Cigarette by Per Hagman

Cigarette by Per Hagman

Swedish fiction

Original title – Cigarett

Translator -Elinor Fahrman

Source – review copy

I have enjoyed all the books that Nordisk books have been bring out Duncan the owner seems to have great taste for the books he selects from Scandinavia. Her we have the debut novel from the Swedish writer `Per Hagman this caused a scandal when it first came out in the early nineties as the Local literary press say how can a serious publisher put out a book which is just a lost of nights out and drugs and one night stands and call it a novel. Per Hagman at the time maybe lived the life of the narrator of this book he early on in his career he made a living out working in restaurant whilst he worked as a freelance writer and dj at the same time. Cigarette was his debut novel he has since written 6 more novels his second novel Pool was made into a film. This is his debut in English.

Viktor arrives with four bottles of wine. He asks how far in we are and Micke says he’s on his fourth or fifth beer.

“Better hurry up then” He pulls a corkscrew out of his pocket and smile. Victor looks splendidly correct in his white shirt and black tie and expensive which corduroys. Probably has something to do with him being a secretary or something at some law firm.

One of the first nights out described in the books as they start drinking

The book follows our Narrator as we follow his life as he works as a waiter in the Hard Rock Cafe in Stockholm the year is 1989 (which is about the time I first start to go out so this remind me partly of my journey in my late teens and early twenties when I went out and drank most weekends) This is a man that like many of this generation works maybe that is just working he tries to get by then live it hard at night with the people he work Micke with those he has seen in the Hard Rock Cafe those pretty folks follows his nights out after work the girls . Then the flip side of that is also seen the connection with his parents when they visit also the past is a counter point to the drinking the drugs and the culture of the time  which Hagman shows his narrator doing. For me it was like falling back thirty years remember the way I avoid work at times and used to go out. What it captures is a age gone it is as I said in the intro just a auto fiction piece of. nights out. It is a world of Hedonism that maybe isn’t there anymore.

Start work at half nine. I’m pretty much the only one of the staff who didn’t go out the night before. everyone’s hangover and sluggish the final couple of hours and I find out the police raided the Pipeline last night and that Melody might be closing down.

Lunch starts and the daily special is fish burger and we joke about how disgusting it looks and hope it’s not the staff food.

There is always the Morning after the night before but he missed out (I thought about how the face of here where I have lived since my mid twenties the changing bars , clubs I wonder if the Stockholm of the book is still there I doubt it!!)

It is hard to describe the book as it is just nights out and it is compelling if like me that was your life in a small part it was the last gasp of a world before the smartphone took over. Hagman is known for this type of novel books that capture the hedonism of living at night of going out of one night stands drinking and drugs . I think this is a far away land to me know I rarely drink these days mainly my monthly or so lads night (well now afternoon out ) and I was never one for drugs. I have even been a non smoker for nearly 8 years(I love the Swedish cover of this book which has a nod to the old gitanes cigarette packing). this was a cult classic I can see why its a shame it didn’t come out at the time the 90s it would sat well along books from the likes of Irvine welsh, those early Will self books, Alex Garland  and Brett Easton Ellis ( what maybe was the culture of the time that lad culture that was just coming to the fore in the early 90s)  all capture in some part the hedonism and maybe last time we meet had sex and it wasn’t an app or such that have changed this world of dating and nights out for ever. I feel it is largely a work of Auto fiction it seems this may have been the writers own world in some part. so if you were a fan of some of the writers I have mentioned or just want a book describing being young in 90’s Stockholm this would be the book for you ? Have you a favourite book that touches your teen – twenties ?

Winstons score – A – A reminder of a bygone time and way of life a lost world of youth

Crime dagger Translation and the Queens jubilee read projects

I am best when I have an idea or  a project to make me blog.  but sometimes as it has happened with what should off been Archipelago books week which I missed. Anyway I have two personal projects I am keener on my own individual projects so when I got a email for the Crime dagger awards on the short list for the awards. Which features the Award for crime novels in Translation which had two books I had one I had read Bullet train and the other The rabbit factor.


  • Hotel Cartagena, Simone Buchholz translated by Rachel Ward (Orenda Books)
  • Bullet Train, Kōtarō Isaka translated by Sam Malissa (Penguin Random House; Harvill Secker)
  • Oxygen, Sacha Naspini translated by Clarissa Botsford (Europa Editions UK Ltd; Europa Editions)
  • People Like Them, Samira Sedira translated by Lara Vergnaud (Bloomsbury Publishing; Raven Books)
  • The Rabbit Factor, Antti Tuomainen translated by David Hackston (Orenda Books)

So I order two from the net and one from the library and will read them over the next few weeks. I’m not timetabling myself it features two books from Orenda books who had sent me a lot of books in the past and have always been great promoters of crime in translation. Have you read any of the books on the list.

