Minor Detail by Adania Shibli

Minor Detail by Adania Shibli

Palestinian fiction

Original title – تفصيل ثانوي

Translator – Elisabeth Jaquette

Source personal copy

I must admit I haven’t reviewed as much Arabic fiction as I use to I have a number of books on my shelf and had a couple of other books I thought would be on the long list this year. This book I was aware of and would have got round to eventually as I have read nearly all the blue cover books from Fitzcarraldo and have not read a bad book from them. Adania Shibli has written a number of other books she has previously had three other books translated. She studied at the University of East London. She was also on the list of writers under 39 that was collected together in Beirut 39. She now lives in Berlin. So here we go on the latest stop on this year’s Booker international longlist.

After dinner, he went straight to the second hut, where he told the guard to bring the girl and follow him, and he headed to his hut. Followed by the guard and the girl, who were in turn followed by his dog. On the way there, he passed by the supply dump in the middle of the cam and appeared a few moments later woth a folding bed, which the guard rushed to carry for him.

When they arrived at his hut, he took the folding bed from the guard and brought it inside, while the others waited outside. after a moment a latern’s glow, then the noise of furniture being moved around the room reached them

Just as the act the minor detail is due to happen.

The book revolves around a minor event in the summer of 1949 as the Israeli army is setting up camp in a remote area what follows is the mundane event of setting up the camp near the Egyptian border in the desert.  what we see is the boredom of this camp from the point of view of their commander. The heat and uneventful nature of this camp lead to a horrific event when the first people they see a group of Nomads passing through who the troops that are trigger happy after the waiting kills them but one bedouin women has been left alive when the Commander brings her back to the camp she is raped this event just a small part a minor detail in the war is rediscovered in the present by a writer as she vis in Ramallah trying to uncover more about the events that lead to this horrific crime. It shows the past and present and how little has changed and the way not to lose the past avoid rewriting history.

so, one morning when I was reading the newspaper, and happened across an article about a certain incident itself that began to haunt me. Incident itsef that began to haunt me. Incidents like that aren’t out of the ordinary, or let us say, they happen in contexts like this. In fact they happen in contexts like this. In fact, they happen so often that I’ve never paid them much attention before. For instance , on another morning when it was raining. I woke up late, which meant I couldn’t sit and work at my table in front of the big window; instead I had to go straight to my new job. When I arrived at my stop, and got off the minibus a bit before the clocktower.

The reading of a minor detail gets a writer down a rabbit hole of wanting to find out more about what happened.

This is a clever way of using the past and present the two views of the same event and looking at what happened to this Bedouin girl the only person left after the rest of her group was killed by the soldiers. And a writer from the modern-day and reading about this event and what happened in a brief report in a newspaper. That sparks her to have to try and find out more about this and this minor detail in history. but it shows how little has changed for the Palestinians in modern Israeli as she struggles to get to access the sources for the info. As she gets through the labyrinth of bureaucrats. The first part of the book is an account of war but also the way it can lead to horrific events like this the events are like what happened in Lord of the flies or clockwork orange where a group of young males whether school kids, a gang or a group of soldiers overstep the mark. This does what a good novella should do and that feels like an epic on a small scale this takes one single event and like a Macro lens blows it up to it fills the screen and is thus a motif for the great events of the war of independence

Winstons score- B a solid novella leaves the reader thinking for a while after.

In Memory of Memory by Maria Stepanova

In Memory of Memory by Maria Stepanova

Russian Literature

Original title -Памяти памяти

Translator – Sasha Dugdale

Source – Personal copy

This was a book that was mentioned before the prize and others questioned if it was a novel at all well it for me fits in that ground between fiction and non-fiction a personal quest the likes of we have seen in books from writers like  Sebald and one of my favorite books of recent year Dušan Šarotar book Panorama. This is a prose work from the Russian writer and Poet Maria Stepanova a graduate of Gorky literature Institute she has been a big presence online in Russian Literature having been behind the site’s open space a Russian daily cultural site and the Colta website project. She is married to a well-known Russian Critic and Journalist this is the first work of hers to be translated she has also a poetry collection that has also been translated by Sasha Dugdale that has also come out she has won a number of the big prizes. So we are off on the next stop on the Booker international list!!

Memory is handed down, history is written down; memory is concerned with justice, history with preciseness; memory moralizes, history tallies up and corrects; memory is personal, istory dreams of objectivity; memory is based not on knowledge, but on experience; compassion woth, sympathy for a desperate pain demanding immediate involvement. At the same time the landscape of memory is strewn with projections fantasiesand misrepresenations – the ghost of today, with their faces turned to the past. Hirsch writes

I love pasages like this that describe what a memory is to us as against history

How to capture this book as it isn’t a novel it is a sort of patchwork of pieces that are all come about from when she cleared her aunt apartment what she does is build a picture of her family as she says they are just ordinary Russian jew family she uses the similar idea to Sebald a sort of post-memory of these lives that haunt her past and the flat she is clearing as she looks at the flotsam and jetson we all leave behind us the photos and letters that are full of ghosts that maybe she is the last to know who and what they were. And in the time they lived in the Ginzburgs is a family that had not lost lives in the Stalin days and with the exception of one member of the family went through the second world war the son of the aunt died in Leningrad it is a touching section a letter from him is followed by the letters of his death.  There is also a piece about how Dickens kept there spirit up in the war when reading great expectations. Near the end of the book her thoughts taker her to the American artist Joseph Cornell(this is a strange series of connections I recently got a novella that is about this artist) he made boxes that are little worlds in themselves and the fact this is her box.

The cemetry as address book foor all humanity sets out everything we need to know with concision. in effect it comes down to names and dates- we don’t need to know any more. We read and remember at most two or three familiar names, for who could fix all its thousands of pages in mind? But supposing those who lie there have an interest in whether they are remembered? All they can hope for is a passerby to stop and read, a strangers, filled with an age- old curiosity about life beforehe appeared in the world, who will pick out their grave from all others, and stan and remark on it. This belief in the redemptive regard of a stranger

What are we this hits it on the head at least a grave that occasionally catches a passerby eye.

I am a fan of this sort of book it is like being on a trip with someone a quest for life it is like breath on the embers of a dying flame just to get them to reignite and spark off again that one last surge of heat. Sebald and Pamuk have influenced her she says that a few times in the book. Unlike those, this is a story of lives that have nothing other than they lived through some of the grimmest and hardest times in Russian history and managed to get through without making a real mark which is an achievement how to avoid death in the siege and then before that Stalin’s purges is a story in itself. what are we when we have gone that is the question without someone to remember us to pass that memory on like an Olympic torch? This is the patchwork quilt of her aunt’s world made up of pieces but in places, there are Maria’s own thoughts filling the spaces in their lives.  Russian Jews family caught in Amber.

Winstons score –  +A a book that just makes you know why you love reading that is something special.

The War of the Poor by Éric Vuillard

The war of the Poor by Éric Vuillard

French Fiction

Original title – La guerre des pauvres

Translator – Mark Polizzotti

Source -review copy

His last book The OPrderer of the Day was one of those books that seemed to be everywhere when it came out I do have a copy of it but the hype put me off a bit even though it was a Prix Goncourt winner. Eric Vuillard studied under the great Jacques Derrida and traveled a lot whilst he studied. He is a screenwriter, writer, and film director. He said when it was on,y when this book came out he made a link in the story of times around the German Peasants revolt and the involvement of the theologian Thomas Müntzer. Thomas Müntzer. He then notices similarities with the current Yellow vest movement that had been running in France for the last two years.

More than anything, Muntzer goes after Latin. He sets the simplicity of the common folk against Latin, and this simplicity is not vulgar, it can be coverted. Mud is gold. And while Luther translates the bible into German, Muntzer speaks to those who cannot read in their own language.

He goes further than Luther, In the church of Allstedt, God speaks German. The Gemran mass causes an uproar. People flock from miles around Allstedt to hear a priest talk to them for the first time in their language.

The opening of the chapter The word is about how he wanted the sermon and bibnles in German not Latin !!

This is a very short book, not even a novella really an unusual choice for the Booker prize. War of the poor is the story of the German Thgeolgian Thomas Müntzer and his life. The book opens with how his life was hard his father had hung himself. By the age of fifteen, he started a league opposed to the Archbishop of Magdeburg and the Church of Rome. He started to preach in the borders of Saxony in the backwater of Zwickau. as he stood in for a minister and he started to use the ideas that Luther had put forward, but he would later want to take things and the reforms within the church further than Luther who he later was opposed to. Then the action shifts back a couple of centuries and the tale of another religious reformer that preached about reforms in the church and the Church of Rome, he wants English bibles and like MUntzer wants to do services in languages other than Latin. He also inspired Wat Tyler a leading figure in the English peasant uprising this inspired Jan Hus a Czech religious reformer and this is what leads to the doctrine that Muntzer preaches notably in The sermon of the Princes his notable sermon there is even an edition published by Verso that has an intro by the left-wing Italian writer collective this event is what leads to him being Involves in the German peasant revolt and well I leave it there !!

Mund means mouth and Zerstorung, destruction. As such, we are free to hear, in Thomas Muntzer, a prodigious affinity between word and negation. Of course, we could see Muntzer as one of thopse passionatie idealist whom the medical profession habitually ridicules. We cpould shove Rosseau, Tolstoy and Lenin onto the couch and squeeze information out of them. We could see in any revolt and in any ardour personal pain transfigured, what of it?

Suddenly, heads turn and bodies have the wieghtlessness of light. And then, anything can be said!Thoughts streak, draw together, those that leave no verbal treace fall away for ever. They fall into the pit. We no longer hear them, no longer see them. We love them with remorse, and remorse is good for you tje great equality of the void.

Muntzer is like many other figures that have stood up over time.

This is one of those books that even though short packs a punch I had never heard of Muntzer I knew a bit about Luther and had heard of Wat Tyler and the English Peasant revolt there is an echo with the modern yellow vest movement this is one of those books that would be described as a turning point or as Javier Cercas said the blind spot, in this case, it is the events leading to the end in the book. This is also an example of the French books that I have seen the last few years as someone once said to me there is a sort of book that isn’t a history book. It is like the Binet work HHhH this has parts that are pure fiction that said it was an evening read I even managed to read it twice. I learnt a bit about the German peasant revolt and can see the connection to the modern movement as freedom, wealth and power are still unequal every where so much has changed but also so little !!

Winstons score – -B would loved a little more but enjoyed what was there!

The Employees By Olga Ravn

The Employees A workplace novel of the 22nd century by Olga Ravn

Danish fiction

Original title – De ansatte

Translator – Martin Aitken

Source – personal copy

I start my journey through this year’s Booker longlist with a publisher I haven’t read a book from before and the one book from the list that had passed me by.  Olga Ravn has been a critic, translator, and editor in her time her first novel appeared in 2015 this was her second novel and she has since published a third novel. Her last book title My work in English won the Politiken literature prize. This was the book that struck me as most unusual as it is a sci-fi novel that takes the form of a series of statements from the crew of a ship that is on a trip from Earth to a new planet called New discovery. There has been an investigation asked for by the committee.

Statement 014

The first fragrance in the room is a delicate one, its right there, as soon as you walk in: citrus fruit, or the stone of a peach. Sitting at the table in front of me now, do you think of me as an offfender? I like ti be in the room. Ifind it very erotic. The susopended obeject I can feel sex between my lips. I become moist, regardless of whether I’ve got anthing there or not, The hunters on my team have a name for this object we call it the reverse Strap-on, That may be crude, but I’ve already said I don’t necessarily share your way of seeing things here. Maybe that’s why you think of me as an offender. Half Human. flesh and technology. too living

One of the earlier statments in the book

The crew of the ship the six thousand is a mix of Humans and Humanoids as they take the ship from earth on a voyage to the new planet called New Discovery. But most wonder what the strange objects that are in the ship. They also have seemed the lines between Human and Humanoid seem blurred as the crew ask if they are human if their memories are real or they have been given them. They talk about their work to start with things like cleaning the rooms how hard this can be this made me laugh at two rooms being hard for them. Then the is mention of helmets and how when they put them on they just fit in with the others around them. This is a search for both the Human crew and Humanoid crew to what makes them although there is a biological difference there is also the question of is the longing they feel there all implant in them. The point of the statements is to find out the feeling in the crew but also to find the humanoids and in the end to get rid of one of them to help the ship complete the voyage who will go! The book, later on, takes a dark turn. What will the Committee decide to do?

Statement 054

After I lost my add-on un the accident, I’ve started seeing it everywhere, it’s like it’s stalking me. It pulls at my clothing and sometimes I fell I’ve got to pick it up, cuddle and kiss it. other times, when it appears there between the benches, half digital animal, half child hologram, like the ones allocated to som of the crew members who’ve lost their biolgical childreb, I scream with fright and yell at it and  maybe I jump to my feet as well and give the add-on a slap in the face to make it go away. No one else can see it except me. I’d like to accept your offer of medication

the lines of who is who blur as the book goes on.

This book has echoes of a lot of things I have either read or seen over the years the first and nearest is Blade runner the questions at times remind me of the scenes where Deckard as he questions the androids and the lack of emotions shows. But he is told later that Rachel who thinks she is the niece of the factory owner is an android this is similar to the book where they question have been given memories to make me feel human. Of course, a huge ship that has been out of control from the crew is also like the classic Universe by Robert Heinlein which has a huge ship that has become divided over centuries as the crew has mutated leading to a bizarre history. This is a future where the line between man and machine blur and even crossover at points as those on the six-thousand forget who they are. This is a patchwork of voices we never hear any names just their ranks and also numbers occasionally and jobs done. If you threw in Blade Runner the office and had it written by Franz Kafka this would be the result. An interesting and different start to this year’s Booker longlist.

