The woman in the Purple Skirt by Natsuko Imamura

The Woman in the Purple Skirt by Natsuko Imamura

Japanese fiction

Original title – Murasaki no sukaato no onna むらさきのスカートの女

Translator – Lucy North

Source – Library

I always love when you pop to the library and find a book you’ve seen online or somewhere that you think oh that sounds interesting and I know a title shouldn’t be a reason for reading a book but the title of this grabbed me and remind me of a silly evening with a friend when I was still at school with a top that may have been blue may have been purple anyway back to the book Natsuko Imamura has won the Dazai Osamu Prize and has been nominated for one of the biggest prizes in Japanese fiction The Akutagawa Prize on three occasions. So she is a respected writer this seems to be her first book to be translated into English but is actually her fourth novel. She is from Hiroshima and studying in Osaka. where she still lives.

The Woman in the Purple Skirt carried a single paper bag from the bakery. After seating herself on
her Exclusively Reserved Seat, which had just this minute been vacated, she opened up the bag and
drew out her purchase. The usual cream bun. It’s the kind of thing that is typically the subject of TV
street interviews. “What did you buy today?” the interviewer asks, stopping shoppers who are carrying bags with the bakery logo and thrusting the microphone in their faces. The soft white loaf and the cream bun are the most common answers. And my answer too would be “A cream bun!” if anyone were to ask me. The distinctive features? Well, I’d say the custard filling, which has to have just the right degree of stiffness, and the delicately thin surrounding dough. Then there’s the sprinkling of sliced almonds on top. That’s what makes that satisfyingly crisp sound when you take a bite.

She does this every day there is a sense of simmering anger or something in this I felt

This is a book about Obsession and also in a way stalking at the heart of the book is two women one watches the other the woman in the Yellow cardigan is watching the other woman as she watches the woman in the purple skirt we see a woman that seems to squeeze through the crowd streets. A woman of habit forms doing the same thing every day in her purple skirt. Observing her and noting her day as she seems to want to be in her world we are not told how in a way is it romantic or just the other woman seems more visible than her in the workplace.  but is only there for now as an observer of her stalker. There is an air around this habit of the woman in the yellow cardigan watching her isn’t at first explained leading you as a reader to put your own spin on it. it is an insight into a mundane world but why? why is this other woman watching her?

IT WAS THE WOMAN IN THE PURPLE SKIRT’S second day at work. Today she took the 8:02 bus, the one after the bus she took the day before. During the week, the bus comes every twenty minutes. The earlier bus gets you in with too much time to spare before the morning meeting. But the later one means you end up arriving late for work. The Woman in the Purple Skirt took the middle one, and punched in at 8:52.
This morning the Woman in the Purple Skirt delivered her greetings in a ringing voice. “Ohayo
gozaimasu!” she called out when she entered the office. And again, when she opened the door to the locker room: “Ohayo gozaimasul”

They seem to work together or in the same building as she watches her at work.

This book is unsettling at times it you are drawn into a voyeuristic enter the life of a voyeur watching the character. I was reminded of an episode of Lewis where the was a woman that had been watched her entire life. The woman in the purple skirt is on the surface an ordinary character in fact if anything very boring with the same habits day in and day out cream bun bench in the park. But this is what she enters us into so well in that mundane world of her life. The book has little to let you into what is happening you follow the woman and it isn’t too much later that events may be clear but this is one that will stick after you have read it dark in a way but also captures the creepiness of being stalked being watched every habit. But there is a sort of juxtaposing in between the two characters the child-like woman in the yellow cardigan seems to think she is invisible in the world she is in. this is why she has the connection to the woman in the purple skirts whom she sees as highly visible in her world everyone seems to see her and she sees how she moves through her life. Unsettling at times. This is part thriller, part obsessive fan and part just someone seeing into some else life and adding a narrative to it. Have you read this book? Lucy north has kept watch must have been the rhythm in the original book as you as a reader are drawn in bit by bit. A great choice for women in Translation month.

Winstons score – B would make a very creepy film at some point one would imagine.

Scattered all over the world by Yoko Tawada

 

Scattered all over the world by Yoko Tawada

Japanese fiction

original title – Kentoshi, Kodansha

Translator – Margaret Mitsutani

Source – personal copy

I  have been away it was a couple of days then we had a spell of hot weather which seems to zap my energy I am a real spring autumn fan mild weather is my favourite. Anyway, I return with a writer I have featured before on the blog. I reviewed the last children of Tokyo which like this was written in Japanese by Yoko Tawada lives in Germany and also writes in German she has a connection with how languages are seen and used and also about words and reality. This is a book that deals with language identity and place like the last children of Tokyo it uses the dying out of Japan her `Japan as gone completely.