The complete Big Jubilee Read list

From 1952 to 1961

  • The Palm-Wine Drinkard – Amos Tutuola (1952, Nigeria)
  • The Hills Were Joyful Together – Roger Mais (1953, Jamaica)
  • In the Castle of My Skin – George Lamming (1953, Barbados)
  • My Bones and My Flute – Edgar Mittelholzer (1955, Guyana)
  • The Lonely Londoners – Sam Selvon (1956, Trinidad and Tobago/England)
  • The Guide – RK Narayan (1958, India)
  • To Sir, With Love – ER Braithwaite (1959, Guyana)
  • One Moonlit Night – Caradog Prichard (1961, Wales)
  • A House for Mr Biswas – VS Naipaul (1961, Trinidad and Tobago/England)
  • Sunlight on a Broken Column – Attia Hosain (1961, India)

From 1962 to 1971

  • A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess (1962, England)
  • The Interrogation – JMG Le Clezio (1963, France/Mauritius)
  • The Girls of Slender Means – Muriel Spark (1963, Scotland)
  • Arrow of God – Chinua Achebe (1964, Nigeria)
  • Death of a Naturalist – Seamus Heaney (1966, Northern Ireland)
  • Wide Sargasso Sea – Jean Rhys (1966, Dominica/Wales)
  • A Grain of Wheat – Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o (1967, Kenya)
  • Picnic at Hanging Rock – Joan Lindsay (1967, Australia)
  • The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born – Ayi Kwei Armah (1968, Ghana)
  • When Rain Clouds Gather – Bessie Head (1968, Botswana/South Africa)

From 1972 to 1981

  • The Nowhere Man – Kamala Markandaya (1972, India)
  • Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – John Le Carre (1974, England)
  • The Thorn Birds – Colleen McCullough (1977, Australia)
  • The Crow Eaters – Bapsi Sidhwa (1978, Pakistan)
  • The Sea, The Sea – Iris Murdoch (1978, England)
  • Who Do You think You Are? – Alice Munro (1978, Canada)
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams (1979, England)
  • Tsotsi – Athol Fugard (1980, South Africa)
  • Clear Light of Day – Anita Desai (1980, India)
  • Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie (1981, England/India)
  • Schindler’s Ark – Thomas Keneally (1982, Australia)

  • Beka Lamb – Zee Edgell (1982, Belize)
  • The Bone People – Keri Hulme (1984, New Zealand)
  • The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood (1985, Canada
  • Summer Lightning – Olive Senior (1986, Jamaica)
  • The Whale Rider – Witi Ihimaera (1987, New Zealand)The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro (1989, England)
  • Omeros – Derek Walcott (1990, Saint Lucia)
  • The Adoption Papers – Jackie Kay (1991, Scotland)
  • Cloudstreet – Tim Winton (1991, Australia)

From 1992 to 2001

  • The English Patient – Michael Ondaatje (1992, Canada/Sri Lanka)
  • The Stone Diaries – Carol Shields (1993, Canada)
  • Paradise – Abdulrazak Gurnah (1994, Tanzania/England)
  • A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry (1995, India/Canada)
  • Salt – Earl Lovelace (1996, Trinidad and Tobago)
  • The God of Small Things – Arundhati Roy (1997, India)
  • The Blue Bedspread – Raj Kamal Jha (1999, India)
  • Disgrace – J M Coetzee (1999, South Africa/Australia)
  • White Teeth – Zadie Smith (2000, England)
  • Life of Pi – Yann Martel (2001, Canada)

From 2002 to 2011

  • Small Island – Andrea Levy (2004, England)
  • The Secret River – Kate Grenville (2005, Australia)
  • The Book Thief – Markus Zusak (2005, Australia)
  • Half of a Yellow Sun – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2006, Nigeria)
  • A Golden Age – Tahmima Anam (2007, Bangladesh)
  • The Boat – Nam Le (2008, Australia)
  • Wolf Hall – Hilary Mantel (2009, England)
  • The Book of Night Women – Marlon James (2009, Jamaica)
  • The Memory of Love – Aminatta Forna (2010, Sierra Leone/Scotland)
  • Chinaman – Shehan Karunatilaka (2010, Sri Lanka)

From 2012 to 2021

  • Our Lady of the Nile – Scholastique Mukasonga (2012, Rwanda)
  • The Luminaries – Eleanor Catton (2013, New Zealand)
  • Behold the Dreamers – Imbolo Mbue (2016, Cameroon)
  • The Bone Readers – Jacob Ross (2016, Grenada)
  • How We Disappeared – Jing-Jing Lee (2019, Singapore)
  • Girl, Woman, Other – Bernardine Evaristo (2019, England)
  • The Night Tiger – Yangsze Choo (2019, Malaysia)
  • Shuggie Bain – Douglas Stuart (2020, Scotland)
  • A Passage North – Anuk Arudpragasam (2021, Sri Lanka)
  • The Promise – Damon Galgut (2021, South Africa)

Then we have this list which I intend to try and read over the next 12 months it is the Queens Jubilee and this list has come out of a book a year and from around the commonwealth. It has a lot of books  that I have been reader favourites and I may have passed over the years.Now I am keen on the list as it has a few old favourites there is a few books on the list `I have reviewed over the time I have blogged which I will mark uo when I make a page for this project. . There is also six countries which I haven’t read books from so when I was in Bakewell today it was great to find two books from the list I had read disgrace pre blog times and I had a copy of stone diaries which I had but think I long since gave away. I have strarted on the list with To sire with love, but won’t be following an order as in years I’ll just jump from book to book. It will just be as I feel which books appeal over the next year. Which books I have at hand I need to get a most of the books on the list but I feel most my library will have or I can buy second hand. So I will try and read all seventy of the books from this may to next May. Anyone any favourites on this list?

Canzone di Guerra by Daša Drndić

Canzone di Guerra

Croatian fiction

Original title – Canzone di Guerra

Translator – Celia Hawkesworth

Source – Review copy

When I heard that Susie had decided to publish some of Dasa back catalogue those books that had come out before her success with Trieste. I was very excited as many of you may know I did meet dad at the old IFFP award when she was shortlisted in 2013 this brief meeting we spoke maybe for half an hour maybe a bit more I was shocked she had read the blog but she was one of these people that this blog had given me chance to meet people I would never come across in my every day life in fact when ever I have doubts about this endeavour to cover world literature and books in translations, which is quite often it is those moments like meeting dad that spur me on. she was a writer that need to be read she saw what was over the Horizon even when we meet she saw the tide of the right was over in the distance and as she had done in her books she has always used the past as a way of highlighting the future. Her we have a woman tracing her own families past but also that of the culture she is from.

There is a Lot of literature about pigs, there is almost no genre of the written word into which pigs have not worked their way. They are found in science(Veterinary, biological, medical) in literature (essays, poetry, belles-lettres), not to mention film and painting. As far as life is concerned, here too, in our everyday life, pigs are all around us, and their destiny in the development of civilisation and technology is increasingly bizarre. The bizarre destiny of pigs is our reality

Even an intro on the section about pigs makes you as a reader think (for me I was remind of the film A private function set in the aftermath of the war in England that had a big at the heart of its story)

This book is made up of a collection of factual and fictional stories that at it heart sees the main character in the book Tea Radan a single mother who many years earlier had relocated to Canada to Toronopte as she tries to look at the emigrant life and those in the country around her. (Dasa had some interesting thought on Canada in the after word there is her description of Canada not the most favourable and full of what I remember of her when I met her that mind) She blends things like Pigs as animals to keep and how they effect society from how we keep them how they were Kept in Tito’s Yugoslavia. What we make of the pigs.This leads Tea to her grandfather a man that like to write to Tito ( I always interested with how Tito’s influence over those post – war years loom large but what at the heart of this book is the two events at the start of Tito reign which is the aftermath of the holocaust and we she in typical Dasa style as she shows how those that we involved with the events. of the holocaust escaped the war an we see how they came to Canada (It is hard to accept the dream of free Canada and then we see events like those that on a ship in 1939 that went from place to place as those on board lost hope) I love this as hot is so much of Dasa the person it is about what makes us tick but also she shows us about what has been and what is to come. It is about being lost in your own life and but also lose of identity.

In the course of the last four years, Sara and I have undergone three migrations. A lot of books have been written about migrations about leaving one’s country, about exile, some very stupid, propaganda, some very intelligent. But all those books state clearly that migration is both dying and being born, that it is a very complex phenomenon, hard to comprehend for anyone who has not experienced it.Our arrival in Rijeka from Belgrade, where I had spent forty years of my life and Sara almost all nine of hers, did not fundamentally from our arrival in Toronto.

The truth of being in Exile described so many times in literature !!

I as always find it hard to describe this as it isn’t a liner novel,  is a documentary novel ( a book of lives shown in pieces a mosaic of a world and lives) in the style of writers like Kluge (I could have said Sebald, but for me it is nearer Alexander  Kluge in the way she like to keep hitting at the spot and that is the spot of a warning this book is over 25 years old but in a way is more relevant now with a new wave of refugees from Ukraine we see how previous  waves of those trying to escape war have suffered in what is the real treatment of refugees and the way we portray how we treat refugees this gap is what is at the heart of the book.Those people caught ion those situation from those involved and trying to escape the holocaust and the aftermath of World War Two to those in the 90s trying to escape the horrors of the Yugoslav wars. At the heart of this is Tea ( a thinly veiled dasa) her family that were effected by both these events and the question of what makes us and what is our story. I mention Kluge as he brilliant in his use if  vigenettes and sometimes footnotes like this book does . In his book 30th April 1945 a book about that day when Hitler shot himself and what was going on around the world at that exact moment. Well this takes that moment the tatters of the war and west the aftermath this is that event taken out in one thread from before the event the horror of world war two to the present which now is 25 years ago ( or is it !!!!) because as we see here those events recalled in the past look so much like the future and that is what made Dasa one of the most important writers of her generation as she never turned to be popular or to be linear or to be easy no she told the truth, she saw what was coming as she had seen it so many times before but unlike others hadn’t a sort of cultural amnesia of the past or even a rose coloured glove of the past no this is the truth this is a written like Hogarth in his depiction of the world she lived in  or Goya in his disasters of war Dasa showed us a world warts and all one we want to look away from but one we should really look straight on at !! Have you a favourite book from Dasa ?

Winstons score – ++++A On of my all time favourite books already along with her other books

Sunday Chat oops I had nine days off and didn’t read much or blog

I have been off the last nine days the plan was originally to blog but it is the first time off together Amanda and I have had off at the same time I was off sick for two half months but I did very little going here and there so I was ready for this time we decided rather than go away we would visit family and have a day in York. We visit both Amanda’s parents then I went to visit were my Mother ashes we spread then We had a day in your mid week. We had a great short break a few years ago in York. It was nice to be able to drive up and back in the day asx I grow more confidence in my driving We went and just wander we visit a lot of the tourist must does in outr last visit and a wander coffee and cakes and trying to find some books there was a Amnesty bookshop on my last visit but it had gone but I visited the waterstones , both the Oxfam’s and Ministergate  books by which time with the other times we had brought Chocolates, some prints for when we move house.

The books are , How the Wheel Becomes It! Anthony Powell

Is the book Anthony Powell wrote after his huge Dance to music of time cycle of novels, I saw this and thought as it very small it be a good taster before reading the twelve books of the cycle.


I am a fan of Yales Margellos world republic of letters series and had seen both of these being read by the Ukrainian writer Serhiy Zhadan so when I saw them both I decide I get them both.


The Plain in Flames by  Juan Rulfo

I reviewed his book Pedro Páramo 8 years ago and remember that he had written much else but there is this over collection of his shorter fiction. Which after I post this pic on twitter I discovered is one of two translations of this collection

CHARCOAL SKETCHES by Henyrk Sienkiewicz

He won the Nobel I knew this and took a chance as I would love to work through the Nobel winners over the years at some point.

A modest selection but all I could carry. after the trip to York the old car need a clean as it was raining on the way up to York so next day we gave the car a wash and we then head to My dads and we had a day around the cotswolds which was nice  as my dad hadn’t been there much the last few years and enjoyed show Amanda and I where we could go next time we down we visited Stow on the wold , Broadway and its Tower and then chipping clapham (which is very near Burnt Norton which T S  Eliot wrote about in Four quartets). So all in all time and a bought of toothache which meant a visit to the dentist and a tooth out this last week meant I read very little and also blogged very little.But I am in the middle of four books

They are Ninth building a tale of growing top in cultural revolution first as a boy in Being then in the countryside . Then thirsty sea a woman past and present unfold over the course of one day. Toung beast art play is an Italian crime novel the first in what may be a series that follows three detectives as a body is discovered in a World War Two mass grave that has a modern parts on the bones so who put the body there and who is the body !. Then Thomas Mann I plan to read all the books of his I have which is most of them over the next couple of year I have read some years ago but not got any books by him on the blog io also have Colm Tobin’s book The magical which is about Mann. I was so excited when one of my tweets was mentioned on The mookse podcast for there short book episode they mention stones in the landslide if you don’t listen to them go listen to them.Talking `podcasts I like Simon Thomas podcast although he has a very different taste in books to me he is currently reading a novella a day this month on his blog. I looked through my shelves and would enjoy trying this some time.I will return this week I have had a great week with Amanda it has been great spending quality time together. What have you been up to recently ?


That was the months that were March and April 202


  1. Tomb of Sand by Geetanjali Shree
  2. The Land of Short sentences by Stine Pilgaard
  3. Happy stories mostly by Norman Erikson Pasaribu
  4. Heaven by Mieko kawakami
  5. The book of mother by Violaine Huisman
  6. After the sun by Jonas Eika
  7. Paradais by Fernada Melchor
  8. More than I love my life by David Grossman
  9. Burning grass by Cyprian Ekwensi
  10. Phenotypes by Paulo Scott
  11. The New men by CP Snow
  12. Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck
  13. Contempt by Alberto Moravia 
  14. The emigrants by George Lamming 
  15. After Midnight by Irmgard keun

I missed Marchs round up just embarrassing how few books I reviewed I am reading more than ever but in march my reviewing slip and I reviewed just 6 books mainly from the booker international list I just wasn’t in a reading or reviewing mood  this follows  a long time off work with stress that start in Feb.That has only seen me return to work in the last ten days after a couple of months any way  enough about that I have a job that  has a lot of stress so sometimes you need a break. I am onwards and upwards and actually  am feeling less stress and roaring to face my 50s and so new challenges on the blog.I feeling more like blogging as  march has carried on I felt the old rhythm returning and also my own passion has returned I cover most of the booker internationals list books I am just wanting to read a wider variety of books in translation a lot of backlist and older classics the rest of the year with of course a few new titles. The books in the last few months Have taken me to India ,Brazil, Nigeria, Indonesia , France , Barbados , Germany, Israel, Mexico, Denmark, Japan, Us and Uk so I read a book from every continent over these two months I think I loved most of the books I read for me the reading highlight was 1954 club I love these clubs based around a year twice a year and the four I read this time had all been on my shelves for a good while.I am looking forward to the rest of the year and now a lot less stressed if anything the best for a long time.

As for a few stats there hasn’t been any new countries these months. The was also no new publishers. I have read 42 books so far this year I’m aim to read 120 books this year and am on course. I have reviewed 31 books so far this year.

