The old king in his exile by Arno Gieger

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The old king in his exile by Arnoo Gieger

German Memoir

Original title – Der alte König in seinem Exil

Translator – Stefan Tobler

Source – review copy

When I meet the Swedish translators last year Nichola one of  translators , she also works for and other story and thought this book out this month would be one I would like.By the Austrian writer Arno Gieger a writer that won the first german book prize for one of his novels in 2005 . This is the memoir of the time he spent with father as his father is suffering from Alzheimers . this is the account of that time.

Because it was wartime, my father had to take early graduation exams in February 1944 and was conscripted ; a mere seventeen-year old grammar-school boy from a farming family, an unworthy altar boy with little life experience – neither child nor an adult , neither military nor civilian, as Bulgakov called such schoolboy soldiers.

He was transferred from the labour service to the Wehrmacht in the summer of 1944

Just as trhe war was turning against germany his father is sent into the army and to the eastern front the worst front to be sent too

The book starts when August is having to move in with his son Arno after struggling with the creeping on set of alzheimers. Intially all goes well he lets Arno take care of him with simple task such as dressing . But he sees his father grasp of language shrinking but he tries to discover a father who he hasn’t really known . He sets out gto try and connect with his father discover more that he knows about his father that he was a child soldier in the war, why does he carry a picture of him as a half-starved man in his passport.He also writes about the way the condition can make people reimagined their lives but also glimpse into his own family’s past the rural life his father grew up in is retold to him .The father does do those things we expect get loose disappear but these are mere side piece in this book no this is the story of father and son walking talking and rediscovering one another.

When i asked my father why he had married my mother , he said he had liked her a lot and wanted to give her a home. Here, too his great themes were present : home ,safety,security. They mattered to him . being in love is nice, he might have thought , but knowing where you belong is nicer still .

His father has a sense of belonging post war the image he carries is like a glimpse that he got through the war when so many didn’t

This is the story of a son discovering his father but also the story of his life his mother and brother from the early days of the farming life that his father lived in the russian front time and then his return and settling down marrying which later led to his mother living his father a situation he blamed his mother for his father;s present position . For me it remind me of what work I do and why I do it that its learning about the past to help the people I support so if someone talks about a tv  show that was on thirty yeas ago i know about it so I can chat about it because some days they don’t know what they did that morning but can remember in great detail an old tv show .the chance you get to rediscover someones past as that is what they are in they are moving back in time as we move forward and some times we have to take on the style and world of the past to get close to those we help. I can say I really enjoyed this book it was nice to see a refreshing look at Alzheimer’s for the bits that like Arno finds can be gems of someones past yes he runs off loses himself sometimes but other times he is so profound and a sort of poetic vision of the man comes of the pages.If you read one book about Alziheimers this is the one to read less dark than others .

Trysting by Emmanuelle Pagano

 

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Trysting by Emmanuelle Pagano

French fiction

Original title -Nouons-nous

translators – Jenifer Higgins and Sophie Lewis

Source – review copy

I often think the most inventive books over recent years I have read have come to from French and her is another example. Emmanuell Pagno studied fine arts and then film studies and then became a teacher whilst in 2002 publishing her first novel she has so far written twelve books and has won the EU literature prize for her book The adolescents troglodytes. This is her first book to be translated to English .

I never used to feel at home in her apartment because it was so dirty. I’m very particular , and I don’t like there to be even a speck of dust around the house. she never washed her clothes, just kept wearing the same old things. She didn’t have a washing machine and seemed to know nothing of laundrettes.she never washed the floor or the bathroom or the toilet. Just sometimes she would sweep the kitchen, leaving the pile of dust pushed into a corner. I used to wait untill she was out and then do a spot of cleaning , because she got angry if i did so much as look at a sponge in her presence. I brought a vacuum cleaner over in secret. After a few weeks the apartment had started to look very different and she noticed . She threw me out , along with  all the cleaning products I had hidden behind the rubbish bin under the sink

I loved this I thought of Myself I was very cluttered when I met Amanda not as bad as here, but this has a saki like humour as well .

