Redemption by Friedrich Gorenstein

Redemption

Redemption by Friedrich Gorenstein

Russian Fiction

Original title – Iskuplenie

Translator – Andrew Bromfield

Source – personnel copy

 

I move further east after my Croatian return and to the Russian Library series of books I have been buying these the last year or so. I love the covers and they are bringing out a mixture of lost classics and modern classics. Here we see the exiled Russian writer Friedrich Gorenstein a Jewish writer whose father was arrested and Shot by Stalin. He worked as a screenwriter and novelist he is maybe best known as the screenwriter of Solaris the well known Russian film by Andrei Tarkovsky. He finally left Russia in the late seventies and his books came out. The title of the book is redemption in English but atonement in German as the Russian word has meaning between the two words.

It was Sashaenka’s first ball. She had been reparing for it a long time, a whole week, since got her an invitation through the local special trade committee. Sashaenka had washed every day with a special war-trophy lotion brought at a stret market, wound curlers into her hair, rubbed eau de cologne into her skin and , for  the first time in her life, painted her lips in a little cupid’s bow and powdered her cheeks. And now there was Genral Batunuya’s son whispering something to his friends and glancing furtively at sashenka’s calves in their covering of cream lisle cotton. Sashaenka sttod in line, shwed her invitation,and reciever a present at a competitive market price.

THe Ball she tried hard to perfect fall but all wasn’t perfect fore her in this imperfect post war soviet world.

The books open in 1945 the war is over and the New year is happening and in the town of Berdichev, a town which is now  in  Ukraine Sashenka a sixteen year girl who has end up there when her father a pilot in the war died and her mother brought to this mainly Jewish town at the time. A young woman that has managed to avoid the Nazis and crippling illness to now as the war ends to start blooming into a woman. She runs off to a Ball but is shocked when a fellow guest at the ball points out the lice on her clothes and she blames her mother. But she hates the fact that her mother has a new lover she is trying to get her family by but the daughter doesn’t see this? She then decides to denounce her mother as a petty thief. Whilst at the same time she has a new man in tow. So when she meets a young Jewish Lieutenant August that has come home to bury his family she helps him find his family from the unmarked graves they are in to give them a decent burial. What will happen to her and her mother? and her relationship in this new post-war Soviet era!

“My mother” Sashenka wrote,”is a pilferer of Soviet property. I repudiate her and now wish to be only the daughter of my father , who died for the motherland …” Sashenka tried to forcefully, but the pen  splashed and scratched, and although the paper was lined, like in a school exercise book, the letters jumped about and the lines or writing either crept upward or curvred downward.Sashenka simply couldn’t think of what to write about Vasya,Olga, and the master of ceremonies, Shethought it would be a good thing to put something in about Batiunya, and Markeev, and Zara with her gold pendants, and in genral everyone who had laughed at Sashaenka and mocked her.

The aftermath of the ball she lashes out like many a ytoung woman at first with her mother , but could have been others!

This is a tough book that has the brutal nature of war at its heart from the loss of a father and the loss of parents in August case both due to the war. The daughter trying to come of age but also like most kids of the age she hates that her mother seems to have forgotten her dead heroic father. The story in the book echos part of his own story he was a boy who with his mother fled across to Uzbekistan. But she died mirroring the illness that Sashenka had. He also was brought by family to the town the book is sent in post-war so would have known the atmosphere he paints of hunting out those that helped the German in the war with neighbor turning on neighbor as the war years start to turn on each other as the dark daily world of the Soviet life starts to come clear in those early weeks of 1946 as the wounds are still raw. A powerful book and one that shows how good these Russian library choices are!

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Singer in the night by Olja Savičević

Singer in the night by Olja Savičević

Croatian fiction

Original title – Pjevač u noći.

Translator – Celia Hawksworth

Source – review copy

I’m back from my short holiday and back with a book from one of my favorite publishers Istros books and also a book that does something that in the time I have been blogging we are seeing and that is a second book from a writer coming out in English. Sometimes we see a great novel from a writer then never see any of there other works translated so this is the first of two returning writers that Istros have brought out this year the other I will be bringing you shortly here. I reviewed Olja first book farewell cowboy a novel that followed a sibling hunting for a lost brother with touches of lost time from her generation often called the lost generation. She grew up when Yugoslavia was still just together and saw the birth of a new country. This book like her earlier book, this is set in Split and also has a similar theme of a female looking for a lost male her it is Clementine’s story of searching for her ex-husband.

