Red Milk by Sjón

Red Milk by Sjón

Icelandic fiction 

Original title – Korngult hár, grá augu

Translator – Victoria Cribb

Source – Personal copy

Well I know head up to Iceland and to an old friend of the blog a writer who I have reviewed three times before here but it has been five years since I reviewed a book by Sjón. I have Codex 1962 on my tbr that I was kindly sent by a twitter friend but this jumped out at me and I alway love a novella a book that can be read in the evening which his other books have tend to be. He has a way of drawing the reader into the world he is writing in the after word to this book he said he had touched on Nazisim in two previous books so decided to look at what made some one get drawn into the far right world.

The other policeman is holding a notebook. In it , he writes in pencil ” Blond hair, grey eyes“,below which he produces a deft sketch of the body and the railway compartment.

The policeman who had finished going through the dead man’s pockets turns to his colleague and shakes his head. They both look out of the carraige window. A small crowd has gathered on the platform to watch what what is happening inside the compartment. Neither officer noticed the three men in black shirts hurrying away from the train and disappearing into the station building

The end of the opening chapter and gunnars men in black shirts where there.

The drawing into the far right world that sjon based the book on follows the life of Gunnar Kampen the book opens in 1962 at cheltenham station as he is found dead on a train, but who are the men on the platform of the staion wearing the black shirts. This  part of the book  is were the Icelandic title of the book is from as he is described as Gunnar is described as  Blond hair, grey eyes. That is how it opens then we are drawn back to his youth and find out how he ended up on the path he did and dead in that train and this starts at the second world war in iceland listening to all that was going on from his fathers radio. But when events in Norway change he ends up meeting his aunt he hair had been shaved of and his uncle is in prison this is how he gets drawn into the far right world. This is where Sjon uses a number of real life well known far right figures in the post war era and there attempts to set up a world wide Nazi network. He use Gunnar trip down this poath showing how this young boy get drawn in bit by bit then when he discovers Savitir Devi and writes to him he gets further into the far right world.til he is on a train in the Uk to meet some men in Black shirts and deeper into the world wide net of Nazis.

Icelander take great interest in the affairs of their brother nation, There are a larger number of Norweigans living here,as well of people of Norwegian descent like us, Every year, books are published about recent events, there are talks aon the radio and plays staged. Ofically, they all toe the same lie. Recently, I was meeting of a current affairs club I belong to, where the topic of the day was Norway. A fter the meeting had finished, a man (O.P), who had known you kn Oslo came over to talk to me. He told me where you were, why you were there and how many years you had left.

As his family come back from Norway he gets the first onnection to the far rigtht world via his Uncle and what he did in Norway!

 

This is part Bildungsroman and part thriller and also part cautionary tale. Sjón weaves a web around Gunnar so he ends up like a fly trapped in the web of Nazism as it gabs him bit by bit how easy it can be for a normal boy like Gunnar  can get caught up in this world. It is insoired by one of the real life leaders of the Red milk an Icelandic right wing group. The book is about how people fall down the rabbit holes it is what Sjon wanted to do and that is find how this happens we don’t get a full explination to what it is makes people do this but an insight into one mans world. It is most of all a cautionary tale of gunnars life. He use a number of different styles of writing epistolary, historic novel, thriller and mystery. If you have read his earlier books this will appeal to you ! Have you a favourite read from Sjón ?

Winstons score – B An interesting novella of how the far right can draw people in. a cautionary tale.

The Passenger by Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz

The Passenger by Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz

German fiction

Original title –  Der Reisende

Translator – Philip Boehm

Source – Personal copy

Pushkin has a habit of turning up with these lost gems of writers from around Europe. Here we have Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz. Boschwitz was the son of a Jewish businessman that died in world war one where he was brought up by his protestant mother they left Germany for Sweden but in the mid-thirties he was called up for the Wehrmacht. So they went on the run around Europe before ending up in London in 1939 where he published his second novel under the name John Grane and the original title was  The man who took trains. This and his debut novel didn’t come out in German until a few years ago this is a new translation of the book that follows the events on Kristallnacht written shortly after that night Ulrich captures the chaos but also the loss of personal identity for our main character otto Silbermann.

