Cult X by Fuminori Nakamura

 

Cult X by Fuminori Nakamura

Japanese Crime fiction

Original title – Kyōdan X (教団X)

Translator – Kalau Almony

Source – review copy

I read this a few months ago and decide I have a flick through it today it was one of those books I read and said got do a review and then life and everything got in the way. Anyway, Fuminori Nakamura is one of Japan’s leading crime writers he has won a number of prizes with his books including the Kenzaburo Oe prize one of the biggest book prizes in Japan he has been writing since his early twenties He has had a number of his books Translated into English. The events in this book were inspired by the events that lead up to the Sarin Attack in 1995 in Tokyo and the cult behind it. Strangely as I was reading this in the summer members of that cult were executed in Japan.

“…Cult X?”

What a strange name, Narazuki thought. Like the name of some trashy TV show.

“Have you told the police about this scam?”

“Matsuo-san didn’t want to” Yoshida said, lookinf fed up. “Because of whatever that old connection is between Matsuo-san and Sawatari.I don’t know the details”.

It bega to grow dark outside. Narazaki felt as though the lights inside were growing stronger – manmade lights stretching out everyone’s shadow

When he hears about Cult X he also has a feel of darkness drawing in around him !!

This follows one man as he tries to find his girlfriend. Toru Narazaki girlfriend has disappeared off the face of the earth and he is worried enough in the start to hire a private detective to try and find her. He only turns up that a cult is now connected to one-off her addresses. This is how Toru ends up following what Happened to Ryoko Tachibana also she is known as Rina. Toru has an interest in religion he has been attending talks by a man known as Matsuo.this leads to a dark cult called X which Toru is drawn into as we see the philosophy of its leader through lectures and discussions. She is in the groups compound he needs t get there but behind the fence is a world of a cult with power tri[ps sexual activities  violence and a leader that has lost it and is drawing his followers near the abyss of something that could end their lives but also of a lot of other people as he has brainwashed them so much. This all unfolds nicely as we follow Toru in the rabbit hole of a cult.

The leader was sitting in the dark. At first the woman thought he was sleeping, but then he made a slight movement, as if something small had gotten caught in his thrat. His eyes open briefly.

She examined his face carefully, but the leader closed his eyes again. It was like he had already forgotten the previous moments discomfort.He kept his eyes closed, even though right in front of him were many naked men and woman with only bath towels covering their bodies.

“Today is Monday,” Maeda-Kun said. His voice carried well. He had good posture. He was kind. And he wasn’t the only one – everyone here was kind.

The leader and his naked disciples all isn’t as it seems here.

This book is a writer question what happened with the 1995  Sarin Attacks and the cult and its leader that lead the attack. It is strange I have listened and seen a number of things about cults in the last twelve months. The last series of American Horror story had a cult as it’s storyline this showed how easy it is for ordinary people to get drawn into a cult when they have a few problems in their life. So the fact that Ryoko has a past she hasn’t ever talked about with Toru means this secret made her a perfect target for the cult and their Leader as she was damaged in a WayI also listen to a podcast about the Heavens Gate Cult which liked this showed how the Leaders tend to cherry pick the bits of different philosophies they like and mix them to there own end this is what the first part of the book shows is the ideas behind the cult and shows how when they have been brought by the followers they do the horrific events in the later third of the book which lift that dark curtain of the sex and violence and the abuse of power within the Cult it a slow-burning novel that draws the reader in with the last third that is engrossing and horrifies in equal parts. This is a beautiful book as well Soho has made a real effort in the hardback with the Huge X cut in the hardcover showing the devilish illustrated endpapers in the book.

