That was the month that was February 2018

  1. Slum virgins by Gabriela Cabezón Cámara
  2. Bled dry by Abdelilah Hamdouchi
  3. Love/war by Ebba Witt-Brattstrom
  4. Berlin Alexanderplatz by Alfred Doblin
  5. Maryam keeper of stories by Alawiya Sobh
  6. Istanbul Istanbul by Burhan Sönmez
  7. The Black notebook by Patrick Modiano
  8. So you don’t get lost in the Neighbourhood by Patrick Modiano

I managed to review eight books last month. A quieter month than last year. But I feel every book, I read this month was one I would recommend to any other reader. I managed to read two of the three books for the EBRD LIT prize shortlist. I had to read for the Shadow Jury. I read books from six languages and seven countries. Also Seven publishers. No new publishers to the blog this month.

Book of the month

As I said it was a hard month. To Choose the book of the month.  All the books could have been a book of a month on another month. This is maybe the most important book on the list lit-wise as it is one of the cornerstones of Modernist literature and finally we get a better idea of what Doblin had in mind for his journey through the darker side of Berlin. Michael Hoffman has breathed life into this book.

None book discovery

Well, I am a fan of streaming films tv shows. I found another new service this month. Filmstruck has been in the US for a number of years.  It has a partnership with the Criterion collection the US DVD company, this means it has some gems in the collection. Gems from them on her include Three Colours, which I have the DVD of but not seen in HD. They also have a number of Andrei Tarkovsky’s films including Stalker.I look forward to seeing what else they have to watch.



A new prize a new shadow EBRD translation prize

€20k EBRD Literature Prize reveals inaugural shortlist

I have decide that time was right to leave the shadow Man Booker prize after seven years I feel I was ready to step back. I have decide with an Old friend Lisa of ANzlitlovers to do a small shadow jury of us two for the New EBRD prze the prize from the European bank of reconstruction and devolpment is for fiction translated to English from the countries that EBRD work with that is 40 countries and a wide range of lit this has given an interesting shortlist of Six book.I feel for me to support this new prize is the way to go.  As the chair the lovely Rosie Goldsmith said

 Already I can predict this prize is here to stay. It’s different and it’s important. Our entries came from Armenia to Albania, the Baltics to the Balkans and beyond. This prize has broadened my mind and also my definition of the novel. We’ve read a Turkish feminist road novel, a love story from Beirut, a memoir from Morocco, a black comedy from Albania and a rollicking Russian satire – just a few of our entries, from established writers to those who deserve to be: the standard of storytelling and of translation is excellent and our winners will blow you away.”

have reviewed three of the books on the list already. 

The six shortlisted titles are All the World’s a Stage by Boris Akunin (translated by Andrew Bromfield from Russian, Weidenfeld & Nicolson)Belladonna by Daša Drndic (translated by Celia Hawkesworth from Croatian, Maclehose/ Quercus), The Traitor’s Niche by Ismail Kadare (translated by John Hodgson from Albanian, Penguin), The Red-Haired Woman by Orhan Pamuk (translated by Ekin Oklap from Turkey, Faber & Faber), Istanbul Istanbul by Burhan Sönmez (translated by Ümit Hussein from Turkish, Telegram Books), and Maryam: Keeper of Stories by Alawiya Sobh (translated by Nirvana Tanoukhi from Arabic, Seagull Books).

Lisa has also just reviewed The Traitors  Niche  and is reading the Pamuk that is also available on bbc in an abridged version from the reading europe programme

Jan 2018 Winston’s month

  1. To the back of beyond by Peter Stamm
  2. Secret passages in a hillside town by Pasi Ilmari Jaaskelainen
  3. Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag
  4. A poison Apple by Michel Laub
  5. The red-haired woman by Orhan Pamuk
  6. So the path does not die by Pede Hollist
  7. Confession of a murderer by Joseph Roth
  8. The book of Tbilisi by Comma press
  9. Fireflies by Luis Sagasti

I managed to review 9 books over the month, which given the fact I had six-night shifts in January wasn’t bad.I had one new Press to the blog Charco Press.I read books from nine countries including the first books from Sierra Leone and Georgia. Also books from nine languages.

Book of the month

Image result for fireflies luis

Fireflies is such a unique book style and the way it has stuck with me since I have read it. Another example of why we nee the small presses for those gems like this book that defy genre and pigeonholing. That maybe wouldn’t see the light of day with a Larger publisher. Also, remind me of how much I loved Joesph Beuys artworks .

None book discovery

We don’t often go to the cinema, but Amanda had won employee of the month at work and had two free tickets. So we have different taste be agreed on the new Speilberg Film The Post a film about the leaking of Pentagon papers about the Vietnam war. It is also the first time Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep have been in a film and was wonderfully done with a real feel of early seventies US also left a glint for a follow up in the Watergate affair(Very much apt in Trumps time).

How was your month?

Winston’s Library raid









I fetched a few books from the library yesterday. Her they are first off an epic I had to pick up off the shelf as it was a former IFFP winner Omega Minor by Paul Verhaeghen is Ponders dark matter studies and world war tow with one of those wandering epics I hope to get it read but just amazed to find a Dalkey archive at the local library.









Next up is another favourite writer Emmanuel Carrere has been on the blog before and I was grabbed by this as it uses the story of luke to mirror the writers own life in a way, he is such a clever writer Carrere he could pull this off.









One other thing I do want to do this year is adding a few more books from Africa and Cassava republic have published this Nigerian novel that is a coming of age tale in Northern Nigeria against a backdrop of extreme religion and politics.









Another great writer and one I have reviewed four times before on the blog Manuel Rivas. Jonathan Dunne his translator has his own site on the origins of words which is worth reading Stones of Ithaca  .He has also published the other Rivas books small station books.









This Bassani has been on my list for a while so pleased to get a copy at the library doctors secret gay life in 1930’s Italy is brought into the open and a touch of antisemitism into the mix.









A French classic reminds me that I have the French art of war to finish this book focus on one period also covers in that book the `1958 French Algerian conflict.

What have you got from the library recently?


2018 Stu’s reading plans









It’s a new year and the time of year when all us book bloggers make our reading plans for the coming year. Well, a few old favourites blog-wise,  will still be on this bloggers list to do. I will be doing another Shadow man booker this year. I want to do another Spanish lit month with Richard. I have a number of books waiting for this year event. Then, of course, German lit month. I have already filled my shelves ready for next year event. For me these three events keep me ticking over I love a challenge. I have seen a number of lists of books coming out. But I always just happy with the books  I get sent and if anything else catches my eye book wise I tend to get them these days.









I hope to remember John Steinbeck over the year as it will be 50 years since his death, I have a number of his books on my shelves I’m not doing a readalong or week but would happily help anyone that wanted to do. Books on my TBR I am looking forward to are the open letter books from last year I have brought and still have to read four of them. The invented part, island of point Nemo, Tomas Jonsson bestseller and Chronicle of the murdered house. River by Esther Kinsky is another great looking book from Fitzcarraldo. Before that, I need to clear a backlog of about five books from last year. I am already one book into this year reading this year.I intend to try and reach 100 French books on the blog and also get to 900 books read and maybe add three or four more countries to the blog. What are your plans

Winstons Dozen my favourite books of 2017

I read and reviewed more than in the last couple of years so have decided to pick 12 books of the year.

Brothers by David Clerson


QCFINF16 - CoverBrothers_v9













Two brothers go on a quest to find the father in a mythical coastal world. The older brother has an arm missing, the arm is his younger brother with his stumpy arms and legs. One of the first reads of this year and one of the funniest and strangest books I have read.

Havoc by Tom Kristensen

Danish modernist novel one mans downward spiral from journalist to drunkard. A lost gem of European modernist fiction coming out in 1930. Partly inspired by the writer’s own life.

Summer before the dark by Volker Weiderman









The fictional meeting of Stefan Zweig and Joesph Roth in Ostend in the summer of 1936 two men at the height of there fame. Both their lives will take different roots after this meeting.

Compass by Mathias Enard









A lament for a lost world of Syria and for a lost love as a man goes through a sleepless night as Franz dreams of Sarah and his romance alongside their travels.

The Major Refutation by Pierre Senges









An imagined thesis that discredits the discovery of the new world another quirky book that has had a champion it like a lot of the books on this list.

Bricks and Mortar by Clemens Meyer

Post east german history told through the oldest profession and the characters involved in that industry as they go from simple german girls to digital and woman of all nations. Another Fitzcarradlo novel on the list.

Hair everywhere- Tea Tulic 

A family saga told from the daughter in fragments of stories as her mother is dying of cancer another wonderful choice from Istros books.

Belladonna  by Dasa Drndric

A novel for today a warning of ignoring the rise of right-wing rhetoric as a retirng academic looks back and forward on his life. from one of my favourite writers.

The ultimate Tragedy by Abdulai Sila

The Ultimate Tragedy

Ndani story in postcolonial Guinea Bissau is the testament to what many young women have to do in her position to get by working in a family homemade to join the church and avoid the advance of the male head of the householder.

That’s how whales are born by Anxos Sumai


This follows a young woman who had escaped to study whales in Mexico but her mother ill health bring her home to her Galician home and the secrets of the past.

Three days by Thomas Bernhard

A film he made years ago has a companion book a wonderful insight into a great writers feeling. I still love the lines I am a story destroyer.

The house of remembering and forgetting by Filip David

A man remembers his survival of the death camp and recalls it all after visiting an exhibition. I have loved the six peter own istros titles this year but this was my favourite of them.

A common thread in these books is families, loss, past and remembering. In the year I lost my mum this list maybe reflects my journey and how books help us get over things. What have been your books of 2017?



the 1500th post here are some books !













Today’s post sees the blog reach the landmark of 1500 posts after 8 and half years of blogging. SO I added some recent arrivals from publishers and libraries. The first book is from Comma press is the latest addition to there collection of short stories from a particular country or city.  This time it is the Georgian capital Tbilisi where we are reading from. A new country for this blog. So I’m looking forward to reading ten voices from this former Soviet republic.









The next book is from one of my favourite publishers Fitzcarraldo. This book is a perfect example of why I like Fitzcarraldo there book choice are so in my own taste of Lit. This book follows a German woman who has arrived in London and is finding it hard to fit in.So she spends time wandering along the river Lea. Observing the characters places and photos of the place linking to her own earlier life near the river Oder in Germany. esther Kinsky is also a translator into German from English. She has worked on books by Thoreau and Iain Sinclair! I feel this may already be one of the books of 2018 for me if I can wait till then.









Now four books from the Library. This is always the time of year,  when I start trying to fill in a few gaps from the previous year’s translation from those publishers I don’t get sent books from or ones I’ve missed. So from the top right clockwise. In every moment we are still alive by Tom Malmquist follows Tom’s girlfriend Karin is rushed into hospital whilst being pregnant the worst happens she dies and Tom is left to raise his daughter Livia and cope with his Grief. Anna by Niccolo Ammaniti is a novel set in a world where most of the people have died after a virus has killed most of the people and even basic services are starting to fail. Anna is trying to look after herself and her brother. Then the second book from Michel Laub to be translated into English. Poison Apple follows a man’s journey after he misses the only Nirvana gig in Brazil due to military services his friend take his then girlfriend and the become an item is this one moment to blame! Ghachar Ghochar is a novel from Vivek Shanbhag that deals with families sudden climb up the class tree in India and struggling to get by. Many thanks for sticking with me through 1500 posts here is to the next 1500!!

The Impostor by Javier Cercas


The Impostor by Javier Cercas

Spanish Non-Fiction

Original title – El Impostor

Translator – Frank Wynne

Source – review copy

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

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

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

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

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

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

Three days by Thomas Bernhard


Three days by Thomas Bernhard

Austrian Memoir

Original title – Drei Tage

Translator – Laura Lindgren

Source – personal copy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Abba Abba by Anthony Burgess

Image result for abba abba anthony burgess

Abba Abba by Anthony Burgess

English fiction / Italian poetry

Source – personnel copy

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

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

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


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

The creation of the world

One day the bakers god and son set to

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

This loaf the world, though the idd imbecile

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

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

Atlas, chucked stars like money from a till,

Set birds high, beasts low, fishes lower still.

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

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

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


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