Winstonsdads Dozen books of the year 2020

Well it is the 2nd January and I am revealing my books of the year in no order these twelve are the ones that at the end of they year I felt had touched me most over the last twelve months.

1. Now, Now louison by Jean Fremon 

The French gallerist Jean Fremon tries to get into in the life of the renowned artist Louise Bourgeois with this miz of inner monologue, personal history, and antidotes another gem from Les fugitives.

2. Aviaries by Zuzana Brabcova 

I now move onto the last night novel by a Czech writer. That captures a darker underbelly of a fragmented Prague of bums homeless people and Chavs

No photo description available.

3. The years by Anne Ernaux 

Just brilliant this should have won the booker but it is a Fineline between fiction and memoir as she looks back on her life and how she dealt with those ups and downs we all have in our own lifetimes.

4. Termin by Henrik Nor-Hansen 

A look at the out fall of an attack on a normal everyday man and what happens when you have a severe brain injury.a short gem and another from a very small publisher.

 

Termin front cover.png

 

5. When death takes something from you give it back Carl’s book By Naja Marie Aidt

This touching memoir of her son who lost his life in shocking circumstances. Carl deals with a mother getting over the loss of her son at such a young age.

6. The train was on time by Heinrich  Böll

A long-overdue reissue of the debut work of Heinrich Boll on a train to the front there is a man daydreaming and remembering the war at the same time,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7. Doppelganger byDaša Drndić

Two novellas from the late Croat writer Daša Drndić her we see that love can be found in older age but we all have that baggage we carry and this is the case in these two getting together.

8. And the wind sees all by  Guðmundur Andri Thorsson

Here we see a mere moment caught from the whole of a village. The local choirmistress Kata is a stunning red dress head to choir practice . As we look behind the curtains in the small fishing villages we see the inner lives of those there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9. 10 minutes 38 seconds in this strange world by Elif Shafak

It is a shock that two books from the Booker shortlist have made my best of year. This glimpses the life os a prostitute through those she knew in her brother and her life before her time in the brothel what drove her there in a series of smells and tastes that she had known throughout her life.

10. Ducks Newburyport by Lucy Elman 

I am one that tends to avoid hype but this 1000 page novel is the inner monologue of a midwest housewife living in the trump era rying to work out in a way how they got there where they are. A long journey but worth taking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

11. Falstaff: Apotheosis by Pierre Senges

A reworking of the Falstaff character and his place in literature by the underappreciated French writer Pierre Senges someone we should all try I think.

12.The Trap by Ludovic Bruckstein 

Romanian fiction to round off this years best-of list and a look at a bygone world of villages that were full of Jewish life a lament of a world that has gone by. This is a lost gem of Mittel European writing brought to us from the great Istros books.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well if there is a theme in these books it is to do with narrative om a whole they all challenge what is narrative for us the reader. I think this is what draws me so much to translated fiction and small press. Her is a huge thanks to those who have support this blog over the last twelve months.

my reading goals for 2020

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have been busy most of Christmas I was lucky to have three days off Xmas Eve to Boxing day. It has given me time with Family my in-laws and there two latest foster kids came Christmas day and Boxing day I traveled to spend it with my dad which was a long day with a hold upon the drive back. I then did two long days work and time has caught up with me I return for two twelve hours shifts tomorrow and new years day. So I will be posting my books of the year after the new year and my first new review in the new year. Anyway, I have never been one for reading goals but as for a second year, I have just missed the 100 reviews in a year I need some motivation.

My first goal is to get to a 1000 reviews on the blog that will be 30 books time I have given myself a deadline of my birthday in the middle of march to get there. I feel this total has loomed in fact in a way that has made me worry about getting there. I felt it would be a let down after that this goal had been reached.

100 reviews in a year this has been my goal for the last few years I have reviewed more than a hundred in other years but since I changed job I struggle to get a good blogging routine in place. I have let my routine slip this last few months after doing thirty posts in a month which I got a routine in place doing the post in advance. I need to be more of a planner in regards to the blog.

I saw that Tony messenger is doing this and it grabbed me as an on running idea and the is reading books from 1980 as it is 40 years since then. I feel this is one I could run with for the next ten years and those early years of me reading novels. There is a couple great books turning 40 years Midnight’s children and in the name of the rose to name two I hope to get half dozen through the year.

Booker international Bingo I hope I get lost of people to join in on this fun twist on shadow jury by getting more bing lines and calls for reading more books. I had planned to read this year’s longlist like last year and wonder what will make the list.

Hopes I hope to add a few more Arabic and African books this year than the last few years.

It has been fun 2019 and I have read a lot of exciting books many thanks for following me over the last year. I hope to bring you more reviews and fun ideas in the coming year. What are your reading plans for the coming year?

Happy christmas from Winstonsdad

 

Well, it has just past midnight here and I am watching an old episode of top of the pops before heading to bed. So i wish all my friends and followers of the blog a happy Christmas and hope you have a great day however you are spending it. Let’s hope you all get the books you have been wishing for under the tree,

Backlight by Kanji Hanawa

Backlight by Kanji Hanawa

Japanese short fiction

Translator – Richard Nathan

Source – review copy

I bring you the second book of the red circle series of short novellas from Japanese. Kanji Hanawa was before he retired a professor of French literature having only visited France as a student he has spent a lifetime teaching and in retirement has translated fifteen books from French into Japanese. He has also written a number of short stories and Novellas been listed for the Akutagawa prize twice.He is known for his for exposing the pressures and challenges of modern life in Japan. Here he has used the true story of Yamato a boy who was left by his parents in the woods of the northern Island of Japan and wandered off.

Ishida: “I imagine, don’t you think, they will set up the incident cemtre at the foot of the mountain?

Momose:”They will visit the situation. I am a psychologist, but I’m old and not so strong on my feet; nor do I have any children myself. So I’m not sure I can be of much use.But I’ve actually been to take a look and although they say it;sa mountain, it seems more like a nearby hill.The actual location took me by surprise.

THe opening and getting involved in the case.

The story uses an Ishida a psychologist asked to help out and he is called in by an old colleague Toshiko Momose as they were both at H university. Who wants to Ishida panel of experts helping with the investigation into the disappearance of A a seven-year-old boy who was left as a punishment by his Father as him and his sister and parents that are on the last day of the national holiday and A ios playing up as the family head through the woods of the Northern island they stop and leave him and drive off only to turn and return in a matter of minutes to find A has disappeared they look for him and he isn’t to be seen so they have to call in the police as the woods are bear-infested. What we see is Ishida as he is called to give help to the way the case is covered and he lets us know how they are trying to find A as the days go by the two discuss how the west and Traditional Japanese childhood differ and the fact that A disappeared is what has changed as when Japanese child was sent out of a house he would stayed glued to the spot whereas a western child would wander this is echoed in the western tales of children getting lost in the woods. Will A be found how long was he out there?

The statement compiled by Momose and Ishida was circulated to the chairperson and the others, but with a questionable level of comprehension. As a child was concerned, the media was showing some self-control. Even so, overall opnion was shifting, it was being taken much more seriously. More and more people were calling for a search of greatest magnitude possible, even if hastily excuted, with the largest number of people available. As a result there were 300 people in total, both locals and non-locals, forming small search oparties and heading into the area. Despite this, there was no postive news.

Third day and fears and the search increases for A .

This is another great choice as it is a gripping story that highlights changes in Japan in a way the boy should have stayed when his parents left and the curveball of him walking off is the start of the tale. Ishida and Toshiko provide a sounding board for how Japanese is changing,. Also, the way this case was cover and the aftermath this made headlines around the world. They also discuss the history in fairy tales of Children in the woods in western culture. from Grimm and then before that in Perrault’s tales. This shows how values change and how Parents are treating the children in Japan. I have three more from Red circle the first two have been very interesting so I hope to finish the rest of them in the new year. Have you a favorite Japanese short story or novella?

Winstonsdads top ten albums of the year

 

I have made a playlist of my top ten albums of the year

  1. The national -I am easy to find – I loved their early albums. This is great and the track I picked mentions REM
  2. Deliluh – Beneath the floors – these Toronto noiseniks remind me in places of the late great slint, a chance finds from listening to Marc Riley. on radio five.
  3. FONTAINES DC- Dogrel any band that mentions James Joyce in a lyric always piques my interest
  4. Black Midi -Schlagenheim – They nearly missed the list after a weird interview in the recent Marc Riley session but these are leftfield and unique.
  5. Murder Capital- When I have fears another Irish punk band these are slower and darker than FONTAINES DC more like an irish Joy divison for the 21st century.
  6. Nick Cave and the bad seeds- Ghostteen his best record for years there is a deep sorrow at its heart.
  7. Robert Forester-Inferno a lot about aging in this album by the former Go-betweens singer
  8. Leonard Cohen- Thanks for the dance Cohen record these songs in the weeks before he did and his son arranged them they are laments and here in my choice a more political song in Puppets
  9. Purple Mountains- Purple Mountains heavy songs full of sadness even more so given that David Berman the former silver Jews singer and the man behind Purple Mountains took his own life weeks after this came out makes these songs even more heartbreaking to listen too.
  10. Richard Dawson – 2020 the folk singer electronic crossover that is Dawson is unique almost baroque in places so a song about Jogging sounds like it is from Tudor times but with 21st-century issues.

Honorable mentions for Idles, Lloyd cole Sturgill Simpson just missed the list. A year that I discovered so great new bands mainly via 6 music. What has rocked your world this year?

 

Loop by Brenda Lozano

Loop by Brenda Lozano

Mexican fiction

Original title – Cuaderno ideal

Translator – Annie McDermott

Source – personal copy

I often think what has been great in the last ten years since I started the blog is those small publishers that fill gaps in the world of translated literature you didn’t know where there and here is a perfect example Charco press over the last few years have brought use dome of the most interesting and original writers from Latin America. Brenda Lozano has published two novels so far. She was another of the writers that back in 2007 made the Bogota 39 list. I do hope they keep making these lists from around the world you look at the list for Bogota and it has produced so many great books and this is one that like when I read the other Charco press book Fireflies.

At a dinner party when he was twenty one, Proust was asked some questions, Among them, what was his favourite bird was. The swallow, he replied. Proust didn’t invent the questions known as the “Proust Questionaire”, but his ansewers were so good they made the questionaire famous. Proust responded to the questionaireon two separate occasions. He was fifteen when he was asked his favourite colour. “THe Beauty is not in the colours, but in the harmony”. he said

At fifteen I still tought the electric pencil sharpener seperated me from adult life. If I’d neem asked my favourite colour I would have sain the colour of my blue pencil sharpener, but Proust’s favourite bird is alos my facvourite bird.

I like this passage and my favourite bird is a kingfisher the flash of them you glimpse is always a treat to see.

Loop is the narrative of an unnamed woman who is staying at home well recovering from an illness whilst her boyfriend is away for a trip too Spain. This isn’t a novel or a notebook more of doodling instead of random art this is a collection of random vignettes of a woman waiting for her man a musing on the world she inhabits. Thus we get wonderful nuggets around the Pessoa imaging ordering five drinks one each for his heteronyms. Lispector and here placing of the smallest woman in the land of pygmies from Central Congo. A piece on Proust and the question around his books, she imagines other writers’ versions of the questionnaire. All this is intertwined with her everyday life family and parties. Her love of notebooks and a growing feeling that she is becoming like Penelope in the Odyssey awaiting Odysseyus return. Even her mother emails saying she has seen the doctor and he said to visit and they love to see Jonas and her on his return from Spain and dealing with his mothers death. This passage is near the end and he still hasn’t come home.

“When will you be back Jonas ?” I’m not sure, he answered I was about to get up. He wrapped his arms around me and pulled me back to bed, and yes, we did it in the morning. Not another line without sayinfg it, I’m going ti say it right now: last year I had an accident I almost didn’t come back from and not long afterwards I discovered sex with Jonas, Good sex, I mean, In that order.

Sex and love. That order. The death of Jonas mum . My non death, That disorder.

Our narrator and her lover. Her past illness and Jonas Mum’s passing

This sits in that space between linear narrative and no narrative it has a progression our narrator lets slip nuggets of her life and a slow recovery her love for her absent man returned home to Spain for his ailing mother. Her hunt for the perfect notebook is her notebook but she loves notebooks. Loop is a patchwork of life titbits of this and that builds a picture of our narrator and the world around her. I was reminded of Duck Newburyport it has a similar digressive style of narrative that drifts here and there. We find the worries of living in the violent heart of Mexico I was reminded that had Bolano lived he would have captured the increasingly violent world of Mexico city. Add to that dwarves and David bowie and it is hard to see why I loved this book it is an example of what I said in the first passage of what I love around small publishers and that brings us books like this Fireflies and books like Flights from Fitzcarraldo and Panorama from Istros all play with the narrative style and what a novel is in this modern world.

The first Shadow The Booker international prize Bingo 2020

I was asked last week By Tony Malone if I wanted to carry on the shadow jury I initially said no. But I had second thoughts but I wanted to give it a spin on previous years as it returns to the original Booker prize name next year under a new sponsorship deal. I had decided to do a Bingo card when the longlist comes out which will have a number for each book on the longlist as the chance to do a vertical line of three books, the four corners for four a horizontal line for five books. I will design badges for each level and combination of levels which means badges for reading 3 books, 4 books, 5 books, 7 books, 9 books, and the full dozen. I am nervous that the Italian Novel Catholic school by Edoardo Albinati that is 1200 plus pages may make the longlist. I am trying to read it over Christmas. I welcome everyone and all I ask is you rank the books you read so we can work a shortlist out on whatever level you take part in will be welcome bloggers old and new also Goodreads instgram bookfolks etc. I have thought of a hashtag #BookerBingo . Here are the Judges for this years prize.

The Judges

Lives and Deaths essential stories by Leo Tolstoy

Lives and Deaths essential stories by Leo Tolstoy

Russian Fiction

Translator – Boris Dralyuk

Source – review copy

It has been 8 years since I read the new translation of War and Peace by Tolstoy so when I was offered the chance to review a collection of stories by the master that revolved around life and death. I couldn’t say no when I was offered the chance to read these for new translations from Boris Dralyuk. The stories are mainly from later in his writing life the earliest is from 1859 the latest is from 1905. The main story in the collection is the Death of Ivan Ilyich a novella the pother three stories in the collection are Three deaths, pace-setter, and Alyosha the pot. all center around death.

The announcement was bordered in  black ” It is with deepest sorrow that Praskoyva FyodofovnaGolovina informs relatives and friends of the demise of her beloved spouse, Member of the appellate court Ivan Ilyich Golovin, which occured on 4TH Febuary 1882. The funeral will be held on friday at one o’clock in the afternoon”

Ivan Ilyich had been a collgue of the assembled gentlemen, well liked by all of them. He had been ill for several weeks; they had heard the illness was incurable.His position had been kept open, but itwas assumed that, in the event of his death, Alekseyev would be appointed to replace him.

The opening of Ivan Ilyich that sees him=s death notice and we then see what haopened in the weeks before.

Well,  the main part of this collection is the Death of Ivan Ilyich. Ivan is a Judge and has a settled life the story opens with people reading a notice of his death but then we see the events that lead to his death. He has just moved into a new house when he has a fall and gets pain on his left side, Then he starts to have a bad taste in his mouth as he gets worse one of his friends Peter sees his friend is getting worse. His wife Praskovya is well to put it one way more of a lady who lunches and has her own life and is only trouble when Ivan’s illness affects their activities together. Ivan questions after he gets the word from the doctor that he is going to die why it is happening to him. We have the three deaths of a noblewoman a lady is traveling on a coach and at the posting station is seen by a doctor who says she won’t make it home but she wants to be home to die. Uncle Hvedor an old coachman is dying in the common room of the posting station. we have a tree dying as the third death. The Pacesetter is set in a stable and told from the point of view of the horses in the yard. Then the last story Alyosha the pot about a quiet young man called the pot after he broke a pot when he was a youth and is a meek soul.

Alyosha was the younger brother. They nicknamed him Pot because one day his mother sent him to the deacon’s wife with a pot of milk, but he stumbled and fell, and the pot broke. His mother gave him a whipping and the boys teased hom, called him “Pot” .The nickname stuck – Alyosha the Pot

Alyosha was a thin little felow, with lop-ears (His ears were like wings), with a big nose. The boys used to teasehim, shouting “Alyosha’s nose is like a dog on a hill” There was a school in the village, but Alyosha didn’t have much time for it

THe youg mannamed pot is a meek young man in his lfe.

I hadn’t read Ivan Ilyich before so was pleased to have read this new translation from a Judge that in many ways his life with a wife that is caught up in her own world and a man that has maybe been to up himself that hadn’t seen his impending death coming it brings up the question of what our lives are valued for and even we think we may be entitled to live longer that is not always the collection the other stories show three different deaths from the highest and lowest of society to that of a tree. Then we have the goings-on of a  stable told from the horse point of view his imagining of their social world is interesting then the quiet Alyosha life is summed up in a mere ten -pages. The stories show how he viewed death change from the earliest story three deaths which were written nearly thirty years earlier than the other works the later maybe shows how when we get to view death differently the older we get.

Travels with a writing brush edited by Meredith Mckinney

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Travel with a writing brush( Classical Japanese travel writing from Manyoshu to Basho)

Japanese travel writing

Editor & Translator Meredith Mckinney

Source review copy

I was rather happy to get sent this, especially after earlier this year reading the Man Booker international prize longlist The pine island which is the second book that had a Basho influence the other being the title of Richard Flanagan booker winner book was a nod to Basho. The book contains a thousand years of Japanese travel writing which includes a number of pieces that were translated for the first time.

Works translated into English for the first time:
• Ionushi’s Pilgrimage to Kumano by Zōki
• Senjūshō
• Pilgrimage to Kumano
• The Death of Sōgi by Sōchō
• Journal of the Kyushu Road by Hosokawa Yūsai

On we went, past Uta no Mastubara. Pines in untold numbers stood along the shore, untoldages old. Waves lapped at the feet of every one; restless cranes thronged around every branch. Unable simply to stand and gave in wonder, one on board composed this:

Miwataseba                Gazing upon thesepines

Matsu no uregeto ni   It seems the cranes

Sumu tsuru wa            Nesting on every branch

Chiyro no dochi to zo Must take the trees for friends

Omoubera naru           A thousand generations old

THis poem doesn’t do justice to the actual scene we saw

From Tosa diary a voyage that lasted 55days at sea.

The book has a great intro and translator notes also map for a number of the Journeys which begin in 759 with MAnyoshu which is one of the first works in Japanese collection it has 400 plus poems the few select are set around boat travels around the island seeing things such as cranes. Then in Tosa diaries, we have a female narrator although as it says in the intro we see that a few times the male writer’s voice is evident this journey is shown on the first map of the maps in the book from Tosa to Kamakura as they see pines and Cranes but as the narrator says the prose doesn’t do it justice. Then as you’d expect we have a pilgrimage piece by Zoki. Then we have a more famous work the pillow book written by a lady in waiting to the empress. Nearly all the pieces in this collection all have the sort poems that five lines long. Another diary of a daughter she is just known just as Sugawara No Takasue’s daughter. Then my favorite title of the works dusts dancing on the rafters That came from a Chinese saying related to two singers. I am only mentioning the first half of this wonderful collection it is taken out of Meredith McKinney own journey through classical Japanese writing and her love in particular of how they described travel this covers a thousand years and ends with the man himself Basho with the narrow road to Oku nearly a thousand years after the first piece. as his fame grew he had to travel to meet his followers in his last decade he traveled more than anything.

257

Kumano e mairu ni wa          Hey you pilgrims

Nani Ka Kurushiki                  What’s so hard

Shugyoja yo                           About the road to Kumano?

Yasumatsu Himematsu       it’s easy pine of Ysumata

Goyomatsu                            Princess pine and five-leafed pine

Chisato no Hama                  and the beach of Chisato

The opening poem from the short selection called Dust dancing on the rafters.

I have often been put off by the great classical Japanese works. But this is an easily accessible work that shows Meredith’s talent as a translator. It shows the beauty of Japan where travel through the land is hard due to forest and mountains or had to be done by seeing due to the many islands which means there is much travel writing out there with pilgrimages and ceremonial events and trips we see how the country is so poetic with its pines cranes insects monks and scenery the sea all around them at times. from sleeping on pillows of grass to wishing to be home and among the books a young girl loved. The works mix fact and fiction and the lines of poetry and prose blur here. As the intro says sometimes it is about finding the places here within like in Ise tales which is sent from Mount Utsu which is said to have echoed down the centuries in the journal of travelers along tokkaido who continue to search out the place identified with this scene. This struck me people trying to find a place a thousand years later from a letter enchanting such a great collection I hope we get more from Meredith as she continues her journey. Have you a favorite work of classical Japanese writing?

The dregs of the day by Máirtín Ó Cadhain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Dregs of the day by Máirtín Ó Cadhain

Irish (Gaelic) fiction

Original title – Fuíoll Fuine

Translator – Alan Titley

Source – personal copy

When I read Dirty dust and the second transition Graveyard Clay of the great Irish novel  Cré na Cille  which was considered impossible to capture in English but the two translations have different approaches it was Alan Titley dirty dust I preferred of the two books I reviewed it a few years ago so when I saw that this novella was coming out I couldn’t wait this is from later in his career, in fact, the last collection he published in his lifetime. Alan Titley notes in his translation that the collection of short stories that the novella is taken from saw a change in style as they are much darker than his other work with a unifying theme of decay at its heart.  

It was a ratty voice on the other end of the telephine, her sister calliung from his house

“Aren’t you ashamed of yourself gallivanting around, and your wife just dead”

“She is dead”, N said”Yes. It was as much as he cpould think of saying. With so many civil servants listening, he couldn’t say that he had missed so much time in the office that his job was in danger. He had told her dozens of times that he had got lots of hint in the office already, but they wanted to believe he was neglecting his wife..

“Dead at last”, he couldn’t think of anything else to say.

“Yes, at last”, the sister said. “You’d think it wasn’t soon enough for you

That sums up his postion in the first chapter and his sisters view of him!!

What we have in the dregs of the day is the weekend after his wife has died of N we never told his full name. But we know he has a civil service job that he has spent a lot of time off to care for his wife. But he is sent out to sort out the arrangements for his wife’s funeral by his family. But N is a man that is easily distracting and what follows is a sort of odyssey around his small town which in a typical Irish way starts at the pub he hasn’t a lot of money and wants to spend as little as possible he hopes for inspiration in a glass! As he tries to avoid the sisters in law and his wife’s dead body. He needs to get the church priest a nurse and other things sorted. But he seems to be trying to bury his head in the ground and later into another woman as he has sex with her. Falling asleep in a shop getting thrown out of church all the time getting further from the task in hand. As he ways up his past and future it shows the tragedy of his life.

 When that particular fantasy had evaporated, he knew he couldn’t put the buisness of the corpse off any longer. He hadn’t contacted the little sisters yet. He thought about the nun he had spotted below at the arch just a while ago. He made his way back to see if he could get any information from her about the little sisters, or indeed about anything else. He’d give her something. He still had a few schillings left. But neither saint of sinner at the arch.He searched the neighbouring streets- but in vain.

As often in the ireland of the time the church is there in the background.

Like  Cré na Cille this has a very dark humor behind it N is a man that you feel has been under the thumb and that the loss of his wife and this chance to escape his sisters in law gives him his first breath of freedom for a while and in a very Irish way this all starts in the pub and rather like Bloom in Joyce Ulysses we see a man on a quest and also sex plays a part her like in Ulysses the death of his wife and he is in bed with another woman. He is a man on the run he knows the task at hand-sorting the burial out but every step he takes towards that effort he seems to take two back and get further away from that task. It is wonderful to work that full of life and like Titley translation of  Cré na Cille has a number of f words here and there. Joyce is here in part he was a huge fan of Modernism and Joyce this is a small odyssey for N. 

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