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.

A dutch pair new arrivals

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This is the first of two Dutch novels to arrive in recent days , I have actually read this one finished it last night it is a tale of one mans story about the first world ar David is a teacher but he has an attraction to a shy pupil that needs a bright world that is what david tries to bring , but the war catches up and as he tries to teach then men un der him about the world and how to read and write he decides to try and escape the horror of the war. This was a big hit in Dutch speaking world it was pick for a dutch talk show as a book club read.

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Then we have a book by a writer I have featured before Otto de kat his man on the move was reviewed here seven years ago. This is story of Emma Verweij she is now 96 and waiting to die and looking back on her life and the war years when her home the house she is in now was stronghold for her friends during the war. As she tries to hide the first husband and the nazis past in Germany. Otto de kat is the pen name of the dutch publisher jan Geurt Gaarlandt he choose the name after a relative also called Otto de kat a successful Dutch painter in his day .

What books have you had arrive ?

The Boy by Wytske Versteeg

 

 

 

The boy by Wystke Versteeg

Dutch fiction

Original title  – Boy

Translator – Sarah Welling

Source – review copy

Well after a few days in Slovenia I  ove near home to The Netherlands and a prize-winning Dutch book. This is the second novel by Wystke versteeg  a rising star of dutch literature  .She came  to the notice of dutch readers with a non fiction book about her time working with homeless people called This is not a homeless person .. Her books have been said  to deal with the human condition like many of her fellow young dutch writers dutch writers. THis book won bng book prize in Holland.

When Kito was older, in primary school, I’d wait for him at the gate when my schedule allowed it, listening to the mothers.They all seemed to know each other very well, and they seemed born for there maternal role.Standing among them made me feel like an imposter. I tried to join in with conversation, but my voice sounded artificial even to myself.I told them how he jumped on the bed in the mornings and put his arms around me, how soft he was and how open. How he reminded me of something I’d forgotten a long time ago , how innocent he smelled

The Mum struggles with being a mother having not given birth to Kito

Well this book deals with every parents worst nightmare and that is the loss of their child . Kito an adopted Chinese child is drowned on a beach during a school trip.The son had been the glue of the family the father and mother have struggled to cope with the loss and drifted apart. The mother wants more answers so heads off after finding that the teacher whom was in charge of the trip Hannah, she has left here job and gone to leave in the back and beyond in Bulgaria so the mother sets out to meet the teacher and try to find out why Kito Killed himself. What she finds out is a side to her son she didn’t really know ? He was adopted after she her self a psychiatrist discovered she was infertile had to travel to china to find a son but she and her husband missed that Kito was a real troubled child one of those kids that is a square peg in the round hole of being at school that culminated in the tragic events as this is seen by the mother talking to Hannah her need to be their for some sort of revenge or just an answer  from  the teacher changes.As Hannah had tried to help Kito by using drama to help him

I don’t understand; I said . “What happened , what could have hurt someone your age so badly ?”

She doesn’t answer my question.When she starts talking again she sounds deep in thought like she’s forgotten I’m sitting next to her

“I was young then, I mean not like I am now but softer, stupider. I didn’t understand how things worked. I didn’t want to teach but it was what I was doing.Children need someone they can beleive in, i didn’t even beleive in myself

A glimpse at what Kito death had on Hannah seen through the mothers eyes .

this is one of those stories that seems popular at the moment a book mainly about a character and his life that is dead through out the book. A sort of autopsy of what happened rather than seeing what happened.This is a story about two things in a way adopting kids and how hard it can be for those kids , especially in Kito  case coming from another place sets him out to be a target and that is the second thread in this book how hard it is to stop kids being bullied and Kito is an extreme example , no I’m wrong there no I read about many kid like this that have taken their life due to bullies . Hannah and the mother both tried to help but neither had the full picture this is shown when the two meet and finally the piece of this sad 15 year olds life come together.I could see this making a great film at some point

 

 

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