Books of the month


I loved the book of mother for me this is a perfect example of French Auto fiction a daughter paints her. other warts and all in a book that captures a woman whose spirit swung from tot to heart warming her ;life was of extremes.


Edited in Prisma app with Thota Vaikuntam


It was much closer for my march read book of the month as thew four books I read for club 1954 were all great books and any other month would have been a book of the month but this book has been so hard for me to review as I love it so much the subtle tale and the way it flows with its word play and the fact it captures a world not often told of an older female and at that an older Indian female add to that a realistic trans character you have a great book one of my all time favourite books.

Other none reading things-

I took a rabbit hole of you tube a lot this year I even had thoughts of blogging but now I’ve decided that this is my main aim to blog I just haven’t the confidence in myself to vlog there are some great vlogs out there I may do a post on the ones I loved one day but at moment my two favourites are better than food and leaf by leaf. I just didn’t watch a lot the last couple of months that has stuck with me. I did watch Cinemania which I had watched years ago the tale of a group of New Yorkers that just watch films all day every day often 6 or 7 a day. I also watch a number of the early carry on films on Brit box.Amanda and I spent a weekend in Stratford upon Avon which was a great break and just what I needed as it was with family we cruised the river I brought some books and we had some great food.

The Month Ahead

I am back reading Multiple books I just want read as many books as I can these days so this seems be a way of adding more pages a day anyway I have Archipelago week from the 9th I have a couple of books to read for that other wise it is the last off the booker list I haven’t read then it will be a mix of old and new I am reading Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann after that I have a book by Emile Zola lined up as for new books I am just reading The people opposite Georges Simenon most political novel.  then I have the first Chinese novel from Hanford star. I just feel it is onwards and upwards from here. What are your plans for the next month or the rest of the year ?

After Midnight by Irmgard keun

After Midnight by Irmagard keun

German fiction

Original title – Nach Mitternacht

Translator – Anthea Bell

Source – library

I got this as I reviewed  Child of all nations by her last November and fell in love with her writing style which seems to perfectcly captures the world of being just an adult and her again the narrator is 19 Santa we are drawn into her world. This was the first book keun wrote herself after she went into exile from the Nazi regime herself as some of the novella parallels her own decision at the time to flee Germany. it also mixes the  actual events at the time such as Hitlers visit. which is set in the late 1930s follows what happens after the day Hitler visited Frankfurt  as we see the change of attitude sweeps over Germany at this time after people her him captures the country just as the madness that lead into the descent to war is just happening.

Gerti called for me at noon today, because she was going to buy a pink blouse and wanted me to come along to the shops and tell her which suited her best. Even Lisa says I have good taste in clothes, and people are always wanting me to knit them sweaters. Actually I can knit fast, and well. If I really do marry Franz, I can always earn us a little money by knitting. How ever, here in Frankfurt I’ve been moving in circles which are quite different from anything Franz is used to. I mis with high-class, rich, intelligent people here. Franz wouldn’t know what to say to them

I loved how even thou it is nearly 90 years old Sanna at times is so now.

Our narrate is Sanna she has lived with her aunt for a time but when some of the view she says about the way some of the Nazi leader talk it means that it has a knock on effect when those near her aunt and her cousin that she has feeling fall call in the police so she moves to Frankfurt to live with her half brother Alois and his wife in Frankfurt with his wife that is an artist this is also where she connects with Gerti whom has a fallen for a Jewish boy all this happens whilst we see the views of those around them harden as Hitler is due to come to Frankfurt and speak. what we see is the world she knows shrinking as those she is friends with either start to think about leaving or become entranced with the rhetoric of Hitler. Alois her brother is already at odds as his books have been banned and when she sees the effect on there wider circle of friends like Gerti’s love dieter there comes that time to decide what to do stay or go. the last few chapters also introduce an older character as they decide what they are doing.

But politics is in there air even the Ladies these days. Gerti says she supposes it’s something if you find one without a lavatory attendant who expects you to say “Heil Hitler” and wants ten pfeninigs into bargain

And now, suddenly, Gerti is weeping bitterly =, because she didn’t see Dieter Aaron today. So I have to comfort her. Why does a girl like Gerti have to go falling love with a banned person mixed race, for goodness sake when there are plenty men around the authorities would let her love? Its hard enough to know your way around the rules the authorities lay down for business, as we all know, ban be very tricky organised- and now we have to know the rules for love too

This captures the slowly creeping changes in the world but shows how hard they hit

What she does so well her is uses Sanna eyes a young woman just wanting to be a young woman at the time. Some of the bits I love is the usual teen things she is trying to do but then sees the events of the time stopping or changing what they can do.we then see how this chain of events is impacting on her life from having to leave her aunts to the time in Frankfurt when the attitudes of those around them changes as views become juxtapose and the way forward is split into accepting the status quo keeping quiet and not being able to be yourself. the other option is to flee and go into exile this actual series of events follows much of the decisions that Irmgard Keun followed herself. Her books were banned like Alois books were at the time. She also linked to actual events at the time which was Hitlwers list to Frankfurt when he spoke at the Opernplatz. It also captures the way German was changing and how some never spoke up and others used the way things were for other reasons like the events around her Aunt where was it what she said or the fact that she was falling for her cousin. Have you read her books where should  I go after this one ?

Winstons score – + b It captures the times well as the country is on the tip of entering war and the horrors that followed through a young persons eyes.

The Emigrants by George Lamming

The Emigrants by George Lamming

Bajan Fiction

Source – Personal copy

When I looked at the list of books for this roll of the club which is 1954 (Well I’m lat I reviewed three last week but I still had two to et finished and review and this is the first of those two)I really wanted to try and read books from my shelves as I have a habit of just going and ordering from the list when it comes out then forget the books and miss reading them so I decided collect what I had which was a fair few about 8 books and this was one of them and I had long wanted to review a few books from the wind rush writers whom George Lamming was part of in fact he may have been the first writer from the Caribbean to have put across that experience of coming to Post war Uk and how art felt . This book follows a group of men from all over the Caribbean on a boart to the Uk.Lamming initially taught English in Trinidad then he head to teach at a boarding school in England , he was also a broadcast on the show Caribbean voices a show that gave window to those first wave of writers like Lamming himself , his good friend Sam Selvon and Derek Walcott. This was his second book and focus much more on the experience of the emigrant.

The voices warmed to a rich peal of laughter and the Barbadian found no support for his correction. He raised himself and started with a feigned indignation down towards the Grenadian who on no occasion seemed willing to offend. The others laughed, enriching their banter about the small islanders. An altercation followed between the Barbadian and the Grenadian in which enumerate3d the virtues of his own island. The men hoisted themselves from the bunks and watched the adversaries who were not inclined to make any concessions

The boat can be weighted at time as people from the different islands clash

The book tries to capture a group of Emigrants as they travel on a boat from the Caribbean to the Uk this is the same journey the writer took himself in fact he was on the same boat as sam elevon when they came to the Uk there is Collis a writer how tries to see what is happening in proportion eight up what awaits them. Then we meet Dickson he is a teacher but he is a nervous character and sees the fear ahead of him and what may go wrong he is a real glass half empty type of person.Higgins a man with his dreams is happy to be going after see his paths blocked . As we see them head the narritve moves and gives the various feel of these and other character then we see what happens when they finally get there when the real England hits the version of England they all have had in the minds. As we see Higgins start to suffer as that intial optimism falls away. Then Dickson worst fears happen. We see what happened to many as they tried to settle in these large cities and a world that is so much different to there own.

When the strange man returned to the dec k it was highs who saw him first. He stood alone looking across the sea wondering what he should do next. He had found no real contact with the sailor, and he thought out certain way of approaching the West Indians. He scratched the back of his head, trying not to look in their direction.Higgins kept his head down thinking. He seemed to feel the strange man bewilderment, and his sympathy became more urgent. The men watched Higgins and wonder what was happening.The strange man couldn’t bear to be alone much longer. As the ship grew nearer the next stop which was England, the need for company became greater.

The boat draws closer the tense is there you can cut the air as they say.

This is a book that has a myriad of voice in it what he has tried to do is capture the Caribbean experience from every angle I this character but a lot of it is that list dream that feeling of how different the dream of Britain that they had is brought crashing to the ground when they step off that book he was a fan of Jouyce it seems and in part you c an see that here, Anthony Burgess was a huge fan of Lamming called him one of the best we have. This is a insight into a journey and experience that many people from the Caribbean took including the writer himself it is about the wanting of a better life the chance being able to Emigrate can bring but it also captures the woes and worries of this experience as well. it had a style I enjoyed it was jarring at times but I felt it worked as we jump in and out of these characters near the end we focus more on a few of the characters. It shows how hard it can be to leave behind all you know this should be a wider read book in fact all the wind rush books as they give a sense of perspective on the experience which although 70 years ago is still happening now with people want a better life !. Have you a favourite book from the Windrush generation of writers ?

Winstons score – A voices of the past caught in time of the wind rush experience

Contempt by Alberto Moravia

Contempt by Alberto Moravia

Italian Fiction

Original title – Il Disprezzo

Translator – Angus Davidson

Source – Personal copy

I haven’t read Moravia in years in fact when I thought about it how long ago it was it must have been twenty five years ago and as I have a lot of his books on my shelves when this showed up as a possible title for the 1954 club it seemed time to read him I had planned an unsuccessful Italian reading month and planned to read him years ago but that failed so I grasp this chance to read the best known post war writer from Italy , well his best works all came after the war.He was the master of examine the relationship behind those middle class doors getting to the heart of what makes relationships and men and women beat. He won most of the major prize in Italian fiction. He also was married to the great Italian writer Elsa Morante he also had a relationship with Dacia Marani so he was at the `Heart of the Italian literary scene. A lot of his books were also made into films this was as well By the Great Jean Luc Goddard I haven’t seen the film I watch the trailer and hope to catch it at some point as I like Goddard work.