 

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DSC prize Longlist

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LONGLIST ANNOUNCED FOR THE DSC PRIZE FOR SOUTH ASIAN
LITERATURE 2018
16 novels including 4 translated works in contention for the coveted prize
New Delhi, October 10, 2018: The much anticipated longlist for the US $25,000 DSC Prize for South Asian
Literature 2018 was announced today by eminent historian and academic Rudrangshu Mukherjee, who is the
chair of the jury panel for the distinguished prize. The longlist of 16 novels which was unveiled at the Oxford
Bookstore in New Delhi includes 4 translated works where the original writings were in Assamese, Kannada,
Tamil and Hindi. The longlist features six women authors and three women translators, and two outstanding
debut novels that find place alongside the works of several established writers. The longlist represents the best
of South Asian fiction writing over the last year and includes submissions from a diverse mix of publishers and
authors of different backgrounds writing on a wide range of issues and themes. The novels include stunning
portrayals of migration, war and the pain of displacement, poignant love stories, the exploration of new found
relationships and identities, and vivification of the personal struggles, hopes and aspirations that symbolize the
urgent and divisive realities of contemporary South Asian life. Apart from authors based in South Asia there are
writers based outside the region who have incisively and evocatively brought alive the subtle nuances of South
Asian life and culture. The longlist announcement event was attended by publishers, authors and literary
enthusiasts who welcomed the selection of the longlist.
This year the DSC Prize, administered by the South Asian Literature Prize & Events Trust, received 88 eligible
entries and the five member international jury panel diligently went through these entries to arrive at this year’s
longlist of 16 novels which they feel represent the best works of fiction related to the South Asian region.

The longlisted entries contending for the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2018 are:
 Anuradha Roy: All The Lives We Never Lived (Hachette, India)
 Arundhati Roy: The Ministry Of Utmost Happiness (Alfred Knopf, USA and Hamish Hamilton, Canada)
 Chandrakanta: The Saga Of Satisar (Translated by Ranjana Kaul, Zubaan Books, India)
 Deepak Unnikrishnan: Temporary People (Penguin Books, Penguin Random House, India)
 Jayant Kaikini: No Presents Please (Translated by Tejaswini Niranjana, Harper Perennial, HarperCollins
India)
 Jeet Thayil: The Book Of Chocolate Saints (Aleph Book Company, India and Faber & Faber, UK)
 Kamila Shamsie: Home Fire (Riverhead Books, USA and Bloomsbury, UK)
 Manu Joseph: Miss Laila Armed And Dangerous (Fourth Estate, HarperCollins, India)
 Mohsin Hamid: Exit West (Riverhead Books, USA and Hamish Hamilton, Penguin Random House, India)
 Neel Mukherjee: A State Of Freedom (Chatto & Windus, Vintage, USA and Hamish Hamilton, Penguin
Random House, India)
 Perumal Murugan: Poonachi (Translated by N Kalyan Raman, Context, Westland Publications, India)
 Prayaag Akbar: Leila (Simon & Schuster, India)
 Rita Chowdhury: Chinatown Days (Translated by Rita Chowdhury, Macmillan, Pan Macmillan, India)
 SJ Sindu: Marriage Of A Thousand Lies (Soho Press, USA)
 Sujit Saraf: Harilal & Sons (Speaking Tiger, India)
 Tabish Khair: Night Of Happiness (Picador, Pan Macmillan, India)

About the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature:
The US $25,000 DSC Prize for South Asian Literature which was instituted by Surina Narula and Manhad Narula
in 2010, is one of the most prestigious international literary awards specifically focused on South Asian writing.
It is a unique and coveted prize and is open to authors of any ethnicity or nationality as long as the writing is
about South Asia and its people. It also encourages writing in regional languages and translations and the prize
money is equally shared between the author and the translator in case a translated entry wins.
Now in its 8th year, the DSC Prize has been successful in bringing South Asian writing to a larger global audience
through rewarding and showcasing the achievements of the authors writing about this region. Past winners of
the DSC Prize have been H M Naqvi of Pakistan, Shehan Karunatilaka of Sri Lanka, Jeet Thayil and Cyrus Mistry
from India, American author of Indian origin Jhumpa Lahiri, Anuradha Roy from India, and Anuk Arudpragasam
of Sri Lanka who won the prize last year.
In line with its South Asian essence, the DSC Prize Award ceremony is held in various South Asian countries by
rotation. The winner of the DSC Prize 2015 was announced at the Jaipur Literature Festival in India, the winner
of the DSC Prize 2016 was announced at the Galle Literary Festival in Sri Lanka, the winner of the DSC Prize 2017
was announced at the Dhaka Lit Fest in Bangladesh, whereas the winner of the DSC Prize 2018 would be
announced in a South Asian country which is being finalized. For more information, visit: www.dscprize.com 

