With an unopened umbrella in the pouring rain by Ludovic Bruckstein

With an unopened umbrella in the pouring rain by Ludovic Bruckstein

Romanian fiction

Original title – Mitriya Sgura BeGeshem

Translator – Alistair Ian Blythe

Source – review copy

This is the second work by Ludovic Bruckstein I have reviewed he was a Romanian writer who had disappeared from the Romanian cannon of writing as he left Romania to live in Israel where his brother had settled just after the second world war in the late ’40s. SO in 1970 when Ludovic Bruckstein decided to leave the communist government wiped his works from the country. Bruckstein became a writer after the second world war he grew up in the Town of Sighet where the stories in this collection are set. He was inspired to write by the story of the sonder Komando uprising in Auswitchz which formed his first work a play called Nightshift. He like the rest of his town was sent to Auswitchz in May 1944 as they all went on four trains of his family there was just Ludovic and his brother survived of the 13,000 jews of Sighet only 2000 lived.

Hersch-Leib was a porter from an early age. “I worked in transportation” he wes leter went to say.

He was always cheerful, enterprising, born into a farming family, with numerous siblings, he was never one to twiddle his thumbs waiting for his mother to put food on his plate. He went out to earn his bread.

A man tht drag himself up from the bottom upwards.

The trap was also set in Sighet what he does with these stories is keep alive the spirit of the town at that time as his son said in an interview the town was very cosmopolitan in the pre-war time a mix of people from lots of places and lots of religions. These stories start with the Sabbath and the bargemen and the blacksmith of the local town in the title story. Then in other stories we hear of Hersch Lieb the local porter who grows his business from a young age, he also appears in a later story as a businessman who regularly comes to the town with his large family opts for three stale rolls to make his penny go further Avram opts for the harder sale rolls. Then We have Chaim rives a man with no fear poor but broad-shouldered and healthy a loner of a man that never got conscripted in both wars but in May 44he took his life rather than go on the train. The stories mostly end with the sad day the jews of Sighet left on four long trains as it is put 70 in each carriage 43 carriages to each of the four trains take the town to their death. One of the different stories involves the Italian troops that came to stay in the town which at the time was a hub for the railways they sing, play their mandolins, and lighten up the town in comparison to the Hungarians and German in the town. This is just a glimpse of the tales of the town never to be the same after those trains leave.

Chaim rives was afraid of nothing, He wasx afraid of nothing hard work, nor illness, nor the bad dogs in poeople’s yard, nor dreams, nor ill omens, these was only one thing alone of which he was terribly afraid; tomorrow. He gladly endured hunger today, so long as he knew that tomorrow he would have something to eat,

This fear probably came from childhood, when he had never enough to eat. His mother was a washerwoman with large number of children and a large amound of laundry to wash. He couldn’t remember his father. Nor did his mother ever speak to him of the other children about their father: maybe she had forgotte, maybe she didn’t have the time, maybe there was no point.

From the story the fear one of my favourites in this collection.

Ludovic sin says in the interview here with Susan from Istros Books and also in a piece for Calvert Journal. That his father always told him stories of his hometown in those pre-war years. This collection reminded me of the lost world we met in Grigory kanovich book Shelti love song set in another Jewish community that isn’t there anymore.  Ghost lift of the page as you read of the character that lived in the town before may 1944 before the train left and 11000 souls lost their lives in the Auswitchz. I always say we can never have enough stories that make us remember the holocaust but also where hate can lead. The book is also illustrated by his son who has done drawing for each story. As his som said his father was a realist and unlike Wiesel who he said how could this happen ?, where has God been? Bruckstein knew Wiesel in fact they grew up and went on the same train to Auswitchz two voices of the lost town. A writer worth being rediscovered he brings this town alive with it characters that jump off the page Bruckstein gives the voice to these ghost from the highest to the lowest in the town. Have you read either of his books to be translated?

Winstonsdad books of the year

Well, I only managed to review 84 books last year a miss of the 100 I try for every year. But with Covoid and maybe just a loss of focus I  was down well it’s a new year so let’s look back and I’ll mention some of the favourite books in the last 12 months here at Winston towers.

