The Enlightenment of the Greengage tree by Shokoofeh Azar

The enlightenment of the Greengage Tree  by Shokoofeh Azar

Iranian fiction(Australia)

Original title –  اشراق درخت گوجه سبز

Translator – was named in the Orignal Australian copy but has since been removed from the UK and US editions for their safety

Source – Review copy

Shokoofeh Azar left Iran as a Refugee in 2011 and settled in Australia. She had written many articles and children’s books and was the first Iranian female to walk the SIlk road (I hope we read a description of this journey at some point). This is her first novel since arriving in Australia it was on the shortlist for the Australian version of the old Orange prize the Stella prize and was her first work to be translated to English. This is the latest on the Booker longlist this year.

Around five O’clock the next morning , dad, Beeta and I woke up n the thick morning fog to see the last foxes returning to their dens after hunting Razan’s  chickens and roosters and to feel the wings of the hoopoe just inches away. Mom had once again returned to the highest bough from her peregination among the planets and cities villages, islands, and tribes in time to hear ghd song of thousands and thousands of sparrows, and to see a hedgehog curl up and roll down the forest slope because dad had moved.

The magic realim in this one pasaage grabbed me early on

Shokoofeh was born the same year as I was and the narrator of her book is a few years younger than we are as she is thirteen and narrating the book and the events in the book after she has died Bahar tells the story of her family and the events that followed the Iranian revolution the violence and fervent religious zealots that run the country and the knock-on effect on one family. The family is an academic famil there is much talk early on of the books she loved to read from her father’s precious library. He had already been expelled for the university early on for his socialist views. They lead Tehran thinking that this will save them from the madness of the capital but as they settle in the village of Razan the revolutionary guards reach even reaches there as the country turns mad as this place that was until recently so remote it was years behind the rest of the country also adds a sense of Persian storytelling to the story. as the lines between the real the living and the dead blur, there is a dash of magic realism at play but there is a sense of a young girl using those great stories as a way of avoiding the worst of the violence. the mother disappears, then her brother dies. As the books they loved are burnt music is banned as the regime cracks down this is the portrait of one family’s implosion during the Revolution.

We counldn’t bear the wailing of Shakespeare and Rumi, Hafez and Confucius, Zoroaster, Budha and Khayyam any longer, so we set off towards the house. En route from the village square, towards te alley and up the slope to our grove. I sa with my own eyes how clumps of dad’s hair had turned grey. For seven days after that, no one in the house said a word. Standing in the porch as the fire and smoke from the books filled the valle, and the breeze spread far and wide the burnt smell of the feather by Matheson, even Mom cried meanwhile, Sohrab was keeping watch from atop a distant tree. The house had abruptly become devoid of cheer. It became silent, Empty. Hollow

The shock of losing there books as they are burnt.

I admit this had passed me by before the longlist although my fellow Blogger Lisa at Anzlitlover was a huge fan of the book when it came out. It came out a few years earlier via the greatly named WIld dingo press I even missed her enthusiasm which I should have noted she is someone whose opinion I value. Anyway, this is one of my favorites from the longlist so far it mixes a bit of Salman Rushdie, a dash of Marquez  and maybe a dash of Mo Yan and moves it too Iranian. A brave book that could only be written from the distance of Australia now more than forty years after the regime still isn’t willing to have a novel written that questions what happen to people those educated ok Western but still through there love of books very much in touch with there Persian world. This is what I love about the booker it always brings a couple of books that Had passed me by completely.

The glass slipper and Other stories by Shotaro Yasuoka

The Glass Slipper and other stories by Shotaro Yasuoka

Japanese Short Stories

Original title -ガラスの靴 (title story glass shoe)

Translator – Royall Tyler

Source – personal copy

I have brought a number of Dalkey Archives older books when I have seen them cheap. I picked this up by the Akutagawa Prize-winning Shotaro Yasuora. He fought in the Philippines in world war two and was one of the few survivors to come back from there. He then started to study English but near the end of this contracted tuberculosis which affects his spine, he had spent a long time just lying on his back that is what started his writing career. The title story of this collection was one of the spending time recovering and amongst his earliest ones. He wrote and was listed for the Akutagawa prize but he did win it two years later in 1953. He won a number of other prizes and was the translator of Alex Haley’s books after he had visited the south of the US during that time and wrote about it.

I soon became caught up in Etsuko’s fantasy play. I enjoyed it goign along with her stories mademe feel as though I had taken possession of her. At her suggestion we played hide and seek. For all pratical purposes, the house and evertything in it belonged to us. There were hiding places everywhere – under the bed, behind the curtains, in the chest of drawers, in the dressing room woth all of it mirrors, I went upstairs and hid in a battlefield water bag that hung unused, in the closetat the end of the hall.

The played as the romance blossomed in the glass slipper

The title story The glass slipper sees the narrator a young man that has a job in a gun shop as he is asked to deliver a rifle to a US Colonel. Colonel Craigow house. When he arrives with his delivery he is meet by the families Japanese maid Etsuko he is smitten with her and returns as they spend the summer but then she isn’t there a nod to the fairy tale of the glass slipper. There are eight other stories. One sees a man selling his father’s beautiful enameled war medal to a US serviceman so he can make ends meet in the poor post-war times which is the time the stories are all set. Elsewhere a man is told by his boss to compose the company song via a shared love of verse. Jingle bells as the title suggest see a boyfriend on his way to his girlfriend but are running late and as is the case he keeps getting held up.

“JIngle Bells” was playing on the radio, and I was walking in time to it. It was christmas day. Noonetheless, the eateries lining both sides of the street in front of the station were flying big red-and-white banners against the leaden sky advertising “Grilled Sweetfish Tamagawa Specialty!Tasty !Tasty

Jingle bells, jingle bells

I tred not to walk in step, but it didn’t work. I seemed to have cords around my ankles that kept me marching along. I remembered how in my first year as a member of the Takasski Infantry Regiment the sergant had called “Hup,Two,Three,four” they called came a gap in the rhythm. Jingle(Hup) Bells(two) Jingle (three) Bells(four)

Jingle bells a man called by his girlfriend to visit her.

I read that this is a collection that Murakami recommends to readers it is a light-hearted collection of self-perception with a collection of characters that are all struggling in post-war Japan. The translator is American so we have a lot of American terms like Pants and vacations. But you can cope with that, Shotaro characters all have odd jobs a man guards a half-burnt house, a man writing a song and a translator. A varied section of post-war Japan. he died a few years ago. There is only this and another collection available in English by him. Have you read him?

Letters of blood by Rizia Rahman

Letters of blood by Rizia Rahman (library of Bangladesh)

Bangladesh literature

Original title – Rokter Okkhor

Translator – Arunava Sinha

Source – personal copy

I read a while ago about the library of Bangladesh series of books I am a fan of publishers trying to collect together literature from a particular country. Seagull books have published books for us in the UK and US. Rizia Rahman is one of the most respect Bangledesh writers having published more than fifty novels. This was her fourth novel when it was published in 1978 she was inspired to write it from an article called the prostitutes of Dhaka. She was unable to visit the brothels but used Male journalist reports and photographs of them in the brothels to imagine there lives. She said when this came out in English received a lot of praise for the book, but also had to endure an equal amount of abuse.”

One side of the termite-ridden door of Bokul’s room has collapsed. Yasmin shivers at the sight of Bokul’s naked, unconscious form on the bed, lit by the reddish glow of the lamp. A wild animalseems to have sliced up her body with its claws. She is bleeding. A miserable Shanti is wiping her body with a rag. She doesn’t look as thpough she had a violent quarrel with Bokul this morning. Yasmin tells Zarina, who’s standing there, “MANNAN should have dettol in his shop. Get a bottle”

Violence is always just below the surface of those living in the brothel.