Another day and today see the longlist for the DSC prize for south Asian literature.I hope to read the four translated books on the longlist.

 

Endless blue sky by Lee Hyoseok

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Endless Blue Sky by Lee Hyoseok

Korean fiction

Original title 벽공문한

Translator – Stevenn D Capener

Source – Review copy

Honford star is another of those rising band of the small publisher that is cutting its own corner in the world of translated fiction with bringing out works from Southeast Asia Korea in Particular. They have chosen works from modern classic writers from Korea. Lee Hyoseok is another example of the writers Honford star have been brought to us. He studied English in the early thirties in Keijo university. He was a fan of the works of Thomas Mann and Anton Chokov. But was most influenced by the group of nine writers of his fellow Korean writers. Which he was a member of. Where they all influenced each other in there writing.

Ilmas’s duties as a cultural envoy were actually quite simple. He was to go to Harbin and negotaite the invitation of a symphony orchesra. Although there was no mention of an ocupation on Ilma’s nuisness card, while writing commentaries on current cultural topics and critical essays on music, he had natrually come to be considered, by himself and others, as a culture mediator, Recent displays of his talents in the field, inculding successfully arranging for the performances of renowned theatrical troupes from Tokyo had brought Ilma to the attentoon of certain people.

how he got his job in Harbin that would lead to him falling for Nadia.

This is a romance but it is also the story of various cultures clashing just before the world they all know was to descend into the darkness of the second world war. We follow Ilma a Korean Journalist. He has been sent to Manchuria to be a cultural Envoy by the editor of Hyundai Daily. He has also been sent to get an Orchestra to play in Korea. What follows is the falling in love between Ilma and a Russian dancer Nadia. They both fall for each other’s worlds in a way he tells her about the breaking cosmopolitan nature of Modern Korea. But the city of Harbin where they are feels a lot more western as it is more liberal than Korea. They talk in a shared language of English and she tells him about life in the west. But there is a thorn in their sides an Actress that Ilma knew Daneyeong that isn’t happy that he is seeing a none Korean. From watching western films like the southern carrier a film about the early pioneering aviators. Then we have a kidnapping (common at this time in this part of the world) then Drug taking as well. A couple falls in love on the cusp of world war two.  but in the background is what lies ahead.

“Who are you talking about?”

“Whaddya mean who? Nadia, of course.”

“Nadia asks about me? Ilma stood with his mouth open his heart suddenly aflutter. “Truth be told, the first thing I think of when I come to Harbin is Nadia. Did she really ask about me ?

When he first gets a glimmer of the fact that Nadia likes him !

This is a book of its time a writer trying to cram as much of his world at the time as he can. The world that was in a way the setting is the late thirties southern carrier came out in 1937 and the book was written in 1941. So I feel he is trying to capture that world just before the world change. I have long been a fan of books that show clashing cultures and this is shown here from the Western Harbin a cosmopolitan gem that is what people like ILma and his Editor world like Korea to be. Then we have the feeling of falling in love at the wrong time. I was reminded of the loves of Charles Ryder in Brideshead another book that followed those years on the cusp of war. Even a book like Isherwood’s Goodbye to Berlin another book that captures that crazy pre-war world of new ideas and liberal values!! The world that like Hyoseok saw the barriers and cultural world changing slightly. I enjoyed this it is a busy book packed full of threads of stories but it serves a dollop of a world that is gone. The book has a great intro from the translator, he is a real fan of the writer. The book is also has a specially commissioned cover based on the book by a Korean artist.

A cat, A man And two women by Junichiro Tanizaki

 

A Cat

A cat, a man and two women by Junichiro Tanizaki

Japanese fiction

Original title – Neko to Shōzō to Futari no Onna

Translator – Paul McCarthy

Source – personnel copy on Kindle

I have been using my Kindle a bit more recently as I had a few books I had brought cheap and want to read this being one of them. Tanizaki is a writer I had to want to feature on the blog for a while. He was one of the best writers of the mid 20th century. He himself was a translator working a lot during his life translating the Epic Tales of Genji into modern Japanese. He also was known forthright intimate nature of his writing. This is a lesser work but for me a very personal insight into a family life.

Shozo repeated the same thing over and over again. He would give her a fish, then himself a little drink, and calling ‘Lily’ would raise the next prize high. There must originally have been some twelve or thirteen mackerel on Shozo’s plate, each about two inches long, of which he himself had actually eaten perhaps three or four. For the rest, he had simply sucked out a bit of the vinegar dressing before giving the flesh to Lily. ‘Ohh-ohh … owww! That hurts!’ Shozo let out a shriek: Lily had leapt onto his shoulders and dug in her claws.

Shozo even feeds the cat more than himself

The book as the title suggests is about a Man Shozo, he is on his second marriage that is the two women referred to in the title of his first and second wives. There is also Shozo Cat Lily. The story focus on the relationship between the four characters. This happens when the first wife asks for Lily the cat back Shinako a seamstress by trade hasn’t got over losing her husband. She knows that Lily the cat may bring him back to her. Now his current wife isn’t a fan of Lily this is shown when she isn’t happy when she cooks 13 pieces of fish for her husband and he gives most of it to the cat. They even share the bed together at night. Who will win this power battle between the two women the rather lazy husband and the cat Lily?

Now, Fukuko was a cousin of Shozo’s; and, given the circumstances under which she became his wife, there was no need for her to worry about pleasing a difficult mother-in-law. So from her second day of married life, she did just as she pleased in everything. All the same, she could hardly stand by and watch her husband trying to wield a kitchen knife, so in the end she made the marinated fish for both of them, though under protest. To make matters worse, they had been dining off mackerel for five or six days running. Then, two or three days ago, it had struck her: Shozo wasn’t even eating the food he’d insisted on having, ignoring his wife’s complaints; instead, he was giving it all to the cat! The more she thought about it, the clearer it all became: the mackerel were small, with little bones, easily chewed; there was no need to fillet them, and they could be served cold; and one got a lot for one’s

He married a distant relative but his mother made life hard and now the cat and ex aren’t helping either !

This is really a mans ode to the cat. Lilly is the one character from the book I’d like to meet. Shozo is a lazy man that has lost one wife. But end with a younger model but at the end of the day is more into his cat than his wife even sharing the bed with the Cat then we have Shinako a perfect example of the scorned wife she wants to use Lilly as a pawn in her game to get back her man from the younger wife. She also loved this tortoiseshell cat and her man. This is one lonely lady that wants something back into her life. Fukuko his current wife has to find her place with him in there married life and somehow keep Shozo and keep him happy even if this means he gets to keep his cat! There is all of human life here love, loneliness, marriage, divorce and one man and his cat. This is a recent reissue from Daunt books and shows why it is good to bring lesser works by great writer back especially when like this they have a certain timeless feel to them. I haven’t read enough by him to say if this is the best entry book but I read it in a night and it brought a smile to my face and made me think of Winston and Merlin my two ex-pet dogs.

The White book by Han Kang

 

Image result for han kang white book cover

The White Book by Han Kang

Korean fiction

Original title – 흰

Translator – Deborah Smith

Source – personal copy

I must admit first up for me as a reader, I was never as swept away by the vegetarian as some other readers were. So when this Han Kang’s latest book was on the longlist ,I wasn’t maybe as keen to read this as some as the others on the longlist. This is the third book from Han Kang to be translated to English and was published in Korea in 2016. It is also a different book from the first two books as for me it is a narrative prose piece for me.

Faced with that question, it was this death that came to me. It was a story which I had grown up inside.The most helpless of all young animals. Pretty little baby, white as moon shaped rice cakes. How I’d been born and grown up in the place of that death.

“White as moon-shaped rice cake” which never made sense until at six, I was old enough to help out with making rice cakes for Chuseok, forming the dough into small crescent moons. Before being steamed, those bright white shapes of rice dough are a thing so lovely they do not seem of this world.

I loved this image of the rice moon and child’s face.

Now for me as an English reader the white book as a title seems less dark than if this book was called the Black book , but in a way that  should be the real title of the book. It is a series of small vignettes split into three sections that mainly focus on the birth of Han Kang’s older sister that was born and died after two hours after her mother 22 gave birth. A child that is described as looking like a rice moon cake when born the first section the vignettes seem to interlinking with a few recurring motifs in the prose pieces a list of white objects , but as the pieces unfold we see how white is never really white. From the child’s face to a moon rice to snow in all its forms from thick blizzards to sleet showers. An ode to a sister that was never known but also to the colour of mourning in Korea which is white and things connected to mourning in Korea like rice also the is a colour connection of Blood mention and the fact in Korea Red chilli powder is put in the rice at a funeral. A wonderful mix of piece that draw you as a reader into a young woman”s grief but also a poetic vision of grief and mourning.

sleet

There is none of us whom life regards with any partiality. Sleet falls as she walks these streets, holding this knowledge inside her. Sleet that leaves cheeks and eyebrows heavy with moisture, Everything passes. She bears this rememberance – the knowledge that everything she has clung to will fall away from her and vanish- through the streets where sleet falling, that is neither rain nor now, neither ice nor water, that dampens her eyebrows and steams from her forehead whether she stands still or hurries on closes her eyes or opens them

Such a poets mix of life and death in a vision of sleet.

I so pleased this has come after the vegetarian as anything after this would be a let down for me as a reader this book has a fragile nature like a pile of rice barely held together. It has a sense of the fragile nature of life the sense of grief of losing a daughter so early in ones own life. But also the poetic side of the list of white things that litter the book. The ones around snow I found so poetic the way sleet turns to water on contact with skin almost like the daughter life a brief moment of time this is about how brief life. This is a perfect choice of why I read world lit these books that open our eyes as readers to the wider world poetic visions and grief so

 

Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag

Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag

Indian fiction

Translated by Srinath Perur

Source – library book

I miss the old Man Asian prize because this is the sort of book I would have found via there longlist when it was running. I have always enjoyed the other books from around India I have read that have been translated. I know this one made a few end of year longlists. Vivek Shanbhag has written eight novels and a few plays, He is currently a writer in residence at the University of Iowa in America this is his first book to be translated into English.

Vincent is a waiter at coffee house, It’s just called that – coffeee house, The name hasn’t changed in a hundred years, even if the buisness has, You can still get a good cup of coffee here, but now it’s a bar and restaurant. Not one of those low-lit bar with people crammed around tables, where you come to suspect drinking may not be such a wholesome activiity after all.No this place is airy, soacious, high-ceilinged, Drinking here makes you feel cultured and sophisticated. The walls are paneled in wood to shoulder hieght. Old photographs hang on sturdy squarre pilars in the center of the room.

The coffee house is old but still hasn’t missed the changes in Modern India.

This book is narrated by an unnamed person talking about his family. we meet him initially in one of his favourite haunts a coffee shop, where he is a regular by the way he talks to the Waiter. The place is oak panelled and has a feel of the old India with old pictures of Bangalore where the book is set.The narrator is trying to untie what has happened to his family as he drinks his coffee Then we discover his father there spice business which has suddenly become the one everyone uses that has brought in wealth to him and the family. Then there is his wife Anita.She is the one that comes up with the title of the book a made up phrase her and her brother used when the Kite string got tangled up. That she uses when her new husband struggles to untie her clothes on their wedding night. This is a family sag in the piece the relation between wife, sister in law, father all have little tales in this lovely novella.

My impatient hands couldn’t get anywhere with the stuck knot. She tried, too, but to no avil.”Tchah”she said,” This string has become all ghachar ghochar.Wait” I stood there as she sat up, bent over the knot, and carefully teased it apart.

It came back to me later when we were lying there catching our breaths,”What was that you called the underskirt string?” I asked her.

She giggled” Ghachar Ghocahr” she said

The made up words of the title she used to uses with here brother .

Sometimes the best books come in around hundred pages.  The Great Gatsby, Heart of darkness. This is one of those vbooks that capture the Zeitgeist of there times and that is what happens when people move between classes in Modern India. This is a classic novella about people moving up the class ladder. Like Gatsby people feeling out of place, but I also feel at times Dickens is more apt there is something more in line with his work moving into the middle classes. What Vivek captures is a world that has changed it isn’t the male-centric world on the coffee shop walls no this is a new India was woman speak more than they use to and this is showing the waves that happen from a male point of view. He has constructed a number of strong female characters in this book. I pleased I read this one shame there is no man Asian prize to bring it to a bigger audience still

Sweet potato by Kim Tongin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sweet Potato by kim Tongin

Korean short stories

Original title – Gamja  감자

Translator – Grace Jung

Source – review copy

Kim Tongin or Kim Dong-in as he was also known. Like many Koreans of his generation in the early 20th century he studied in Japan in Tokyo. But dropped out to become a writer as he had funds from a family inheritance, which meant he lived an extravagant lifestyle til his funds start running out in the thirties, he launched a magazine in the mid-thirties.He then visited China and in the forties, he was sent to jail in Japan. He died in 1951 aged just fifty. This is the first collection of his stories to be published in English from new publishing house Honford star.

It’s strange how when one person gets disciplined everyone else in the room shakes. (it’s neither public rage nor camarderie.) It;s not just that the body shakes, but thae heart shakes with it.the first time i experienced these shakes is when I got beaten up for three hours straight and shook like a po[lar in the detention room for two hours.(This is now something I deal with at least twice a day) the room is like a dead person’s cell.Not a sound . I can’t even breath loudly.No one wants to look inside here for fear that that they might encountewr a ghost.

From the story flogging a powerful passage on fear of violence shown in a body shaking .

There is a selection of stories from all over his career. They paint a picture of Northern Korea that I think is now long gone. From a tale of boat folk a brother who is a boatman make nightly trips from a small fishing village a story told over a number of years. Then Flogging is about a man in a jail in Japan, there is a real sense of the hatred between Korea and Japan in the way they treat each other. He builds a sense of fear, with comments like when one person gets discipline they all shake around him a real sense of fear. Then the title story follows an arranged marriage of a young poor girl to an older man shows power struggle as she ends up in poverty after getting raped at a salt mine by the boss and ends up turning to the street.This is also one of a number of well-written female characters in the book. A woman has an affair with a married man whom she tries to turn into something better.

Fighting, adultery, murder, begging, imprisionment – the slums outside the Ch’ilssong gate were tje point of orgin for all of life’s tragedieds and conflicts. Pongnyo and her husband were farmers – the second in class ranking (scolar, farmer,artisan and tradesman). Pongyno was poor but raised in a household that upheld principles.The strict rules of sonbi were left behind once the family fell into the rank of farmer.But some level of discipline, order and intelligence lingered.

The opeining lines of Sweet potato tell of a girl that grew with pricnciples but has a hard life when she marries.

 

Kim was known for the realistic nature of his works and he does here seem to set a world that is long gone the Korea of the past a more rural world, a slower world than the one now and in the case that most of the stories are set in the north of Korea a world that is now shut to public eyes. The title story has been made into a film a couple of times the first version is on youtube but hasn’t subtitles which is a shame. The cover art for the book was specially painted by a south Korean artist jee-ook Choi to reflect the title story.A great intro into one of the best regard writers from Korea one of the first true modern writers from that country a man that fought for a Korean voice in his writing.

Two Japanese classics

I hadn’t been to the local Oxfam (sorry anyone locally it has very little in translation on its shelves as I have them!) for ten day which for me is a long time due to training last week and other things I hadn’t got to town. But I was pleased to find two Japanese classics one had been on my radar a while and the other is by a writer I have tried before and want to try again as my first encounter wasn’t the best but everyone rates him as a writer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First up is Kobo Abe’s Woman in the Dunes, a modern classic that is also a well-known film. It follows seven years in a man’s life as he is trapped by the woman in the dunes. A cat and mouse tale as the two try to escape and the woman uses here female sensuality to keep him there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then we have another backlist book from Peter Owen (i do wish they’d make more of the backlist it is one of the best around) this is by Yukio Mishima whose sailor who fell from grace with the sea, I really didn’t get along with since then I have brought a couple of his books to read . Looking back it reminds me it is a year and half since I reviewed a book from Japan so I need to address that missing Tonys Japan in January which is when I would save my Japanese books to read.

What gems have you found recently ?

The explosion chronicles by Yan Lianke

 

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The explosion chronicle by Yan Lianke

Chinese fiction

Original title –  炸裂志

Translator – Carlos Rojas

Source – review copy

Yan Lianke is a writer I have read twice in the course of shadowing the man booker and IFFP before we have twice reviewed his books Dream of Ding Village and Four Books  . both of which showed the dark of modern day China .I am always saying I miss the Chinese novel that takes on these Mega cities that are now so vast and huge they are like a sprawling creatures on the chinese landscapes what it must be like to be in those place is what I want to know . Well this on the surface is partly what this is about the birth of one of those mega cities from a few small huts and house to a cities of millions.

Yuan dynasty

When explosion Village was first founded, it had about hundred residents. Because the village had Yi river in front and the Balou Mountain range in back, and because its fields were wide and flat, farmers would often gather there to barter and to buy and sell goods. As a result, the village gradually became a small marketplace.

The small start rather like a number of these megacties .

The novel follows the people of the city of explosion , I find an irony in the name as this is what these huge cities are explosions on the map in away and this is the tale of one of those told in its own history  .What we see is a small village lead by Zhu Ying father starts to expand the village , but he runs into trouble as there is a rival family the Kong family  there are two brothers they also what to be in on the growth of the city. Then  Zhu father is killed in strange circumstances so she leaves but like all prodigal children she returns and firstly runs a brothel then starts to become a serious businesswoman .Add to that marriages between the families , a large amount of back hash. backhands and blackmailing . A scene where a number of elders kill themselves and what we have here is the inside track of these monster cities birthed in the back and beyond and allowed to grow uncontrolled under no supervision into a mega city with a dark underbelly.

Democracy mixed with a thunderstorms, leaving explosions completely soaked.

Zhu Ying returned from the provincial seat the day before the election .By this point the rain had stopped, the sun had come out and the air was fresh. A sedan brought zhu Ying to the entrance  of the village, where she saw the enormous stele the town mayor had erected in her home. Then she strolled into the village .

Zhu Ying returns to her home town to get back what was theirs in the past .

