The Fallen by Carlos Manuel Álvarez

The Fallen by Carlos Manuel Álvarez

Cuban fiction

Original  title – Los caídos

Translator – Frank Wynne

Source – review copy

I will for the next few days add a few books that might make the booker longlist later this week and here I start with a great debut novel from a Cuban writer that has written short stories and also contributed pieces to The BBBC, New York Times and Al-Jazeera. As well as co-founding an online magazine in Cuba. He was on that Bogota 39 list from a few years ago which has already produced so many great new voices from Latin and Central American. Here is one of my choice for the longlist as it has been wonderfully translated by Frank Wynne into English.

THE MOTHER

I’m alive and in my panties and my skin is yellow. I’, in a heap lying on top of the bed, the dirty sheets. By the time I finally get up, my arms are covered in goose bumps. I open the wardrobe, put on a housecoat and go into the kitchen. Afrmado is making coffee. His movements are slow and graceless, The way he holds the coffee pot, the way he turns on the gas, the way he strikes the match and holds on to the ring. He is so slow that his every action already contains within in its own repetition.

He looks at me and smiles and there is something in his smile that unsettles me. He ask me if I want coffee, I say yes, a little. I ask him how he slept and he says better than most nights. I asj him how he slept and he says better than most nights. I ask him if he had a dream and he say no. He says this as if I alreay know, but how could I know soemthing I have no reason to know ? I don’t ask any more questions

The line about his smile and what’s behind it hit me a lot.

This is a story of a family but what is great it takes the four members of the family the mother and father and there son and daughter. This is a family that is in the middle of a crisis is the mother who you feel is the glue of the family it turns out over the first few chapters she has started having a few health problems mainly a number of falls more than normal and increasing in frequency, This is described by her daughter as she just drops to the fall but after three occasions you sense her daughters worry. Her husband the father is worried stuck in an office job but not too high he also has a car he hates his Nissan is heavy on the fuel and he is always running out of fuel. This is a poor family as the son observes they hadn’t even a table at one point. There is an insight into the way people get money in Cuba a sort of reverse universal credit where the less your family had meant the more some got also maybe a tip of the hat to the corruption in the system. The father thou is also a man of honour as those other he knows to get on he sticks to the rules and isn’t one for bribes as the matriarch of the family is failing her daughter worries of life without her. The sin hates his father mainly for his standpoint in life to not take what he may see other take. A wonderful look into a family in the current Cuba where a family still struggles to have a table when poor and corruption just ripples under the surface.

THE DAUGHTER

The first time was five months ago, a muffled thud. The human body doesn’t sound like a vase shattering. It doesn’t sound like a crystal glass. It sounds like a sack of cement, like a thick, heavy dictionary. There was a spot of blood on a corner of the wardrobe. I noticed it straight away, Mama was lying on the floor, unconscious. There was a gash in her cheek like the hollow in an agave. I did everything you’re not supposed to do. I moved ger from where she was lying. I tried to put her in a different position. She was a dead wieght. She’s talll and heavy, and I couldn’t After three minutes, she started to stir and after a while she came round. We thought it was an isolated incident,but people think a lot of things.

HEr daughter describes those early falls she saw.

Fitzcarraldo has brought so many good books to us in recent years and this debut is another gem. It captures the family so well a family just getting by but now with his wife’s illness there is an impending doom in their also cracks of those things that within a family you sometimes bury until there is a shift in the power or a loss forthcoming that means cracks like those between the father and son appear. It is bare on names and details it is a description of a family coping with a vital member falling ill. the shifting voices remind me of the way the voices shift in Faulkners as I lay dying not as many voices but each voice add the narrative and the story. This technique of shifting the story around to see it from each family members point of view has also been seen a couple of times on soaps recently where we had a week of five perspectives of an event here it is the same four view of a woman failing and the feeling once that happens it will have a knock-on effect. An insight into family life for those scrapping by just in Modern Cuba. Have you read this book ?

The siege of Troy by Theodor Kallifatides

The siege of Troy by Theodor Kallifatides

Swedish fiction

Original title – Slaget om Troja

Translator – Marlaine Delargy

Source – review copy

Here is a work by the Greek Immigrant Swedish writer Theodor Kalifatides after doing his military service in Greece he emigrated in his early twenties to Sweden. First, as a teacher of philosophy as a school at the university, he was then editor of one of the best know Swedish literary magazines. He has written over forty novels he was one of the first writers to touch on immigration in Swedish fiction. He was chairman of Swedish pen in the nineties here he has taken a classic greek work and reworked it around the world war two.