While I was thinking about how I could tell stories to children in Panska at the Marchen centre, I hit on the Idea of showing them Kamishibai, or picture dramas. Showing them a picture for each scene in the drama would be much better than just telling them a story in words. I wrote something to this effect in my note with the CV I sent to the centre, and immediately got a letter back telling me to come to Odense for an interview, Of course, I spoke Panska, and it didn’t take even five minutes for the words ” You’re hired” to start blinking on and off in the interviewers eyes

Panska a mix of languages she uses and others and love that we see the power of pictures to tell a story.

The book follows a group of characters that we meet via our main Character Hiruko she is living in Denmark working and telling stories in a community centre she has been around a number of countries and has made her own language pop this was strange as it reminds me of a couple of Turkish guys I worked with in Germany at the Jugendwerkstatt(youth workshop it was a while ago) and they were caught between German and Turkish so had used there own speak in a way. Her homeland is distant in the book and is now mainly remembered as the land of Sushi. She meets a linguist Knut as she wants to learn about her and has heard of a note Japanese speaker. This revelation leads to a road trip. With an Inuit (who says he is from Japan to people) Nanook is from Greenland this brings another angle to the story with his lover add too that an Indian Akash she is a trans woman ( strange I had read two books with Trans characters from India in this year this is a refreshing and great direction to see books going in) They all set on a quest to connect with this other Japanese s[peaker the book follows the group as they cross into Germany it has a lot about place and identity also perceptions people have.  Will she get to meet a fellow speaker as people from Japan were scattered all over the world?

Ever since I decided to live as a woman I’ve been wearing Saris of varying shades of red when I go out. Not that I’m intentionally dressing Indian, but as German woman of my generation hardly ever wears skirts I didn’t want to wear one myself. And if I wore trousers as they do, I’d simply look like a man. Furthermore have always felt somehow that my heart must be made of red silk embroiled in gold. If I could only read the story woven in that it, of course, but just gazing at the sheen of red silk is enough to satisfy me

I love the line about a red silk heart with gold embroidery.

this is meant to be the first of a projected trilogy it seems. It had connections to the other book I had read by her about what makes indemnity and language which seem to loom large given she lives in Germany I get the feeling of being out of one world but then not in another my year and a half in German had the same effect on me I never felt in place in one country or the other for a time. I could imagine this would make a great Wim Wenders film ( I am a huge fan of his ) as it is a road trip and he also had a lot about feeling displaced at times in Until the end of the world which saw an event displace people. There is also a nod to the environment which is shared with Wenders film the loss of Japan was to rising sea levels. But we also see how we can mould ourselves and adapt who we are to place and nationality at times. This is a book with Language at its heart our own, those we make up, those we may lose and what happens when your language is lost?  So for me it has a little of Wim weeders passion for road trips, Burgess love of language and made-up languages and a pinch of Greta Thunberg just for good measure. Have you read this book?

Winstons score – A an interesting look at what could happen and how it affects language place and one person

Moderato Cantabile by Marguerite Duras

Moderato Cantabile by Marguerite Duras

French fiction

Origin title – Moderato Cantabile

Translator – Richard Seaver

Source – personal copy

I picked this up earlier this year with Woman in translation month in mind and it is strange as the book I reviewed yesterday had slight echoes to Duras Lovers as it is set in Vietnam and had a man from Vietnam of Chinese descent at its heart.(I have reviewed lovers a long time ago and another from her a few years ago). So this is my third book from Duras and this is the earliest book from her. I have read the one that put her in the spotlight as a writer when it came out and sold half a million copies. Duras was born in Vietnam or as it was then French Indo-china she lived there most of her early life eventually studying in Paris and living in France during the war where her husband end up a t Buchenwald she nurse him back to life after the war she was part of the Nouveau Roman moment this book was made into a film.

The growing clamor of voices of both sexes rose from the dock. Everyone seemed to be saying the
same thing, but it was impossible to distinguish the words. The sonatina went innocently along, but this time, in the middle of it, the lady could take no more.
“Stop.”
The child stopped. The lady turned to Anne Des-baresdes. “I’m sure something serious has happened.” They all went to the window. To their left, some twenty yards from the building, a crowd had already gathered on the dock in front of the café door. From the neighbouring streets people were running up to join the crowd. Everyone was looking into the café.
“I’m afraid this part of town.” the lady said. She turned and took the boy’s arm.”Start again,one last time, where you left off.”
“What’s happened?”

The event happened during the Child’s lesson.

The book follows Anna she is the wife of a factory owner the book opens as she is at a piano lesson hence the title of the book when the piano teacher asks her child what Moderato Cantabile means`( he is referred to as just the child) as the lesson happens the attention is drawn outside the lesson to a cafe just by them it seems as they something is happening as they stare on the cafe the police come. It turns out there has a murder opposite a lover has killed the woman he was in love with. Well Anna is drawn in so next time she goes she visited the cafe where she saw the action last piano lesson what follows is her revisit the cafe where she meets a worker from her Husband’s business and pumps him for info of what had happened her imaging why it happened the day it happened as he Chauvin fills in the gaps of what happened. As the two are in the cafe on a Friday as the child has lessons. she starts to see this new man in her child at points saying he has similar eyes. This meeting is repeated this describes their lives this is a book where nothing but everything happens if that makes sense most of the book is about the same meeting at the cafe over a number of weeks.

The patronne picked up her red sweater, and didn’t answer. Another tugboat, loaded to the gunwales, entered the port. The child shouted something unintelligible. The man came over to Anne Desbaresdes. “Won’t you sit down?” he said. She followed him without a word. As she knitted,
the patronne followed the tugboat’s every manoeuvre. It was obvious that in her opinion things were taking an unfortunate turn.The patronne picked up her red sweater, and didn’t answer. Another tugboat, loaded to the gunwales, entered the port. The child shouted something unin-
telligible. The man came over to Anne Desbaresdes.
“Won’t you sit down?” he said.
She followed him without a word. As she knitted, the patronne followed the tugboat’s every manoeuvre. It was obvious that in her opinion things were taking
an unfortunate turn.

Red is a recurring motif in the book.

This is one pop those books that subtly hits you as a reader it is about the memory of a place in a way I can see this influence on other French writers including one of my favourites Modiano it is a book heavy on the sense of place. But with a lot of imagination to events by them both that for me in a way mirrors British books around this time I think the relationship between Anna and Chauvin is similar to those of certain books like Billy liar the relationship between Billy and Liz the way the real and imagined events blend or ike in a taste of honey where imagination and reality clash. It is a connection between class also that feeling of her as a repressed wife meeting this rougher man and making a connection. The book is as short as Peirene would call a movie book a book read in a couple of hours falls into that category. It was made into a film but it isn’t online to stream I hope to catch it one day as it is meant to be a French classic film. This is my favourite of the three I have read as it is one of those books that you think is easy but then days later are still making connections and going oh there was this and that there in this book. Have you read this or any books by her ? have you a favourite?

Chinatown by Thuan

Chinatown by Thuan

Vietnamese fiction

Original title – Chinatown

Translator – Nguyễn An Lý

Source – subscription edition

I now move to a book from Vietnam that in some ways seems to mirror part of the own writer’s life. She grew up in North Vietnam where she grew up with a love of Vietnamese literature and the greats of French literature like Balzac, Hugo and Flaubert. Then she got the chance to study in Russia which expand her reading more. Then lead to her moving to France to live Paris. This is the latest from my Tilted axis subscription and as they did so well last year in the booker international prize I decided this year `I would get to the books when they arrived and this was a perch choice for this month as it is from a female writer from Vietnam and also it is the first book from Vietnam I will have reviewed on the blog.

During my ten years at school, I came to understand that the pig brains for which my father queued from morning till afternoon were not a reward for my ten in literature, but to guarantee that I
would bring home another ten, in history or military exercises. That was why his pig brains needed no dill, pepper, or MSG, and no attempt to enliven their presentation. Even now I can still see
them, aluminum bowls in the steaming rice pot, and taste the metallic tang of blood which no amount of salt could mask, and which I always had to down in one gulp. I didn’t care for steamed
pig brains, I had no disease to be cured by them, but every other day I closed my eyes and my nostrils and downed them in one, because they were most nutritious, especially for the brain, and
most of all for a child’s. It was my duty to turn catjang soup and steamed pig brains into tens and praise

This is an evocative passage that caught me when I was reading.

The book has a framing device and that is the narrator is waiting on a platform on the metro for a train when a package is discovered and the police are coming to have a look at what it is. Our narrator is caught in her thoughts and this takes us through her life from her early years in Vietnam but then we see how she met the man she would marry Thuy a Chinese man from Vietnam this is set as there is a war between the two countries and she meets him in class this leads to trouble;e with her family the book isn’t linear more it is wonderfully evocative as it seems like how we would remember love or the way you look back on a past love that one Thuy reminds me of an earlier girlfriend I had for a number of years and lived with that first big love and that when I look back event aren’t in a linear narrative more it jumps at times and her it is similar we see how they meet then spend time apart. but then meet and married and it showed how hard this was at the time in Vietnam which it is the 80s there is a huge Chinese feeling in the country and this is one of the things that highlights the deep divide in the two cultures at the time as the two falls in love and the knock out effect on the tow na their families then we find her later in France and how she andThuy drifted apart and eventually she hadn’t seen him in years. Add to this is her studying in the Soviet Union at this time and then moving to France this is a globetrotting book.

 

my Sino-Vietnamese wedding that actually took place, they opted not to attend. Neither did Thuy’s parents. The day went by in a flurry. The only guests were my few friends from
Leningrad. They came with their children. Their children born in the USSR, who’d had just a taste of butter and milk before boarding the plane to the homeland. The wedding was their first time
meeting Thuy. They asked me in Russian, so this is your architect beau. He didn’t understand. He just smiled awkwardly. He stood there embarrassed. Then they asked him, in Vietnamese, where are
you working, which office, which department. This time he was even more embarrassed. His smile grew fixed.

Another about getting married.

Thuran is a translator and a huge fan of French literature and I can see part of some of my favourite writers for me it has a pick off Modiano (maybe cause been talking about him a bit recently ) there is a flip in the sex of the character usually it is a male character in his book looking back on memories here Madame Au is looking back on her love the bare bones of the story is similar to the writer’s life but she then said in an interview she hadn’t wanted to duo memoir this is deeper more mediative around love across a divide exile and looking back at times that love affair. I was reminded in a small way of the English patient the love affair in that novel se t against war and Ondaatje is another writer heavy on memory, love, war and division. The book is dense in it style but worth the effort and is a great book from a new writer. It has part of the new novel movement, Proust and a love story all in one. Have you a favourite book from Vietnam ?(I had a nam le on my shelves but want something translated as my first book from Vietnam ) . My third book of this month and the first new country for a while on the blog.

Winstons score – B is a solid book from a new voice her first book to be translated into English she has more so hopefully we will get more from her.

Thread ripper by Amalie Smith

Thread Ripper by Amalie Smith

Danish fiction

Original title – Thread ripper

Translator – Jennifer Russell

Source – personal copy

The last couple of years there has been books from the publisher Lolli editions on the Booker international longlist so I decided rather than wait I would get their latest and this is it. By Danish writer Amalie Smith, she is a graduate of the danish academy of creative writing. and has got a three-year grant to write. This is her second novel to be published in English. I have really enjoyed all the books in the last few years I have read from Denmark they always seem to take a fresh angle on writing styles. So when I read up on this apart from its eye-catching cover with a small picture of Ada Lovelace (someone who does feature in the book) it has a lot of narrative threads to the book. So will it be their book for Next year’s International Booker?

PART 1
THE WAVERING PENELOPE
While Odysseus is away on his long journey, Penelope weaves. Her loom, I imagine, stands by the window. On the road, outside stand her 108 suitors. Penelope leans out. ‘Suitors,’ she says, ‘let us make an agreement. I am weaving a burial shroud for my father-in-law, Laertes. Not until I have finished this shroud will I remarry.

The suitors accept and retreat from her window. Penelope continues her work at the loom. During the day, she stands by the window – weaving as agreed but at night she returns and unravels the days work.

The opening and we see Penelope waiting for her husband’s return and holding off suitors by needlework.

The book has a number of threads the main storyline follows a woman in the present that is working on a big commission to weave a tapestry. Then the narrative then rips apart as we get various threads of thought and as we go from Penelope wife of Odysseus as she is working on her tapestry waiting for the return of Odysseus we are never told what she was working on her loom. it also looks at computers using Ada Lovelace the mother of computing programming as a sort of thread to tie it to. Threads like the moth that originated the term Computer bug which in the late forties was an actual bug, not a programming bug like now but an actual moth. The term had been used earlier but this was the use that came to be used in modern-day stems. Then it threads around invasive plant species like a Japanese bamboo All these treads like the main character working her complex tapestry weave into a work that is unique work.

I select a combination of wool, silk and acrylic fibres in ten colours and, by programming a variety of
satin weaves on the loom, the colours are mixed to create 42 different shades that appear in a gradient at the bottom of each woven swatch. The fibres are dyed using plants and chemicals I’m not familiar with. We continuously adjust the colour scale, either by switching out the fibres or altering the weaves on the computer.

Neural networks see with the eyes of the paranoiac: there are faces concealed in flowers and flowers in faces. Everything is a sign. Space and scale collapse.
Details come flooding in the nuances, in the gradual
transitions.

The loom’s algorithms, on the other hand, are never in doubt: the weft goes either over or under the
warp, never through. How to transfer the images generated by the neural network to the loom?