Well I like this it still missed the sense of what it is for these place to be as an everyday person it had at times a traditional Chinese fable like feel to the story as it went on the brother the daughter scared by her father death a marriage to try to unite them these are all familiar themes in myths especially Chinese myths . Maybe what Yan is trying to say is these cities are in a way surreal and fable like growth places like Suzhou have expand since the Chinese since the post Mao reforms . He captures the madness of this world of backhanded and blackmailers. Like his other books he takes a look under the veil of modern china.This is my favourite book by him and worth reading for a take on modern China .

Our lady of the Nile by Scholastique Mukasonga

 

OurLadyoftheNile

 

Our lady of the Nile by Scolastique Mukasonga

Rwandan fiction

Original title – Notre Dame du Nil

Translator – Melaine Mauther

Source – Library book

I was rather shocked when last week I popped into the main branch of our Library in Chesterfield and saw this on a stand as last time I looked for an archipelago book my library hadn’t any so this was a real shock as it was on my to get list after earlier this year I reviewed Cockroaches by Mukasonga left me with a sense I had to get to this book at some point . Scholastique Mukasonga has lived in france since 1992 and worked as a social worker in Caen .

There were only two Rwandans on the entire teaching staff of the Lycee of Our Lady of the Nile: Sister Lydwine, and the Kinyarwanda teacher ,naturally. Sister Lydwine taught History and Geography, but she made a clear distinction between the two subjects: History meant Europe , and Geography, Africa.

Maybe they should have been Taught their own history !!

Now I for one am not a huge reader of boarding school books , even back when I was young they never grabbed me . But this is a school story that shows that a place can reflect the country it is part of the school in the book Our lady of the Nile is on the high on a hill by the origins of the Mighty Nile river  and is a private school  the sort where young girls are sent to become women  , where the staff are nearly all from outside Rwanda Nuns and fathers from the Catholic church . The book unfolds with each chapter about a particular girl but as the book progress like the year in the school we are following the life of the girls in the school turns darker. The problems start with a limiting on the number of Tutsi . This leads to tension in the school where some girls start to accuse people of being Tutsi due to their nose ,even the virgin Mary statue is a Tutsi statue. This slice of Rwanda in the 1980’s when the book is set a number of years before the genocide that the writer herself lost 27 members of her family.

“Modesta” said Glorisoa . “Have you taken a good look at the Virgin’s face ”

“Which one ?”

“Our lady of the Nile, the statue .”

“Yes and ?Sure it’s not like the other Marys . It’s Black the whites put black makeup on her . Probably to please us Rwandans , but her son  in the chapel remains white ”

“But did you notice the nose? It’s a straight little nose, a Tutsi nose ”

“They took a white virgin , painted it black and kept that white nose ”

“Yes but now she’s black , it’s a Tutsi nose ”

The Tutsi nose that cause a spilt and fights in the school !!

I enjoyed this as much if not more so than Cockroaches there is almost a freedom Mukasonga found in the fiction of  the event that lead up to the Genocide and using the school with its catholic nuns and priest  teaching the elite who are all from the outside Rwanda  barring two maybe don’t see what happens just under the nose where bullying and the inequality in even getting to the school all point to the undercurrents that lead to the uprising . The translation has kept a number of french words in place like Lycee (french for high school ), for me it kept a sense of place as most of the nuns seem to be from French-speaking Belgium , which was the country that ran Rwanda before Independence . This capture the sense of a place boiling under those racial tensions that had been simmering til the country boiled over in 1994. I was reminded of the Ulster of my youth in some ways where the tension between the sides came out in painting things and murals and of course the violence of the troubles but also a story my late step mother told me of a friend hers where he was stopped in Belfast in the seventies one evening as asked was he protestant or catholic , he said Jewish at which point he was as Protestant Jewish or Catholic Jewish , the point is that like Gloriosa the Bully in this book is like all  bullys will be violent what ever like the Nose in the book sometimes you have to be on one side or another even if you are not !!

 

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