That was the month that was May 2021

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

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

Book of the month

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

Non-book events

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

Next month

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

What have been your highlights over the last month!

Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri

Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri

American fiction

Original title – Dove mi trovo

Translator – by the writer herself

Source – personal copy

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

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

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

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

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

In Spring

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

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

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

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

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

Elegy for Joseph Cornell by Maria Negroni

Elegy for Joseph Cornell by Maria Negroni

Argentinian fiction

Original title -Elegia Joseph Cornell

Translator – Alison A. deFreese

Source – personal copy

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

Notes for a short Biography 1

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

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

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

The Duchamp Dossier

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

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

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

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

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

 

April 2021 that was the month that was !!

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

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

Book of the month

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

Non book events

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

Next month

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

How was your month reading-wise?

 

Winstonsdad Booker international longlist guess

It is that time again when I choose the books I think will be on the longlist when it comes out in two days I have left it late but is was just to try and read a few more books as the list this year is just books I have read.

Fracture – Andres Neuman

Two Huge events in Japan the end of the war and the dropping of the bomb and then the nuclear disaster following the tsunami a few years ago viewed from one man’s perspective he had been at both events. I’ve long been a fan of Neuman so lets hope we see him on the longlist again.

The Art of Losing by Alice Zeniter

Three generations of an Algerian family show the post-liberation years leaving Algeria and settling in France and the feeling of never fitting in and then fitting in and loss of identity a true epic.

A Musical Offering by Luuis Sagasti

Another writer from Argentina another writer I am a fan of her we have a collection of stories the Goldberg variations are a theme in them at times.

Tower by Bae Myung-Hoon

Another interlink story collection here we have a super skyscraper in the near future that is its own starte and the madness of the mega city in these stories.

Hunter School by Sakinu Ahronglong

A son tells of his father but also his heirtage a dying culture in a series of stories about learning to hunt and growing uo in a world that is slowly disappearing.

Earthling by Sayaka murata

I feel that breast and eggs may be the Japanese book on the longlist.  but I did like this one and haven’t read the other yet as it is on my to buy list which seems to never quite shrink lol.

The Pear field by Nana Ekvtimishvilli

I always have a book from Peirene on my list and this story of an older pupil at a special needs school where abuse is happening has taken a younger pupil under her wings. As the poverty following the collapse of communism is being felt. will he make his way to America?

Catherine the great by Olja knezevic

We follow Katarina as she goes from a teen to adulthood as Yugoslavia falls apart. I haven’t read the Fig tree I only brought it a few weeks ago so will have to get to it soon but here is another title from Istros books. A publisher woefully missing from the longlist over the last few years

The Bitch by Pilar Quintana

A book that really touched me a story of a dog heartbreaking at times as it is an untamable feral dog. World editions have published some great books the last few years lets hope they get one on the list this time

Journey through a tragicomic century by Francis Nenik

A strange the fiction real life is told in this great novel about Hasso Grabner from new publisher V&Q books Large than life view of German and the East German through a man that had lived life through it all . they had three books out this year all could make the longlist.

When we cease to understand the world by Benjamin Labatut

A collection of stories from how Prussian blue got its name to the drug Goring ti end his life, then trying to find the hermit-like French mathematician Grothendieck my favourite in the collection

We’ll call you by Jacob Sundberg

Foot in the mouth bad job interviews this fun collection of stories would be a change for the Booker list a book that shows human nature at its best and worst with a large slice of humour !!

At night all blood is Black by David Diop

Vengeance from an African soldier during world war one when his best friend is killed he takes the lives of those that killed him. A corner of the war that hasn’t been written about much.

There is my Baker’s dozen as ever I think I may only have a few right but let’s see what makes the cut. As there have been some great books again over the last twelve months. Have you any highlights for you

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

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

Irish fiction

source – personal copy

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

Stephen’s heart jumped suddenly.

-Dedalus, sir,

-Why are you not writing like the other?

-I..my..

He could not speak with fright

-why is he not writing, Father Arnall?

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

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

-Dedalus, sir

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

-The cinder path sir

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

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

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

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

-A long time father.

-A month, my child?

-longer, father.

-Six months ?

-eight months,father

He had begun. The priest asked

-And what do you remember since that times?

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

-Anyuthing else, my child?

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

-Anything else, my child?

There was no help. He murmured:

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

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

 

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

Happy St Patricks day !!

Winstons score A+ one for my cannon!

Wretchedness by Andrzej Tichý

Wretchedness by Andrzej Tichý

Swedish fiction

Original title – Eländet

Translator – Nichola Smalley

Source – sent from the translator

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

That was the month that was Feb 2021

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

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

Book of the month

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

Non-book-related events

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

Month ahead

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

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+

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