In the present the complex nature of her commission is shown here.

As I have come to expect this is a complex and compelling work from Lolli edition the books that have made the booker prize the last couple of years have been the ones on the list that have challenged me most as a reader and this is a perfect example it hard not to compare it the tapestry that forms the main character in a way in the book as the threads from programming a complex tapestry in the present to Penelope working and weaving a. shroud as suitors await as she waited Odysseus return. Then the thread around computers Lovelace a female history of computing I love this as I knew about Lovelace but some of the other historic events like the origin of the term Computer bug I wasn’t aware of how the term had come about. This is a fragmented work that weaves a line through tapestry and computing the automation of weaving and how women have been involved over time. I hope this makes next year’s booker as it is a unique work one I won’t forget quickly and will be rereading as it grabbed me so much the first time around. Have you a favourite book from Lolli edtions? Have you a favourite book from Denmark?

Winston’s score – +A is an unusual book mixing the past and present and history.

Mona by Pola Oloixarao

Mona by Pola Oloixarac

Argentine fiction

Original title -Mona

Translator – Adam Morris

Source – Personal copy

So I start this year’s Woman in translation month with a talented Latin American writer. That I have also been featured on this blog before on the blog. when I reviewed Dark constellations by Pola Oloixarac a couple of years ago. She was one of the hugely talented writers that were picked in the Granta list of young Spanish writers in 2010 (is it that long ago, so many great writers have come from that list. This is the third novel she has also written for the New York Times and Rolling stone in the past. Last year she won a writers award at the Hay festival. This satire on being a writer but also an insight into the Lit world in its way as we follow Mona as she heads to Sweden to see if she has won a prize. She is also a female writer of colour so she is something of a novelty at times when she arrives in a small village in Sweden.

TWO hundred thousand euros, thirteen finalists, one winner. Hailing from all four corners of the earth, the finalists convened for the Great Meeting: Sweden’s most prestigious literary festival, held to commemorate the legacy of Edmond Virgil Basske-Wortz, Alfred Nobel’s best friend. And if she won? She’d ditch Stanford for good and make straight for the jungle, penetrating deep into
the forest until she lost herself in the wetlands of the Brazilian Pantanal. If you moved to the Pantanal, you could survive on a hundred dollars a year and then use the rest of the money
treating all the infections and diseases you’d contract. You could easily spend the remainder of your life in the jungle–because you wouldn’t last long! Great idea! Silenced on her phone, Antonio’s voice prattled on in her head. Airplane mode was ideal for guys like him, the ones who felt the need to comment incessantly on her life.

The prize as she heads on the plane to see if she wins.

I said this has a twin storyline(it is more looking back at why she has certain marks on her body) it has in the fact that along the way events in Mona’s life are mentioned, we meet her as she like me prepares for a flight (I am not a fan of flying I don’t drink of taking drugs but can connect with how you may want too) she sits by the window. But hey has she a newish Peruvian writer been put up for this prestigious writing prize in Sweden the most important writers prize? The Basske-worth prize is somewhere between the booker and Nobel and she is heading to see if she has won. Where when she arrives she mixes with the other writers that are up for the prize. I did wonder whom she had based these characters on, I think most successful writers go around the world meeting fellow writers and I imagine this has a little of some of the people she had met over time. They are mainly mentioned as where they come from. alongside this, we have Mona looking at herself and some off the marks we see on her body and the violence connected with them. Also, Mona is a woman that likes sex from masturbating on the plane to cam sex and other things that litter the book.

That night, Mona dreamed of a black body of water ascending from the lake, carrying with it a silent cargo of dead animals drowned by the tide. The dark liquid entered through the keyhole and took her by surprise in bed as it spread across the floor. The chair clattered against the desk,knocked into it by the current. The windows were open. Something was watching her from outside, panting. Better not to scream, she thought, or the hungry beast prowling around out there will come in and find me. She woke up shaking, drenched in sweat.

A wonderful description of a nightmare that Mona had

The book is an insight into the fickle world of books and how it is sometimes who you are more than what you write that makes the judges pick you. Mona is an example of this world. But as we follow here down the rabbit hole of being involved in a prize and the writers there. I love to know which writers she has based the cast of characters we meet in the book ( who are they in real life), I laughed as some who have been to a few prize ceremonies over the years weren’t like this was Wirth the backstabbing but it is interesting meeting writers in a more social setting like the old IFFP  were I could share a cigarette( shows you how long ago it was I haven’t smoked for a number of years) with a number of writers that were up for the prize it was great meeting writers like this in a relaxed event. But for a big prize like this one, it must be hard I look at the old booker videos and wonder if the writers are more competitive. Also the loneliness of being a writer. Also, the very go round of ego and prizes. This is a book that is different to the other book by her I had read by her which shows she is a writer that is developing I will be reading her next book for sure. Have you read her?

Winstons score – A – lifting the veil on literary prizes alongside sex and violence from the main character.

July round up and next months plans

  1. 12 birds to save your life by Charlie Corbett
  2. The Heeding by Rob Cowen
  3. Still born by Guadalupe Nettel
  4. The instant by Amy Liptrot
  5. Space invaders by Nona Fernández
  6. The shape of Bones by Daniel Galera
  7. Empty words by Mario Levrero

This month start with how birds saw someone deal with grief and loss and how they can inspire a writer at the hardest of times. Then a collection of poems written during the lockdown that so how nature shone through during that time. Then two woman go there ways with their decisions to have or not have children with a book that questions why  ? Then we have a writer moving to Berlin from Orkney and seeing the beauty of nature in the everyday and also trying to find love at the same time as she rebuilds her life. Then classmates grow as one of their class is the daughter of a high official in the Regime we see how they get over the years. Then a man goes through his old neighbourhood and his past and present start to join together. Then a man struggles to write so he starts a daily writing exercise as we see the results. This month saw me fall back onto translations near the end of the month a few weeks away and I was ready to go back to the usual diet of this blog I will still be reading a few nature books as I do love them so much.I didn’t get to my Spanish lit month books but did manage four other books for the month.

Book of the month

Still born was the book that I connected with a lot this month that tale of these two women lives I just got drawn into. That said for me  it was a great months reading and although I read less than last month but I went away we had a heatwave which I worked nights through and the sleeping during the day meant I read nothing for a number of days.

Non – book events

We spent time in Northumberland on Holiday which saw Amanda and I finally get to `holy island  on a nice day. We loved it so much we are going back in a couple of months but we will be going to a few places in Scotland.I watched Only murders in the Building which is a clever comedy that takes a side swipe at true crime podcast. I manage to get an offer for to get Apple TV back so I watch theTom Hanks film finch which Amanda and I loved. I listen to the record store day collection of Patti smith that was compiled on two albums for record store day I have wanted to listen to more of her work since I read one of her books I had horse like most people do but hadn’t looked much further into her albums so this will be a great intro.The blog reviews also passed 1200 books under review

The month to come-

it is Woman in translation m month next month and I have decided to challenge myself as I worked out I had seven books read from woman writers in translation this year and also had a further 7 part read so I decided to try and review a book a day I may fail but I’m going to give it a good go. I was inspired by Simon from stuck in a book who did it the other m month posted 30 reviews in a month.I have no nights next month which usually mess with my reading and reviewing as I get a brain fog during my shifts and for the couple days after so I should’ve a good chance to review as many as I can.

What are you plans? any for woman in translation month?

Empty Words by Mario Levrero

Empty Words by Mario Levrero

Uruguayan fiction

Original title – El discurso vacío

Translator – Annie McDermott

Source – personal copy

I am back with another for my Spanish lit month and this time I am heading down to Latin America and one of the countries that I really should have read more books from over the year and that Is Uruguay and her we have a book from the late writer Mario Levrero a writer that as the translator said in the intro he is hard to put in a Genre. I liked in his Wiki page that it said he had left school due to a Heart murmur. Then he had spent his time listening to tango music and reading. He spent the latter part of his life trying to finish his novel The Luminous novel which he had spent a number of years working on he had been influenced by Franz Kafka and Lewis Carroll. This is the first book I have read by him and it was like going down a rabbit hole.

My graphological self-therapy begins today. This method (suggested a while ago by a crazy friend) stems from the notion – which is central to graphology – that there’s a profound connection between a person’s handwriting and his or her character, and from the behaviourist tenet that changes in behaviour can lead to changes on a psychological level. The idea, then, is that by changing the behaviour observed in a person’s handwriting, it may be possible to
change other things about that person.

My aims at this stage of the therapeutic endeavour are fairly modest. To begin with, I’m going to practise writing by hand. I won’t be attempting calligraphy, but I’ll at least try to manage a script that anyone could read – myself included, because these days my writing’s often so bad
that not even I can decipher it.

What he is trying to do is explained .

What happens when you get some writer’s block. Well, our narrator unnamed has been told by a friend to just write with a pen and paper every day ( this is something you see a lot these days in self-help videos and how to become creative). What we have here is his jotting the life his outpouring and over time you see how Levrero has let his narrator pour out his life and his life is one that is seeing him wanting to go up the ladder at work he writes crosswords and his mother is now showing her age. His stepson is distant so most of his time is spent Wirth his dog Pongo. But what we see is a man trying to write trying to expand from tales of his dog and the cat next door. This is one of those books that is just great but is hard to describe I’ve seen it compared to Bernhard in a way especially as he had Also written about trying to work through writer’s block.

4 October
A bad day for calligraphical exercises, and for lots of other things too. It’s raining (which I enjoy, though it makes me even more inclined than usual to sleep and do nothing). Yesterday (today) I went to bed after five in the morning; at ten thirty I was woken up by a truck with loudspeak-
ers attached, which stopped right outside our house and held forth about some stupid raffle, at great length and appalling volume. Then, without having got back to sleep properly – I’d been dozing, but that was it – at twelve thirty I was woken up once and for all by Juan Ignacio and his
grandmother, who were shouting for the dog in a deafening chorus. Because of all this, my eyes are burning and I don’t feel like doing anything. I notice, however, that except for the odd slip-up, my writing is large and clear.

A few days later and we see how he is getting on with his daily task of writing.

 

Another review said that Uruguay is known as the place of the strange ones when it comes to writers. I think that this would be one I struggle at times it is one of those books that hasn’t any real plot other than we know he is writing every day to free his writing up. this is an overweight guy with heart issues ( this is another nod to Bernhard in a way how often his characters have a sort of spite to their own world !!). It is maybe a writer trying to write about a writer trying to escape writer’s block whilst the writer himself is trying to escape the writer’s block he is suffering. His other book the luminous novel is also like this about trying to escape writer’s block. He likes to take the reader down rabbit holes of a writer struggling in his life there is a sense of the absurd nature of the world around us at times. The writers mentioned by his translator are evident Kafka there is a sense behind our narrator there are more mentions of having to live away from his home in Uruguay.An interesting book for this year’s Spanish lit month I will be getting his other book. Have you read this or any other writers from Uruguay? this is a Spanish Kafka trying to get out of writers block by imaging he is Thomas Bernhard whilst following his dog into a rabbit hole.

Winstons score – B a solid intro to a writer I liked to read more from a book that is unusual and challenging but the sort I love as a reader.

 

The Shape of Bones by Daniel Galera

The Shape of bones by Daniel Galera

Brazilian fiction

Original title – Mãos de Cavalo

Translator – Alison Entrekin

Source – Personal copy

Well, I’m back posting here post- heatwave and working nights during said Heatwave sapped my energy so I am running late with Spanish / Portuguese lit month-wise . BUT I think a few books was planning to read, I can carry over to next month rot go with my women in translation books I have planned to read. Anyway, it is back with a book I finished just prior to my holiday a book from a writer I had read before, I like blood drenched beard by the Brazilian writer Daniel Galera, a writer and translator that has worked on E-zines, launched his own publishing house and has seen a number of his works made into films and plays. He is considered to be one of the best young writers from Brazil. This is the second book from him I have reviewed. As we are near the endow this year’s Tour de France. A book that at its heart has a couple of bike rides seems very apt.

The Urban cyclist lies in the middle of the street for at least ten seconds, his leg still caught in the bike, while the neighbourhood dogs bark in a frenzy. When his brain starts working again, the first thing that occurs to whims is that his face must be deformed. He runs his hand over it and finds a little blood on his thumb. His tongue registers the sour taste and what appears to be a small flap of loose skin on his lower lip. He frees his leg from the bike, the right one and examines it. A small white circle under his knee begins to sprout minuscule red dots, which become drops of blood that swell and start to run down his leg.

I think we have all had a fall from a bike like this as a kid or an adult that bad crash.

 

The book has a twin storyline that both focus on Hermano a young surgeon and husband but he is distant in his marriage as we see him sneak away from his sleeping wife and child. As we follow him as he sets off early one morning to drive through Porto Allegro to fetch a friend for a ride. We see the man remember his childhood in the rougher side of time and the group of friends he knew then a bunch of rough kids as they tore through the streets like a character on a bike from an early Springsteen song as they grew up in Esplanade district of the town a working class young part of the city.  As we follow him in the present trying with a friend to scale a mountain ( apt as yesterday was the last day in the mountains in the Tour) he passed through his old neighbourhood on the way the past comes to the fore in his mind as the start to climb the mountain and we see how what happened in the past with the boy shaped the man how the urban cyclist and his gang made this distant surgeon in the present. How one event in those years is still haunting him in the present.

The street that served as a finish line at the bottom of the stairs wasn’t very busy, but it was still a miracle that there hadn’t been any deadly collisions with motor vehicles. The most skilled riders managed to stop their bikes with a skid before they got to the kern, but the manoeuvre came with its own risks.

