Dear Reader by Paul Fournel

Dear reader by paul Fournel

French fiction

Original title – La Liseuse

Translator – David Bellos

Source – Library book

Well we enter the second week of Pushkin Press fortnight with a quirky french book. Fournel is a culture icon in France , he has worked in publishing and has written a number of novels he is also the secretary and president of the Oulipo , the french writing collective whose members include Italo calvino , Georges Perec and Harry Mathews te later with whom Fournel wrote a book with. he has also been a cultural attaché in London and Cairo .

The big boss , Monsieur Meunier , told me too ..

“Is that what he is called ?” Meunier ”

“Don’t you know him ?”

“only too well ”

So you know, He told me to bring you this ”

“This being what , precisely?”

“Er, it’s a reader, A kindle , an Iclone .One of those gizmos He said he’d put all your weekend manuscripts on it, it would take a weight of your shoulder.Do you want me to show you ? Look it’s like a screen with all your manuscripts on it .They’re on your genuine wood style virtual bookshelf.One tap and they open . There’s a heap of them . you’ve never going to get through all that in two days !Look this is how you open a book .”

Dubois get his device to read his scripts on instead of good old paper .

This book is an ode to books in a way , this age of e readers we meet an elderly french publisher looking back at Robert Dubois , is looking at the present this middle aged man is struggling to get up with the modern world of e books  and how his younger colleagues dress and talk ,  whilst struggling with the tech he looks back at a life in the books in france and even further a field with a piece about publishing in England. . So what is the constraint on this book in line with him being a member of Oulipo , that was to make the book that couldn’t be c hanged .His view was that in the future what the reader will interact with the written works they are reading so the works will be fluid .

I’ve set aside tomorrow morning for what I consider to be the finest bookshop in Europe: Mr James Daunt’s establishment in marylebone . It’s got a modest exterior but inside turns into a labyrinth. Yopu go from room to room and pass on section to another . Nothing but dark wood, stairs , gangways and books – all as English as its leather armchairs.Adele is daydreaming in the long room on the lower floor that constitues the travel section .daunt is a courteous host and takes me on an owner tour

His favourite bookshop is one of the great bookshops of London

This is both quirky and an Ode to the written world I was reminded of other books about reading and books. Thank you for not reading by Dubravka Ugresic , her book like this laments the changing taste of readers in her case the celeb world of books , in fournel book interactive books and reading may be on the way . Then there was Dublinesque by Enrique Vila-Matas  another publisher looking at the changing world of books as he take a pilgrimage to Dublin maybe to bury the modern book  and publishing like Dubois struggling with the move towards e-books .This is work on the paper of books and what that means , for books aren’t just the book but the art work the item themselves as it is pointed out here you can’t keep notes on an e-reader screen can you !!

What  is your favourite book about Publishing you have read ?

Bird in a cage by Frédéric Dard

 

 

Bird in a cage by Frédéric Dard

French Noir fiction

Original title – Le Monte-charge

Translator – David Bellos

Source – Library book

This is my third choice for Pushkin press fortnight and the first from the Vertigo range I have read , which is a collection of Crime and Noir novels from around the world . This one really caught my eye after Jacqui’s review . Now Frederic Dard is another like his fellow French language writer Simeon that had written an amazing number of books over 240 , a large number of those are from the series San-Antoine , a french detective whose name he choose by pointing a figure on the map of american and choose the nearest place to his finger he wrote 170 books in that series. Pushkin is translation a number of his books into English.

The place was like a fairy grotto piled high with glittering treasures. Christmas tree decorations were stacked on the shelves : glass birds, paper Father Christmases, baskets of fruit made of painted cotton and all those dainty balls as fragile as soap bubbles that help make a tree in a fairy tale.

I was next to be served.There were people waiting behind me

“What can I get you”

I pointed to a silver cardboard birdcage sprinkled with glitter-dust. inside it an exotic bird mak=de of blue and yellow velvet stood on a golden perch

The birdcage but also a dream like feel to the shop .

This is one of Dard’s novel of the night series , a series rather like the Roman Durs of Simeon that look at the darker side of human nature. The novel set in the build up to \Christmas and follows  Albert a man return to his home patch , his mother has died and it is christmas eve and he is back home  in his childhood home for the first time in a long time to bury his mother . He goes to the local area to remind himself of the past , he buys a little silver birdcage that some how reminds him of an image from the past . He then goes for a meal in  a local bar and  he’s meets a mysterious women who  is their with her daughter, but is this woman all she seems   how invites him to her apartment . But is she all she seems and is she leading him into the darkness. and maybe into a trap

She was leaning on me heavily.I could feel her womanly warmth spreading through my body. A troubling desire for her had been nagging me ever since we started walking side by side , with our hips brushing each other.

Ar one point i felt a shiver go through her.

“Are you cold ?”

“A bit”

“Do you want to go into a bar ?”

“i don’t want to see anybody ”

Albert’s  woman as they leave the bar is it a shiver of cold or something else !!

I was remind somewhat of works of David lynch with this where you are never quite sure if you are in a real world or a dream world there is a sense this is maybe Albert’s nightmare world . Did he get to his mothers and fall asleep and all the has followed is a dream. What is the mean of a birdcage , is he cage by his past , of is he now like a wild bird caught in a cage to be an attraction for some else . I kept half expecting a dwarf or a giant to appear like in a Lynch piece  . Dard use the bare bones to guide you through the story rather like Simeon his great friend there is a sense of the darkness with in the human soul . Another writer I was reminded of is Magnus Mills a writer that use the labyrinth of time and being drawn into situations so well in his books I was remind how easily his characters fall into a world they don’t know . I still shocked Dard hasn’t capture the English reader before if this is an example of his novel of the night series of books  I will be visiting the other Pushkin have been publishing as this is a classic dark evening read one of those books you can sit and read in a sitting no problem . Have you a favourite from the Pushkin Vertigo range ?

 

 

Portrait of a man by Georges Perec

 

 

Portrait of a Man

Portrait of a man by Georges Perec

French fiction

Original title – Le Condottière

Translator – David Belios

Source – Review Copy

 

“Pay In Blood”

Well I’m grinding my life out, steady and sure
Nothing more wretched than what I must endure
I’m drenched in the light that shines from the sun
I could stone you to death for the wrongs that you done
Sooner or later you make a mistake,
I’ll put you in a chain that you never will break
Legs and arms and body and bone
I pay in blood, but not my own.
This lyric by Bob Dylan from his Tempest album Has Gaspard paid in blood ?

Well this is an important book , as it was only recently published in France after David Belios , Perec’s English translator had rediscovered this book as a carbon copy Perec had kept , the book was mentioned in one of his other books and thought lost .it was Perec’s debut n0vel which at the time he wrote it he couldn’t find a publisher for ,and had been thought lost till it was found again .It is also an important book for this blog as it marks the 500th book I have reviewed here and the 50th novel from French to be review , as I got near to 500 books review I decide this was the one that deserved the honour of being that book .Georges Perec , was brought up by his paternal aunt and uncle after his parents died in world war two .He studied history and sociology at the Sorbonne , whilst at the same time starting to write .This is also the time he started to write this book .

Madera was heavy .I grabbed him by the armpits and went backwards down the stairs to the laboratory .His feet bounced from tread to tread in a staccato rhythm that matched my own unsteady descent , thumping and banging around the narrow stairwell .Our shadows danced on the walls Blood was still flowing all sticky , seeping from the soaking wet towel

The opening lines grip you , what has happened ?

portrait of a man takes as its inspiration the painting that is on the front cover of the book portrait of a man / the condottiere (the French title of the novel ) by Antonelo da Mesina .he use a man who is forging painting by this guy as his character in this book Gaspard Winckler is a master forger , he is working for Madera , who has asked him to copy this one picture  whilst Gaspard has stuck in the background just painting .the book opens as we see Gaspard moving the dead body of Madera , which he has just killed .We follow what happened in two parts the first is formed of an internal monologue as Gaspard is waiting for the police to find him , the events that lead up to the murder .How he became a forger and met Madera  .the second half of the book follows Gaspard after he is arrest and is being interviewed by the police .Gaspard struggled to get the painting on the canvas in the same way as Mesina had , is this why he killed Madera .

“Yes …more or less obvious .Forging isn’t a trade .It’s more like a rut .You get stuck in it .You get drowned .You think things are still possible … But you get tripped up by your own rope-trick .things don’t exist anymore … It’s difficult to explain .. How can I say .. You always do the same thing , you explore the same paths over and over ,you hit the same blocks again and again .

Gaspard explaining to the police what it is like being a forger .

Now I for one am very wary of lost books , the has been a number of them in recent years and they often seem to be the scrapings of a writers life .So I was pleased when this book wasn’t that no this is a book , that maybe at the time it was written was to new for the French readers .Perec is of course known for being an experimental writer and a member of the oulipo group , is this book like those books ,yes and no .It is a different way to tell a story in the two parts that form the book with the internal and the external descriptions of what happen  .It is actually the most accessible book by Perec I have read .The big theme of the book is maybe being False , what are we ,how are we if we just copy , what is the truth behind the murder ? As with some of his later books he has twisted the crime thriller genre to make an interesting study on the human condition . A fitting choice for the 500th review by this blogger a rediscovered book that actually deserved to be published ironically his first book becomes his last book as well , a very Perec thing in a way (maybe that is what he had in mind keeping the carbon copy ?)

have you a favourite rediscovered book ?

Twilight of Eastern gods by Ismail Kadare

twilight of eastern gods

Twilight of the Eastern gods by Ismail Kadare 

Albanian fiction 

Original title –  French title- Le Crépuscule des dieux de la steppe

Translator David Bellos from the french translation of  Jusuf Vrioni

Source  – review copy

“Light is meaningful only in relation to darkness, and truth presupposes error. It is these mingled opposites which people our life, which make it pungent, intoxicating. We only exist in terms of this conflict, in the zone where black and white clash.”

A louis Aragon quote seem fitting for Kadare as a writer in general ,source

Now the other day when I did my Nobel round-up for this year I did miss one name of knowing I had this on my pile of books to be reviewed that of Ismail Kadare .Kadare is the best known Albanian writer with nearly twenty of his books translated into english already .i have reviewed Fall of stone city and The pyramid  .Kadare has won all the major book prize around the world barring the Nobel ,he studied at Maxim Gorky Literature institute ,originally at that time he was a poet ,then wrote short stories eventually publishing his first novel in 1963 ,he left Albania as an exile in 1990 ,where he said” the writer is the natural enemy of dictatorship ” .Twilight of the eastern gods is about his time at the Maxim Gorky .

In Moscow Literary circle I had indeed heard a lot of talk about suicide .I shared with her the most interesting pieces of gossip that were going around .She listen without responding .Suddenly it occurred to me to tell her about Fadeyev’s treatment in the Kremlin hospital .

Some of his fellow writers fell before they had really started !Fadyev was one that Kadare studied with that did .

Well twilight of the gods is rather like the fall of stone city was and takes part of Kadare’s own life and fictionalized it .The time is 1958 and the young Kadare is in Moscow studying at the Maxim Gorky (this is a writers workshop like the well-known ones elsewhere ,but obviously with a twist they were wanting a soviet twist on the writers work ) ,when the news filters through that Boris Pasternak has won the Nobel prize ,earlier the young writer had been hand pages of this Banned  book ,why had he won this bog prize  .Why was this book of his banned ? Added to this is the writers at the Gorky ,the wanting of them to follow a style of Realistic writing ,one of the writers ,a French writer who was in love with the soviet system , Louis Aragon ,I have mention before as he championed Chingiz Aitmatov whose book Jamila I reviewed  another writer from the Maxim Gorky not at the same time but he wrote in the style they wanted a social realistic style .Then there is a growing tension between the writers own country Albania and the Soviet regime ,Hoxha the Albanian leader saw the soviets become to liberal .Then there is the last part of the book the city Kadare capture fifties Moscow so well where in some ways there is still a glimmer of light but behind closed door things are very different .

Even if she were to revert to her former friendliness ,to the particular variety of benevolence that most Russian babuskas exhibited towards foreign students ,I would never forgive her coldness she had shown me earlier .

I just has use this bit for the word Babuskas ,such a great word .

Now what can I say ,I  feel  Kadare is  a writer ,I can’t get enough of every time I read a book by him (Hence I tend to buy his one at a time every few years to ration them ) ,you feel he is one that had taken part of what he learned at Maxim Gorky ,but took it further this is realism ,but real realism ,the book originally came out in French in 1978 ,so he was critical while still in Albania and about one of the few regimes to still help Albania the Soviets ,brave moves indeed .Another way to view the book is a coming of age novel ,a writers coming of age surrounded by the cream of the writers in Soviet and soviet satellite regimes The young writer starts to see himself as a writer ,but also gather thoughts that he would later use in his books yes the is hints at thoughts ,ideas that he had since wrote about  in his novels .Although in his canon ,this is a minor book ,for any other writer this would be seen as a major book ,a writers coming of age written so well .Have you read Kadare ?

 

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