This is the second book in the last few months I have read based around a Brothel the other was the booker longlist 10 minutes 38 seconds by Elif Shafak. This like that book lifts the lid on the everyday life of those women in the brothel here in such a short book we get to know a number of the girls and their stories. We have Yasim she was involved in the war of liberation and is from a middle-class background unlike a lot of the girls she lives with she has had a hard time to wind up there. This is a woman who falls on hard times and is similar to the lead character in Elif’s book. Then we have some of the other girls some of them that dress like the movie stars of the day in a sort of escape from every day lives. Others try to get the richest clients and use that as a way to fame and fortune and the way out. She also captures those little arguments everyday tasks they have to do in-between clients the things that make their days in this bleak world go by the risk of diseases and abuse always in the background and everyone is just a day away from a fall that may stop them earning and having a living.

Mashi begins to abuse the women ” You line iof wores, what do you think you’re doing! You’ve become too big for your own good. I’m informing the police at once.They eat out of my hands, They’ll beat you all of you to a pulp”

Marjna stans up to her ” To hell with your police. You scare us with talk of police to exort money from us every month. You think we don’t understand?”

They try to stand up for themselves against those that are trying to exploit them.

This book is just 140 pages long but it does what I think great novellas do well and that seems like an epic trapped in a small book. This is a lifting of the veil on a world that one imagines in the time the book was written to now hasn’t changed much. Rizia has a sensitive eye for the girls of the brothels her writing is never judgemental and shows the lives of bones and all. How vulnerable they are they can be sold and moved on anytime. She captures their world. The men in this book are in the background but depicted as violent abusive wanton or as the pimps for the girls. There world is them on top of one another and the sense of this meaning that there is trouble always just around the corner as they compete for the men there. I was sad to read that Rizia Rahman had passed away last year she seemed an interesting writer that has just this book translated into English so far.

Backlight by Kanji Hanawa

Backlight by Kanji Hanawa

Japanese short fiction

Translator – Richard Nathan

Source – review copy

I bring you the second book of the red circle series of short novellas from Japanese. Kanji Hanawa was before he retired a professor of French literature having only visited France as a student he has spent a lifetime teaching and in retirement has translated fifteen books from French into Japanese. He has also written a number of short stories and Novellas been listed for the Akutagawa prize twice.He is known for his for exposing the pressures and challenges of modern life in Japan. Here he has used the true story of Yamato a boy who was left by his parents in the woods of the northern Island of Japan and wandered off.

Ishida: “I imagine, don’t you think, they will set up the incident cemtre at the foot of the mountain?

Momose:”They will visit the situation. I am a psychologist, but I’m old and not so strong on my feet; nor do I have any children myself. So I’m not sure I can be of much use.But I’ve actually been to take a look and although they say it;sa mountain, it seems more like a nearby hill.The actual location took me by surprise.

THe opening and getting involved in the case.

The story uses an Ishida a psychologist asked to help out and he is called in by an old colleague Toshiko Momose as they were both at H university. Who wants to Ishida panel of experts helping with the investigation into the disappearance of A a seven-year-old boy who was left as a punishment by his Father as him and his sister and parents that are on the last day of the national holiday and A ios playing up as the family head through the woods of the Northern island they stop and leave him and drive off only to turn and return in a matter of minutes to find A has disappeared they look for him and he isn’t to be seen so they have to call in the police as the woods are bear-infested. What we see is Ishida as he is called to give help to the way the case is covered and he lets us know how they are trying to find A as the days go by the two discuss how the west and Traditional Japanese childhood differ and the fact that A disappeared is what has changed as when Japanese child was sent out of a house he would stayed glued to the spot whereas a western child would wander this is echoed in the western tales of children getting lost in the woods. Will A be found how long was he out there?

The statement compiled by Momose and Ishida was circulated to the chairperson and the others, but with a questionable level of comprehension. As a child was concerned, the media was showing some self-control. Even so, overall opnion was shifting, it was being taken much more seriously. More and more people were calling for a search of greatest magnitude possible, even if hastily excuted, with the largest number of people available. As a result there were 300 people in total, both locals and non-locals, forming small search oparties and heading into the area. Despite this, there was no postive news.

Third day and fears and the search increases for A .

This is another great choice as it is a gripping story that highlights changes in Japan in a way the boy should have stayed when his parents left and the curveball of him walking off is the start of the tale. Ishida and Toshiko provide a sounding board for how Japanese is changing,. Also, the way this case was cover and the aftermath this made headlines around the world. They also discuss the history in fairy tales of Children in the woods in western culture. from Grimm and then before that in Perrault’s tales. This shows how values change and how Parents are treating the children in Japan. I have three more from Red circle the first two have been very interesting so I hope to finish the rest of them in the new year. Have you a favorite Japanese short story or novella?

Travels with a writing brush edited by Meredith Mckinney

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Travel with a writing brush( Classical Japanese travel writing from Manyoshu to Basho)

Japanese travel writing

Editor & Translator Meredith Mckinney

Source review copy

I was rather happy to get sent this, especially after earlier this year reading the Man Booker international prize longlist The pine island which is the second book that had a Basho influence the other being the title of Richard Flanagan booker winner book was a nod to Basho. The book contains a thousand years of Japanese travel writing which includes a number of pieces that were translated for the first time.

Works translated into English for the first time:
• Ionushi’s Pilgrimage to Kumano by Zōki
• Senjūshō
• Pilgrimage to Kumano
• The Death of Sōgi by Sōchō
• Journal of the Kyushu Road by Hosokawa Yūsai

On we went, past Uta no Mastubara. Pines in untold numbers stood along the shore, untoldages old. Waves lapped at the feet of every one; restless cranes thronged around every branch. Unable simply to stand and gave in wonder, one on board composed this:

Miwataseba                Gazing upon thesepines

Matsu no uregeto ni   It seems the cranes

Sumu tsuru wa            Nesting on every branch

Chiyro no dochi to zo Must take the trees for friends

Omoubera naru           A thousand generations old

THis poem doesn’t do justice to the actual scene we saw

From Tosa diary a voyage that lasted 55days at sea.

The book has a great intro and translator notes also map for a number of the Journeys which begin in 759 with MAnyoshu which is one of the first works in Japanese collection it has 400 plus poems the few select are set around boat travels around the island seeing things such as cranes. Then in Tosa diaries, we have a female narrator although as it says in the intro we see that a few times the male writer’s voice is evident this journey is shown on the first map of the maps in the book from Tosa to Kamakura as they see pines and Cranes but as the narrator says the prose doesn’t do it justice. Then as you’d expect we have a pilgrimage piece by Zoki. Then we have a more famous work the pillow book written by a lady in waiting to the empress. Nearly all the pieces in this collection all have the sort poems that five lines long. Another diary of a daughter she is just known just as Sugawara No Takasue’s daughter. Then my favorite title of the works dusts dancing on the rafters That came from a Chinese saying related to two singers. I am only mentioning the first half of this wonderful collection it is taken out of Meredith McKinney own journey through classical Japanese writing and her love in particular of how they described travel this covers a thousand years and ends with the man himself Basho with the narrow road to Oku nearly a thousand years after the first piece. as his fame grew he had to travel to meet his followers in his last decade he traveled more than anything.

257

Kumano e mairu ni wa          Hey you pilgrims

Nani Ka Kurushiki                  What’s so hard

Shugyoja yo                           About the road to Kumano?

Yasumatsu Himematsu       it’s easy pine of Ysumata

Goyomatsu                            Princess pine and five-leafed pine

Chisato no Hama                  and the beach of Chisato

The opening poem from the short selection called Dust dancing on the rafters.

I have often been put off by the great classical Japanese works. But this is an easily accessible work that shows Meredith’s talent as a translator. It shows the beauty of Japan where travel through the land is hard due to forest and mountains or had to be done by seeing due to the many islands which means there is much travel writing out there with pilgrimages and ceremonial events and trips we see how the country is so poetic with its pines cranes insects monks and scenery the sea all around them at times. from sleeping on pillows of grass to wishing to be home and among the books a young girl loved. The works mix fact and fiction and the lines of poetry and prose blur here. As the intro says sometimes it is about finding the places here within like in Ise tales which is sent from Mount Utsu which is said to have echoed down the centuries in the journal of travelers along tokkaido who continue to search out the place identified with this scene. This struck me people trying to find a place a thousand years later from a letter enchanting such a great collection I hope we get more from Meredith as she continues her journey. Have you a favorite work of classical Japanese writing?

Stand-in Companion by Kazufumi Shiraishi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stand-in Companion by Kazufumi Shiraishi

Japanese fiction

Original title – スタンド・イン コンパニオン(原題:代替伴侶)

Translator – Raj Mahtani

I was surprised when  Richard from Red circle contact me after the suggestion of one of there translators as I don’t review many Japanese novels its works out about two a year over the time of the blog. So to get to have these five slim novellas from some of the best new writers in Japan I couldn’t turn the chance time.Kazumi Shiraishi is from a family of writers his father is Ichiro Shiraishi a prize-winning writer and his twin brother is also a writer. He has published a number of novels initially he worked as a journalist and editor for one of Japan’s leading magazines. He has had two novels published by Dalkey Archive before this one. It is worth noting with sadness that it was the last work the Raj Mahtani translated before he passed away.

By the time the news of her pregnancy was expected to arrive, though, the snow would have completel disappeared. But then again, such a thing as a pregenancy, in the first place, was impossible, Hayato silently thought to himself. “I somehow have this gut feeling i’ll get lucky,” yutori had said a few days ago, regarding the trip to the hot-spring resort this time

Right above now, Hyato mised, she must be dropping her shoulders in defeat, while applying a saintary  pad between her legs in the toilet at the pharmacy, disappointed at the unreliability of her gut feeling

They try and check every month for the result

Stand in companion is a futuristic tale set in the near future where the world has decided that birth control is need and that things like IVF has been outlawed so we meet a couple Yutori and Hayato  a couple who have been trying for a number of years for children we meet them as they do a monthly stop for a pregnancy test to see if his sperm have moved quicker or if the time at the spa has helped her tubes. as this has happened for a number of years we see her move away and then they both decide that they need a new start so they get what is called a stand-in companion of each other but each wants the new companion to have no knowledge of what was the problem with the getting pregnant as they both head of with a new Yutori and Hayato at some point will loser there replacement after ten years on the android laws of this near future.

However, in these past several months, Yutori was gradually fiding it unbearable to see the dark look of disappointment cloud Hayato’s face every time

AN Android activated as a  Stand-in companion, in accordance with the Stand-in android act, is recognised as having rights completely equal to those of humans. Until just prior to their deactivation by a termination sinal transmitted from the control centre of the Human rights Relief Comittee, at the time their rental peroid expired, an android in this soceity was to be treated entirely as an indivdual – a human being.

I was remind of the deatgh of Rutger Hauer in bladerunner here as he was an android with a short life but had seen so much in his life.

Strangely of all the countries that maybe they don’t need birth control, measures in Japan with a growing older generation and shrinking younger generation in the future, it would maybe be one country that would need more children. But these growing older generations are already getting looked after at times by robots that run memory and exercise classes in the old people’s homes in such of the larger cities. I saw this over the weekend in a tv show here in the UK. Then we have can an android robot replace a human well in Bladerunner there is the main character played by Sean Young her character Rachel is an android that doesn’t know she is an android and this is the sense her the two new stand-ins aren’t aware they are stand-ins for each other it is a question of what we need from life babies or companionship. This short book is just 43 pages long that sits with you for a long while after you put the book down. Have you read any of this Red Circle series?

30 covers for #WITMONTH A japanese favourite

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think most readers now stat with Murakami as there first Japanese writer but for me, in the early nineties, it was the novel Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto a book about a woman overcoming her grandmother’s death. I read a number of her books over the years. But when I come to do this list I have seen it has been more than a decade since I read a book by her and I need to add her to my blog. It is sad I haven’t cover her before now as her voice is one I have alway enjoyed.