This is one of the passages that made me think of those early Springsteen songs of kids in cars ion his songs but tearing through streets like they do here on the bikes on the edge of life.

I love novels that use the twin storyline as a narrative tool because when it is pulled off like it is here it is a wonderful way to give insight into a character’s past and why they are like they are in the present you get the sense early on that there is something in Hermano’s life that isn’t quite right yes he has it all the life away from his childhood home, the wife, the child the dream job but there is that niggling sense the way he sneaked off the way the drive through a place sparked the past that one moment in the past that set the present this book does that brilliantly also the pacing with the drive and ride on the mountain as pacing to the book as the morning and the memories of the gang the tearing through the streets this is a man-made good but at what cost!! I am teasing you as this is a book that I think maybe slipped under the radar blood drenched beard of Course with the title which grabbed people I would imagine is a great book but for me, this is the better book by him. Have you a favourite book that uses two timelines in the Narratives?

Winstons score – +A a man faces his past whilst on a bike ride perfect reading whilst the tour is on.

Northumberland trip book haul

We spent a few days last week in Northumberland anyone been around the blog for any time will know I lived there in my early twenties and since I ve been driving a few years ago have been visiting regularly for the last three years . We choose to spend time near Newbiggin a small town by the sea we had stayed near last year it has a nice long promenade to walk a couple small shops and a couple of coffee shops and the couple in the middle of the bay. This is a great base we had a day in Lindisfarne and Seahouse as last year when we went it a wet day and this time we saw the island in the sun.

We walked towards the castle and then around the harbour and abbey there is a small shop sell gin made on the Island and we finished at the Pilgrims coffee shop which is outside wonderful cakes and coffee they roast there own which I brought some beans home with me to grind(well I did and it was very nice). We sat and watched some sparrows help clean the tables by us. In Seahouse we finally got to look at the lifeboat which we want to see last time. The next day we went to Alnwick to Brater books of course , but wait there is also a wonderful new shop that is hundred. yards from where I lived on Narrowgate in Alnwick the accidental bookshop has a really high self of books and a great selection of books I will know so my haul from each shop.

 

First up was this by the South African writer Bryten Brytenbach I thought I had reviewed a book by him I had read one many years ago and think I have another on my shelf I was swayed by the cover plus I did like the book I read so I will have to review him soon as I know have three books to read from him.

I

 

Now we have a book that I know is published by NYRB Memoirs of Anti semite is a book I had hope to read at some point (I don’t know about you there is the list of books you just know you want to read this is one) This is an old picador copy.

Then a book from Javier Cercas I have read a number of books by him over the years so this was a great find as it is a crime series a move from the other books I have read by him that tend to use historical events.

This one appeals as I just love books about travel and I had just read Goethes Journey to Italy set. So a novel from the same time period. Also Mozart someone whom Goethe had seen the  young Mozart play and also Goethe had tried to write a sequel to to the Magic flute.

 

Another writer I have read in the past is Marguerite Duras so when I saw this one I just had to get it a woman watches a murder in a cafe and keeps returning to the scene of the crime.

Yet another writer that has been on the blog in fact Amos Oz has been reviewed four times. He is one of those writers I want to read all of his novels over time.

And lastly a master of the short story whom I have read but never reviewed on the blog that is the Polish writer Pawel Huelle . That is the last of the books from Barter books I didn’t find a nature writing book that jumped out at me. But as I was away and relaxed the passion for books in translation has come back I knew it wouldn’t be long before I was back to normal. So I put them in the car and we then head to the new bookshop which is so near my old flat it would be dangerous if I was still there me so close to a book shop.her is my books from the accidental bookshop.

Firstly two books from Latin America Space invaders I reviewed yesterday and Mona I will be reviewing this coming week at some point both had been on my radar I had read an earlier book by Polo Oloixarao.These struck me as perfect for this month’s Spanish lit month and also maybe for next month’s women in translation.

Then the other two are a piece of travel  writing about walking to the island Lindisfarne I love books that I will know the locations but also that are about pilgrimages I have alway been interesting in pilfgrims and pilgrimages what make people do them but also what it gives you doing them I have fancied doing something similar at some point.Then scattered all over the world by the German/japanese writer Yoko Tawana images the diaspora of Japanese descent when Japan it disappears and they are scattered all over the world what makes there identity ? I would highly recommend a visit to the accidental bookshop also a few doors up is a great deli with a cafe in its cellar that does great cakes.A nice few days we may be going back in a few months as we love it there and also are looking for the perfect place for when we retire up there which is what we plan to do. Have you been to Northumberland ?

 

 

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