That was the month that was Novemeber 2019

  1. Air raid by Alexander Kluge
  2. Concrete by Thomas Bernhard
  3. An answer from the silence by Max Frisch
  4. The Pledge by Frederich Durrenmatt
  5. Homage to Czerny by Gert Jonke
  6. The trap by Ludovic Bruckstein
  7. All my cats by Bohumil Hrabal
  8. And where were you, Adam by Heinrich Boll
  9. The Cold Centre by Inka Parei
  10. Stand in Companion by Kazufumi Shiraishi

I managed to review ten books last month seven for this year’s German lit month I had hoped to get the Eighth life finished ut time was against me so that be coming later this week hopefully. Last month took me from the effect on one town of an air raid in world war two through a writer suffering writer’s block and hating Viennese life, then a man finding himself in the Alps a cop gets his man that wasn’t the man he thought it was in the start. Then a pair of siblings recreate a party from a year earlier then we visit a town where we see the war creeping in on the Jewish families there. A man suffers from two many cats a german soldiers at the end of the war see the horrors they have committed and the wrongs they have done then a man rushes to his ex-wife and a past event in East Germany and then I left Europe for a short novella from Japan about androids standing in for our partners. Where did your reading take you last month?

Book of the month

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I popped for Air raid it was a close month reading-wise by Alexander Kluge had been on my list of writers to read in the last few years. This textured account of his home town and the after math of an air raid that was only caused when the original target was canceled and the bombs dropped on Halberstadt a town now famous for doing the longest piece of music in the world John Cages As slow as possible is currently being performed in the organ at Halberstadt for the next 600 years . A fact I discovered after reading this book and looking up info on his hometown.

Non book events

Well this year is the first in many I have to listen to a lot of new bands and this month it has been a new album by the  Canadian experimental band Deliluh they remind me a little  of the post-rock group  slint  with there often spoken-word lyrics and slow melodic guitars and then more noise-based guitar anyway here is a track from youtube of there new album.

Then a film from the  BYnwr website Murder in Mississippi  described as Torn-from-the-headlines exploitation or daring social commentary? Joseph P. Mawra’s film is a little of both, using the true story of the killing of civil rights workers in the American deep South as a gritty springboard for another ultra-low-budget entry from the director of Chained Girls. on MUbi where I watched it a take on the south in the 60s restored from the last 35mm film of it. A film worth watching as a low budget gem of the time. Nicholas Winding Refn love of old rare and forgotten gems has led to his website reshowing the gems He and his guest editors have found and restored.

That was the month that was October 2019

  1. Agnes by Peter Stamm
  2. Under pressure by Faruk Šehić
  3. The jeweler by Caryl Lewis
  4. Faces on the tip of my tongue by Emmanuelle Pagano
  5. Bellevue by Ivana Dobrakovoa
  6. Vile bodies by Evelyn waugh
  7. The Rebels by Sándor Márai
  8. Murder at the vicarage by Agatha christie
  9. The Funeral Party by Ludmilla Ulitskaya
  10. The night circus by Uršuľa Kovalyk
  11. Falstaff: Apotheosis by Pierre Senges

I managed to read eleven books this month and I have got back on course to read 100 books this year. I read books from eight countries and I had books from three new publishers to the blog I start off with a german Novel set in the US a story of a unit in the Balkan conflict. A jeweler that connects with the people who owned the jewels the quirky french countryside a Slovenia girl goes to Southern France for a Job in care. Then it was to the swinging thirties in London then a group of Hungarian schoolkids and back to a small English Village and a Murder in the Vicarage. Then back to the Us and a Russian Emigre dies another set of quirky stories this time from Slovenia and then to finish of a reworking of Shakespears Falstaff’s life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book of the month

I joined the Kickstarter for this book I had read his first book to be translated into English. The book is an interlinking collection of short stories that tell one unit’s time in the Balkan conflict, Faruk himself lead a similar unit so this is a wart and all account of the Balkan conflicts. A great pleasure to see how Kickstarters are able to bring us books in translation maybe a few more publishers should try for those unusual or that second book from a writer.

Non-book events

I have been swimming for the last few months and am now starting to feel the benefit of it and although I am not losing weight I am feeling fitter and healthier. I have also been a fan of a new band last while the band Warmduscher has a wicked single midnight dipper very catchy song. How was your month ?

The Funeral party by Ludmilla Ulitskaya

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Funeral Party by Ludmilla Ulitskaya

Russian fiction

Original title -Веселые похороны

Translator – Cathy Porter

Source – personal copy

when the Nobel was due a few weeks ago there were a few betting sites giving odds less than normal but as ever I marked a few of the names that I hadn’t read and haven’t  got books by and the Russian writer Ludmilla Ulitskaya was high on the list and has had a lot of books translated into English over the years. Her first novella was published in 1992 in Russian she has won the Russian booker and was up for the old Man booker prizes and has won awards around the world. She is known for not delving into the past of her characters but the present and moving forward with the situations they are in.

The heat was terrible, with one hundred percent humidity. It was as if the whole of this great city, with its inhuman buildings, its magical parks, its different coloured people and dogs, had reached the point od a phase transition and at any momentits semi-liquefied people would float up int the soupy atomsphere.

The shower was permanently occupied, with a que of people standing outside, For a long time they hadn’t bothered with clothes, although Valentina wore a bra to prevent her large breasts chafing in the heat; normally she never wore one. Everyone was dripping wet, the sweat failed to avaporate from their bodies, towels didn;t dry and hair had to be dried with Hair dryer.

The opening lines give a view of the heat that summer in New york in Alik’s  small apartment

The book follows the last days of a Russian Emigres Alik an artist as he is dying. Those gathered around him remember him and also in the background there is the Uprising in Moscow where tanks came into the city in 1991 as it is a red hot summer in New York. As his wire Nina a drinker but also religous wants him to come back into the church. He has done artworks around the last supper and is an agnostic but will agree if there is also a rabbi with the priest! Alik has fallen on hard times and his bills are being sorted by another of the women around his bed Irina she maybe shows how some Russian Emigres came to thrive in the US. She was an Acrobat and former lover of Alik but has become a reasonable succesful lawyer and pays her old friend’s bills. The woman he was meant to marry in the US Valentina is there a marriage that never happened. Maria an older woman a motherly figure that is trying to save him with her mix of old fashion herbal remedies. One few other men is Firma a Russian doctor reduce to a lab assistant as he isn’t able to pass his US medical exams. What we see is how each has interacted with this Artist that until now was the glue between these people and a vibrant man to be around. As they visit him this hot summer some of his old lady friends get too hot and a strip off this is all part of the comic side of this book.

Father victor arrived at about nine, without socks and in sandals, carrying an attache case and a bulging plastic bag. He was wearing a baggy hirt tucked into light, shortish trousers, and a baseball cap with the innocuous letters “N” and “Y” on it

He tyook off the cap as he came in and rested it on the crook of his arm, greeting everyone with a smile which wrinkled his short nose.

Because it was Saturday there was a large number of visitors: valentina, giola with the little grey dostoyevskt under her arm, Irina, Maika, Faika, Libin and his girlfriend, all the usual crowd. Also present were the Beginsky sisters, recently arrived from Washington

The crowd around his dying bed every day.especially at the weekend

This book captures the myriad of emigres experiences from the settle and succesful to those broken by coming to the US to follow there American dream Alik himself has seen both sides of this world since his arrival in America. He is a womans man given by the women around him in his last days his wife the woman that should have been his wife his ex-lover and the motherly figure all have deep connections to this man this is what Ludmila does so well in this book and that is build up the layers and connection in each characters life. There is a comic tone at times in this book it isn’t all doom and gloom in this small room as some of the women around strip off shocking some of his other visitors. Lisa reviewed this book a number of years ago, I said then I must get a copy I finally did and enjoyed it tis is a writer I will be reading again at some point Nobel win or not !!

 

Bellevue by Ivana Dobrakovoa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bellevue by Ivana Dobrakova

Slovakian fiction

Original title – Bellevue

Translators Julia and Peter Sherwood

Source – review copy

I was sent three Slovakian books as part of a tour that is happening in the UK by the writers of these books here is the first of these three books Ivan Dobrakova. Considered a leading light in the blossoming contemporary Slovak scene with her books reflecting part of modern Slovakian life and that is having to live abroad so expat literature of Slovakian abroad. She has been compared to writers like Rachel Cusk or Deborah Levy in English as OI haven’t read them it is hard to compare but for me, she captured the experience of living abroad as an expat.