Winston’s score – -A

That was the month that was March 2021 and Booker reaction

  1. Dog Island by Philippe claudel
  2. London Under Snow by Jordi llavina
  3. Wretchedness by Andrzej Tichy
  4. Beowulf a new translation
  5. Summer night , and then comes the night by Jon Kalman Stefansson
  6. Portrait of artist as a young man by James Joyce
  7. The Frightened one by Dima Wannous
  8. Earthlings by Sayaka Murata

Now I have just reviewed 8 books this month I have slowed but have reviewed 32 books this year and am on course to get over the 100 review total I set myself for this year. This month’s Journey started in France with a tale of a dog-shaped island in the Med with a dark secret at its heart with the immigrants that are trying to get there.. Then to a collection of short stories from a Catalan writer that has a London connection.THen of to a Swedish novel by a writer with Mittel European heritage and a tale of a cellist seeing his past in a druggy he comes across.  This also made the booker list. Then a new version of the epic poem Beowulf with a feminist twist and brought life with modern slang. Then a village in Iceland that has con mad in the daylight of midsummer, Then it was a nod to St Patrick’s day with James Joyce’s portrait of the artist as a young man that was about his own youth and had one of the characters that were also in Ulysses. Then two friends from Syria on remained the other left to German and then wrote a book about his ex’s life.Then a small toy is really an alien in a tale that has dark undertones from japan, NO new publishers or countries this monthj.

Book of the month

I have picked Beowulf as it brought this book to life for me a text that is hard to get into in older translations this with it clever use of street slang and a modern slant on the book’s events brought the action to life for me.

Non-book events

Edited in Prisma app with Surf

This month saw the first few rules relaxing around lockdown this tied up with a couple of warm days so we could go a little further so on yesterday we had a trip in the peak a walk around Bakewell where we found a couple of Geocaches a new sort of treasure hunt on the phone which we have found this month we get a GPS sight then have to fin either box, bottle or something hidden at that location then log it a fun way to have a walk around we found two in Bakewell we had planned to walk some of the Monsal trails the old railway in the peaks that are now an 8-mile path for walkers or cyclist but everyone I think had same idea hence a walk around Bakewell instead but we had a picnic at Monsall Head later the same day in which I took the above picture. What have you been up to ?

Booker reaction

Can Xue (China), Karen Gernant & Chen Zeping
– I Live in the Slums (Yale University Press)

David Diop (France) & Anna Moschovakis
 At Night All Blood is Black (Pushkin Press)

Nana Ekvtimishvili (Georgia) & Elizabeth Heighway
– The Pear Field (Peirene Press)

Mariana Enriquez (Argentina) & Megan McDowell
– The Dangers of Smoking in Bed (Granta Books)

Benjamin Labatut (Chile) & Adrian Nathan West
– When We Cease to Understand the World (Pushkin Press)

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o (Kenya)
– The Perfect Nine (Vintage Books)

Olga Ravn (Denmark) & Martin Aitken
– The Employees (Lolli Editions)

Jaap Robben (Netherlands) & David Doherty
– Summer Brother (World Editions)

Judith Schalansky (Germany) & Jackie Smith
– An Inventory of Losses (MacLehose Press)

Adania Shibli (Palestine) & Elizabeth Jacquette
– Minor Detail (Fitzcarraldo Editions)

Maria Stepanova (Russia) & Sasha Dugdale
– In Memory of Memory (Fitzcarraldo Editions)

Andrzej Tichý (Sweden) & Nicola Smalley
– Wretchedness (And Other Stories)

Éric Vuillard (France) & Mark Polizzotti
– The War of the Poor (Picador

Well, I had reviewed 5 of the 13 books leaving me 8 to read one of which I had started Summer brother by Japp Robben which I read his first book I really enjoyed a few years ago. of the others, I have read books by Can Xue, Mariana Enriquez, and Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o the other writer are new to me and Lolli Editions is a press I hadn’t read a book from yet. I had three in my prediction post right. I had expected an African novel but I had been read Alain Mabackou which I had brought instead of the Thiong’o so I wish I had brought them both I hope to review the Jaap tomorrow of the books left to read the Enriquez appeals I liked her previous book. In Memory of memory is my type of book I feel. Of the others, I will have to see as most of them I had heard of but hadn’t caught my eye enough to try and the Can Xue was a writer I struggled with last time. It is interesting as most shadow jury has read very little of this list which goes to show how many more books there are out there to be read I look forward to reading them and seeing if this list is better than most of our lists !. What had you read and what do you think of the list.

Winstonsdad Booker international longlist guess

It is that time again when I choose the books I think will be on the longlist when it comes out in two days I have left it late but is was just to try and read a few more books as the list this year is just books I have read.

Fracture – Andres Neuman

Two Huge events in Japan the end of the war and the dropping of the bomb and then the nuclear disaster following the tsunami a few years ago viewed from one man’s perspective he had been at both events. I’ve long been a fan of Neuman so lets hope we see him on the longlist again.

The Art of Losing by Alice Zeniter

Three generations of an Algerian family show the post-liberation years leaving Algeria and settling in France and the feeling of never fitting in and then fitting in and loss of identity a true epic.

A Musical Offering by Luuis Sagasti

Another writer from Argentina another writer I am a fan of her we have a collection of stories the Goldberg variations are a theme in them at times.

Tower by Bae Myung-Hoon

Another interlink story collection here we have a super skyscraper in the near future that is its own starte and the madness of the mega city in these stories.

Hunter School by Sakinu Ahronglong

A son tells of his father but also his heirtage a dying culture in a series of stories about learning to hunt and growing uo in a world that is slowly disappearing.

Earthling by Sayaka murata

I feel that breast and eggs may be the Japanese book on the longlist.  but I did like this one and haven’t read the other yet as it is on my to buy list which seems to never quite shrink lol.

The Pear field by Nana Ekvtimishvilli

I always have a book from Peirene on my list and this story of an older pupil at a special needs school where abuse is happening has taken a younger pupil under her wings. As the poverty following the collapse of communism is being felt. will he make his way to America?

Catherine the great by Olja knezevic

We follow Katarina as she goes from a teen to adulthood as Yugoslavia falls apart. I haven’t read the Fig tree I only brought it a few weeks ago so will have to get to it soon but here is another title from Istros books. A publisher woefully missing from the longlist over the last few years

The Bitch by Pilar Quintana

A book that really touched me a story of a dog heartbreaking at times as it is an untamable feral dog. World editions have published some great books the last few years lets hope they get one on the list this time

Journey through a tragicomic century by Francis Nenik

A strange the fiction real life is told in this great novel about Hasso Grabner from new publisher V&Q books Large than life view of German and the East German through a man that had lived life through it all . they had three books out this year all could make the longlist.

When we cease to understand the world by Benjamin Labatut

A collection of stories from how Prussian blue got its name to the drug Goring ti end his life, then trying to find the hermit-like French mathematician Grothendieck my favourite in the collection

We’ll call you by Jacob Sundberg

Foot in the mouth bad job interviews this fun collection of stories would be a change for the Booker list a book that shows human nature at its best and worst with a large slice of humour !!

At night all blood is Black by David Diop

Vengeance from an African soldier during world war one when his best friend is killed he takes the lives of those that killed him. A corner of the war that hasn’t been written about much.

There is my Baker’s dozen as ever I think I may only have a few right but let’s see what makes the cut. As there have been some great books again over the last twelve months. Have you any highlights for you

Earthlings by Sayaka Murata

Earthlings by Sayaka Murata

Japanese fiction

Original title – Chikyu Seijin

Translator – Ginny Tapley Takemori

Source – personal copy

I got this book last week for my birthday i had given Amanda a list of books that I thought maybe on Tuesday’s booker longlist and this was one of two Japanese novels this was one the other was Breast and Eggs which if it is on the list Tuesday i will get otherwise it will be a while before I get to that one anyway back to this the second book by Sayaka Muruta to be translated into English the first Convenience store women was a hit and one of those books I didn’t read due to the hype but this had been on my radar mainly because I loved the cover art which in fact relates to the book. Sayaka Murata grew up reading sci-fi and mystery novels from her family see even started to write a novel when she was 14. Finally publishing a novel when she was 24 she has published 11 books so far winning one of Japan’s biggest book prizes Akutagawa prize for her book convenience store women. Her books deal with Family, sex, celibacy, asexual relationships, and sci-fi elements.

I took Piyyut out of my bag. He loked like a white hedgehog plush toy, but actually he was an emissary sent by the magic police on Planet Popinpobopia. Piyyut had given me the magic wand and mirror to help meuse my maigical powers, I explained.

“Wow, Natuski, thats amazing” YUu said, his face serious. “It’s thank to you protecting the earth that we’re living in peace”

“Right”

“HEy. What sort of place is that Planet Popinpo- What’s it called again?”

“Popinpobopia. I don’t know really. Piyyut said it was secret.

“OH”

She is given magic powers to help save the earth by the plush to that is an emissary from another planet.

The novel is told from the point of view Natsuki she grows up spending her summers with her family in the remote mountains with their grandparents in the WIld Nagano Mountains and also there is her Family her Aunt and Uncle and her cousin Yuu. it is during these summers she buys what Piyyut which she thinks at the time is a white hedgehog toy but he is really an alien from the planet Popinpobia to give Natuski magic powers to save the earthlings. What follows is an account of her youth which has two events that shape her future and that of her family the first is abuse from a teacher that sexual abuses her and the other is a sexual awakening alongside her cousin Yuuwhich they are caught meaning the family unit is split and they stop talking to the aunt and Uncle. So when many years later when she is trapped in the city she describes it as a baby-producing factory and she is stuck in a sexless marriage. As she is driven to go back to the mountains this leads to a reunion with her cousin and also the secrets of her youth breaking through the loss of family she missed the after ripples of the kissing and sex with her cousin in her youth. This leads to a shocking end to the journey through the book.

I once asked my husband why he’d registered at Surinuke dot.cpm. “I thought it was written into our contract not to pry into that”, he said, clearly uncomfortable.

“I’m sorry, that was out of order. I didn’t mean to infringe on our contract>”

“No it’s okay. I feel suprisinglu relaxed talking with you. Natsuki.”

It wasn’t that my husband had no interest in sex. Instead he thought it wasn’t something to do rather something to observe. He enjoyed watching, but he was apparantly disgusted by the notion of touching and being touched by someone else who was discharging fluid. Another problem my husband had was that he hated working. This was obvious in his behacviour at work, so he found it hard to hold a job down.

Her advert and contract husband isn’t all she had hoped for at times.

I am not a huge sci-fi fan as you may know but this uses the sci-fi to drive the narrative and also to point things out. This is studio Ghibli if they let the writers from Law and order special victims unit had written it this uses the sci-fi element as a sugar coating to the horrors of sexual abuse from a teacher which then leads her fumblings with Yuu which then leads to suicide and a family break up these events then lead to her marriage and the events at the end of the book. Murata manages to tackle the subjects subtle and with a uniquely Japanese take on events Piyyut is like a Pokmon character manga creation, then things like advertising for her husband in a very Japanese way the loneliness of the city, and being friendless as a teen the knock-on effect of abuse is seen. A powerful work Natsuki is the flip of those lonely males of Murakami’s novels a female perspective on modern Japanese life. Have you read this book or her first book ?

Winstons score  -A an unusual book

The Frightened Ones by Dima Wannous

The Frightened Ones by Dima Wannous

Syrian Fiction

Original title – Kha’ifoun

Translator – Elisabeth Jaquette

Source – personal copy

Over the last few years, I haven’t reviewed enough books translated from Arabic I have felt so when looking for potential booker international longlist books there were two titles that had been shortlisted for the Arabic international prize this and another book which won the prize. So I reviewed this first the other is in my tbr and if it makes the list will be read quickly if not in a month or two. Dima is a writer I had read a few years ago as part of the Beirut 39 collection of writers she had studied French literature at Damascus University and the Sorbonne. She then became a Journalist and worked on TV. She caught the eye of many literary critics for her 2007 short story collection Details. This is her second novel.

A few weeks later, it did all happen again. I left Kamil’s office and found the main sitting on the front steps. smoking. “Coffee?£ he asked. I thought about how he’d invited me for a cup of coffee and then ordered a beer. He’d abridged hir invitation this time, an enquiry with a question mak suspended in the air. I copuld see it flying around his head , attatched ti a string of letters jumbled on top of each other, obscuring one another. I nodded, agreeing reluctantly, and started walking; he followed me. Almost immediately I stopped.

The Frightened ones are based on two friends and former lovers when Suleima and Naseem meet at the therapist in pre-war Syria in Damascus in the waiting room and started an affair. They are from different backgrounds Suleiman is an anorexic woman with a number of anxieties and worries around men. She falls for the charming Naseem a doctor that has his own horrors he constantly smacks his face this is a broken pair in a broken country so when He leaves and then sometime later send to his former lover his first book as she reads on what she finds he has written the story of a woman with Anxieties and issues with her family as she loses her male relatives to the war that is tearing her homeland apart. she slowly starts to gather she is reading her own story that he has written into a novel. As he has taken her life as his own. Suliema hasn’t painted in a number of years since the death of a close family member. This lifts the lid on the horrors of living in fear and under constant terror.

I remember our living room well. i remember our carpet, green with dark dreen embroidery, and how I often rolled it out to play. The only thing that cut out the silence was the creek and chirp of the wooden shutters, I lived my childhood in silence, so much so that when I summon the few scenes I do recall to memory, they appear with out soundl They’re silent. No commotion. No voices. No ,music, Just windows chirping.

The electricty ofent wentin ur building for days at a time, those across the way would still be lit, while we alone were drowning in Darkness. Our power lines were connected to the close-knit neighbourhoodof Esh al-Warwar, some distance away, where most residents were from Alawite officers famlies.

The opening if Naseems manuscript does she Suliema see paraells in her own past !!

The book shows where reality and fiction can blur over time as the two lovers were separated over the war as she stayed and saw her family die and he left but he used her sorrows anxieties to build his novel. It shows the horrors that can be caused by the war on the mentality of the public and the busy therapist waiting room and those left in the country as it descends into madness.  As the constant threat of both death but living under a dictatorship with the fear of getting caught or worse. This isn’t a fast-paced book more a book that opens the reader’s eyes with it wonderfully insightful prose looking into the horrors of everyday life with a poetic mix of metaphoric insights into everyday life. Also, the anxiety of that also of love under those conditions and that is followed by betrayal has a powerful message about the horrors in Syria. As the book in the later part divides between Suleima story and her reading Naseem’s work as the two unfi=old and at times cross each other the lines of fact and fiction blur. Now if this was the Old IFFP prize I would have this higher up the list as it a book Boyd the old head judge would like. Have you read this book? or have any favourite recent reads translated from Arabic into English?

Winstons score – B great but in parts, it wanders

Shadow Booker International 2021

I will be doing my longlist guessing post but here we have another year of the booker shadowing jury here the tenth time a shadow jury for the Boker and earlier the IFFP.

The announcement of this year’s International Booker Prize longlist isn’t too far away, and I’m sure many of my readers are looking forward to the announcement (on the 30th of March) and making plans to read any interesting-sounding nominees. However, while we’re all grateful to the judges for the time and effort they put into the task of deciding the cream of the year’s fiction-in-translation crop, putting blind faith in their decisions is another matter entirely (some years more than others…), and that’s where our Shadow Panel comes in. I recently added a permanent page to my site with details of all the judges and winners since 2012, and given that start date, you may have worked out that 2021 marks an important milestone for us – namely the tenth Shadow Panel!

 

So on this momentous occasion, whose breath (metaphorical, of course – stalking and housebreaking is firmly frowned upon around these parts) will the official judges be feeling down their necks this year? In the words of Brett Anderson, introducing the band 😊

 

*****

Tony Malone (@tony_malone) is an occasional ESL teacher and full-time reader who has been publishing his half-baked thoughts on literature in translation at the Tony’s Reading List blog for just over twelve years now. One unexpected consequence of all this reading in translation has been the crafting of a few translations of his own, with English versions of works by classic German writers such as Eduard von Keyserling and Ricarda Huch appearing at his site. After a well-earned sabbatical year from all things shadowy, he’s returned with fresh energy in 2021, ready to discuss this year’s longlist and keep the ‘real’ judges honest.

 

Stu Allen (@stujallen), the everyman of translated fiction, has been blogging for twelve years and has reviewed over a thousand books from more than one hundred countries at his site, Winstonsdad’s Blog. He founded the original Shadow IFFP Jury back in 2012, as well as the Twitter hashtag #translationthurs. By day, he works for the NHS as a care support worker, helping people with learning disabilities on a ward in a learning disabilities hospital in sunny Derbyshire. He’s married to Amanda, loves indie music, foreign films and real ale, and is pleased to be shadowing the prize for another year.

 

Meredith Smith (@bellezzamjs) has been writing about books at her site, Dolce Bellezza, since 2006. Now that she has retired from teaching, she has much more time to devote to her passion of reading translated literature. She has hosted the Japanese Literature Challenge for fourteen years and been a member of the Shadow Jury for seven. It is her great joy to read and discuss books from around the world with both the panel and fellow readers.

 

David Hebblethwaite (@David_Heb) is a reader and reviewer originally from Yorkshire, UK. He started reading translated fiction seriously a few years ago, and now couldn’t imagine a bookish life without it. He writes about books at David’s Book World and on Instagram @davidsworldofbooks. This is his eighth year on the Shadow Jury, and it has become a highlight of his reading year. There are always interesting books to read, and illuminating discussions to be had.

Oisin Harris (@literaryty), based in Canterbury in the UK, reviews books at the Literaryty blog. He earned an English degree from Sussex University and an MA in Publishing from Kingston University. He is a librarian at the University of Kent and a co-editor and contributor for The Publishing Post’s Books in Translation Team, as well as the creator of the Translator Spotlight series where prominent translators are interviewed to demystify the craft of translation. His work on Women in Translation was published in the 2020 research eBook of the Institute for Translation and Interpreting, entitled Translating Women: Activism in Action (edited by Olga Castro and Helen Vassallo).