I’m living as though I weren’t a jew, he thought, somewhat incredulously. For this time being I’m simply a well-to-docitzen- under threat, it’s true, but as of yet unscathed. How is this possible ? I live in a modern six room apartment, People talk to me and treat me as though I were one of them. They act as if i’m same person I used to be, the liars – it’s  enough to give a man a guilty conscience. Whereas I’d like to show them a clearer picture of reality, namely that as if yesterday I’m something different because I am a Jew. And who did I used to be? no-who am I , really A swear word on two legs, one that people mistake for something else!

It dawns of Otto what has happened and how the world is changing.

The action opens just after Kristallnacht has just happened in Berlin and it has finally dawned on Otto Silbermann a successful Jewish businessman that runs a factory just about until now he thought he was going to avoid the worst of what was happening he isn’t overly Jewish looking and had a German wife. But when he meets his partner Becker after the night as he talks he notices the difference in his manner and later at a hotel he had been going to for years he sees how people treat him differently.  But this single night has turned the world around him to one he doesn’t know and he now must try and get money for his business and try and find a way out of Germany what follows is a wonderful portrayal of a man on the run as he sells his business for a pittance and then goes on the run on train after train rides as he crisscrosses Germany trying to connect with old friends and work a way out of German even at one point he gets to a border but is then turned back into the heart of Nazis Germany. There is a sense of the world shrinking around Otto as he sees who are his true friends and acquaintances are and those that now despise him as it shows the way the Nazis manipulated people.

Silbermann’s coat pockets were bulging out from all the bills, so he went to a shop to buy a briefcase, after making the purchase he realized it was already 6:55, so he dashed to the nearest post offive, where he too a form from the telegragh counter and sent a local telegram to his wife. Because he was worried about returnuning to his apartment, he asked her to meet him in a cafe close to home.

When he left the post office he wondered what he should do with the forty-one thousand five hundered marks he has recovered. He decided no to dwell on the matter of Becker and how deeply his former friend had disappointed him although that did little to stave off his painful, depressing reflections.

AS he starts to go on the run with the money from his buisness and the loss of his friends

This is a classic thriller that goes at full pace as we see Otto trying to get away, of course, the train and escape is a nod towards John Buchan in a way Hannay of course tries to escape the spies that are following him on a train to Scotland. Then he has taken a large linch of Kafka as the world he is living in becomes a maze of these train journeys as he tries to escape and avoid being seen as Jewish the world he knows is changing to a Kafkaesque nightmare before him as door after door gets shut in front of him. Otto is the every Jews Man of Berlin after that night trying to escape the collapsing world around them in Otto case he has the fact he can pass as Aryan but it still means his papers are showing him as Jewish. Another gem from Pushkin and I feel there are still more books out there waiting to be rediscovered that like this haven’t aged the book actually feels modern and the pace it is told at is wonderful we get caught up in the chaos of that world.

Winstons score – +A a true gem rediscovered

The Melting by Lize Spit

The Melting by Lize Spit

Belgium fiction

Original title – Het Smelt

Translator Kristen Gehrman

Source – review copy

This book was a big hit around Europe when it came out Lize spit debut novel won Hebban debut fiction prize and was snapped up for a film within days of it coming out which isn’t surprising at the Brussels film school she studied screenwriting there is a strong cinematic feel to the book. She said in an interview on the flemish literature site that she grew up in a house where there was no Tv till she was eleven and she grew up reading books after school and would run home every day to find out what was going in the books she was reading. What she has done here is taken to classic genres The coming of age novel and a thriller as we meet Eva a woman with a secret in her past.

In the summer of 1993, right before Laurens, pim and I finished preschool and started kindergarten,a letter was sent around to all of the teachers at the primary school and our six parents: a meeting had been planned , and the presence was required.

In the meeting, Beatrice the school principal, got right to the point. How it was possible that only three babes were borning 1988? Was it the cold winter, the hot summer, the black monday tyhe previous October that made couple take it easy in the bedroom for a while? Why were so few children born that year? Her school was the smallest in the region, with an average class size of ten(One of its greatest assests in her oponion)

So from an early age the the three Musketeers were together since a very young age !