So I thought I would do that too. I will tell you the story of the Iliad from memory for as long we’re sitting here.”It’s not as if we have anything else to do””

That was true. WE didn’t have anything else to do in the cave, apart from trying to protect ourselves from the assorted bugs.

“So when was thios war ?” Dimitra asked.

“”It was very long time ago- more than three thousand years,” Miss replied.

Dimittra sighed. “Can’t wait”.

Miss took no notice. I didn’t think it sounded very excing either, but as I said we didn’t have much else to do, so Miss began her story

She told of her hearing Homer from professional actor when she was a young girl. The boys aren’t to keen at first but they get gripped by it.

This is told from the perspective of a pupil at a small Greek village we never know his name his friend is called Dimitra. As it is nearing the end of the second world war and the Germans are still in Greece but there is a sense of the end. But they are being bombed when they end up in a cave and the young female teacher that they adore even when later she has found herself a boyfriend our narrator forgives her. She decides the best way to take the boy’s and girls’ minds of the bombing and what has been happening she decides to recount the Iliad from memory. As a child, she had seen it told to her by an old man a performer that went from town to town doing Homer works. Initially they arent keen but she grabs them with this 3000-year-old tale!So as the days go by we are given small chunks of the Trojan war this is interspersed with the events around the village as the children rush to her there teacher telling the next part of the story like Helen and her two loves that eventually they face each other in battle. These battles are mirrored in the real world.

The two armies rushed at each other like waves rushing towards the rocks, Honors were even to begin with, and both sides lost many men and horses it wasn’t until the afternoon that Acheans gained the upper hand, not least to agamemnon their supreme commander, who strode along mowing down his opponents like a farmer scything his wheat. He showed no mercy, not even when two inexperienced young men fell to their knees and begged for their lives. It is the first time we kill that is difficult after that, it quickly becomes habit.

The great Greek leader Agamemnon in the war is fearless and ruuthless as he kills at will maybe an echo to the present !!

This is a clever way to make the work of Homer available to new readers, I am not well-read in the classics .but this is a clever way to open the door to classics. He has made it readable by trim parts of the original but making you want to read the original. There is also a clever mirroring of the events that are read and the events in the present for Miss and her pupils. The Iliad showed the horrors of the Trojan war but we maybe could have done with a more violent present would have been interesting but the main character is just 15 and not yet a man he knows what is happening but isn’t involved so we just see the glimpse a 15 year would see of the war of the Nazi’s parading around. He had reworked The Iliad into a more mortal version of the work playing down the god’s role which given the setting of Miss telling the story to her adoring pupils is apt.

 

That was the month that was January 2020

  1. Home and Exile by Chinua Achebe
  2. Letters of blood by Rizzia Rahman
  3. Billiards at the Hotel Dobray by Dusan Sarotar
  4. Maigret and Monsieur Charles by Georges Simenon
  5. Shadow Child by P F Thomése
  6. The females by Wolfgang Hilbig
  7. The Glass slipper by Shotaro Yasuoka
  8. The Hungry and the Fat by Timur Vermes

There we are I had hoped to get a couple more reviews done but I have just finished four-night shifts so I have to make do with eight reviews this month I shall get a few more in next month I Hope as I have a holiday booked in as Amanda has a significant birthday. This month I went from Africa then Bangladesh. The war in Europe from the first tale of Jews in Slovenia and then Maigret last book a father coping with the loss of his child a man coping with the loss of the females around him and a lot of sexual feelings. Then a collection of post-war Japanese stories and then the second novel of German satirist Timur Vermes. I visited seven countries one new press well not a press an imprint from seagull books. The Library of Bangladesh I hope to get a couple more from this collection soon.

Book of the month

It was a very tight month with this and Billiards at the hotel Dobray tie with me The Hungry and the fat does what great writers do they take an idea here what will the west do with the increasing refugee crisis that is ever-increasing here what Timur did was imagine the border shutting and a mass camp forming and then what happens if these hundred no Millions of refugees. As they decide with the help of a model and her refugee fiance to walk to the border and see what happens will those fabled gates open or remain shut a powerful work. Then a flip of a wonderful reworking through one mans story of his experience as a Slovenian Jew in the  holocaust as he returns to his home town which is Dusan the writers own town and the Hotel that is the centre of the town.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

None book events-

I said in my recent Music post. I brought the new Pale saints reissue. I Have been listening to this and enjoyed the mini gig on the radio from Warmduscher. I on whole have had a quiet month this month post-Christmas. I also started back at the gym after a pre Christmas break. What has your month entailed?

Next Month

I have a Swedish novel from a Swedish greek writer set in world war two that involves a retelling of Homer’s work from a teacher from her memories of the work that also seems to echo the events of the Germans occupying the island in the present. Am nearly finish the latest peirene Novel as they turn ten this year and their books been a fixture on this blog. This latest book seems an Italian novella that has a man that has taken himself away from the world high in the alps discovering a foot in the snow. In the world, he shares with his dog a cantankerous beast as his only companion. Then a Hungarian novel . What are your plans for next month?

 

The Hungry and the Fat by Timur Vermes

The Hungry and the Fat by Timur Vermes

German Fiction

Original title  – Die Hungrigen und die Satten

Translator – Jamie Bulloch

Source = review copy

Well, it is to Germany next and the second novel by the German writer Timur Vermes his debut novel was a huge hit look who’s back which imagined Hitler returning and getting involved in politics in the modern age. This is his the second novel which title is a nod to the poem The wandering rat by Heinrich Heine

There are two types of rats:

The hungry and full.

The rich stay happily at home,

The hungry but emigrate.

The novel set in a near-future where Europe has closed its borders to those trying to get there from Africa.

And of course Astrid Von Roell was angry too. Not only because she was obliged to concoct the first story in its entirety, including the refugee model Ashanti 17, but also because on the first day she had to look for models on her own. Without consulting Nadeche, because the editoral team back home had already scheduled the model piece, And then to sit in Nadeche’s tent with senty or eighty photographs, which was enpugh in itself since Nadeche was premanently on the phone.

The first refugee piece where made but as Nadeche s[ends more time she falls for Lionel.

The book is a satire that is set ten years in the future an imagines that the refugee crisis has grown out of control so Europe has decided to shut up shop. So a massive camp of 150,000 refugees has grown up in the south of the Sahara as Europe has paid those north African countries to stop them trying to come to Europe and has put in place a strict limit of those that can come to  Europe meaning only those with a lot of money can get there. A German tv channel has decided to send one of the leading female stars to live in this camp Nadeche sends back a daily show as she gets to know the camp and those there from collecting wood to make fires, to those in the hospital. As she tries to make the camp seem more than it is for the public at home. Meanwhile, the government is trying to find a way to deal with these refugees without them ever reaching Europe. But as she spends more time in the camp Nadeche falls for a refugee Lionel he gets called in Germany where her reports start to get noticed.  Lionel has an idea and that is to lead an exodus of all the refugees this is initially greeted by Nadeche tv company as a great idea and as they move just 15 km a day it seems impossible that they will get to the German Austrian border they so want to get too. But then as the mass group of refugees start to get close to comfort those in charge have to decide what to do? what will they do?

Nadeche Hackenbusch and Lionel: the megastar has let her heart decide – now the fate of 150,00 people hangs on the success of this love affair.

By Astrid Von Roell

We all know the tale of the ugly duckling who turns into a dying swan. This time, however, it’s dofferent. The swan isn’t dying and the duckling isn’t ugly.Rather this is the story of a strong young woman prepared to do anything and everything for love, thereby conquering the hearts of the entire world. It is the story of a women reinventinghimself finally. Finally living the dream that no woman had ever dreamed before.Now Nadeche hackenbusch has made this dream come true; she has left her husband to acompany the great love you only meet once in lifem on his way to Europe on foot and alone. With 150,00 refugees

The Change we see later on in Nadeche from tv personality to poltical figure.

 

This is a tongue-in-cheek a what if like his previous book that put the question of what if Hitler returned what would he do.  Well, this takes the refugee question and says what if you stopped it would it go away. Would those trying to reach the dream of living in Europe and a life of plenty stop, well no as shown the camps swell and grow huge, Then he takes a swipe at the media Nadeche visit is like a real-life version of I’m a celebrity get me out of her the way they want suffering but photogenic suffering. But then the other question posed is what would happen if all those refugees waiting to come all arrived at once what would a country do? it is a question that hasn’t been asked since the Balkan conflict which did see many people from the Balkans go to Germany as refugees in the 1990’s I remember working in a German factory and at a Jugendwerkstatt with Bosnians, Croats, and Kosovans but they were European what if that huge even larger influx was from sub-Saharan africa would the welcome be different well the door is firmly shut but the question is what would the government do, what would public pinon be? As our recent election show the fearmongering press usually shows the way to everyone. This is a Wenders road movie remade into an apocalyptic African exodus. It is I’m a celebrity mixed with the worst sort of heartstring-pulling tv as they show the power of the media. As shown with Brexit the public can lap up lies and mistruths. Vermes shows us an Orwellian version of the refugee question.

 

Letters of blood by Rizia Rahman

Letters of blood by Rizia Rahman (library of Bangladesh)

Bangladesh literature

Original title – Rokter Okkhor

Translator – Arunava Sinha

Source – personal copy

I read a while ago about the library of Bangladesh series of books I am a fan of publishers trying to collect together literature from a particular country. Seagull books have published books for us in the UK and US. Rizia Rahman is one of the most respect Bangledesh writers having published more than fifty novels. This was her fourth novel when it was published in 1978 she was inspired to write it from an article called the prostitutes of Dhaka. She was unable to visit the brothels but used Male journalist reports and photographs of them in the brothels to imagine there lives. She said when this came out in English received a lot of praise for the book, but also had to endure an equal amount of abuse.”

One side of the termite-ridden door of Bokul’s room has collapsed. Yasmin shivers at the sight of Bokul’s naked, unconscious form on the bed, lit by the reddish glow of the lamp. A wild animalseems to have sliced up her body with its claws. She is bleeding. A miserable Shanti is wiping her body with a rag. She doesn’t look as thpough she had a violent quarrel with Bokul this morning. Yasmin tells Zarina, who’s standing there, “MANNAN should have dettol in his shop. Get a bottle”

Violence is always just below the surface of those living in the brothel.

This is the second book in the last few months I have read based around a Brothel the other was the booker longlist 10 minutes 38 seconds by Elif Shafak. This like that book lifts the lid on the everyday life of those women in the brothel here in such a short book we get to know a number of the girls and their stories. We have Yasim she was involved in the war of liberation and is from a middle-class background unlike a lot of the girls she lives with she has had a hard time to wind up there. This is a woman who falls on hard times and is similar to the lead character in Elif’s book. Then we have some of the other girls some of them that dress like the movie stars of the day in a sort of escape from every day lives. Others try to get the richest clients and use that as a way to fame and fortune and the way out. She also captures those little arguments everyday tasks they have to do in-between clients the things that make their days in this bleak world go by the risk of diseases and abuse always in the background and everyone is just a day away from a fall that may stop them earning and having a living.

Mashi begins to abuse the women ” You line iof wores, what do you think you’re doing! You’ve become too big for your own good. I’m informing the police at once.They eat out of my hands, They’ll beat you all of you to a pulp”

Marjna stans up to her ” To hell with your police. You scare us with talk of police to exort money from us every month. You think we don’t understand?”

They try to stand up for themselves against those that are trying to exploit them.

This book is just 140 pages long but it does what I think great novellas do well and that seems like an epic trapped in a small book. This is a lifting of the veil on a world that one imagines in the time the book was written to now hasn’t changed much. Rizia has a sensitive eye for the girls of the brothels her writing is never judgemental and shows the lives of bones and all. How vulnerable they are they can be sold and moved on anytime. She captures their world. The men in this book are in the background but depicted as violent abusive wanton or as the pimps for the girls. There world is them on top of one another and the sense of this meaning that there is trouble always just around the corner as they compete for the men there. I was sad to read that Rizia Rahman had passed away last year she seemed an interesting writer that has just this book translated into English so far.

Winstonsdads Dozen books of the year 2020

Well it is the 2nd January and I am revealing my books of the year in no order these twelve are the ones that at the end of they year I felt had touched me most over the last twelve months.

1. Now, Now louison by Jean Fremon 

The French gallerist Jean Fremon tries to get into in the life of the renowned artist Louise Bourgeois with this miz of inner monologue, personal history, and antidotes another gem from Les fugitives.

2. Aviaries by Zuzana Brabcova 

I now move onto the last night novel by a Czech writer. That captures a darker underbelly of a fragmented Prague of bums homeless people and Chavs

No photo description available.

3. The years by Anne Ernaux 

Just brilliant this should have won the booker but it is a Fineline between fiction and memoir as she looks back on her life and how she dealt with those ups and downs we all have in our own lifetimes.

4. Termin by Henrik Nor-Hansen 

A look at the out fall of an attack on a normal everyday man and what happens when you have a severe brain injury.a short gem and another from a very small publisher.

 

Termin front cover.png

 

5. When death takes something from you give it back Carl’s book By Naja Marie Aidt

This touching memoir of her son who lost his life in shocking circumstances. Carl deals with a mother getting over the loss of her son at such a young age.

6. The train was on time by Heinrich  Böll

A long-overdue reissue of the debut work of Heinrich Boll on a train to the front there is a man daydreaming and remembering the war at the same time,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7. Doppelganger byDaša Drndić

Two novellas from the late Croat writer Daša Drndić her we see that love can be found in older age but we all have that baggage we carry and this is the case in these two getting together.

8. And the wind sees all by  Guðmundur Andri Thorsson

Here we see a mere moment caught from the whole of a village. The local choirmistress Kata is a stunning red dress head to choir practice . As we look behind the curtains in the small fishing villages we see the inner lives of those there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9. 10 minutes 38 seconds in this strange world by Elif Shafak

It is a shock that two books from the Booker shortlist have made my best of year. This glimpses the life os a prostitute through those she knew in her brother and her life before her time in the brothel what drove her there in a series of smells and tastes that she had known throughout her life.

10. Ducks Newburyport by Lucy Elman 

I am one that tends to avoid hype but this 1000 page novel is the inner monologue of a midwest housewife living in the trump era rying to work out in a way how they got there where they are. A long journey but worth taking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

11. Falstaff: Apotheosis by Pierre Senges

A reworking of the Falstaff character and his place in literature by the underappreciated French writer Pierre Senges someone we should all try I think.

12.The Trap by Ludovic Bruckstein 

Romanian fiction to round off this years best-of list and a look at a bygone world of villages that were full of Jewish life a lament of a world that has gone by. This is a lost gem of Mittel European writing brought to us from the great Istros books.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well if there is a theme in these books it is to do with narrative om a whole they all challenge what is narrative for us the reader. I think this is what draws me so much to translated fiction and small press. Her is a huge thanks to those who have support this blog over the last twelve months.

my reading goals for 2020

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have been busy most of Christmas I was lucky to have three days off Xmas Eve to Boxing day. It has given me time with Family my in-laws and there two latest foster kids came Christmas day and Boxing day I traveled to spend it with my dad which was a long day with a hold upon the drive back. I then did two long days work and time has caught up with me I return for two twelve hours shifts tomorrow and new years day. So I will be posting my books of the year after the new year and my first new review in the new year. Anyway, I have never been one for reading goals but as for a second year, I have just missed the 100 reviews in a year I need some motivation.

My first goal is to get to a 1000 reviews on the blog that will be 30 books time I have given myself a deadline of my birthday in the middle of march to get there. I feel this total has loomed in fact in a way that has made me worry about getting there. I felt it would be a let down after that this goal had been reached.

100 reviews in a year this has been my goal for the last few years I have reviewed more than a hundred in other years but since I changed job I struggle to get a good blogging routine in place. I have let my routine slip this last few months after doing thirty posts in a month which I got a routine in place doing the post in advance. I need to be more of a planner in regards to the blog.

I saw that Tony messenger is doing this and it grabbed me as an on running idea and the is reading books from 1980 as it is 40 years since then. I feel this is one I could run with for the next ten years and those early years of me reading novels. There is a couple great books turning 40 years Midnight’s children and in the name of the rose to name two I hope to get half dozen through the year.

Booker international Bingo I hope I get lost of people to join in on this fun twist on shadow jury by getting more bing lines and calls for reading more books. I had planned to read this year’s longlist like last year and wonder what will make the list.

Hopes I hope to add a few more Arabic and African books this year than the last few years.

It has been fun 2019 and I have read a lot of exciting books many thanks for following me over the last year. I hope to bring you more reviews and fun ideas in the coming year. What are your reading plans for the coming year?

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 !!

 

Previous Older Entries

April 2020
M T W T F S S
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
27282930  

Archives

%d bloggers like this: