The Impostor by Javier Cercas

 

The Impostor by Javier Cercas

Spanish Non-Fiction

Original title – El Impostor

Translator – Frank Wynne

Source – review copy

Well, a change from German lit month for a book from one of my favourite Spanish writers of recent years. Javier Cercas has featured on the blog three times before. This is his latest book to be translated. He has won the Iffp prize in the past.Also has been the Impac Dublin book prize longlist a couple of times. This book is rather like his earlier book Anatomy of a moment as it uses an actual historical event as the start of the book. This is a look at one man Enric Marco. He was thought to be a champion of the Unions with a history of fighting fascism a survivor of the Nazi death camps and opposed Franco.

On May 11 2005, the truth was discovered: Enric Mrco was an impostor. For the previous twenty-seven years Marco had claimed to be prisoner No. 6448 from German conce/ntration camp Flossenburg: He had lived this lie and had to made it live: for almost three decades, Marco gave hundreds of talks about his experiences of the Nazi regime, he was president of the Amical de Mauthausen, the association of Spanish survivors of Nazi camps, he was awarded notable honours and medals and on January 27 2005, he moved many members of both houses of the Spanish parliment to tears ..

He spoke so well on what wasn’t his life but anothers .

The book begins at the point when in 2005 He was unmasked as a fake.Cercas met him four years after that but it wasn’t until a few years later he decides to try and find the truth behind the man and his story. Marco is an enigma as the first part of the story shows called Onion skins like Gunter Grass whose biography is called Peeling the onion. We peel the layers away from the man and his story. The time Marco choose to invent his history is about write a time when people could still make up a past if they wanted. He is a man that wanted to be more than he was. He wanted to be a hero also a champion of the underdog. But as he rose in the public eye the lies he had told became harder to hide.He had been in a German Prison. He went to Germany as a worker not a prisoner from the republic. when he was in the civil war he went to France and was arrested as a criminal, not to a death camp.He rose to be the leader of the Spanish organisation for prisoners of the death camps and their families. it was just as they were to celebrate sixty years as the story of his deception broke he wasn’t in the camp he said he was and his story starts to unfold.

Marco was born in an asylum ; his mother was insane.Is he mad too? is this his secret, the condrum that explains his personality? is this why he always sided with the majority ? Does this explain everything, or does it at least explain the essentials ? And if Marco truly is mad, what is thhe nature of his madness.

Now, this is a great piece of narrative non-fiction like his earlier book Anatomy of a moment. Cercas has chosen a historic event to explore his own countries past, but this through one man’s journey.This book is around maybe at just  the right time. We are so interested in real life tales with the podcast like S town and serial. There is a saying that truth is often stranger than fiction and Enric Marco is an example. He was bigger than Billy Liar. His story held up longer than the fake 9/11 victim that like Marco wanted to be held up as a hero and also fight for the victims. This is a study of what makes a man lie! Then the snowball effect of those lies, how when the ball is rolling it was hard to turn back time and stop it. Till like in Marcos case it is a final event that explodes his world open. As ever frank has brought a poetic tone to Cercas words. This is a tale of a man’s twisted journey he did good but is that enough for the lies? Marco is an enigma even after this I still not sure what to make of him.

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Three days by Thomas Bernhard

 

Three days by Thomas Bernhard

Austrian Memoir

Original title – Drei Tage

Translator – Laura Lindgren

Source – personal copy

I featured another Austrian writer the other day, I mentioned Thomas Bernhard. I said he was my favourite Austrian writer. I have reviewed six of his books over the time this blog has been running.For me, he is a writer that challenged us as readers and also challenged the conventions of his days.So when I went online to look for something to read this time around by him this book caught my eye.

In a very simple sentences a landscape is built; in a few words in Pavese’s diary, a passage by Lermontov, of course Dostoyevsky, Turgenev, basically all Russians..

Apart from Valery the French nevr interested me at all .. Valery Monsieur teste – is a book so throughly thumbed, i have to buy it again and agian; it always pored over, frayed, in tatters..

Henry James – a constant fight.It is bitter enmity.. always reeling..

Mostly you feel ridiculous up against these people, which means you mustn;t work..

But little by little you gain command, over even the very great.. and you can subdue them..

You can rise above Virginia Woolf or Forster, and then I have to write

Bernhard compares his place to other writers and his complex sentences .

The book is the words spoken over three days of filming a documentary by Ferry Radax a fellow Austrian. Radax had first worked on a script for Bernhard’s Gargoyle novel.But the project fell through and what he was asked to do was a film about the man himself. What Radax choose to do is to place his fellow Austrian on a bench for three days for an hour or so a day. What follows in the books is what was said by Bernhard on the first day it is the simple piece about his books his childhood, where he said it was a repetition of musical works, although none classical. On the second day, he opens up calling himself a story destroyer. When he saw a story appearing in his prose,  he had to annihilate it in his works.Then on the third day, he turns to the sadness in his life and also in his works.

To me, there is no place lovelier than Vienna and the Melancholia I have and always have had in the city..

It’s the people there I have known for two decades who are melancholia..

It’s the streets of Vienna. It is the atomsphere of this city, of the city studying, natrually.

It’s sentences, always the same, that people there say to me, probably the same that I say to these people, a wonderful precondition for melancholia.

You sit in a park somewhere, hours long; in a cafe, hours long – melancholia

The city like himself has a sadness maybe as the Prtugeese would say Saudade !!

Now, this is mainly a book for the true Bernhard fan in a way. As it is a mix of pictures and text over a hundred pages. But with only a third of them having text. What we do get is an insight into the man and in that maybe what made his characters. There is a sense of sadness in his words and also a sense of bitterness that we often see in his characters. Bernhard is still an enigma. Especially when you watch three days as Radax used a lot of odd screen angles, blackout and text on the screen. I was reminded of the lines by Ian Bannen character says when he ran out of things to say he just spoke the truth. This is what happens with Bernhard as the days go by we find out more about him. I especially love the line when he calls himself a story destroyer as that is maybe what he was a writer that challenged a reader.

Abba Abba by Anthony Burgess

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Abba Abba by Anthony Burgess

English fiction / Italian poetry

Source – personnel copy

I said earlier in the year I intend to try to review a Burgess novel or work as this year saw the 100th anniversary of his birth, but as ever I found other things to read so a few months later I return to a second book. This time it is a historical novel, which Burgess wrote a number of in his lifetime and like some of his other historical novels he uses historical fact to construct a novel from and the actual fact is that the English Poet John Keats lived in Rome at the same time as the Italian poet Guiseppe Gioachino Belli.

Giovanni Guliemi, doctor of letters of the university of Bologna, had a small private income derived from the rents of the land in Lazio  left him by his father, who was untimely dead of Naples cholera, some british gold invested with the banker Torlonia, and what he got from the tenants of the first and second floors of the large house facing the Basilica of Santa Cecila in the Piazza named for her in the Tratevere district og Rome. The third, top , floor was enough for his mother and himself.

Another fatherless man also the connection between Keat and Belli whose poem he translated into English

 

So what Burgess imagined is that these two great poets actually meet in Rome. Belli was well-known for writing his poetry in a rough Italian dialect. We find Keats a man who is in his end days he is dying at a house near the Spanish steps where he can hear the music of a nearby fountain. The two meet as Keats gets hold of a translation of one of Bellis earlier poems a poem about manhood. We see the two men try to converse as best they can as neither speaks the other’s language as they connect via French. The second part of the book is a brief description of how JJ wilsom the translator of the Belli works in the second half of the book. explains how a Salford Schoolboy discovered Belli and decide to translate his works as he studied Italian as well as English as  a student a later discovery of his complete works in Italy.

The creation of the world

One day the bakers god and son set to

and baked, to show their pasta-maker’s skill,

This loaf the world, though the idd imbecile

Swears it’s a melon, and the thing just grew,

They made a sun, a moon, a green and blue

Atlas, chucked stars like money from a till,

Set birds high, beasts low, fishes lower still.

Planted their plants, they yawned: Aye that’ll do

First verse of a Belli poem translated by Burgess himself from Italian

This is a short book the first part is a mere sixty pages of Keats in Rome a city which Burgess himself had a flat for many years , so we get a real feel of the city and also of the character like Elton,  Severn  and Bonaparte’s daughter all were part of Keats life at the time(I googled Isaac Marmaduke Elton as that named seems a little surreal he was a real character and friend of Keats.  We have the meeting of the two great men may be like a brother relationship between Keats and Belli as Abba means father, they also both lost the fathers very young as well. They had a lot in common as poets. Belli is relatively unknown and was a poet that Burgess championed with his translation of his works into English. This shows what Burgess did well in other books like a dead man in Deptford and this is to use a piece of history here Keat in Rome and the fact that something else occurred that Belli was there at the same time. He did the same with Marlowe in the dead man in Deptford making him into a spy and much more than he was. That is the brilliant touch Burgess had to just imagine the scenario and build his book around it.

 

International translation day 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saint Jerome is the patron saint of translation and it is the day we celebrate translation on international translation day. Well, maybe a look back over the eight years of this blog 750 books 90% in translation. Has seen me travel in my armchair with books from Afghanistan to Yemen in books. But also has seen an explosion in people publishing books from Peirene, Istros, tilted axis, honford star and Noir to name a few, have seen books reach us in English that would have not have done when I started the blog. The future is bright with two new prizes in the pipeline for books in translation and Booker behind what was the Independent foreign fiction prize, people seem more willing to try world lit . As for me the blog has grown and still gives me pleasure especially discovering places and writers. I now start to try and improve navigation of the blog as I want to divide  the reviews into a number of sections such as war, village life, experimental, family, cities, crime and short so as to show the common themes we see in literature no matter of place. How do you think translation has moved on in the last eight years ?

A different sea by Claudio Magris

A different Sea by Claudio Magris

Italian fiction

Original title – Un altro mare

Translator – M.S.Spurr

Source – Library copy

Claudio Magris in yesterdays list of Nobel hopefuls, earlier in the summer. I read this short novella by him. But have waited till now to review it. Claudio Magris has won many prizes with his books like the Stega for his book Danube. Which I hope to bring to the blog at some point. He has also won some prizes for the body of his works like the Prince of Asturias and Franz Kafka. 
In those brief, still days, Enrico had seen the threads of his destiny, had seen the coins of his life thrown up high  and glitter for a moment as they turned over in the air. When Argia was not on the beach she was indoors playing the piano, Playing Beethoven for Carlo she revealed the abyss that comes between the individual and his destiny; she annulled time and with it the misery and transcience of life, and she demonstrated the tragic joy to be gained by living only for the moment.
This piece shows how Enrico lived his life, like his friend had said .
 
This book follows Enrico, a young Greek man, in the early part of the twentieth century. He is good friends with the Italian Philosopher Carlo Michelstaedter. A man who passed away to young. But his philosophy was about living in the moment by living in the moment is how a man can set him free. There is a third friend, Nico whom Enrico keeps in contact with over time. We Follow Enrico after his friend died. He sets forth to try and live in the moment By setting off to Patagonia. The life there where he lives with his Greek books and the idea of his friend. He spends over a decade working herding animals. Whilst he reading as he escaped National service by escaping to South American. He then returns to Trieste and the Istria coast. In those inter-war years, as we see through his eyes. The political landscape  of the time in that region and also what living in the moment can make on one’s life. 
After all , he left the country to avoid military service, and he is fed up with hearing about the Great War. What do they expect of him, sitting there at their desks? Let them learn the aorist tense: that is already enough
In patagonia he kept in his pocket both the Odyssey and the Agamemnon edited with commentary in Latin by Simon Karsten. But a discourse on the fate of the sons of Atreus, or on the suffering of Electra- Carlo liked her best of all – would be out of place in front of these boys.
I was remind of my step grandfather who carried Dickens in his pocket all his working life .
 
This is a sparse novella, that shows how to follow an idea of what happens. When one chooses to live in the present as Carlos had chosen to do so. It is a wonderful insight into the lone life on the Pampas as he searches for a life free of Social falsehoods. The search for who we are set off by the early death of a friend and also wanting to act out on his ideas of Michelstaedter. A man I knew very  little of her is an interesting piece about him here.I liked this novella it left  me thinking of what life is about and also the world they lived in which when Enrico returns is one that is in flux as the clouds of the following years are seen through the world of Istira and Trieste.

Eight years

 

I got a notification yesterday to tell me it was eight years since I started winstonsdad so i have posted 1400 odd posts which even after eight years is near one every other day , although this last two year I have slowed down due to life more than lack of interest in blogging . 109 countries have been covered in the time of the blog, I have nearly hit 100 french books and 50 german novels .But for me it is the people and place I have been because of the blog , people like Susie , Daniella , David ,Rob , Simon , Nicci , Paul , Frank and so on even last week I met Grant for the first time and had a wonderful chat.Events like the old IFFP and london book fair also a couple of great drinks and meals in london all of this because of this small blog. I have been so lucky that a support worker from derbyshire has managed to stretch a blog that has been seen around the world over the years and I have written about the world . I love to see what the next eight year bring the one thing I am sure now is we will contiune to see more books in translation. I feel it is great to have been blogging through what is a golden time for literature in translation .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That was the month that was May 2017

  1. War and turpentine by Stefan Hertmans
  2. The Unseen by Roy Jacobsen
  3. Traitors Niche by Ismail Kadare
  4. Fish have no feet by Jon kalman Stefansson
  5. Monte Carlo By Peter Terrin
  6. Mourning diary by Roland barthes
  7. Bodies of summer by Martin Felipe Castagnet
  8. Hair everywhere by Tea Tulic
  9. Belladonna by Dasa Drndic
  10. The Children by Carolina Sanin
  11. Listening for Jupiter by Pierre-Luc Landry

Things got back to normal on the blog this month after a couple of lean months review wise. I managed to finish the man booker longlist. I managed to read books from 10 countries .No new Publishers this month but the second book from Notting hill editions the Barthes Diary. So I have reviewed 49 books this year on the blog leaving me on course to read over 100 books this year.

Book of May

Belladonna by Dasa Drndric

It is a tough month as there has been a number of books that have touched me the Barthes is a great book for me at the moment but in the long run Dasa’s book is one that needs to be read Andreas Ban is a anti hero that shows us , what we need to be thinking about.

None book discovery

 

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I am due to leave work tomorrow after 17 years , I am sad but also looking forward to my new job in three weeks. I have just brought a Lomo La sardina Camera for my holiday next month, a retro camera with flash filter should make some memorable photos from our holiday.

Looking forward

 

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I have had a little extra money last few months so have slowly been getting some US translations from publishers like Open letter, Dalkey archive , Deep Vellum and archipelago books . The Castagnet from this month was the first of these books , I have a Magdalena Tulli I am reading at the moment. How was your month and what plans have you to read next month ?

That was the months that was March April 2017

  1. Cheese by Willem Elssch
  2. Compass by Mathias Enard
  3. Octavio’s journey by Miguel Bonnefoy
  4. The Major Refutation by Pierre Senges
  5. The principle by Jerome Ferrari
  6. Judas by Amos Oz
  7. Fever dream by Samanta Schweblin
  8. Black Moses by Alain Mabanckou
  9. Mirror , Shoulder , Signal by Dorthe Nors
  10. The Santiago Pilgrimage by Jean-Christophe Rufin
  11. Bricks and Mortar by Clemens Meyer
  12. The explosion chronicles by Yan Lianke

 I Missed last month for obvious reasons so this is a round up of the twelve books I managed to review between April and March . One new press Contra Mundun from whom I reviewed The Major Refutation a quirky french novel .Eight countries have been covered by me in the last two months and I have read a number of french novels pushing the blog total to 90 french novels and nearer the goal of 100 for this year . with the twelve here it brings this years total of books reviewed to 38 .

Book of March and April

Compass by Mathias enard

I think this is a masterpiece an ode to a world that has now long gone the syria of many years ago is told over one night and a love story .

None book discovery

Well being Honest this has been a crap couple of months for me . I lost mum in March we had funeral in April and I am now mid way in the process of getting a new job in NHS , so I am rather sad at having to leave a place I have worked for twelve years but with my mum and step mothers passing in the last couple of year I had decided long term I need a job that would see me best in my last twenty odd years of work. But like many folks in time of trouble we seek solace in what we know and for me that has been the last two star wars film which I got on bluray disc the last few months they have given me many an hours break from what has been a hard couple of months.

Looking forward

well we have the shadow shortlist to come out soon . I have a number books I have brought recently and a huge backlog of review books to read. BellaDonna  I hope finish tomorrow is another great book from an old favourite of this blog Dasa Drndic , also the second Peter Owen world series three books from Spain I have read Nona’s room already a stunning collection of short stories .

A dutch pair new arrivals

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This is the first of two Dutch novels to arrive in recent days , I have actually read this one finished it last night it is a tale of one mans story about the first world ar David is a teacher but he has an attraction to a shy pupil that needs a bright world that is what david tries to bring , but the war catches up and as he tries to teach then men un der him about the world and how to read and write he decides to try and escape the horror of the war. This was a big hit in Dutch speaking world it was pick for a dutch talk show as a book club read.

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Then we have a book by a writer I have featured before Otto de kat his man on the move was reviewed here seven years ago. This is story of Emma Verweij she is now 96 and waiting to die and looking back on her life and the war years when her home the house she is in now was stronghold for her friends during the war. As she tries to hide the first husband and the nazis past in Germany. Otto de kat is the pen name of the dutch publisher jan Geurt Gaarlandt he choose the name after a relative also called Otto de kat a successful Dutch painter in his day .

What books have you had arrive ?

Jan 2017 that was the month that was

I am terrible at round ups as all of you may know but every year I try to keep track of what has been read and reviewed this year I am just marking books I have reviewed on the page of my blog not read then reviewed.So I have reviewed 13 books this month . I have gone from Belgium via Quebec, Latin America and Africa and back to europe with books from 13 countries reviewed and 8 new writers to the blog and five with books already on the blog. Three new to the blog publishers as well. Last all Translated of course .

  1. Maigert’s dead man by Geroges Simenon
  2. The old king in his exile by Arno Geiger
  3. Brothers by David Clerson
  4. Swallowing Mercury by Wioletta Greg
  5. Otared by Mohammad rabie
  6. Reputations by Juan Gabriel Vasquez
  7. The final bet by Abdelilah Hamdouchi
  8. Cockroaches by Scholastique Mukasonga
  9. The Potato eaters by Manuel Rivas
  10. A horse walks into a bar by David Grossman
  11. The African shore by Rodrigo Rey Rosa
  12. 2084 by Boualem Sansal
  13. Havoc by Tom Kristensen

Now book of the month

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For me it is the Danish modernist classic Havoc , simply a classic of its time worthy of Waugh , Joyce or any of the great modernist writers . 600 pages of a man struggle with drinking and falling down that rabbit hole of drinking to much.

Books read

I have read 13 books as well some I have reviewed this other will be reviewed next month. You can follow via my Instagram what I am reading at the moment  as I have been recording my current reads this year over there .

Non book discovery

Each month I want bring some non book related to the month end and this it is a Tv series I have been enjoying over on Netflix it is the series A  series of unfortunate events from the Lemony Snicket ,childrens books. I missed the film with Jim Carey in back when it came out I had by time the film came out had my fill of Mr Carey so came to this not knowing much about the books or film. So for me it was a treat the series style wise reminds me at times of Wes Anderson the same twee world his films live in  the tales of the Baudelaire children as they try to get by after the death of their parents , as the evil relative Count Olaf wonderfully played by Neil Patrick Harris , was he really that loveable kid Doogie Howser MD years ago here as a mad actor and his troop of actors  trying to catch his three relatives for the fortune. What has your month been like ?

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