Dear citizens, householders, close friends, fellow townsfolk, mild and attentive civil servants and waiter, courageous and patient nurses, magicians, secretaries, dresser of abundant hair, eternal children in short trousers, seasonal ice-cream sellers, dealers in intoxicating substances, drivers who brake on bends, gondoliers of urban orbits, captains of foreign ships, foreign girl on captains, neighbours – agreeable disco gladiators, neighbouring proto astronauts and everyone else in Dinko Simunovic street, not to list you all

The book opens when a poetic letter is posted by someone calling themselves the nightingale. This letter an ode to the street in a district of Split and his wonderful neighbors from the daily rising to there lovemaking. This letter leads into a sort of hunt for the writer of it from someone that was his wife  Clementine now a successful soap opera writer sets of to find the Gale but also driving her car around the places they visited we see her take a drive into her past and what happened to bring them to the present from the street of the letter writer we see a trip to the seaside and the to the Capital of Zagreb where her job is launched and her street poet other half and her drift war and life drifted them and this fragment work shows a women grasping at the past love and trying to reconstruct her life and like most her fellow country people make sense of the war still there in the background and she has to face what is her reality what is her truth this in her world is maybe now rewritten like a soap episode and shows what happens when we make those choices.

All right, I’ll tell you, so ,my name is Clementine. On outside, I’m a blonde orange. I have a Brazilian hairstyle, I drive a two seater Mazda MX-5 covertible, gold, but inside I’m a black orange. Full of black juice.

The day bfore my meeting with nightingale’s mother, the meeting with which I began this story, I travelled from Ljubljana to Split. I decided to make the journey after I had spent tje whole of the proceding week vainly calling Gale every day,. When I tried to pay money for the boat’s berth  I discovered that his account had been closed months before, at the marina they told me he had paid all his bills, but, they’d noticed for some time no one had been coming to the boat. His mobile was dead and at first that annoyed me , then it worried me( we had not been in touch often, in fact very rarely in recent years, and then mainly in connection with our shared boat, but nevertheless).

Clem explains why she want to find the gale.

This book brilliantly is a mix of a road trip novel as clementine revisits her past in doing so sees where her life start from her home town and the mirror of her friends from then with her kids a life that she could have had there is a sense of a soap opera at times the way the tale opens piece by piece wanting us the reader to get to the next episode as one would say a lot of cliffhangers. This is also a detective work in a way we follow Clem and her hunt for the Gale and like a good detective novel those little clues of there lives and past are scatters as the picture builds this is a single night read that lingers with the reader. It has a heady mix of lost love, poetic writing, post-war Croatia  and pre-war Croatia without ever wallowing in the war just showing the outfall from letter by the likes of the old warrior.

Garden , ashes by Danilo Kiš

Garden, Ashes by Danilo Kiš

Serbian fiction

Original title – Bašta, pepeo

Translator – William J Hannaher

Source  – personal copy

It is the week the Kaggy and Simon choose to do a book club for a certain year this time around it was 1965 I am very late so I have this and hope to get another if I’m not to tired over the weekend I’m on nights and the third book late next week anyway the first book I choose was as with the other times I have taken part in the book club was published in its original language on the year here 1965 saw a novel by the well known Serbian writer  Danilo Kis a writer that has maybe not been grabbed by the English speaking world in translation a new edition of his best book known  Encyclopedia of the Dead came out last year from Penguin and Dalkey has translated a number of his books in recent years but still feels under looked I have even not reviewed him until today I have another couple of his books. He was born in what was Austro Hungary but is now Serbia and was Serbia after Austro Hungarian empire split up and was invaded by Hungary the region that  Kis lived in his father was a travel writer and Hungarian speaker. His own childhood was the bases of the earlier books in his writing life so the father-son relationship is one that reflected his own. 

Inside, the name “Singer” is incised in large letters. WHere the sides widen, the comany emblems appear symmetrically, cast as gigantic spiders. On more careful anaylysis, however we discover – not without astonishment – that the spiders plaited into the eylets of the iron side are not really spoider at all but rather a muchanical shuttle – magnifed a hundredfold – with a spool from which the thread unwinds, as thick as a cord, magnified and therefore difficult to recognize. like the letter s giving the illusion of spider legs . The emblem is painted a golden yellow, like a nobleman’s coat of arms , and so are the arabesque on the laquer head of the machine

A siunger sewing machin grabs Andi’s eye here .

This is a story of Andi Scham childhood one that saw them move around the Balkans and Hungary as his father Eduard a travel writer who is working on his third bus, ship, rail and air travel guide the third vol he has done of this book about traveling. The father a drinker and one of those characters that jump of the page Kis own father must have been a similar type of man an obsessive with his subject that he is in love with Travel. He is almost a preacher for travel. But at the same time given the time he is working on his book as events around him the chance he has to escape the Nazi shadow start looming til he one day he just disappeared. A childhood that sees the young boy showing his world from the family sewing machine described in detail as what we see is the Holocaust told through the eyes of a young boy that lived through it. from them sheltering in the woods trying to avoid the oncoming storm the love of his mother this is a touching tale.

My father had been vainly offeruing hus new timetable, on which he had worked for years, for publication. The manuscript lay in a drawer of hios desk, retyped, covred with red pencil marks, crammed with corrections in the margins, glued-on inserts, footnotesm memoranda, supllements, preambles, replete with strange symbols and miniature ideograms.The ideograms were the ones my father had cut pout aof his 1933 timetable and had patiently glued onto his new manuscript, giving it a specail charm

His fathers life work the travle guide

Kis used Eduard Scham in a couple of his books and this is thought to be a largely autobiographical view of his own life so like Andi  Danilo lost his father in the middle of world war two to probably Auschwitz but what makes this is the detail from the sewing machine to his mother carrying a tray early in the book it shows a world disintegrating before our eyes through the naive eyes of a child. A great first choice for 1965  book club and the first Kis on the blog and not the last I think. Have you read his book?

Aviaries by Zuzana Brabcova

 

Aviaries by Zuzana Brabcova

Czech fiction

Original title – Voliéry

Translator – Tereza Novika

Source – review copy

I have long been a fan of the books that Twisted spoon press bring out not only as works of literature charting the world of Czech lit but also they have always made their books eye-catching and desirable to own. So this their last is no different it is the last novel by the Czech writer Zuzana Brabcova a writer who had worked as a cleaner, librarian and hospital attendant before the regime fell in 1989 she worked briefly in the government set up b Vaclav Havel who death is actually a starting point in this book. She also worked as an editor she publishes five novels this was her last novel and the book won the Skvorceky prize for it.

The hairs of the moment bristled

and it crouched and barked. In the chambers of Deputies, four communist MPS refused to honor the memory of the first Czech president, spearhheaded by the leader of the Prague communists, Marta Semelova, who instead congratulated tje nationon ridding itself of a pest

Marta Semelova used to be Alice’s first grade teacher.”Your daughter is extremely gifted, she’ll make something of herself one day”she said and covered Alice’s head with her palm like a fortune-teller.

Can the prophetic gesture of a communist even mean anything ? A bark, bristled hair , a pointed sneer ? no it meant absolutely nothing

What might have been for Alice when her teacher was Marta ?

The book is one of those which I love as it has a real fragment nature to it we follow a female Beta as she wanders around the modern and different Prague it opens with a diary entry that states that Havel has died the day before as the fragment build we see a woman on the edge of this city in so many ways as she has no life and is one of those trying to find work and kill time and this is what is her world the vision of the city her life but also the life of her other female relations are touched on her daughter a dreamlike a child that may be in a way is her hope at times and despair at others a sister also on the edge reduce to scavenging to get by and a mother that has maybe gone the way her two daughters will eventually to the pits of despair in depression and  trying to find a way out her life. Another female that recurs is Semelova she was Alice teacher and now a politician to me this is a clever mirroring of the two people Beta and Marta Semelova lives in this post-communist Prague one has risen the other has fallen but also we see the darker side of the city the outskirts the tourist never see she captures in the bums homeless and chav like kids of the city.