Well how to describe this book that is the problem , it is utterly brilliant but hard to describe it is like a pice of art in a way. An art piece of love a collage of pieces of love . those piece of love we all think are captured here there are small glimpse into unknown lives by just the way we look , feel , smell, act and grow together. Then we have the flip side those thing in love that are just strange such as photographing some ones toe clippings is that love or obsession that is a line that pushed . Other place there is sexual underpinnings in the piece like a wife taking her other halves  saxophone and damping its mouthpiece before playing it .

He wraps presents like no one else. Perfect parcels, for christmas or birthdays, neatly taped up, the paper smoothed by the assiduous flat of his hand, with ta fold positioned two-thirds of the way along the top side, as if he were ironing a crease into a shirt. That fold is his signature

don’t we all know when our other half has wrapped our gifts in a pile of gifts ?

these vignettes are like forgotten postcards to what we love , i follow a twitter account that has old postcards and what was written on them and this is like that almost some one went to the wall in Verona with the love notes and taken them down and edited to there is no identity to the writer other than the essence of love that drop of words that is love , obsession and sex . I said this is like a piece of art it is like Tracy Enim piece her bed for example said a lot about her and her life or the piece everyone I have ever slept with , this is a cut up of love lives with the names places and people removed . This is one of those books that a few weeks you have read it you will go back and check that or this was said in it a wonderful collection of vignettes on love.

Have you read this book ?

 

Winstons books from Spainsh nutella to french love

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Well some new arrivals I start of with this interesting book about love , it is a collection of male and female voices on love no names descriptions but just thoughts on what love is for each of us . I finished this last night and it is a one of my favourites so far this year.antother interesting book from And other stories soon to be located in Sheffield ten miles from me .

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Now I read the first part of this trilogy last year but I missed reviewing it Mallo in Nocilla expereicne follows what he did in his previous book Nocilla dream and that is walking a fine line between fiction and non fiction in what is true and untruth. A truly refreshing writer. from one of my favourite publishers Fitzcarrado editions.

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Next up is The boy a story of a mother trying to find out what happened when her son is found dead on a school trip . How is it he  died.this  Leads to a snowy  night in  Bulgaria she has tracked down her sons teacher and the weather is closing in .The two woman alone in the middle of nowhere .

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Then I brought four books on a recent trip to Derby with Amanda , I brought four books whilst the so clockwise we have the Lost daughter by Elena ferrante , yes I know but this is a stand alone novel follows a mother coping with her daughters going to live with their father .Then we have a life full of holes a story of a street arab as told to Paul bowles a story of a loner fighting his way out of poverty . This seems very unusual book to me. A Bolano novella A little lumpen novellita follows a brother and sister as they plan a crime with two criminals after their parents have died. Then we have thirst for love by Yukio Mishima a widow moves in with her father in law and then avoids his advances for her instead turns to a servant but is he interested ?

What new books have you got ?

 

 

Signs preceding the end of the world by Yuri Herrera

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Signs Preceding the end of the world by Yuri Herrera

Mexican fiction

Original title – Señales que precederán al fin del mundo

Translator – Lisa Dillman

Source – Review copy

My trip through last years books that could make the Man booker longlist has hit one I eel fits the old IFFP mould an issue novel as Tony and I have been saying the last few years, but this is a clever take on an issue by one of the rising stars of Mexican writing Yuri Herrera. This is his second novel and has already been translated into a number of other languages . This is his first book in English.

Slippery bitch of a city, she said to herself. Always about to sink back into the cellar

This was the first time the earth’s insanity had affected her. The little town was riddled with bullet holes and tunnels bored by five centuries of voracious silver lust, and from time to time some poor soul accidentally discovered just what a half-assed job they’d done of covering them over. A few houses had already been sent packing to the underworld, as had a soccer pitch and half empty school. these things always happen to someone else, until they happen to you, she thought. She had a quick peek over the precipice, empathized with the poor soul on his way to hell. Happy trails, she said without irony, and then muttered Best be on with my errand

Makina on way to get her errands to go North for her Brother.

Signs preceding the end of the world follows a journey that happens a hundred times a day and that is the migrant journey between Mexico and United States. What Yuri has done here is taken the location away from the story and just told the story through the person and people involved Makina a young woman who has a dual purpose for being on the journey. personal and for the underworld  That is to find her brother and bring him back down south but also deliver messages from the underworld via Mr Double- U ( love that name almost like a Trantino name ) in her small town and her own mother as they want the brother to return. Makina makes this journey that is well trodden but through her eyes we see a strange world of odd towns and weird rivers as she heads north, how do you see snow when you see it for the first time ?

When she reached the top of the saddle between the two mountains it began to snow. Makina had never seen snow before and the first thing that struck her as she stopped to watch the weightless crystals raining down was that something was burning. One came to perch on her eyelashes: it looked like a stack of crosses or the map of a palace, a solid and intricate marvel at any rate, and when it dissolved a few seconds later she wondered how it was some things in the world – some countries, some people could see eternal when everything was actually like that miniature ice palace:

Snow for the first time also the way it has a myth like nature to Herrera’s prose.

 

This is a book I read twice, Herrrera has taken a fresh way at looking at makina journey and that is make it feel like an odssey , make her journey feel like a myth like a classic quest as she tries to get north. I was reminded of when I read Paz years ago how he viewed Mexico as a labyrinth of myths and history and this takes this and also clashes this past with the neighbour to the north the bright shining lights of US and there modern myths that have taken Makina’s brother and now she is having to go there as well. This is how we see migrants through  there eyes Makina could be anyone from around the world she could be a sister on the back of a lorry entering The uk , or a sister walking the tracks into Europe  or on a boat. Herrera has made Makina an everyone more than just a small village girl.

Have you a favourite Migrant story ?

 

The Adventures of the busts of Eva Peron by Carlos Gamerro

 

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The adventures of the busts of Eva Peron by Carlos Gamerro

Argentinean fiction

Original title – La aventura de los bustos de Eva

Translator Ian Barnett

Source – Review copy

Please, holy Eva, will you feed a hungry child?
For I love you–tell Heaven I’m doing my best
I’m praying for you, even though you’re already blessed
Please, mother Eva, will you feed a hungry child?
For I love you–tell Heaven I’m doing my best
I’m praying for you, even though you’re already blessed

CHE
Turn a blind eye, Evita,
Turn a blind eye

I have watched Evita the film once and a book about Eva Peron in a small way maybe need lyrics about her .

Another trip to latin America for spanish lit month ,this time to Argentina . I revisit a writer that I have reviewed twice before on the blog Carlos Gamerro his books Open Secret and The islands  . Like his earlier books this looks again at the past of Argentina and like the other stories it takes a different angle . Carlos Gamerro has written a number of books , he has also translated a number of works into English by writers such as Shakespeare , Auden and Harold Bloom .This is his third book to be translated to English .

Yon know the latest thing they’ve come up with ? They want us to put a bust of Eva Peron in each of our offices .Even in this one !Can you think of anything more absurd ?

Marrone didn’t answer , as he was already mentally totting up the number of busts needed to meet the new demand .eighth floor : the “Vahalla” , the meeting room and two other offices ; seventh floor : nine offices , hallway … The hallways too

The task ma be absurd but Ernesto is up for the task .Like Don Quixote with his absurd tasks .

The book is set in the 1970 the time of the dirty war in Argentina a subject I have touch on before with other books from Argentina I have reviewed on the blog a book like A funny dirty war for example . This as ever being Carlos Gamerro has an angle to it a business magnet has been kidnapped and the people who have kidnapped him have set a task of getting a bust of Eva Peron put in every office of Fausto Tamerlan construction company . Now the man tasked with obtaining the bust is one of Tamerlan underlings Ernesto  Marrone ,here is a man who reads the books on success , books about Don Quixote .In fact to him this is maybe the mission of a knight errand to save the man by getting the maid .This journey takes him through the past to the present from top to bottom of Argentinean society how does a man who is maybe caught in the rat race given the chance to escape and become a hero cope .He has the books but is that all he will need ?

In this very spirit  Cervantes celebrated hero , Don Quixote of La Manche , decides one fine day to turn his back on the meagreness of his material life and the shallowness of the world around him – gutless mediocre folk devoted to traditional ways of doing things , for whom creativity is anathema – and strikes out on the highways in search of adventure .Don Quixote’s gesture encapsulates the adventurous spirit of today’s businessmen

One of the business books that Ernesto likes to read happens to be about Don Quixote using his deeds in the modern business world .

 

There is many echos to me to the great Cervantes and his classic book Don Quixote  in this book, Ernesto like the Don Quixote  likes to read books now given his books aren’t about knight .But the knights of the modern age those business men . We see what in a way would be a good reality show to prove yourself to your boss with the impossible task .Add to that a splatter of history about the time and about the woman herself Eva Peron , her story gets wound up in the story .So  Ernesto is tasked with his modern crusade of getting the busts in place .To the backdrop of the mad seventies in Argentina .

Have you a favourite books about Argentina’s past .

By night the mountain burns by Juan Tomas Avila Laurel

 

 

 

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By night the mountain burns by Juan Tomas Avila Laurel

Equatorial Guinea fiction

Original title – Arde el monte de noche

Translator – Jethro Soutar

Source – review copy

 

“Memories Can’t Wait”

Do you remember anyone here?
No you don’t remember anything at all
I’m sleeping, I’m flat on my back
Never woke up, had no regrets

There’s a party in my mind…And it never stops
There’s a party up there all the time…They’ll
party till they drop
Other people can go home…Other peoplle they can split
I’ll be here all the time…I can never quit

Was hard to find a lyric but talking heads for some reason seemed right and a song about memories .

Well this is one I had read last year but put to one-sided and never got too , which doesn’t mean I didn’t like it the opposite really I loved it at the time sometimes if I leave a book too long to get to I never do .So last few days I flicked through it again and remember what I enjoyed about it after it made the IFFP longlist .Juan Tomas Avila Laurel is one of the voice to speak out against his countries harsh regime .A well-known blogger in his country , he worked as a nurse .He chose to stay in Equatorial Guinea ,when a lot of his fellow writers left .He eventually left in 2011 after he went on hunger strike to tie in with a visit from a Spanish minister  .

If there were too few people on our Atlantic Ocean island , too few strong people , we obviously wouldn’t be able to fish in canoes .There would be no need to ask a woman to have malanga soup ready at particular hour of particular afternoon , and nobody would sing to pull a half made canoe to its final destination

The island works together at times .

Now By night the mountain burns is one of those books that feel as thou it has been around for years in its style of writing  because the world we see maybe hasn’t changed for years .laurel draws on the small island of Annobon which is part of the country but also maybe shows more what is wrong with the country as it is smaller and poorer  .But rather like Fois book bloodlines is cut off from the surround world a world caught in amber .In this case it is an island where some of the past still lives on in myths and traditions . But the island is faces many other problems as Cholera and fire have both broken out and are spreading like wildfire .This is all told to us through the eyes of one of the youngest members of a family the young grandchild of a family  .So will it be fire disease or the old superstitions that drive the family out ?

They made the dead man a coffin and in the afternoon they went to bury him , following the procedure I described earlier . All the children who lived on the streets of the funeral procession were shut up in their homes with the windows covered up , forbidden from going outside until the adults got back .

A world full of tradition and the fear of what cholrea have brought to the island

I really enjoyed this when I read it last year as it is what seems the second book to be translated from its country it is hard to compare it with any other African fiction as Equatorial Guinea is the only Spanish-speaking country in africa . But at the time I noted down one book it reminded me of and that boom was” the last will and testament of senhor Da Silva Arajo by Germano Almeida “a book from Cape Verde a small island off Africa rather like Annobon I was  reminded as both gave  me  a feel of island life (meaning it is rather slow and often can have developed its own mythology ).A great choice for the English pen translation programme bringing us a writer that stands up for what he believes and in this book he shows us in part what is so wrong with his home country .In this book rich in its poetic language .

have you read this book ?