Billards at the Hotel Dobray by Dusan Sarotar

I always seem to feature a book or two from Istros books as they publish books I just seem to connect with here is such a case the second book from Dusan to reach us in English took a look at his home town and the events in world war two around the town of Sobota and the returning Jews and the Hotel at the centre of town life.

The roar of morning by Tip Marugg

This book is so atmospheric a man wrestling with his soul, and looking back over his life in the space of one evening as he drinks and the events that have lead to this dramatic night unfold before the roar of morning of the title those dark demons of night weight heavy in this book.

The bell in the lake by Lars Mytting

As they take apart the distinctive church in a distant Norwegian village Butangen the special sister bells of the church lead to the story of the twin that wove with four hands that lead to the bells being brought and the spirit of the village and its folklore.

Restless by Keneth Moe

Anopther publisher I have featured a lot in recent years is Nordisk books and here was a book that became the 1000th to be reviewed on the blog a man and sits and writes a letter to an ex but as he tries his personal story is told in bits another gem.

Grove by Esther Kinsky

Grove is a writer dealing with loss and what better writer than the poetic Kinsky I loved river her we see her coping with the death of her husband the English Translator Martin Chalmers we see the journey of her grief as she moves on and around the world remember her life with Martin but also her own earlier life.

A glass eye by Miren Agur Meabe

Another book that mixes both personal and history together. A story of a writer that has lived since her teens with a glass eye is mixed with a history of how the glass eye came about over the years an unusal book and one that should be better known.

Hunter school by Sakinu Ahronglong

Now if there was a single book of the year from me this would be this collection of stories we see how the Pawian tribe world is shrinking and how his father taught him to hunt but now even that isn’t being past on stories of a dying world evocative and heartwrenching these gems are why we read books in translation!!

Ankomst by Gøhril Gabrielsen

A woman is sent to a remote island to observe the migrating seabirds to see the effect of global warming but as she does the remote and lonely island and the space left from a lover that isn’t turning up see her descend into a sort of madness another gem from Peirene another one of those publishers I have loved over the years of blogging.

An Inventory of Losses by Judith Schalansky

A collection of short stories of things that are not there now from lost painting from the war to an island that only a few people saw an unusal collection of tales.

Venice The lion, the City and the Water by Cees Nooteboom

Well, I haven’t been to Venice but feel I have umpteen times now as this book brings every corner to light through the eyes of the wonderful dutch writer Cees Nooteboom a writer with an enquiring mind who recalls his first visit and the changes over the years as he rediscovers and uncovers the city on every visit.

 

Journey through a Tragicomedy Century (The Absurd life of Hasso Grabner) by Franci Nenik

if there is a thread through this year’s books it is personal history and here is another I reviewed two books by this writer here is the second from the new publisher V and Q the story of Hasso Grabner that lays bare the old saying the truth is stranger than fiction as here is a life of a german that saw the world change and had so many dealings in the events of Germany over that time.

When we cease to understand the world by Benjamin Labatut

Here another selection of personal histories and stories. That sees us learn the history of Prussian blue and the struggle snd descent into personal isolation of a mathematician that sees his rivals as enemies and tries to escape into maybe a world of maths beyond maths

 

Tatouine by Jean-Christophe Rehel

A suffers from cystic fibrous that works in a  Super C use his love of all things star wars and modern culture to make his mundane life seem better and his dreams of being on Tatooine in the Star Warsverse!!

Here is my books of the year. A  baker’s dozen of books it is hard to pick this year so many great books but for today that was my favorites last year. What were yours last year?

Winstonsdad top albums of the year

I spent this year buying more vinyl than other years a lot of the record store day records and a lot off either the record fair or monthly record fair so it was a mix of old and new but I have chosen 8 new albums from the last year and two reissues. They may be all fall under the rock indie umbrella.

SO in no particular order

1 . Tom Sanders – Only Magic a member of the various bands over recent years this came out late last year and got a lot of airplay on the Marc Riley show subtle acoustic songs haunting at times.

2. Porridge Radio Every Bad – I was reminded of riot girl and early punk bands with female singers with this band something unique ion the singers voice and almost a child-like wonder to the sings.

3 Robert Forester Danger in the past – One of the two reissues on the list this was his debut solo album from thirty years ago in fact last year his last release made the list. This features Nick cave backing band as the band. I missed this years ago which was a shame he is a singer I really love.

4. Pale Saints – The comfort of Madness – I think I mentioned this as an album when I was young I loved so when the reissue of this shoegazing classic came out on vinyl I had to get it the bonus of a Japanese only release issued for the first time in the UK it made a bonus year for this under known band from the shoegazing era.

5. Bob Dylan – Rough and rowdy ways – Well this is album … from a singer that has been around for over fifty years how can he still make great songs well the track Murder Most foul an epic song about JFK is maybe his best song since blood on tracks era Dylan.

6 Fontaines DC  –  A hero’S Death another band that feature last year this was their second album a bit more polished but still full of punk joy and Irish wit at times this is a band that could be huge or if they take it carefully the best regard band if recent times.

7. Destroyer  – Have We Met – Well when Dan Bejar said he had watched Wim Wenders films when making this album I had to get it a mix of indie and jazz like his other albums it is uniquely him a voice rich and dark at times.

8. BC Camplight – Shortly after takeoff another one I found via Marc Riley he has been around for a number of years this is his latest album the last of a trilogy of records he has made in recent years.

9. Bill Calahan – Gold – The former smog lead singer is another singer I came late to maybe ten years ago but this album is him at his best bittersweet songs Especially the track I pick here a story of a lost son.

10. Nick Cave – Idiot Prayer – simply stunning this solo reworking of his songs one of two records near the end of the year from him the other the litanies he wrote for a Belgium composer sung by various singers.

That is what I choose today it may change the been so many great reissues like the vinyl version of Cale/Reed’s songs for drella, the lockdown songs coming from Jeffrey lewis that Marc Riley had played. What have been your favorite records of 2020 what was you lockdown companions?

 

 

Happy christmas from Winstonsdad

Happy Christmas from all at winstonsdad , well me Stu hoping everyone has a bookish Christmas this year and what an odd year it is we have one day to visit family but with my job I am at work Christmas day afternoon I am use to this after all these years we will have a full trimming meal Boxing day and speak to the family on the phone or via webcam. I hope to fit a couple of posts in before the end of the year and my books of the year and records of the year round-ups in. I have been jumping between books the last week but have finally decided to take the usual route for me this time of year and that is to big an epic book to finish the year and start off next year. This year it is an Italian prize-winning  novel the catholic school by Edoardo Albinati it came out last year and I did read about fifty pages at the time but hadn’t the time to read it so I started it today and have already managed a couple of hundred pages relaxing this afternoon.

 

I wish you all a Merry Christmas and hope you have a great and safe festive period and look forward to chatting and seeing post over the next year.

The white dress by Nathalie Léger

The White Dress by Nathalie Léger

French fiction

Original title – La Robe blanche

Translator – Natascha Lehrer

Source – personal copy

When it comes towards the end of the year I look at end of the year list for translated fiction and try and find a few books that have passed me by in the last year this is one such book I have read other titles from the published Les Fugitives a publisher that has been publishing interesting books by female writers from France over the last couple of years. This is the latest book written by Nathalie Leger. this the last in three books she had written about women she had discovered in her work as a curator of various exhibitions. This novel is based on a true story about the last few weeks in the life of Italian Performance Artist Pippa Bacca.

One of Guiseppina’s most important creations was called Eva Adamovich. Certain days, as her friends and relativesdecribed at the inquest, Pippa became Eva, and as Eva, whom Guiseppina had invented from head to foot, as Eva she had all the desirable assests : vivacity, daring , a tounch of cruelty – though it was all an act, her friends insisted. Dressed up as Eva, inhabiting Eva,she strode briskly throug the streets of milan in twelve centimetre heels, a tiny pair of shorts, a greem lame sweater and a boa, calling everyone “love” or “sweetheart”, like she was tough as nails letting it be nderstood that she knew all about mrn, that she didn’t trust them.

This was one of the roles she performed over the years.

This is a strange mix of real-life and a personal memoir and the writer thinking about the events that lead up to the last few weeks of the life of Italian performance artist Pippa Back. As we find the events that lead Pippa to run in a white wedding dress from Milan to Jeruselum in the wedding dress as a walk for peace and to do performance using people she knew along the way as the trip was a video for a later date. This sparks an inner journey that is taken by the writer on a journey through her own parent’s divorce and the bitter affair that she viewed from her mother’s side and the fact that she was abandoned when her father ran off with another woman. Meanwhile, we see events in Pippa’s life like when she played Eva Adamovich a role she played. in high heels and short shorts. Also a thread about performance art over the years. Pippa makes it to Turkey. When her sister doesn’t hear from her this leads to a search and the sad end to her walk for peace.

The artis, her name is Jana Sterbak, wove wire into a long, straight dress with open arms, long sleeves and a round neckline that stands on the floor some say like a shelter, other like a cage, and belted at the waistby an electrified filament made of nickel chrome that makes the dress light up when someone approaches. The dress stands errectg, possessive and threatening, welcoming qand repelling, it is called I want you t feel the way I do ..(The Dress)

Another dress sparked by the wearing of the dress by Pippa bacca in her walk for peace.

I am leaving the end of the book and the last section where the writer views those events that end the walk this is a book about the writer as much as Pippa Bacca. What I Like is the way little events in the life of Pippa make Nathalie think of her own life. This is a mix of c=fiction biography but also a creative enquiring mind. It is about those mind journeys that we all take when we read about or discover some new fact or life story that is what we have here the sparks of a mind those journeys the two take through the book and how Pippa walk although cut short inspired a personal introspection of the writer I will read the two earlier books in this loose trilogy. them two both inspired by the work she has worked on over the years. Have you read this book did it inspire you? This is why we read books in translation those books that break the mould in the Form.

 

Storm Birds by Einar Kárason

Storm Birds by Einar Kárason

Icelandic fiction

Original title –  Stormfuglar,

Translator  – Quentin Bates

Source – Personal copy

It been over a year since I have reviewed an Icelandic novel which is a shame as it is one of those countries that most of the books in translation I have read over the time of the blog I have enjoyed. This book when it arrived appealed I am a fan of films that deal with the weather and the sea the likes of Perfect storm or the finest hour to name two. So when I read that this is based on actual events that happened in 1959 and the events that lead to a number of boats getting in trouble. The book is written by Einar Kárason. He has been writing since the late seventies his debut novel from 1981 was also translated into English as Devils island. He has since he has written over fifteen more novels this came out in 2018.

When the young deckhand Larus had said farewell to his parentrs and waved as the willys drove away, he went up Mavur’s gangplank.He went to the heelhouse and reported to the first mate who was there, who told him that he crew beginning to turn up and everything was almost read, sh he should go and find himself a berth in the deck crew’s quarter,  forward under the whaleback; he could then get himself a cup of coffee from the galley Larus carried his kitbag accross gthe deck, opened an iron dorr andf then another one beyond it, and made his way down a couple of steps. There were two cabins, and from both came loud voices, drunken talk and clouds of tobacco smoke, and Larus wondered whether he dar go in there

Larus arrives on the boat and sees the old sea dogs bel;ow deck.

Storm birds is told about the crew of the trawler Mávur which in which we are told the event of late February in 1959 as the fishing trawlers head from Iceland to the fishing grounds around the Grand banks just off Newfoundland. This was also the setting for the film and book The Perfect storm. The events of the voyage to fish is told by a young man Larus a young man of just 18 that is sent of by his parents although when his fellow crewmates arrive he gets embarrassed by them as they are a collection of salty seadogs and he is the new boy. The skipper has them knocking the ice of the boat as the weather starts turning to freeze the boats as the weather worsens we see the harshness of the sea that cruel sea of Monserrat as he had described it during the war years. So as they reach the fishing grounds but as it comes clear the boat and others around them are in distress they work  22 hours a day just trying to get through any downtime is spent forgetting the weather as at one point Larus talks about the books they are reading the radio Operator book chest were he finds war stories and biographies. another is reading Laxness. The story is on the edge as we find if they all make it as they try to get out of the weather back to the safety of Harbour. The events show how they dealt with the conditions as they find out what happens to the fellow fishermen on their boats just voice in the distant some too far away to help.

Larus continued to turn the pages of his book of maritime diasters when ever he had time to read, and its accounts became all the more horric because he knew they had been so close to such a tragedy.

The mess was often busy with card games in the evenings, and sometimes they played poker for matches or cigarettes.Some of the crew lounged around reading the various contents of the radio operator’s book chest – biographies, war stories; one of the engineers was reading Laxness, Iceland’s Nobel Prizer Winners, and would occasionally shake with silent laughter

Larus describes what they do in the free time on the boat.

This is almost a thriller as the tension is always there from their setting off but it is soon the men against the weather as the waves rage and the ice forms as the temperature sinks down. That is what is handled so well in the book is the conditions from the struggle keeping the ruining parts of the boat’s free so they can carry on. and struggle this is the classic of man’s battle with the elements that we have seen before from those North Atlantic convoys of “The Cruel Sea ” to the comradeship and battling spirit of the fishermen in The perfect storm as we see how a crew battle with nature itself and we find the true power of nature. This is a short book but full of colour and works in English as the translator brings the colour and conditions of the voyage to life. If you like an adventurous man against nature books then this is one for you. Have you a favorite book in that genre?

 

 

Distant light by Antonio Moresco

Distant Light by Antonio Moresco

Italian fiction

Original title – La lucina

Translator – Richard Dixon

Source – – personal copy

Today’s writer gives us all Hope the Italian modernist writer Antonio Moresco had written for years. As his work was rejected this later in his life was shown when he published his letters over the years. So he was in his mid-forties when his debut novel came out he is often compared to the American writer’s Don Delillo and Thomas Pynchon. The Italian writer Roberto Saviano described him as a Literary heritage. This book came out in 2013 and was shortlisted for the Impac prize in 2018. He has published thirteen novels and other works including work around a 44 day Camino walk he did, which appealed to me lets hope that gets picked up some time!

” Whar light could that be ?Who’s been switching it on ?” I wonder as I wal along the cobbeld streets of this small village where no one is left, “A light filtering from some isolated cottage in the woods ?” The light of some remaining streetlamp in another village abandonded like this one, but obviously still connected to the pwer suppl, swithched on automatically, always at the same time,

All that can be heard is the sound of my fotosteps echoing in the streets, I glimpse a flight of uneven stone steps, the broken door of a stable, ruined slate roofs collapsed and overgrown with creepers, from which emerge the topsof fig or bay trees growing amoung the rubble, two stone troughs full of water, streets doors of bright peeling paint

The light is seen by the narrator he questions what it is ?

Distant light is a strange book there is another worldliness to the book. The narrator lives in a village in a heavy forest area. When one night he sees a light in the distance where no light should be he starts to wonder where the light is so he looks at the map and starts to record it and next day he sets off to find what is happening heading out he discovers a small child near to where the light was the night before., But this is where the story takes a twist the child seems to live alone ion an abandoned village running the house he lives in doing everything the child even tells the narrator they go to school at night then he makes a discovery at night with the child and the other children in the school.  This is told with the sense of the forest and nature just looming in the background as though the world the narrator knows is disappearing and nature is filling the gap.

it is night now. Several dyas have gone by since I went there. I look at this little light, knowing now where it comes from, sitting behind this low stone balustrade, while the clear moonless sky is filled with stars, and not very far away can be heard the cries of nioght animals and birds of prey and the occasional gaunts of wild boars= moving about in the thick undergrowth.

“And perhaps” I marvel, “perhaps thst boy can also see the light from my house up there, at night, on other side of the gorge, in the middle of all thisdarkness as far as the eye can see, of all the darkness of the world, in the same way that I can see his. i forgot to ask him if he can see it… ”

This is later in the book when he has answered where the light is and who is behind it !

This reminds me at times of Dina  Buzzati’s Tartar steppe there is something about our narrator and the sort of bleak and lonely world is akin. There is also a feeling of otherworldliness with the child and what happens is the narrator in this or another world? what has happened there is a sense of post-disaster post-apocalyptic view with the way Nature is creeping in this again made me think of the lyrics to the Talking heads song Nothing but flowers, where the world is turning back to nature, hear paths are disappearing behind moss and plants. So as we never get any names this is a world of the unknown and we float between life and death in this distant light where is that the present or the past or ? . This is one of those books that you read and go what happened so then read it over which I did still think the book is an unusual not strong story more a sense of feeling and questions and maybe not the answers it is as thou he leaves them for the reader to answer. This was the first book to be translated into English.

We’ll call you by Jacob Sundberg

We’ll call you by Jacob Sundberg

Swedish fiction

Original title – Vi hör av oss

Translator – Duncan J lewis

Source – review copy

I recently did a collection of books from Norway for the Publisher of this book Nordisk books here is my list I will at a later date be doing another list for them. Anyway, enough advertising myself lol. Jacob grew up in a working-class area he says on his website and he saw the towns fall down as industries shut and the folk remain stoic. So he decided to come to London is search of a tweed jacket and pipes a vision of a user that he found had gone well I have a Twitter friend that was a tweed fan but pipe smoking isn’t the thing although I had a pipe in my twenties and own a tweed jacket. Oh well, he left and returned to Sweden and he lives near Småland. It is worth looking at his website the intro about himself even translated into English via Google is very funny. Yes, this is a comic book in fact it is a book about modern life and the humor they’re within.

But the main reason for Hansson wanting to look relaxed and untterly untroubled when the man walked in , as that he to all appearances was a foreigner. He had an exotic name: Said Ansari. If there was anything Hansson wished for it was that these poor refugees would feel welcome, treated the same was as everyone else. To be unruffled in this situation was , in other words , absolutely necessary

Said could of course be a good kid in spite of his orgins, thought Hansson He was after all very careful to treat everyone equallym even foreigners, yes especially foreigners, something he often pointed out, I barely see that they’re different from us, that they’re dark and swarthy, he used to say, He didn’t think such thungs, for he saw the person inside, he was a really good man, that’s what everyone thought.

This just shows what will happen to Hansson that feeling he is maybe not as PC as he things is just under the surface here!!

As I said this is a collection of stories around modern life jobs the interviews we all have to do these days. There are nine stories in the collection I’m going to mention two that I liked. The first is the first story in the collection An exotic touch see Alfred  Hansson is interviewing people for a new job in his business when he has the next candidate Said Ansari is where it all starts to fall apart for Hansson as he gets himself into a sort of Political correctness maze in trying to be PC but wanting to discover more about this man and his exotic name he just ends up in a real twist. Hansson is one of those people that in trying to be correct just keeps putting his foot in his mouth. will Said take the job will Hansson give him the right impression of the company? The second story is another interview here for an office supply company in the story That’s just so me. We see Carina going for an interview at the company One Eniar Bark had built from scratch an office supply company that had seen of competitors in the area he trades in over the years. So when carina is interviewed Einar starts talking about himself his business holidays with the wife, like a time he had a splendid pizza in Italy. He occasionally lets carina talk at one point she says she has a passion for painting and this leads him to reveal a longing to be a poet and for him to show her a poem. Which she says is great. But when later he says he looks for honesty in his staff what is she to do about his dreadful poem be honest or not! how will he react? Elsewhere there is a cu that offends, a singer winning a pop idol contest, and a man trying to escape going to his school reunion.

A stone, A black stone

Big as a mountain

It blocked the way

Everyone was astonished

who can dislodge the stone?

A character approached

His face like flint

Followed by cinders

He. He can dislodge the stone

Everyone was astonished

The stone turned to sand

Carin wait, thought there would be more. When he looked up she said “Great”

“Not exactly oine of my best ones, I wrote it whe I was building the warehouse There was lots of hurdles, They didn;t want a warehouse here

EInar shows Carina his awful poem she initally says Greay but what will she say later on when he asks again!

This is a witty collection of reflections on modern life and how we can all get in twists. The two examples I choose both have a point where things start to go wrong. The man Hansson is just one of those people that is trying to be too PC but gets in such a twist by not saying what he should instead off that he goes around the bush and ending up sound worse than he wanted to and the second story we see what happens when an Ego is interview Einar has a huge Ego and Carina maybe can’t see this as she just sees a windbag. But when she has a chance what is she to do !! These are funny stories that even though set in Sweden still ring true to the \Engoish reader I could see characters I have met and worked within most of the characters in this book. From someone that wants the truth but really doesn’t to the person that will let one thing out of place upset them as we see when a Mug is in the wrong place. A great collection for a dark winter night a laugh or two and a book that can be read in an evening. Have you a favorite comic story?

Tatouine by Jean-Christophe Rehel

Tatouine by Jean-Christophe Rehel

Quebecian fiction

Original title – Ce qu’on respire sur tatouine

TranslatorsKatherin Hastings Peter McCambridge

Source – review copy

In recent years I have always raved about the great fiction coming from Quebec in the last few years. It has been a while since I have reviewed one so this came out a while ago and is from QC fiction. The writer of this book Jean Christophe Rehel is a poet and also does radio shows. He like the main character in this book suffers from cystic fibrosis. A disease that taints his hand a lot, indeed he explores a lot the themes of loneliness, fatigue, and illness His writing is however tinged with a lot of humor, often self-deprecating. His works describe both the beauty and the blandness of everyday life it says on his Wikipedia page. I agree with this and this is a great example of this.

The days are long. By the end of the first shift, I considered committing Hari-Kiri between the hunting magazines and the Maurice tourism guides. But I didn’t . I’ve never had such a thing as a boring summer job. I never thought I’d get hired at a tourist office, but unfortunately for me, I was the only applicant. Nobody ever comes in. I arrange the brouches and sweep the floor and stare at the celling.Every now and again, Charles , the guy who works in the park, drops by for a chat. I can talk to him about star wars and my obsession with the planes Tatouine I think about my life. Not very original, I know; everyone trhinks about their life.

This is the opening andf a great example of the stream of consciousness style of writing.

We meet our narrator he reminds me of a character that has either fallen off the page of a Douglas Coupland novel orClerks the film he has just caught that world so well the narrator is working collecting trolleys at the Super C a convenience store In Canada. But what he does is to cover his mundane existence by thinking he lives on the desert planet of Tatouine where Luke skywalker lived and that has recently returned in the new star wars series the Madolrian. He mixes his everyday life with a sort of daydream world of star wars and other cultural references from the last twenty years from Die hard movies to the music of the white stripes. Of course, the world is an escape from the life he lives from reading a book he took off a friend’s shelf. Which he retitles The desert and mountains of Cystic Fibrosis. It captures the loneliness of suffering and living with a limiting condition as he uses his dreams to escape the pain in his everyday life. As the book draws to the end he discovers the set is still in Tunisia and is planning to try and visit the earth-based Tatouine is his health holds out.

I’m in the little waiting room at the pharmacy. I think Qui-Gon Jinn’s my favourite Jedi. A guy the same age as me is holding a baby in his arms; it’s screaming blue murde. It reminds me a little of Elliot smith. I pull a face at babies behind people’s back. Weirtd, I know, but it it what it is. I watch the baby’s eyes widen in surprise, which makes me laugh. It stps crying, forgets why it was sad. It stares at me. I pull another face. It can’t believe it, I wish it worked forme,too. I wish people would pull faces at me on every block.

There is a sense of humour in some places like here where he teases a babe at the pharmacists.

I as many of you know always rave about QC books I have reviewed a number of the last few years and the books they choose to translate always seem to be ones I really get into. Here is a perfect example a gen x narrator as saying he reminds me especially of the characters in clerks the way the writer uses the narrator’s daydream world to make his mundane life seem exciting as he uses his love of mainly Star wars to dream a better world than he lives in. This is a modern life lonely cut-off and remote it sees the world through the eyes of a limited life what worked is that when I read that Jean-Christophe himself suffered from CF a lung condition that makes the suffer tired and prone to illness needing thinks like postal drainage to help clear lungs. In a modern novel about modern life, there are hundreds of single men that live in a world like a narrator with a life with added star wars narrative added to it. What book reminds you of the fast going modern world of use living lonelier lives that before .

When we cease to understand the world by Benjamin Labatut

When we cease to understand the world by Benjamin Labatut

Chilean  fiction

Original title – Un verdor terrible

Translator – Adrian Nathan West

Source – review copy

I’m late to this it has already been on a couple of year-end lists in the papers I have seen. itis described as a non-fiction novel. To me it is a digressive work the like I have read by another Spanish language writer Augustin Mallo who also uses scientific facts and history in his stories. Benjamin Labatut own Life story is as interesting Born in Rotterdam he grew up in Hague, Buenos Aires, and Lima a real mix of places. He has had two works of fiction out and this is his first book to be translated into English and he has called it a non-fiction Novel.

In a medical examination on the eve of Nuremburg trials, the doctors found the nails of Hermann Goring’s fingers and toes stained a furious red, the consequence of his addiction to Dihydrocodeine, an analgesic of which he took more than one hunderd pills a day. William Burroughs described it as similar to heroinm twice as stong as codeine, but with a weird coke like edge, so the north American doctors felt obliged to cure Goring of his dependency before allowing him to stand before the court. This was not easy.When the allied forces caught him, the Nazi leader was dragging a suitcase with more than twenty thpusand dosesmpartiically all that remianed of Germany’s production of the drug at the end of the second world war.

The opening  stry and lines of the book grab you straight away.

I see this as a collection of interlinking essays or stories somewhere in between. It starts with Prussian blue which starts with the Addicted medication Dihydrocodeine that Goring took in large quantities with resulting effects on his body and the writer William Burroughs took over the years and he compared it to heroin. as he used it on mass the story winds around a mix of history and little stories. Till we get to the invention of the color Prussian Blue. The favorite of this collection is The heart of the heart which has at its heart Mathematicians tales starting with the Japanese blogger Schinichi Mochizuki whose 600-page thesis on the proof of him solving A+B+C a thesis which no one has understood to this point this leads to one of the best-known Mathematician Alexander Grothendieck a man who won the fields medal and was a leading thinker of his time but he withdrew from the world and started to live like a hermit in France racing around the countryside in a Hurst he published a 1000 page autobiography about his time in the maths world a piece that showed how everyone he had been connected with had used him to launch their own careers this work is being translated into English and struck me as a singular work.I will let you discover the tales and journeys in this book.

“The great turning point” was the term Grothendieck used to decribe the change in the direction of his life during his forties. ALl at once, he found himself swept up by thespirit of the age: he became obsessed by ecology, the military industrial complex and nuclear proliferation. To his wife’s despair, he founded a commune at home, where vagabonds, professiirs, hippes, pacifists, theives nuns and prostitutes dwelt side by side .

He became intolerent of all comforts of bourgeois life; he tore up the carpets from the floors of his house, considering them superfluous adornments, and began to make his own clothign; sandals from recycled tires, trousers sewn from old burlap sacks.He stopped using a bed, instead sleeping on a door torn from its hinges.

THe change in his life views that changed Alexander Grithendieck into a hermit over the years and withdraw from life.

I lived this I am a huge fan of digressive books since reading Sebald in my twenties I am always after books that break the mould that drifts from here to there stories we know titbits or as I remember Irwin’s character in The history boys calls it gobits those little gems we have heard but have forgotten or have never been written down from how Goering dies or we discovered Prussian blue this takes us through those gobits of the science world. I discovered Alexander Grothendieck an interesting figure that I had never heard of and this is what I love about these books they are the journey of the mind and you set sail and discover new ports to try at a later date historic figures pieces of history. This is a voyage through science wonderfully entertaining and engaging it is well-paced. A new writer to the blog and one I will be reading again. Have you tried this book?

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