That was the month that was Jan 2019

  1. My name is Adam by Elias Khoury
  2. The wicked go to hell by Frédéric Dard
  3. Among the lost by Emiliano Monge
  4. The sound of waves by Yukio Mishima
  5. Katalin Street by Magda Szabo
  6. The last summer by Boris Pasternak
  7. Sometimes I lie and sometimes I don’t by Nadja Spiegel
  8. Soviet milk by Nora Ikstena
  9. A long night in Paris by Dov Alfon

So I managed 9 books under review this month nine countries including one new one country in  Latvia. No new presses this month. My reading started in New York and then Palestine. I then took a few nights in a French prison with an undercover cop and a spy put who was who. Then I joined some Mexican people smugglers that live in hell like world then romance in Japan. WOrld war two and one in the next two novel one about the falling out of the Nazis and the second world war on a single street in Budapest and then a man goes to his sister and remembers the last summer before world war One. Then female stories from Austria. Then Last years Peirene about a woman and her daughter getting by in a small rural time in exile in their own country. Then a modern thriller in Paris from a former special service and editor of a national paper.

Book of the month

Katalin Street

Katalin street by Magda Szabo something about the voice of the characters and the way it showed the effect of the war on one small piece of the world and the three families that were once so close end up all over the place living and Dead. The children show the world in the eyes and their friends as there positions change through the years.

The month itself-

I’ve decided to give a monthly recap of small life events and other things not book related. This month well today was my first day of driving in real frosty conditions I still nervous for the first snow drive. I also managed my first motorway drive when I visited my father the other side of Birmingham and had a good hour and a half on the motorway.  I’ve been driving two months and have done 1600 miles in my little silver car. The month saw a return of a couple of old tv  series on to tv. The first Sliders a sci-fi series that saw four characters travel to parallel earth this is similar to other shows like Quantum leap which came before this show saw someone  travel in their own life in this show the premise was what if things like the wild west lived on or the Soviets took over or you were a star. Then the other another retro show Rumpole of the Bailey were we see Leo McKern as the Poetry quoting a fan of the Q edition of the Oxford book of English verse a picture of a world maybe gone now. He plays the down at heel barrister hero of the underdog and working criminals. McKern playing of him is like Bretts Holmes Suchet Poirot or Guinness Smiley one of those actors that defined the character making it hard for anyone else to play him. Although there is a new series on the radio has a new Rumpole in the form of  Benedict Cumberbatch . Now a snippet of Music and I have been listening to a lot of the go-betweens a later comer to them I saw a great documentary on Sky the other day that follows the history of the band over the years to the sad loss of one of the two lead singers.

What has your month been like?

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My Name is Adam by Elias Khoury

My Name Is Adam_TPB.jpg

My Name is Adam by Elias Khoury

Lebanese fiction

Original title – Awlad AL-Ghetto- Esme Adam” (أولاد الغيتو- اسمي آدم)

Translator Humphrey Davies

Source – review copy

Well I haven’t reviewed a novel by Elias Khoury in a while. I reviewed While you were sleeping and Yalo a few years ago. I am a huge fan of his work he has a wonderful way of capturing the world he lives in and is lauded as a future Nobel winner and one of the leading voices of his generations of Arabic fiction. This latest book he uses a modern writer to look back at the moment in 1948 when the world around his home fell apart. This book is the second time he has tackled the 1948 conflict but this time from a whole new angle.

These notebooks came into my possesion by coincidence, and I hesitated at the length before deciding to send them to Dar Al-Abab in Beiruit for publication. To be hionest, the reason for my hesitation lay in that ambigous feeling that combines admiration and envy. love and hate, I had met the writer and hero ot htese text. Adam Dannoun or danoun in New York, where I reach at the university. I remember I fold my Korean student how good looking I thought he was . It was towars the end of Feburary2005.If memorey serves me correctly.

This is a clever book which sees the writer himself Elias Khoury looking into fictional writers notebooks. This happens when the man Adam Damnoun he is an old man who grew up in the early years of the founding of Israeli but eventually left there and fled to the US. He strangely for an Israeli strangely end up in New York working in a restaurant serving Middle-eastern dishes where his path crosses the real-life Khoury the two talk but when Adam sees A version of one of Elias books as a film,  he storms off and that seems to be it. But when this old man dies in a fire his lifetime of notebooks falls into the hands of Elias Khoury. What we see is Khoury reading and pulling into shape this mans past and his family connection to the events that happened in 1948 around the city of Lydda an infamous massacre and what was his families part in it! The tough times that the 1948 conflict had on everyone on each side. What was his true / past is he the man Khoury thinks he was or had Adam been someone else in the past and just rewritten his history. Was the man Khoury got to know as Adam really an Israeli or Palestinian.

As my mother told the tale, I was born in thrist. Now, as I write about that woman who vanished from my life when I was fifteen, I don’t know whether her lips were indeed cracked in Parallel, straight lines, or of it is the image of thirst, which has pursed me since childhood, that transforms her thirsty lips whenever I recall her.

She was my mother, and she was Manal, daughter of Atif Suleiaman, f the village of Eliabourn in Galiee. When I remember her , I say “Manal was …” for to me she’s like the first word in a sentence that was never completed. After I left the house at fifteen to work in Mr Gabriel’s garage in Haifa, I discovered that the woman passed through my life like a sigh of wind, leaving behind her nothing but her world of stories,

The stories of his mother and his mix together in this book.

I love the framing device here of the fictional meeting of these two men of similar age one that is a clever device for Khoury telling the story of 1948 from another angle. The point when Adam runs off and losses contact with Khoury is when he saw the Film version of Khory’s book A gate of the sun which is another book dealing with 1948. So when Khoury starts working through the notebooks of Adams history and tales of his families life through the same time he gives light to another voice and another world from Adams perspective. This is the first in a collection of novels by Khoury called the Children of the Ghetto a nod to Lydda which is where the first ghetto in the region as the native Palenstines called it.

Winstonsdads reads of 2019

Well, 2019 has been a slow reading year than recent I just managed 90 reviews so I’ve chosen my ten books of the year in no particular order here are my top ten books of the year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Die, my love by Ariana Harwicz I was sent three books by Charco press all could have been on the list but this fits the rest of the list as it is fragment glimpse of a wifes world falling apart in rural france a strong female voice.
  2. Berlin Alexanderplatz by Alfred Doblin I had the first chance to double review a book in a new translation. Hofmann version brought to life the world of Franz Biberkopf as I said if John dos Passos Tom Waits and Charles Bukowski has a bastard child it would be Biberkopf and his world.
  3. One clear ice-cold January morning at the beginning of the twenty-first century by Roland Schimmelpfennig Germany leading playwright writes a debut novel that is a state of the nation glimpse of modern Germany from those who have come to the city from around the world.
  4. Fleeting snow by Pavel Vilikovsky, a novel about memory and how it works in interlinking stories that twist around each other as the five tales in this book can and may not be linked it is a wonderful fluid book that is a unique book.
  5. The blind spot by Javier Cercas a collection of essay around fiction but the title piece about the blind spot we never see in books mainly around Moby dick is an interesting essay.
  6. Zero by Gine Cornelia Pedersen I have a soft spot for books that chart the decline in peoples lives and this is a wonderful female voice we follow fragments of her life from her teens to his twenties in modern Norway.
  7. In every wave by Charles Quimper if I had a book of the year this is it and a theme in these books it is fragment narrative this is the story that follows a family break down following the loss of there daughter by drowning.
  8. Tell them of battles, kings, and elephants by Mathias Enard a wonderful meeting of east and west in old Constantinople we follow Michelangelo on an imagined journey there.
  9. River by Ester Kinsky One German woman’s time in London walking along a river leads her into the past and other rivers another book of fluid and fragment proses.
  10. The Last days by Jaroslavas Melinkas A collection of stories that echo a Soviet past. Where in the tales rooms disappearing, a woman aging the wrong way an interesting discovery

A Vision of Battlements by Anthony Burgess

A Vision of Battlements

 

A Vision of Battlements by Anthony Burgess

English fiction

Source – Personal copy

I have over the years I have been blogging talked about my love of Anthony Burgess for me he was one if not the best English writer of the later 20th century. I did a post of all the books I got over a year ago since then this came out as the Manchester University Press has been bringing out some of his out of print novels. This was the first in that collection the Irwell collection it has a lengthy intro by Burgess biographer Andrew Biswell who is also director of the International  Anthony Burgess Foundation. There is also the previous intros from the earlier books the only piece that is missing is the illustrations that were in the first edition a series of cartoon depictions of the story.

Ennis, sergeant Richard Ennis, A.V.C.C , lay in his hammock on the sergeants’ troop deck, shaping his miond, behind his closed eyes, against the creacks and groans of the heaving ship, a sonata for Violoncello and piano. He listened to the sinuous tune of the first movemnet with its percussive accompaniment, every note clear. It was strange to think that this, which had never been heard except in his imagination, never been commited to paper, should be more real than the pounding sea, than the war which might now suddenly come to particular life in a U-Boat attack, more real than himself, than his wife. It was a pattern that time could not touch, it was stronger than love.

Like Burgess Ennis is a composer Burgess often felt himself more a musician that a writer.

A vision of Battlements is partly based on Burgess own experience at the end of the second world war and the time just after the war. He was like the hero well anti Hero of this book Richard Ennis based on that small British island of Gibraltar. Like Burgess Ennis has a job teacher troops about The British way and purpose which was a collection of essays the war office had brought together to illustrate the British way to the everyday squady. Ennis is a musician a heart that loves music and poetry and really has ended up there by the fact of being drafted into the Army. He teaches the students in his own way. But he is viewed as a left winger when he gives his talks. He also has a problem with Authority he frequently clashes with his commanding officer. Major Muir a man sidetracked to the position he is in and one that has invented his own history that finds Ennis a bright younger man a threat and someone to worry about.  This is the everyday life of the Gibraltar post the argument of the men and the way they lived the frequent drunkenness of the men. Ennis is allowed to go into Spain here he falls in love with the poetry of Lorca and decides to translate him and he gets into trouble with the Christain brother who views these poems as godless. Ennis then also has relations with a local widow.

Major Muir was a regular W.O 1 with a first class ceritficate of Education. Wounded early in the war, he had been commissioned as a lieutenant in the army Educational Corps, then transferred, with promotion, to this newer organisation. He had delusions of grandeur and had invented fantasies about himself – the many books he had written, the many universities he had attended.He spoke often ungrammatically, with a homemade accent in which Cockney diphthongs stuckout stiffly, like bristles. His ignorance was a wonder

.Muir and ennnis don’t get one it is rather like the dads army pair of Captain Mainwaring and Sergeant Wilson

Now this book was actually the first book he wrote. He finished it in 1953 and put it to one side when he had published a few books in 1961 he gave it to one publisher they passed on it and in 1964 he gave it to the publisher that published the book. The book came from a series of blue notebooks Burgess kept whilst he was posted to Gibraltar doing much the same things as his hero Ennis was doing there is also a nod to Burgess great writing Hero Joyce he used the Aeneid as a loose frame to the book like Joyce had used odyssey in Ulysses. So certain names echo ones in the Aeneid Iabrus is Barasi and Turnus becomes Turner a character that is a complete opposite to Ennis. This book has a sprinkling of the comic the sort of view of army life that only those that have lived in the barracks can see and write about. Ennis was written about the same time as Amis wrote Lucky Jim and they are similar in a number of ways both are loved in a way by those they teach and mistrusted by those around them and also have trouble with the authoritarian figures in the world. This book has been out of print for forty year which is a shame as it is an interesting slice of world war two history not heroic but that everyday side of the army when you are in a place that isn’t near the front line but still needs to be manned. Burgess referred to this as wasted time and a huge chunk of his life. I will be back sometime soon with another Burgess as I still have a lot to cover for this blog.

that was the month that was Sept 2018

books read –

  1. in every wave by Charles Quimper
  2. Endless blue sky by Lee Hyoseok
  3. Lost Empress by Sergio De La Pava
  4. Drive your Plow over the bones of the dead by Olga Tokarczuk
  5. Explosions by Mathieu Poulin
  6. Eleven Prague Corpses by Krill Kobrin
  7. Everyday life by Lydie Salvayre
  8. The dog by Kerstin Ekman

