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the web and in magazines and won a number of prizes for her work this book her debut novel won a prize as the best-unpublished work in 2016.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

The Door was Open by Karine Khodikyan

The Door was Open by Karine Khodikyan

Armenian short stories

Original title ԴՈՒՌԸ ԲԱՑ ԷՐ

Translator  Nazareth Seferian

Source – review copy

Something I have enjoyed the last few years is the books from Armenia that Glagoslav has been great to read as there are so few books from Armenia around to read. So we have another Armenian writer here Karine Khodikyan she has been a teacher and Journalist, also edited a couple of magazines, and was also the deputy culture minister for a period of time. She has written plays which has been staged around the world and hosts a tv show on Armenian  TV and is currently writing a humorous Detective novel this is her first work to be translated into English.

Every time, one second before she took the key out of her bag, herfinger seemed to be covered in frost, and each time it seemed certain that the yellowish metal would touch her finger and chafe some of the skin. But when she opened the door and the emppty darkness of her corridor rapidly embraced her with greed, she wpuld feel like she was growing acquainted with her own grave. and when she would sticj her hand into darkness woth the same rapidity to find the switch and turn on the light, she would onece again feel assured that being alone with death would scare her.

The opening of the door was open paints that darkness that is felt in the tales.

The stories all have female characters at the heart from the opening tale the title story of the collection with a story of women and her growing fear of an attack by a serial killer that is killing single women the man bare-chested she mocks him coming to her until an open door and a sudden noise makes her feel somewhat different. Then in Etude, we have a warring couple a husband and wife that are arguing but the wife is always the one coming out on top in their arguments due to her superior language skills. But my favorite tale of the ones in this collection was the smell of bread and death the story of a family history told through the smell of bread being made a family of gravediggers told from the grave. Then we have a monster under the bed at the heart of a childhood tale. But elsewhere death lingers of these dark tales a collection that is a great intro to an interesting writer.

The first time he realized that his family was different had been before he had even turned five. He would libe a few years more and turn twelve before he fully understood, before that wet, cloudy day when his father did not even look in his direction as he said in an unusal voice(or as he would consider later, a guilty voice), or perhaps one could say he asker,

“Come with me..”

But there was still time left before that day would arrive , and Avet, who was not yet fivem would never forget the loneliness that invaded him when he realized that his family was living in that town with the stigma of being different,No he didn’y trmember which grade he was when he was when he read the word “stigma” in a textbook for the first time and relaized that he had found it. His family stigma..

The stigma of being the twon gravediggers hangs over the family in the story The smeel of bread and death.

the collection has a female voice and perspective even when the characters are male it shows the female as in Etude it is the wife that is the stronger character. But there is also darkness and melancholy all over these tales from childhood scares of a monster under the bed. To a half-naked serial killer going around killing single women. Then the stigma of coming from a family of gravediggers there is a veil of darkness over these tales but they draw the reader in. Khodikyan has a way of blurring time so the reader feels as though they’re floating in time at times. The vivid prose style comes through at the time with a richly descriptive style at time sticky dark floors the translator has done a great job keeping such passages that add to the feel of darkness in the stories. I keep saying tales as there is at times a feeling of dark fairy tales in the collection. Have you a favorite book from Armenia?

Winstons score +B a great intro to a new writer

 

The Pear Field by Nana Ekvtimishvili

The pear field by Nana Ekvtimishvili

Georgian fiction

Original title – მსხლების მინდორი

Translator – Elizabeth Heighway

Source – review copy

I had this sent earlier but had tried a couple of times to start it and just wasn’t getting into it. But as the last few weeks, I am now sitting and reading for a couple of hours solid rather than ten to fifteen mins a few times a day. I did what Peirene has always said about their books and that they are like sitting and watching a two-hour film. This is the debut novel from the Georgian writer Nana Ekvtimishvili. She studied philosophy then went to Germany to study film making it is in scriptwriter with Simon Gross she has made a number of films including the well-received In Bloom.  The book has also  been translated into German.

On the outskirts of Tbilisi, where most of the streets have no names and where whole neighbourhoods consists of nothing but soviet high rises grouped into blocks, grouped in turn into microdistricts, lies Kerch Street. There’s nothing worth seeing here, no historic buildings, o fountains, no momuments to soceity’s great accomplishments, jusy tower blocks lining both sides of the street and, now and then, anpother building tucked between them: the college of light industry, up in the plateau surrounded by spruce trees; the kindergarten; the municipal middle school; the officesof the housing managment committee; a small shopping centre; and at the very end of the street, the Residential School for the Intellectually Disabled Children or, as the locals call it, the school for Idiots

The opening lines of the book the grim reality of post soviet Georgia.

The Pear field is set on Kerch street in the capital of Georgia Tbilisi where is the residential school for disabled children or as it is locally called the school for idiots. The book opens and we meet Lela she is in her late teens and could leave the school and go beyond the pear fields but she has stayed for just two reasons which are the driving force for the book. We learn that she really wants to kill her history teacher and then alongside this is the story of Irakli a young boy that Lela has taken under her wing, every week they go to their neighbors of the school for the young boy to ring his mo0ther but over time it is clear the mother is just paying the young boy with her lip service as the story unfolds we see the school the pupils and also the dark reason behind her wanting to kill her teacher. Then there is hope for her young friend as an American couple wants to take the young man to the US to start a new life with the help of Lela and the neighbor Lena they try to help the boy get the American dream.

The school began to lose teachers as well. Only Tiniko, Dali, Vano and Gulnara are left from the old guard Nowadays new teachers come, they teach a few lessons, realize the school has nothing to offer them and go again. New children have stopped arriving too. Maybe parents todays are less willing to abandon their children or maybe there are better schools out there to abandon them in maybe idiots just aren’t being born anymore.

That is why everyone is so suprised when one day the gates open and a well-dressed young woman in her thirties walks in with a girl aged about nine The girl ;ooks smart and well cared for but aso nervous and guarded. Lela strokes the little girl’s hair, then walks them over to Tiniko’s office. Tiniko is expecting them, the woan explains that the little girl is related to her husband, Having lost her parents, she was being raised by her grandmother, Now that she has died, the child’s relative have decided to leave her with the school.

There is the hated teacher Vano for what he has done to her and other pupils over the years.

Well for those of you that don’t know my job is working with learning disabilities. I spent twenty years working in the community a few years ago taking a ward-based role on an assessment and treatment unit where we deal with people in crisis to help them get back in the community. The school setting was like the old institutions the ones I have to look after people were in before things t=change her so Lela’s story of Abuse. It is one I have heard not so much sexual but a lot of physical abuse years ago when people viewed people with learning disabilities like they still do in this book. This is the story of a mother hen to those in the school like young Irakli. But as her heart, she is a damaged young girl who has no memories outside the school and has been damaged by what her teacher had done to her.  This is an interesting finish to the closed universe series Lela world isn’t beyond the pear field just yet but their chance of breaking out is there also this is going on with the background of the break up of the soviet union had just happened and Georgia is still a new state and the school has suffered due to this. If you like post soviet books that look at the personal lives of those involved this is one for you. Have you read this book?

Why we love women by Mircea Cărtărescu

Why we love women by Mircea Cărtărescu

Romanian fiction

Orignal title – De ce iubim femeile

Translator – Alistair Ian Blyth

Source –  personal copy

Another visit to Romania and I decided to read one from a writer that has in the last few years been a leading name for the Nobel winner. He is a writer I had wanted to try for a while so here is the first of a few books I hope to read from him in the coming year or two I have blinding on my kindle and will be getting Nostaglia which is due out next month from Penguin and his huge Solenoid which is due at some point from DeeVelp vellum in the US this seemed a great intro a collection of short stories around women he has known and other women, they were orignally published in a series in a Magazine in Romania. He grew up in ROmania but like many writers in his generation he was forced to move to France. This collection came in 2008.

The girl was npt just beautiful, she was the tangible images of Beauty itself. I can’t say whether she was merely an aesthetic object, wholly devoid of psychology, of whether, on the contrary, she was pure, a projection of the facinated gazes of those around her. Looking at her, I understood whey the call it ” captivating beauty”: we were all her captives, as if waiting for cruel sacrifice at any moment, one by one. Nevertheless, shyness and innocence were her only powers.

from the first story the Little African women. a vision of beauty he had seen in america in a white sari.

The collection starts with him remembering an attractive Afircan lady in a white sari he said he had never been with any one of another colour but laments this fact. this is a collection of memories with a thjin veil on the whole to make them fiction and in fact in parts he talks abou thow the women in some of these tales were actually the role models for some of his own shprt stories he wrote after meeting them. So D was Gina in a later story from charater tics like the rather large girl he meet gthat had the annoying habit of saying  my ears are pinned back ever so often.  Else where he remembers a drunken night in Ireland  as he was on a tour with two poets who didn’t really get on. I laughed when he said abpout talking in his Iowa English at one point I thought how many other writers from around the world had a similar accent. Also him ordering an Irish coffee not quite knowing it what it was then he talks aboput a Jewish girl and links it to a frank Zappa song the last story is the title tale a ode to what makes women so loveable in his eyes.

At the time, my ind was not quite as innocent as you might imagine. On the poutskirts of Belfast, we had stopped off at a pub, where I had ordered an Irish coffee. Back then (it was in 93) I had no idea what Irishcoffee was. I just wanted to try something local, given that it was my first time in the land of the Druids, Guinness and Joyce. They brought a large cognac glass brimming with hot coffee and two chocolate mint wafers in little dark green envelopes on a saucer. When I got up from the table I realised, to my disbeliefm tjat I could not walk straight. For, in Ireland, the “Coffee”  contain more whiskey than coffee, And so it was that at it grew dark ancd the towns and villages flew past, my state of confusion was amplified

Drunken on a very Irish coffee made me smile !

I’m not sure if this is the best intro to him it seems this is more of a memoir or auto fiction as he is  a writer that has been compared to Thomas Pynchon. Even so I liked the view into his pife and the travel he had done and those women he has met or seen over the years at points there is maybe a feeling that he couldn’t get away with some of the stories and titles now but the time he is remembering is twenty years ago. I brought this as it was a short work by him and for me as a reader I will be reading him again no matter if his other works are different this maybe is one of those to start with later but it has let me know where some of the characters in his other works have come from it is also as a piece of auto fiction into a male view of the world insightful he does notice the femlaes around him and remembers them. So it would be hard to say on this as from all I’ve read it is a different collection to his other works if he is a worthy nobel winner lets see what I think of his other books in a month or two when I get to them. Have you read anything by him are you like me eager to get to Solenoid considered his best book when it comes out ?

Our circus presents … by Lucian Dan Teodorovici

Our Circus Presents by Lucian Dan Teodorovici

Romanian fiction

Original title – Circul nostru vă prezintă

Translator – Alistair Ian Blyth

Source – review copy

I return for a second visit to Romania this year and this time it is a modern writer from the Dalkey Archive series for the country. Lucian is the manager of the Romanian literature museum and also a festival of literature and translation. He has also written for the Guardian and edited a series of books called the Ego Prose in his native Romania. He has written for numerous publications and has published prose, drama, and screenplays including a feature-length one for this book.

I don’t know , why, but when I was little — it happened a long , long time ago — my father deemed it fitting ti tell me a story, an anecdote, a joke – yes, I think he told me it in the form of a joke — about a circus. So a circus comes to town (I don’t remember which town), and the poster looked something like this

The main attraction!

Our circus presents a unique act:

The birdman !

One day he flies, the next day he dosen’t

He’s not flying today!

I was remind of the Hemingway or not six word tale babyshoes for sale never worn which leads you to wonder like this joke !

The unnamed narrator of this book could be called the birdman. Every morning he steps onto the ledge outside the window as he tries to commit suicide will this be the day he jumps of the ledge or will he carry on like he does most days. This morning he is seen by a neighbour above who wonders what he is doing there. The birdman is a name from something his father said he had seen on a sign in a circus or was it something his father thought was funny. but as a child, he put a smile on his face. As he goes on he spends time ion the church and later on sees a man trying to hang himself from a tree as he saves this man carries it on his back. It turns out the man does this sees a rescuer appear and then hangs this leads to a tale of been hung with a bag of stray dogs being hung and trying to find the man hung next to them as he said he wanted to hear people say he died like a dog. As the two become friends we find our narrator had messed up his first sexual encounter after his father’s advice. he visited prostitutes after that as he and his friend or as he calls him the man with Orange suspenders. But what happens when someone really dies that he knew will this death change his outlook on life. Add to this a third friend that is trying to sleep his way to death.

Now I’m heading toward the station, for the first time truly desirous — and, what matters, fully aware — to spend the night with a prostitue. All that happen back then is in the past. My father, my mother, my brotherare far away, transformed into memories from many years. And I must admit, not even those memories are very pleasent. And so no one can prevent me now, at this very moment, from deciding for myself. There will certainly be no one waiting for me back home, seated on the toliet. And, above all, no one else will have to pay for the girl of my choice.

Haunted by what his father had told him in an ackward sex talk with his father as a teen !

These two and a fellow friend are all trying to take their lives with various reasons why they are doing it and various ways of doing it some alone some wanting to be found others anting someone close as they do. There is an air of desperation amongst them all. This reminds me of a couple of writers Beckett which of course the down and outs of Waiting for Godot come to mind as they talk. But I was also reminded of the American short story writer Raymond carver there is a similar feeling of the lost souls in the world these are scrapping the barrel of life. They just seem stuck in a loop trying to end their lives. This does have dark humor behind it at times yes the subject is very dark but the circle of the suicides are more cries for help and maybe a way of being seen by anyone. I was drawn ion by the way Alastair had translated the voice of the main character you are hooked from the first page to his life and what brought him to where he is? Another example of why Dalkey archive is so important to be kept running thanks to Deep Vellum. I wonder if anyone would be interested in later in the year doing a Dalkey archive week maybe?

Robinson by Aram Pachyan

Robinson by Aram Pachyan

Armenian fiction

Original title – Ռոբինզոն 

Translator – Nazareth Seferian, Nairi Hakhverdi, Arevik Askharayan, Nyree Abrahamian

Source – review copy

I have reviewed the debut novel by Aram Pachyan a couple of years ago. This was meant to be part of a collection of books from Armenia that Glasgoslav had brought out and Aram was to give a speech about writing here is that speech.  which I really enjoyed so I am pleased to review this short story collection from one of the leading writers in Armenia. This book won the presidential prize in Armenia. His books have topped the chart in his home country. His works have been adapted into Musicals and experimental play of his book goodbye bird which I reviewed here.

He opened the box with his eyes closed, his breayth held. The colourful ornaments were quietly asleep on the cream-couloured paper. On the surface of those decorations, he saw the sad reflection of his face and the curvy shadows od his pointy hair. In the box, there were layers upon layers of ornaments and streamers hich adorned their christmas tree every year. The small plastic Christmas tree that his parents had brought in the city of Vandzor a long time ago, even before he was born. It’s skelton had grown weak over the years, its green leaves had melted here and there from the heat of the lights. Every year, when he placed the tree, his father would use a copper wire to fasten the tree’s thin trunk to the four legged base, so that it would not fall over.

A proustian moment of a christmas tree remember a close moment with his father.

This is a collection of 16 stories that seem to capture what it is like growing up in Armenia and also the loneliness of modern life. The title story is a nod to the ultimate tale of being alone that of Robinson Crusoe. A series of letters between   Robinson and Friday that then leads to children and their teacher. This gives the tale of being alone a modern twist. Elsewhere there are street chess players. A young boy falls for the local girl of his dreams of her in a sexual way then later on he takes a local girl he has fallen for out she gets drunk he has to go back to the same aunt for some money to bail him out. There are dreams of escape where a young boy reads of Toronto and dreams of escaping there. Mothers trying to sort out their drunk husband by drugging the father to keep him from drinking is observed by a child. In places, the tales feel personal as a number of the characters are called Aram. The most touching was a son whose father is dying remembering the closeness the putting of up of the tree brought him and his father. Who is dying in the hospital he wonders if his father sees a tree there in the hospital and is remembering those moments as well !!

I was embarrassed: how could I ask those boys for more money when they had worked all day like slaves? No, I couldn’t ask them .. What should I do …What should I do ? The thought was born in my head scared me , but the fear felt very pleasent, for the first time I wished to properly feel fear, it was like being run over by a car, when you somehow avoid the blow and manage to calm down afterwards …How I went, I don’t know.. Did I go, did my childhood go? I don’t know. I knocked on the apartment door of number 19 and Lia opened it

Having been made broke by the drunk local beauty he goes to his aunt for some money.

On the back cover, it says the stories contain the inescapable loneliness of people in the modern world. It is a hard world at times he describes tough times tough people also a world where drink and violence can just bubble below the surface. These are great observational pieces the little everyday things are captured here. The despair of a story like John Cheever swimmer can be seen in this collection the despair in the modern world but also the dreams of past and future at times. This lifts the lid on a hard life and a world that we can be thankful we aren’t in.

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