Winstons books – A bumper week

Well last week no books arrived for me ,but this week I have had five arrive .

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First up from And other stories By the mountains burn by Juan Tomas Avila Laurel ,a writer from Equatorial Guinea (A first for this blog ,the only spanish speaking country ) a childhood on a remote island of the west african coast ,cholera ,superstitions and fire destroy crops sounds great .Then The alphabet of birds by S J Naude one of the best Afrikaans writers a collection of short stories with recurring motifs ,from London via Milan to Johannesburg .

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Now to a writer I have reviewed before Philippe Claudel his new book is a memoir formed up of Smells so each chapter is a smell and what it means or meant to him .I really like the idea of a smell memoir a quick flick and cigar is one ,I have this a smell with my father when younger .from MacLehose press

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Next up are two novels from German the first in the shadow is a price to pay by Alex Capus a Swiss- French writer that writes in German (only via books in translation do you find story’s like that a franco swiss writer in German !!!) the story is of three characters whose paths cross in 1924 on a station in Zürich this leads them in different directions all after this chance meeting .The other is The glory of life by Michael Kumpfmuller ,the story of the last year of Kafka’s  life caught in the relationship he had with Dora a young women he meet whilst recovering by the Baltic sea .both from Haus publishing

What books have you got this week ?

 

Sworn Virgin by Elvira Dones

sworn virgin cover Elvira Dones

Sworn Virgin by Elvira Dones

Albanian fiction

Original title – Vergine giurata

Translator – Clarissa Botsford

Source – Review copy

After that my guess is that you will never hear from him again. The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he did not exist. And like that… he is gone.

Verbal in the film the Usual suspects

Elvira Dones is an us based Albanian writer ,she has written seven novels in Albanian before living in Italy and starting to write in Italian ,where she has written two books ,this is one of them .She also made a documentary about twelve Sworn Virgins like Hana /Mark in this novel ,that have left Albania and gone to live in the US .This book is also due to be made into a film .

You can’t write good poems with a dry cunt ,she thinks to herself again ,annoyed .Why the hell did she tell him she wrote ?

Hana /Mark on plane to US maybe thinks more like a man still

Well I really pleased when I got sent this as I have only read Kadare and a small piece by Ornela Vorpsi that was in one of the Dalkey European collection .So the chance to read about a country that has interested me since working in a factory in Germany along side a couple from  Kosovo ,whom had like Hana in this book escaped Albania (Kosovo is actually Serbia but the country itself is 90% Albanian ) ,So the chance to discover another tale of this country grabbed me .Anyway to the book Sworn Virgin is the story of Hana/Mark ,at the start of the story we see the young Hana in the capital of Albania Tirana studying away at Literature ,start to just spread her wings .She was originally from a small village brought up by her uncle  ,but a call from an Uncle brings her back to her village ,this is because her family want her to marry as the Uncle is dying and there is no male Heir , but that glimpse of another world in Tirana leads to Mark ,as Hana decides under the old ways of her country to live as a man as a Sworn virgin ,so live goes on Until a relative that left Albania ask Mark /Hana to come and live in the US so after all these years of being a man can Hana find her womanhood again ?

“Ok ” she decide .”Me first , since I’m the one who dragged you into this situation .I’m a woman , I’ve always been one .I’m not a transvestite , or a transsexual ,and I’m not gay .I’ve never been any of these things .It’s just that I swore to become a man ,in a social ,sense ,sixteen years ago .I had to do it because circumstances forced me to .

Hana in Us meets a man and tells him this .

This is one of those stories when you hear about it you go to yourself on no it doesn’t happen but this is part of the past ,but when in the post world war two period Hoxha ran the  country as an isolate place for forty years so a lot of these old practices kept going .Here in a piece from Slate by Jill Peters you get the full effect of what happened to Hana/Mark , as you see ,it’s not just dressing as a man no it is to coin the phrase “the whole nine yards ” .The book isn’t a straight narrative no we jump from now to then as we see Hana/Marks life unfold .Elvira captures so well it seems Hana becoming Mark and even better Mark years later becoming Hana once more and how to the outsider do you explain being a Sworn virgin ?As ever And other stories have turned up a quirky novel about a part of the world I always want to know more about .

Have you a favourite part of the world to read books from ?

 

Happy birthday And Other stories book giveaway

Well I can’t believe its over three years since I got a email from Stefan the head man at and other stories, about them starting and how they choose the books via there reading groups. But it is true today Saturday Marks  three years since the first book came out they grown and had a book on the booker list and still doing great translations .I ve been given the chance to share some love for this and give away three titles by them .I ve been chosen  to give these titles

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Down the rabbit hole by Jaun Pablo Villalobos

The Islands Carlos Gamerro

The Islands by Carlos Gamerro

black vodka Levy

and BLack Vodka by Deborah Levy

Simply choose your book and I ll draw them and let and other stories know the winners

All the lights by Clemens Meyer

All the lights by Clemens Meyer

German fiction short stories

Translation by Katy Derbyshire

Clemens Meyer is the rising star of german literature ,he grew up in former east germany had a number of jobs such as fork lift driver ,construction whilst writing he has published three books in germany ,this is the first to be translated into english and the second book to be published by new Publisher and other stories it is out today 1 september .the book is translated by berlin based Katy Derbyshire .Rob of rob around books says he has a Aura around him as he saw him recently when he appeared at the Edinburgh book festival .

Well were to start  with all the lights .First of it’s a collection of 15 short stories ,I was first  told about it by Stuart Evers who wrote the forward at the Independent foreign fiction prize night .What the stories about well the stories on the whole  are all  set in the former east germany where Clemens grew up ,the characters in the stories are on the edge of life ,the underclass ,boxers and down and outs .AH now when I read this first off I was going to compare him to Raymond Carver and Charles Bukowski ,But to be honest that is lazy of me just to say oh here is a collection on  european lowlife and of course the nearest comparison is the two best known American writers in that vogue  ,but no there is a line in  these stories too  the turn of century works of Alfred Doblin ,Paul Leppin and so on where peole struggled as well like in a lot of these stories .The book isn’t tinge in what the Germans östalgie the former east germans that what to go back to the old east germany no its in the present as people struggling to cope with life in the new Germany where the state isn’t god like in the former east .I don’t like giving away many storylines in short story collections as it nice to find them as your read them so will mention my favourite in the collection which is of dogs and horse some of you may recognise it as it was in the guardian ,this is the story of Rolf and his dog Piet(named after Pete Sampras) ,one morning Piet develops a limp and goes to the vet he is a Doberman /rottweiler cross and has inherited the condition hip dysplasia and the operation to save Piet pain and a shorter life is a lot .This sends   Rolf into the world of gambling to try to raise the required funds to help his beloved dog .As you can imagine this story really touched me as a dog owner I felt Rolf’s pain and he desire to help his dog at all costs as it is something I would do my self .

“Piet ”  said Rolf ,what’s up with you ,boy you’re not old yet .Piet stood there in the middle of the pavement ,his back legs far apart ;he stood there as if straggling something ,looking at him with his dark eyes .He pulled on the leash but the dog didn’t move .He squatted down in front of him and stroked his head .”Whats  up boy ,what’s the matter,shall we just have a bit of a rest ? You’ll be all right in a minute ,won’t you Piet ?”

Piet the dog isn’t himself ,a quote from “of dogs and horses “.

There is something about this collection that will stick with me a long time to come  ,of dogs and horses in particular ,really touch me and I must admit it  brought a tear to this readers eye which is something that rarely happens .Like with the other book out from and other stories ,they’ve found a unique voice the “tattoo man of german literature”  as he is called in a welt article I read about him , Meyers is the voice of the east ,he is tackling the present as it is faced by a large number of the young former east German men as on the whole its a man’s world in these stories .I enjoy Katy Derbyshire translation she manage to keep the masculine nature of the stories intact The book was sent to me to review .

What is your favourite European short story writer ?

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