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?

Vlad by Carlos Fuentes

Vlad, a novel by Carlos Fuentes

Mexican fiction

Original title – Vlad

Translators – E.Shashkan Bumas and Alejandro Branger

Source – personal copy

I move to Mexico for the second stop on this year’s Spanish and Portuguese lit months. I am reviewing the writer that until the last ten years was the best-known writer from Mexico Carlos Fuentes. One of the great figures of the Latin American boom this was the last book he published while alive. He is best known for the death of Artemio Cruz he wrote over twenty novels in various styles and was often considered as a possible Nobel winner although he didn’t win that prize he won all the major prizes for Spanish language fiction.

“I wouldn’t trouble you, Navarro, if Davila and Uriate were available. I’m not going to call them your inferiors- subordinates sounds better – but neither will I forget that you are a senior partner, primus inter pares, and so are higher ranked in the firm. I am entrusting this task to you because first and foremost, I consider this a matter of utmost urgency ….”

Weeks laterm when the awful adventure had ended, I recalled that, at its beginning, I had chalked up the absence of Davila dn Uriate to luck. Davila was off on honeymoon in Europe and Uriate was tied up in a Judical embargo …

He is given the case it seems great as he is just getting back to work after his recent loss Yves.

This is a short book and is a clever take on the Vampire story. It imagines that Vlad the Impaler has decided he needs to leave Europe and has chosen Mexico city as his new home. The book opens as an estate agent is Yves Navarro a lawyer and he estate agent wife is tasked with finding a fort like home which will be easy to defend, against intruders,  have an escape tunnel and Blacked out windows. The two of them and their daughter are just getting over the death of their son. This is all for the strange  European Vladimir Radu. but maybe is he really Stokers  Vlad the Impaler. Vlad is putting himself into the couples live as he tells the narrator he loves his wife’s smell. Slowly, as he starts to get his way into the lives of this grieving family as he has viewed Mexico city and the way it is as his chance to feast on the city starting with Yves and his family. Could he bring their son back for them?

“Yes, boss” I said almost seetly, sensing his need for consolation. While feeeling myself vunerable because of my affection, memories, and even gratitude.

“You have to hurry. It’s urgent. Have a look at these papers”

He let go of my hand I took the papers he proffered and then walked toward the door. He said, as though from a great distance;

“From Vlad, you can expect nothing but evil.”

and in a lower voice

“Do you think I don’t have scruples or even a conscience I don’t have a fever burnong in my soul?”

I turned my back on him I knew that I would never see him again.

Yves starts to find out the real truth about his client !!

This is a very short book more of a novella than a novel it has echos of the great story by Stoker Yves and Harker in the original book both have wives or finances that Vlad seems to connect the two stories. Then him moving westward as well first to London at the turn of the century a sprawling city and the comparison is apt with Modern Mexico city the city is huge and perfect for Vlad. Then he has the grief of the family and the family story Yves and his wife Asuncion mourning the loss and trying too move forward. this is subtle take there isn’t the violence as in the Stoker book it is more about the menace and characters also about loss blinkering the main character as he heads with his wife into unkn=own waters with this odd European man who is he really with his black outfit just making him seem dark. An interesting last book from one of the great Latin American writers. Have you read Fuentes?

 

The House of Ulysses by Julian Rios

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The House of Ulysses by Julian Rios

Spanish fiction

Original title – Casa Ulises

Translator- Nick Caistor

Source – personal copy

Julian Rios wrote his first two books together with the Mexican writer Octavio Paz. He was described by Carlos Fuentes as The most creative and inventive writer of his nation. He is influenced by James Joyce and of modernist and postmodernist writers. He was the editor of the Espiral collection in Spanish that published books by Thomas Pynchon, John Barth, Severo Sarduy and many other writers. He has had a number of his books translated into English and currently lives just outside Paris

Silence! somebody said, and the Cicerone moved on through the white and gold room, explaining the characteristics of those barrel-shaoped Martello towers, about twelve meters high and with two-and-a-half meter thick stone walls, which the English scattered round Dublin and the coasts of Irelan to defend against a possible Napoleonic invasion in support of rebels seeking Irish independence. According to the Cicerone, the matello tower at Sandy Cove was a century old. The Order for it to be built been given on June 16, 1804 – exactly one hundred years earlier

The opening as Stephen and his two friend in the Martello tower as he is also shot at .

Rios talks of Books being Born out of Books as Ulysses is born out of Homers work this book is born out of Joyce’s great book but also the great city of Dublin and it last legacy. It is set out as five characters a Cicerone as he walks through Joyce’s literary day and three other readers as set out in the early chapter ABC a mature female reader from then on called A. A younger female slim dark hair in a Ulysses t-shirt or as she then knows B. Then a tiny man grey hair and beard, with a pipe the Old critic all three have a copy of the illustrated Ulysses and are joined as well by the Man in the Macintosh a sort of computer nerd that uses A mac to give info. The Narrative then Follows Blooms and Daedalus Day chapter by chapter. As most of know the book I pick two highlights the opening chapter Telemachus which saw Buck and Stephen waking in the Martello tower a connection noted here to the Med from the origin of the tower design in the Casa’s of the Mediterranean. This opening chapter is so heavy in means(I have and still love listening to Rejoyce Podcast by the Late Frank Delany that spent a long time on these opening lines) A lot is also mention here with the imagery and use of language. Then jumping forward we have one of my favourite homer Joyce crossover in the Cyclops chapter when Bloom in the pub has an argument with the Nationalist another  chapter steep in meaning from Bloom being a lapsed Jew to being Irish the three readers and the other discuss the chapters, scenes, the setting Dublin 16th June 1904, times and other pieces that Joyce wrote that interconnected to the book.

Two eyes are better than one, A added, puhing his steel-rimmed dark glasses onto his nose with his forefinger as he made to enter the green room.

Yes, C said. That is simpole conclusion of “Cyclops.”

In the land of the blind, the one- eyed man is King, siad A.

“Cyclops” also tells us that all narrow-minded nationalism is blind, C said.

And stupid, A added. Blinkered Jingoism.

Yes, C said, In “CYClops” Joyce satirized intolerance nationalism, xenophobia, Chuvism, Fanaticism, and the intolerance of some Irsih radical groups such as the Fenians, caircatured here in the figue of the Citizen

How Apt this passage is for Now in our times in 115 yers how much has changed !!

This is a tough book to describe as it is a novel about reading deeper into another novel but also the meaning of that novel now in a way. Ulysses is one of the greatest books ever written a lively, broady description of one day in Dublin Life an Event that in Joyce’s own life was his first date with his beloved wife. The characters all reflect parts of Dublin, Joyce and Joyce’s love-hate relationship with the city. Through his five characters, we see what each part of the book meant with the frequent tables telling use the time of the day the location the symbolic items colour, organ, technique, meaning, and correspondence. Now for me, you have to have read or tried to get well into Ulysses to read this book it like many books around Ulysses makes you want to reread it. I also have just got Anthony Burgess old book just back in print also at one-timed called Re-joyce and yes it is time to revel in Joyce one again and for me, this unusual novel is a great starting point for this year’s Spanish Portuguese lit months. Are you a Joyce Fan? Have you read Ulysses have you read this without reading Ulysses?

Garden , ashes by Danilo Kiš

Garden, Ashes by Danilo Kiš

Serbian fiction

Original title – Bašta, pepeo

Translator – William J Hannaher

Source  – personal copy

It is the week the Kaggy and Simon choose to do a book club for a certain year this time around it was 1965 I am very late so I have this and hope to get another if I’m not to tired over the weekend I’m on nights and the third book late next week anyway the first book I choose was as with the other times I have taken part in the book club was published in its original language on the year here 1965 saw a novel by the well known Serbian writer  Danilo Kis a writer that has maybe not been grabbed by the English speaking world in translation a new edition of his best book known  Encyclopedia of the Dead came out last year from Penguin and Dalkey has translated a number of his books in recent years but still feels under looked I have even not reviewed him until today I have another couple of his books. He was born in what was Austro Hungary but is now Serbia and was Serbia after Austro Hungarian empire split up and was invaded by Hungary the region that  Kis lived in his father was a travel writer and Hungarian speaker. His own childhood was the bases of the earlier books in his writing life so the father-son relationship is one that reflected his own. 

Inside, the name “Singer” is incised in large letters. WHere the sides widen, the comany emblems appear symmetrically, cast as gigantic spiders. On more careful anaylysis, however we discover – not without astonishment – that the spiders plaited into the eylets of the iron side are not really spoider at all but rather a muchanical shuttle – magnifed a hundredfold – with a spool from which the thread unwinds, as thick as a cord, magnified and therefore difficult to recognize. like the letter s giving the illusion of spider legs . The emblem is painted a golden yellow, like a nobleman’s coat of arms , and so are the arabesque on the laquer head of the machine

A siunger sewing machin grabs Andi’s eye here .

This is a story of Andi Scham childhood one that saw them move around the Balkans and Hungary as his father Eduard a travel writer who is working on his third bus, ship, rail and air travel guide the third vol he has done of this book about traveling. The father a drinker and one of those characters that jump of the page Kis own father must have been a similar type of man an obsessive with his subject that he is in love with Travel. He is almost a preacher for travel. But at the same time given the time he is working on his book as events around him the chance he has to escape the Nazi shadow start looming til he one day he just disappeared. A childhood that sees the young boy showing his world from the family sewing machine described in detail as what we see is the Holocaust told through the eyes of a young boy that lived through it. from them sheltering in the woods trying to avoid the oncoming storm the love of his mother this is a touching tale.

My father had been vainly offeruing hus new timetable, on which he had worked for years, for publication. The manuscript lay in a drawer of hios desk, retyped, covred with red pencil marks, crammed with corrections in the margins, glued-on inserts, footnotesm memoranda, supllements, preambles, replete with strange symbols and miniature ideograms.The ideograms were the ones my father had cut pout aof his 1933 timetable and had patiently glued onto his new manuscript, giving it a specail charm

His fathers life work the travle guide

Kis used Eduard Scham in a couple of his books and this is thought to be a largely autobiographical view of his own life so like Andi  Danilo lost his father in the middle of world war two to probably Auschwitz but what makes this is the detail from the sewing machine to his mother carrying a tray early in the book it shows a world disintegrating before our eyes through the naive eyes of a child. A great first choice for 1965  book club and the first Kis on the blog and not the last I think. Have you read his book?

Agnomia by RÓBERT GÁL

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Agnomia by Róbert Gál

Slovakian fiction

Original title –  Agnómia

Translator – David Short

Source – Personnel copy

I had ordered this book last year as the description of it grabbed me as it was One long, unbroken paragraph, blending, memoir, fiction and philosophy. That description grabbed me plus when I read an interview by Frank Garrett with Gal about his use of Aphorisms in his books. Gal has lived in New York, Brno, Berlin and now Prague all these crop up in this book. He has had two earlier books translated to English this is his third book to be translated to English with a fourth to come out this year, Gal has said of his writing he writes in condensed form, in fragments, in aphorisms, and in blocks. This book is 70 pages long and follows a writer called Robert Gal from New York back to Europe.

We’re in New York, she repeats, and the words reflects states of different worlds like cannabine wafts of neat tomorrows from dug-up todays.We need to pinch ourselves to believe. She’s looking at me with that serpentine gaze of a young Prague intellectual who has come to New York at her parent’s expense to seek analogies between this and that and to talk twaddle. There’s a pile of books on the desk from which she would be forever copying out bits and pieces. Once she took me to a pseudo-intellectual hellhole to meet some feminists. The whole ambience had me feeling quite sick.

I remember night in Germany in the late 90s like this before the internet when the books we read mattered more than titbits of books.

The book opens as Gal is the lone Slovak in a group of Czech and Slovaks in 1993 where he met Eugene at a party a brief encounter but he tells us about riding pillion with a girl there discovering complete works of Stravinsky, Schoenberg and Beethoven stories like Mike Patton who encourage people that spat at him in concert by telling them to spit more. that drift into a female photograph doing nudes and a sid story of Kant pissing on the stage. Time is intersped as we drift forwards and back marks like Yeltsin’s death music he liked such as John Zorn’s Six Litanies for Heliogabalus a piece that features Mike Patton a sort of looping back in time. Too see Zorn play live his self the Zorn connection is one that rings true about this book.

an, say, a Slovak, as a Slovak, feel democratic anywhere other than in Slovakia? And this leads consquently to other questions, which , once one has mentally posed them and immediately answered them, lead to a gradual appreciationof why most citzens of small, insignificant countries remain struck in them as if there were no other option.It isprecisely in small and insignificant countries that we encounter writers who take it for granted that hey are reproducers of reality, but why reality needs to be reproduced rhey don’t reveal. Claiming – as we do -that reality shouldn’t be artistically reproduced but produced, we also should probably seperate “Work of art” from “art” .

Here he hits the nail on the head about his homeland and the place in the world but also maybe his voice is a new one that needs to be heard .

Zorn is an avant grade experimental saxophone player that has overridden genres in the styles he has chosen to play over the year and this in the Narrative form is what Gal is trying to do. We talk a lot about the current rise of Autofiction. But for me, there has been another slow rising style of writing that has been around but that last few decades has been growing a genre-defying sort it has its leader in a writer like Sebald, Bernhard, Magris even earlier Emil Cioran. In recent times books like river and Panorama all do similar mixing memories of a time, dreams and places into one narrative that is about what is being for one person where it is a trip to the center of Europe or a river remind one of another river and time. Here Zorn and his singer of choice Patton link from Prague to New York many a similar link her in Gals work that mixes his experiences with small philosophies on life. This book is like free form Jazz drifting unprepared startling and compulsive reading. Another challenging writer from Slovakia I have read three books from there in the last few years they are showing literature finally coming out of the shadow of Czech literature with a new twist on the Mittel European work that like Bernhard is sometimes just thrown on the page in one long paragraph.He has a good website here .

Have you a favorite Slovakian writer?

 

Sometimes I lie and Sometimes I don’t by Nadja Spiegel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes I lie and Sometimes I don’t by Nadja Spiegel

Austrian short stories

Original title –  Manchmal lüge ich und Manchmal nicht

Translator Rachel McNholl

Source – personal copy

So today I move to a rising star of Austrian fiction Nadja Spiegel. She has won a number of prize for her prose, spoken word and poetry. This was her debut collection and came about when she went to Dublin for the first Irish European literature night for Austria where both the publisher and her translator discovered he flash fiction prose style. As her translator puts it her style is like that described by the Irish writer Eilis Ni Dhuibhne it is more poetic than the novel, more suggestive, dealing more in metaphor and symbolism. Ni Dhuibhne believes natural short story writers combine the sensibilities of poets with those of novelist, and I believe that this is very true of Nadja Spiegel.

She said she knew it would end. She said Lets just run away. Then she said nothing. That was on the Monday. We said nothinfor so long that I couldn’t tell where my body ended and hers begin.

She said she knew how it would end, when it would end. I have a few images of her, nothing else , just the memory of her smell:

Caedamon and seasame

I was remond of Maggie smith talking about the bed of Lentils see remembered in her romance with a grocer like Malika’s family spice shop.

there are twenty short stories in this collection some are from a mere few pages to longer other stretches to ten pages. But they are all that many call flash fiction. Where we have a quick flash into life. The narrators, on the whole, are female voices young woman that find themselves in tough places. But in others we see a narrator talk about falling for the new girl a plain girl  Malika she has a romance with a popular girl Linda the girls family own a spice shop a short romance and an ending that remind me of Alan Benett’s talking voices. Another told by a third voice about a boy younger than here Elias and another girl Lisa younger than Elias a tale of a budding romance or was it as the last line of this story is also the title of this collection sometimes I lie and sometimes I don’t. An inner view of modern Austria through female eyes. A glimpse into the lives of late teens and early twenty-year-olds worlds.

In school on Monday a girl throws her water bottle up in the air and catches it with one hand, takes a bite out of an apple and sens a squrt of juice flying. The girl is pretty, Lisa is her name, and she has a boyfriend by the name of Elias. The thing about names is : there’s one more letter in Elias, an e more than there is in Lisa, and the girl laughs and sweeps back her hair, and is Elias is the extension of Lisa and lisa is there within Elias.

Elias is not the kind of guy who falls in love, he only loves, for instance.

Elias has fallen in love with me says Lisa, and sometimes Lisa’s right and sometime’s she’s not.

I’m happy for you both.I say

and sometimes I lie and sometimes I don’t

The story of a romance in the story Lisa Elias and me also has the colllections title as it’s last line .

The stories are vibrant short bites that left me as a reader at times wanting more the problem with flash fiction is they can be too tempting at times they are like a Thorntons selection box once you open you well I just have to have a couple at a time and this is the case here I read the collection in an evening like a voyeur of this modern Austrian lives glimpse behind the curtains of the lives from people in ruts to budding romances. All told with a bittersweet and humourist view of the world. Nadja hasn’t quite the bitter view of Bernhard of her homeland but she fits nicely with the likes of Linda Sift where she also showed how to get by in another view of modern Austria  and even Jelinek in romances starting I reviewed woman as lovers and there is a similar detached nature to the world in that book that flows in these stories as we just get the merest glimpse of there worlds. A new voice and an interesting short collection from an interesting writer. Have you a favorite European short story writer?

Transit Comet Eclipse by Muharem Bazdulj

 

Transit Comet Eclipse mc

Transit Comet Eclipse by Muharem Bazdulj

Bosnian fiction

Original title  – Tranzit, kometa, pomračenje, kucajte

Translator –  Natasa Milas

Source – Personal copy

I enjoy seeing writers whose books I have enjoyed having more books out in English. I read Byron and the Beauty when it came out a couple of years ago. I have met him briefly when I was in London a couple of years ago when we had a mint tea in Red Lion square with Istros books Susie. He has now moved to Belgrade to live after a number of years living in Sarajevo. He has written over nine novels and been translated into twenty languages this is his third book to be translated into English.

The land through the looking glass, tis is how I always thought about Moldova. I always have optical instruments on my mind, I think about mirror a great deal, maybe that is why this very thung crossed my mind. On the other hand. I didn’t think in this manner about Bulgaria. It’s simply as if something mysticalwere floating over Moldova. Tnje people were different, it wasn’t just the language. If I say that bulgaria is underdevolped or primitive, it is clearly like this within the world that I find familar. Iytis similar enough to other countries that Icould compare it to them, even to Bulgaria’s detriment. Moldova is difficult to compare ith anything,that’s how different it is

Moldova another linking factor in the three stories described here in the first novella in the collection Transit

 

The book is made up of three novellas linked by motifs of Elippise, transits or comets. The book opens as we Ruder Boskovic a Jesuit scientist who is traveling in the company of an English ambassador James porter from Istanbul to Petro grad. The journey for Ruder is to catch the once in a century transit of Venus. We capture his description of the hinterlands of Eastern Europe as he feels Moldova is darker than anywhere else at night. But breaks in the journey means he never gets to see the transit. But later in his life, he sees a poem dedicated to an eclipse. The next story follows a young Moldovan student Marie Alexander she is encouraged by her father to make more of her self. She was born the year Halley’s comet made its 75-year visit to Earth. She meets a Bosnian called Bosko  who opens her eye to what the West is like. You see what is coming but she follows him and ends up in Dubrovnik in bad company. The last story is a story of a writer. It is hard not to picture this as a shadow version of the writer himself. He is in America as the famous total Eclipse that happened in 1999 is due to take place as he is studying journalism and looking back at the place of his birth Dubrovnik that is also the place of birth of Ruder Boskovic. But is the place where he interviews a young Moldovan girl Marie Alexander that had ended up working in a club there. As the writer has his eyes opened by Paul Auster’s New York trilogy.

Marie Alexander woke up early. Bosko was still asleep. Occasional snoring came from his bed, probably what had woken her. The sound wasn’t pleasent, but it moved her. That’s love, shoe thought, when you like the ugly things about the person you love. It was then that a strange thought passed through her head. Will I like his snoring in twenty years? she wondered. I will, she thought quicklu and quietly dressed.She tiptoed over to Bosko bed and stared at his leeping face. He was frowning.She discerneddark bristles on his cheeks and his chin , which had seemed smooth last night. The sleepy body started to toss around as if he felt her gaze.She didn’t want to wake him.She left the room in silence and closed the door

Marie imagines a future that is shortlived as she is with a man tthat isnt’t what he seems!!

This tackles a number of things mainly wanting to go to the west from the east. But it is also a nod towards Paul Auster a writer the Muharem has translated into Bosnian. We have a series of interlink novels where the first two are separate tales, similar locations. But different ages see one man trying to capture a once in a lifetime event in the west and a young girl following her father’s dream of a better life in Paris. are all tied up in the last story a writer that looks back at both of the two previous tales sharing his place of birth with Ruder and then having interviewed the young Marie at a sex club in that same city as we see her dream broken. These are like the events mention short lives and a glimpse into life like a comet Marie want to burn up the sky but are only visible for a brief moment like her dream of going to the west or Ruder dream of seeing the transit of Venus or a journalist missing the eclipse as he sits learning about journalism much further west. Muharem has captured what is the dream of many in the east but also the nightmare that is the reality of it with Marie’s story.

 

Everyday life by Lydie Salvayre

15647100385400L

Everyday Life by Lydie Salvayre

French fiction

Original title – La Vie commune

Translator Jane Kuntz

Source personnel copy

Another short novella from Dalkey archive and this by a recent Prix Goncourt winner Lydie SlavayreIts been a while since I featured a Goncourt winner. Lydie was born to refugees of the Spanish civil war. She grew up in southern France. Trained as a doctor with a degree in Psychiatry. She has published a number of novels. In 2014 her book Cry mother Spain (English title ) won the Prix Goncourt. That book was published by Maclehose she has also had four books including this one published by Dalkey.

I omitted one detail. She stinks.

The new secretary wears a vetiver scent, and I detest the smell of vetiver. There’s nothing I detest more in the world than the smell of Vetiver (After milk). It makes me listless, it gives me the vapors, migraine headaches. It makes me dizzy, nauseous, It makes me vomit

Every morning when I crack open the door of my office, the obnoxious stench of her perfume smacks me in the face. I stager. I can’t help it, I ve grown allergic to it. Like a police dog , I could sniff out its trail miles away, that’s how allergic I’ve become. It’s crossed my mind that she might soak herself in the stuff just to put me off, to make me go in the opposite direction.

The scent affects her but the reaction seems more than that in a way to me!!

This is a classic slice of an Office drama. It is about two sectaries Suzanne the narrator of the book has been at her job as the secretary of Monsieur Meyer for more than thirty years. so when this younger woman arrives she sees this as a real threat to her position as Meyers favorite. She starts to pick apart this new younger woman as they work together. She dissects her rival bit by bit as she is doing so you see the pent-up anger in this older woman as she sees her rival become more important to Meyer as her grip on her life is starting to slip. This is a woman not only losing her job but there is a sense she is getting old and that is the reason for her replacement not just to learn from her but also to easily slide Suzanne into retirement and also accepting her problems. This is a slice of life in an office the jealousies of office rivals the older member like an old lion marking her territory but like in Lion pack or Gorilla families that Alpha in the head has to succumb sometime and this is the moment caught in the book that breaking of an Alpha.

Because I’ve had a dull ache in my chest for seventeen days, I go to the doctor. He asks me if the pain spreads towards the shoulder and along my left arm. No. It’s just in my chest. As if it were digging a hole that opens and close,opens and cloes. While hes gliding his icy stethoscope over my chest, he asks what happen right before the onset of this pain. Imagine you’re straight path, I tell him, wwhich you can follow with your eyes shut, it’s so familar to you. Then suddenly, you no longer recognize it, even though everything you see is identical to what was there before. Do you know what I mean?

Her we see Suzanne has more wrong than we see an underlying problem !!

This is a fun book and a touching book and to do both at the same time is great it is a Tragicomedy of a woman fall. We see Suzanne ripping into the new girl. I was reminded of the scenes in the Office as the David Brent tries to capture his Job as the new man takes his place and that loss of the Alpha role well this is the same the role of being Meyers main secretary is the prize and the Older woman is describing losing the grip but she is seeing it as thou this younger woman has pushed her out but in between the lines there is the sense she is failing in her job but maybe age has caught up with her. She isn’t as flexible as her younger counterpart having got set in her ways as the world around her has moved on. There was that bittersweet taste in the prose that I find in the work of Bernhard the satire of loathing he wrote so well. Lydie has caught what happens when one’s life falls apart in a simple monologue another nod to Bernhard in a way. I was touch by her fall it was a shame like one of those football stars that shone but has stayed on the pitch far too long!!

 

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