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 .

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