That was the month that was August 2021

  1. The return of the Caravels by Antonio Lobo Antunes
  2. Some kind of company by Nan Ostman
  3. Childhood by Tove Ditlevsen
  4. The Liquid land by Raphaela Edelbauer
  5. The Innocence of Memories by Orhan Pamuk
  6. Elena Knows by Claudia Piñeiro
  7. The Blacksmith’s Daughter by Selim Özdoğan
  8. The Others by Raül Garrigasait

This month saw me read and review 8 books I am still on course to reach the 100 reviews for the year. We started with a novel that saw the great figures from Portugal’s past return to the post-Salazar Country and what had happened over time. Then I had released when I reviewed these two books for Woman in Translation month these two Nordic novels sort form a tale end of lives the first a look at that “Emptynester” world of people when their that sees the home is empty and they have to get on or not. Then a rough and poor childhood. Then a quirky novel from Austria a hidden village a grieving daughter that gather all isn’t well in the village as they just carry on. Then a companion piece to Pamuk’s novel follows a film he made about his Museum that was based on the novel or came because of the novel. Then a crime novel or more a novel about a mother finding out about her daughter’s death and what really happened and why? Then a childhood in Turkey is the first of three books following a guest worker’s life from when she grew up in Turkey and then in Germany. Then the last is a Prussian officer in a Spanish war Historic novel that has a fourth-wall-breaking narrative.

Book of the month

I just loved all the books this month but this book by Pamuk gripped me I loved the novel The museum of innocence about a doomed love affair is about that but also an ode to a lost city that isn’t there a city of dark alleys and uncertain places that has now gone as the city grew.

Other non-book events

We had a few trips to the peaks this month. But the main event in my life was a new car I had my late stepmother’s old car as my first car which although 15 years old had a low mileage it broke down just before my nights but was better than in the morning after a night shift. So after a visit to the garage we decided the cost of repairs was too much so with help from family I have a newer car yet unnamed but I have Suzuki Baleno which I am loving driving. But miss my first car as it had a large sentimental value to me and memories of Amanda and I trips out since I started driving a couple of months ago.

Next Month

Well as there isn’t anything in particular in the blogging world unless I have missed something so I have a lot of new books to read as I near the 2000th post on the blog which is 19 posts away. So I have a number of books from Eastern Europe near the end of the month I am taking a trip to Scotland for a welcome break after the last 18 months. what plans do you have ?

The Innocence of Memories by Orhan Pamuk

The Innocence of Memories by Orahn Pamuk

Turkish Non-Fiction

Original title -Hatıraların Masumiyeti

Translator – Ekin Oklap

Source – Personal copy

I take a move away from Spanish and Woman in translation. I brought this a week or two ago and just had to read it I have loved Pamuk’s book and was drawn into his love of his hometown Istanbul when he did an episode of the Imagine art series a couple of years ago. This book is about a film he made with the British director Grant Gee about his Musual which came about from the novel he wrote about a distant relative Kemal who married a poorer cousin that is the basis of the novel the Museum of Innocence which I reviewed a when it came out.

I wrote the novel while thinking of the museum, and created the mesum while thinking of the novel, The museum was not just some idea i chanced upon after the succes of the book, nor was it a case of the succes of the Meseum begetting the novel, like the boook  ersion of some blockbuster film, In fact, I conceiived the book and the museum simultanesouly, and explained their intricate connection in the novel; a young man from a wealthy, weesternised Istanbul family falls in love with a poor distant relative, and when hus love goes unrequitted, he finds solace in collecting everything his beloved has ever touched, finally as we learn at the end of the novel hje takes all these everyday objects he has accumlated- post cards, photographsm matchsticks, saltshakers, keys,dress, film clips, and toys, mementos of his doomed love affair and of the Istanbul of the 1970’s and 1980s whose streets he wandered with his lover 0 and puts them on display in Istanbuls Museum of Innocence

The opening paragraph sums up what happened and how it all came about!

The book is formed from the audio tour of the Museum which won the best European Museum in 2014. The idea had been in Pamuk’s mind since the 1990s when he started to collect things as he says in the book the city had started to change at such a pace he needs to keep some of the past there. o when he found the 2000 cigarettes Kemal had kept smoked by Fusun with the touches of her lipstick that he, as he said, wrote a novel that became a real museum. HE brought there home and the floors above and he has made a place that captures what it was like to be Kemal and Fussun at that point. The guide has Orhan talking, Kemal, and people they knew. Then Orhan saw a film by the English Director Grant Gee the one he made about Sebald’s book the rings of Saturn, I myself have watched this film a number of times myself. So he asked if Grant could do a film on this and they met this is a later section in the book where he tells of him and Grant wandering the city for eight hours talking and Gee talks of his lover of Maker’s work especially Sans Soleil another work I like what they came about with is a film that is the title of the book is also the title of the work that Grant Gee and Orhan Pamuk made together I have yet to see this but will love it.

AYLA: There is no daylight in the Museum of Innocence. It feels like night and dreaming. Perhaps this is why it was so easy for me to feel at home there. Once I found myself starting with a powerful sense of Deja vu at a photograph of a salep vendor on the Galata Bridge at night. It took me a while to realise that, like many of the other photographs in the meseum, it is by Ara Giuler. Like all Istanbullus of my generation, I have seen some of his photographs o many times that I confuse them with my own memories of the city

I lived this reaction and the theme of the night and the city is here

I think this is a book that most people that read this blog will love. It has a lot of traits that I like a book around memories I love books that talk about the past about what has been lost and her it is the Istanbul of his youth and at its heart the love story. of Kemal and Fusun even thou it is doomed. This has inspired a novel, a film, and a Museum. The book is interspersed with pictures of the museum and exhibits. What leaps out of the book is his love of Istanbul especially at night and the way it used to be the lost place the streets have gone things like the wild dogs wandering the streets. He talked about this on the Imagine show and how he wandered at night. Have you read any Non-fiction by Pamuk?

Winstons score – A A ode to a book and city

 

That was the month that was May 2021

  1. The Man from Archangel by Georges Simenon
  2. Meeting in Positano by Goliarda Sapienza
  3. Love in five acts by Daniela Krien
  4. Elegy for Joseph Cornell by Maria Negroni
  5. The door was open by Karine Khodikyan
  6. You’re not dying by Kathrin Schmidt
  7. Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahir

This month I started in Belgium with a story of a man that becomes an outcast in his town. Then a friendship on the Amalfi coast unfolds over the decades in a lost Italian classic.. Then a novel about five women that are all connected but also their lives reflects modern life in many ways. Then a work that has pieces glimpses of the artist Joesph Cornell a man famous for his boxes. Then we move to Armenia a collection of spooky and dark tales of women living and sometimes dead. Then a lost German Book Prize winner about a woman rebuilding her life bit by bit. Then a writer writing in a new language for the first time a life of a woman looking in on a world that she has opted out of. There was one new publisher Naked Eye and no new countries this year I am still on course for a 100 books read and reviewed this year !

Book of the month

I liked the way this book unfolded it was an interesting insight into recovery not just the body but of who we are in ourselves. Helene’s journey is like the writer herself who recovered from a stroke.

Non-book events

I watch the old Kelly Reichardt fil Old Joy two friends head to a hot spring in a slow-moving film about friendship and life that starred William Oldham. This is before I get to watch her latest First cow which is meant to be a real gem. Elsewhere there has been a lot of Dylan pieces on tv and radio as he has turned 80 this month I enjoyed a  radio play dinner with Dylan that had Richard Curtis and his two friends plus the late arrival of the actress Ellen Atikens who Richard had double booked. as his friends having their monthly  Bob meeting but this time he was meant to come a lot of talk about the man and how would you talk to a man they view as a god-like figure. Then BBC 4 has been reshowing just this weekend Tinker Tailor Soldier spy. Le Carre’s smiley work that has the great Alec Guinness I live the part where he cleans his glasses and puts them on as they interview Ricky Tarr just a split second that makes him seem like a man that knows what he is doing !! also, I brought the albums by squid and Adklut life also the old mercury review cover of Bobby Gentry’s work with twelve different singers all on vinyl.

Next month

There is a pile of books next to me a lot of review books that I haven’t got to also I will be posting in the next few days for this July’s Spanish lit month time flies. I am looking forward to reviewing Blind man and the others and have the Huge Lady Joker a Japanese crime novel coming out in two parts over the next year a truly epic novel.

What have been your highlights over the last month!

Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri

Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri

American fiction

Original title – Dove mi trovo

Translator – by the writer herself

Source – personal copy

Long before I blogged I had read the first book of short stories from Jumpa Lahiri a writer that has traveled the world from growing up in  London til; three,  then her parents emigrated to American when she was very young, her father was a librarian at the University of Rhode Island where she grew up she also spent time in India mainly in Calcutta where her family was from originally. She has lived in recent year in Rome where she has taught herself and started to write in Italian this experience she described in a non-fiction work in the New yorker Teach yourself Italian which is here. I had read her early works like Interpreter of Maladies and The namesake but hadn’t read her recent works but this appealed as it was her first book in Italian she had translated herself and it used one of the first phrases she learnt in “Italian” where is it ?

It’s hard to focius here . I feel exposed, surrounded by colleagues and students who walk down the hallways, Their movements and their chatter get on my nerves.

I try in vain to enliven the space. Every week I turn up with a shopping bag heavy with books from home to fill my shelves. That pain in my shoulder, that wieght, all that efforts amounts to little in the end. It would taketwo years, three, to fill the bookcase. It’s to capacious, it covers an entire wall. In any caser, my office is now vaguely inviting, boasting a framed print, a plant, two cushions. And yet it’s space that perplexes me, that keeps me at arm’s length.

In the office chapter we get the distance she wants from the world here.

So the book is a novel that is built from a series of very short vignettes of a woman that has no name and she is living in an unnamed city. But that means there is a universal nature to the narrator’s life and that is of a woman single in her mid 40’s a career woman but one that has apart from her work no real friends or real family so what we get is glimpses of this life from the mundane everyday events shopping, buying a book, watching people like the locals in the shop which could be a shop anywhere really. few highlights nights away in a friend’s empty house but no friend a visit to the sea a visit to parents all have the sense of a woman that has tried to make herself vanish from the world a silent observer of all that is around her.  What builds is a life lived on the edges how often will we pass a narrator like this a smart dressed middle-aged woman that has on the outside a career and a few friends or maybe people she has worked with struck slim bonds with but no real touchstones this is a tale of the aged that avoids the rabbit hole of tech in her life and paints a solitary as would have been called years ago of a modern spinster !!

In Spring

In spring I suffer. The season doesn’t invigorate me, I find it depleting, The new light disorients , the fulmating nature overwhelms, and the air, dense with pollen, bothers my eyes. To calm my allergies I take a pill in the morning that makes me sleepy. It knocks me out, I can’t focus, and by lunchtime I’m tired enough to go to bed. I sweat all day and at night I’m freezing no shoe seems the right temperamental time of year.

Every blow in my lifetook place in spring. Each lasting sting, That’s why I’m afflicted by the green of the trees, the first peaches in the market, the light flowing skirts that the women in my neighbourhood start to wear.

Her life in spring also reflects a sense of a life full of loss.

Now there is a difference from her ealry works which largely look at India and being Indian in America but there is a loss of identity of the narrator of her story that also widens the story as it makes it a universal this could be Rome,London,New York or Kolkatta or any large town or city there are hiundreds of woman like the narrator of this book that have drift out of the personal to merely live and observe there world live but on the surface never getting that attatchment from emmotions I loved the voice and the simple mundane world we had glimpses behind the curtain at the change of languange has maybe freed her as a writer to persuae a new style a different way of thinking having liuved in Germany for a couple of years and learning German as it was just by being there and immersed in the world I view the world a different way and this I feel in the way Jhumpa has approached this book she joins the cannon of great writers like conrad, Nabhakov, Achibe and Beckett the last name is maybe one I thought of another writer that had a detactched nature to his narrators like the unnamed woman in this story waiting for her life !! Have you read this book ?

Winstons score – -A would loved another 100 paes of this  but a great evening read !

Elegy for Joseph Cornell by Maria Negroni

Elegy for Joseph Cornell by Maria Negroni

Argentinian fiction

Original title -Elegia Joseph Cornell

Translator – Alison A. deFreese

Source – personal copy

Here we have another great female writer from Latin america the Poet Maria Negroni had translated the bio of the artist Joseph Cornell written by Charles Simic. She had won a Guggenheim award and a pen award for her poetry as one of the best books when it was translated into English. What she has done is a tribute and elegy to the artist that defies genre it is prose biography poetic all in one almost like his boxes where a collection of found pieces that fit together when put together. Another gem from the Dalkey archive literature series who else would bring out a book that is only 90 pages long and probably is less than that when the space in the book is removed.

Notes for a short Biography 1

The man loved getting lost in the city in which he lived. He was born at 1:13pm. From a blue heart insofe a seashell that someone had left in a hotel room. We know that his mother loved to playing the piano and that his father sold fabric, that several children lived in the house – including one that was paralytic – and that they all played together on Utopia Parkway. These were earthly games with the semblance of prayers – as are all games – and children threw themselves into their play as if they were magians and trapeze artist or flea trainers in the mythical circus of their yout. The children had grown now, and the man worked alone in the basement.

The first of a number of small bio snippets the reference to his brother he looked after all his life and the solitary adult he became

This is a collection of vignettes poetic pieces that flow between a bio of Cornell life snippets such as his love of wandering the city he loved New york comparing him to other great Flaneurs such as Baudelaire, Nerval, and Proust.His single solitary lifestyle a man that to many was an enigma.The grey man of New York a solitary figure wandering the streets, The second thread is around his paintings and his avant-garde films. The little vignettes that either describe the film or are an ode to those famous pieces of his like Children’s party, the Aviary A third thread is a tribute to his collecting items a list of things he owned. This is one of those books that is hard to describe itis a tribute to a unique man with a work that is a patchwork of styles.

The Duchamp Dossier

It’s a cardboard box in which, for years, Joseph Cornell collected small keepsakes from his friendship with Duchamp, The box contained 117 items of various types. The French artist empty tobacco pouch, two cleaners for his famous white pip, a napkin from Horn & Hardart(one of those automats that was all the rage in the 30’s and where they almost certainly met), letter, photographs, postcard of the mona lisa, several yellowed notes in his handwritin, gallery posters and even dry cleaning receipts which reveal Duchamp’s unusal habit of sending evertything to the dry cleaner, even sock and handkerchiefs

The box was put on display for the first time in 1998, on the occasion of the Joseph Cornell/Marcel Duchamp: In resonance exhibition held in the Philadelphia Musuem of art.No one can explain how Cornell managed to acquire such “Mementos”

A piece about a box , but  nod to his habit of eating junk food all his life such as Automat cafes

I was aware of Cornell mainly through reading up on Jonas Mekas the last few years a filmmaker Avant Gardelike Cornell that knew Cornell and inherited his work when he died. At the heart of this book is the man Cornell a man who wanders New york finding collecting items to use art at some future point. The book is a journey a walk through his life but we only pick a few snippets of his life this is his box. The box for Joseph Cornell is a collage to the man a mix of style and genres. If you like Cornell this will appeal to you if you are a fan of experimental fiction this would appeal to you.

Winstons score – A+ these are the gems I write this blog for books that challenge us as a reader and defy genre !!

 

April 2021 that was the month that was !!

  1. The Employees by Olga Ravn
  2. The war of the Poor by Eric Vuillard
  3. In Memory of Memory by Maria Stepanova
  4. Minor Detail by Adania Shibli
  5. The Perfect Nine by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o
  6. The Dangers of Smoking in Bed by Mariana Enriquez
  7. I Live in the Slums by Can Xue

I read all the books this month were on the Booker Longlist which came out at the end of March. So I went from Denmark with a sci-fi novel that questions humanity and what it is to be human through a series of interviews then a french novella about a german religious reformer The A Russian family and the artistic movements are remembered when aunts flat is cleared and a set of family memories pout out. Then a story of a women’s death is told from then and rediscovered in the now as just a footnote in history. Then tribal history is recalled in a novel in verse from a great writer in later work. The dark short stories that sometimes are very close to the bone from a Latin American writer that is a rising star. The collection of short stories that capture the ebb and flow of modern china and the migrant. The month saw one new publish Lolli editions no new countries. I had hoped to review more but time caught up with me a lot this month.

Book of the month

For one month only as these are on the longlist and we are discussing the list I will leave this let’s say there are two books from one publisher on the list and they would maybe be near the top.

Non book events

I have just caught the oscar-winning film Nomadland which I had been waiting all month to watch. A film that captured a sort of modern Steinbeck trip across the country like the grapes of wrath for a modern age The record shop opened this month so I have brought a number of new records some old favorite a Fall album a brilliant corners album. Then new records from BC Camplight and Katy J Pearson that I have heard championed on Mark Rileys radio show. THen A Marianne faithful spoken word poetry album and a retro of the works of the electro pop band Yello an interesting mix and a fair few CDs which is maybe why I have read a bit less As I had been listening to more music this month. We ventured out to the peaks a few times and I returned to swimming after a break due to lockdown. We have just had our first zoom meeting for the shadow booker which saw us join in from Australia, the US, India, and Here in the Uk but the great thing is to put a voice to people

Next month

I have a mountain of review books also just got a couple of Czech novels that have caught my eye so one of them will appear I’m sure we will be sorting the Booker shadow shortlist.

How was your month reading-wise?

 

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

A Portrait of the Artist As a young man by James Joyce

A Portrait of the Artist As a young man by James Joyce

Irish fiction

source – personal copy

I haven’t done a post for St Patrick’s day for a number of years and the fact I was born in Northern Ireland I often feel I should do. A rereading of Ulysses last year which I had wanted to post a review of on Bloomsday but hadn’t finished it quite in time so I was left with a feeling I need to read another book by Joyce this year. But Finnegans wake is my next task but I settled for a reread of this which I hadn’t read since I brought the edition I read in Germany in the early nineties. This is work came out of a longer work Stephens Hero which Joyce had written 25 of what’re going to be 63 chapters. Of which Joyce was working on but abandon and reworked part of it into the novel. It is partly based on Joyce’s own life growing up in Ireland in the late 1890s.

Stephen’s heart jumped suddenly.

-Dedalus, sir,

-Why are you not writing like the other?

-I..my..

He could not speak with fright

-why is he not writing, Father Arnall?

_He broke his glasses, said Father rmall, and I exmepted him from work

-Broke? What is this I hear? WHat is your name is! and the prefect of studies.

-Dedalus, sir

-Out her, Dedalu. Lazy little schemer. I see schemer in you face. Where did you break your glasses

-The cinder path sir

-Hoho! The cinder path ! cried the prefect of studies. I know thatr trick

Dedalus gets caught by a sadistic schoolmaster just for looking like a schemer.

We meet the Dedalus Family early on in the book Stephen’s father is a man of leisure but as it turns out later in the book his business interests are failing in Cork. As he spends Christmas with the family as this is the first time he is viewed as an adult he is at the table as they talk about Parnall the Old Nanny Dante has a ribbon in her Hair for Parnell then we view Stephens school years as a young man described by his family as Sunny Stephen he falls foul of his fellow pupils at times like when he is asked does he kiss his mother at night innocently replies yes then get the mick taken out of him. Then we see him fall foul of one of the sadistic schoolmasters only because his glasses had broken he is called a lazy boy. There is a sense of the church in the background like when he here’s a sermon on the evils of the world that scare him. we follow him to he leaves school roughly the time through to the time of Ulysess which is 4th June 1904 the day he meets his wife Nora Barnacle. Ulysses like Joyce himself we see Stephen decided that the religious shackles of Ireland of the time weighed to heavy on his shoulder and like Joyce did he aims to move away from Ireland.

-How long is it since your last confession, my child?

-A long time father.

-A month, my child?

-longer, father.

-Six months ?

-eight months,father

He had begun. The priest asked

-And what do you remember since that times?

He began to confess his sins: masses missed, prayers not said, lies.

-Anyuthing else, my child?

Sins of anger, envy of others gluttony, vanity, disobedence.

-Anything else, my child?

There was no help. He murmured:

-I .. commited the sins of impurity, father.

He goes to conefession after a long time not going the power of the church runs through the book.

 

Joyce was called by his family Sunny Jim this echos in the book where he calls Stephen sunny Stephen. We also glimpse the sexual awakening of the young Joyce from a girl up the road and the echoes to Mercedes in the count of mount Cristo we see this sexual awaken further in Ulysess the book has echoes to the late work which reflects on the older Stephen and his friends. Here we see the child become a man his life of books his defense of Bryon at one point even when a fellow pupil calls him the poet for the simple and a heretic this is a look of growing up in the Ireland of the time where the catholic church is all-powerful. There is also the aftermath of the death of Parnell a man who was a heroin Ireland although in the church’s eyes flawed because of his affair. He was pushing for Home rule which he had laid the groundwork for Stephen rallies against those powers this is echoes in his name as well Stephen is both the first Christian Martyr and the major park in Dublin is also called after him. The Dedalus is from greek myth which has echoes to the story this is something that also happens in Ulysess. I love this book it is a classic bildungsroman a boy becoming a man and as we see him grow the language he uses moves on. I must now face the summit of The Wake!  this is essential for all readers of Joyce it is the link from Dubliner to Ulysess and the first time he used modernist style writing. Have you read this book?

Happy St Patricks day !!

Winstons score A+ one for my cannon!

Wretchedness by Andrzej Tichý

Wretchedness by Andrzej Tichý

Swedish fiction

Original title – Eländet

Translator – Nichola Smalley

Source – sent from the translator

I swapped a couple of books from and other stories for a copy of the TLS  I had that included a review of this book in I have met Nochola the translator of this book via her work at And other stories a couple of times, so it is a shame it has taken me a while to get to a review of books she has translated. looking up about the writer I came across this quote which seemed to sum him up as a writer. “Andrzej Tichý is a writer who, time and time again, with a language that sings, says something important about the Swedish contemporary. Read him”. He has lived in Sweden since 1981 born in Prague to a Polish mother and Czech father there is a sense of the great Mittel European writers in his work. 

The way the wax plant flowers moved, those small movements, that trembling, that gentle vibrating, like an echo of the moving trings, combined with the low-frequency tone, the rumble – all that lingered in my consciousness as I saw the newly built tower block and the figures on its roof, with the railway tracks and rail yard in the background, all while I tried to say something to the guitarist and the composer about scelsi and my microtonal worl. We walked toward the central station to take the the train to Copenhagen, to Vor Frue Kirke and the moosmann concert.

Where he meets the Junkie and his past falls back into his world and those year flood back

This book is told in a feverish manner at times what happened when a cellist comes face to face with a spun out Junkie for the second book in a row we have a sort of Proustian moment where this one single event leads the Ccellist into a journey through his past and the sense that he broke free of it a part of growing up in the Housing projects with a group of what in the day would be slackers this is an ode to the early nineties and the urban world he grew up in of skaters, junkies, rappers. Where there are Parties and clubs but he remembers that it was also a road to nowhere, as the memories of his past come tumbling in on him. This is all told in slang as we see his early jobs also the tension of the multi-cultural community he lives in just bubbling below the surface. He is the present is due to give a concert with two other musicians of the work Giacinto Scelsi the Italian modernist composer. This a story of breaking out but also the sense of loss of the comrade brothers he left behind in the melting post he grew up in.

THen a car pulled up. A man got out and other things. Then a car pulled. A man got out and asked if they wanted work. Employment, he said, Earn a little money, he said, they asked what they’d be doing.. Handing out flyers, he said. For his building firm. Go aroundthe wealthy neighbourhoods and stuff a few flyers through letterboxes. They asked how much they’d get five hundred. To share. Course we will, they said. That’s a lot of money, they thought. They got in the car. He drove them to the wealthy neighbourhood. They got a stack each. Took a side each and put them in the letterboxesas he drove behind them, crept along along slowly behind them

A classic ilustration of GEnration X the McJobs cash in hand jobs struggling to get by.

A lot of reviews I have seen of this book have mentioned Bernhard it hard not to avoid that as the book is told in a similar style of breathless prose, as the past comes flooding into his mind but jumbled up like a montage of his life with no real gaps as you get caught up in the cellist’s past and his thoughts of the world he grew up in. This is like a sample of his past mixtape of memories. The clash of high and low culture is shown here from his early love of street beats of the hip hop of the day over the modern music of Scelsi (I will put my hand up again her I know nothing of him just what I have read my modern classical knowledge is little) and the hip hop he likes is different to the bands I knew at the time but it reminds me of going to clubs in UK, Holland, and Germany late nights. Then time spent in cities like Manchester, Newcastle, Nimwegen, Kassel, and Dortmund at the similar time to this so the group he described remind me of my german friends although we didn’t do drugs we like a drink and clubs. This is a song about breaking free of the past. But there will always be that reminder of the past.

Winstons score – A- ( a Bernhard fan got score well with me)

 

 

That was the month that was Feb 2021

  1. Under the Glacier by Halldor Laxness
  2. Game of the Gods by Paolo Maurensig
  3. Our Circus Presents..  by Lucian Dan Teodorovici
  4. waiting by Goretti Kyomuhendo
  5. Why we love women by Mircea Cărtărescu
  6. The imagined land by Eduardo Berti
  7. Tower by Bae Myung-Hoon
  8. The pear tree by Nana Ekvtimishvilli
  9. A Musical Offering by Luis Sagasti
  10. The No World Concerto by A G Porta
  11. The art of Losing by Alice Zeniter

SO far I have reviewed 24 books this year. 11 in Feb where the journey started with a novel from Iceland about a church go stray and the man sent to see what had happened. Then a story of a man from a humble background that became a great chess player. Then a group of men and women that are trying to take their lives in the most elaborate way a blackly comic work from Bulgaria. I went to Uganda and a young girl recounting the war from her family’s point of view was also the first work from Uganda I have covered. Then the great Romanian writer Micrea  Cărtărescu on some of his loves and women he has known. Then an imagine china from the  Argentinean writer Eduardo Berti. We then have Korean sci-fi but is also social commentary in the tower a state in a supersize tower block. Then we go to Georgia and a school for learning disabilities that is falling apart and has abuse at its heart seen from a pupil that has taken a young boy under her wing. Then a book that has a v=collection of stories revolving around Bach Goldberg variations another from Argentina and then we had a Spanish writer that had been friends and written with Roberto Bolano his only work in English two intertwined lives but who is writing about who? Then a truly epic saga of three generations of an Algerian family that comes to France and returns when the granddaughter returns and shows her family snapshots of friends and family that have aged fifty years before their eyes. So I went to ten countries with Uganda being a new country to the blog a rare event these days. There was also a couple of new publishers the feminist press and Plymouth university press. I also made the decision to score my reviews on an a to e scale moving forward.

Book of the month

I loved Luis Sagasti first book he is a writer that seems to make the reader think beyond the stories he wrote but also draws you into them these all revolved around music the Bach Goldberg variations but also a bizarre tongue in cheek story of a giant organ being built that causes an avalanche. I did have to check up that story was only fiction, lets hope we get more from this writer.

Non-book-related events

Well, the lockdown has us all not doing a lot. Amanda and I have been catching up on the second series of Stranger things which we had fallen behind in watching. I still love all the 80s references and the nod to the films of the time in the show itself. I watched a short film by Guy Maddin the Canadian director is an underrated filmmaker. Apart from that, not a lot else to report. Rather same as with last month I am now on three nights so won’t return with a review to Thursday.

Month ahead

Well, I still haven’t read a book from Arabic this year so I will try to do that otherwise it will be mainly books to fill in the gaps of what I hadn’t  that could be on the Man Booker International longlist which comes out at the end of this month. Any thought on what would make the longlist? What were your highlights last month?

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