There were five sleeping bags on the floor, and holdalls, pillows, handbags, bath towels, cosmetics, sunscreen, bits of clothing, books lay scattered all around the place, a complete mess. I helped to carry the stuff to a two-bedroom flat in the annexe reached through the main building.past a big drainpipe and a flowerbed, accross a short metal bridge above some sort of crater filled with gravel and finally down a long balcony, the second doo on the left. The flat was very clean, light, with a view of the building opposite, a bathroom, a toilet

When she first arrives at Bellevue and tries to settle.

Blanka has accepted a job in France, well in Marseilles at the Bellevue a centre for people with physical disabilities that has volunteers at a camp in the summer to help out. As she boards the night train for Prague to venture across the train to cross Europe it is full of fellow young people from East  Europe like Poles all trying to get a better life in Europe. She arrives and the Bellevue centre is there on the top of the hill. She arrives and is drawn into the lives of her fellow volunteers and works at the centre looking after the patients but also the love affairs and relationships within the group as she starts to meet people Martina Patrick and Drago some of the  European people at the camp is a mix of Them and Algerians working there. she is drawn into the world of the camp one of the beach days and nightclubs and work. Behind all this Blanka struggles to fit in she is a sensitive 19-year-old a fragile girl maybe this trip wasn’t the right choice for her !! But then a single event hinges a change in her life meaning she is injured and a reversal in her role with Bellevue!!

I’m trying to be helpful, I see that he’s exhausted, he’s fed up with me, he seems to be avoiding me, as if he, too wason the brink of a nervous breakdown, so I brig him fruit, stroke his hairand hand him cloths to fling at a hole in the wall, I’ve no ideawhy he enjoys that, tossing dirty tea towels at a hole in the wall after lunch, I keep begging him not to be cross with me, to forgive me, I know I’m being impossible, I know how difficult I make things for him. but it’s just the time being, I’m sure everything will be all right again soon , just bear with me for a little longer, I don’t have anyone else, everyone hates me, please Drago

Here we see how she is pushed out at times with the line everyone hates me as she is the squre peg in the round hole of the camp.

This tale captures a mix of Hope the dream of the French Riveria and working there for the summer against what is Blanka main problem and that is she has depression and very little self-belief in herself. What is seen is the usual your life of a group of young people when gathered together but her we have Blanka view which sadly is that of an outsider inside the world she is when her life hinges on that one event later in the book you wonder what will happen to her that is the question. Blanka is a different character than I expect she is fragile and in that case unreliable as a narrator at times. Well this is an interesting strand of Slovakian fiction one that I have seen in other books from Polish writers that is the one of the expat experience as I have said before this is a genre that will grow over time a sort of European version of what is the Windrush lit scene that of being an outsider in a new place.  Have you read any books from Slovakia?

 

Agnes by Peter Stamm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Agnes by Peter Stamm

Swiss fiction

Original title – Agnes

Translator – Michael Hofmann

Source – review copy

I have reviewed Peter Stamm three times before on the blog over the years. so when I got the chance to review his debut novel I jumped at the chance as he is a writer whose works I had enjoyed his other books. Agnes had come out in the UK but was never brought out in the US so it gave me a chance to go back twenty years this book came out in 98 in Germany and 2000 in English for the first time. He has written several novels but was a journalist iuntially and has written radio plays as well.

I was back in the library early the next morning, and even though I was waiting for Agnes, I had no trouble concentrating on my work. I knew she would come, and that we would talk anc smoke and drink coffee together. In my head our relationship was already much further advanced than it was in reality. I was already wondering abouther, beginning to have my doubts, though we hadn’t even been out together.

I was working well, reading and making notes, When Agnes arrived, around noon and she nodded to me, Once again, she put her foam rubber cushion down on a chair near me, spread out her things as she had done yesterday, picked up a book and started reading

The beginning of the relationship as they keep meeting in the library sharing coffee and a smoke,

 

An older writer he is unnamed is asked by his younger girlfriend Agnes a cellist studying physics and free spirit in her own way to write a story about her. Our narrator is in Chicago to write about luxury trains. He does what Agnes wants and writes about their relationship He does that but as they are happy and the everyday life of these two. The way they meet and fell in love but this doesn’t lead to the most interesting story about their relationship. As they work together on the story. But, when she tells him she is expecting a baby the narrative changes as he is older and doesn’t want a child he tells her that he doesn’t want the child this is a turning point in their relationship. but also in the story, he is writing about there relationship changes as he starts in that narrative to try and control the younger woman by making her into what he wants her to be as the two worlds the story and real life start to come intertwined as the relationship cracks apart.

We celebrated Christmas Eve together. It was some time since I’d shown Agnes what I’d written. Now I printed out the story on white paper and put it in a folder with a dedication.

“I haven’t got an ending yet,” I said,”But as soon as I do.Ill have the whole thing boiund into a little book for you ”

Agnes had knitted me a sweater

“God knows,I had enough wool, she said.

“Black wool”

“No I had it dyed. Light blue doesn’t really suit you.”I didn’t say anything. We were sitiing on the sofa, with a little christmas tree in front of us that Agnes had decorated with only candles.

Later on the feeling between the two has changed in the story.

As ever Stamm is a master of describing how relationships work but hew also is great at getting that moment when the relationships change the turning point so to speak that unseen event at the start of the narrative that initally seems like the perfect relationship even thou there is an age difference. This sees the writer trying to idealize Agnes later in the book. This is maybe free in style than his later books it is like he is trying a different way of writing in this book it is looser than his other books. But worth reading I alwaylike to try and see how a writer has grown this isn’t as cut and cleaned as say seven years but is still an interesting insight into the dynamics of relationships and also about writing about a relationship which when it is good can seem very boring. Have you read this book?

 

September 2019 that was the month

  1. Welcome to America by Linda Bostorm Knaugard
  2. Years like Brief days by Fabian Dobles
  3. 10 minutes 38 seconds in this strange world by Elif Shafak
  4. Milena, Milena,Ecstatic by Bae Suah
  5. The Marquise of O by Heinrich Von Kleist
  6. Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann
  7. Quichotte by Salman Rushdie

Book of the month

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the first time, I have picked a none translated book as my book of the month but this is one of those rare books that is undefinable it is a monster of a read but the rhythm in those lists where she jumps from here to there in them. My reading journey this month saw me head from a chaotic family in America through Costa Rican village, then a dead prostitute in Istanbul relives her life in the last ten mins of her life. Then a Korean filmmaker meets a strange woman. Then a german classic in a new translation as a marquise tries to find the father of her child. Then I finished it off with a Reworking of Don Quixote by Salman Rushdie. I am still behind on the books read this year on 68 books reviewed want to get to 100 this year I will need to pull my socks up a bit but with german lit month soon I feel I can get there hopefully.

Next month

I have a number of novellas to read from around Europe I can’t see me reading the other booker titles they are just too long especially as I have a 900 pages modern german masterpiece and an even longer Italian novel to read before the end of the year.

Non-book events

I had some time off work and visited the Holocaust museum in Nottinghamshire it is very small but touching it has two exhibits one is about the Holocaust and the other follows one ten-year-old boy’s journey through the Kindertransport in recreations of his home school the boat that brought him here. We also went to see Major Oak the 1200-year-old Oak tree that is in Sherwood forest held up it is huge tree. In my nostalgia tv corner, I have been watching the father Downing mysteries which featured Tom Bosley is best known for playing  The father on Happy days he was also a sheriff in Murder she wrote this series sees him as a vicar investigating crime a fan of Sherlock Holmes with his sidekick a streetwise Nun.

 

Two new Istros titles A wild woman and a lost place

I am a huge fan of Istros books as Susie the publisher has brought us so many great books from the Balkans and Mittel europa and here we have an example of both here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wild woman is set against the tough 1970’s in Croatia as we follow a love affair between to literature students as they plunge into an early marriage only for them to discover her other half is a womanisering freeloader. Stuck in a marriage and trying to break free of him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then we have an example of Mittel European literature and two novellas post after his death by the Jewish writer Ludovic Bruckstein he was born in Czechslovakia in what is now Ukraine and grew up in the northern region of Transylvania an area which at the time he grew up had a large Jewish community and the books show the effect of the Holocaust on these rural Carpathian villages and how they were havens of religious and racial acceptance before the dark times of the war and after. Have you read you read any books from Istros have you a favorite?

30 covers for #WITMONTH England through a German eyes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maybe not the most exciting cover Fitzcarraldo covers are all the same and are a homage to the original James Joyce Ulysses cover in their style. Here we have a recent favourite from them River by Ester Knsky saw her living in London and using the Thames as a launchpad for her memories of both London and the other cities and places as she was growing up by other rivers as the prose flow you are drawn into her world.