At the time when I first met Battista, I found myself in an extremely situation, and I did not know how to escape from it. My difficulty consisted in my having that time acquired the lease of a flat, although I had not the money to complete my payment for it and did not know how I should get the money. We had lived Emila and I, during our first two years, in a large furnished roomie a lodging house. Any other woman woman but Emil would perhaps not have put up with this provisional arrangements, but, in the case of Emil, I think that, by accepting it, she gave me the greatest proof of love that a devoted wife can give a husband. Emilia was, indeed what is called a born housewife.

The two need money hence he takes the screenwriting job

The book is about a couple Riccardo Molten he is one of these young writer that thinks he is the next best thing but he has end up as a screenwriter on a film that is an adaptation of the Odyssey and he is married to the Beautiful Emil but she is maybe what would now be called a wag as she tries to escape her past or as he calls it her ancestral situation. So she likes the best things in life and this is how  Ricardo end up with the scriptwriting gig, to keep her with a made and with her sports car. The story follows the making of the film which he is doing for a producer called Battista whom early on spends time alone with his wife after they go in her car and he is left to follow and gets held up. Then on another occasion Emil sees Ricardo kiss his secretary. This sets up the story as it is one of mistrust as we see a marriage fall apart as one man seems to set it on a course to split.s this Happens Riccardo sees parallels in his life and the film Odyssey he is making.He is a sensitive soul that is baked in the sun as the film is made and things start to get worse as The director ask for to much in the film they are making.

As Came into y own street, I was again seized with perplexity; Emila was certainly not at home, and I , in that new flat which now seemed to me not so much strange as actively hostile should feel more lost and miserable than I should in a public place. For a moment I was almost tempted to turn back to go and spend that hour and a half in a cafe. Then with a sudden providential reawakening of memory, I recalled that I had promised Battista, the previous day, Tobbe at home at that time, so that he could telephone me and arrange an appointment. This would be an important appointment, because Battista was to speak to me at last about the new script, and to make concrete proposals and introduce me to the director

Later on he is less sure of Emila where is she.

The novel came about partly as his own marriage was in trouble. The Main thing I felt as I read the book was that old say as you sow, so shall you reap this is a classic case of the problems being in the n=mind of the main characters and getting blown out of proportions. along side so clever framing devices like the film , the subject matter of the film.I used the term baked in the sun as this is how the book felt it is a pressure cooker of a marriage ready to explode if there isn’t a gentle release.Another interesting choice for the 1954 club. it is well plotted with the four main character the husband and wIfe the film producer and as I haven’t mentioned the director Rheingold a man that makes unrealistic expectations on Riccardo around the film m and how it is to be made. This is a dissection  of a marriage it is pulled apart with a cold eye and you can see a man writing about his own as he writes around this fictional couple. Moravia portrays what it is like to be in the middle of this all as not is happening. Have you read anything by Alberto Moravia ?

Winston’s score -+B An insight into a marriage falling apart based on the writers own marriage failing.

Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck

Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck

American fiction

Source – personal copy

I am on to the second choice for this weeks 1954 club and I go to America and John Steinbeck . I have long been a fan of Steinbeck I like of Mice and men at school and then in may 20s I read a few more then I decided to slow down and leave some for the rest of my life so as I turned fifty the other week it seemed right to cover him again in fact it was 2010 when I reviewed the Pearl from him here so maybe it is time to read a few more of my tar from him this jumped out as it was the follow up to my favourite book from Steinbeck Cannery row.What Sweet Thursday(the title is a reference to an old names for the days of the weeks so it is sweet Thursday after Lousy Wednesday and before Waiting Friday ). As we catch up with Doc  after the war as he returns to his home on cannery Row and sees a changed row but in some ways it is just  the same

Doc was philosophical about it.He whiled away his free hours with an unlimited supply of government alcohol, mad many friends and resisted promotion. When the war was over, doc was kept on by a grateful government to straighten out certain inventory problems, a job he was fitted for since he had contributed largely to the muck-up . Doc was honourably discharged two years after our victory.

Doc returns a couple years after everyone else

It opens and says how the war had an effect on Monterey and cannery row in either small or large parts this include Doc who was drafted as a sergeant in a vd section. He’d left an old friend in charge of his western Labs but when he returned he found it run down covered in mildew. he then discover the shop owner opposite we has changed but Mack is still there and they drink. what follows is Doc settling back into the row and seeing how the world of the row has change slightly since the end of the war. then a few chapters in we see Suzy arrive on a Greyhound bus her arrival which sees her end up on the row and at the Bear house where people notice doc seems to like here and this leads to them teaching her to drive and try to get her and Doc together bring him  some happiness but there is more to Suzy and we see what happens.

When a girl named Suzy got off the greyhound bus, she looked up and down the street, fixed her lipstick, then lifted her beat-up suitcase and headed for the Golden Poppy restaurant. Suzy was a pretty girl with a flat nose and wide mouth. She had a good figure, was twenty-one , five-feet five, hair probably brown(dyed blonde), brown cloth coat, rabbit sin collar, cotton print drsss, brown calf shoes(heel taps little run over), scruff on the right toe.She limped slightly on her right foot. Before she picked up the suitcase she opened her brown purse of simulated leather.In it were mirror, comb with two teeth missing.Lucky strikes, matchbook that said “Hotel Rosalie, San Francisco , half a packet of peppermint life savers. eighty five cents in silver, no folding money, lipstick but no powder, tin box of aspirin, no keys

Suzy arrives but she is a little down on heel her self


I loved cannery row the way Steinbeck caught those with no hope so well and made us feel pathos with them as characters so with Docs return after the war we capture those years between the end of the war and the baby boomer years. As we see how the war years has made some people not return and other let go and other come to the row. I said when I reviewed Simenon book set in America three bedrooms in Manhattan has a parallel in another way it follows a man falling from bed to bed and this is the row trying to find Doc a woman. Then Enter Suzy newly arrived from San Fransisco  and we see what happens when Suzy and Dc are pushed into trying to start a relationship. But as ever the `row has a nasty twists and turns to their lives.Steinbeck is great at conveying those lives on the edge of the society those we don’t always see in other books the gritty underworld of those just getting by where needing a microscope as a man of science shows how tough life is for even Doc. But what also comes across the brotherhood of the Row when Mack tries to teach suzy to drive or the way the rally round to try and get doc and Suzy together in air to help there friend feel whole.Have you read Steinbeck have you a favourite book by him ?The second stop on this weeks 1954 club and next we will be off to Italy.

Winstons score – A a gem of a story a great follow ups to Cannery row.

Burning grass by Cyprian Ekwensi

Burning Grass by Cyprian Ekwensi

Nigerian fiction

Source – Personal copy

One of the things I want to try and do this year is clear my own pile of books and also read more from places I have covered less the last few years and one of these is my small collection of African writer series books I have brought a few as I have seen them so I decide it was time to work down them and I chose this which happened to be the second book on the writer list. Cyprian Ekwensi had a number of books on the African writer series list. He was born in Northern Nigeria where this book was set( the book came out of a journey where he spent times with the Fulani cattlemen. He worked for the Nigerian broadcast company and then became the director of Information for the department of Information he did this before the civil war in Nigeria. He wrote a number of novels and  short stories and he passed away in 2007. This is the first title I have read by him. He is well regarded as one of the first voice of post colonial African Literature he also

When the girl came running toward them they saw the terror in her eyes. close on her heels came a dark-visaged man , frowning and cursing, brandishing a koboko. He stopped when he was the girl throw herself against the old man’s feet and cry out to be saved.

“She is my slave!!”  he roared. “I want her back!she’s running away!”he raised the whip.

“Your slave?” said the old man, leaping to his feet. His son’s glance met the girl’s , caught the mute appeal

I love this as which son was it maybe both !!

The book follows a family from the Fulani tribe a group of wandering cattlemen . The book opens with a runaway slave girl that comes across the family and the head Mai Sunday. He knows the girls master he is a cruel master and he arranges to rescue the girl from her situation but this then cause a knock on effect as his sons all connect with this woman Fatimeh his youngest falls for her. but she and his other son then run away this leaves the youngest Rikku heartbroken the book follows Mai as he tries to help his son get over this loss but also as they live there wandering life as the move with the way they need to feed the cattle and also add to this a dove appears and there is a large number of people falling ill to sleeping sickness. we see a family drift apart but as the book draws to the end the start to draw back together.

Mai Sunday’s first sight of the village on the great river did not excite him.He had been travelling through bush which thickened day after day, sleeping in trees, eating forest fruit, preaching at little villages on the way, and now the thought of seeing Jalla doubled his pleasure.

He followed the earth motor road. At intervals along the road he noticed little clearings lined with stones. Here a traveller might stop and wash his hands and feet in the water provided and say his prayers. When he arrived at the next one he washed his face, hands and feet in the water and said a short prayer before continuing his journey. The road wound ion for another half a mile, and turning beyond a mahogany tree he saw the grass huts. There were about one hundred of the,, all huddled together, and he thought: “if ever a fire should break out here, only Allah from above can save anyone”

Mai as he head to the river and also the fact the tribe is Muslim as the enter the motor road the mix of the future and past.

Now this is one of the earliest in the African writer series and maybe is a world that isn’t there now the tribe is still there infect the Fulani is widespread tribe over north Nigeria and the surround countries. they still like in the book have a very traditional world customs and costume so in fact it is similar to the book what he does so well is capture the coming and goings of the family as they wander the bush feeding the cattle as there family had done for generations with Mai we have a classical Patrica figure  the head of a family but as we see in the opening when he rescues Fatimeh  the slave girl also how he tries to help his youngest son. this was read in a lot of schools when it came out it was aimed by Heinmann the publisher as the cut the length of the book in half from the original manuscript it works as it isn’t a flabby work it is very direct and so well paced as we follow the life of this family as they head from place to place. Have you read any of his book or any others from the African writer series ( which I believe is due to be revived soon which is a great Idea as for me it introduce me over the years to so many great voices and also brought books from countries under represented in English )

Winstons score – B a solid tale of a family wandering North Nigeria as we see the family dynamics and the world they live in.

Previous Older Entries

May 2022


%d bloggers like this: