Angel Station by Jáchym Topol

Angel Station by Jáchym Topol

Czech fiction

Original title – Anděl

Translator – Alex Zucher

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

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

I was remind of Hrabal

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

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

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

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

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

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

Canzone di Guerra by Daša Drndić

Canzone di Guerra

Croatian fiction

Original title – Canzone di Guerra

Translator – Celia Hawkesworth

Source – Review copy

When I heard that Susie had decided to publish some of Dasa back catalogue those books that had come out before her success with Trieste. I was very excited as many of you may know I did meet dad at the old IFFP award when she was shortlisted in 2013 this brief meeting we spoke maybe for half an hour maybe a bit more I was shocked she had read the blog but she was one of these people that this blog had given me chance to meet people I would never come across in my every day life in fact when ever I have doubts about this endeavour to cover world literature and books in translations, which is quite often it is those moments like meeting dad that spur me on. she was a writer that need to be read she saw what was over the Horizon even when we meet she saw the tide of the right was over in the distance and as she had done in her books she has always used the past as a way of highlighting the future. Her we have a woman tracing her own families past but also that of the culture she is from.

There is a Lot of literature about pigs, there is almost no genre of the written word into which pigs have not worked their way. They are found in science(Veterinary, biological, medical) in literature (essays, poetry, belles-lettres), not to mention film and painting. As far as life is concerned, here too, in our everyday life, pigs are all around us, and their destiny in the development of civilisation and technology is increasingly bizarre. The bizarre destiny of pigs is our reality

Even an intro on the section about pigs makes you as a reader think (for me I was remind of the film A private function set in the aftermath of the war in England that had a big at the heart of its story)

This book is made up of a collection of factual and fictional stories that at it heart sees the main character in the book Tea Radan a single mother who many years earlier had relocated to Canada to Toronopte as she tries to look at the emigrant life and those in the country around her. (Dasa had some interesting thought on Canada in the after word there is her description of Canada not the most favourable and full of what I remember of her when I met her that mind) She blends things like Pigs as animals to keep and how they effect society from how we keep them how they were Kept in Tito’s Yugoslavia. What we make of the pigs.This leads Tea to her grandfather a man that like to write to Tito ( I always interested with how Tito’s influence over those post – war years loom large but what at the heart of this book is the two events at the start of Tito reign which is the aftermath of the holocaust and we she in typical Dasa style as she shows how those that we involved with the events. of the holocaust escaped the war an we see how they came to Canada (It is hard to accept the dream of free Canada and then we see events like those that on a ship in 1939 that went from place to place as those on board lost hope) I love this as hot is so much of Dasa the person it is about what makes us tick but also she shows us about what has been and what is to come. It is about being lost in your own life and but also lose of identity.

In the course of the last four years, Sara and I have undergone three migrations. A lot of books have been written about migrations about leaving one’s country, about exile, some very stupid, propaganda, some very intelligent. But all those books state clearly that migration is both dying and being born, that it is a very complex phenomenon, hard to comprehend for anyone who has not experienced it.Our arrival in Rijeka from Belgrade, where I had spent forty years of my life and Sara almost all nine of hers, did not fundamentally from our arrival in Toronto.

The truth of being in Exile described so many times in literature !!

I as always find it hard to describe this as it isn’t a liner novel,  is a documentary novel ( a book of lives shown in pieces a mosaic of a world and lives) in the style of writers like Kluge (I could have said Sebald, but for me it is nearer Alexander  Kluge in the way she like to keep hitting at the spot and that is the spot of a warning this book is over 25 years old but in a way is more relevant now with a new wave of refugees from Ukraine we see how previous  waves of those trying to escape war have suffered in what is the real treatment of refugees and the way we portray how we treat refugees this gap is what is at the heart of the book.Those people caught ion those situation from those involved and trying to escape the holocaust and the aftermath of World War Two to those in the 90s trying to escape the horrors of the Yugoslav wars. At the heart of this is Tea ( a thinly veiled dasa) her family that were effected by both these events and the question of what makes us and what is our story. I mention Kluge as he brilliant in his use if  vigenettes and sometimes footnotes like this book does . In his book 30th April 1945 a book about that day when Hitler shot himself and what was going on around the world at that exact moment. Well this takes that moment the tatters of the war and west the aftermath this is that event taken out in one thread from before the event the horror of world war two to the present which now is 25 years ago ( or is it !!!!) because as we see here those events recalled in the past look so much like the future and that is what made Dasa one of the most important writers of her generation as she never turned to be popular or to be linear or to be easy no she told the truth, she saw what was coming as she had seen it so many times before but unlike others hadn’t a sort of cultural amnesia of the past or even a rose coloured glove of the past no this is the truth this is a written like Hogarth in his depiction of the world she lived in  or Goya in his disasters of war Dasa showed us a world warts and all one we want to look away from but one we should really look straight on at !! Have you a favourite book from Dasa ?

Winstons score – ++++A On of my all time favourite books already along with her other books

The New Men by CP Snow

The New Men by CP Snow

English fiction

Source personal copy

it is the 1954 club this week I have a pile of books I hope to get over the week but I start with this from the writer CP Snow I had long wanted to start his stranger and brother series of which this is one so when it was announced the 1954 club I looked at the various list around the net and discovered that this was on the list of books published that year. I looked at the book blurb and yes it is part of the series but seemed to be a self constant story. CP snow was a writer that tried to connect as he called it the two cultures of Art and science here is a book that is an example maybe of that idea as it is about science in a way as it follows two brothers as they are involved with the search for atomic fission which is what powers Nuclear power but also is used in atomic weapons. a group of scientist from Cambridge try and make the discover in the early 40s

Martin gave a friendly, sarcastic smile. I went on. He met each point on the plane of reason. He had reckoned them out himself; np one insured more carefully against the future. I was telling him nothing he did not know. I became angry gain.

“She’s pretty shallow, you know. I expect her loves are too”

Martin didn’t reply.

“She’s bright, but she’s not very clever”

“That doesn’t matter to me” He said

“You’d find her boring in time.”

I”I couldn’t have done less so up to now”said Martin

The book like the others in the series revolves around the life and times of the Elliot brothers here we see them get the chance to be involved int he search for Atomic fission. The book opens as the two brother meet and Martin has a new lady friend he introduces Lewis to his new lady friend but when Lewis dismisses this lady as unsuitable and says his brother will bore of her over time the two fall out. Then Martin as he says in the meeting with Lewis is starting to look at fission and he is called to a group in a small village called Barofrd near Warwick to study and try and perfect the research. in what is called Project Mr Toad as the group splits up into a couple of teams doing slightly different things he decides to try and reconcile with his brother and get him to join him at Barford.What follows is the journey in try to discover but also a side story of maybe someone spying. As part of the project connects with Nuclear weapons.The story is about the morals of what they did as well as s=what different characters in the book around the brothers see as the moral rights and wrongs

Though Hector Ross had left me in suspense about his intention, I did worry much. Despite our mutual dislike I trusted his mind, and for a strong mind there was only one way to open,

Thus Luke, in the midst of disapproval, got all he asked for, and went back to playing his piano. There was months to get through before the pile was refitted. He and Martin had set themselves for another wait.

It was during this wait I had my first intimation of a different kind of secret. one of the security branches had begun asking questions. They had some evidence( so it seemed though the muffled hints) that there might be a leaked

The later part of the book follows this revelation around the brother and the project

Now this is part of a series and in the middle of the series it seems but for me it did work as a standalone story of the two brothers and there journey from initially falling out the both getting involved in Mr toad as the project is called (I just loved the fact the project was called mr toad). Snow used a mixture of real facts around the discovery of fission.He also question the outcome of some of the research which lead to the Atomic bomb in a small part. Snow worked in the government around the time the part involving government officials and parts of the government feels very real in the way he portray it. The project is set in  Barford is an actual village in warship in fact I was very near it this weekend when I was away but didn’t get chance to pop and take a pic of the village sign. The rest of the series is around Lewis Elliot. I will hopefully read the other in the series. I chose this as my first for Club1954 as it  made me finally get to snow and this series I had listen to him on Desert Island disc when he was on in the in 1975 here is a link to that episode. I felt I had to read him and also the idea of science and art working closer together appeals to me and I’m sure he’d liked books like Benjamin Labatut  When we cease to understand the world a recent book (see what I’ve done there manager o link to a book in translation). Have you read anything from CP Snow ?

Winstons score – A a lost gem of English lit

Necropolis by Boris Pahor

Necropolis by Boris Pahor

Slovenian Memoir

Original title – Nekropola

Translator – Michael Biggins

Source – personal copy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#ProjectSolenoid lets get ready !!

I am starting a project around the forthcoming Publication of the first English translation of Solenoid.I felt as though as a reader it was above me but then I decide why was that the case?  I have read 1100 translations over the last twelve years  of winstonsdad have many people read many more?  I often belittle my knowledge as often it isn’t that I haven’t the knowledge of books etc. I am not able to often make connections etc this is mainly due to time as most reviews I write in an Hour as I hate loss reading time, But Now the time is to maybe turn this around and this is why I am starting Project Solenoid if you like me have felt that people are discussing a book and you feel as thou it is above you why? I used to feel this about Uylsess a book I have read umpteen times but over the year I pushed and pushed reread the book listen to podcasts read lots of books about Ulysses and Joyce’s world. This is a book that is very similar to  Joyce’s work so let’s break it up to little bits and build a base to start are reading from if we have read books abut the time, influencers on his writing, films from Romania etc let’s get to the heart of  Solenoid and lets discover ourselves !!  I have read 8 books from Romania more than most, in fact, I have read a lot of Eastern European fiction  This is a book from the Romanian writer Mircea  Cărtărescu a name that is often on the list of potential Nobel winners he has had a number of books translated I have already read one by him Why we love woman. A lesser work but to me, it seemed a great intro. Now there is a great post about the book from The Untranslated here. I am wanting to start a simpler guide to the book before we read it or even just I read it what I have in mind is using this post and any interviews I can find  I have this one so far from Music and Literature Here where we see him mention a number of Books to build a reading list of books that could be read before the English translation comes out. So where to start I decided that maybe the history of Romania at the time be worth it reading so I found this to start Paul Kenyon history book came out a while ago I have ordered this to read from the Library.

I have also ordered books that were mentioned by E M Cioran and Thomas Ligeti . Also The Gadfly by Ethel Lilian Voynich I am now reading which is mentioned in the book and meant to be a book widely read in Eastern Europe at the time. There is also a mention of The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann which I did read years ago but will be reading and reviewing here. He also mentioned Giacomo Leopardi I have read most of Zibaldone when it came out great work and I’d be interested to read some of it again and see how it inspired Cărtărescu and see if it is an influence on the book.

I can also link in with Thomas Bernhard reading week as he said in the Interview this was a writer he like.I then look at the cinema and have discovered there was a new wave of films after the  Ceaușescu years as ever there is a Wiki page here about the films made. I have ordered a DVD of The Death of Mr. Lazarescuand on Mubi the is a recent film from Romania THe happiest girl in the world. 

What I am thinking is just starting a discussion before I get my book when it comes out later this year I am not after a copy of the book this is just about wanting readers like me that maybe read a lot but often feel as though a book is maybe above you as a reader as if  !! I want to promote reading a challenging book I want to show we can all understand and build the knowledge to open a book I did the same years ago with Joyce and have sat back and just done my quick-fire reviews mainly due to time and ofter just it is a habit quick easy template and boom it is done it is that easy and often that is all I can do after a couple long day but this is to work toward longer reviews that open books to other readers bit by bit which is something I feel I can do to help other readers which I am sure there is many that worry lets do it together lets start our Project solenoid !! What would you add I have started a good reads group here.  MY next stop in regards Cărtărescu’s  is Nostalgia next month. I am reading Gladfly at the moment come in join in add books to the GoodReads thread etc (I am no expert at these groups at Goodreads this is my first group ) I hope people join in and let’s get a great book to a wider public not just a few!

 

Special needs by Lada Vukić

Special needs by Lada Vukić

Croatian fiction

Original title – Specijalna potreba

Translator – Christina Pribichevich- Zoric

Source – review copy

I looked forward to this as it had a child with a disability as its main character as I  feel there aren’t enough narratives with people with disablities and when I read Emil the lead character was an elective mute,  although his view of the world around him to me would put him on the autistic spectrum. many years ago I worked with a man similar to Emil a mute he has a great sense of humour and reading this reminded me of him and he like Emil maybe had great hearing as he loved music. This is the first book by Lada to be translated into English. She published short stories around the web and in magazines and won a number of prizes for her work this book her debut novel won a prize as the best-unpublished work in 2016.

My name is Emil and I’m ten years old. The same as the number of fingers I have when I count them one by one, hiding my hand under my school desk and counting. I don’t know what will happen when I reach eleven. I don’t mean fingers. I mean eleven years of age. How will I count then? The teachersays that fingers have nothing to do with counting. Yopu think with your head, not with your fingers. But that’s the only way I know how to count, I do know how to describe the number eleven, though. It’s two ones stnding next to each other. Like two of Emil’s drooping hjeads. Like most of my low scores in assestments.

The opening and Emil says who he can only get to rten becasue of his fingers.

Emil and his mother  Marina. live together in a small flat in an unnamed city.  He is mute and also has bad legs which mean he has to wear special shoes. All this and the fact all he is able to do in school is count to ten on his fingers. This seems to be trapped by his lack of speech but we view his world which sees him hearing all around him which means he knows what his teachers really think of him as they struggle with fitting him into the class. A touch event is when he hears his teacher has a baby but is yet unaware of her baby. He also has problems connecting with the other kids at the school who just don’t want to get to know him. This leaves him vulnerable to others in a way as he just wants to fit in.  so when someone does show interest in him a local boy that is also a drug dealer he only uses him because he is mute and seems to hear better than others. The other main relationship in the book is mother and son which also sees his uncle put his point of view forward. I love his internal voice it seems to capture someone like Emil so well that unique view of the world of autistic people that filters so much out. add to that a blind professor we have a story that is

You’re so silent, so let me tell you this as well: most people walk through the world unaware of what ies behind the visible and tangibile. I know that, given your incredible hearing, you realize this yourself. You see, these things re like sheet music. In order to know what they say, you have to decipher them. Use the right key. In music we use the treble clef and the bass clef. You don’t read the notes in one key the same way you do another, The rules are dfifferent. And it’s the ame with the world. It lies here before us like a sheet of paoper with a hiddeen melody on it, but not everyone is capable of decipheroing it

Emil’s view is unfiltered ut also he hasn’t ;earnt how to hear yet really.

This is a glimpse into Emil’s world that reminds me of two books that were big hits years ago. They also had special needs children as the narrator. the curious incident in the night which has a similar feel to how Emil looks at the world the fact that emotions and sometimes how the world links together get missed. The other is extremely loud and incredibly close which also like this had a character that had a talent like Emil with his hearing. But this works better having worked with a mute I saw how Emil felt and how others react to the lack of speech some of the events of the book to me right back. I also like his relationship with his mother which also seemed so well drawn. If you like both of those books and books like to kill a mockingbird this is a book that has a glimpse into a world of being mute and how people react to that and sometimes abuse it. Have you a favorite book about someone with a disability?

Too loud a Solitude by Bohumil Hrabal

Too Loud a Solitude by Bohumil Hrabal

Czech fiction

Original title – Příliš hlučná samota

Translator – Michael Henry Heim

Source – personal copy

I was looking at the list of books that were published in 1976. There is a Wiki list of books also one on Good reads I read both. There is a few books that caught my eye that I had on my shelves this was one of those books I have reviewed two books by the late great Czech writer Hrabal. As I said in my post last week for his fellow Czech writer Jiri Kollar Bohumil Hrabal was a member of an underground writing group early on in his writing career. know for his visual style that mix the beautiful and the cruel in the world around him. This is a perfect example of that style. We enter the world of Hanta a man that has done the same job for 35 years something he keeps telling us. what Job?

For thirty five yers I’ve been in wastepaper, and it’s my love story. For thirty-five years I’ve been compacting waterpaper and books, smearing myself woth letters until I’ve come to look like my enclyclopedias- and a good three tons of them. I’ve compacted pover the years. I am a jug filled with wter both magic and plain: I have only lean over and a stream of beautiful thoughts flows out of me. My education has been unwitting I can’t quite tell which of my thoughts come from me and which from my books, but that’s how I’ve stayed attuned to myself and the world around me for the past thrity five years.

The opening lines t the book and Hanta tells us what his world is like

We are described the world by Hanta we enter his mind a jumble of words and images. There is a man who has spent his life working with wastepaper where he crud=sh the waste paper as he does he sometimes sucks as he says wonderful sentences from those works as he has over time become one with the printed world a man that from what he describes has few friends, a slight connection family, Then young gypsy girls that he pays to visit him. Even when he goes away he takes his press but we are not sure if this is just in his mind or in reality the lines blur at times.  As the young girls hang around him his room toppling with books he has saved and this is the way we view his world poetic lines but over time Hanta wonders what is him and what is the books he has read crushed and absorbed, All this in the crumbling Prague. As he works at his Hyrolauic press crush books art whatever is put there for him to destroy.A man living a simple life but one that has given him a huge amount of knowledge and insight as he amassed his secret book collection,

Wandering through the streets of Prague on the way back to my cellar, I switched on my x-ray eyesand peered down through transparent pavements into the sewers to find rodent general staffs mapping out operations for rodent troops, generals barking orders into their walkie talkies about which front to put pressure on, but I just kepy walking, listening to the crunch of sharp little rats” teethunder my shoes andthinking of the melancholy of  a world eternally under construction, and when I looked up through my tears I noticed omething I had never noticed something I had noticed before, namely, that the facades, the fronts of all the buildings, public and residential- and I could see them all the way up to the drainpipeds – were a reflection of everything Hegel and Goethe had dreamed of and aspired to, the greece in us, the beautiful Hellenic model and goal.

A poetic pasage as we follow Hanta’s mind as he wanders the streets as he jumps from here to there.

I have an opinion about this book and This is a man near the end of something I have felt this is the third time I have read the book and Hanta maybe is Hrabal in part he was in later life when he wrote this work as he had been ill in bed and had for the first time not drunk for a while he was a celebrated drinker there is a strong feeling of a man at the end of something Hanta is also a metaphor for all those banned works that happened after the end of the Prague spring this book has been filmed twice, the second film I supported by sharing a post for the fundraising site for the film to be made. Hrabal is a writer that is rich in his prose style when to reads his prose the images and texture are so unique. Especially when translated here by Henry Heim. Have you a favorite read from Hrabal ?

Winstons score — B a perfect little novella

 

 

 

 

Kafka’s Prague by Jiří Kolář

Kafka’s Prague by Jiří Kolář

Czech art/literature non fiction

Original title – Kafka’s  Praha

Translator – Ryan Scott

Source – review copy

Jiří Kolář is one of those people that had many strings to his bow as a person, poet, writer visual artist, and political activist. He was a founder member of th Skupina 42 group of writers and artists that included the great Czech writer Bohumil Hrabal. He did many jobs over his life early on in the communist regime he was arrested and imprisoned for one of his manuscripts he later when the Prague spring happened was a member of a group of artists that meet regularly in the Cafe Slavia this included from Czech Leader Vaclav Havel but when the regime change he went to live in exile and this is where this work was originally published by the exile publishing house Index in Germany.  the book is in two sections the first called responses is a sort of interview about Kolar and his beliefs the second is a collection of Kafka quotes and visual art in the form of crumbled photos to go with each quote of famous views in Prague.

I wrote a musical score named for Baudelaire ` because the majority of sound poets, didn’t know how to express themselves other than as cabaret artists. Only a few of them managed to surpass the Dadaist, such that almost all of their magnetic tape has seemed to me merely a recording of their own recital, or more precisely, of a recital of their “products From the outset Mallarme in mind. Perhapsin him lay the starting oint and solution: to make poetry through music – to write a musical scroe for a recital – recitation of a single word ! obviously I canot deny the influnece of specific music, especially several americans and others in the age of contemporary musical experimentation, the image suddely wanted to be read anew and moreover, heard. Most musical compositions require esembles and a conductor to interpret them – I was working with this objective in mind.

He writer music poems art so talented her is one of his responses .

The first part of the book is a series of vignettes about art, writers, and the world. Then the world of art and science is questioned, with questions such as does art expand our knowledge, digressions like did einstein go to this exhibition. The view of Poets like Baudelaire with a piece about hypocrisy and a piece called the “Hypocrite reader- fellowman – my twin” Meditation and art. Too his own art how it used be surrealism and then changed after the war and over time his world view changed he became Avant garde. Baudelaire crops up he was disappointed with the sound poets so he chose to write music about the poet. Then the second part of the book he takes a number of images of Prague that he has used a technique called crumplage that he made new images out of the old buildings of Prague along the side of these new images he uses a quote from Kafka most of which are perfect companions to the images.

It is not that you are buried in a mine and the masses of stone separte you, a weak individual, from the world and its light, but instead you are outside and want to penetrate to the person who has been buried and are powerless against the stonesm and the world and its light make you even more powerless

Postumous writings and Fragments Kafka

14  crumplage from Kolar.

This is something leftfield for mand the blog. e but I love that Kolar was a figure at the heart of the group of writers in the early 40s and then in the Prague spring than was a strong voice of resistance in his years of Exile so this is a work from an important figure in modern Czech history as ever with twisted spoon it s wonderfully presented the crumplage prints tie so well with the bilingual Kafka quotes on each page symmetry to them in his choice of the pairing of quote and art. This is partly an insight into Kolar’s mind and the world around him the first part sees him looking at art and himself as a sort of interview without questions vignettes insightful and questioning without questions. Then we have his art the art that he pastes after destroying the images to create something new and this may be a way to provoke a feeling of unease and oddness in the images. A collection unable to be seen in Czechslovakia at the time it came out. A homage to the hometown and its best-known writer Kafka a man that they used in the letters at the time a figure that spurred them on when in Prison. A powerful insight into art and the artist view of the world

Winstons score – B thought-provoking and with insightful art and quotes.

 

 

Lamentation for 77,297 victims by Jiří Weil

Lamentations for 77,297 Victims by Jiří Weil

Czech Prose Poem

Original title – Žalozpěv za 77 297 obětí

Translator – David Lightfoot

Source – personal copy

I now review a very short but powerful work from the Czech Writer Jiri Weil best known for his work Life with a star which was long champion by the writer Philip Roth. It wasn’t until after the war Jiri Weil starts to write about his Jewish Heritage before the war he had only once mentioned his Jewish heritage. But after the war, he was one of the first writers to address the Holocaust and what had happened. After the war, Weil became the librarian for the Jewish Museum in Prague and his style of writing started to change. This is where he came across the boxes that contained the list of the names of all the Jews that had died in Bohemia and Moravia. Weil survived the war by faking his death. He wrote two well-received novels l

Smoke from nearby factories shrouds a countryside as flat as a table, a countryside stretching off to infinity. It is covered by the ashes of millions of dead. scattered throughout are fine pieces of bone that ovens were not able to burn. When the winds wcome, ashes rise up to the sky the fragments of bine remain on the earth. Qand the rain falls on the ashes, and rain turns them to good fertile soil, as befits the ashes of martyrs. And who can find the ashes of those of my native land; there were 77,297 of them? I gather some ashes woth my hand, for ony a hand can touch them, and I pour them into a linen sack, just as those who once left for a foreign country would gather their native soil so as never to forget, to return to it always.

The opening lines of pieces

The prose poem uses a style that mixes a number of styles of writing it opens with him talking about the factories and ashes from them and then the lament of the ashes of the 77,297 victims then the poem continues with a narrative strand about the events of the shoah. Then there are personal accounts of the people their age, job, and how they died. Then we have passages from the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) these build a portrait of those lost voices of the dead from Josef Friedmann an immigrant from Vienna, through to Adolf Horovic a seventy-year-old that waited hours for a meager hand out. The prose ends as those lives are ending with Weil telling us about the victims and how they were shipped out in their thousands to the various camps around Europe with thousands going and as few as 2 of the 100o come back when sent to the horrors of places like Treblinka this is a slim work that conveys the horror of the Holocaust in its full power from a writer that lived through it.

Robert aufman was returning home from the Branik quarries to his apartment in Karlin. He was dead tiredfrom unaccustomed labor and was barely able to keep ion his feet, since he was not allowed to sit down on the tram. In Podoli a German wirh a badge on his lapel boarded the tram. When he sa w the star he grabbed kaufman by the shoulder, kicked him, and threw him from the moving tram. Kaufman fell on the hard stone of the rail lin, lacerating his face till it bled and breaking a leg. He lay there for a long time until he was taken to the Jewish hospital. He was takenl ha wheel barrow. On the way Kaufman roused from Unconsciousness and moaned in pain

Remove thy stroke away from me

This is a touching piece that can be read in an hour it has an afterword that describes the original work which featured photos of what remained of the  Prague Synagogue in a small photo with touching cover art. It also tells us that one of the first reviewers said it captured the events of the two nights that saw most of the Jewish victims removed on March 8/9, 1944. The prose can be read in a number of ways it set out here or the three sections can be read separate the Personal tales, the history of the shoah, and the passages of Tanakh.   This is a writer exploring how to describe the indescribable of the holocaust. How to capture the full effect of war and the loss of all of those voices. It is a testament to those who lost those voices gone and deserves to be sat alongside the best of Holocaust literature  From a writer that faked his own death to get through it all. Have you read any works from Weil?

Winstons score – +A a powerful, work on the horror of the Holocaust

Blind man by Mitja Čander

Blind man by  Mitja Čander

Slovenian fiction

Original title – Slepec

Translator – Rawley Grau

Source –  review copy

In a podcast, Mitja described himself as a man with three titles the first and his main one for most of his life was as an essayist and literary critic which he did to his 40s then he decides to start helping organize large cultural events such as the city of culture in Maribor and various book events. Then in his last role, he became a director of the publishing house Beletrina. He himself like the main character in his book has always had a problem with his own sight the book came out of his memoir then he decided to make it into a novel. After he got feedback from a well-known Slovenian playwright.

I handed the grocery bags to my wife, sat down at the kitchen table , and pcked up the newspaper. I glanced through the headlines.

“could you bring me something to eat, please? I’m starving, I said without looking up.

She stopped putting the foodaway in the fridge

“They gave you rotten lemos again!

“It happens”I answered calmly. “I doubt it was intentional.”

“This is the second time now. Not long ago iot was the bannas. Those ladies have good eyesight, you know.”

“I’m sorry, but I’m hungry ”

I trusted people on princilpe. I trusted them to always give me back the correct change.

The rotten lemons again this is another passaged that made me laugh

Like tMitja himself the main character is a successful book editor and critic and has been severely impaired vision since his childhood. Thou he has never been part of that blind community so when his vision starts to get worse. He is married and his wife is an editor and translator they live their lives we get some insights like when he shops for the house and returns with fruit and veg she says the people in the shop that gave him the worst produce. This is how he has lived to try to avoid his blindness but after trying to give a talk to a blind group and then is told to apply for funds for his blindness. Then when he doesn’t he appeals but this process ends up being invited into politics and to join and talk to a  party called the front this then grows and becomes the main party in Slovenia and our narrator is invited to join the government and start to organize a large event rather like the city of culture project but this is a huge concept of what will happen in future but the project is underfunded and is maybe a view of the country its self in the 30 years that followed the setting up of Slovenia as an independent country

“You get more beautiful every time I see you!”

“you say that, but you’re half-blind, you know – you don’t see wrinkles, the circles under my eyes, or the other blemishes…but thanks anyway, dear”

In my eye women with truly long hair automatically had an advantage. When we were stdying world literature at university, and even later, when we would bumpo into each other now and thenn, she had always kept her hair short, or medium length at most, Our most important lectures had been in the evening, and they were often the prelude to a long night, she had been one of the most avid oartiers I knew, and no jealous boyfriend could ever comvience her it was time to go to bed, Her boyfriends in fact, had always been somewhere far way,either studying in foreign lands or foreigners themselves, guys she had met travelling or on student exchanges.

I loved the opening of this chapter a compliment or was it !

 

The first part of the book seems to be based on Mitja own life he is blind but he has never been in the government but has been involved in the fact he had organized these large cultural events he has seen how politicians are at first hand. So this is a thinly veiled look at how Slovenia has been since they began so our narrator is impaired in his vision and many in the government has been short-sighted or impaired. There is a great use of language and humor in the book he says in the podcast he used to tell anecdotes you can see some of them grow out into the text a sense of humor and satire of his own life and the world he lives in. He also said he used short sentences in this novel. The descriptive way is described is well caught as that of a man with impaired vision ( having worked and often chatted with a man that lost his vision slowly like Mitja the veg story remind me of a story he told me of making breakfast when his wife had mistakenly put peaches in the place of tomatoes so when he ate his breakfast it was hot peaches, not tomatoes!, also the mapmaking we spent many months walking into the village where I worked till he eventually walked himself remind me of our narrator talking about his blindness in the office )so the world is seen through his prism it is a man trying to work out his place in the world the kafkaesque quest for a grant shows what makes us blind in the eyes of government what happens when you are blind but can see! What happens when those running a country get blinded by their own shining lights rather than what is in front of them a brilliant insight into Slovenia a man that strides both sighted and impaired world but also is blind running a project that is too large and underfunded from a shortsighted government !! What happens like the many chess references in the book that a country plays out and ends up in a stalemate you go back to what point did it happen! a sort of satire of Slovenia!

Winstons score -A an insight into one man’s life that is a wider commentary on the world he lives in

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