The House with the Stained-Glass window by Żanna Słoniowska

The house with Stained-Glass window by Żanna Słoniowska

Polish fiction

Original title – Dom z witrażem

Translator – Antonia Lloyd-Jones

Source – review copy

This is another from Maclehose new collection of press editions of books from around the world. This book is by one of the rising stars of  Polish fiction. Żanna Słoniowska she won the Conrad prize a prize for a debut novel and also the Znak prize which had over a thousand books in contention for it. She was born  In Lviv in Ukraine but now lives in Krakow. She works as a Journalist and Translator.

On the day of her death, her voice rang out, drowning many others, rancous sounds. Yet death, her death, was not a sound, but a colour. They brought her body home wtrapped in a large, blue and yellow flag – the slag of a country that did not yet exist on any map of the world.She was tightly shrouded in it, like an Egyptian mummy, thoug in one spot on the surface a dark, blood-red stain was breaking through. As i stood and starred at that stain, I was strucj by the feeling someone had made a mistake.

The opening and her mothers death and the first mentio of Blue and Yellow .

This book is set in the town of Lviv, in fact in a way it is as much as a character in the book as the people that live in the House with Stain glass. The story is told through the three woman who all live in the house and really cover the whole of the last century. The house in Lviv in Ukraine is home to Great Grandma grandma Aba and Mother Marianna and her Daughter. All live in the house the books open as Marianna is killed, she is a famous Opera star and leader of the movement to free Ukraine from the Soviets. The story is told from the daughter’s point of view she tells of her grandmother’s  struggles and during the wars. The loss of the fathers in history. Also, the grandmother could have been a painter and due to circumstances missed out. The daughter herself many years later start an affair with an older man as we see how the fight to get the blue and yellow flag was flown has affected all those living behind the stained glass window in Lviv four woman and hundred years of history.

That winter in the mid -1990’s , Balconnies started falling on peoples heads and walking close to the houses became dangerous.

“Mind your head!”wnet the refrain to anyone who ventured outside.

“Yesterday, on So and Son Street, balcony mouldings from tje second floor of house number six collapsed onto the head of a woman walking below” I read in the newspaper “Although the pieces of plaster were not heavy, she was seriously injured and taken to hospital.#

This made me thing of those advert” have you had a balcony hit you !! ” as the kept falling on people .

The other great female writer about Ukraine Svetlana Alexievich this book shows the true spirit of females in the Soviet Era. Also the constant struggle of the sleeping giant that was Ukraine. This is a portrait of family but also on a great scale of the country. from the grandmothers war time and exile from the original homeland through the mother’s struggle to lead the first movement to freedom, To the present day told from the daughter and those recent years we also saw on the news where the country kept going one way to another. The other character in this book is Lviv one of those great towns full of ghosts and touch so much by the history of the 20th century. An amazingly confident book for a debut novel.

 

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Dance by the Canal by Kerstin Hensel

 

 

Dance by the Canal by Kerstin Hensel

German fiction

Original title – Tanz am Kanal

Translator – Jen Calleja

Source – Review copy

Well, I always love reading the Novellas Peirene, choose every year. Over the time I have blogged, Peirene has been publishing books. I have been reviewing them on this blog. This third book of the year is by Kerstein Hensel the German writer initially trained as a nurse in the former East Germany and then studied literature. This book originally published in Germany in 1994. Only a few years after the reunification of Germany. She has won numerous prizes for her works. Including the Lessing Prize for the body of her works.

I avoided Fraulein Brinkman. I knew that I had to do something to not stand out.The “I” was a sign in the register. From then on I did my fair share of staple throwing and chair rocking. My fellow pupils cheered me on and accepted me as one of them; Ha , the doctors kid wants to play too!

The first teacher at school had her down as an I from the intelligentisa the only one in the class !!

Told from the point of View of Gabriela. Gabriela is born into a family of Nobility in the Former East Germany. Her full surname is Von Haßiau. She is the daughter of a Surgeon, her mother is a society Hostess. Now, this would be great a wonderful start to life in the west but this is the old east of Germany. Gabriela is expected to follow in the family way so when she is just five she is appointed a Violin teacher. Although her playing never amounts to much it is her teacher that touches her. after she lost her Uncle the one they called the Bad German is shot by the regime. Frau Popiol and her red hair have a lasting impact on the young Gabrielia as she compares her first school teacher unfavourably to this woman. On her first day at school, her fellow pupils laugh at her name. As she is described by the teacher as A bourgeoisie relic for using the Von piece of her name. But as her father intervenes for her next day is different. But she has one friend at school. Katka is the poorest in the class is her friend they connect most to her mother’s dismay. THey get on til the teen years where Katka grows up after her first period. But Gabriela starts to go down hill. Ending up under the bridge living by the Kanal.We also see through her childish eyes. The family fall apart, early on in the book she describes her mother drinking. Then later finding her in bed with another man. Then Her father who she says only talks about Varicose and his clinic. He like many fell foul of the east German regime. We see all this as Gabriela tells her story when the wall falls down as a homeless woman in East German to a west German Magazine.

Katka left me standing there. I wasx suddenly alone. Wanted to get away. Where to? Whereever you want. I walked through the city. The city eneded aty the canal. Where to now? Yes or no.Wherever you want. I don’t know where I wantto go. Yes. No I’ve never been kissed. Don’t lie.On the canal there’s a little house. Who lives in this little house ? Yes of no. Steer clear of it. Why? don’t know wherever you want.Dance by the Canal

The passage icluding the title she had danced earlier there with Katka in thr town of Liebnitz she grew up in.

 

The parents say the daughter is Blnka when she was bad and Ehlchen when she was good.But this is a story of a girl that never really fits. Her parents you see from her point of view are distant then her school doesn’t work. This doesn’t help when her father won’t let her join in certain organizations within the school that all the other pupils are in but her. It is a story of a downfall. In the intro to the book on the Website says you look into the face of a homeless person and wonder why them not me. I get this sense myself. If our lives twist one way or another would we be Gabriela? What she shows is that even the highest can fall but also I feel the path is laid for Gabriela in a way. She has parents that we see maybe have other agenda in their lives but her and then she puts her self straight on the back foot at school. One downfall is a maybe the voice of thousands that fall through the cracks.  Also, shows the darker side of life on the streets when Gabriela has something happen and isn’t believed.

A Czech crime trio

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Earlier this year I found one of this trio of books written by the Late Czech writer Josef Skvorecky. Around the Sixties, he wrote about Lieutenant Boruvka of the Prague Homicide Bureau. The books reflected the Czech regime of the time and things like LSD arriving there. Last year one of the book was recorded for radio here. It was said in his obituary the four books of Borkuva could be read as an epic work, I have the three books as they are said to convey the everyday life of Prague at the time very well.I hope to read them soon have anyone else read them?

 

Love and Garbage by Ivan Klima

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love and Garbage by Ivan Klima

Czech Literature

Original title – Láska a smetí

Translator = Ewald Oser

Source – Library book

I have a number of his books on my shelves, but in my recent visit to the library, this book by the great Czech writer Ivan Klima struck me as a perfect holiday read as i t was under two hundred pages. Klima has lived an extraordinary life where his family and he ended up at a concentration camp aged ten, then as he grew as a writer he spent time in prison due to his writing and even had to take a simple job as a street cleaner which inspired this novella. He has written more than thirty books and has had a good number of those books have been translated into English.

I wrote , for hours and days and weeks. Plays I would never see staged and novels which I assumed would never be published in the language in which they were written. I was working, but at the same time I was afraid that the silence which surrounded me would eventually invade me, paralyse my imagination and kill my plots. I would sit at my desk and be aware of the weight of the ceiling, the weight of the walls and of things which might overwhelm me at any moment with their indifference.

Kafka ran through this also how could you write and write and never have it seen by anyone.

This was published three years before the fall of the Czech regime, but when it did finally get into print in the Czech Republic it sold 100,000 copies. The book follows a street sweeper, but he is also writing a thesis about the great writer Franz Kafka, a piece he knows will never see the light of day. The narrator has a lover Daria she is the sculptor , which is tough as he already married. So as he describes his coworkers a mixture of hard workers that have to be on the job, fools, youngsters as he wanders the streets he thinks of his country the troubled past, Kafka, Daria, writing and Struggling to be heard and appreciated, He feels like the Garbage he is sweeping is the life he is living that he is seeing how human souls and dreams are thrown away like the trash.

Thus I moved in my orange vest through the little streets and lanes of my native city whoch was slowly giving up its spirit, my companions at my side as witnessses. We were cleaning  the town on whoch refuse had fallen and soot and ashes and poisoned rain and oblivion. We strode along in our vesys like flamingoes, like angels of the dying, sweeeping away all rubish and refuse, angels beyond life, beyond death, beyond all , scarcely toyched by the jerkish  time, our sppeech resembled our  age-old brooms, it came from a long way back and it moved along

I loved this Orange vest and flamingoes comparison

Kilima is one of those voice of the Soviet era, that still rings true now. It seems so distant but I remember the scenes when the Soviet bloc fell they seem distant and it is hard to remember how hard it was for those writers like Klima. The narrator in this book is part Klima own story at the time he lived part of what the character did, part Kafka character in the hopeless nature of his existence, writing but unable to be read or heard. The book stands the test of time as the nature of the writing jumps of the plate, the characters in the book his fellow street sweepers the dark sense of foreboding and feeling of oppression on the streets as they sweep. Managing to keep a wife and mistress happy at this time.A lot of action and thoughts in 200 pages.

Have you read Klima?

The Portrait by Antoine Laurain

 

Image result for antoine laurain the portrait

The Portrait by Antoine Laurain

french fiction

Original title –  Ailleurs si j’y suis,

Translators – Jane Aitken and Emily Boyce

Source – Review copy

I edge towards a hundred books from France this is book 92 and the fourth by one of my favourite writers or recent year Antoine Laurain is a witty lighthearted writer that writes the perfect summer reads for me with his last three books have brighten my summer evenings over the last few years so when his latest arrived a coup,e off months ago I read it the day it came. This was actually his debut novel in French.

That portrait of me, painted two and half centuries ago, which I came across in my forty-sixth year, was to turn out to be the high point of a collection I had been adding to for years .Ech successive year , each successive object, and each successive docket had been leading me here to this late morning in room eight of Drout auction house. But it is to the very beginning of my life as a collector that we must return , to my very first purchase. I was nine years old and , being a the good lawyer i am , I shall name that episode the “Eraser Affair ”

The first and last part of the collection maybe led him to his final piece.

Like his other books has an item as a thread for the story and also like his other books follows one persons obsession with the said item. The item in this book is a Portrait that has been purchased by Pierre Francois a collector of art , even thou this picture isn’t by a great name the second he saw the portrait,  he saw a bit of himself in the sitter of the painting. His family and friends are unable to find what Pierre sees in the painting himself. But pierre is like a dog with a rabbit trying to find out as much as he can about the sitter and artist of the said portrait  a key to this is a small coat of arms in the picture . As he sees a way to drift into the world of the painting as the history of the picture gives him a chance to escape his world. Like his other books we follow one man  journey through the past and  the city of Paris.

After driving for three hours and forty minutes , I parked my Jaguar in the little village square. Here  I was in Rivaille . There was almost no sign of life at that time of the morning, just an old Renault 4 , a clio and a little van . I got out of the car and took some deep breaths of fresh air.It’s only when you’re in the countryside that you notice how polluted, stale , and , worst of all , stupefying the air in Paris . I moved my head side to side ,stretched my arms then shut the car door as I caught sight of the nearest cafe . la jument Verte , with its “Lotto ” and “Tabac” signs I headed there for a double espresso and croissants, after which  I’d ask for directions to the chateau

Pierre nears the end of his journey into the painting .

This is a whimsical look at the life of a collector and how one can easily fall down a rabbit hole when one sees something of ones self in the art we enjoy , as a way of escaping the present. His other books always use the said item of the title the presidents hat takes back through a nostalgia for 80s and the great french leader, a notebook leads to a couple who meet across the city. A long-lost letter and tape reunites friends and this one use the Portrait to reignite a mans passion for his life  and a journey like the other books it is look back at a past and how this great city was in the past. This is almost like the Scene in Woody Allen where Owen Wilson character is given the chance to step back to the 1920’s in Paris , but we also see a looping as a character in the 20’s has a chance to go back to the 1890’s as she finds the 20’s that the Wilson character finds so exciting boring and this is also a  theme that is in the book Pierre francois is a man who has used collecting art to hide away the true sadness in his life .

 

 

Belladonna by Daša Drndić

Belladonna by  Daša Drndić

Croatian fiction

Original title Belladonna

Translator Celia Hawkesworth

Source – Review copy

As I said in yesterday’s post , I’d be back in Croatia today with one of my favourite writers Dasa is someone I was lucky enough to have met when her first book in English was shortlisted for the old IFFP . Ispent a good hour talking books and lit with her so this book is no surprise as one of the things we talked about is how important books can be at highlighting the darker side of the world we live in and this is something she felt English novels miss somewhat. Dasa is a writer in various ways radio plays , short piece for Croatian magazines like work , savremenik and literary word.

His name is Andreas Ban

He is a psychologist who does not psycholoise any more

A writer who no longer writes.

He is a tourist guide who no longer guides anyone anywhere.

A swimmer who has not swum for a long time.

He has other occupations that no-one any longer needs , he least of all

He is sixty- five , he looks pretty good, like fifty

Andreas is treading water in his life when the end of his career comes.

 

The hero of this book is Andreas Ban , a writer , psychologisvt and what one would say is a intellctual in every sense of the word. But he is now in that last third of his life facing retirement and this is his life from them . Looking back on the past and trying to see what brought him to the point he is at.Now the title of this book has a varied meaning in part it is best shown in the croat cover where the cover has an eye with a drop , which is what Belladonna is used for to help open the eye but also on the cover Belladonna is written in red the colour of bloood and also in Braile below. I feel this gives the really meaning of the book it is a look back on the blood of his home land  both in a fictional sense and also in the sense of real history in the use of  history again like in her earlier work Dasa use list of names to amplify the lost sense of history . I know this is something Dasa is passionate about using the horrors of the past to shine a light on the way Europe seems to be going blind into a new right-wing world . Any way we see this through Andres Ban eyes a man who has become a piece in a machine an email tells him he has left his job then he becomes ill and feels like a piece in a machine in this ever quickening world .Maybe the answer is in the title for what Andreas has to do !

For a year and a half , the angel of death (Mengele) keep his seven dwarves in a human zoo and examines their insides.

The worst were the gynecological experiments.They would tie us to a table and the systematic torture could begin. We got shots into our womb, they took blood from us, samples of our flesh and fluid from our spinal cords, they pierced and cut us, pulled out our hair, examined our brain , our nose , our mouth, our legs and arms, they dug around and drilled through us in the name of those who will come .I am Elizabeth

A passage about past hours that reminds us of the dark not so distant past we had .

 

 

It is hard not to sing the praises of Dasa , after you meet her she is articulate passionate and one of those writers you meet and know you will love all their books. I also feel the same feeling she does the growing right-wing nature of the world we live in is one we are slowly going into and with out books like this to remind us of what is around us .Like in here earlier books she blends fiction and non fiction and the use of list of names is as powerful as when she used it in Trieste as she said to me when you remove these names from the book it becomes unstable and unbalanced and that is what happens in the world when these people are killed for no reason. Dasa is one of the great writer one that needs to be more widely read !!

 

Hair everywhere by Tea Tulic

Hair Everywhere by Tea Tulic

Croatian Fiction

Original title – Kosa posvuda

Translator – Coral Petkovich

Source – Review copy

I return with a couple of novels from Croat the first her is a debut prize-winning novel , from one of my favourite publishers Istros books. Young Tea Tulic , took her own life experience of losing her mother and wove it into this novel. Tea was born and grew up in the Croat city of Rijeka and has written many short piece in Serbian ,Croat and Macedonia. This won the Croat book prize for the best young writer. She said in an interview one of her influences  and mentor is  the great Dasa Drndic whose latest book I review tomorrow and was also thanked by Tea in this book.

When I was a t primary school, I was allowed to keep little freshwater turtles as pets. I fed them with dried shrimps. I put a green plastic palm in the aquarium for them, to make them feel more at home. They never grew big because they fell ill – Their shells became soft. I massaged the shells with butter, but it didn’t help. I buried all six of them in a big park, in matchboxes.After the last burial I said to my parents: Don’t ever give me those dying animals again .

In the piece another pet dies but maybe it also echoes the slow death of her mother.

Hair everywhere is a collection of short pieces a mosaic of a novel , called by its publisher a fragmented novel . It follows the daughter of woman , whom is dying and also has an elderly  grand parent who she is trying to look after keep alive. Then there is recurring items , Hair on the head of people , on the floor and clothes when it as fallen out. The passion flowers . A dream about a snake and a selection of Pets she had that all either died or disappeared , the colour purple are all motifs in this book . This is a child voice and mind dealing with a sick parent but also what lies past that. I flew through this book it is a real page turner I read it in one sitting.

When mum opened the drain in the bathtub and pulled a lump of hair from it, she said to me “Look, this is your bloody hair ! I’ll cut it short”. In her wet hands were long brown strands, once adored , now loathed. It’s like having a dog in the house!”Once we did have a dog in the house. I found him in the fron of school and brought him home while Mum and Dad were at work .  He ate all the soup and bread. He was big and hungry, as was Dad that evening . So he had to go

Hair and a pet both motifs , also never mention is cancer of the reason for the hair lose , so like a child.

This is a touching account of dealing with a parents death , I know this experiences so well having lost but my mother and step mother in the last few year. So still raw this detached child like voice drifting between the everyday , past and present with her mother in and out of hospital reminded me so much of my own recent past the lonely nights the thought of our shared past in this case through a selection of pets. Tea has also released a spoken word album, I can see a connection between her work and music This has the same feel of confessional lyrics that many of my favourite singers have especially Mark Kozelek , this is a bare voice stripped and telling snippets of  a life twirling out of control as the shadow of death drifts over their lives until the end comes and all you can do is buy some purple shoes for your late mother. Touching elegant prose beautifully sketching the last few months of three generations of a female hierachy. Tea manages to do what Mark Haddon did so brilliantly and that is capture a child’s voice at the worst time of their lives , that way of seeing and not seeing \mum is ill but no mention of the treatment and reason she lost her hair.

The traitors Niche by Ismail Kadare

Image result for traitor's niche

The traitors Niche by Ismail Kadare

Albanian Fiction

Original title – Kamarja e turpit

Translator – John Hodgson

Source – Library copy

I near the end of the man boomer journey with last but one longlist book . I was surprised like Ellen Battersbye this  was on the list as the original book came pout in 1978, I do wonder why it took so long to translate , what isn’t such a bad novel. I have reviewed Ismail Kadare four times before on the blog , he has used history in the past to shine a light on his homelands present. I always view him like Pamuk or Llhosa as a future Nobel winner in that he writes good not great books but always good books to read.

It was not hard to imagine why this square had been chosen for the niche where the severed heads of rebels viziers or ill-starred senior officials were placed. Perhaps nowhere else could the eyes of passer-by so easily grasp the interdependency between the imposing solidity of the ancient square and the human heads that dared to show it disrespect. It was clear at once that the head’s lifeless eyes surveilled every corner of the square . In this way , even the feeblest and least imaginative passer-by could visualise, at least for a moment , his own head displayed at this unnatural Height.

The traitors niche is there to show the citizens who is who and keep them in line .

The Traitors niche is a tale about the backlash of the Ottoman Sultan to the area of his land that was Albania , he has sent his courier to this province to make sure that he gets the heads pf those the Sultan has ordered killed for standing up to the ottoman empire , he has also orders the end of the languages and customs of this place , as he is scared that history will repeat as they rebelled 400 years before that so as we follow Abdulla the courier sen to ge the heads as he gets slightly mad carrying the heads back home . The heads are destined to be put up on the Traitors niche which is guarded by Tundj and his two fellow guards. They have to follow a list of orders to make sure the heads are kept as long as possible by caring for them .

Albania had rebelled many times since the death of Scanderberg , may he never rest in peace, but never like this.This was an extended rebellion that came in waves like the shocks of an earthquake, sometimes overtly, sometimes in secret. It had been started long ago by the old Bushatli family in the north and continued by Ali Pasha Tepelena in the South, and was shaking the foundations of the historic empire .

There was always rebellion in Albania , but sometimes it needed stamping on like in the book .

This is classic Kadare his books are so set in the heart of his homeland this like most of historic novel are as much about the time they were set as the present . I was reminded in the way Tundj cared for the heads remind me of the way the soviets took care of the dead leader and I wondered if he imagined that Hoxha would want his body kept. Themn there is the way the Sultan wiped out an opposition to his ruler , much the way Hoxha did using his secret police to wipe pout any opposition . At this time Kadare was still writing and living in Albania and used the historic themes in his novels of the time like this and Three arched bridge and twilight of the eastern gods  both of which I have reviewed and both of which had been written around the same time as this book. KAdare used the past to highlight the violent repressive regime of his homeland .

 

The Buddha’s return by Gaito Gazdanov the 700th book review

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The Budha’s return by Gaito Gazdanov

Russian fiction

Original title – Vozvrashchenie Buddy

Translator – Bryan Karetnyk

Soure – library book

Well today I return back to Pushkin press fortnight with last but one of the books I read for the week I had two books by Gazdanov to choose from this and The spectre of Alexander Wolf , as the later is a personal copy  i decided to read the one from the library . Gaito Gazdanov , fought with the white guard in the civil war and after that he managed to flee to Paris where for many years he was part of the émigré lit scene there as well as being a taxi drive at night his work was well admired by Maxim Gorky . His first novel appeared in 1930 he wrote a number of books this was written in the late 1940’s . His works were never published in Russia in his lifetime .

I died . I have searched long and hard for the right words to describe what happened , and , convinced that none of the usual , familiar terms will do , have finally settled on one asscoiated with what seems the least imprecise of realms : death. I died in the month of June , at night, during one of my first yers abroad .This however, was far less remarkable than my being the only person to know of this death, the only one to have witnessed it.

The opening passage our student or is it , has he died or did he dream it ..

 

This is one of those odd crime novels that is more about the people involved in the story. The novel follows a student that is in a state of dreaming the world away , so much that he has trouble splitting his dream world from reality . Our story is told by someone who appears already dead as he describe falling of a cliff. A second body of a billionaire turns up and then we have a missing Buddha statue that is worth a small fortune that has disappeared . The statue owned by a russian that had been in the war and an Officer Pavel .,So did the other russian student kill the first man and what has the narrator to do with it is he the student , if so why does he talk about his own death !! . But is this maybe all part of the students dream we are never sure . This is full of classic noir touches and a large nip of existentialism .

 Then this calm man sank into total silence , which he did not break during the course of those three days that passed I awaited the next interrogation, at which – if i were to believe him – such incredible things were to occur.We were given food twice daily ; at first I was unable to eat it, as it was so disgusting.Only on the third day I managed to swallow a few spoonfuls of some clear-grey liquid and a crust of poorly baked bread .

Is it a breakthrough after three days or the fact the prison food is so bad he will be too weak to hold up to it again !

this is a quirky book , I had a sense and was right when I read it was originally published as a piecework in a russian magazine in the late forties . the novel has ups and downs like you do in the classic piecework where you are left on the edge for next weeks story . The is also a sense of entering a world of Kafka in a way a surreal world of a man being arrest for a crime , but this called all be that mans dream . Then we also have a fellow Russian that has come and become a buddhist and lose his Golden Buddha , which stuck me as a classic piece of setting for a noir story of the time , the Maltese falcon for example to turn the story into a caper somewhat . I liked this book it is quirky enough to suit my taste for crime which is books that take a sideways look on the whole  crime . This does it mixing Ex pats  , Noir Paris ,  two dead bodies  one a billionaire and oh yes a gold Buddha . Oh and a small point this is my 700th review on the blog !!

The Attempt by Magdaléna Platzová

 

Image of Magdaléna Platzová’s “The Attempt”

The Attempt by magdalena Platzova

Czech Fiction

original title – Anarchista

translator – Alex Zucker

Source – personnel copy

the end of last year I was reading through the world literature todays best translations of 2016 and decide to order a couple that caught my eye and this by the Czech writer Magdalena Platzova caught my eye. She Studied philosophy in the Us and UK after this she became firstly a journalist then she became an editor and  also writes a weekly column. She has published a number of novels this is her second book to be translated to english and is based partly on the true story of Alexander Berkman and his life long partner Emma goldman and the attempt to kill the industrialist Henry Frick in 1892 .

One of the books, published by a small university press in the United States, was an anthology of biographies of the most important anarchists.Andreis B wasn’t one of them, but he did play a supporting role in the story of Louise G .. an anarchist of Russian origin

There were two photos of him. A portrait from 1892 , when he attempted to assassinate Kolman and a snapshot from the mid-thirties: Andrei on the promenade in Nice, wearing a light suit, cane and straw hat in hand , running to catch up with a group of friends, dominated by the short, broad frame of Louise G

The book about the two that Josef has leads to a theory Jan maybe her great granddaughter .

 

The book set in the present day as we follow a Czech historian Jan as she is trying to find out more avout Andrei B he is a fictional version Of Alexander Berkman , and his affair and life with Louise G a fictional version Emma Goldman , One of jan’s friend a fellow historian has a theory that Jan’s on family line comes from the child of these two. So Jan has become entranced with these two and like them decides to cross the ocean to America. This is just at the time that anarchist’s are in the forefront of the news with the occupy wall street movement is in full turn. Jan is here to study the Kolmans files about the time the Kolmans is a stand in for the Henry Frick who was the real target in the real life events of the attempt on his life.

I hit on the plan of how to get to Kolman’s daughter while I was in the reading room of the New York Public Library, looking through a book about Kolman house that Eleanor herself put together thirty years ago.

I was amazed at how much kolman’s taste changed in the space of a few years , how perfect the New York collection seemed in comparison with what was on display in the rooms of the first family residence. It encapsulated the difference between a metropolis and provincial city , between the mentality of cultured art dealers like Duveen brothers and the outlook of an unsophisticated businessman, who accumulated works of art solely for his own pleasure .

Jan finds a way to get to the Kolman home to find out about them

This is a clever look at the past that serves at a look at the present. A clever use of  letters notebooks build the picture of the past whilst in the background we see what drives Jan to find out about the characters driven by Josef theory . This is a clash of Ideas Europe against american the growth of wealth that has been the driving force behind the american way of life those collections Kolmann like the real life Frick had seem so opposite to what Jan knows from his european ideas then there is what drives us is money freedom well,no from what we discover about the family but also on the other end of the scale can Anachists  ever be the answer ? well no because some of us need guidance. This is modern and past america viewed through Czech eyes we get the madness of it all like we do in the works of Kafka or more so Skvorecky like Magadlena spent time in North America in his great book The engineers of human souls . that also followed a czech across the atlantic but also looking to europe as in his case he tried to escape his past her we try to discover the past to get the present and as that book title came from Stalin saying of writers being the engineers of human souls this is a book about searching our souls .

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