 

Frances Evangelista (@nonsuchbook) works as an educator in Washington DC. She elected a career in teaching because she assumed it would provide her with lots of reading time. This was an incorrect assumption. However, she loves her work and still manages to read widely, remember the years she blogged about books fondly, chat up books on Twitter, and participate in lots of great shared reading experiences. This is her fourth year as a shadow panelist for the International Booker Prize.

Barbara Halla (@behalla63) is an Assistant Editor for Asymptote, where she has covered Albanian and French literature and the International Booker Prize. She works as a translator and independent researcher, focusing in particular on discovering and promoting the works of contemporary and classic Albanian women writers. She has lived in Cambridge (Massachusetts, USA), Paris, and Tirana.

 

Vivek Tejuja (@vivekisms) is a book blogger and reviewer from India, based in Mumbai. He loves to read books in Indian languages and translated editions of languages around the world (well, essentially world fiction, if that’s a thing). He is Culture Editor at Verve Magazine and blogs at The Hungry Reader. He is also the author of So Now You Know, a memoir of growing up gay in Mumbai in the 90s, published by Harper Collins India.

 

Areeb Ahmad (@Broke_Bookworm) recently finished an undergrad in English from the University of Delhi and is now pursuing a Master’s in the same subject from the University of Hyderabad. Although he is quite an eclectic bookworm, he swears by all things SFF. You can find him either desperately hunting for book deals to supplement his overflowing TBR pile or trying to figure out the best angle for his next #bookstagram picture while he scrambles to write a review. He impulsively decided to begin book blogging in 2019 and hasn’t looked back since.

*****
Now that this year’s judges have been introduced, it’s time for us to fade back into the shadows but never fear – you’ll be hearing from us again very soon. Once the longlist has been announced, we’ll be convening to consider the baker’s dozen of selected titles, and soon after that, you can expect a group response. Will it be a positive or negative one? Well, that all depends on what is chosen, of course. Official judges – over to you…

Birthday books and other arrivals

I’ve had a busy last three days was meant ot be off for my birthday but ended doing a couple of hours of work helping to cover lunch breaks for my colleagues on a couple of days off. Then with the other day off the boiler was playing up so the plumber came round but it took most of the day for him to come so I haven’t read much as I have taken Amanda on a couple of drive out round chesterfield and a little in the peaks and had a couple of walks as she is fed up of being at home as she is shielding through corona any way I’ll be back to reviews on tues. I have quickly done a couple of stop-gap posts for the next few days first some book porn lol.

The first two books I got for my birthday one from Amanda and the other from my in-laws. Both are ones I think maybe on the booker list at the end of the month. One a Japanese novel following a woman looking back on events in the countryside in her youth. The other is an Arabic book prie winner who follows six people’s stories in an unnamed Arab country talking about their lives and it is from Oneworld a publisher that has had a few books on the list recently.

Next three books I’ve been sent You’re not dying won the German book prize in 2009 nine and is a novel following a woman’s recovery from a life-changing illness and she rebuilds her life. Andrea Victrix is a Catalan dystopian novel about a man waking after being frozen for 85 younger than he was in 1965 when he was frozen in time what will he make of 2050? Then the latest in Penguin quest to bring out all the books from Simenon this latest is a man covering for his wandering wife. I have reviewed a number of books from him and have a number more to review over time from here.

I love Nordisk cover art here is their latest tale of a couple that both work at the same paper that sleeps together one night  is a critic the other a journalist. As we see the aftermath of that event.

Then a pile of books I have brought myself Caverva from Juan Filloy one of the lost gem of Argentinean writer I have reviewed another book by him but this one appealed as well, The Snapshot Claudio Magris is a collection of short prose pieces that he wrote for an Italian newspaper for a number of years. Then  Alain Mancklu latest is set in his homeland and home town but in the seventies, I have enjoyed every book I have read by him over the years. Alindarka’s children follow two children in a camp as the leader tries to turn them into Russian instead of speaking the native language Belarusian.I saw this reviewed somewhere and it appealed to me. The last is from Istros the Fig tree follows the post-war life of the family of Jadran that follows it from the fifties the early years of Tito to the break up of Yugoslavia and the aftermath of this.

Other arrivals is the latest Viynl from the wedding present a collection of their hits rerecorded semi acoustically over the lockdown. One my favorite bands I love this album. Also a cd from former Nick Cave guitarist Mick Harvey. An album with Mick Harvey and C R Barker of the poetry of Edgar Bourchier a touching collection of poems set to music evoke world war 1.  What have you brought or got sent recently guys?

 

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