That was the month that was March 2021 and Booker reaction

  1. Dog Island by Philippe claudel
  2. London Under Snow by Jordi llavina
  3. Wretchedness by Andrzej Tichy
  4. Beowulf a new translation
  5. Summer night , and then comes the night by Jon Kalman Stefansson
  6. Portrait of artist as a young man by James Joyce
  7. The Frightened one by Dima Wannous
  8. Earthlings by Sayaka Murata

Now I have just reviewed 8 books this month I have slowed but have reviewed 32 books this year and am on course to get over the 100 review total I set myself for this year. This month’s Journey started in France with a tale of a dog-shaped island in the Med with a dark secret at its heart with the immigrants that are trying to get there.. Then to a collection of short stories from a Catalan writer that has a London connection.THen of to a Swedish novel by a writer with Mittel European heritage and a tale of a cellist seeing his past in a druggy he comes across.  This also made the booker list. Then a new version of the epic poem Beowulf with a feminist twist and brought life with modern slang. Then a village in Iceland that has con mad in the daylight of midsummer, Then it was a nod to St Patrick’s day with James Joyce’s portrait of the artist as a young man that was about his own youth and had one of the characters that were also in Ulysses. Then two friends from Syria on remained the other left to German and then wrote a book about his ex’s life.Then a small toy is really an alien in a tale that has dark undertones from japan, NO new publishers or countries this monthj.

Book of the month

I have picked Beowulf as it brought this book to life for me a text that is hard to get into in older translations this with it clever use of street slang and a modern slant on the book’s events brought the action to life for me.

Non-book events

Edited in Prisma app with Surf

This month saw the first few rules relaxing around lockdown this tied up with a couple of warm days so we could go a little further so on yesterday we had a trip in the peak a walk around Bakewell where we found a couple of Geocaches a new sort of treasure hunt on the phone which we have found this month we get a GPS sight then have to fin either box, bottle or something hidden at that location then log it a fun way to have a walk around we found two in Bakewell we had planned to walk some of the Monsal trails the old railway in the peaks that are now an 8-mile path for walkers or cyclist but everyone I think had same idea hence a walk around Bakewell instead but we had a picnic at Monsall Head later the same day in which I took the above picture. What have you been up to ?

Booker reaction

Can Xue (China), Karen Gernant & Chen Zeping
– I Live in the Slums (Yale University Press)

David Diop (France) & Anna Moschovakis
 At Night All Blood is Black (Pushkin Press)

Nana Ekvtimishvili (Georgia) & Elizabeth Heighway
– The Pear Field (Peirene Press)

Mariana Enriquez (Argentina) & Megan McDowell
– The Dangers of Smoking in Bed (Granta Books)

Benjamin Labatut (Chile) & Adrian Nathan West
– When We Cease to Understand the World (Pushkin Press)

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o (Kenya)
– The Perfect Nine (Vintage Books)

Olga Ravn (Denmark) & Martin Aitken
– The Employees (Lolli Editions)

Jaap Robben (Netherlands) & David Doherty
– Summer Brother (World Editions)

Judith Schalansky (Germany) & Jackie Smith
– An Inventory of Losses (MacLehose Press)

Adania Shibli (Palestine) & Elizabeth Jacquette
– Minor Detail (Fitzcarraldo Editions)

Maria Stepanova (Russia) & Sasha Dugdale
– In Memory of Memory (Fitzcarraldo Editions)

Andrzej Tichý (Sweden) & Nicola Smalley
– Wretchedness (And Other Stories)

Éric Vuillard (France) & Mark Polizzotti
– The War of the Poor (Picador

Well, I had reviewed 5 of the 13 books leaving me 8 to read one of which I had started Summer brother by Japp Robben which I read his first book I really enjoyed a few years ago. of the others, I have read books by Can Xue, Mariana Enriquez, and Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o the other writer are new to me and Lolli Editions is a press I hadn’t read a book from yet. I had three in my prediction post right. I had expected an African novel but I had been read Alain Mabackou which I had brought instead of the Thiong’o so I wish I had brought them both I hope to review the Jaap tomorrow of the books left to read the Enriquez appeals I liked her previous book. In Memory of memory is my type of book I feel. Of the others, I will have to see as most of them I had heard of but hadn’t caught my eye enough to try and the Can Xue was a writer I struggled with last time. It is interesting as most shadow jury has read very little of this list which goes to show how many more books there are out there to be read I look forward to reading them and seeing if this list is better than most of our lists !. What had you read and what do you think of the list.

Winstonsdad Booker international longlist guess

It is that time again when I choose the books I think will be on the longlist when it comes out in two days I have left it late but is was just to try and read a few more books as the list this year is just books I have read.

Fracture – Andres Neuman

Two Huge events in Japan the end of the war and the dropping of the bomb and then the nuclear disaster following the tsunami a few years ago viewed from one man’s perspective he had been at both events. I’ve long been a fan of Neuman so lets hope we see him on the longlist again.

The Art of Losing by Alice Zeniter

Three generations of an Algerian family show the post-liberation years leaving Algeria and settling in France and the feeling of never fitting in and then fitting in and loss of identity a true epic.

A Musical Offering by Luuis Sagasti

Another writer from Argentina another writer I am a fan of her we have a collection of stories the Goldberg variations are a theme in them at times.

Tower by Bae Myung-Hoon

Another interlink story collection here we have a super skyscraper in the near future that is its own starte and the madness of the mega city in these stories.

Hunter School by Sakinu Ahronglong

A son tells of his father but also his heirtage a dying culture in a series of stories about learning to hunt and growing uo in a world that is slowly disappearing.

Earthling by Sayaka murata

I feel that breast and eggs may be the Japanese book on the longlist.  but I did like this one and haven’t read the other yet as it is on my to buy list which seems to never quite shrink lol.

The Pear field by Nana Ekvtimishvilli

I always have a book from Peirene on my list and this story of an older pupil at a special needs school where abuse is happening has taken a younger pupil under her wings. As the poverty following the collapse of communism is being felt. will he make his way to America?

Catherine the great by Olja knezevic

We follow Katarina as she goes from a teen to adulthood as Yugoslavia falls apart. I haven’t read the Fig tree I only brought it a few weeks ago so will have to get to it soon but here is another title from Istros books. A publisher woefully missing from the longlist over the last few years

The Bitch by Pilar Quintana

A book that really touched me a story of a dog heartbreaking at times as it is an untamable feral dog. World editions have published some great books the last few years lets hope they get one on the list this time

Journey through a tragicomic century by Francis Nenik

A strange the fiction real life is told in this great novel about Hasso Grabner from new publisher V&Q books Large than life view of German and the East German through a man that had lived life through it all . they had three books out this year all could make the longlist.

When we cease to understand the world by Benjamin Labatut

A collection of stories from how Prussian blue got its name to the drug Goring ti end his life, then trying to find the hermit-like French mathematician Grothendieck my favourite in the collection

We’ll call you by Jacob Sundberg

Foot in the mouth bad job interviews this fun collection of stories would be a change for the Booker list a book that shows human nature at its best and worst with a large slice of humour !!

At night all blood is Black by David Diop

Vengeance from an African soldier during world war one when his best friend is killed he takes the lives of those that killed him. A corner of the war that hasn’t been written about much.

There is my Baker’s dozen as ever I think I may only have a few right but let’s see what makes the cut. As there have been some great books again over the last twelve months. Have you any highlights for you

shadow Man booker winner 2019

The official announcement of the winner of the 2020 International Booker Prize has been postponed until later in the summer, to give readers more time to get and read copies of the novels.

But our shadow jury of bloggers and reviewers of translated fiction has already completed our reading and re-reading, so it seems fitting to announce our Shadow Winner on the original date of May 19th.

As a reminder our own shortlist was, in alphabetical order of the original author’s name:

The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree by Shokoofeh Azar (Farsi – Iran), tr. Anonymous (Europa Editions)
The Other Name: Septology I-II by Jon Fosse (Norwegian – Norway), tr. Damion Searls (Fitzcarraldo Editions)
Hurricane Season by Fernanda Melchor (Spanish – Mexico), tr. Sophie Hughes (Fitzcarraldo Editions)
The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa (Japanese – Japan), tr. Stephen Snyder (Harvill Secker)
Faces on the Tip of My Tongue by Emmanuelle Pagano (French – France), tr. Sophie Lewis & Jennifer Higgins (Peirene Press)
The Discomfort of Evening by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld (Dutch – Netherlands), tr. Michele Hutchison (Faber & Faber)

We were collectively impressed with all of these books, indeed all six had their champions among us.

And three books in particular were so close in our deliberations and our voting that it was almost tempting to go one further than last year’s anglophone Booker judges.  But instead we’ve kept with one winner, but decided to acknowledge two books as Runners-Up.

Runners-Up:
The Other Name: Septology I-II
and
The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree

Jon Fosse’s “slow prose”, unfolding his story in one long, flowing stream that reads with great fluidity, took us deep inside his narrator Asle’s mind and thoughts. And we were caught up in the heady mixture of Persian myth, story-telling and magic realism of The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree, a true ode to literature and to the deeply soothing role books and stories play in our survival of trauma.

But the winner of our 2020 Shadow Jury Prize is:
Hurricane Season, written by Fernanda Melchor, translated by Sophie Hughes and published by Fitzcarraldo Editions

Comments from some of our judges:

“Hurricane Season is an appropriate title for a novel that roars into the unsuspecting reader’s mind, with its long and winding sentences, and its refusal to flinch from the brutalities of its world.”

“There is anger, pain, and the understanding of the role literature plays when it comes to compassion and empathy.”

“As author M John Harrison said of Melchor’s novel ‘…she had shown me things I needed to be faced with.’ and expanded my understanding of lives so very different from my own.”

“It unflinchingly portrayed a world apart from us and artfully created another layer of distance from subject through the use of mythologized violence. That she both creates distance and ‘makes us look’ simultaneously was incredibly powerful for me.”

“Melchor’s prose, in Hughes’s stunning translation, is raw, brutal and so, so necessary.”

“As readers and intrepid voyagers down Melchor’s Dante-like vision, we are like riveted inmates, incarcerated either by law or by economics or gender, who stand to witness the depravity, despair and pain being inflicted upon this part of the world. The real evidence and reward here is not in unmasking the Witch’s killer or killers or in finding out why this happened, the true recompense of Melchor’s novel is to pay tribute by listening to the dead’s testimony,‘there is no treasure in there, no gold or silver or diamonds or anything more than a searing pain that refuses to go away.’“

And our congratulations extend to the publisher Fitzcarraldo Editions who provided two of our top three, and also now have two Shadow Prize wins in three years.

I would love to thank the fellow shadow Jury People for letting me join them I have dropped behind and have to review our winner but its be great to be involved again in these strange new times of ours.

Now it’s over to the official jury for their decision.

Tyll by Daniel Kehlmann

Tyll by Daniel Kehlmann

German fiction

original title – Tyll

Translator – Ross Benjamin

Source – review copy

I had thought I reviewed Daniel Kehlmann before but I had read F when it was on the old IFFP list but I didn’t get round to reviewing it rather like this year I think the time was running against me I had half read this in prep for the Booker prize but when it came to picking it up again I started and read it through in a couple of days. As I said I had read F by him and this is one I was sent and had planned to read as it mixes folklore, historic and a nod to the present in this work which is considered his best book.

Weeks pass before his legs allows him to get back on the rope. On the very first day, one of the baker’s daughter appears and sits down in the grass. He knows her by sight; her father often comes to the mill, because ever since Hanna Krell cursed him after a quarrrel he has been plagunesd by rheumatism. The pain won’t let him slepp, which is why he needs claus’s protective magic.

The boy consideres whether to chase her away. But first of all it wouldn’t be nic, and secondly he hasn’t forgotten that she won the stone throwing contest at the last village festival

As a youth learning the ropes.

The book focuses on the character of Till Eulenspiegel ( renamed Tyll Ulenspiegal here) the character has been in dutch and German folklore. He is a wandering chap a minstrel and jester all in one. But here we see him three hundred years after he first appeared in folklore since the 1500s the story here is set during the thirty years war. We see him growing up walking the rope in his home village that is like other villages but has a Grimm like feel with mentions of goblins and witches here is where the lines between the history of the time and the folk tales of the time. We see as he grows and events happen he has to leave his village to get into the wider world. Then as he leaves we see the events of the 1600s as he heads to the heart of what was called the never-ending war. The bloody battlefield real-life characters from the time are all interlink in what is a series of episodic nature as he meets mary queen of scots mother and her husband the king of Bohemia, counts and see the great battles of the thirty years war.

The fat count nodded and trued to imagine someone seriously shooting at him, aimingover the iron sights. At him, Martin von Wolkenstein, who had never done anyone wrong, with a real bullet made of lead. He looked down at himself.His back hurt, his bottom was sor from days in the saddle. He stroked his belly and imagined a bullet, he thought of the burnt goosehead, and the metall magic about which Athanasius Kircher had written a book on magnets: if you carried a magnetic stone of sufficent strengthin you pocket, you could deflect the bulletdsand make a man invunerable. The legendary scholar himself had tried it. Unfortunately, such strong magnets were rare and expensive.

The great german thinker Kircher

The story for me was a bit to fragment at the time I have scarce knowledge of the thirty years war and given time constraints I hadn’t time to read up which when I have time I would have done, Tyll is an interesting figure there is something of classic jester about him with his clever at times insight. Then there is a large chunk of Grimm here with talk of goblins and witches =. But then a  nod to the times with the madness of court life at times I was reminded of Blackadder here where the court is shown for its pompousness through Tyll’s eyes. Thi has a pinch of historic fiction a pinch of Grimm add some Tolkien and classic historic comedies. I may come back to this at some point when I have more time to read around the vents and setting but it is a book with a nod to the present as well with a reminder of what has been as a warning for what is happening.

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.

This is a call anyone want be a shadow Man booker international 2018 juror member ? update

 

 

I have with Tony of Tony’s reading list have run for the past six years a shadow jury for the old IFFP prize and the last two Man Booker international prizes over this time we have reviewed every book on the longlist. I’m not sure how many reviews we have produced over this time but with every longlist having at least three reviews it has to be in the hundreds by now. Well this year after a number of years some Jurors are taking a year off or have other plans,.So I m asking if anyone wants to join in we don’t get sent any books so it is a commitment to buy borrow or beg the books on the list. The longlist comes out on the 12 and we have a month to read and choose our shortlist from the books on the longlist. please contact my self or tony via comments or email or twitter etc if you are interested in joining ?

A quick update, I have stood down as I have decided it is my time to move on so I will ask everyone to  contact Tony about the shadow panel.

LBF 2016 and Man Booker shortlist party

Well I hadn’t planned to go to London book fair this year but I was very lucky to get an invite to the Man  Booker international shortlist Party. So as LBF was on the same week I decide to have a wander round especially after I found that as a Book blogger we can get in for free. It was a nice chance to catch up with my favourite Publisher Susan from Istros books who just before the Fair announced that she was joining forces with the wonderful Peter Owen which gives them one the ,most passionate people in the book world in Susan to help them get them selves out there, A glance at Peter Owens backlist is enough to make you dribble!! Whilst at their stand I also had a great chat with the Croat Poet Aleksander Hut Kono who was doing his poetry  at the LBF ,which he has translated him self into English. He also is an Opera Librettist.

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I saw the Large Books are My bag Bag at LBF . I decide to sit in on a translation session about how to promote books in translation mainly how to repeat the knausgaard effect(if only we knew hey) , I had want to ask How Ferrante sells so well is the opposite of being Knaugaard open and great to talk to also sells books maybe it is the narrative of the writer that sells . I felt a little more mention of some of the big sites online for translation would help. The editor talking about it only mention Lit Hub and Brain pickings ! , surely Complete review , three percent to name two would be worth a mention. Fiona gave a great chat about Knausgaard thou .

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I then decide to Have something to eat and make my way toward the Booker event I also had a quick look in the Oxfam on Kensington high street on my way to Kensington Palace. I had a coffee in a small cafe which by the food they were serving I will go to again the Cafe Diana for a meal having just had a snack. Then slowly walked to MAn booker event.

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I was among the first to arrive and Meet quickly David and Clare my fellow shadow bloggers I have met David before and it was nice to meet Clare and put a face to the blog so to speak. I also meet at last after nearly crossing paths over the years Simon of Savidge reads one the oldest bloggers about the net . I also had a good chat with Paul from Maclehose and a few other Maclehose folks who missed the actual shortlist but both their books are still on the Shadow Jury shortlist. We then listen to how Man booker had evolved into the new prize as the need was felt after the actual prize had changed its guidelines for all lit written in English  to be included it was felt that the Man booker international prize had to evolve and so it took over the Old IFFP and set up a replacement for the old Man booker international prize that ran every two years and was award to a writer for the body of work . Please not the last winner was the wonderful Laszlo Krasznahorkai !

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Then Boyd went through his and the Jury’s choices for the shortlist . Here is the shortlist . We had a few more drinks but I left early as I had a long trip across London and also a few hour train trip meant I wouldn’t be home till early hours friday.

Booker night, damm I’ve not read any

 

Tonight sees the booker winner announced and like last year I have not read a single book from the shortlist .I last read the full shortlist in 2009 in the early days of this blog. But my tastes have shift or have they ? I watched the artsnight show presented by Ben Okri about this years shortlist and by the end of the show went damm Stu what you doing . THis years list maybe is the one that I should have tried . I have read Anne Tyler and Tom McCarthy  before and connected with both Tyler writes great family drama and McCarthy is talented writer if a little overrated imho but C was thought-provoking. I was brought A little life by Hanya Yangihara by Amanda for my birthday, but have yet to get to it. When the list was first announced a the longlist stage I would put money on A little life, BUt it is the last three books that Ben Okri really sold me and reminded me of what years ago I loved in the booker .Marlon james has written about the attempt  killing of Bob Marley , The fisherman by Chigozie Obioma could herald a new voice in African writing it seems and draws on the oral tradition of His homeland .Then there is  Sunjeev Sahota book about immigrants in Sheffield from India (I only live ten miles from Sheffield so this appeals on the level I don’t think there is enough immigrant lit ).I wish BBC had shown the Okri show at the start of the shortlist (I know it couldn’t have been done , but they could have done all longlisted writers maybe). Next year I shall take more note and maybe raise my eyes out of my current translated read and look at what makes the shortlist and in the mean time will pick up the three books by James, Obioma and Sahota as and when I see them. I’m not going hazard a guess at a winner but for fun will pick some comparable translated books similar in one or many ways to the shortlist.

A little life by Hanya Yangihara  – The tower by Uwe Tellkamp – another epic book about growing up , not as much about abuse but the abuse of  power that they saw by the state at the time .

A spool of Blue thread by Anne Tyler -When doves disappear by Sofi Oksanen a story that goes back and forth in time like the Tyler story does.also there is a link between the two main characters .

when the doves disappeared by Sofi oksanen

Satin Island by Tom McCarthy A project for revoloution in New York by Alain Robbe-Grillet A challenging  experimental novel from France set in america as Satin island is a play on Staten island in New York .

alain robbe Grillet

The fishermen by Chigozie Obioma – Our Musseque is another tale of African life tough and brutal as well but seen through the eyes of kids .

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A Brief history of seven killings by Marlon james – The anatomy of a moment by javier Cercas another book about a moment in history , this was about the attempt coup in the early 80’s in Spain .

anatomy-of-a-moment

The year of runaways by Sunjeev Sahota – She is not me by Golnaz Hashemzadeh  Another story of immigrant life in Sweden not Sheffield thou .

 

She Is Not Me

The booker longlist is out but does it matter when most of the best books are in translation !

zone

Well my mind has been elsewhere and it isn’t to today I’ve fully come round to thinking about the booker longlist and what last years changes meant .I did say at the time the Booker prize missed a trick by not only opening it too all books written in English but they should have included all books translated into English .That would opened a global prize ,but maybe also helped get books into translation more into the limelight ,For since the list has come out there has been many newspaper articles and blog posts written about the long list ,for me I agree with Naomi and a few others ,the list is very male and very white,as some people feared the Commonwealth seems to have suffered with the Americans coming into the prize .Now as Susan pointed out in her recent piece for the blog the time is right to get a prize or more notice for books in translation .This week is a prime example I escaped into books to find solace in fiction and thus read two of the best books I have read in the last few months Bilbao – New York – Bilbao by Kirmin Uribe a Spanish lit prize-winning novel by a basque writer ,thinking on a flight to New York about the novel he is writing about his families past in fishing , that is  forthcoming from Seren Books .The other book is Zone by Mathias Enard ,now this book came out in the US last year and is one of the first two books from the new UK publisher Fitzcarldo editions ,this book strangely again about a trip we follow a French intelligence officer on a rail trip from Milan to Rome ,it is one of those sprawling books that is hard to pin down ,but drags you into another world .Now I had two thoughts about these books ,firstly would they even get a publisher if written in English as they break the mould of what is viewed as a novel ,recent case have shown books that maybe play with the novel as form or are maybe seen as to sprawling struggle to get publishers the two examples that spring to mind are A naked singularity by Sregio de Le Pava ,that did a tour of publishers to only first come out a s a self published book ,then people saw its beauty and both publishers in the US and the UK brought it out ,like wise the prize-winning A girl is a half-formed thing had a lot of rejections before it was picked up by a new small imprint and as you all know went on to win and be shortlisted for a number of prizes .I feel what translation would have brought if include in the book is challenging fiction books that break the creative writing stranglehold and market forces that  lead fiction published  in English these days .So how are we going to get the public to get books in translation a new prize is an idea ,a European booker ? a way to generate interest and like the booker maybe for once get the one or two book lit readers instead of the booker winner or shortlisted book that they have seen in waterstones or an independent bookshop for their  two weeks in say Tuscany ,and pick a book in translation because they know it has been a prize book ! One can dream but we in translation circles have to try new ways and stop scratching are goatees and thinking how clever it all is and break down the walls .SO the booker missed the chance ,we should make our own chance and make people sit up and see what they are missing .

The garden of Evening mist by Tan Twan Eng

The Garden of evening mist by Tan Twan Eng

Malaysian fiction

Now this is the second book by Tan Twan Eng to make the booker lists ,his first was longlisted in 2007 .Tan Twan Eng grew up in various places in Malaysia ,eventually becoming a lawyer in the area of intellectual property .He then decide to become a full-time writer ,he published his first book in 2007 the gift of rain ,this book like the garden of evening mist was set in Malaysia and was about the Japanese control of the area in the second world war .This his latest also looks back on that time .

Every child longs for a larger-than-life uncle and, because I had none ,Magnus Pretorious became a figure of fascination to me ,although he hardly anything more than a vague presence in my life when i was growing up .What I knew of him I heard from my parents and from things they left unsaid broken-off twigs of conversations I picked up whenever I walked in on them ,and from what Magnus told me after I got to know him better

Early on remember her past .

So garden of evening mist is a complex book that brings together many themes ,secrets ,love and hate  ,gardening and people .The garden in the title is being made by a famous Japanese gardener in  Malaysia this is after the second world war and this garden is well crafted in the Japanese style of gardening called Sakkei borrowed scenery a Japanese style from the past  that Nakamura Aritomo worked for the emperor in Japan caring for his gardens  .

According to the lay of the land, and depending upon the aspect of the water landscape, you should design each part of the garden tastefully, recalling your memories of how nature presented itself for each feature. (tr. Inaji 1998:13)

A quote found on wiki about Shakkei

The other main character in the book is a Malaysian women Teoh Yun Ling  she survived one of the hideous Japanese war camps during world war two  and hates all things Japanese since then til she meets Nakamura .She is Nakamura apprentice ,this sets up a wonderful parallel of love and hate between these two characters and there initial frostiness   .Throw in the fact that Malaysia itself is undergoing a civil conflicted  and is descending into chaos,Tan has set up to a wonderful book  that encompasses love ,loss and death and the remembrance of the dead .Also add his wonderful eye for the world around him the garden and surrounding area jumps of the page at times and you are transported to the garden of evening mist . You’ve got one of those books I have been crying out for on the booker lists  a discovery.for me this alongside the Will Self I reviewed last week are equal favourites for me .

 

It was hard for me reading this book and its setting and time not to think back to Anthony Burgess Malaya trilogy set at the same time as this book is also set ,but that book was from the view of a British officer in Malaya ,this was the view of a native and the book is mostly told from Yun Ling view both at the time and looking back as an older women at the time .There was something about Eng style of writing that drew me in at times it reminded me of Romesh Gunesekera a writer I also discovered years ago when he was short-listed for the booker with his book reef  .I think it was the style of prose , that harks back to the greats of English literature  writer like Conrad and dickens (even burgess as I ve mentioned ) .I feel this is a sign of what makes a lot of  Asian writers very readable to me as a reader , because in a way they are removed  from the here and now of what is modern fiction in the uk and tend to have read the classics growing up so on the whole their style harks back to an old age of writing  .It’s fair to say I loved this book probably the best book I ve read published in English this year or even recent years .

Have you read this book ?

Who is your favourite Asian writer ?

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