That was the month that was July 2019

  1. The house of Ulysses by Julian Rios
  2. Vlad by Carlos Fuentes
  3. Quiet creature on the corner by Joao Gilberto Noll
  4. the posthumous memoirs of Bras Cubas by Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis
  5. The Hedge by Miguel Delibes
  6. Atlantic hotel by Joao Gilberto Noll
  7. The fish child by Lucia Puenzo
  8. The Iliac crest by Cristina Riera Garz

I managed eight books all for Spanish and Portuguese lit month. I start with a book about a book Julian RIos House of Ulysess. Then a Mexican take on the Vampire story a poet winds up in a prison writing poems after raping a girl in Brazil. A man whose life is a failure writes about his life from the afterlife. A man gets sent to the country to recover and gets hemmed in by an ever-increasing hedge and sees those around him as animals another trip to Brazil and a man falling apart in front of his eyes from a hotel with the murder happened he then went on a bizarre road trip. A pair of young girls from different sides of the tracks fall in love as one is the maid for the other.and lastly two women turned up at a mans ouse but is he a man and is all as it seems a wonderful selection of books from four countries, no new publishers but an interesting selection. It has taken the total of books reviewed this year to 53 lower than other years but still hoping to pass 100 by the end of the year.

Book of the month

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am a huge fan of James Joyce so this book was a great choice it follows a group of readers following their wat through the book.

Next month-

We’ll have more Spanish and Portuguese lit month offerings. Two writers, I have reviewed before one from Venezuela writes a book about the last year of Chavez from the point of view of one of his doctors then another book around a leader Tyrant Memory by Horacio Castellanos Moya about a 1930’s leader of El Salvador. Both spins on the classic Dictator novel a staple of Latin American literature. A Dutch classic set in China. I am working three of the next four days and on Saturday we will be visiting our local Food festival and celebrating our wedding anniversary. So I will be back on Tuesday unless I get time to review a book. I will add a few titles for Women in translation month.

Other none book events last month

I always like mention something new I’ve found well this month it is a great rediscovery and that is Gerry Anderson’s Space 1999 a seventies sci-fi series I had missed the great guest roles in the past from the likes of Christopher Lee and Leo McKern. It has a similar political undertone.  about it that we found in Start trek when it was shown. I have also been a huge fan of the return of Lloyd Cole his new album is rather good as he uses more Keyboards than he has in the past but still has that Cole feel.

What are your plans?

Five for woman in translation month

Stones in a landslide by Maria Barbel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have chosen to do a list of five  books for the woman in Translation month. I have long held this up as the best book I have read from Peirene press for me it captures a microcosm of a world through the eyes of a Conxa a young girl that until she was thirteen knew just the village she grew up in the Pyrenees to move to a bigger village. I would recommend  Peirene books to everyone and they have published a number of great books by women in translation including Mussel feast and The blue room as two other to try. Here is my review of Stones in a landslide .

The white book by Han Kang

 

Image result for han kang white book cover

I loved this book when I read it as I was just getting over the greif of losing my mother and found this collection of Vignettes by Han Kang that wrote her own mother lost a child before she was born and she reflects on how grief is treated in Korea. The rice moon cake child she lost I was touched by that image. If you had read this I would point you in the way of Deborah smiths press she translated this book and started Tilted Axis publishing female writers from Asia.

The tongue’s blood does not run dry by Assia Djebar

 

 

I picked this as she was considered to be a Nobel worthy winner before she passed away a few years ago Assia Djebar was the first writer of Maghreb origin to sit on the French academy. This was a collection of stories and a long novella the later dealt with a woman that was dying and all had a female perspective on the modern Arab world. I will be reviewing soon three books from Nawal El Saadawi that Saqi books have recently reissued.

Trieste by Dasa Drndric

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A powerful tale by another great writer and one I was lucky enough to have met Dasa has a number of books now available in English this was the first to be translated and had the harrowing list of every Italian Jew that died in the second world war. I would also point you towards to more books from that region Farewell cowboy and Hah both from the great Istros books.

The Passport by Herta Muller

 

I read this early on in my blogging Career as it blew my mind with her descriptive skills and imagery it follows Windisch as he attempts to get a passport as a German in a small enclave in Romania. Two other great German books from Women I have read in the last year are The giant Dwarfs and River 

I will be publishing Five more next month from the many female’s writers I have read in the last ten years.

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