Angel Station by Jáchym Topol

Angel Station by Jáchym Topol

Czech fiction

Original title – Anděl

Translator – Alex Zucher

Today I am in Czech Republic and a book from a writer who I have once before his book The devils workshop I reviewed in 2013. This book is part of a loose trilogy this is the second book being Sister silver (which is in the 1001 books to read before you die). Tool was in a rock band in the 70s and 80s he also because his father was a dissident he wasn’t able to go to university so he had a number of jobs such a stoker, construction worker and coal delivery man. I wonder if tat is where he observed the characters in the book.  and during the velvet revolution he wrote for the an independent paper at the time that would become an investigative magazine Respekt. He lives in Prague where the book is set it is set around the angel station which at the time the book was writer is a rough working class part of Prague.

His new job had seemed pretty fun at first. He’d never come across anything like it in his reading. But he soon realised it was wretched work, worse than all the rest, the kind of work that takes only the most severe extremes from the pristine flames and squalid filth that go into it, and first scars, then destroys whoever stumbles into the furnaces’ path. The guys who worked down in the factory basement were the true lowlifes. At first time he’d felt like a spy in enemy territory. Till it all ran together for him

I was remind of Hrabal

The book follows the lives of people that live in. and around angel station in the late 1990’s just as things in Prague are changing this is a place that has change this is a Moment caught in time. We have a collection of characters around the station we meet through or in passing with our main character Hooks he is a drug addict and has mental health problems at one point he is called Hooks the screw up and this is a man at the bottom of society an off relationship with Vera as he tries to get by in life. As we follow them shoot hop drugs and trying to get by along side this we see the other waif and strays around this rough working class station the religious preacher , the shopkeeper. this is a look at the harsh underbelly of a big city this is a time before Prague was the Prague of now the crime and dirt of the post soviet era is still there as we see capitalism creeps in.

But hooks, Hooks the Screw-up, says nothing. And Brownie comes again. And Hooks squints. And brownie comes again. With Jams, smokes, and stuff. Even a dirty magazine. He knows what comes in handy. But Hooks says nothing. Not out of stubbornness, he’s ashamed. He just can’t. He stopped talking little by little, like this: he turned see-ch-le-ss. But brownie talks. Including about Lubya

The crazies, who got used to Hooks like a new chair, and the doctors, who keep their opinion to themselves, everyone walks right past each other, jabbering away, just there somehow

Hooks is a twisted soul with lots of his own problems just trying to get by but is on as Nine inch nails put it a downward spiral.

this is a tale of its time which is the mid 90 it is like a lot of books around them The Will Self,  Irvine Welsh and Douglas Coupland to name a few it also has a dirty lit feel to it has nods to  Czech writers of the time (There is an obsession with rubbish I find sometimes in Czech Lit or is that just me) I was remind as the is a description of working by a furness and burning stuff (which has a bad scene in for animal lovers) which remind me of Hrarbal but also at times I was remind of Ivan Klima works of course these were writers before and around the time Topol started writing also I was struck with the black humour and world that could also remind me HIlbig the bleakness of this world of course both wrote curing and after post soviet Europe. I said in the intro this is a place caught in amber it is a place long gone in fact the sort of place described isn’t there or is there in big cities but isn’t at place like Angel station which is now been gentrified like many of the places that were like this in Prague or say Berlin. The book is a world of lost should in fact many years ago I used the term flotsam and jetsam to describe a novel set in a working class district in Paris and this is the same it is the washed mop and washed out of  society. I was a fan of Topol and Zucker his translator which always seems to capture the writers voices so well in his translations. Have you read any books from Either ?

Winstons score – + A lifting the stone and seeing those c aught underneath scurry around

Necropolis by Boris Pahor

Necropolis by Boris Pahor

Slovenian Memoir

Original title – Nekropola

Translator – Michael Biggins

Source – personal copy

We all have books that sit on our shelves for years and this is one such book I had brought it bout two or three years after it came out so about 8 or 9 years ago intending to read it I had seen a review and it looked but as we all do it got stacked and then forgotten well not forgotten it had been in my line of sight in my reading room as it a Dalkey Archive book and their section is nearest my chair so maybe when I was flicking through the tv guide I tend to prefer to record and watch things these days as so much that is on is just pants it was late last month when it was Holocaust memorial day or near it I saw a programme and saw Pahor name and was reminded I had intended to read this as he has written about it and isn’t Jews he is also from Trieste in Italy as he was an Italian Slovene. Anyway, I watched the show which if you live in the UK should still be on Iplayer The man who saw too much. It saw Alan Yentob visiting Boris who is the oldest surviving Holocaust survivor he was in his mid-twenties when he end up in the cap after the fall of Italy when the German took over they sent him to a smaller camp the book came about from his return to the camp at Natzweiler-Struthof one the smaller camps.

The shadows of the dead are far away. But maybe they approach when darkness covers the mountain and the terraces are buried under the snow, for there are no tourist then. When the shadows come, they do s they used to; they lay the dying down on their snowy biers, then stand in formation, not waitingfor a man in boots to count them. In total silence they asses and wieght the meassages that drift towards them from the noisy world of the living

There is so many horrific pasages like this that prink to life the unliveable events in the camps.

As he heads to the Camp he is sent back and the book is him recalling all the events that happened in the 13 months he was in the camps. There is always an event or some stroke of luck or is it luck that happens that meant certain people managed to live to tell the story. This for Boris, it is the fact that as he says Slovenians have a real knack for languages he spoke his own and Italian but also a number of other languages when this is discovered by a Norweigian doctor at the camp he is given the task of Medical orderly as he does this it means overtime he goes from camp to camp as he observes the horrors of what the concentrations camps had from the piles of clogs to the disease dysentery described in such detail it will make your skin creep as he tried to help those he could but in most cases it was hopeless.

On a later morning tthe Dachau parade grounds are an enourmous garbage dump, with countless shovels heaving paper, wet rags, broken clogs, and filthy striped bundles onto it out of washrooms windows, among the mattresses that cover the large field are unwrapped paper bandages, worn wooden spoons, and a knife fashioned in prehistoric times, Mattress with wet stains empry, lacking the forms that made the identations in them.Mattresses with naked bodies. Bodies with wounds.

I’ll stop there as the rerst of this passage is so horrorfic.

I won’t say much more as it is a book I would love others to read as he is still alive at 106 is a real testament to the will of a human, I was reminded of a man I looked after that was in his mid-80s and had long outlived what others had expected him to live. What I liked about this is that it is one of those accounts we haven’t heard much about that is of the smaller nationalities that the nazis persecuted. In fact, he had fought in the Italian army in which he was conscripted earlier in the war. He does capture here the real horror of the camps things like that bodies being brought to the ovens so horrific as much as you don’t want to read always say you have to read to remember then events like this won’t happen but as events in recent days show one man will or fear can have a real effect. One of the recurring images in the wooden clogs they wear is the way they over time seem to grow bigger as they shrink in weight but also the piles of those taken of the dead. Also the striped uniforms they wear.  His voice needs to sit alongside the likes Leivi or Appelfeld or Rachjamn as all survivors of the camp he is one of the last. I was so fortunate to have met  Aharon Appelfeld years ago just shook his hand. when he won the old IFFp prize and heard him speak a real honour and one of the moments I won’t forget.  I also visited our UK Holocaust memorial Museum which is in Nottinghamshire a small but poignant place they have survivors come and talk it is a place worth visiting and remembering the horrors. Have you read this book or another book about the Holocaust from the survivors I think those are the ones we should read as they show the horror as they lived it which no one else can quite capture as well.

Winstons score as I always say I won’t score a book like this just say read it !!! books like this need to be part of every reader’s journey.

Stu’s year of Books winstonsdad best of 2021

I am late to the mark here with my best-of list basically I’ve been reading other Blog and Vlogs best-of list for the last year and completely missed that I had not done my own hitting the ground review and reading-wise it isn’t till now I have decided to go back over the last year and pick those books that have stuck with me. Now this may be a different set of books from highlights I have pick of the months of last year as I feel books change after we read them some grow some just stay others just wilt away. So I am not a huge stats person to now I am moving forward using Goodreads a lot more as a way to track my reading and also gain some end of year stats. I reviewed 91 books from 30 countries. I had want to read more African books last year I had read a few more but there is room for a couple more this year. I read books from North and south America, Africa , Europe and Asia but missed books from Oceania and the Pacific which I need to fix this year.any way here are my books of the year I am doing them in the order I read them in the year.

At night all blood is black by David Diop

This tale of two African soldiers in the trenches a story that hasn’t been talked about a lot it follows what happens when your best friend is shot and the enemy is there and you have to get revenge.

30th April 1945 by Alexangder Kluge

Anyone that has followed this blog in the last couple of years will know a writer I am championing and absolutely love is Alexander Kluge here with have vignettes fact and fiction that circle the world on the day that is near the end of world war two.  His books are rabbitholes for the mind it is hard not to pick the other book by him I read but I will resist anyway go out pick him up !!

Tower by Bae Myung- Hoon

I read a hell of a lot more Korean books this year than I have previously and this was one that really stuck with me a futuristic tower building a dystopic world of interlinking stories that in place are funny.

A musical Offering by Luis Sagasti

I’m seeing a theme her of interlinking stories in the book here is another collection that has music at its heart and a diving board for the tales with like Kluge a mix of fact and fiction I loved his previous book I think he is my favourite Latin American writer at the moment

In memory of memory by Maria Steponova

Oh well, another book that drifts as she goes through her grand flat she looks back on her own families history and her homelands at the same time a book that is in that grey area between fiction and non-fiction in a way.

Elegy for Joseph Cornell by Maria Negroni

Oh another collection here of prose and poetry piece that area a bio and tribute to the artist Joesph Cornell a lost gem from Dalkey a man that like to wander his home city of New york

The cheap eaters by Thomas Bernhard

A new translation of one of his lesser-known books a man is drawn onto a group of men that eat the cheapest meals every day in a government-run restaurant in Vienna. I am a long time Bernhard fan and it is always great to add another title to the list of books I have reviewed by him.

The return of Caravels by Antonio Lobo Antunes

Like Bernhard Antunes is a writer I love and this a bok that mix the past and those seafarers returning to Modern Lisbon much to there horror a writer that always deals with his own countries past so well and openly.

To see out the night by David Clerson

A writer whose novel I loved returns with a collection of short stories, I said in the review I am not a short story fan well going through this years choice I think I am a bigger fan than I think anyway QC have been brought use some great books from Quebec her we have people turning to great apes and secret cities under cities.

Special Needs by Lada Vukic

As many of you may know I work on a ward caring and helping get better people with Learning disabilities that are in crisis so I was wary of this book as it is hard to capture that voice of someone with learning disabilities without it seeming wrong but for me this is the best such voice I have read it is such a voice of someone with Autisms view of the world.

 

3 Minutes and 53 Seconds by Branko Prlja

A series of vignettes form a bildungsroman using the writers love of music and the songs for each year I like this as a lot of the songs I knew some I loved other I didn’t but it was a great way to show the upheaval in the  Balkans in his teen years having to move to a new city and his use of music to convey that another underrated gem from Dalkey

Three Bedrooms in Manhatten by Georges Simenon

I have been working through the Penguin books as they have brought out a lot of his books in New translations here is a book from his time in the US capturing those dark post-war years before the shining fifties to lost souls in a big city.

Well there they are my twelve books of the year as ever I feel I am on my own journey in books I love books that have interlink stories of vignettes around themes and also champing small presses and writers I have loved for a long time. What were your books of the year where did your journey take you last year did our paths cross?

 

3 Minutes and 53 Seconds by Branko Prlja

3 Minutes and 53 Seconds by Branko Prlja

Macedonian fiction

Original title – 3 минути и 53 секунди

Translated by Paul Filev

Source – personal copy

Branko Prlja grew up in Sarajevo graduated from the Josep Tito high school in Skopje which he moved to in his teens as the Balkan conflict start and Yugoslavia fell apart he made his home in Macedonia. He is a writer and graphic designer he set up the first prize for Electronic literature in Macedonia as well as the KAPKA (Creative activism through parody, criticism, and allegory) organization. This book came out under his pseudonym Bert Stein which he has published two books under that title of this book is a nod to the average length of a single but is about the time it takes to read each of the chapters that follow the 20 years from 1984 as we follow an Unnamed character growing up in similar circumstances to that of the writer. One boy growing up as the place he remembers fell apart and he start a new life in Skopje.

That winter the temperature dropped below -20`C, but it didn’t prevent my dad from taking me skiing on Mount jahorina.

The song ” Where the streets have no name”, whioch was playing on the old cassette player of pur green 1982 Lada Riva, sounded as it it was coming from afar. The rhythmic sound of the guitar mixed with the hum of the car going up the mountain road as snow -covered evergreeb trees sped past. My dad delibertely jerked the steering wheel left and right, causing the car to skid and spin toward the shoulders of the road covered with huge deposits of snow, while we nearly split our sides laughing. I was happy

I remebr U2 in a VW Golf as we crossed germany years ago.

This is a slice of Bildungsroman that follows our narrator as he grows up from being seven when he first here Michael Jackson thriller remember the video which was a nod to the 80s horror genre of films what follows is a memoir of sorts that ties the music of each year to the growing up of our narrator from the USA to Africa song the following year the end year of Tito reign is seen through the young boy’s eyes. the last few years after the Winter Olympics as the cracks slowly appeared as the country of Yugoslavia becomes a collection of what is now six republics. He was listening to songs by U2 and Simple Mind’s accompanied his memories of the time. Those little memories like a thing alike the design of a cigarette packet was maybe a nod to the future graphic designer. The turn of the nineties saw him in Skopje as he had hoped to return to his home town but as events unfold he has to stay and start his life in Macedonia. What follows is his teen years I loved the music he picks most of which I remember and loved some I didn’t but it showed the power of music as a trigger to memories as he start to publish his first books.

The Guitar on U”‘s “Numb”, catching the world unprepared. Music became a thumping heartbeat, a machine propeller, a car engine … I listened to ant thought about my Einstürzende Neubauten, who’d been making music like that for years … it seemed that opop rock music was evolving and catching up with rap, which was always experimenting. Insane ion the Brain by the timeless Cypress hill and Bacdafucup by the short lived Onyx breathed new life into the scene, whil Body coubt blended metal with rap was a challenging concept. my heavy metal friends teased me for doing it, but hey , that’s a completely different story.

I remember all these I missed seeing EN when they keft a U2 tour early back in the day.

I enjoyed this book I like a bildungsroman as a genre of fiction. So whatever the time and place the is always some connection to our own years of growing up and Brankop choice of music is such a great way to connect to our past what I re3member as ai read is not just Bramko characters memories which is a thinly veiled of the writers own life. Songs Like U2 remind me of my time in Germany, Nirvana I remember drunkenly watching the shambolic first tv appearance on The Word then lastly Chop Suey which My best friend loved and his young daughter danced to all those years ago. This is a short read as Peirene call a movie book a book to read instead of a movie and here it will bring you memories if you are my age of the songs and the times I worked with a number of refugees at the time the Balkans fell apart so could connect to Brankos memories I work with a lad that had grown up in Sarajevo and was in German in the early nites a story similar to the story of the character and many at the time. Do you remember these years and does music connect you to memories? Another hidden gem from Dalkey.

Winstons score A – A Bildungsroman that is a thinly veiled story of the writers own history

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 !!

 

The No World Concerto by A.G Porta

The No World Concerto by A.G Porta

Spanish fiction

Original title – Concierto del No Mundo

Translators – Darren Koolman and Rhett McNeil

Source – Personal copy

I first came across A G Porta when I started reading up about Roberto Bolano a few years ago as the two were close friends from the mid-seventies and they used to talk about writers when they started and they decided to write a book together which came out in the early eighties. I do hope their joint book comes out at some point even the title grab you Advice from a Morrison Disciple to a Joyce fanatic. Then after this  Porta disappeared for a number of years Bolano said for these years Porta just read and reread James Joyce which I would love to do just have a long time to wallow in Joyce. Since the 99 he has written five novels this is the only one so far to be published in English.Lets hope it isn’t the last to be translated.

The screenwriter stands with his luggage, facing the hotel, having just gotten out of a taxi, thinking he ought to know or at least have a good idead, bow the story he intends to write is going to end. He certainly seen better hotels than this, but today he can’t afford to pay for onem because he no longer gets his advances he used to, and he’s lost a well-paying job teaching literature at a schiool for gifted kids. Now all he has left are some savings and a miserable pension, and he doesn’t now how long they are going to last, for life n the neighbouring country’s capital is so much more expensive that the city he just left.

Maybe Madrid for Paris we don’t know but maybe as he arrives to work on the screen play the screenwriter.

 

The book has a couple of main storylines that at times link and than others seem to follow one another over time. First, we meet an old screenwriter who has shacked up in a hotel after a number of years of writing failures he is writing a screenplay about a young girl that is a piano prodigy who is at the point of becoming a huge talent as she is tasked with taking on one of the most challenging works of a modern composer. So as the story unfolds the tales start to mirror each other as the reality of the screenwriter and the young pianist start to blur as the worlds they are in at times almost touch always mirror themselves. As time seems to move forward and back as at some points they are lovers and others each seems to be working on works about each other this is a book that has so many layers. It is a book that left me wanting for more from Porta in the future which is a good thing.

Her skin, he thinbks while caressing her arm, examing every fine blonde hair, delicate skin, he thinks while envisioning her in a tuxedo, or perhaps just wearing the jacket, double breasted but unbuttoned, with a bowtie around her neck; her mother’s high heel shoes, whichare clearly too big for her, the only other item of clotyhing covering her naked body as she stands before him, aloof and domineering, despitebeing only a girl. Thus the screenwriter imagines her, repenting his decison to get rid of his camera equipment, not that he could realizise vision onstage in the little theater where they rehearse, let alone the church in which they’re going to perform their concerts. He caresses her delicate skin. What does No World mean ?

Is he seeoing her or writing her the lines blur at times as the older man dresses the young girl.

 

The stories remind me of what Borges may have done if he had ever written a novel the mirroring of place and time the blending of the present and future is often something that Borges did in his short stories I was also reminded of those books I have read from Noveau Roman movement there is a sense of removing a sense of place from the book and also making the character’s general. The people are in this book as we are never given any names for the main characters just what they are and though they are in a big city there is no real sense of a single place in the book. The book is considered one of the best Spanish novels in recent years. This is a modern classic from a writer that maybe should be better known in English. He had a big part to play in the early career of Bolano and it is a shame his books haven’t been as widely received as Biolano but he is a writer that is challenging for the reader. Have you heard of Porta and his connection to Bolano?

Winstons score – B

Our circus presents … by Lucian Dan Teodorovici

Our Circus Presents by Lucian Dan Teodorovici

Romanian fiction

Original title – Circul nostru vă prezintă

Translator – Alistair Ian Blyth

Source – review copy

I return for a second visit to Romania this year and this time it is a modern writer from the Dalkey Archive series for the country. Lucian is the manager of the Romanian literature museum and also a festival of literature and translation. He has also written for the Guardian and edited a series of books called the Ego Prose in his native Romania. He has written for numerous publications and has published prose, drama, and screenplays including a feature-length one for this book.

I don’t know , why, but when I was little — it happened a long , long time ago — my father deemed it fitting ti tell me a story, an anecdote, a joke – yes, I think he told me it in the form of a joke — about a circus. So a circus comes to town (I don’t remember which town), and the poster looked something like this

The main attraction!

Our circus presents a unique act:

The birdman !

One day he flies, the next day he dosen’t

He’s not flying today!

I was remind of the Hemingway or not six word tale babyshoes for sale never worn which leads you to wonder like this joke !

The unnamed narrator of this book could be called the birdman. Every morning he steps onto the ledge outside the window as he tries to commit suicide will this be the day he jumps of the ledge or will he carry on like he does most days. This morning he is seen by a neighbour above who wonders what he is doing there. The birdman is a name from something his father said he had seen on a sign in a circus or was it something his father thought was funny. but as a child, he put a smile on his face. As he goes on he spends time ion the church and later on sees a man trying to hang himself from a tree as he saves this man carries it on his back. It turns out the man does this sees a rescuer appear and then hangs this leads to a tale of been hung with a bag of stray dogs being hung and trying to find the man hung next to them as he said he wanted to hear people say he died like a dog. As the two become friends we find our narrator had messed up his first sexual encounter after his father’s advice. he visited prostitutes after that as he and his friend or as he calls him the man with Orange suspenders. But what happens when someone really dies that he knew will this death change his outlook on life. Add to this a third friend that is trying to sleep his way to death.

Now I’m heading toward the station, for the first time truly desirous — and, what matters, fully aware — to spend the night with a prostitue. All that happen back then is in the past. My father, my mother, my brotherare far away, transformed into memories from many years. And I must admit, not even those memories are very pleasent. And so no one can prevent me now, at this very moment, from deciding for myself. There will certainly be no one waiting for me back home, seated on the toliet. And, above all, no one else will have to pay for the girl of my choice.

Haunted by what his father had told him in an ackward sex talk with his father as a teen !

These two and a fellow friend are all trying to take their lives with various reasons why they are doing it and various ways of doing it some alone some wanting to be found others anting someone close as they do. There is an air of desperation amongst them all. This reminds me of a couple of writers Beckett which of course the down and outs of Waiting for Godot come to mind as they talk. But I was also reminded of the American short story writer Raymond carver there is a similar feeling of the lost souls in the world these are scrapping the barrel of life. They just seem stuck in a loop trying to end their lives. This does have dark humor behind it at times yes the subject is very dark but the circle of the suicides are more cries for help and maybe a way of being seen by anyone. I was drawn ion by the way Alastair had translated the voice of the main character you are hooked from the first page to his life and what brought him to where he is? Another example of why Dalkey archive is so important to be kept running thanks to Deep Vellum. I wonder if anyone would be interested in later in the year doing a Dalkey archive week maybe?

Homage to Czerny by Gert Jonke

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Homage to Czerny by Gert Jonke

Austrian fiction

original title – Schule der Geläufigkeit.

Translator – Jean M Snook

I return to Austria with my next stop on German lit month and a writer I have featured before with his book the system of Vienna an inventive novel based around the tram stops in Vienna. An experimental writer Jonke. He studied many things history, philosophy, music theory and german studies but never complete any of his studies. He won most of the big literature prize in German including the Austrian state literature prize. In this book, he is said to have wanted to explore remembrance and the present.

Everything should be exactly as it was at last year’s party, answered the photographer’s sister. Whispering so that I wouldn’t understand, she consulted with her brother, who was passing by, after which he looked at me sternly, sizing me up, and with an expression that showed he was aware of the great responsibilty wieghing on him, hesaid in his most serious voiceas if he werer entusting me with managing the empty coffers of the city council. If you promise not to talk about it and not to give anything away, we can tell you something important, albeit confidential

The nioght has taken plannning and is run like a three at drama.

The book itself is two stories a novella book and a short story. I am focusing on the short story as it captures the feeling Jonke wanted and the is a remembrance in the present. It focuses on Anton he is a photograph and his sister Johanna they live in an elegant house with wonderful gardens they have decided the theme of this years garden party they have this year is the theme is that everyone has to do the same thing as the year before. They hired a painted Florian to create a cycle of painting that exactly copies the garden and then cover the garden with exact copies in pictures of the garden a cellist has to play his cello music on a piano. The guest is a mix of the high-class art and city officials which have a bizarre discussion about smoke in a part of the city between two officials who Jonke just refers to by their titles town planner and city manager  and then they have a musical pond, But how can you keep everything the same in the year that has passed it is the feeling of trying to hard are narrator fritz is a guest and he is maybe an unreliable narrator the second tale involves to brothers fritz again and his brother Otto not as talented as his brother he is a piano mover by trade I lived this comic observation Saki in style almost. They are stuck in an attic with a lot of pianos.

Several ladies and gentlemen who held high positions in the city administration had seated themselves on a corner of the terrace where there was a good view of the city lights at night, of course they were always thinking and talking about many and diverse problems of the municipality and , relaxed by the festive mood of the evening, they were exchangong their opinons on these matters much more freely than usual and in an informal manner.

A sort tongue in cheek look at the absurd nature of the city council and its officals is the case in the book!

Jonke was interested in using fiction like a musician and this is a piece that maybe shows how he used rhythms and phrases the title refers to the man called the godfather of modern piano teaching Carl Czerny Jonke tries to lift his style onto fiction. I am not a huge fan of classical music but the title of the second story refers to a piano work from Czerny. For me, it has feel of last year in Marienbad which sees a man return to Marienbad and see a woman he saw the year before but she had forgotten him. it is a book about what we can’t capture no matter what they do they can’t repeat the past and the more they try the more distant they go from the year before so to copy the garden in every detail is like capturing a photo it is a moment but the same moment a year later is different. this also clicked to another film scene that of the film Smoke and the picture that Auggie takes every day at the same time initially the other character flicks through them but he is told to look and yes its the same spot but the moment light day even on the same day a year apart is never the same a repeat is always slightly different. This is a thought-provoking work and I am pleased I still have two more works from Jonke on my shelves to review in forthcoming years, Have you read him ? what do you think to his style of writing?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I now move to Dalkey Archive they bring out a lot of books in translation. This is from the Afrikaans writer Ingrid WInterbach , she has also published books under the pseudonym Lettie Viljoen. This book follows a lexicographer who has moved to Durban to do a book on lost Afrikaan words. On her arrival, her home is broken into and collection shells she has spent a lifetime putting together are gone the police don’t seem bothered so she sets out to investigate her self the book deals with love, loss, and obsession it says. Have you read it

Scar by Sara Mesa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scar by Sara Mesa

Spanish fiction

Original title  – Cicatriz

Translator – Adriana Nodal-Tarafa

Source – personal copy

I am back on with Spanish Lit month but also another for Women in translation month. Here I have one that ticks both boxes a Spanish novel from the writer Sara Mesa. The translator chooses to translate this book after reading a copy at a Dalkey archive applied for a literary translator program when she was given this book to read and after reading it new she wanted to Translate it.  She has written a number of novels they all seem to have similar themes to this of male to female relationships and the power within them. She has been a finalist for the Heralde prize in the past and has lived in Sevilla since childhood.

They discuss their childhoods ofteb. They hadsimilar experiences. They get excited telling about their memories, as if they were trading cards. Public school. Working class neighbourhood. Pelikan pencil cases, seasame street, blue sports jackets with white stripes, La piara ham pate for afternoon snack. Sonia scans a childhood picture for him, hoping to get one from him in exchange where she can make out his current features.

The two have a lot in common and chat about there childhoods.

Scar is a story of two characters. Sonia, she is an ordinary woman and goes on the internet chatting in a forum about literature. As she tries to escape her boring life as a data processor entering figures in a computer. So she becomes someone else at night. she meets the mysterious Knut Hamsun we never know his real name. The two starts by talking and over time a relationship develops. He starts to try and get her to write better with first packages of books from writers and also about how to write. But over time he starts to try and get Sonia into other positions by sending her lingerie expensive La perla, she thinks he stole them more and more come and he starts to try and get her mind as he sends more and more CDs, lingerie, perfume even then shoes stockings as the gifts pile up and this odd relationship gets strange as she is both drawn to this man and then scared about what he really wants. from her. She in the time of there relationship marries but after time the relationship with Knut begins again.

The amount you are able to read is amazing, she tells him. Knut comments extensively about Proust. He doesn’t stop insisting that she should read him too, but not just part of his work, not just one book, his entire oeuvre. He suggests that they study him together, that they analyze his work in depth. I would like nothing more in this world than thatr he sayshe claims to have read Buddenbrooks in five days, the brothers Karamzov in four. In another email he copies marge segments of Against the grain and asks her what she thinks of des Essintes’s views.

They both love books and she admires how well read he is

Sara is another of the talented writers to have emerged from Spain in recent years. This is a novel that brings to life a corner of the modern world that hasn’t been touched in literature much that of the online relationships the world has moved on so much in the last twenty year a fair few relationships start online now. This work also shows the dangers of that world. in Sonia and Knut we see a power relationship as Knut lavishes gifts on Sonia a woman caught in a boring world trying to get out of it is a perfect catch for this man. This is a man obsessed with Sonia and also he really wants to model her by sending her the lingerie although she h=never feels right in it and often it never fits her probably. It touches those dark corners of the human world as this is a story of codependents as much a Knut is a dark figure in this book Sonia also wants Knut. This is a wonderful insight into a new world of online forums and what happens when people meet and fall in love or in a co-dependency! Have you read this book or any of the Dalkey Spanish lit series?

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