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

file_000-16

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 .

Winstonsdad books of the year

Well I reviewed less than other years this year so I am only going pick a few highlights of my year this year.

The Prophets of the eternal fjord by Kim Leine

the prophets of Eternal Fjord

Was an epic Danish novel following a priest sent in the 18th century to Greenland to try to wrestle the natives back to the christian line a tale of times now gone. This would make a great HBO series full of mud and ice .My review

The Dirty Dust by Maitain O Cadhain

 

This was one of two translation of this classic Irish novel into English. Set in a small village graveyard we here the generations buried there talk about their lives and the past they had together and the hates they had together and the loves together.My review

Byron and the beauty by Muharem Bazdulj

Bryon in the Balkans falls for a beautiful woman only to find she is out of his reach for once the bad boy of british poetry struggle to gets what he wants .My review

 

Sudden Death by Alvaro Enrigue

A fiction tennis match between an italian painter and a spanish poet is the backdrop to this tale that flows around the world of the time just as man is discovering science and thought the age of enlightenment is on them.My review

One Million cows by Manuel Rivas

 

ONE MILLION COWS

This was a gem of short stories by one of my favourite spanish writers Manuel Rivas by a press started by his translator her we see the shackles of Franco be shaken of a people return to spain other have their last day at school looking forward .I have recently read his debut novel also from small station press .My review 

Constellation by Adrien Bosc

20160715_100636

The stories of a plane that crashed told from the point of view of the flight but also the stories of those on board from the man from Disney to a group of poor Spanish shepherds .One of those french novels that remind how great french lit can be . My review 

Trysting by Emmauelle Pagano

20161015_153128

A book of voice another French gem this is clips of what love is bits of people lives this is love stripped to the bone no names places or times just the acts of love shown. My review 

 

Land of my Father by Vamba Sherif

A freed slave returns to Africa from the Us to Liberia but not all is as he imagines it , he has to follow his calling and try to convert the natives .My review

Revulsion Thomas Bernhard in San Salvador by Horacio Castellanos Mayo

cover image for

A man returns to sort his mother affairs and gives a speech during the evening denouncing the country of his birth and why he had to leave and become Thomas Bernhard on his passport. An homage to the great writer from a great latin American writer .My review 

Panorama by Dusan Sarotar

 

My book of a year by a country mile this is simply why I read books in translation that once a decade discovery of a voice so exciting and fresh yes part Sebald but also a new tale of traveling from the very western tip of Europe back to the Balkan heart of it.My review 

There are my books of the year been lots of other great books

Three loves, one death by Evald Flisar

Three loves, one death by Evald Flisar

Slovenian fiction

Original title – Ljubezni tri in ena smrt

Translator – David Limon

Source – review copy

At Last is probably the Slovenian writer with the longest career since the late 1960s Evald Flisar has been writing books and plays.He has also written many travelogues and studied comparative literature and lit theory in Slovenia then afterwards studied in london English language and literature. This is the second book by Flisar that Istros has published but the first I have reviewed and the last in the partnership with Peter Owen in the world series  on Slovenia.

 

As for Vladimir, we had to understand that he had a very young, flighty wife, who was sometimes too much even for a hero in possession of ten partisan medals for bravery. Peter’s notes on meteors and so on were, of course, a matter for discussion between him and the professor under whose supervision he should long ago have finished his degree in cosmology. Certainly, the earth would not crumble into dust merely because a naughty girl wanted to frighten her nearest and dearest.

‘And Vinko,’ said Mum in conclusion, ‘can explain himself who he is burying in the garden.’

Vladamir another one of the family and peter the star man .

Well this is a classic tale in many ways that we will all have seen in some way or another . It follows a family leaving the city in this case Ljubljana to the countryside to work on an old house this is told by the point of view of one of the sons.The family short-lived dream of peace and rebuilding this old house is shattered when various family members reappear in the families lives. The uncle Vicko an accountant but also a man who wants a glimpse of fame like growing the biggest cabbage forfilling the Warhol  saying of everyone getting there five mins of fame. Then we have aunt Mara and her daughter Elizabeth the one that all the sons seem to wa\nt the older son Peter has returned home to study the night sky making the most of the dark skies the house has given them but also a boy with many sexual cravings . Oh and last but not least the narrator a young son wanting to be a writer this book is part of a trilogy with the other book that Flisar has published by istros, then last is the other Uncle Svejk  a war hero by accident that joins the local fire brigade and looks after their old fire engine maybe like his Czech name sake he is is a character that gets in the most scraps and comic asides.

for  it was like nothing we had ever seen before. Above all, it had no flat surface on which to stand it. From the central mass, which had no discernible shape or function, there protruded without order or symmetry all different kinds of steel, aluminium and even wooden growths. With some imagination it was possible to recognize among them the cubist forms of spades, picks, hoes, perhaps sickles and scythes, perhaps rakes and other tools, but these were just the ends or beginnings of what they were supposed to be. In between, joined with other pieces, it was possible to discern the links of a chain, half a cogwheel, a toilet bowl, the workings of a wall clock, two weights and blackened frying-pan handles.

If only these parts or fragments had been bound together with wire or welded together into a whole! Then the entire object could be ascribed to the imagination of a modernist sculptor, and, by relocating it to the domain of art, where everything is possible and everything permitted, it could be deprived of the aggressive concreteness before which we squatted like helpless children.

A longer quote gives a sense of place a sort of junk yard of old communist pieces .

So we have sons after the cousin , three  men all trying to be head of the house in a way. This is a novel that shows the best of family life and the worst but also has some humour and dark parts. I didn’t know til I finished the book Evald had lived in the uk. For me there is almost something of the H E Bates about the story there is that comic look at country life but also with showing the human side of life and love one is remind of Mariette and how her power on men is similar to the power on the sons in this family of the cousin elizabeta.Yes had Bates been a Slovenian in post communist slovenia he may have written something like this. Evald  is a writer that you can see has travelled and brought what he has seen and read from around the world and brought it to a personal story of life in his homeland. I will be reading his other istros at some point in the next few weeks.

Previous Older Entries

May 2017
M T W T F S S
« Apr    
1234567
891011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
293031  
%d bloggers like this: