way it is as his chance to feast on the city starting with Yves and his family. Could he bring their son back for them?

“Yes, boss” I said almost seetly, sensing his need for consolation. While feeeling myself vunerable because of my affection, memories, and even gratitude.

“You have to hurry. It’s urgent. Have a look at these papers”

He let go of my hand I took the papers he proffered and then walked toward the door. He said, as though from a great distance;

“From Vlad, you can expect nothing but evil.”

and in a lower voice

“Do you think I don’t have scruples or even a conscience I don’t have a fever burnong in my soul?”

I turned my back on him I knew that I would never see him again.

Yves starts to find out the real truth about his client !!

This is a very short book more of a novella than a novel it has echos of the great story by Stoker Yves and Harker in the original book both have wives or finances that Vlad seems to connect the two stories. Then him moving westward as well first to London at the turn of the century a sprawling city and the comparison is apt with Modern Mexico city the city is huge and perfect for Vlad. Then he has the grief of the family and the family story Yves and his wife Asuncion mourning the loss and trying too move forward. this is subtle take there isn’t the violence as in the Stoker book it is more about the menace and characters also about loss blinkering the main character as he heads with his wife into unkn=own waters with this odd European man who is he really with his black outfit just making him seem dark. An interesting last book from one of the great Latin American writers. Have you read Fuentes?

 

The House of Ulysses by Julian Rios

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The House of Ulysses by Julian Rios

Spanish fiction

Original title – Casa Ulises

Translator- Nick Caistor

Source – personal copy

Julian Rios wrote his first two books together with the Mexican writer Octavio Paz. He was described by Carlos Fuentes as The most creative and inventive writer of his nation. He is influenced by James Joyce and of modernist and postmodernist writers. He was the editor of the Espiral collection in Spanish that published books by Thomas Pynchon, John Barth, Severo Sarduy and many other writers. He has had a number of his books translated into English and currently lives just outside Paris

Silence! somebody said, and the Cicerone moved on through the white and gold room, explaining the characteristics of those barrel-shaoped Martello towers, about twelve meters high and with two-and-a-half meter thick stone walls, which the English scattered round Dublin and the coasts of Irelan to defend against a possible Napoleonic invasion in support of rebels seeking Irish independence. According to the Cicerone, the matello tower at Sandy Cove was a century old. The Order for it to be built been given on June 16, 1804 – exactly one hundred years earlier

The opening as Stephen and his two friend in the Martello tower as he is also shot at .

Rios talks of Books being Born out of Books as Ulysses is born out of Homers work this book is born out of Joyce’s great book but also the great city of Dublin and it last legacy. It is set out as five characters a Cicerone as he walks through Joyce’s literary day and three other readers as set out in the early chapter ABC a mature female reader from then on called A. A younger female slim dark hair in a Ulysses t-shirt or as she then knows B. Then a tiny man grey hair and beard, with a pipe the Old critic all three have a copy of the illustrated Ulysses and are joined as well by the Man in the Macintosh a sort of computer nerd that uses A mac to give info. The Narrative then Follows Blooms and Daedalus Day chapter by chapter. As most of know the book I pick two highlights the opening chapter Telemachus which saw Buck and Stephen waking in the Martello tower a connection noted here to the Med from the origin of the tower design in the Casa’s of the Mediterranean. This opening chapter is so heavy in means(I have and still love listening to Rejoyce Podcast by the Late Frank Delany that spent a long time on these opening lines) A lot is also mention here with the imagery and use of language. Then jumping forward we have one of my favourite homer Joyce crossover in the Cyclops chapter when Bloom in the pub has an argument with the Nationalist another  chapter steep in meaning from Bloom being a lapsed Jew to being Irish the three readers and the other discuss the chapters, scenes, the setting Dublin 16th June 1904, times and other pieces that Joyce wrote that interconnected to the book.

Two eyes are better than one, A added, puhing his steel-rimmed dark glasses onto his nose with his forefinger as he made to enter the green room.

Yes, C said. That is simpole conclusion of “Cyclops.”

In the land of the blind, the one- eyed man is King, siad A.

“Cyclops” also tells us that all narrow-minded nationalism is blind, C said.

And stupid, A added. Blinkered Jingoism.

Yes, C said, In “CYClops” Joyce satirized intolerance nationalism, xenophobia, Chuvism, Fanaticism, and the intolerance of some Irsih radical groups such as the Fenians, caircatured here in the figue of the Citizen

How Apt this passage is for Now in our times in 115 yers how much has changed !!

This is a tough book to describe as it is a novel about reading deeper into another novel but also the meaning of that novel now in a way. Ulysses is one of the greatest books ever written a lively, broady description of one day in Dublin Life an Event that in Joyce’s own life was his first date with his beloved wife. The characters all reflect parts of Dublin, Joyce and Joyce’s love-hate relationship with the city. Through his five characters, we see what each part of the book meant with the frequent tables telling use the time of the day the location the symbolic items colour, organ, technique, meaning, and correspondence. Now for me, you have to have read or tried to get well into Ulysses to read this book it like many books around Ulysses makes you want to reread it. I also have just got Anthony Burgess old book just back in print also at one-timed called Re-joyce and yes it is time to revel in Joyce one again and for me, this unusual novel is a great starting point for this year’s Spanish Portuguese lit months. Are you a Joyce Fan? Have you read Ulysses have you read this without reading Ulysses?

That was the month thart was the half way point june 2019

  1. The train was on time by Heinrich Boll
  2. Prague by Maude Veilleux
  3. Selfies by Sylvie Weil
  4. Jalaleddin by Raffi
  5. Vintage 1954 by Antoine Laurain
  6. Red dog Willem Anker
  7. A gun for sale by Graham Greene

I managed just seven reviews last month and got to 45 books reviewed so far this year. I read books from six countries one new press Sophene which is a new press that are publishing works from Armenia.I still feel I will get to hundred books reviewed this year I just need pick the pace up with an extra book a month plus I always blog more in the winter months and have Spanish and Portuguese lit month next month.

Book of the month

Selfies.jpg

I loved this collection of interlink short stories all themed around a piece of art and other things that reminded Sylvie Weil of events in her own life a clever framing device and some more interesting autofiction from France also another great title from Les Fugitives that is publishing the best of female french writing.

Non book events

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, it has been a quiet month, on the whole, I have just had a lovely day in the sun as we had the warmest day of the year, as you see I have come over all summery. In the last week, I have found a number of Joseph Conrad books second hand I have brought them as he seems to be a writer that isn’t as well regard as he was when I was younger. I know his works maybe aren’t as PC as other but he was still an influential writer and I am looking forward to trying some of his less known works.

Looking forward

I am just about to finish my first book for Spanish lit month and then have a 600-page Spanish novel called Homeland by Fernando Aramburu that has been called a new war and peace. I also have a couple of Portuguese books lined up for the month!

A gun for sale by Graham Greene

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A gun for sale by Graham Greene

English fiction

Source – personal copy

I found a few days ago every book I was reading wasn’t grabbing me I start three or four never getting more than forty pages in so I decided it was time to try an old classic one of my Graham Greene for me he is one of those go to writers when you have been struggling to find something great. Graham Greene is one of those writers that didn’t write many bad books and this is one that isn’t as well known as some of his other books but it was made into a film in the forties an Italian and Turkish films and a tv film in the nineties and was written before Brighton rook and like Pinkie raven is a very amoral character.

Murder didn’t mean much to Raven. It was just a new job. You had to be careful. You had to use your brains. It was not a question of hatred. He had only seen the ministeronce: he had pointed out to Raven as he walked down the new housingestate between the little lit christmas tree, an old, rather grubby man without any friends, who was said to love humanity

The cold wind cut his face in the wide continental street. It was a good excuse for turning the collar of his coat well up above his mouth. A hare-lip was a serious handicap in his profession; it had been badly sewn in infancy, so that now the upper lip was twisted and scarred. When you carried about you si easy an identification you couldn’t help but becoming ruthless in your methods. It had always, from the first been necessary for Raven to eliminagte the evidence

The opening two paragraphs could jump from a classic american hard boilded noir i loved them!!

The book unfolds after a hired assassin Raven kills the minister of war in a distant European country. his father was hung for murder and his mother committed suicide so he grew up very amoral and with his own code.  He returns home to get paid by his paymaster a man called Cholmondeley. It is only after he is paid he gather he has been double-crossed when the notes he is using are stolen and being tracked by the police. He finds that Cholmondeley is heading on a train to Nottwich a fictional midland town. This is where the man that paid Cholmondeley is a steel magnate Sir Marcus paid him to kill the minister. On the train he meets a chorus girl who is the fiance of a detective on the tail of Raven, So he takes Anne with him but as she knows Cholmondeley real name which is Davies and helps him get to him as a way to keep her self alive. Will he get Davies and find out who paid him and will Anne escape.

Nor did the meter fail him. He had a schilling to spare. When Mr Cholmondeley led the way in by tthe Euston war memorial to the Greart smoky entrance and rashly he gace it to the driver: rashly because there was a long wait ahead of himwith nothing but his hunderd and nitey-five pounds to buy sandwich with. For Mr Cholmondeley led the way with two porters behind him to the left-luggage counter depositing there three suitcasesm a portable typewriter, a bag of golf clubs, a small attache case, and a hat-box.Raven heard him ask which platform the midnight train went.

Raven tracking after he found he had been double crossed and they head tio Nottwich on the train .

This is an early Graham Greene written before Brighton rock Raven is maybe an early take on the Pinkie character that sort of Amoral man of circumstance here raven is a cold-blooded killer and isn’t pleased when double crossed so he then goes on an act of revenge. It is wonderfully paced keeping you gripped to the last page and has an interesting set of character the chorus girl Davies the middle man Sir Marcus the man paying for the killing and Anne’s boyfriend the main detective on Raven’s tail to add a nice twist in the tail. This is Greene before he was Greene a writer early on his career it has pinches of Buchan, Conrad and a touch of American Hard-boiled thriller. But for me it still has that Catholic guilt that in a lot of his fiction. Have you read this or have you another favorite By Greene?

 

Red Dog by Willem Anker

Red Dog by Willem Anker

Red Dog by Willem Anker

South African fiction

Original title – Buys

Translator – Michiel Heyns

source – review copy

This is the first title to be translated into English by the prize-winning Afrikaans writer Willem Anker. This book won four prizes. He studied Lit at the University of Stellenbosch his final dissertation sounds very interesting and also in a way links to this book. The nomadic self: schisoanalytical views on character subjectivity in the prose work of Alexander Strachan and Breyten Breytenbach. He is also now a teacher of creative writing at the same university. This book has been re-title in English its original title was Buys a border novel. 

With my father’s inheritance, I buy two cows and a dozen sheep. David Dimwit lets them graze on his part of the farm and they multiply. At eleven I am taller than my brother-in-law; at thirteen I’ll be more than six feet tall. During the day I herd cattle with Saterdog a bushman child, perhaps a year or so older than I, but younger of body, named, for no particular reason, for the sixth day of the week.

The early years of Buys life.

The book is the retelling of the life of Coenraad de Buys a real-life character that was an advisor to Xhosa chief and also friends to the missionary Johannes Theodorus van der Kemp. This is a story of a man that saw his father die when he was eight years old leaving him very little. He sets forth and the boy grows into a man. He is a trekker and man of the veldt. He spends time with his wives and various mix of children from his three wives over the years. There are little passaged that shows his world growing. He is a man of the wild veldts this is the late 18th and early 19th century and his home is under winds of change. This man married three times but over the years his farm grows and his power swells. He is one of these untamable wilds as they years go we see his life swing one way to another then in the later 1790 the English take over the land he lives on and declare him an outlaw he then spends time wandering the borders between English and  the colonies he grew up in that are shrinking the forty years covered in this book saw five small wars break out all this told in a brutal world that shows the harshness of the new world as it still was then. He pays the price with wives and time with his kids but this man is happiest in the middle of nowhere with the wild dogs at his feet hence the English title.

A man vomits and his friends laugh and gob. Somebody bumps into me and I look around into the beggars face and looks away.

The Baboon grabs the nearest dog and brings the animal’s faceup to its own, Bo they know how much they look like each other? With the revishing jaws that decorate many a farmhouse, it tears off the face of the fighting dog, who until recently resembled the protp wolf from hich all dogs are descended.

I rub my thumbs and index fingers together until I can feel a static crackling. The remaining dog keeps tugging at the guts.The baboon curls up against the carcase next to him and there is a tremor in one hand and something like a yawn and I see something in his eyes and then he is dead

The brutal world is wonderfully summed up in these few passages of the book.

This is one of those books that draws the reader into a world gone the veldt of the late 1790s and early 1800s. this shows the world and borders for one man shrinking a man that is one of those larger than life figures a raconteur, swindler, and ladies man he is a mix of robin hood and Kevin Costner’s character in dances with wolves. A wild man of the veldt large than life in a world that is violent from his early days and the death of his father violence is always just below the surface as is the harsh world he lives in. He is compared the great American writer Cormac McCarthy and yes I have read a coup,e of his books decades ago it has that same sense of wild untamed lives and worlds. But for me, the writer I was most reminded of was Patrick White the way he described the outback and a harsh world that mix indigenous and colonial worlds especially his book the tree of man I reviewed a few years ago. As I said the main title character is like one of the characters he must have written about in his dissertation a nomadic self!!

Vintage 1954 by Antoine Laurain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage 1954 by Antoine Laurain

French fiction

Original title – Millésime 1954

Translator – Gallic books (Jane Aitken / Emily Boyce)

Source – review copy

We all have a writer we go to for a fun read and for me the last few years it has been the novels of Antoine Laurain a mix of nostalgia and comedy. This is his sixth book to be translated into English by the Gallic books they are all similar in that they have an event or item that sets up a cascade of events. His novel French Rhapsody is being developed into a tv show according to the French wiki page. I have reviewed all his previous books and have grown to love his gentle comic books.

Oaris was destined to remain a fantasy for them. Two months after they met, although they had become engaged, chosen their wedding rings and dreamed of spending their honeymoon wandering the streets of Montmatre, Bob was contacted by Harley-Davidson. Their headhunters had spotted his talent as a mechanic, and they were offering him a job designing new egines, for three times what he was earning at Mensch’s Motors. Bob’s career was taking off and the flights to Paris could not compete

They had dreamed of Paris all their Married life Bob and Goldie but never got there.

So this book follows a group of people of a french Apartment building. Hubert and three other people open 1954 Beaujolais the three of them wake in 1954 Magilae an antique restorer, Bob a brash American from Milwaukee that is visiting France for the first time but alone as he was due to visit with his wife Goldie. Julien a Mixologist and Hubert as they set out to find out how to get back to 2017 and also, in turn, spend time in the Paris of 1954. As the see Piaf and Gabin dining elsewhere we head to the Louvre and the amazement of seeing the Mona Lisa not behind glass and light with special lighting, The Harrys bar with Harry still there and a new cocktail that is tasted by Audrey Hepburn when Julien makes it. They discover that a UFo was seen at the time this bottle of wine and a professor is writing a book about the events at the vineyard. Will he know the way back to the present for them? Has the past changed their view of the present?

“A new cocktail?” asked one of his colleagues, coming behind the bar

“Yes, with a violet base.”

“Write it down, Julien. Harry wants everything to be written down on the recipe book. He tapped the large book on the bar.

“Julien opened it and wrote in pencil

Abby, short drink

To a chilled mixing glass add : ice cubes, violet syrup(1cl), vodka(4cl), gin(4cl).

mix with a spoon, strain into a martini glass. Pour a little liquorice liqueur down the side of the glass.

Decorate with a twist of lemon zest, cutting one end into a star shap and resting this on the rim of the glass

Julien makes a new cocktail in 1954 that is new to him and old when he gets back to 2017

This is a bit different than his other books as it has a time travel element whereas his other have seen people look back in nostalgia  this sees people travel back to the fifties but it also sees people connecting with there own pasts and also remembering things like Bob remembering his wife Goldie is a sad story of a couple dream of Paris but never getting there they’d  watched Amelie, he ends up in the cafe in the fifties when it was at its best when their is touches like Harry and Harry’s bar a well known French cocktail bar that sees a modern as they are known Mixologist given the chance to make a drink for Audrey Hepburn and when he returns he see the Abbey now has a wiki page. There is a set of question for reading groups at the end the one that struck me is the one that says how do we cope when we haven’t a phone to find out about the world around us when we had to read and maybe ask !! another comic look back at French life and Parisian nostalgia. Have you tried Antoine Laurain? I reviewed this as part of a blog tour for Gallic books see the other bloggers here

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