the Last One by Fatima Dads

The Last One by Fatima Daas

French fiction

Original title –La Petite Dernière

Translator – Lara Vergnaud

Source – Library

I love my local library it is well stocked and gets a lot of new books in so I often go and look for something I have missed or maybe just missed and this is one such book. I think I saw it around Twitter maybe when it came out. Fatima Daas is a leading new voice who sold very well in France and is a feminist she identifies as an intersectional Feminist. This is the pseudonym of the writer she adopted it in her mid-teens she was taught by the writer Tanguy Viel she went on to study literature at this time she also had her sexual awakening and its effect on her religion and family this is a complex work about growing up Lesbian from NORTH African family and trying to remain a Muslim. a stunning debut from a new talent.

My name is Fatima.

The name of a symbolic figure in Islam.

A name that must be honoured.

A name that mustn’t be “soiled”, as we say in my

house.

In my house, to soil means to dishonour. Wassekh, in Algerian Arabic.

Or daria, darija, our word for dialect.

Wassekh: soil, stir shit up, blacken.

It has multiple meanings, like “close”.

My mother would use the same word to tell me

I had got my clothes dirty, the same word when she came home and found her Kingdom in bad shape.

The opening chapter and the first time we see My name is Fatima Daas

This book uses the same beginning at every chapter MY name is Fatima Daas what follows is how she is growing and the struggles a young woman has growing up. During her school years, she struggles to fit in as a pupil going off the rails till she finds her voice in writing. Then her family and how will she fit in when she discovers her sexuality. Then this has a knock-on effect on her religion. she dreamt of being ani man and how can she aline herself with the values of the religion. How do you cope when you grow up as a Lesbian Muslim in Modern France? This is a refreshing take on the Bildungsroman. The pains, sadness and small wins along the way. The book is hypnotic at times with the repeating motif and the initial description of where Fatima is in her life at this point. Its a tale of how to break free and become your own person but also keep at heart where you are from and who you are! what you become and how you became.

My name is Fatima Daas, I was born in France, sometimes I spend more than four hours on public transport to get to class, work, a theatre, a museum or back home to my parents’ house.

I begin to take public transport regularly when I’m eighteen.

After a while, I experience “commuter fatigue”, the kind that induces a migraine at pretty much the same time every evening, that makes you prematurely realize that your body is aging, that colours your mood, prompts you to overreact, to complain almost as much as the Parisians, and to bursts of anger that are difficult to control.

It’s the kind of fatigue that makes you think about

“moving closer”.

A later chapter about being a commuter in Paris

This is a work that draws you into Fatima’s life with the repetitive nature of the chapters. It is like the drumbeat of Kodo drummer beating and driving the fragments of her life as we see a girl that should have been a boy to her father. Then growing up in the France of LE pen etc being Algerian and  Muslim been twisted by what that means when you sexually awaken to the fact you’re a girl attracted to Girls. This is a side of modern France rarely seen. How do you identify yourself this is how we deal with Labels we all have labels but do they define you or create you what labels do you show which should you hide? A great slice of Autofiction just after the master of Autofiction won the Nobel this is maybe this generation Ernaux a strong female with her own struggles and emotional journey like Ernaux before her. Have you a favourite work of Autofiction or a favourite Queer novel in translation?

Winstons score – + A this is why I read books in translation insight into other lives and places.

 

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What have you left behind ? by Bushra AL-Maqtari

 

What Have You Left behind ? by Bushra AL-Maqtari

Yemeni Non-fiction

Original title –

Translator Sawad Hussain

Source – Review copy

I got sent this from the folks at Fitzcarraldo a press I have loved since they started there is rarely a press that you have never read a book you didn’t like in fact more than that their books have been among my favourite reads of each year for the last few years . So when I got this and on the back cover I saw the words that it was inspired by her reading of Svetlana Alexievich. Bushra Al Maqtari is a novelist and writer she first came to the fore in 2012 with her novel behind the sun and then her writing has become more nonfiction. This book lifted the lid on the personal effect of the long-running and under-report civil war in Yemen.

My brother is still tormented, he can’t sleep, he can’t forget. He’s preoccupied with finding treatment for his injured son. I carry my brother’s sorrows on my back, I enter the house and the memories come rushing back.

I remember my brother’s children and his wife, their laughter, the noise they would make, our beautiful life together. Damn the Coalition and whoever came with them to our country, damn every side that has murdered Yemeni people. They’re all just that – murderers. Who will bring back Malak, Malakat, Mohammed and Asma to my brother? Who? Tell me who? Who?

No one. No one cares about what happened to us.

Ahmad Abdel Hameed Sayf

At 5.40 p.m. on Thursday, 26 January 2017, the Arab Coalition aeroplanes targeted Ahmad’s brother’s house, Fahmi Abdel Hameed Sayf in al-Qutay in the governorate of al-Hu-daydab. His brother’s wife Asma Abdel Qader Yassin Sharaf (30 years old) was killed, and her children: Mohammed Fahmi

The last paragraph and what happened to Ahmad and his family in the opening narrative.

In her Nobel-winning speech, Svetlana Alexievich described how Flaubert called himself a Human Pen from his writing but Alexievich described herself as a human ear. That is what we have here with Busrha’s narratives they are a polyphonic collection of voices of the outfacing of the v=civin=il war a collection of people killed by the war. The book opens with Ahmed’s account of a bomb landing on his brother’s house meaning the loss of his sister-in-law his niece and his nephews. This is how the book is formed each chapter an account and each account ends with when the attack or killing happened where and who died. under the mango tree AL Ahamad says how he dreams of those he has lost all the time. Mothers lose their children as they are targeted and killed by Militia How the loss of children changes mothers, This is a chorus of loss and the ripple effect of this the immediate damage and loss but also the long-term trauma and loss to the society.

I lived in a country where dying was taught to us from childhood. We were taught death. We were told that human beings exist in order to give everything they have, to burn out, to sacrifice themselves. We were taught to love people with weapons. Had I grown up in a different country, I couldn’t have traveled this path. Evil is cruel, you have to be inoculated against it. We grew up among executioners and victims. Even if our parents lived in fear and didn’t tell us everything – and more often than not they told us nothing – the very air of our life was poisoned. Evil kept a watchful eye on us. Svetlana Alexievich

I feel this maybe capture so well what Bushra Al-Maqtari is trying to capture in this book the horror of war is known but the personal effect isn’t the families or those we loved we have lost adds to a  more powerful narrative voice a chorus of loss. You can see the nod to a book like Chernobyl the way you grab the attention of the reader is a polyphonic collection of experiences a patchwork of the war the gaps are those doing the killing these are this effect but the killer of the forgotten war. What we see is how it we deal with the human cost of war and the loss of the fabric of society. I was reminded of how the late great Dasa Drndric had described to me that the Italian version of her book had a rip out section of the book list of list Jews oink the war in Italy she’d pass it round and have people rip out names of the knew as the did the book fell apart like society itself with the loss of all these lives and voices.  This is their civil war is tearing their world apart the how=rror and cost of the war in Yemen haven’t been reported enough it has taken a strong voice like Bushra to be an activist and voice for this war and its effect. Have you a favourite book about war that uses first hand accounts?

Winstons score – +A another home run for Fitzcarraldo

What we leave behind by Stanislaw Łubieński

What we leave behind by Stanislaw Łubieński

Polish Nature Writing

Original tile – Książka o śmieciach

Translator – Zosia Krasodomska-Jones

Source – review copy

As many of you know the last twelve months I have featured a lot more nature writing on the blog so when I was sent a book in translation. that was a nature book it was great to combine to the two genres I really love books in translation and Nature writing. Stanislaw has written a number of books. He contributes regularly to paper in Polish papers and magazines this is his first book to be translated into English. He won the NIKE reader prize for one of his earlier books. The birds they sing. It says on his bio he grew up watching birds with his Soviet binoculars (reminds me of the early days I used bird watch a lot with my grandad’s old military binoculars).

Let’s start with a clarification to avoid any misunderstandings: hunting ducks has no practical justification – it’s purely for sport. A display of dexterity, like shooting live clay pigeons.

But what have the ducks done to deserve to die? Pond owners sometimes complain that they eat fish food. They certainly do. According to studies from the 1980s, they eat between 2 and 7,5 per cent of distributed feed. That’s not very much.

Scientists say that the presence of many bird species at ponds brings advantages that outweigh the drawbacks. Ducks, coots, grebes and even herons prevent the surface water from becoming overgrown, they eat the larvae of predacious insects that feed on spawn and fry, and they clear sick or dead fish from the surfaces Why do we kill ducks, then? Simple: it’s tradition.

The question about the value of Duck hunting is there any these Days !!

The book has the subtle A birdwatcher’s dispatches from the taste catastrophe. The book is formed of eight chapters a number of which take waste he had found. As you know I love correlations to my own life as a reader the journey isn’t just that of escape but sometimes reminds inklings of one’s own world and experiences. The first chapter had a collection of shotgun cartridges just left in the woods he speaks about the growing anti-hunting movements around Europe the ducks in the pond. reminded me of seeing shells often in the area I walked around Northumberland when I lived there many years ago with my dog. What Stanislaw does is mix the waste we see and the world he observes it just shows you how near we are to losing it all at times. The third chapter mentioned Gannets which as I had this some been to North Berwick home to one of the biggest Gannet colonies. He talks about the discovery of huge bands of waste drifting in the oceans discovered by sailors I remember how a container of Rubber ducks scattered in the sea. It had shown how far rubbish lost in the oceans can drift. But the worrying thing he talks about is microplastics are now getting into our food chain and the effects of that are relatively unknown long term. A book that sets you thinking and being watchful about your own impact on the world around you.

It’s more than twenty years since the sailor Charles J. Moore discovered a huge rubbish dump floating in the ocean between Hawaii and California. A mass of plastic packaging, bottles, lids and countless tons of unidentified waste. The area was named the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and its growth has been monitored apprehensively ever since. New debris accumulates rapidly, carried there on the North Equatorial Current.

The huge rubbish dump was found drifting in the oceans.

It is fair to say I loved this it was inspiring and also an insightful book and also sounds a warning shot of how waste is everywhere even in some of the most remote places he visits he is shocked to see waste there. But each piece of waste in itself is a story of where it came from. Then how it could have ended up there. Even how discarded waste at times has changed nature itself over time. The concept of the book is very entertaining and also hits topping home it combines nature but also the great environmental questions facing the world. Do you have a favourite nature book that combines the natural world but also alongside the current environmental situation? It shows you how much we have to go to sustainable resources and move away from Plastic which is happening but it needs to quicken. As one of the first books to match my two reading styles books in translation and Nature writing this was a great book and shows we should try and get more nature writing from around the world. I will be trying to get some more books from around the world. That deal with nature when I see them around.

Winstons score – A this is an insightful book into the current situation of plastic waste and its effect the natural world.

 

Like a Prisoner by Fatos Lubonja

Like a Prisoner by Fatos Lubonja

Albanian shots stories

Original title -Jetë Burgu

Translator – John Hodgson

Source – Review Copy

Well, I move on to Albania today and the second book I have read from Istros books by this writer. Fatos Lubjona’s father was a close ally in the sixties to the leader Hoxha but when he started to distance the country from the soviets and Fatos’s father questioned the regime and was arrested as was Fatos who in his diaries whilst he was a student had questions, Hoxha. He was sentenced to more than 20 years he then spent 13 years in hard labour and was released after 17 years, during this time he kept a diary and there world he won is the world of this short story collection. He is also a critic of the leaders on both sides of the political divide in his homeland.

In the daily life of the camp, Eqerem was very reserved by nature, and apart from his epileptic fits and his rooftop dance, his presence disturbed nobody. None of his family came to see him, and he was therefore ‘without support.

He kept a large bowl that he filled with a mush of bread and soup from the cauldron. He ate everything and never scrounged off anybody. He never argued with the guards, and they generally left him in peace.

Pandi was the only person to call to him in the name of Suzi. Everyone was astonished how he had managed to induce Eqerem to take part in such a game. If anybody else tried to call ‘Suzi’ to him or make the vagina sign, he would give them a furious look and make threatening gestures.

The story Eqerem a man worn down by the camp

these thirteen stories paint a picture of the horrors and inner life of the hard labour camps. The character studies the people around the prison camp like Eqerem. Our narrator notices him after a few days in the camp he had a head that stuck out in the crowd of the camp where they all have shaved heads. he was there for a short time his hair grew just before his release but he then a few years later he came back but was then caught up in events in the prison and ended up in solitary when he came out that had had marks and a few days later he died. A life contained in a story.  The story that hit me hardest was Çuçi the story of Çavo the cleaner prisoner on the wing and his cat he fed it scraps and pieces but this cat wander the camp and was friends with over prisoners. This cat was a free spirit in a world of lost souls trap it caught rabbits and lived both in and out of the camp. The cat kept Çavo on the straight and narrow. So how will he react when the cat disappears and is eventually found dead? The following story follows John Smith’s it says one of the few prisoners that calms not to be Albanian he claimed his father had taken him from Australia to Albania away from his Australian mother well that is the tale he tells. Will the Australians help him ?

In the camps, most of the prisoners who kept cats did not keep them close to themselves. The cats wandered through the yards, ran off, mated wherever they wanted, and were in a much wilder state than Cuci. But she too was free to make love to the tom-cats of Burrel prison, and once had given birth to two kittens. They had not lived, and it’s said that kittens from a first pregnancy never survive. But Çuci also spent hours on end in the cell with us, even during the night. Almost every evening, she came back to the cell after wandering through the yards and hidden corners of the prison. She squeezed in through the observation window in the door, an opening fifteen centimetres square at the level of the human eye, which the guards always left open.

The cats of the camp are free spirits in a world of trapped souls.

I have tried to cover the bare minimum amount of stories as this is one of the collections that need reading there isn’t much out there of first-hand experience of the world of Hoxha and his hard labour camps. This weaves the world of Spaç and those prisoners into the hope and horrors of the camp and its prisoners. I think that is what hit me hard about the cat story one little animal had hope tied to it but also maybe made them forget the horrors of their daily life. As we see how each prisoner our narrator sees how to get by in their camps and what each one does to survive the horror of the numbing world they are all caught up in. This is one of the most grabbing collections of life in a prison camp from the writer’s own first-hand experience of it. If you like books like a day in the life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Have you a favourite book about being a prisoner in a labour camp?

Winstons score – +A  the world of Hoxha’s camps brought to life in this collection

That was the month that was October 2022

  1. Discipline is destiny by Ryan Holiday
  2. Some prefer Nettles by Junchirō Tanizaki
  3. A High wind in Jamaica by Richard Hughes 
  4. Walking in Berlin by Franz Hessel

I decided to have a good break from the blog by coming back to work after all the time I had off with stress and anxiety this year.  I was on a return to work with shorter shifts but there is a few other things at work that was on my mind so I just wasn’t going to be focused enough to blog I felt. It was good timing as  I happened to have covid as well after two years of avoiding it firstly Amanda test positive and I was still negative so I went to get food Amanda’s meds and other bits and luckily went to get a shop in when I got home that day I felt off it even thou I had tested negative in the morning I was now positive and had a few days I felt rough then a couple more days before I was testing negative again. Anyway, I had just reviewed four books. I started with the master of Stoicism’s latest book about TEMPERANCE a  subject that he lit up with his great examples.Then I reared my three books for the 1929 club firstly in Japan a couple struggles with the fact they really need to divorce. Then a set of children are taken by Pirates and go rouge whilst with the pirates. Then a man walks around Berlin. I also add the number of books read this month. I feel ready to get back to blog and now have my monthly blog planner book.

Book of the month

Wel,l it is a hard one but I choose the Hessel it is just such an engrossing walk around a place and city that has changed so many times since he wrote the book and made me want to visit Berlin. Be my own flaneur in the city.In fact, it will make me look afresh next time I’m in a city or bigger town.(Chesterfield I just know to well, sad our town isn’t so vibrant these days but we have a Waterstones, a record shop (2 one new one second hand ) the weekly flea market and a few great shops around the town here and there. Also The Library which is one of the best for a town this size I think.

Non-book events

We watched the series Becoming you on Apple TV which followed kids around the world in the first 5 years of life. it was amazing how kids grow up in so many different ways around the world. Japanese kid on his first errand a tradition was scary a three year wandering the streets but he was a changed kid after it amazing. Kids in Borneo use machetes to cut fish swimming in the sea an amazing show that shows how different parents are around the world. We also listen to the lifeline drama on radio four (bcc sounds) we missed it earlier this year we have listened to this drama based in an ambulance call centre for the last few years we love to sit and listen to this sort of short drama and podcast the BBC does so we have our evening meal at the table listen to these dramas and discuss our day.

The month ahead

I have two great books from Istros books I am partway through both. I have a pile of books I read this month and didn’t review and also it is German lit month which I will focus on the end of November OI have one book read and hope to get a couple more books to read not sure what yet will make the cut I have a few in mind for this year German book month.

 

Walking in Berlin by Franz Hessel

Walking in Berlin by Franz Hessel

German Non-fiction

Original title – Spazieren in Berlin

Translator – Amanda DeMarco

Source – personal copy

I managed to just squeeze the third read in for this week’s 1929 club and it was one I saw on the list of books when the year was announced earlier this year and was reminded about it I had seen it when it came out and had intended to look at it then but it had passed me by. So to get back to it Franz Hessel he was a friend of the great Walter Benjamin who has an essay at the start of the book about the book. He calls how Hessel a flaneur should look t the city afresh. The city of his birth with fresh eyes. Hessel himself with Benjamin had translated the works of Proust into German.

In the half-light of tinted lamps hanging in a number of smaller halls and rooms in the north as well as the west, same-sex couples circulate, here the girls and there the lads. Sometimes the girls are dressed, in a more or less pleasant manner, as men, and the lads as ladies. Over time their appetites, once a bold protest against the dominant moral laws, have become a rather harmless pleasure, and visitors who like to dance with the opposite sex are also allowed into these mellow orgies. They find a particularly favourable environment here. The men learn new nuances in tenderness from the female cavaliers, their partners learn from the masculine ladies, and your own “straight”-ness becomes a peculiar stroke of luck, as it makes you seem rather exotic. Oh, and the light fixtures are positively magnificent: wooden or metal lanterns with serrated frames, reminiscent of the fretwork of our boyhood.

I was reminded of cabaret her and imagine Isherwood sitting in his Berlin

I loved the idea of this book as I had just rewatched the two films Tilda Swinton had made more than 20 years apart, in fact, they could be seen as a cousin of these the first was just at the cusp of the wall falling and the second is the unified Berlin. She covers the same route on a bike across Berlin many points on her route  Hessel visited in his book. t Hessel had walked his Berlin in the late twenties what I first got from the book is that he had a way of looking but not jading the times one passage in the book really grabbed me about girls looking like boys and boys looking like Girls those characters that had fallen out of Cabaret or an Isherwood novel of the time. He captures a city that has underneath the horror that happened in the 15 years after he walk the city. meandering the city that would a few years later be gone. The longest piece is on a tour called the tour of the churches like St Peters etc. Also the old Royal buildings of Berlin, and the National Gallery. This is a flaneur a wander of the city this metropolis his fellow citizens. Then the Zoo places like the Newspaper district a place I wonder is dead like Fleet Street its London counterpart.

Excursioners in light-colored skirts and shift dresses climb the steps leading up to the station. Those lucky things, enjoying such a nice autumn day. Some also go through the narrow entrance to the little Wannsee train station. What I’d really like to do is follow them. A sail. boat, or even just a paddleboat.1 Potsdam and the Havel. see, the secret soul of Berlin, otherworldly places here on earth! And today a weekday. But now we’re arriving at Potsdamer Platz. The first thing to say about it is that it isn’t really a plaza at all, but rather what they call a carrefour in Paris, a crossroads, an intersection; we don’t really have the right word for it in German. That Berlin once came to an end at the city gate here, with country roads branching off from it–you’d have to have a well-informed eye to recognize that from the shape of the inter-section.

Part of the longest section of the book the Tour which remind me of Bois as Homer as he walked down Potsdamer Platz

Another image that came to mind when I read this was of Homer played by Curt Bois in Wings of desire (I so want the blu ray box set of Wenders going out soon but it is out of my price range I’ll have to wait). Bois’s character is seeking what was Potsdamer Platz in the rubble of the city in the late 80s. Bois walk also has old film of Potsdamer back in the day (Hessel is by Potsdamer in the section Fashion around Fashion houses and shops in the city and also the tor section). It’s a Shame Hessel died in the early years of the war in France a follow-up to this would be great like Swinton and my own remembrance of the city I have only been for a day and wish I could go back to Berlin it is a city that has had so many changes in the nearly hundred years since this book came out. This book is a forerunner of Psychogeography a distant cousin of Benjamins Opus to Paris Arcades (I have been reading this on and off for years ). Have you read this or any other great flaneur works of people wandering cities on foot and just taking it in like it was new and fresh to the writer’s eyes.

Winston’s score – A- a gem from this week’s 1929 club reminds me of a place I’d love to go and explore more and each for his ghosts and the ghost of what happened.

A high Wind in Jamaica by Richard Hughes

A High Wind in Jamaica by Richard Hughes

English fiction

Source – Personal copy

I always have a look on my shelves when the club year is announced and this was a book I already owned so it saved me from ordering another book and it is one I had long wanted to read, I think I may have seen the film when I was younger. Richard Hughes was a journalist and writer he wrote four novels I have another by him Fox in the attic. He was friends with Dylan Thomas who stayed with him. This book has been described as an inspiration for William Goldings Lord of the flies. Supposedly at the time, Hughes wrote the book he hadn’t visited Jamaica. But it is only featured in the first part of the book most of the action is on the sea.

The passage from Montego Bay to the Caymans, where the children had written their letters, is only a matter of few hours: indeed, in clear weather one can look right across from Jamaica to the peak of Tarquinio in Cuba.

There is no harbour; and the anchorage, owing to the reefs and ledges, is difficult. The Clorinda brought up off the Grand Cayman, the look-out man in the chains feeling his way to a white, sandy patch of the bottom which affords the only safe resting-place there, and causing the anchor to be let go to windward of it. Luckily,, the weather was fine.

The island, a longish one at the western end of the group, is low, and covered with palms. Presently a succession of boats brought out a quantity of turtles, as Emily described.

The natives also brought parrots to sell to the sailors: but failed to dispose of many.

The opening of the third chapter is as they set off on the first boat.

The book follows the aftermath of the Hurricane on an English Family in Jamaica whose property is destroyed by the storm. Which leaves the parents of the Bas-Thornton children to take the decision. It would be better to send their five children homeland in England. The children have very few memories of England and are sent with two creole children with them. They head to the port town Montego bay and on to a ship, the Clorinda with its captain Maypole the ship has barely set off when the ship is taken over by Pirates initially thaty seem to wan the cargo but then are looking for a safe they seize the children ( John, Emily, Edward, Rachel and Edward with the two creole Margaret and Harry.) and use them as leverage to get to know where the safe is on the ship. The chain of events that follows means the children end up with the pirates and the Captain Maypole of the ship Clorinda they were on writes to tell the parents the loss of the children rather than dying initially the pirates aren’t to bother with the kids but the chef and a couple of them befriend and the captain of the pirate ship takes a liking to Young Emily another has relations with another pirate as with the shackles of parental control the kids start to go rogue and act like the pirates, in fact, they maybe are worse than them. What will happen will they get home will they all get there alive what happens to them on that ship.

The children all slept late, and all woke at the same moment as if by clockwork. They sat up, and yawned uniformly, and stretched the stiffiness out of their legs and backs (they were lying on solid wood, remember).

The schooner was steady, and people tramping about the deck. The main-hold and fore-hold were all one: and from Where they were they could see the main-hatch had been opened. The captain appeared through it legs first, and dropped onto the higgledy-piggledy of the Clorinda’s cargo.

For some time they simply stared at him. He looked uneasy, and was talking to himself as he tapped now this Case with his pencil, now that; and presently shouted rather fiercely to people on deck.

And by the next chapter they awake to being on the pirate ship and what happens there.

I must admit I was one of those kids that never got into pirates which are maybe why I had never gotten to this book. But I was pleased the 1929 club gave me the nudge to read this book.I can see the connection to the lord of the flies and the way the children act once they are with the pirates.  This book maybe captures the last age of the pirates as it seems it is just as sailboats are making way for mechanical ships.I looked up to see if there had been cases of kids as pirates there were some kids in the 70s that were shipwrecked like the lord of the flies but they didn’t go like they did. I wonder if he had read an article about some kids taken by pirates as one of his other books In Hazard came from a news story. I’m sure there were children taken and became or were used by the pirates. It deals with the idea of what happens when there are no boundaries and no consequences for your actions on the young Bas Thorton children. He captures the darker side of childhood the book has a gothic feel at times in someways the writing reminds me of a couple of Daphne Du Maurier books I have read it maybe influenced her I feel he maybe was a Stevenson fan it is a darker cousin of Treasure island it also maybe has a nod to the books of Conrad another great writer of a ship bound fiction he captures that confined feeling of being on a ship on top of one another and how that makes people feel his trilogy of books set on the sea is set around the same time as both steamboats and sail ship share the high seas. Have you read this book or have you a favourite book set on the sea Pirate or otherwise?

Some Prefer Nettles by Junchirō Tanizaki

Some Prefer Nettles by Junchirō Tanizaki

Japanese fiction

Original title – 蓼喰う蟲 – Tade kuu mushi

Translator – Edward G. Seidensticker

Source – personal copy

I’m back and the strange thing is I had covid last week so the break was a good idea as I wouldn’t have blogged last week it also means I’m probably only going review two books for this weeks 1929 Club but here I am with the first book for this week and it is a book from Japan. I always get the list of books published on the year for the club and try and find the ones in translation first that I may like to review. This title jumped out at me as I had featured a later book by Tanizaki in the 1956 edition of the club. Tanizaki is one of the best regarded and considered one of the founding figures of Modern Japanese fiction in the 20th century as his books follow both the working of the family and the changing times around him.

‘YOU THINK YOU might go, then?’ Misako asked several times during the morning.

Kaname as usual was evasive, however, and Misako found it impossible to make up her own mind. The morning passed.

At about one o’clock she took a bath and dressed, and, ready for either eventuality, sat down inquiringly beside her husband. He said nothing. The morning newspaper was still spread open in front of him.

‘Anyway, your bath is ready?

Oh.’ Kaname lay sprawled on a couple of cushions, his chin in his hand. He pulled his head a little to the side as he caught a suggestion of Misako’s perfume. Careful not to meet her eyes, he glanced at her – more accurately he glanced at her clothes – in an effort to catch some hint of a purpose that might make his decision for him. Unfortunately, he had not been paying much attention to her clothes lately. He knew vaguely that she gave a great deal of attention to them and was always buying something new, but he was never consulted and never knew what she had bought. He could make out nothing more revealing than the figure of an attractive and stylish matron dressed to go out.

the opening of the book we see the problem at the heart of the marriage.

This is described as his most personal book it focuses on the collapse of a marriage as we see what has caused the breakup. The couple Kaname and Misako are trying to navigate splitting up even on the first page there is a sense of distance when Kaname says he hadn’t noticed what Mistake had been wearing lately. He also early on laments the potential loss of his father I law which he feels he may miss more than his wife. He let his wife take a lover. The father-in-law is a very traditional man even his wife is like a doll ( in a very traditional dress and style even down to blacken teeth) This is part of the pull of the book is how the traditional world of Japan is disappearing as the book shows these two views modern western ideas versus tradition. The father-in-law is in the traditional world he loves traditional puppet theatre. The juxtaposed problems and themes in the book are how women are viewed and how the modern Misako maybe just wants her lover and not marriage and her son, as unlike her father’s view of a woman. It follows what happens when neither person in the marriage is brave or strong enough to say not is over. which creates a sense of inertia and causes tension also the fact they have a young son the status quo isn’t ideal as you sense the simmering tension but lack of wanting to end this marriage.

The images of the dolls, Koharu and O-san, were still vivid in Kaname’s mind. He was on edge, however, lest the old man begins his discourse on the serpent, the demon in a wife’s breast, and he found it difficult to stay politely through the lunch.

The doll as the object is part of the values and image of a woman dealt with in the book

I have reviewed three other books by Junichirō Tanizaki over the years it is hard to describe I am a fan but not a fan his books are slow-moving art times and aren’t the quickest to read but then the themes he deals with the clash of cultures the traditional world and modern world is something that I have always loved in fiction.I was reminded of those great books from Africa that followed a similar theme or even Pyre I reviewed recently that had marriage and traditional values at their heart. He is very good at the inside views of marriages. the inner workings of families. The things pulling at this couple from every side but also why divorce is really needed to solve the problems we see in this couple. I like way he describes how cultures clashes. Have you read any books from Him, what books have you chosen for this week’s 1929 club?

Discipline is Destiny Ryan Holiday

Discipline is Destiny by Ryan Holiday

Non- fiction

Source – Review copy

I had forgotten I had said I reviewed this book today so I am back early it is strange that is a book by Ryan Holiday I am back with today. If you are not aware of Ryan he is the voice and person behind the Daily stoic podcast, YouTube, book etc. He uses the stoic philosophers and brings them into a modern context he then uses all he reads and has learnt over time. He has a great number of videos of his reading of the stoics and other books. Where he deep diving into philosophers. Making what the Germans call a Zettelkasten a box of notes. Then how Ryan uses notes to build the books he has written, This book is the second in a series of books he is building around the four cornerstones of Stoicism COURAGE, TEMPERANCE, COURAGE, and WISDOM. He has said he felt this was the hardest book for the writer as TEMPERANCE, SELF CONTROL, MODERATION COMPOSURE and BALANCE are such hard subjects to make compelling to the reader.

For 2,130 consecutive games, Lou Gehrig played first base for the New York Yankees, a streak of physical stamina that stood for the next five-and-a-half decades. It was a feat of human endurance so long immortalized that it’s easy to miss how incredible it actually was. The Major League Baseball regular season in those days was 152 games. Gehrig’s Yankees went deep in the postseason, nearly every year, reaching the World Series a remarkable seven times. For seventeen years, Gehrig played from April to October, without rest, at the highest level imaginable. In the off-season, players barnstormed and played in exhibition games, sometimes travelling as far away as Japan to do so. During his time with the Yankees, Gehrig played some 350 doubleheaders and traveled at least two hundred thousand miles across the country, mostly by train and bus

Yet never missed a game

From the first part of the book Lou Gehrig Baseball Hero

The book is formed in three parts and has a number of examples he uses for each part to try and explain and demonstrate Temperance. the first part at its heart is Lou Gehrig the baseball player (now I know nothing about baseball but he is a name I have heard of, he played the most consecutive games in baseball it is like me picking a cricketer he is a bit like Alastair Cook who played 150 plus test but more so ).Ryan explains how he grew up in a poor family. That it was his self-control on and off the pitch that gave him an advantage and lead to him being seen as an example of the perfect player to those young players coming through. Now the second part used the Queen which at the time I was reading the book was the time here in the Uk we were in the middle of mourning for the  Queen. I am not a royalist but admired and I value and sheer  WATY SHE WAs and how determined she was to serve. This is a perfect example. There are little snippets of her life. LIKE when Churchill first saw her, he was her first prime minister and said she looked serious as a child. It was noted later in her life when asked how many of each party had been prime minister under her she said it wasn’t a matter for her. Then Philip lost his temper one day she said look at the pottery he calmed but when the person looked there was nothing there it showed how she controlled herself so well a true example. The third part I will leave to you.

You could ayitwas in her from thebegining.

Churchill certainly saw it.

Upon meeting the baby who would become the great Queen Elizabeth II, Britain’s longest-serving monarch and likely the longest serving in all of history, he noted, “She has an air of authority and reflectiveness that’s astonishing in an infant.”

The observation of Churchill on the young princess as she was then that became the Queen

Now, this is a change for me I was offered the chance to read this book and said yes as I am an avid listened watcher of Ryan’s podcast he is someone that just makes you want to think read discover. I wish I  could get some of his values in my blog more I admire how he took a subject like a temperance and built a guided journey through the subject that isn’t on the surface that interesting self-control, and moderation balance but actually they are Important how often in the books I have read books like stones in the landslide we see females show this stoic virtue when faced with tough circumstances. Have you heard of Ryan or his podcast are you a fan do you think the stoic and the virtues and things like Memento Mori still ring true? I do I often feel this is what makes me read world literature is how it opens are eyes to the world around us and connect joint the dots use what has been for now. Have you read any of his books or the Stoics?

Winston’s score – +A compelling and interesting look at a subject that could be dull.

 

 

I’ll be back in 1929

I’m going to take a few weeks away from blogging and also Twitter. I’m just ready for a break from social media and the blog so I decide to return 3 weeks today, yes I’m missing the Nobel I may be around but think I won’t be posting on Twitter I’m looking forward to 1929 club so all effort while away will be to read for that week. There is nothing up I just want a break from my social media and blog. My  mental health is fair at moment  I just fancy a break from and maybe the headspace will be good for me and the blog.

 

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