There is a huge block of ice in the back of Eva’s car as she is heading back to the small town she grown up in she had an invite to a new milking parlor opening which has become a large event in the small town. The invite is from Pim one of her two best friends growing up. Pim lost his older brother as they were growing up something that Eva in the present keeps thinking about as she heads home for the first time in a long time. Laurens her other friend the three of them called themselves the three musketeers as they started growing into men and women one summer they started to ask each girl in the village a question about the sort of things kids do as they are discovering themselves and entering puberty. The story unfolds in the past that summer that it all changed for the three main characters the reason Eva has the ice in her car and her wanting revenge for the day her world changed. Then we see the present as Eva heads back to her family which is a mother that never stood up to her father a dominant man and thus this made her older sister a neurotic. As the ice slowly melts what happened is told and what will happen is told side by side.

Pim’s parents always let us play anywhere we wanted on the farm, but there were four places that were off-limits: the left side of the hayloft (The hay was too thin there, and we might fall through), the garage with the floor pit(the wood cover was rotten and dangerous). The septic tank grates in the old cowshed(no longer reliable), and the white mounds, That they were never given a reason for the last one, We were simply told that they were forbidden territory, even though they looked so innocent and inviting.

Once at a birthday party, Laurens rested his foto on the white plastic. Pim yanked him to the ground by the hood of his jacketso hard that it ripped off the snaps.

What are the white Mounds in the famers fileld that is now Pims field

The use of the two timelines is so well-paced the past unfolds as we see Eva heading in the present back into her past as she heads home for the first time the past is a tale of growing up but like over tales from Lord of the Flies to something like the dinner what happens when those events when young men and women are at that turning point in their puberty where a single moment can change the course of a number of lives this is what happened here the second timeline is a wonderful slow-burning thriller storyline of revenge viewed through Eva’s eyes as she heads home after 13 years. I said in the first part that she had studied screenwriting you can see and also her love of reading books that left her wanting more there is a lot of chapters ends here that make you want to read on. She has also used that twist that has been in a number of thrillers that have been made into films in recent years In particular two I’m thinking of are gone girl and the girl on the train which also in films at least had various strands to the storyline. but also had similar pacing to this book I can see why the film rights sold straight away the characters are painted well enough but it is the action and eye for detail she has that make it flows off the page so if you’d like a cocktail of gone girl, lord of the flies with a dab of Dumas thrown in this is the book for you.

Winstons Score – B a solid thriller with a great coming of age tale in a small farming village.

 

 

Blind man by Mitja Čander

Blind man by  Mitja Čander

Slovenian fiction

Original title – Slepec

Translator – Rawley Grau

Source –  review copy

In a podcast, Mitja described himself as a man with three titles the first and his main one for most of his life was as an essayist and literary critic which he did to his 40s then he decides to start helping organize large cultural events such as the city of culture in Maribor and various book events. Then in his last role, he became a director of the publishing house Beletrina. He himself like the main character in his book has always had a problem with his own sight the book came out of his memoir then he decided to make it into a novel. After he got feedback from a well-known Slovenian playwright.

I handed the grocery bags to my wife, sat down at the kitchen table , and pcked up the newspaper. I glanced through the headlines.

“could you bring me something to eat, please? I’m starving, I said without looking up.

She stopped putting the foodaway in the fridge

“They gave you rotten lemos again!

“It happens”I answered calmly. “I doubt it was intentional.”

“This is the second time now. Not long ago iot was the bannas. Those ladies have good eyesight, you know.”

“I’m sorry, but I’m hungry ”

I trusted people on princilpe. I trusted them to always give me back the correct change.

The rotten lemons again this is another passaged that made me laugh

Like tMitja himself the main character is a successful book editor and critic and has been severely impaired vision since his childhood. Thou he has never been part of that blind community so when his vision starts to get worse. He is married and his wife is an editor and translator they live their lives we get some insights like when he shops for the house and returns with fruit and veg she says the people in the shop that gave him the worst produce. This is how he has lived to try to avoid his blindness but after trying to give a talk to a blind group and then is told to apply for funds for his blindness. Then when he doesn’t he appeals but this process ends up being invited into politics and to join and talk to a  party called the front this then grows and becomes the main party in Slovenia and our narrator is invited to join the government and start to organize a large event rather like the city of culture project but this is a huge concept of what will happen in future but the project is underfunded and is maybe a view of the country its self in the 30 years that followed the setting up of Slovenia as an independent country

“You get more beautiful every time I see you!”

“you say that, but you’re half-blind, you know – you don’t see wrinkles, the circles under my eyes, or the other blemishes…but thanks anyway, dear”

In my eye women with truly long hair automatically had an advantage. When we were stdying world literature at university, and even later, when we would bumpo into each other now and thenn, she had always kept her hair short, or medium length at most, Our most important lectures had been in the evening, and they were often the prelude to a long night, she had been one of the most avid oartiers I knew, and no jealous boyfriend could ever comvience her it was time to go to bed, Her boyfriends in fact, had always been somewhere far way,either studying in foreign lands or foreigners themselves, guys she had met travelling or on student exchanges.

I loved the opening of this chapter a compliment or was it !

 

The first part of the book seems to be based on Mitja own life he is blind but he has never been in the government but has been involved in the fact he had organized these large cultural events he has seen how politicians are at first hand. So this is a thinly veiled look at how Slovenia has been since they began so our narrator is impaired in his vision and many in the government has been short-sighted or impaired. There is a great use of language and humor in the book he says in the podcast he used to tell anecdotes you can see some of them grow out into the text a sense of humor and satire of his own life and the world he lives in. He also said he used short sentences in this novel. The descriptive way is described is well caught as that of a man with impaired vision ( having worked and often chatted with a man that lost his vision slowly like Mitja the veg story remind me of a story he told me of making breakfast when his wife had mistakenly put peaches in the place of tomatoes so when he ate his breakfast it was hot peaches, not tomatoes!, also the mapmaking we spent many months walking into the village where I worked till he eventually walked himself remind me of our narrator talking about his blindness in the office )so the world is seen through his prism it is a man trying to work out his place in the world the kafkaesque quest for a grant shows what makes us blind in the eyes of government what happens when you are blind but can see! What happens when those running a country get blinded by their own shining lights rather than what is in front of them a brilliant insight into Slovenia a man that strides both sighted and impaired world but also is blind running a project that is too large and underfunded from a shortsighted government !! What happens like the many chess references in the book that a country plays out and ends up in a stalemate you go back to what point did it happen! a sort of satire of Slovenia!

Winstons score -A an insight into one man’s life that is a wider commentary on the world he lives in

Spanish Lit Month 2021 plus Portuguese lit

Since 2012 the has been a Spanish lit month in July every year a couple of years ago Richard and I expand it to include Portuguese lit which for me was a way to try and read a few more Portuguese works which is an area I feel is weak on the blog. SO I announce this year’s Spanish lit month and I will be doing two reads this month.

The first week this year I would love people to try some modern Latin American lit there has been so much that has come out in recent years. The writers from Andres Neuman to Mariana Enriquez have shown how diverse Latin American Literature has been. I have chosen a book from a publisher that has brought us some great books from Latin America Charco Press there backlist is a good place to start with the best of the new writers from Latin America. The book from them I have chosen for a read-along in week one of July is A collection of short stories from the write Federico Falco A perfect cemetery the study obsessive love, romantic love, and how we deal with death and grief as a mayor tries to build the perfect cemetery for a dying wish.

Week two Spain no read-along just a book or two from Spain there been so much from Latin America in recent years. But maybe not as many from Spain. but it is great to read some Spanish fiction or even some nonfiction work. any suggestions welcome.

Week three classic lit. Well, modern classics really I have chosen a book by Peruvian Nobel winner Mario Vargas Llosa his best-known book which is Aunt Julia and the scriptwriter which describes Mario a thinly veiled version of Mario himself working in Peruvian radio doing the highly popular daily soap operas we follow his writing and personal life. I read this years ago and wonder if it has dated any in the time since I last read it. There was a Hollywood version of the book which I had hoped would be online or available for watching but tune in tomorrow isn’t available shame as it is a great film.

Week four is Portuguese week a mix of lit from Portugal and its ex-colonies I hope to read the madwoman of Serrano by Dina Salustio the first female writer from Cape Verde to be translated which Dedalus books brought out a while ago there has been a number of great African titles translated from Portuguese in recent years. I also hope to read a book from Portugal this week.

Will you be joining in? what books will you choose?

The woman in Valencia by Annie Perreault

The Woman in Valencia by Annie Perreault

Quebec fiction

Original title – La femme de Valence

Translator – Ann Marie Boulanger

Source – review copy

It has been a while well actually six months it seems longer since I have featured a book from Quebec over recent years they have produced some of my favourites reads so this is one of the latest from QC books from Annie Perreault a writer that left university with a degree in Russian studies and French literature here first short story collection got an honourable mention in the Adrienne-Choquette Award. This was her debut novel it was also a finalist for the prestigious Prix Ringuet and shortlist for another prize. The book looks at the aftermath of one shocking event that lasts no more than a few mins on the life of one woman and then her daughter.

Finally, the woman pulls out a pack of lucky strikes, she offers one to Claire, who waves it away. With trembling fingers, the stranger lights a cigarette, She hands her bag to claire and moves to the corner of the terrace to smoke. Claire sets the bag down at the end of her chaise longue and eyes it nervously , as though a rat might suddenly crawl out of it. She inspects a cut on her finger and checks her hand for blood

Claire doesn’t immediately grasp what’s happening, she watches her children playing in the pool,They’re laughing, clinging to their dad’s neck, splashingeach other. They’re happy

Moments later the world of these family is chnaged  for ever

Claire Halde is on a vacation with her family in Valencia. With her husband, they are in a rooftop bar having drinks.  when she is approached by a woman unkempt that seems to have self-harmed that offers her a cigarette then asks her to watch over her handbag whilst she went to the have a smoke. The next thing Claire sees is the woman walking out of the toilet and then walk off the roof to her death. This event haunts Claire as she looks at what this woman was through the contents of that bag. What we see is her reliving that event but then what happened after but also when she returned and had a passionate affair a few years after that day as we see what happens when you get caught in suicide and can’t stop the person doing it. The later part of the book follows Claire daughter a marathon runner who like her mother ends up doing a marathon in Valencia we follow her on every kilometre of the race as she relives her life her mother and all that has happened this is a story of three women a mother and daughter and a woman who leapt to her death and the effect on Laure and Claire

Things to do before you die

I remember my mother running,

I think of her often, sprinting like she was trying to escape from us, run away from us at top speed.

Since arriving in Spain three days ago, I’ve been carrying around the same soft covered notebook with the mustard yellow binding, i run my hand over its smooth surface, I’m too scared to eread it again. I’m keeping my distance

Over the years, my mother amassed countless of these slim notebooks, which she brought from a Japanese stationary store in New york city, When I turned eighteen my father gave me a pile of the, most of them are identical. all of them are dog eared

Return to the place where she started to loe her mother in many ways after that moment

This is a story of lives and what happens when you get caught up in a shocking event. Suicide is one of the hardest things to think about still years after the loss of my brother in law who took his own life on my wife myself and our family the moment changed all our lives and here we see how it affected claire the ripple effect of the separation and affair after the event is how some people deal with the event by a change of course in their lives but then there is the knock-on effect of that moment on her daughter this is a book on the human condition but also about those turning points in life what would have happened had some stop her would it be remembered by those involved,  would Claire and Jean still be married would Laurie need to run marathons ?, What connects these three women is a brief conversation and the contents of that bag and the impact of the women leaping to her death. The book is a close look at grief depression and how it can affect us all and how one event can lead to so many changes in so many lives. it is a book where the female character leap of the page.

Winstons score – B a look at one moment and the aftermath of that moment.

That was the month that was May 2021

  1. The Man from Archangel by Georges Simenon
  2. Meeting in Positano by Goliarda Sapienza
  3. Love in five acts by Daniela Krien
  4. Elegy for Joseph Cornell by Maria Negroni
  5. The door was open by Karine Khodikyan
  6. You’re not dying by Kathrin Schmidt
  7. Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahir

This month I started in Belgium with a story of a man that becomes an outcast in his town. Then a friendship on the Amalfi coast unfolds over the decades in a lost Italian classic.. Then a novel about five women that are all connected but also their lives reflects modern life in many ways. Then a work that has pieces glimpses of the artist Joesph Cornell a man famous for his boxes. Then we move to Armenia a collection of spooky and dark tales of women living and sometimes dead. Then a lost German Book Prize winner about a woman rebuilding her life bit by bit. Then a writer writing in a new language for the first time a life of a woman looking in on a world that she has opted out of. There was one new publisher Naked Eye and no new countries this year I am still on course for a 100 books read and reviewed this year !

Book of the month

I liked the way this book unfolded it was an interesting insight into recovery not just the body but of who we are in ourselves. Helene’s journey is like the writer herself who recovered from a stroke.

Non-book events

I watch the old Kelly Reichardt fil Old Joy two friends head to a hot spring in a slow-moving film about friendship and life that starred William Oldham. This is before I get to watch her latest First cow which is meant to be a real gem. Elsewhere there has been a lot of Dylan pieces on tv and radio as he has turned 80 this month I enjoyed a  radio play dinner with Dylan that had Richard Curtis and his two friends plus the late arrival of the actress Ellen Atikens who Richard had double booked. as his friends having their monthly  Bob meeting but this time he was meant to come a lot of talk about the man and how would you talk to a man they view as a god-like figure. Then BBC 4 has been reshowing just this weekend Tinker Tailor Soldier spy. Le Carre’s smiley work that has the great Alec Guinness I live the part where he cleans his glasses and puts them on as they interview Ricky Tarr just a split second that makes him seem like a man that knows what he is doing !! also, I brought the albums by squid and Adklut life also the old mercury review cover of Bobby Gentry’s work with twelve different singers all on vinyl.

Next month

There is a pile of books next to me a lot of review books that I haven’t got to also I will be posting in the next few days for this July’s Spanish lit month time flies. I am looking forward to reviewing Blind man and the others and have the Huge Lady Joker a Japanese crime novel coming out in two parts over the next year a truly epic novel.

What have been your highlights over the last month!

Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri

Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri

American fiction

Original title – Dove mi trovo

Translator – by the writer herself

Source – personal copy

Long before I blogged I had read the first book of short stories from Jumpa Lahiri a writer that has traveled the world from growing up in  London til; three,  then her parents emigrated to American when she was very young, her father was a librarian at the University of Rhode Island where she grew up she also spent time in India mainly in Calcutta where her family was from originally. She has lived in recent year in Rome where she has taught herself and started to write in Italian this experience she described in a non-fiction work in the New yorker Teach yourself Italian which is here. I had read her early works like Interpreter of Maladies and The namesake but hadn’t read her recent works but this appealed as it was her first book in Italian she had translated herself and it used one of the first phrases she learnt in “Italian” where is it ?

It’s hard to focius here . I feel exposed, surrounded by colleagues and students who walk down the hallways, Their movements and their chatter get on my nerves.

I try in vain to enliven the space. Every week I turn up with a shopping bag heavy with books from home to fill my shelves. That pain in my shoulder, that wieght, all that efforts amounts to little in the end. It would taketwo years, three, to fill the bookcase. It’s to capacious, it covers an entire wall. In any caser, my office is now vaguely inviting, boasting a framed print, a plant, two cushions. And yet it’s space that perplexes me, that keeps me at arm’s length.

In the office chapter we get the distance she wants from the world here.

So the book is a novel that is built from a series of very short vignettes of a woman that has no name and she is living in an unnamed city. But that means there is a universal nature to the narrator’s life and that is of a woman single in her mid 40’s a career woman but one that has apart from her work no real friends or real family so what we get is glimpses of this life from the mundane everyday events shopping, buying a book, watching people like the locals in the shop which could be a shop anywhere really. few highlights nights away in a friend’s empty house but no friend a visit to the sea a visit to parents all have the sense of a woman that has tried to make herself vanish from the world a silent observer of all that is around her.  What builds is a life lived on the edges how often will we pass a narrator like this a smart dressed middle-aged woman that has on the outside a career and a few friends or maybe people she has worked with struck slim bonds with but no real touchstones this is a tale of the aged that avoids the rabbit hole of tech in her life and paints a solitary as would have been called years ago of a modern spinster !!

In Spring

In spring I suffer. The season doesn’t invigorate me, I find it depleting, The new light disorients , the fulmating nature overwhelms, and the air, dense with pollen, bothers my eyes. To calm my allergies I take a pill in the morning that makes me sleepy. It knocks me out, I can’t focus, and by lunchtime I’m tired enough to go to bed. I sweat all day and at night I’m freezing no shoe seems the right temperamental time of year.

Every blow in my lifetook place in spring. Each lasting sting, That’s why I’m afflicted by the green of the trees, the first peaches in the market, the light flowing skirts that the women in my neighbourhood start to wear.

Her life in spring also reflects a sense of a life full of loss.

Now there is a difference from her ealry works which largely look at India and being Indian in America but there is a loss of identity of the narrator of her story that also widens the story as it makes it a universal this could be Rome,London,New York or Kolkatta or any large town or city there are hiundreds of woman like the narrator of this book that have drift out of the personal to merely live and observe there world live but on the surface never getting that attatchment from emmotions I loved the voice and the simple mundane world we had glimpses behind the curtain at the change of languange has maybe freed her as a writer to persuae a new style a different way of thinking having liuved in Germany for a couple of years and learning German as it was just by being there and immersed in the world I view the world a different way and this I feel in the way Jhumpa has approached this book she joins the cannon of great writers like conrad, Nabhakov, Achibe and Beckett the last name is maybe one I thought of another writer that had a detactched nature to his narrators like the unnamed woman in this story waiting for her life !! Have you read this book ?

Winstons score – -A would loved another 100 paes of this  but a great evening read !

You’re not dying by Kathrin Schmidt

You’re not dying by Kathrin Schmidt

German fiction

Original title – Du Stirbst Nicht

Translator – Christina Les

Source – Review copy

It is strange when you have heard people talking just last week about what makes it through to English in Translation and how sometimes great books get missed as they don’t fit the mould of what is expected from a country’s writing or like this book just seem to get missed the book won the German book prize (the German equivalent of the Booker prize) which had Herta Muller and Clemens J Setz on the shortlist. Kathrin Schmidt has written eight collections of poetry and five novels this is the most successful novel she was on the Berlin discussions called the round table and has been an editor in the past the book is described as autobiographical in parts as the writer herself had recovered from a stroke in the time she was writing the book.  There is also a collection of short stories in the pipeline to be translated into English.

She knows that voice.It’s Inga. She sems to have bought someone with her. “Come on in!” says a deep voice, butthen there’s the sound of falling over, followed by a gloating laugh. Why can’t she just open her eyes! She has to work out what just happened. Her fruend Inga wanted to visit her and was encouraged to come in, but there must be a deep piton the other side of the door. They’ve fallen into it. She becomes agitated now, she realises. What.s happened to her friend, whose voice she heard so clearly? Ahthere she is again, unsuprisingly upset.

Early on she start to know who is talking to her but still has large gaps in her memories of her past.

The book is told from the viewpoint of Helene as she recovers from a life-changing stroke which put her in a coma as she comes round from the sedation they have put her one we see how she starts to piece together her life after the stroke. What do you do when you have forgotten everything everyone you have known is new to you as you start to awaken from a blur this is described? We see as she starts to piece together the post wall german as she remembers her youth in East Berlin. It is a battle as she starts to fill the gaps that are in her kind as she has lost control of her body. and is slowly regaining control of it she looks at who she was and doesn’t know herself and starts to begin life anew the book question who are we what makes a person what are we the sum of our past or the person we are now! Then what happens when we lose that can we refind love or does it come from elsewhere this is a powerful work that tackles difficult subjects.

Legs up! Both of them

Helene’s lying on the mat,. Her left leg gets to ninety degrees, her right leg manages maybe thurty. Not bad, she thinks. She knows her right arm won’t manage anything, though- she can’t direct a single finger even a tiny bit. And here comes the command already.

“Arms out in front, and up!”

The left one goes up.

“And what about the right one?”

The physion knows the answer to that, so can’t she just get off her case.

Now the woman shoves her fist under Helene’s shoulder and stimulates the shoulder blade with her knuckle – she can clearly feel it , but it’s hardly painful, The physio guides Helene’s right arm up and turns it slightly outwards. As she’s holding it outstretched and up in the air, she challenges Helene to brace herself against her hand, at short intervals,

The recovery is slow as her body starts to regain its movement

What I loved about the book is how it used language so well even in translation how it builds the vocabulary used and wording of people changes like early on the nurse is just called the bum wiper simple words but as we see Helene grow as her brain starts to recover the vocab builds. It is a journey of discovery a woman rediscovering herself but also facing a past that she has forgotten. It shows you what a journey of self-discovery Helene takes after the stroke..The is great us of how we recover things like noise in the hospital that triggers memories of her past life. A road to recovery told as the past is gone and the future awaits but we see how the bridge of recovery is built piece by piece as the past slots together like a jigsaw. A great book that should come out sooner it won the German book prize 12 years ago. Have you read this or any other German book prize winners or shortlisted books?

Winstons score – +A a lost gem

 

Elegy for Joseph Cornell by Maria Negroni

Elegy for Joseph Cornell by Maria Negroni

Argentinian fiction

Original title -Elegia Joseph Cornell

Translator – Alison A. deFreese

Source – personal copy

Here we have another great female writer from Latin america the Poet Maria Negroni had translated the bio of the artist Joseph Cornell written by Charles Simic. She had won a Guggenheim award and a pen award for her poetry as one of the best books when it was translated into English. What she has done is a tribute and elegy to the artist that defies genre it is prose biography poetic all in one almost like his boxes where a collection of found pieces that fit together when put together. Another gem from the Dalkey archive literature series who else would bring out a book that is only 90 pages long and probably is less than that when the space in the book is removed.

Notes for a short Biography 1

The man loved getting lost in the city in which he lived. He was born at 1:13pm. From a blue heart insofe a seashell that someone had left in a hotel room. We know that his mother loved to playing the piano and that his father sold fabric, that several children lived in the house – including one that was paralytic – and that they all played together on Utopia Parkway. These were earthly games with the semblance of prayers – as are all games – and children threw themselves into their play as if they were magians and trapeze artist or flea trainers in the mythical circus of their yout. The children had grown now, and the man worked alone in the basement.

The first of a number of small bio snippets the reference to his brother he looked after all his life and the solitary adult he became

This is a collection of vignettes poetic pieces that flow between a bio of Cornell life snippets such as his love of wandering the city he loved New york comparing him to other great Flaneurs such as Baudelaire, Nerval, and Proust.His single solitary lifestyle a man that to many was an enigma.The grey man of New York a solitary figure wandering the streets, The second thread is around his paintings and his avant-garde films. The little vignettes that either describe the film or are an ode to those famous pieces of his like Children’s party, the Aviary A third thread is a tribute to his collecting items a list of things he owned. This is one of those books that is hard to describe itis a tribute to a unique man with a work that is a patchwork of styles.

The Duchamp Dossier

It’s a cardboard box in which, for years, Joseph Cornell collected small keepsakes from his friendship with Duchamp, The box contained 117 items of various types. The French artist empty tobacco pouch, two cleaners for his famous white pip, a napkin from Horn & Hardart(one of those automats that was all the rage in the 30’s and where they almost certainly met), letter, photographs, postcard of the mona lisa, several yellowed notes in his handwritin, gallery posters and even dry cleaning receipts which reveal Duchamp’s unusal habit of sending evertything to the dry cleaner, even sock and handkerchiefs

The box was put on display for the first time in 1998, on the occasion of the Joseph Cornell/Marcel Duchamp: In resonance exhibition held in the Philadelphia Musuem of art.No one can explain how Cornell managed to acquire such “Mementos”

A piece about a box , but  nod to his habit of eating junk food all his life such as Automat cafes

I was aware of Cornell mainly through reading up on Jonas Mekas the last few years a filmmaker Avant Gardelike Cornell that knew Cornell and inherited his work when he died. At the heart of this book is the man Cornell a man who wanders New york finding collecting items to use art at some future point. The book is a journey a walk through his life but we only pick a few snippets of his life this is his box. The box for Joseph Cornell is a collage to the man a mix of style and genres. If you like Cornell this will appeal to you if you are a fan of experimental fiction this would appeal to you.

Winstons score – A+ these are the gems I write this blog for books that challenge us as a reader and defy genre !!

 

Previous Older Entries

June 2021
M T W T F S S
 123456
78910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
282930  

Archives

%d bloggers like this: