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?

The Art or Losing by Alice Zeniter

The Art of Losing by Alice Zeniter

French fiction

Original title –  L’Art de Perdre

Translator – Frank Wynne

Source – from Frank via the publisher

I don’t often ask the translator for a book but this is one I really wanted to read as it seemed like one I would really like and I am a fan of Franks translations so thank Frank. Alice Zentier is a real talent she published her first novel at just 16 years old since then she has written a number of novels. She has also set up a company putting on plays for younger audiences. This novel came out 14 years after her debut and was a huge prize winner in France was on the final list for the Prix Goncourt. She is from a french Algerian family so a lot of the journey of the granddaughter in this book is similar to her own journey.

When he comes home (this ellipsis in my story is the one that appears in Ali’s story, the one that had Hamid and Naima will encounter when they try to retrace his memories: no one will ever say anythinhg but two words, “the war”, to account for these two years), Ali is faced with the same crippling poverty, which his mitlitary pension alleviates only a little.

The following spring, he takes his little brothers Djamel and Hamza, to wash in the Wadi swollen with the waters of the melting snow, The current is so stroing they have to cling to the rocks and tufts of grass on the riverbamk to avoid being swept away. Djamel, the scrawniest of the three, is terrified, His brother laugh, they mock his fears, playfully tug at his legs while Djamel sobs and prays, thinking that the current is pulling hu=im under and then

Back home as ali is caught in a flood with his brothers.

The book follows three generations of an Algerian then a french Algerian family through the start of the Algerian war seen through Ali the father of Hamid who we meet in the fifties as the country is starting to fall apart we view this through his eyes as he is growing but as he meets his wife and his dreams of being a father to a son. Then when the war is ended takes the hard decision to leave in the aftermath of that. So the journey moves on to the son to France for a new life as he struggles with his father and growing up in France. Where the first two years of their lives where they live in a camp that is like a pressure cooker full of violence and threats to the two of them having a future in the new home. Added to this is the tussle of being Muslim in France at the time as Hamid grows up and meets his wife a traditional french wife, so he loses his identity somewhat, and thus when they have Naima she is more French than Algerian. Then the story moves on to his daughter Naima who is more French than Algerian this is a story of the generation that is silent Naima knows little of her ancestry. She works at a gallery as she says she hasn’t traveled much as she views the world through the art she shows in the Gallery but when her boyfriend sends her to Algeria as she is preparing to show new art from there she uncovers her own past as she reconnects with those of her family that was left behind. returning she says to her gran she could go but I was touched by the line her gran said it is near the end of the book and maybe for me summed up the migrant experience I’m not going home to sleep in a hotel. having just said she want to return there to die. The loss of place is the silence in the world of being an immigrant loss of home.

Sometimes , she jokes about her family background, she says: “MY grandmother got married when she was fourteen, my mother met my fahter when she was eighteen. At least one woman in this family needs to break the mould”.

And yet, at twenty-five she decides to put the brakes on this, It is not that her desire waned, or that some ancestral form of mortality had caught up with her, it is that suddenly she has the impression that her actions have been rendered so banal by American TV series – particularly Sex and gthe city – they have become the norm.

The change in the granddaughter and the american influence on Fench life in one!!

A family world is a voice for a wider generation in this book is a book that has three-parts of this novel. Are the grandfather’s life than the father’s and finally the daughter as we see the transition of one family from Algerian to French but still haunted by the silence of her history. of the Algerian part of her life, this is what Alice Zeniter has tried to fill in with this book. It is part of a growing number of books in French that tackle the journey and history of immigrants in France from David Diop’s work and this both of which won prizes in the same year. This is a voice to those that have been faced with silence about their past. But also hints at the modern problems in France where the tension of the past and past crimes still haunt the present. This is one of those zeitgeist books that capture the world for those three generations and the wider community. maybe this is the French Windrush fiction of those voices that haven’t spoken since they came in 62 to France and the loss of their identity in their children. Have you read this book?

winstons score A-

A Musical Offering by Luis Sagasti

A Musical Offering by Luis Sagasti

Argentinean fiction

Orignal title – Una ofrenda musical

Translator – Fionn Petch

Source – Personal copy

When it comes up toward the man booker every year I try to buy a couple of books. That I feel may be on the longlist. This is the first I have brought to read. It is the second book the Charco press has brought out from Luis Sagasti. I was a huge fan of his first book so don’t know why I haven’t got to this sooner but you all know the quandary too many books too little time and I can be such a firefly in my reading habits buzzing brightly from place to place. Sagasti is a teacher now he was a curator at one point as well as a writer and art critic.

The most famous performance of the Variations, a feat not unlike swimming across the magellan Strait, is by the Canadian pianist Glenn Gould. In fact, he recorded two; between them stretch twenty-six years in the life of a planet. The first version is as urgent and flamboyant as Baroque music permist, and was taped in 1955, when Gould was just twenty-three years old, The second is a recording made shortly before he died from a stroke at the age of fifty in 1981. For all his ggenius, Gould couldn’t escape the fate of the wise; the slower pace of the later version is that of someone who knows we only leave a circle before taking the first step.

Gould was also used as a character in  a novel by Thomas Bernhard.

I must admit before I review this I am no classical music fan I do have the Goldberg variations I had brought them after I watched the film 32 short films about Glenn Gould a number of years ago. So I was pleased that this book had chosen one of the few pieces of classical music I have to listen to more than once. The book like his earlier book is a collection of interconnection short stories that all interlock like one of those puzzle balls made of wood where they interlock to form a complete the stories range from just a couple of pages to two longer stories. The opening story the main one about the Bach work is about how it came about as a harp piece to ease into sleep the count that was Bach benefactor. This leads into digressions of Glenn Gould the Beatles connections between them both this is a book with no real plot but you can not put it down. Other stories range from a massive organ that sets off an avalanche over the village of HimmelHein. A rift of Silences from Ligeti work through the works that lead up to Cages 4 33 of silence where the silence is always different due to the setting then the lack of silence on the Beatles interlocking back to the other stories.

The funeral March composed for a deaf man , by Alphonse Allais , could well be a forerunner of 4′ 33′, though it is more like a painting than any other art form, as the silences are not even marked on the score. Unlike Cage’s piece, the march was not intended to be performed.

Allaishad created a series of monochromatic works. firsr communion of Anameic girls in the snow of 1883 would appear to predate Malevich’s white squre. But total silence can’t be possible there, not with such a figurative title.

A art piece that was a music core that was similar to Cage’s 4′ 33′

I am a huge fan of most of the books the Charco have brought out. I know I tend to be positive about most of the books I read but this is one of those I put in the class above everything If I did a letter score it would be mostly B’s or C’s for what I read but this is an A+ in the time I have blogged if I get two or three of these a year I am happy this is one of those books that fire the brain makes you root out the album you not listened to for a long while or want to rewatch the film about Gould also I had my Beatles CDs on today. The Bach piece has been in a Bernhard book and The Richard Powers book the Gold Bug Variations. Sagasti’s works are often compared with Sebald or Flights both mentioned in connection to Sagasti. But for me, I was also reminded of the Nocilla trilogy and another Spanish book I read last year Glass eye. Both of which like this mix fiction and history together which for me is a mix I love it’s like a mixtape to get it right takes time and thought to get the right mix of stories is harder than you think. Anyway as I said earlier here we go my first score. Have you read this or any other titles from Charco press that have you enjoyed?

Winstons Score A+

The Imagined Land by Eduardo Berti

The Imagined land by Eduardo Berti

Argentinean fiction

Original title – El país imaginado

Translator – Charlotte Coombe

Source – personal copy

I have had this on my shelves a couple of years and when I was looking for something that maybe had a love story or romance at its heart this struck me as a contender. It is written by the French-based Argentinean writer Eduardo Berti A cultural Journalist based in France he was elected to the Oulipo group of writers being the first writer from Argentina to be elected to the group. He also works as a transxlator he=aving translated works from Alberto Manguel and Romesh Gunesekera. He has published 15 books of novels and short stories over the last thirty years.

ON the first day of the new year, my father was in such a good mood that he was hardly recognisable; he was usually so moderate, so restrained. He saw that there sun, that the air was fresh, and there wa no threat of clouds on the horizion, of the “corner of the sky” as my grandmother used to call it. This all seemed to be a good omen, since nothing was more desirable for the chu-yi than a crystal clear dawn, Shortly after, at midday, he reminded ius enthusiastically that in the evening we would be joined for dinner bt tje family of his friend Gu Xiangong, who lived about a two hour drive away by car from our city. This was a dangerous ambigous distance

Thy had three daughters the visits why are they coming to visit the family.

This book is set in CHina pre reveloution in a small city we view the life there through the eyes of Ling she is 14 and nurses her grandmother as she says her parents don’t trust him to nurse her. The Grandmother is old and has a great collection of old books that she  has read to her grandchildren especially her granddaughter. The book are to be taken out to stp insects eating them she is told by her father this is something that Ling does herself as her brother isn’t bother this isall part of some old ideas and pratices that her father has that make them seem out of time to those around them. But when pone day they are visited by a local family as there daughter Xiaomei as her brother future bride but the young 14 year old ling is dumbstruck by the beauty of this girl and then decides to befriend her as the two meet in the park over time. This is also intersped with Ling talking with her grandmother who has now passed about what she is feeling and her grandmpther spirit is a guide for her. The two girls discuss going ona run , her brother admits he is in love with a different girl will she be found a husband were will the love take them all and what do the do to follow there parents wishes.

Give me your hand, said Xiaomeri, and I did

Interlacing her fingers with mine, she formed one hand using both out hands and guided it  into the basket. We clumsily grabbed the first piece of paper within our reach.

Xiaomei unfolded the paper to reveal a melon

We will have lots of children,Ling ! she said, laughing.

We laughed even more, however, when before we saiud goodbye, she unfoilded all the pieces of paper to tecveal the drawings melons, melons, nothing but melons.

The two girls grow close as they meet in a park !

If you have followed this blog for any time you know I am a huige fan of fiction set in villages or small city that have a real sense of place  as they have that air of being caught in amber in at times and here is a village that is looking far back to tradition in the values like buying a blackbird the book starts with a blackbird and ends with the vchaning as the bird seller isn’t in the ,market anymore the book is set in the twenties and follows ling to the edge of the reveloutin through the Japanese ocupation. It is obvious as I read in an interview with Berti this China in the book is a mix of real and inmagined China the china of the west the way we like to view it but I was remind fo the documentry channel four showed years ago Beyond the clouds which showed small villages that like this city had got lost in time. That had like this place missed the call of time touched by the modern world like when Ling talks about watchiong films especially of the silent film star Ruan lingyu who died young but was called the Greta garbo of China for the emotions she showed in her film. Ling says Xiaomei is even more beautiful this is a tale of the first love not sexual but of attraction and the blossoming of a young girl struggling with who she is !! Then there is her and her brother struggles to conform with their parents and try and keep the family traditions and values alive. If yoiu like books like Reef where coming of age is mixed with the scenery of a place and spirt this mixes the spirit of the small village. Ann interesting book of a place long gone from a new writer to the bog Have you read anything by Him? Happy Valentine’s day all !!

With an unopened umbrella in the pouring rain by Ludovic Bruckstein

With an unopened umbrella in the pouring rain by Ludovic Bruckstein

Romanian fiction

Original title – Mitriya Sgura BeGeshem

Translator – Alistair Ian Blythe

Source – review copy

This is the second work by Ludovic Bruckstein I have reviewed he was a Romanian writer who had disappeared from the Romanian cannon of writing as he left Romania to live in Israel where his brother had settled just after the second world war in the late ’40s. SO in 1970 when Ludovic Bruckstein decided to leave the communist government wiped his works from the country. Bruckstein became a writer after the second world war he grew up in the Town of Sighet where the stories in this collection are set. He was inspired to write by the story of the sonder Komando uprising in Auswitchz which formed his first work a play called Nightshift. He like the rest of his town was sent to Auswitchz in May 1944 as they all went on four trains of his family there was just Ludovic and his brother survived of the 13,000 jews of Sighet only 2000 lived.

Hersch-Leib was a porter from an early age. “I worked in transportation” he wes leter went to say.

He was always cheerful, enterprising, born into a farming family, with numerous siblings, he was never one to twiddle his thumbs waiting for his mother to put food on his plate. He went out to earn his bread.

A man tht drag himself up from the bottom upwards.

The trap was also set in Sighet what he does with these stories is keep alive the spirit of the town at that time as his son said in an interview the town was very cosmopolitan in the pre-war time a mix of people from lots of places and lots of religions. These stories start with the Sabbath and the bargemen and the blacksmith of the local town in the title story. Then in other stories we hear of Hersch Lieb the local porter who grows his business from a young age, he also appears in a later story as a businessman who regularly comes to the town with his large family opts for three stale rolls to make his penny go further Avram opts for the harder sale rolls. Then We have Chaim rives a man with no fear poor but broad-shouldered and healthy a loner of a man that never got conscripted in both wars but in May 44he took his life rather than go on the train. The stories mostly end with the sad day the jews of Sighet left on four long trains as it is put 70 in each carriage 43 carriages to each of the four trains take the town to their death. One of the different stories involves the Italian troops that came to stay in the town which at the time was a hub for the railways they sing, play their mandolins, and lighten up the town in comparison to the Hungarians and German in the town. This is just a glimpse of the tales of the town never to be the same after those trains leave.

Chaim rives was afraid of nothing, He wasx afraid of nothing hard work, nor illness, nor the bad dogs in poeople’s yard, nor dreams, nor ill omens, these was only one thing alone of which he was terribly afraid; tomorrow. He gladly endured hunger today, so long as he knew that tomorrow he would have something to eat,

This fear probably came from childhood, when he had never enough to eat. His mother was a washerwoman with large number of children and a large amound of laundry to wash. He couldn’t remember his father. Nor did his mother ever speak to him of the other children about their father: maybe she had forgotte, maybe she didn’t have the time, maybe there was no point.

From the story the fear one of my favourites in this collection.

Ludovic sin says in the interview here with Susan from Istros Books and also in a piece for Calvert Journal. That his father always told him stories of his hometown in those pre-war years. This collection reminded me of the lost world we met in Grigory kanovich book Shelti love song set in another Jewish community that isn’t there anymore.  Ghost lift of the page as you read of the character that lived in the town before may 1944 before the train left and 11000 souls lost their lives in the Auswitchz. I always say we can never have enough stories that make us remember the holocaust but also where hate can lead. The book is also illustrated by his son who has done drawing for each story. As his som said his father was a realist and unlike Wiesel who he said how could this happen ?, where has God been? Bruckstein knew Wiesel in fact they grew up and went on the same train to Auswitchz two voices of the lost town. A writer worth being rediscovered he brings this town alive with it characters that jump off the page Bruckstein gives the voice to these ghost from the highest to the lowest in the town. Have you read either of his books to be translated?

84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

Epistolary work

Source – Personal Copy

I sometimes like a change and like most of us book bloggers, we all love books that are about books and book people. Here is a great epistolary work that contains the letters sent and received from the 50s through to the late sixties by New yorker Helene Hanff she was a playwright her early books covered her struggling to get a foot in the New York theatre scene. Later she wrote scripts for Elery Queen. Marks and co a bookshop of the title based at 84 Charing cross road published and advert in the Saturday Review of Literature that they could get hold of ut of print books this leads to the letters that form the book as Helene a well-read woman had struggled to get certain books. I have tried to find the advert in the online collection of the Saturday Review of literature but haven’t found it just love to see the original advert.

14 East 95th St

November 18, 1949

WHAT KIND IF A BLACK PROTESTANT BIBLE IS THIS? Kindly inform the Church of England they have loused up the most beautiful prose ever written, whoever told them to tinker with the Vulgate Latin? They’ll burn for it, you mark my words.

It’s nothing to me, I’m Jewish myself. But I have a catholic sister-in-law, a methodist sister-in-law, a whole raft of presbyterian cousins (Though my Great Uncle Abraham who converted) and an aunt who’s a Christian science healer, and I like to think none of them would counternance this Anglian Latin bible if they knew it existed(As it happens, they don’t know Latin existed)

The Bible incident the wrong Bible was sent they later sent a better copy.

What follows is a series of letters that see Marks finding the books well FPD as they sign themselves in the early letters, Boks from the likes of Hazlitt Stevenson. The cost of these old but as Helene says fine books too good for her Orange crate bookshelves far better than their modern counterparts she has brought in the US. There is humor at times when they send a bible she calls a Black protestant bible and says it had ruined the Latin version in the translation to English as she said she was Jewish but has Methodist and Presbyterian relatives. As the book moves on Helene finds she is talking mainly to Frank Doel who is the main buyer for Marks and co. She discovers the hardship of post-war Britain makes her choose to send a food parcel from Denmark here she writes after sending it with concerns about if the owners are Jewish as she sent Ham to the bookshop but no everything was ok she receives letters from other staff on the side thanking her and wishing her well and looking forward to meeting her. But the main body is her and Frank as he hunts down the books she wants but life means she struggles to get to the UK.

Dear Miss Hanff,

We are glad you liked the “Q” anthology. We have no copy of the Oxford Book of English Prose in stock at the moment but will try to find one for you.

About the Sir Roger de Coverly papers, we happen to have in stock a volume of eighteenth century essays which includes a good selection of them as well as essays by Chesterfieldand Goldsmirth. It is edited by Austin Dobson and is quite a nice editon as it is only $1.15 we have sent it off to you by book post. If you want a more complete collection of Addison & Steele let me know and I will try to find one.

There are six of us in the shop, not including Mr Marks ancd Mr Cohen

Faithfully yours,

Frank Doel

For Marks and Co

Her love of Q lead to a later book I’d love to get about how Q influenced her reading

I love this book I have a special VMC hardback I brought a number of years ago it has the follow-up. The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street. Which finally saw Helene make it to the UK. This is a window into a bygone world Marks and co is gone and most of the shops that made up Charing Cross road have gone over time. It’s hard to split the book now from the film for me though I did feel the film was well cast the humor of Helene that came across in the letters a sort of deadpan wit was well portrayed by Ellen Burstyn. Frank equally was played as a straight-laced English man by Anthony Hopkins. I have a number of books she mentions I have been a fan of Arthur Quiller couch or Q as he was known as the editor of Oxford book of English Verse which I have had for a long time as it was often mentioned on Rumpole of the Bailey which I loved as a kid. This is one of those books that reminds us why we all love books and reading and the bygone age when we had to hunt for books which we still do, well I do there are so many translations I would love to find like Helene I’d love to find an 84 Charing Cross road. Have you have read it?

The Catholic School by Edoardo Albinati

The Catholic School by Edoardo Albinati

Italian fiction

Otiginal title –  La scuola cattolica

Translator Antony Shugaar

Source – personal copy

I brought this when it came pout and was just daunted by its size and had read about 200 pages and then put it too one side which is a shame so when on Christmas eve I was looking for a book to read I decide to pick an epic and this was the book I decided to read and I am pleased I did. Edoardo Albinati started as a translator of books from English he has translated works by Nabahkov and Robert Louis Stevenson. He has written a ni=umber of novels but this is his best known it won the Strega Prize the Italian equivalent of the booker prize. The idea for the novel is that he went to the same school as the men that were involved in the rape and murder that became known as the Circeo Massacre. He also has taught in the prison where the same men were sent after they were convicted.

I never masturbated until I was old enough to be drafted and serve in the Italian army. Probably no one will believe it, but it is truth. I mean to say, it’s not as if I had never tried. I gave it a go many times, starting when i was just a kid. I  knew that my contemporaries were doing it, and I couldn’t stand the the idea that I was somehow different from them, But by the end of half an hour of autostimulation, woth my sex erect and flame red from rubbing, nothing happened. The application of mechanical movement hadn’t produced any effect, and I was just worn out and disappointed. It all struck me as strangfe and I was afraid I hadn’t really understood what I was supposerd to do, what t could try tthat might be better, might be different. I continued to have wet dreams or pollutions, as the terminology went, as I slept in the night, but if I tried to repriduce the phenonenon in a waking state, i could never bring matters to a fitting conclusion. Not once

Early one his own admison about his younger years and sex !!

This isn’t a straightforward novel I mean it is third in before the case and deaths are mention they elude too what the book is a dissection of the years that in Italy are called Anni di piombo in the seventies when Italy was in political chaos and violence ran free. The connection he has with the case is that one of the men that raped and murder one girl and left another for dead in a seaside town in the September of 1975 had been in the same year as Edoardo himself so this is him looking at the School upper-class catholic boys school a sort of Italian Eton but with added religion, San Leone Magno the school in question occupies a lot of the book he remembers the priest how they talked to the boys in a way he is looking why the boy’s men did what they did and he went another oath in life they were Neo-Fascist this is something he saw a lot in the bourgeois boys of his generation he describes arguing wh=ith his father he was of the left from a young age. Elsewhere he questions how they were taught to view women which were as sex objects this is held up when he sees one of his own priests a teacher hiring a prostitute whilst at school. A history of the school, Italy at the time, Catholic church the boys he knew the different paths they took everything is questioned why they did this maybe this is more an investigation and at its heart is the age-old question of nature versus nurture here and it comes out on what they were taught but also the atmosphere within an all-boys school the lack of having a female he even says those with sisters at home were better placed in the long run as they knew about women more than those that hadn’t. This isn’t a novel it is the quest for answers really and over 1200 pages you feel he has none but you can see why what happened with the killing was an accident waiting to happen to certain of his schoolmates.

The event that gave rise to this book is the so-called Circeo Rape/murder, spetember 29 1975: here in after the CR/M

What can rbe rightly asked about the case of the CR/M is whether the murder was a continuation of the sexual violence , one further step, more or less planned out on a contiunuum withthe abuse and toture and rape, or whether instead the rape was nothing more or less than a prelude to the murde, a prepartory phase. Beofre killing the girls, they wanted to have some fun with them. Or else: Having decided  to kill them.

He explains the orgin of the book in the case and we learn that he was in the same year as one of the men.

I loved this I love books that drift from here to there and books that haven’t story this is mostly told in the first person it is one man doing an autopsy on his life but also one of those three men that committed the crime. like Gunter von Hagens he takes apart the body of his life bit by bit and the society he grew up in. All in a quest to answer the simple question of why the rape of two girls and murder of one of them by these privileged three young men shock Italy to its core. It is hard not to see the influence of Knausgaard MY struggle came out a good 6 years before this book. But then there is also the same questioning mind that we see in Leopardi Zibaldone which questions things and also has a lot of Aphorisms Albinati has written forwards for books by Leopardi so for me there is a small element in the way he questions the events and life or SLM and his growing up, the church, being a male in Italy the male Italian view of women at the time. He drifts but it is highly readable almost like a documentary series in a novel form. Have you read this book or heard of the crimes involved?

Winstonsdad books of the year

Well, I only managed to review 84 books last year a miss of the 100 I try for every year. But with Covoid and maybe just a loss of focus I  was down well it’s a new year so let’s look back and I’ll mention some of the favourite books in the last 12 months here at Winston towers.

Billards at the Hotel Dobray by Dusan Sarotar

I always seem to feature a book or two from Istros books as they publish books I just seem to connect with here is such a case the second book from Dusan to reach us in English took a look at his home town and the events in world war two around the town of Sobota and the returning Jews and the Hotel at the centre of town life.

The roar of morning by Tip Marugg

This book is so atmospheric a man wrestling with his soul, and looking back over his life in the space of one evening as he drinks and the events that have lead to this dramatic night unfold before the roar of morning of the title those dark demons of night weight heavy in this book.

The bell in the lake by Lars Mytting

As they take apart the distinctive church in a distant Norwegian village Butangen the special sister bells of the church lead to the story of the twin that wove with four hands that lead to the bells being brought and the spirit of the village and its folklore.

Restless by Keneth Moe

Anopther publisher I have featured a lot in recent years is Nordisk books and here was a book that became the 1000th to be reviewed on the blog a man and sits and writes a letter to an ex but as he tries his personal story is told in bits another gem.

Grove by Esther Kinsky

Grove is a writer dealing with loss and what better writer than the poetic Kinsky I loved river her we see her coping with the death of her husband the English Translator Martin Chalmers we see the journey of her grief as she moves on and around the world remember her life with Martin but also her own earlier life.

A glass eye by Miren Agur Meabe

Another book that mixes both personal and history together. A story of a writer that has lived since her teens with a glass eye is mixed with a history of how the glass eye came about over the years an unusal book and one that should be better known.

Hunter school by Sakinu Ahronglong

Now if there was a single book of the year from me this would be this collection of stories we see how the Pawian tribe world is shrinking and how his father taught him to hunt but now even that isn’t being past on stories of a dying world evocative and heartwrenching these gems are why we read books in translation!!

Ankomst by Gøhril Gabrielsen

A woman is sent to a remote island to observe the migrating seabirds to see the effect of global warming but as she does the remote and lonely island and the space left from a lover that isn’t turning up see her descend into a sort of madness another gem from Peirene another one of those publishers I have loved over the years of blogging.

An Inventory of Losses by Judith Schalansky

A collection of short stories of things that are not there now from lost painting from the war to an island that only a few people saw an unusal collection of tales.

Venice The lion, the City and the Water by Cees Nooteboom

Well, I haven’t been to Venice but feel I have umpteen times now as this book brings every corner to light through the eyes of the wonderful dutch writer Cees Nooteboom a writer with an enquiring mind who recalls his first visit and the changes over the years as he rediscovers and uncovers the city on every visit.

 

Journey through a Tragicomedy Century (The Absurd life of Hasso Grabner) by Franci Nenik

if there is a thread through this year’s books it is personal history and here is another I reviewed two books by this writer here is the second from the new publisher V and Q the story of Hasso Grabner that lays bare the old saying the truth is stranger than fiction as here is a life of a german that saw the world change and had so many dealings in the events of Germany over that time.

When we cease to understand the world by Benjamin Labatut

Here another selection of personal histories and stories. That sees us learn the history of Prussian blue and the struggle snd descent into personal isolation of a mathematician that sees his rivals as enemies and tries to escape into maybe a world of maths beyond maths

 

Tatouine by Jean-Christophe Rehel

A suffers from cystic fibrous that works in a  Super C use his love of all things star wars and modern culture to make his mundane life seem better and his dreams of being on Tatooine in the Star Warsverse!!

Here is my books of the year. A  baker’s dozen of books it is hard to pick this year so many great books but for today that was my favorites last year. What were yours last year?

The white dress by Nathalie Léger

The White Dress by Nathalie Léger

French fiction

Original title – La Robe blanche

Translator – Natascha Lehrer

Source – personal copy

When it comes towards the end of the year I look at end of the year list for translated fiction and try and find a few books that have passed me by in the last year this is one such book I have read other titles from the published Les Fugitives a publisher that has been publishing interesting books by female writers from France over the last couple of years. This is the latest book written by Nathalie Leger. this the last in three books she had written about women she had discovered in her work as a curator of various exhibitions. This novel is based on a true story about the last few weeks in the life of Italian Performance Artist Pippa Bacca.

One of Guiseppina’s most important creations was called Eva Adamovich. Certain days, as her friends and relativesdecribed at the inquest, Pippa became Eva, and as Eva, whom Guiseppina had invented from head to foot, as Eva she had all the desirable assests : vivacity, daring , a tounch of cruelty – though it was all an act, her friends insisted. Dressed up as Eva, inhabiting Eva,she strode briskly throug the streets of milan in twelve centimetre heels, a tiny pair of shorts, a greem lame sweater and a boa, calling everyone “love” or “sweetheart”, like she was tough as nails letting it be nderstood that she knew all about mrn, that she didn’t trust them.

This was one of the roles she performed over the years.

This is a strange mix of real-life and a personal memoir and the writer thinking about the events that lead up to the last few weeks of the life of Italian performance artist Pippa Back. As we find the events that lead Pippa to run in a white wedding dress from Milan to Jeruselum in the wedding dress as a walk for peace and to do performance using people she knew along the way as the trip was a video for a later date. This sparks an inner journey that is taken by the writer on a journey through her own parent’s divorce and the bitter affair that she viewed from her mother’s side and the fact that she was abandoned when her father ran off with another woman. Meanwhile, we see events in Pippa’s life like when she played Eva Adamovich a role she played. in high heels and short shorts. Also a thread about performance art over the years. Pippa makes it to Turkey. When her sister doesn’t hear from her this leads to a search and the sad end to her walk for peace.

The artis, her name is Jana Sterbak, wove wire into a long, straight dress with open arms, long sleeves and a round neckline that stands on the floor some say like a shelter, other like a cage, and belted at the waistby an electrified filament made of nickel chrome that makes the dress light up when someone approaches. The dress stands errectg, possessive and threatening, welcoming qand repelling, it is called I want you t feel the way I do ..(The Dress)

Another dress sparked by the wearing of the dress by Pippa bacca in her walk for peace.

I am leaving the end of the book and the last section where the writer views those events that end the walk this is a book about the writer as much as Pippa Bacca. What I Like is the way little events in the life of Pippa make Nathalie think of her own life. This is a mix of c=fiction biography but also a creative enquiring mind. It is about those mind journeys that we all take when we read about or discover some new fact or life story that is what we have here the sparks of a mind those journeys the two take through the book and how Pippa walk although cut short inspired a personal introspection of the writer I will read the two earlier books in this loose trilogy. them two both inspired by the work she has worked on over the years. Have you read this book did it inspire you? This is why we read books in translation those books that break the mould in the Form.

 

Storm Birds by Einar Kárason

Storm Birds by Einar Kárason

Icelandic fiction

Original title –  Stormfuglar,

Translator  – Quentin Bates

Source – Personal copy

It been over a year since I have reviewed an Icelandic novel which is a shame as it is one of those countries that most of the books in translation I have read over the time of the blog I have enjoyed. This book when it arrived appealed I am a fan of films that deal with the weather and the sea the likes of Perfect storm or the finest hour to name two. So when I read that this is based on actual events that happened in 1959 and the events that lead to a number of boats getting in trouble. The book is written by Einar Kárason. He has been writing since the late seventies his debut novel from 1981 was also translated into English as Devils island. He has since he has written over fifteen more novels this came out in 2018.

When the young deckhand Larus had said farewell to his parentrs and waved as the willys drove away, he went up Mavur’s gangplank.He went to the heelhouse and reported to the first mate who was there, who told him that he crew beginning to turn up and everything was almost read, sh he should go and find himself a berth in the deck crew’s quarter,  forward under the whaleback; he could then get himself a cup of coffee from the galley Larus carried his kitbag accross gthe deck, opened an iron dorr andf then another one beyond it, and made his way down a couple of steps. There were two cabins, and from both came loud voices, drunken talk and clouds of tobacco smoke, and Larus wondered whether he dar go in there

Larus arrives on the boat and sees the old sea dogs bel;ow deck.

Storm birds is told about the crew of the trawler Mávur which in which we are told the event of late February in 1959 as the fishing trawlers head from Iceland to the fishing grounds around the Grand banks just off Newfoundland. This was also the setting for the film and book The Perfect storm. The events of the voyage to fish is told by a young man Larus a young man of just 18 that is sent of by his parents although when his fellow crewmates arrive he gets embarrassed by them as they are a collection of salty seadogs and he is the new boy. The skipper has them knocking the ice of the boat as the weather starts turning to freeze the boats as the weather worsens we see the harshness of the sea that cruel sea of Monserrat as he had described it during the war years. So as they reach the fishing grounds but as it comes clear the boat and others around them are in distress they work  22 hours a day just trying to get through any downtime is spent forgetting the weather as at one point Larus talks about the books they are reading the radio Operator book chest were he finds war stories and biographies. another is reading Laxness. The story is on the edge as we find if they all make it as they try to get out of the weather back to the safety of Harbour. The events show how they dealt with the conditions as they find out what happens to the fellow fishermen on their boats just voice in the distant some too far away to help.

Larus continued to turn the pages of his book of maritime diasters when ever he had time to read, and its accounts became all the more horric because he knew they had been so close to such a tragedy.

The mess was often busy with card games in the evenings, and sometimes they played poker for matches or cigarettes.Some of the crew lounged around reading the various contents of the radio operator’s book chest – biographies, war stories; one of the engineers was reading Laxness, Iceland’s Nobel Prizer Winners, and would occasionally shake with silent laughter

Larus describes what they do in the free time on the boat.

This is almost a thriller as the tension is always there from their setting off but it is soon the men against the weather as the waves rage and the ice forms as the temperature sinks down. That is what is handled so well in the book is the conditions from the struggle keeping the ruining parts of the boat’s free so they can carry on. and struggle this is the classic of man’s battle with the elements that we have seen before from those North Atlantic convoys of “The Cruel Sea ” to the comradeship and battling spirit of the fishermen in The perfect storm as we see how a crew battle with nature itself and we find the true power of nature. This is a short book but full of colour and works in English as the translator brings the colour and conditions of the voyage to life. If you like an adventurous man against nature books then this is one for you. Have you a favorite book in that genre?

 

 

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