I managed to review a number of books from seven countries and from all around the world. I traveled from a man struggling with the passing of his daughter then to Korea and  Manchuria in the pre-war years. A dazzling novel of modern America and two people at different ends of modern America. People turn up dead in a valley in a distant area of Poland. Then we imagined that Michael Bay is actually a visionary and challenging filmmaker with themes behind his films. Then an expat Russian in Prague solves a number of deaths in the city. A city he isn’t a fan of either. Then a secretary sees a new arrival as her enemy or is it more than that is she losing her mind !! Then a feral dog grows from a pup to an adult away from man but is slowly drawn back by one man and his old grey dog.No new publishers but a real selection of styles of writing and types of fiction from short Borges stories through Poetic prose of suffering and then the chaos of modern America caught on the page through various forms of writing.

Book of the month- In every wave by Charles Quimper

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This short but powerful book has a man trying to capture what happened when his daughter drowned. His marriage then falls apart and he only feels at home and near her on his sailboat as he tries to relive that day to see if it could have ended differently.This is one of the most touching books of recent years.

Discovery of the month-

My non-book discovery is the Sky arts series treasures of the British Library where a number of Stars four so far have visited the library. They get to choose six items that relate or have inspired them from people they admire or events they what to visit and the library have found piece connect to them. Like Nicola Benedetti when she gets to touch Beethovens tuning fork an item that has been touch by many great figures in classical music.A series that show the power of Libraries and preserving the past.

Next month-

I  am struggling with life at the moment so have found reading hard the last week or so but I am planning to read a couple of NYRB books for Lizzy Siddal’s  NYRB book fortnight. Then a couple for German Lit month. I have the Latest Javier Marias on order from the Library and have a few old Dalkey books to read. I just want to get my general Mojo back and my reading back to normal.

 

In every wave by Charles Quimper

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In every wave by Charles Quimper

Quebecian fiction

Original title – Marée montante

Translator – Gull Lefebvre

Source – Review copy

I have a real feeling that I am lucky to have been let in the Library of books from Quebec it is like a small room in Borges Dream Library one that we who know about the great books from Quebec have the secret knowledge and so to the latest. This is an amazingly short novella from the writer Charles Quimper he has previously been a bookseller and written to a number of magazines. I read an interview where it said he had tried out working on a trawler only to find he has seasickness. He is married and has two children.

A BIRD GLIDES OVERHEAD. Could be a cormorant, maybe an albatross. Might be just a seagull.I have no idea.

It’s there first thing in the morning and follows me all day, circling above, tracking me accross the seven seas.

Cracked skin, calloused hands. My body sculpted by the sea

The steady rhythm of the gallery inside me. Turmoil and rain filled sorrow. A hint of something sweet, clear and amber. A mournful melody. I think of you every day, seeking your shadow in the boat’s wake, finding nothing but the sea

The recurrent them of the water her again in this poetic passage early on in the book.

In Every wave is narrated by the father of Beatrice. She had drowned one summer whilst swimming. Now the water is a recurring theme in the book. The narrative has a broken nature as we drift through the past and the present. From memories of camping playing Marco Polo , the actual day of Beatrice drowning rerunning what happened maybe to see if it could have been different then the aftermath his with underwater in the bath motionless her way of dealing with there loss. The distance between the husband and wife after the event is like a tide slowly drawing in and cutting them off to there island. He has a boat maybe he is trying to sail back to her or even to his wife but he just sees a bird in the distance every day.

That day

I swear , I tried. I tried everything. Our fingertips brushed together. I grabbed you by the forearm, but the current was too strong, and you were being pulled down too fast. I swear by your name engraved on my skin. On the head of my dead bird.

I can’t even swim, but there I was, swallowing water by the bucketful, spitting, coughing, desperate to get back to shore,howling your name. Cramped,gasping, and spent.Spittiomg up saliva and snot and despair. Someone pulled me out. Without you.

That day he replays again near the end trying to grasp at the water for his Beatrice.

This is such a short book 78 pages Long. It is strange I am just reading Knausgaard’s the End well that book was started with the death of his father. Well, it turns out the kernel for this book was Charles own fathers death he was young when it happened. Knausgaard books are a forest or words this short novella is a single autumnal leaf one of those leaves that had just the bare skeleton of the leaf this is the bare bones of coping with a death whether it is a father or a Child. This uses the sea and water so well as a recurrent theme from the boat, the drowning, the wife in the bath and the sea water forming salt on the skin a lasting impression of what the sea is like the tears we cry at times like this salty. I was so touched after reading this I tweeted this was one of the most touching books I have ever read it is a real gem a short book that lingers long in the memory of the reader. You will feel the unnamed fathers sorrow and guilt. I for one now both feelings so well in recent times especially the replaying the last days of what happened as the Counting crows one said in a song.” If dreams are like movies, then memories are films about ghosts, You can never escape, you can only move south down the coast”. Another gem from the library of Quebec. Please go preorder this gem I review it earlier than normal as I felt it was that good!!!!

 

That was the month that was August 2018

  1. Zero by Gine Cornelia Pedersen
  2. The Neighborhood by Mario Vargas Llosa
  3. One hundred twenty one days by Michele Audin
  4. A cat, a man and two women by Junichiro Tanizaki
  5. The tree of the Toraja by Philippe Claudel

I only managed to review five books last month as I had a long break no new countries and no new publishers. Three new writers to the blog including Tanizaki which is a writer I wanted to feature on the blog for a while. I also feature another from the Nordisk books which has brought a few gems out so far.

Book of the month

 

I was touched by this book. I am finding books that deal with death and grieving have come more important to me. This is the latest by Philippe Claudel which is a writer I had featured a few times on the blog. For me this is his best book and one will be recommending to people in the future. 
The month ahead
I had read a few other books last month so some catch-up reviews. Which will give me a number of days at the start of this month to read The end the last volume of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s autobiographical novel. I started it earlier today and am drawn in already 100 pages in of the eleven hundred pages. I then have a few review copies to read and to start prepping for german lit month with a few German novels.

I’m back Where to go now oh and a few new books !!

I am returning to reviewing tomorrow after nearly three weeks away, I’m rested up but also thinking of what my blog means to me. It has open so many doors over the years that I wouldn’t have opened without this blog. I have met so many people. That I had in a way become lazy about what I wanted and that is to make this the place for translated fiction and this means I have to maybe be more critical when I am reviewing books. I was listening to an open book about Literary criticism  . It made me think yes I love Translated fiction and in a way, for many years I have been the cheerleader for this cause. But after nearly 800 books I feel I need to guide and let people know more of what I think of books I had started this in small ways recently with a Llosa review that I was a little less cheerleader and more objective as I felt readers be better with other books by him to read first! I view this blog and my position as a gatekeeper of translated books but also translators and the publishers the whole team that gets the books out there. I have my own goals for the blog the first is the 1000 review mark.Also, the 100 German books mark to reach and of course the hunt for new countries and publishers is an ongoing quest. For me this is my hobby and passion a way to get cnnect to fellow lovers of translated fiction and spreading the love for world literature. I hope to spread the love but also be a beacon to the new readers by guiding them to what to read. I needed a break after nine years just put the blog in standby and stick the charger on well it charged quicker than expect and with an Epic autumn due of long books. Including the Jan Brandt Against the world a novel that references german from the 70’s to the present day.  I got today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Which arrived with French Poets Philippe Jacottet Obscurity his only novel. Tip Marugg a Curacao writer a book that sees a man watching the day dawning and uses a magic realism style. Werner Kofer an Austrian writer compared to Bernhard for his use of Satire. Noemi Jaffe memoir follows the journey she took with her daughter to Auschwitz following in her mother footsteps.

That was the month that was June 2018

  1. Soumchi by Amos Oz
  2. Blood of the dawn by Claudia Salazar Jimenez
  3. Smoking Kills by Antoine Laurain
  4. Ambiguous Adventure by Cheikh Hamidou Kane
  5. The Radiance of the King by Camara Laye
  6. The kites by Romain Gary
  7. Fleeting Snow by Pavel Vilikovsky
  8. King Stakh’s wild hunt by Uladzimir Karatkevich
Fleeting snow is the book of the month. I always like books that make you think after you have read them and also would consider rereading this title has both of them a journey into what is life and memory also who are we what is the meaning of our names in a way. The first Slovakian title from Istros book was a real joy as much of there books have been.
Next month
Looking forward I have a Columbian writer I have featured a number of times with what for me is his best book. The lost debut novel of a Portuguese great as the first couple of Spanish-Portuguese lit months books. I also have the 100th French title for the blog and a Baltic novel.
Non-book discoveries

Well the latest Album by Sons of bill came out a band I have been a fan of a  for a number of years. Oh and the world cup started, I have watched some games. But somehow I am still not as spirited as I have been previous years  Maybe as we move on England I may get the spirit somewhat. I have returned to work and am back on track being a bit more open and facing things that have happened. But back to the books looking forward to seeing what everyone chooses for Spanish Portuguese lit months.

The Radiance of the king by Camara Laye

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Radiance of the King by Camara Laye

Guinea Fiction

Original title – Le Regard du roi

Translator – James Kirkup

Source – personal copy

I said with the post the other day I had felt the variety of place I had blogged from had narrowed in recent years from the early years when I would have a number more African title in the mix. So I have had this on my shelf for a few years I like to keep a few titles from places I haven’t read from in reserve for the day I really struggle to find somewhere new. Camara Laye was born into a family caste that was traditionally Blacksmiths and Goldsmiths. He studied Mechanics and became an engineer via his studies. He like many Guinean males of the time was circumcised this form the story of his debut novel the African child. This was his second novel and unlike the debut is an allegorical novel.

“What right?” asked the beggar, as if the word had startled him.

“Wasn’t that mor or less what you told me? Wasn’t that  what you were hinting at, at least ?

Clarence was now speaking with great bitterness

“I spoke only of “Favour” “said the beggar “You are quite wrong to think I said anything about “rights” of any kind. As far as I’m concerned, I have nevered claimed any kind of “rights” I have always resticted myself to soliciting favours.I’ll say no more than that I expect these favours tobe granted.

They have just meet and the Beggar is a strange man .

This novel tell the strange tales of Clarence he is a penniless white man who has got stuck in an unnamed African country with no money and no one apart from the locals to help him.We see over the three parts of the book as Clarence tries to get to see the King get him to help to get home. A job with the king would help him get home. He has lost everything to a game shortly after he arrives. He has been helped initially by a beggar. This beggar is a strange character as he says he has a way for Clarence to get to the King. They do at one point see the King but then learn he has headed south for a while. Then we meet another strange pair a couple of Naoga and Noaga whom with the beggar set of to a village in the south. They get drunk on the arrival in the Village and the beggar has a strange look at Clarence then leaves the village on a donkey !! THen Clarence ends up in a cycle of drinking and getting stuck into village life feeling a lazy way of life coming over him and the king coming seeming more distant as he tries to get the answer to when the king is coming! while he escapes returning home? Will he meet the King?

They were made aware if its proximity by an odur which ought to be described, not merely because Clarence was especially sensitive to smells, and very curiously affected by them, but also, and above all, because this odur was particularly representative of the whole character of the south

The odour was a subtle combination of flower perfumes and the exhalations of vegetable moulds, It was certainly a strange and even suspect fragrance, not disagreeable, or not overwhelmingly so, but strange, and suspect, a little like the turbid odour of a hot-house full of decay blooms

The fragrence as they head south has a almost mad=gic realist description about it !

This is an unusual novel as it has a white man turning African and not an African becoming western. Clarence gets drawn into village life. He is also a man that has to face challenges this is like the temptations of the flesh and mind. From the off were he loses his money, then the temptations of the women of becoming lazy all challenge him in meeting the King as he sees others around him trying like the blacksmith does in the village to make the perfect axe for the King. Clarence also is like a Kafka character, the book starts with the Kafka quote and there is a sense to a similar dream world in Clarences being stuck in the village in the middle part of the book. This is another early work of Franco African literature coming out in 1954 for the first time. I hope to try African child at some point by Laye. My copy was a Fontana modern from the early seventies with as you see a rather old-fashioned cover

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