30 covers for #WITMONTH A tilted Axis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Titled Axis is the book publisher set up by Deborah Smith who did the translation of the Han Kang books she has been brought some great female writing from around Asia. Here is a novel set in the underbelly of Seoul around a slum electronics market that is due to be demolished told from the point of view of two repair shop assistants as they see the spirits of those who have lived around the market over the years. Have you read any books from tilted Axis

30 covers for #WITMONTH off to Japan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I move to Japan for Today’s cover and a writer whose books  I have covered twice on the blog. She has a new book out The memory police this month which I am looking forward too I also have this to read from her. Have you read Yoko Ogawa?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At Dusk by Hwang Sok-yong

At dusk by Hwang Sok-yong

Korean fiction

original title – 해질 무렵

Translator – Sora Kim-Russell

Source – personnel copy

One of the nice things that have come about from the longlist. It has given me a chance to revisit three writers that have featured before on the blog. This is the second visit I featured Hwang Sok-yong nine years ago. The book ” the guest”  was one of the earliest reviews on the blog when I read that book I liked it but didn’t fall in love with it. But I have since struggled with finding Korean fiction either twee with the folk-like tales of Salmon or Hen dreaming of better things. Then there have been other books that I haven’t connected with. Until now the only one before this was please look after mother and I found this is a different story but it is the same tale of Korea that is the changing face of modern Korea.

It was mere coincidence that I had studied architecture and made a career of it and that Byeonggu had come to own a costruction company, but after meeting again in our forties, we were like hand in glove. Because we needed each other.

Of course, we all like to think that our own stories of difficult childhoods and overcoming adversity are the stuff of tragic epics, but they’re never really worth bragging about. Talking about it is pointless as telling youngsters that they’ve never known true hunger, that they don’t know what it is like to be the hungry kid with no lunch trying to fill his empty stomach at the drinking fountain.

Park partner the one that cause him the trouble and how he dragged himself up her in a neat passage.

We meet Park Minwoo if there was a poster boy for what you could do with your life in Modern Korea. This guy would be if he is at the forefront of making modern Korea as an Architect. He is one of those who are making bright shiny Korea and is good at his work so is an in-demand man for designing the future. He has maybe grown too far. The company he runs is in trouble. The buildings he has been asked to design may not be built but are just there to draw in peoples money in.  This leads Park to rethink his present and his past along with the fact an Old flame Cha Soona. The chapters fall with Parks story in the now and Cha’s story of her and Pask’s younger years. She grew up on what was then the edge of the city and worked in a shop a time when people were the son of this man or daughter of such a man in these case a noodle maker and fishcake maker this harks back to a simpler time. She loved acting literature and books. She had dreams but we see her life now in a tiny apartment. the book draws the past and the present together. From the fact that Park’s wife and child now settled outside Korea. Too Cha living in a small apartment in one of his building as Park meets the ghost of his past in the place where he grew which his building have eaten up.

When my younger brother and I got home from school, we snacked on the torn fishcakes, still warm from the fryer. Once our hunger was sated, we’d laugh and point at each other’s greasymouths. My mother would wrap up the rest of the torn fishcake from that day and send us out to deliver them to places she owed favoursto or anyewhere else that she needed to stay on the good side of. That meant places like the tiny shack inhabited by the elderly man who fetch water from the public tap for us and the other vendors in the marketplace, the garbage collectors station, the police box and so on

Park and his brother handing out the left overs to the community to keep it runninga time now gone and habits now dead.

Now, this is a book that like Please look after mother did that mixes what Korea was with what Korea is. I keep thing back on my recent watching of Tokyo-ga Wim Wenders ode to the Japanese filmmaker Yasujiro Ozu which he said Ozu tried to capture in his films the downfall of Japanese society and this is what Sok-yong is doing here with Korean society and the world people lived in from the simple age when people knew every one til you end up like Park lost in the clouds or cha lost in a small apartment with just two stip lights for company. This uses the twin narratives well as the book comes to the end you see the two narrators drawing closer till the end. I am liking this list for the fact I have discovered books that had past me by in the last year.  But also the books are all quite short this took me a little over a day and I am already well into the next on the list. it’s hard to say where this will end up I found it clever using the twin stories and loved some of the use of names like the fishcake makers son. Then it is just a simple tale.

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