The Discomfort of Evening by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld

The Discomfort of Evening by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld

Dutch Fiction

original title –  De avond is ongemak

Translator – Michele Hutchinson

Source – review copy

I was pleased when this made the Booker longlist as I had already said I would review it today as part of a Bokenweek tour which I have taken part through over the last few years. I have long been a fan of Dutch lit so when the chance to review a book from one of the rising stars of Dutch Lit Marieke Lucas Rijneveld first came to notice with a poetry collection Calfskinwhich won a poetry prize. She grew up in the North Brabant area of The Netherlands where it is a large dairy farming area and religious as well. Her middle name was initially a fantasy friend when she was growing up but in her late teens, she took the name as a way to show her as an intermediate person. The discomfort of evening is her debut novel like the main character she also lost a sibling growing up.

“But he’s not dead” Mum said to the vet. She got up from the edge of the bath and extricated her hand from a pale blue flannel. She’d been just about to clean Hanna’s bottom, otherwise there was achance she’d get worms. They made little holes in the cabbage leaves. I .  was old ebough to make sure I didn’t get worms and I wrapped my arms around my knees to look less naked now the vet had suddenly come into the bathroom

The vet tells the mother it is fatal but this is the start of the world they know falling apart.

When ten-year-old Jas loses her older brother and one of her five siblings through a skating accident. At this point her world starts to fall apart.she is on the cusp of being a teen discovering her body but also struggling with the loss of her brother. From believing her family ios hiding Jews in the cellar aftermath of Foot and mouth is still felt in the community times are hard for the family these are dark times. From toads under her bed to strange events with cows on the farm Jas is trying to bring her brother back and help her siblings. As her mother stops eating and the father buries his head in the farm. Matthies is dead and they can’t mention him as the family struggles this is a portrait of a meltdown viewed from the eyes of a ten year but a ten-year-old with a weird way of dealing with her grief her self.

“How’s it going in the basement ?”

I don’t look at my mother but fix my gaze on  the floweery meadow on her apron, It’s possible that mum will move into the basement one day ; that she’ll find the family, the Jewish people that live there, nicer than us. What wikl hapopen to the three kings then, I don’t know: Dad is still incapable of evening heating up milk for coffeee. and if he lets it even tht boil over, how could he ever keep his children at the right temprature?

The family is spliting before Jas eyes.

This is a slow unravelling of a family through grief it is heartbreaking dark and mesmerizing at times. In the hinterlands of Holland, a ten year old narrates as her family falls apart from the loss of the eldest son. The parents are there but aren’t there this takes the book into a similar territory of books like lord of the flies. As Jas her sister and brother start to do thing that are strange and odd rituals touching animals touching each other as they have no outlet for their grief their actions turn. As they grapple with the cusp of adulthood and also sexual awakening tinged with disbelief at loss add to the odd world. I was reminded of Gerbrand Bakker twin in the setting a dairy farm in the hinterlands of holland also dealing with death. But this is a darker book than that was it is brutal death is never far away as anyone how has grown up in the countryside nature and farming can both be brutal at times. What are your thoughts on these books ? I reviewed this as part of a boken week tour her are the other stops

 

 

The roar of morning by Tip Marugg

The Roar of Morning by Tip Marugg

Curaçao fiction

Original title – De morgen loeit weer aan

Translator – Paul Vincent

Source – Personal copy

I move to the Caribean tonight and the most well-known writer from Curaçao Tip Marugg. The small island just off the coast of Latin America. Has a number of writers. I picked this up as it was part of the Margellos world republic of letters book collection. It is a collection I have reviewed books from a number of times and one that to say they pick books from around the world always seem to find gems. This was written later in the writer’s life he had written a number of novels he is described on the dutch Wikipedia page as different from his flamboyant friend fellow island writer Boeli Van Leeuwen as he was more melancholic, more focused on the individual. he has a touch of Latin American magic realism in this book.

A dearth of drink obliges me to go back inside to replenish my supply of Dutch courage, but soon I’m back in my old place under the neon strip, on the same lukewarm paving slab, flanked by my fresh provisions.

At moments like this, when there is not a breath of wind, the night speaks with a chorus of primeval voices; the vegetation in my garden pats, as if the densly planted bushes were gasping for breath; the indju tree moans; the tiny, nameless creatures that forage for food only when the it is pitch dark make rustling noises, far off, an exhausted goat wth its head caught in a fence utters a death rattle

A wonderfully evocative passage of being sst in the dark of night.

A man sits Scottish whiskey in one and Dutch beer in the other he is a low point of his life. In fact, the fact he has those drinks in each hand is stopping him using the pistol that is nearby. His only companion at this time is his dog. He has decided this is the night and morning to end it all in what he calls the roar of the morning, He has seen birds dive to the death in the cliffs. He spends this time reflecting on his past and what caught him there. He reflects on his sexual awakening. The time he spent on the mainland where he discovered books ass the clock ticks. Later he recalls an old man with a huge sexual appetite that used to get all the younger women around due to his position. The time draws towards the morning his mind drifts as the booze starts to affect his mind and he is one of those drinkers that see the dark dogs when in the pit of drink he imagines the world around him in a fire.

I Spent my tenth and most of my elevnenth year – probably the period in your life when you see and hear most new things – on the mainland with my Venezuelan uncle. The man was neither Venezuelan nor even my real uncle, But I  called him that because he lived on the mainland and was married to a Venezuelan woman. He  was an odd charact3er, but I guess he meant well. In early of the oil industry he had worked for She;;, but after spending some time among the oil tanks that mushroomed on the north side of the harbourhe felt a vocation to become a minister. He went to Europe to study and returned a few years later, not as a protestant minister but as an evangelist belonging to some obscure sect obsessed with showing mankind the error of its was and threatening hellfire and damnation

This one event left a mark deep in his life

There is a podcast called Nocturne that deals with the wee hours here it’s the early morning between 1.30 and 3.00 madrugada, as the Spanish call it those dark hours when the mind can wander and one is maybe at our lowest ebb is caught wonderfully here our main character is a man that is caught between his Calvinist upbringing and island life in his way. of life make him A man in torment on the verge of suicide is like Lowrys character Geoffrey in under the volcano a man caught up in the bottle. The sexual awakening at times reminded me of Marquez’s works in the description of sex. This is a brooding work of one mans life caught in those two hours as he drinks and thinks back. As he says there is nothing better than a glass of Scottish and one of Dutch is maybe the way he is caught between two places. Another gem from Margellos world republic and another new country for the blog.

 

Shadow Child by P F Thomése

Shadow Child by P F Thomése

Dutch autofiction

Original title – Schaduwkind

Translator – Sam Garrett

I was out a few weeks ago when I saw this slim volume fro this prize-winning Dutch writer. I read the blurb it concerned the death of his young daughter Isa and struggling with the words to cope with this death has been so touched by the book by Carl’s book by Marie Naja Aidt which saw her coming to terms with her son’s death in his teens. I wondered the father version of the same loss would deal with it. The words on the back of the book some up the title may be “missing word. A woman who lives longer than her husband is called a widow, a man without his wife a widower. A child without parents is an orphan. But what do you call the father and mother of a child who has died ?”

We, who were no longer allowed to take our child in our arms, adapted immediately. We learned to read lips, eyebrows, fingersI eben read backs and shoulders. I read footsteps,doorsm=,silences. Later they brought in the equipment, more and more equipment, We learned to read that as well, we learned the numbers and their relationship to respiration,pulse rate, blood pressure, We learned to ignore certain beeps, and could distingush unerringly between various drips and tubes, They provide us with explanations, the only ones at our disposak. We wanted to understand everything.We sought a handheld in every fact, in order to keep from falling,.Into bottomless nothing.

I was reminded when i sat by my mothers bed as she opassed away with all the equipment around her and having the feeling of bottomless nothing.

There is a lot about the future here and the moment of loss from Pieter’ point of view a stone that had broken. As his girl drifted off from them. The future they saw is broken a book shut what wasn’t anymore.It doesn’t linger on the reason for her death what was wrong but the aftermath and the space left by Isa the trying to carry on. The betrayal in those writers he lovedNabakov and Flaubert who had both written about child deaths in the prose here, Pieter, in his vignettes feels they let him down even says in Goethe’s piece about the erlking which ends with the line But in his arms, the child lies dead. Pieter says this should have been the opening line no the closing line of the piece. The vignettes show how grief can rip your heart out as we have lived with our grief for the last year since my brother in law took his own life these words are touching and show the raw emotions of grief.

You don’t have ablank page anywhere, there’s nowhere I can get through to my own blanket ignorance. You put full stops everywhere and pull doors shut behind you (Yes, even you. Herr Gehemrat Goethe. your poem should not have ended with ” In sienen Armen das Kind war tot * ,.That’s how it should have started)

*In his arms the child was dead.

Even Goethe wasn’t a comfot of those writers he lived to read just seemed pale in the darkness.

The lines on the cover about the missing word for the loss of a child this is like carls book was a heartfelt work on personal grief and if you have grief in your own life is worth reading to show that you are not alone on the journey and the journey maybe be short or long everyone’s trip through grief. With it short chapters and drifting in time we see how Piter meditates on this moment of loss and the problems it brings to the parents of a shadow child the gulf of loss or a future never had the coming to terms and the loss of Isa her self those last days of her life that he relives from various angles and approaches. I was pleased to have found this book it came out 15 years ago here so it has been out of print for a while. But if you find a copy it will be worth reading.

Winstonsdad Man booker shortlist 2019

I was going to not read the list and did my usual guess of what would be on the list and got it so far wrong I wanted to see what was in these books and yes I managed in a month to get nearly through them all bar hundred pages of the Can Xue novel which by the time this post is up I may have read them as I am on the road to Alnwick tomorrow and a short holiday. So my six shortlisted books are-

Drive your plow over the bones of the dead by Olga Tokarczuk

What happens when nature kicks back we see here when things start happening in the Polish hinterlands in a small community. A previous winner is different to flights and shows the depths of her writing.

The shape of Ruins by Juan Gabriel Vasquez

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A book that sees Vasquez as a character in his own book that is about an assignation of a Columbian politician almost like there JFK a great historical novel.

The years by Annie Ernaux

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A powerful little book at post-war  France and its generation told through pictures, movies, books, events, and life it builds a vivid picture of the years that followed the war.

At Dusk by Hwang Sok-Yong

An architect is greet by his past in a story that sees two sides of lives in Modern Korea from two people that grew up in a working clas  area and went in different directions but meet at the moment there worlds both are about to change.

The Death of Murat Idrissi by Tommy Wieringa

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Maybe the shortest book on the list but for me it is the most powerful as it is about a subject that we all see on the news that of immigration and he uses four characters to encompass a wider world.

Celestial bodies by Jokha Alharthi

 

Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi

I am yet to review this but this family saga shows the growth of Oman through the lives of three sisters and the family of the sisters going back to the early 20th century and to now with one of the main stories being told by a relative on jumbo heading home to his family.

So here are my six books an  interesting list of books I have discovered three maybe four books that have passed me by. What are your thoughts on the books on the list ?

The death of Murat Idrissi by Tommy Wieringa

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The death of Murat Idrissi by Tommy Wieringa

Dutch fiction

Original title De dood van Murat Idrissi

Translator – Sam Garrett

Source – personal copy

Now the last visit to a writer I have read before on this year’s Man Booker Longlist. I read Tommy Wieringa novel a few years ago but never reviewed it he has had a number of his books translated to English. He studied history and journalism at university. He had a number of jobs as a light seller and on the railways before he became a full-time writer. His breakthrough came when his third novel Joe speedboat won a big ditch book prize he has since then 18 more works. This is the short book on this year’s longlist at just a hundred pages but as you can tell by the cover and title it is a powerful little novella and maybe one of those books that should notice more than it was.

It’s her uncle’s fault that she was born in Holland. In 1975, her father arrived in France from Targuist – that was all fairly easy back then, hos brpther convinced him to travel on to holland. They worked in shifts at the Hoogoven mills, and shared a room in Beverwijk. They married and were laid off during the steel crisis in the early eighties . Life beat them down. Her uncle rose to his feet again , her father remained lying, he was the weaker of the rwo.But her uncle was dead and her father was still alive.

The iuncles death is part of the reason for the trip and shows how they started out in Holland by chance.

The book is the tale of Two Dutch women whose families are originally from North Africa who has decided to take a trip back to their parent homeland Morrocco. The two Thouraya she is as you would say is the pretty on the beautician and driving force of the two girls the other Ilham is the larger girl and worries she will have to settle down as her parents want her to as a usual Morrocan wife. The two arrive and immediately when having to hire a bigger car an Audi car. The two even as tourist feel that they are second class citizens due to there cultural heritage. They end up in a tight squeeze when a charming young man Saleh he takes it on himself to help and guide them around Morocco where to they meet in a seedy part of the town Murat and his mother and realize their savior has a price to his help them and that is to take Murat back to Europe he was once in France but was then set back. So these two unlikely traffickers have to bring this boy/man back to Europe in their car. But a cruel twist in the tale leaves them scarred for life about what happened to the young man in the time he was with them.

The two custom men don’t eave you past, they simply ignore you. Two cars in front of them, a mercedes is pulled out of line .

“Okay baby”, Thouraya says “Here we go ” sheputs on her film star face, and in a soundless dream they cruise past the customs officals , left and right. Before them them suddenly , there are twice as many lanes of asphalt . “Was that it ?” Ilham hears her own strange , high voice.

The two get through with Murat so easily at first little to lnow what will happen later on !

The shortest of the books on this Man Booker international list may actually have the most inside it as it tackles so many issues. Personal identity the two girls show the two sides of peoples cultural heritage Thouraya shows those that try hard and blend and move in and her friend likes to still keep her heritage but both initially view themselves as Dutch it isn’t to they get to the cultural homeland they then see how they may be western but will forever be Morrocan at heart. the four character incapsulate the vicious cycle of trafficking the two girls drawn into bring Murat to Europe to fulfill the immigrant dream of riches and a better world and life escaping the poverty of his home and then there is Saleh those who make a life of getting people in whatever way to Europe with little care for how it is done. For a book under a hundred pages it touches the soul of the reader and shows them the dark side of trafficking in a personal light in the story of four people that maybe are the voice of the thousands trying to get to Europe from North Africa.

Exclusive extract of Craving

I am luck to bring you below an exclusive extract of the book Craving by Esther Gerritsen , as part of a tour for the Dutch annual event Boekenweek that is all about books and sees a special book published ever year Ester Gerritsen was the chosen writer in 2006 with her book ” Broer ” .

The relationship between Coco and her mother Elisabeth is uneasy, to say the least. Running into each other by chance, Elisabeth casually tells Coco that she is terminally ill. When Coco moves in with her mother in order to take care of her, aspects of their troubled relationship come to the fore once again. Elisabeth tries her best to conform to the image of a caring mother, but struggles to deal with Coco’s erratic behaviour and unpredictable moods.

Publisher Twitter handle: @WorldEdBooks 

Publicist Twitter handle: @RKBookPublicist

craving was describe by Alice Sebold as  –

‘Cool, sparse, and delicious, Esther Gerritsen’s Craving hits all the right notes. This is an author who is unafraid of both complex characters and complex emotion (Thank God!).’—Alice Sebold, author of The Lovely Bone

 

My extract –

‘Nothing is as nice as fresh sheets,’ Coco says as she pulls the fitted sheet over the mattress. Elisabeth doesn’t say that she should have put on an underlay first.

She is sitting on the sofa next to the bed, looking at her daughter as though she’s five years old again and wants to help fold the wash but only makes it worse by helping.

‘Do you know that Dad said you locked me up in my bedroom when I wasn’t even eighteen months old?’

Elisabeth hears her daughter’s attempt to sound breezy. So she replies just as breezily, ‘Did he say that?’

‘Yes, he said that.’

‘That father of yours.’ She does her best to fit in with Coco, over and over. The previous evening she’d even tried to eat more, if only to show her that they weren’t that different after all, though she knows otherwise.

‘It’s not true is it?’ Her daughter looks at her.

She doesn’t reply fast enough. Now there’s no going back. ‘Your father wouldn’t make a thing like that up. Why would your father make up something like that?’

‘You locked me up?’

‘Do you remember anything of it?’

‘So it’s true?’

‘But can you remember it?’

‘Mum, you locked me up when I was a year and half?’

‘Times were different, you know,’ Elisabeth says, trying to sound like the hairdresser.

‘You don’t lock up a one-and-a-half-year-old child.’

‘You didn’t cry any louder when you were in your room. You really didn’t. It didn’t make any difference.’

‘A year and a half?’

‘Would you pass me that plastic bag?’ She points under the bed. Coco bends down and gives her the bag from the chemist’s.

‘A year and a half?’ she repeats.

Elisabeth gets the morphine plasters out of the bag and puts them next to the sofa.

‘Did Dad say a year and a half?’

‘You mean he’s lying?’

‘Lying? How do you figure that one out?’

‘You’re avoiding the subject.’

‘Am I?’ She unfolds the information leaflet.

‘Yes, you are. Can’t you do that later?’

‘Oh sorry, is it bothering you?’

‘Yes.’

Elisabeth puts everything back in the bag.

‘The pain’s not that bad really. Methinks.’

‘What?’

‘Methinks.’

Her daughter looks at the bag.

‘Well, put it back.’ She gives her daughter the bag. ‘Then we can have a nice chat. Just ask me, I don’t have any secrets. What do you want to know?’

‘Why would you lock up a child of a year and a half?’

Elisabeth wants to give her an honest answer, but her thoughts have already digressed. ‘A playpen is a kind of lock-up too, isn’t it?’

‘Mum, I asked you something.’

‘You need to put an underlay on.’

‘Huh?’

‘You need to put on an underlay underneath the fitted sheet.

Yes, I’m just being honest. You want me to be honest, don’t you?’

‘Why did you lock me up?’

Elisabeth searches for something true she is happy to share. She has a good memory. She says, ‘I put cushions down everywhere. In your room. All the cushions from the sofa and the big ones from the old easy chairs. I used belts to tie cushions to the corners of the cupboards so that you couldn’t bump yourself. I left you three bottles. Two with water and one with freshly squeezed orange juice. You liked that. I broke up biscuits into small pieces and put them in plastic bags. At the time you didn’t eat well unless you could get the food out of small plastic bags yourself. You liked that.’

Her daughter doesn’t say anything.

‘And there were toys,’ Elisabeth says, ‘cardboard cubes, from big to small, that fit inside each other. A wooden lighthouse with coloured rings. A book with animals that made sounds. A big cow that mooed when you pressed her belly.’

‘How long did you leave me there?’

Elisabeth looks at the paler strands in her girl’s hair and then her eyes descend to the fleshy neck.

‘I liked to kiss your neck,’ she says. ‘My face fit perfectly into the space between your throat and your shoulders. You smelt so lovely as a child.’ They don’t know that you love them, you have to tell them. Again and again. ‘I love you. That’s what I’d say when I tucked you in at night. Bye-bye little girl. I love you.’ Elisabeth’s gaze wanders off. She looks out of the window and thinks about the matt-grey Mercedes. Then her daughter tears the sheet from the bed.

‘Are you angry now?’

‘Why would I be angry? You have to put an underlay on, don’t you. Explain it to me, Mum, why would I be angry?’

‘Because I locked you up. You’re angry because I locked you up, aren’t you?’

‘Yes, don’t you think?’

‘You weren’t at the time. Not at the time, you know. You were angry when I didn’t lock you up too. You were always angry. It didn’t make any difference.’

‘And you blamed a child of one-and-a-half for that?’

‘No, darling, you don’t have to feel guilty about it—you couldn’t help it.’

‘I don’t feel guilty!’ Coco says. ‘What do you expect?!’

Elisabeth has that strange feeling in her chest again. Perhaps it’s indigestion. Her daughter walks away, out of the room.

‘What is it now?’

‘I’m fetching an underlay!’

The book is published by World editions and is available here 

 

 

Monte Carlo By Peter Terrin

Monte Carlo by Peter Terrin

Belgian  fiction

Original title – Monte Carlo

Translator – David Doherty

Source – Review copy

Now on to the books that could be on next years man booker list and first up is the second book I have reviewed buy the rising star of Belgian fiction Peter Terrin , I reviewed him first when he was part of the best european fiction in 2010. Since then he had his novels the Guard and post-mortem come out in english this is the first of his books I have read , I do have the earlier books and read the guard but it slipped the review net at the time. But this is a book about a time I love the golden age of motor sport in the 60’s when we got the feel of this book in the film Grand prix .But the other side of this book is obsession Male obsession and also how scars can become attractive to woman .

It happens by accident . The woman has been holding the camera for some time , peering through the viewfinder now and again, taking the occasional snap. But now she waits, realising that the film is almost full, that she probably has only one photograph left. She wants to wait for the right moment, yet later she will not be able to recall taking the final shot .The fuel is no longer liquid , the transition is taking place.She remembers the heat hitting her face, an invisible cloud, the fire not yet fire

The photo misses Jacks part in saving Dee Dee

The book starts as we join jack Preston ,he is a mechanic for Team sutton, the rising team on the grid. They are in the city of Monte Carlo for the Monaco Grand prix , probably the most iconic of all the race on the formula one circuit and always one to attract the beautiful people and One such is Deedee one of those sixties starlets , I got a feel of cross between Bardot , Fonda and Rigg . Even to later in the book having a part in  the Avengers .Well she has caught Jack’s eye and as an accident on the grid cause a fireball and he save her  from it and after wards has to return to his old home to recover and awaits a thank you but no mention .This is where the book turns and the screw of obsession turns as he waits for her and for his team to come to his aid and free him from provincial life.His wife also has become a bit of vixen driven by her husbands scars

One evening Deedee looked straight into his eyes

Steed had disappeared without trace and she did not know whether he was alive or dead. Speechless, racked with doubt, she wnet into the bathroom, leaned against the washbasin and gazed into the mirror – straight into the camera’s lens – for seconds on end

Jack Prestons nails deep into the arm of the settee.

there was no need for her to speak.

She was entrusting something to him.To him alone.Her look was like a whisper in his ear.

Jack’s obsession with Deedee has grown since he returned home .

He has been compared to Kafka before but at times this was to me an Homage to Hitchcock in a way the way Dee Dee is described made me think of the classic starlets that made the golden age of Hitchcock films like Vertigo or rear window(even Grace Kelly is at the track ) .He manages to get the feeling of male obsession as Deedee becomes both a thing of love and hate in Jack’s eyes . Terrin manages to get the feel of the time a new tobacco sponsor for the team reminds you of when the cars where Jps or Malboro colours  . This novel is about  how Jack  thought he saw something in a glimpse of a second just  before the  disaster struck and how that small moment has led to a mix of obsession and hate as he awaits being acknowledge for what he did. Then there is the return home and his obsessive wife for his scars  that has made her a vixen.While Jack grows in love and loathing at lack of thanks for what he did from Deedee which means a year later the race has a sad start as things come to a head.Terrin has written a short novel that has a classic feel to its writing and settings .

 

Cheese by Willem Elsschot

 

 

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Cheese  by Willem Elsschot

Dutch fiction

Original title – Kaas

Translator – Sander Berg

Source = review copy

I was contact by Alma books as they are want to highlight  some of their back catalogue gems , I choose this and a book by Louis – Ferdinand Celine . I choose this as I had a happy memories of Holland and cheese , My father has done a lot of business in the Netherlands over the years and  about twenty years ago got a gift of some Cheese socks which he passed on to me the had a Edam hole style cheese with a little mouse looking out of a hole on each one , I loved those socks so a book about cheese , which from my time on the borders of Netherlands and spend a number of days in Nijmegen and surrounding area I know the dutch take the cheese seriously.

This Mr Van Sconnbeke comes from an old, wealthy family .He’s a bachelor and lives by himself in a big house in one of our most beautiful streets.

he has plenty of money, as do all his friends. These are for the most part judges , lawyers , merchants or retired businessmen.every member of this company possesses at least one car, with the exception of Mr Van Schoonbeke himself , my brother and me .But Mr Van Schoonbeke could own his car if he wished, and no one knows this better than his friends. Indeed, they think it’s rather curious and sometimes speak of him as “that old devil Albert”

The main reason for Frans is his friendship with Mr van Schoonbeke

Frans Laarmans is the main character of this book , he starts as a clerk in the novel in Antwerp . But has a chance to further his career and becomes a merchant in a much larger company egged on by his posh friends to take the job . This is where the problems begin with this new job where in a chance to impress his bosses and prove that a simple clerk like him is worth the job . He gets in a tangle with one supply with ordering to many as he get confused over what he has ordered with him then twenty tons of cheese turns up . Then he tries to get it sold but with no hope , his wife and children suffer as he starts to fall apart in a way .

The twenty tons were waiting for me on four trailers in the courtyard. They’d quickly offloaded the cheese last night to avoid paying demurrage to the railway company . That’s how I was able to witness my cheese being locked away in my safe . I stood in the middle of the cellar, like an instructor in a manege, keeping a close eye on everything until the last crate had been brought in

The large pile of cheese he has to get rid off before it goes off .

This is meant to be a comic masterpiece of comic  dutch literature . This is a novel of social-climbing Frans is a man who is wanting to climb it is similar in some ways too Wodehouse ,Frans is one of those oddly name side character from Jeeves and Wooster in a way one of those small stories that get told as an aside in the Wodehouse stories  . this is a classic man trying to better himself but with a dry look at failing at it a man who hates cheese ,drowning in cheese. I not sure it fully works when I first mentioned I was reading this a connection on twitter said they had thrown it to one side half read . I said and still hold by it that humour is hard to translate, in parts it works . I feel there is another level that maybe we miss that is some what Belgium humour , I was reminded of what Jonathan meades observations about the odd ways belgium is so different yet so close to us the quirky way they have small museums for everything and the way each street is individual in their look . Laarmans is a character that Elsschot used in his other big novel and again in his other books he wrote , he was considered to be semi biographical reflection of the man himself.

 

Winstons books some New arrivals a epic Basque novel

Well its been a good first week of Pushkin Press fortnight, I reviewed Four books and I was so pleased to see my fellow blogger joining in with there own choice. Well a break for the weekend and some new books at Winston’s tower are here –

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first up two from Alma  Death on credit is a later novel by the well-known but controversal French writer Louis Ferdinand Celine , a story of a doctor taking in the poor and darker sides of Paris . Then we have Cheese about a Clerk in a cheese company that makes a slight over order leaves him with tens of thousand of cheese to get rid of and he hates cheese him self this seems like a great comic work .

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Next two from Daniela of Europa Jerome Ferrari is a writer I have twice visit on the blog with where I left my soul and The sermon on the mount , which won Prix Goncourt like his earlier books this book takes a look at good and evil in the world here in pre war Germany . The is the first book since we maybe know his wife is Elena Ferrante , but Domenico Starnone was also thought by some to be the writer of the books , he is a fellow neopoltian  writer a story of a marriage also worth mentioning  this is translated by Jhumpa Lahiri .

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Next to Holland and a Dutch debut novel about Van Goch that tries to go behind the man and discover what he really was like. An interesting idea as we all have ideas of what he was like .

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Next the first of a number of books from Maclehose as part of a new series celebrating writing from around the world for their first ten years. Bella Donna is the latest from Dasa Drndic the Croatian writer , I have reviewed her two previous books Trieste and Leica format . Belladonna finds a man in old age trying to work out how we got here from what happened in the past the madness of the world we live in that has left him a true intellectual struggling. I’m looking forward to this as I really like her writing style and the way she picks apart the  world .AS I said last week I want to do some event for Maclehose tenth anniversary and for the fact they have been a support of my blog for a long time .

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Jacob the translator of this book contact me , the book follows a long lost story The Major refutation is a lost book about a voyage that didn’t find a new world and came back to tell the truth.

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Last but not least I treated myself to this epic basque novel that follows a couple through the decades from the fire and passion of trying to be independent then setting into their every day lives a look at what it is to be Basque .

 

His name is David by Jan Vantoortelboom

His Name Is David

His name is David by Jan Vantoortelboom

Dutch fiction (Flemish)

original title – Meester Milraillette

Translator  –  Vivien  D Glass

Source – review copy

I was sent this by the dutch based publisher World editions it is their latest novel in English  by Jan Vantoortelboom is a Flemish writer born in Zeeland he still lives in rural Zeeland . he wrote his debut novel in 2011 which won three regional book prizes . This is his  second book won a booksellers book of the month and also Zeeland book of the year and is his first to be translated to English. The book was also on a dutch talk show as one of there book club reads .

The closer we got to the village tof Elverdinge-the tram had just passed the stop of brielen, the village before elverdinge-the edgier I felt. Wheat country, meadows with Islets of daisies and buttercups.Field of maize. Everything slowly drifted past me. occasionally, some boys would leap on the footboard to chug along for a bit before being chased off by the ticket collector.my belly rumbled a mixture of excitement and fear.

David on the tram to his new job is full of joy and fear for what is ahead .

His name is David is the story of a teacher in a small rural school in Flanders which he had been sent to work at by his father. This rural village is a small village that has descend into back biting and hatred . David is a sensitive soul . He wants to try to teach the children that what they see in the elders is wrong he does this by getting them involved in a play about good and evil black and white as he splits the class and shows that life is more than black and white to his pupils . But in doing so he has made enemies but he also made a friend in one of his pupils and has feeling for the boy’s mother. This is all told in flashbacks since the at the start we see David is facing a firing squad and then we also see what made david the way he was his father a handy man pushed his son ti be better but also in a way pushed him away , but that past has one event that colours his life today .

You don’t want to get off on the wrong foot , eh? You’re new to Elverdinge. you need to make friends, not enemies. I hear things about you and they aren’t all good. Don’t look so surprised. You don’t believe me ? You’ve already stepped on the toes of a number of people here. And those fellows don’t forgive and forget. No, schoolmaster. men like them are quick to take offence, and settle their scores in their own time .

david is warned to calm things down in the school as he has upset some folks already in the village

This is a book about morals and good and bad and I think maybe a very Flemish book , I read a piece about this book that mention another Flemish writer who I aim to feature at some point. Stefan Hertmans that says the great problem with world war one is it left Belgiaans questioning their own moral values after the war. This book is a perfect example of those moral issues and also the small mind world they lived in pre war . David is a catalyst for change but he is interrupted by the war that will engulf them all and leave them all change. This is a wonderful insight into a village on the verge of collapse due to it being so wound up in its own world in the verge of the great war.

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