January 27, 2015

Seventy years ago, the red army liberated the Auschwitz concentration camp where Nazis had murdered over one million people : 960,000 Jews, 75,00 Poles, 21,000 Roma, 15,000 Soviets pows, 15,000 Czechs, Slovaks, Germans, Austrians,Ukrainians,French,Yugoslavians.In April 1947, Rudolf Hoss, the commandant of the liberated camp, was sentenced to death amd hanged symbolically in front of the crematorium of Auschwitz 1.

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The book has facts like these scattered through this one got me with the last line so apt for the modern world !!

This is one of those books that is like a jigsaw we need to be patient as the piece are all mixed up but as you get into the work it starts to build up and the picture is built  that of a city where dreams have been broken and made were the communist ideals have been replaced even Havel dream of post-communist Czech has fallen apart. The brilliance is in the prose that captures both the everyday working of Beta life but also the dream or nightmare way she envisions the world around her as surreal and hyper-real at over time maybe even both at the same time. I was reminded of the grotesque films of Jiri Barta his strange stop motion films like the club of the laid off although set much earlier has the same impending doom as this book has. A fitting tribute a book that deals with both the plight of females and the mental health issues that can cause in modern Czech society from a writer that always addressed feminist issues in her works.

Agnomia by RÓBERT GÁL

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Agnomia by Róbert Gál

Slovakian fiction

Original title –  Agnómia

Translator – David Short

Source – Personnel copy

I had ordered this book last year as the description of it grabbed me as it was One long, unbroken paragraph, blending, memoir, fiction and philosophy. That description grabbed me plus when I read an interview by Frank Garrett with Gal about his use of Aphorisms in his books. Gal has lived in New York, Brno, Berlin and now Prague all these crop up in this book. He has had two earlier books translated to English this is his third book to be translated to English with a fourth to come out this year, Gal has said of his writing he writes in condensed form, in fragments, in aphorisms, and in blocks. This book is 70 pages long and follows a writer called Robert Gal from New York back to Europe.

We’re in New York, she repeats, and the words reflects states of different worlds like cannabine wafts of neat tomorrows from dug-up todays.We need to pinch ourselves to believe. She’s looking at me with that serpentine gaze of a young Prague intellectual who has come to New York at her parent’s expense to seek analogies between this and that and to talk twaddle. There’s a pile of books on the desk from which she would be forever copying out bits and pieces. Once she took me to a pseudo-intellectual hellhole to meet some feminists. The whole ambience had me feeling quite sick.

I remember night in Germany in the late 90s like this before the internet when the books we read mattered more than titbits of books.

The book opens as Gal is the lone Slovak in a group of Czech and Slovaks in 1993 where he met Eugene at a party a brief encounter but he tells us about riding pillion with a girl there discovering complete works of Stravinsky, Schoenberg and Beethoven stories like Mike Patton who encourage people that spat at him in concert by telling them to spit more. that drift into a female photograph doing nudes and a sid story of Kant pissing on the stage. Time is intersped as we drift forwards and back marks like Yeltsin’s death music he liked such as John Zorn’s Six Litanies for Heliogabalus a piece that features Mike Patton a sort of looping back in time. Too see Zorn play live his self the Zorn connection is one that rings true about this book.

an, say, a Slovak, as a Slovak, feel democratic anywhere other than in Slovakia? And this leads consquently to other questions, which , once one has mentally posed them and immediately answered them, lead to a gradual appreciationof why most citzens of small, insignificant countries remain struck in them as if there were no other option.It isprecisely in small and insignificant countries that we encounter writers who take it for granted that hey are reproducers of reality, but why reality needs to be reproduced rhey don’t reveal. Claiming – as we do -that reality shouldn’t be artistically reproduced but produced, we also should probably seperate “Work of art” from “art” .

Here he hits the nail on the head about his homeland and the place in the world but also maybe his voice is a new one that needs to be heard .

Zorn is an avant grade experimental saxophone player that has overridden genres in the styles he has chosen to play over the year and this in the Narrative form is what Gal is trying to do. We talk a lot about the current rise of Autofiction. But for me, there has been another slow rising style of writing that has been around but that last few decades has been growing a genre-defying sort it has its leader in a writer like Sebald, Bernhard, Magris even earlier Emil Cioran. In recent times books like river and Panorama all do similar mixing memories of a time, dreams and places into one narrative that is about what is being for one person where it is a trip to the center of Europe or a river remind one of another river and time. Here Zorn and his singer of choice Patton link from Prague to New York many a similar link her in Gals work that mixes his experiences with small philosophies on life. This book is like free form Jazz drifting unprepared startling and compulsive reading. Another challenging writer from Slovakia I have read three books from there in the last few years they are showing literature finally coming out of the shadow of Czech literature with a new twist on the Mittel European work that like Bernhard is sometimes just thrown on the page in one long paragraph.He has a good website here .

Have you a favorite Slovakian writer?

 

Soviet Milk by Nora Ikstena

Soviet Milk by Nora Ikstena

Latvian fiction

Original title – Mātes piens.

Translator – Margita Gailitis

Source – review copy

Rather late getting to this one as I await the first title from this years Peirene selection I looked back and last year I hadn’t reviewed one of there books which is a great shame as I have covered most of there books from the first three in year one. Anyway, this is written by the Latvian writer Studied in Latvia then moved to New York to finish her studies. She on her return to Latvia set up the Latvian literature centre and started writing herself she has published over twenty books and has had two translated into English this is her first novel translated to English she also has a short story collection in English life stories is available still.

I don’t remember 15 october 1969. There are people who swear they remember their birth. I don’t. It’s likely that I was well positioned in my mothers womb, because the birth was normal. Not particularly long, or particularly short, with the last contractions coming every five minutes. My mother was twenty five, young and healthy. Her mental state, though was not so healthy, as I learned later.

I do remember , or at least I can picture, the golden, tender calm of October, alternating with forebodings of a long peri=oid of darkness. It’s a kind of boundary month, at least in the climate of this latitude, where seasons change slowly and autumn only graduallly gives way to winter.

The opening liunes as the daughter remembers the autumn month but not her own entering to the world!

I read this first last year and struggled to get into it and thus left it unreviewed but when stuck the other day with a feeling of nothing grabbing me I’d started half dozen books and got thirty pages in and lost interest. But this time I was really grabbed by the voice of the daughter describing her mother and then got the book the nameless narrators tell the stories in flipping narratives the daughter born in 1969 both mother and daughter born in the same month twenty-five years apart. The daughter growing under the Brezhnev regime her mother never feed her on the breast leading to her hating milk. Milk is a recurring motif in the book. The relationship is strained the, mother a tough woman in her story we see how she ended up in a small town a doctor but not allowed to [ratice in the field she studied which is birth and is a researcher on the effects on woman when she tries to help an abused wife and is banished because her husband was a ranking Soviet figure to be a simple country GP all this is told in her story the daughter only sees her mother now a broken woman she struggles to be herself her mother loves western books reads the poorly type books those Samizdat works will these two ever get what they want from their lives and even get to leave the village.

The river was warm as milk. Only late at night could it providerelief from the sweltering heat. The days felt interminable; the short night brought the balm of darkness. At the end of July the ambulatory centre was closed for a month. I began a long, lonely, senseless time. I lay naked in my shadow-filed room,trying to kill the nights and days.

A use of milk her as the description of the river.

I loved the unnamed narrators as their tale is not just a personal story but the tale of the whole under a regime where people could see their dreams destroyed in a single moment. The common theme in Peirene books over the years of the mother-daughter relationship, in this case, is even given a third fold as the state in Soviet times view its self as a mother and the milk they feed some of its citizens was bitter at times leads to  motif of milk from the mother not feeding the daughter milk  but to the daughter not having milk at school the theme of milk is recurring I felt a comradeship with the daughter not drink milk my whole life I get the hatred of this pure white liquid that maybe like its Soviet regime isn’t pure or white is just an emulsion of fat and water very apt for the regime !. I enjoyed this and it was a great intro to Latvian fiction as this is my first book from Lativa having reviewed books from the other Baltic states  I know have the last one covered by this book. It does what it says for the series and shows who even thou the two are at home they aren’t as there home is a  world they can’t get to under the soviet shackle.

The Last Summer by Boris Pasternak

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Last Summer by Boris Pasternak

Russian fiction

original title – Povest

Translator – George Reavey

Source – Personal copy

I love the lesser works of better-known writers, especially if like Pasternak they have won the Nobel prize. and this is a perfect example of that book Pasternak is known mainly known for Doctor Zhivago. His poetry is available. but this book and other novels by him are less available The last summer hasn’t had a new edition since 1990. Written in 1944 it seems a personal book as Pasternak was also based in the Ura in Perm l in a chemical factory like the main character in this book. He also taught a family in Moscow like Serezha the main character in the book.

At the beginging of 1916, Serezha came to stay with his sister, Natasha, in Solikmsk. For the [ast ten years the scattered fragments of this tale have kept coming into my mind, and in the early days of the revoloution some portions f it found their way into print.

But the reader had better forget about these earliest versions of he will become confused as to what the fate ultimately befell each character. I have changed the names of a number of these charactes; as to the fates themselves, I shall leave them as I had found them in those years in the snow under the trees; and there will be no difference of opnion between my novel in verso, spetrsky which I wrote at a later date, and this prose offering; the life in both of them is the same.

The opening shows how the main character is remember the times earlier !

The book was written in 1934 which may be meant the events he recounts in the book have been tinge by the years between the setting of the book. The book is set in 1916 in the middle of the Great War. We meet a tired man is on his way back to his family well his sister. On a long journey from the Urals homeward bound, he drifts into memories of the last summer he had before the war when the world around him seemed a different world the last summer before the war. He was working as a tutor to a rich Moscow family and the world seemed at his feet as he meets many writers and fell in love with the companion of his employer Mrs. Arid and discovered woman at night as he visited  Saskia a prostitute and other ladies of the night as he discovers his sexual side and a world that he seemed to be going forward. This isn’t a war novel there isn’t much mention of the war but it may be also is like holding a breath as it is just before the  Soviet regime took other which at the time Serezha is meant to be isn’t in foreground although there had been failed coups before that are mention the growing strikes that peppered Russian life in pre-revolution Russia.

The weather was stifling. Serezha, with the aid of a grammar, was refreshing his scant and neglected study of english. At dinner time, he and Harry used go upstairs to the ballroom where they kicked their heels while waiting for Mrs Frsteln to appear. Then they would follow her into the dining-room. Mrs Arild would arrive in the ballroom five to ten minutes before Mrs Fresteln; and Serezha would talk loudly with the Danish woman until the ladt of the house emerged znd then part from her with obvious regret.

His budding romance to the Lady’s companion is in fleeting momnets as these things where at the time.

This is a strange novel it has a certain dream-like feel throughput as the memories have sepia tones at times but there is also a strong feel of Pasternak look back from post-revolution times the book was written in 1934 which is just the time Pasternak and his friends really fell foul under Stalin regime. A close friend Mandelstam was arrested,  this lead to Pasternak getting a call from Stalin about his friend. But later laid the path for Pasternak troubles in his future writing. The is a touch of \bildungsroman about the summer in Moscow Serezha had spent. But also a feeling of Lost love which is something Pasternak was dealing with at the time as he had a romance with the daughter of the family he was brought in to teach Ida. A lost novella that needs reading it is short but feels like most great Novellas do as much more.

Have you a favorite lesser work of a great writer?

The Penguin Classic book week

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was sent this lovely Hardback book by Henry Elliot of the history of Penguin classics which covered all the books Penguin classic have brought out over the years little pen pictures of writers and some of the books. This is the sort of dip in and out of the book you can have for the rest of your life. I decided the best way to get it across would be maybe a personal but open to all reading week. I have decided the second week of April to have read these four books from my Tbr that are all in the Penguin Classics book. So if you have a chance between the 8th April and the 15th to read a penguin classic you are welcome to join in .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First up and I go way back to Ancient Greece and my copy of the Iliad by Homer and my 70’s edition which is translated by E V Rieu. A book that is considered the greatest work of Greece and my first foot into Classical literature on this blog. I’m not sure how good this version is or if it is but the Penguin Classic book says it has had the most translations of any Penguin classic over the time they have been bringing the book out.I often feel I have a huge gap in my reading from so little classics I have read so this is a time to change that!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I go now forward to Victorian times and to Charles Dickens I choose A tale of two cities by him as it is one that isn’t talked about as much as other and also given its setting partly in France fits nicely in the blog and it is one of the few by him I hadn’t read years ago. I was at his museum a few years ago for a book launch and said then I need to read him and especially as my best friend is a huge Dickens fan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the first Italian novels tells the birth of Modern Italy.  Confessions of an Italian tells the great story of the Italian Risorgimento through a sweeping tale of Love, betrayal, villainy, and heroism. I also love the cover of this book for me the picture on the cover just wanted me to buy this book when it came out a few years ago. italo Calvino was a huge fan of this book. An epic at more than 800 pages this is one I have been wanting to get to but keep putting aside now seems a good time.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last off I go to Russia and an Outsider in the time he wrote Nikolai Leskov story collection Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk and other stories. I was grabbed by the fact he had used Shakespeare’s characters for his fiction. A chance to read one of the most unique voices of Russian literature in a book that came out in 1987 for the first time in Penguin Classics.

With 1200 books being published by Penguin classics I’m sure everyone has one or two li=ying around and maybe getting Henry Eliot’s book would be a great intro and guide to them!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Katalin Street by Magda Szabo

Katalin Street by Magda Szabo

Hungarian fiction

Original title – Katalin utca

Translator – Len Rix

Source – review copy

I am surprised I hadn’t reviewed Szabo already I had read the doo and Iza’s Ballad and had enjoyed both but it seems they may have both gone unreviewed. So I start with the latest of her books to be translated into English this is a new translation there was a translation a number of years ago but this is by Len Rix who has also translated The door by her. Szabo wrote post world war two and her initial works saw her fall foul of the Communist authorities in Hungary which meant she lost he job in the ministry and became a Teacher for a few years at a girls school.

Henriette always insisted that she had a perfectly clear memory of the day they moved into Katalin Street, but that could have hardly been true. If by “remember” she meant thing she could directly recall herself, then that extended only to the h=general upheavel and excitement, the train going over the bridges and the facesof one or two people who would play key roles later on in her life. Everything else had been told by her parents, by the Eleke’s family, or by Balint, who was the oldest of the four children and the one with the clearest recollection of events. Likewose, with the exception of a single sentence, her “recollection” of what had been said on that day had also come down to her, in all its detail, through her parents or the other children, she had after all, been just six years old when they moved from the country

The opening of thw 1934 section and the arrival of the Held’s on the street.

This is a tough book to get into. It is a strange collection of voice we come across in the opening. We here about the Elekes family Mrs. Elekes and the children of Katalin Street Balint, Iren and Blanka the sister of Balint who ends up in Greece telling her story and adding the story of Henriette Held the daughter of the \jewish Dentist. Then the novel becomes more straightforward as we have a number of different years that follow the children of the street from 1934. That is when the Jewish Held arrive on the street and quickly become part of the street Iren gets a gold card from her teacher her father is the head teacher much to the dismay of her sister Blanka the sort of wild younger sister the children of Major  Balint. Blanka notes Balint always had a thing for Iren. This is shown when the two of them get together. The father the Major tries to help the Held’s but is unable to stop them going to the deaths. Blanka is horrified by the war and post-war is a different person as we see via the Balint now a doctor working at the same hospital as Blanka. the street itself in 1956 is having a facelift as the old house they all lived has changed. The next two sections round of the stories of the Eleke’s parents, Iren their daughter the youngest now in Greece and son of the Major. Also, the spirit left behind of the young Henriette Held is there seeing the post-war times.

Even today I don’t understand why it was only then, and not much earlier, that I realised I was jealous of Henriette. Ever since she had moved into the street she had somehow belonged not just to all of us but especially Balint. That he had never smacked her as hard as he did either Blanka or Me was not in itself surprising, She wasn’t the sort of person you would ever want to hit, being so quiet and timid, and the smallest of the three, There was a certain pleasure in slapping Blanka, in pinching her leg ir smacking her bottom, but it was never like that with Henriette.

Iren remember the fragile Henriette in 1944 when she dies like her parents.

I was reminded of when I was a child and would get a jar or bucket full of creatures from a rockpool and watch them over the coming days some lived others as I was too young to know to need the changing tide to feed and were trapped in that rockpool I had caught them in. This novel like that Bucket is a microcosm of the rockpool. Szabo has gathered together four children and the parents like the little fish and shell creatures of the rockpool and we watch them over time. The events they see have changed Budapest and its own Microcosm forever from the end of the great Austro Hungarian years in 1934 till the shadow of the Nazi and the loss of the Held’s echoing so many others in the city. The post-war years and people like Blanka seeing the world with eyes afresh after the war and being changed by the war and what she saw. Szabo gathers the horror and the post-war communist suffering of Hungary. in fact, this novel is maybe one that needs reading now as we see the suffering of both sides here and the world before that in a brief glimpse at what was a better world before the chaos of the Nazi and Soviet eras of Hungary. Not the easiest book to get into but worth the last two-thirds of the book. Have you read Szabo or have you a favorite Hungarian writer?

Rapture by Iliazd

Rapture

Rapture by Iliazd

Russia fiction

Original title – Voskhishchenie

Translator – Thomas J Kitson

Source personal copy

I’ve been admiring the Russian library series since they came out a couple of years ago they have such eye-catching cover and the books themselves as works of Russian literature are all very interesting. So I decided earlier this year to buy a few of them this was the first. Iliazd or Illa Zdanevich as he was known . A Georgian born Russian exile writer. His own life is as interesting as his novel is, He was an Exile in Paris a writer this was his second novel and came out in 1930. But he also an Avant-garde artist a to the likes of Picasso, Chagall, Miro, and Max Ernst. He has a number of solo exhibitions at the Pompidou and Museum of modern art after he died. There is a great intro to the book that describes him in late life living with thirty cats and in a huge sheepskin coat herding these cats as he took them out around Paris. There is a great intro I recommend reading it

So on account of her useless qualties, because of the mountains, and thanks to the back of beyond, Ivlita’s lot was becoming more complicated and confused, although thus far she herself suspected nothing. And for that reason, the girl’s exostence remained just as dull and even as ever nothing more than a reflection of the seasons.

Ivlita is considered useless but is a real beauty in Laurence’s eye a simple man himself.

This is a story of one man’s story that of a draft dodger Laurence. A man that has tried to avoid the draft by going on the run in the Highlands as he heads on the way he finds a beautiful woman Ivlita in a wooden house and decides to liberate her as he sees it. They end up in the cave in the mountains but over time he is drawn into a gang of revolutionaries that make him do increasing acts of violence like casting bombs. He is a man that has been caught by there dreams. But is it his battle of there battling he went on the run to escape violence and he worships the young now pregnant women he brought to the hills as he heads back to the city to get money and do the attacks but is he with the right women is he doing the right thing?

Laurence was wary of being rousted out during the night, since he couldn’t be certain the highlanders weren’t concealing beneath their courtesy a resolution to assault him, But he needed to sleep inordinately after blundering two whole days in the woods and drinking so much now; he was also taking account of the acute possibility that gendarmes would be searching the vicinity for him (while, as it happens, the townsfolk had swiftly headed home after the murder).The cretins stable, then, was an impregnable fortress.

Laurence finally arrives in the highlands but is still looking over his shoulders to see if he gets caught ?

This is an interesting novel. It is a simple adventure story in a way a man on the run falls for a woman is a classic adventure story line. His acts of robbery and terrorism and daring adventure have echoes of earlier books. For me, Buchan and those writers of early spy fiction from Conrad and Le Queux came to mind. Laurence is a sort of early anti-hero caught up in what is around him like Hanny in 39 steps. there is something of an old-fashioned tale there. But there is an undercurrent of a writer trying to experiment. Here dead characters returning almost a sense of that magical nature of the countryside a sort of early magic realism which is maybe a nod to his artistic world. Then there is the exile question of what the revolution brought. to a simple man like Laurence got caught up on the run but is lead into the frontline by others in the gang!! then there is also a sense of speed in the writing no full stops is something you as the story rolls like a juggernaut what will happen to Laurence in the end? An interesting book from a writer that was banned in the Soviet Union now finally in English after eighty years. I love the cover of this book and all in the series such an eye-catching design.

Have you read a Russian library book?

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