Beowulf A New Translation by Maria Dahvana Headley

Beowulf A New Translation by Maria Dahvana Headley

Classic Epic poetry

Original title – Beowulf

Source – review copy

I haven’t reviewed a lot of poetry over the years of the blog which is strange as I have a lot of poetry on my shelves that I tend to dip in and out of so when I was given the chance to read a reworking of the great Anglo Saxon Poem Beowulf. In the acknowledgments for the book Maria said she came up with the idea of translating Beowulf when she was up for a world fantasy prize for her acclaimed book The Mere Wife how she had used a translation of Beowulf in the research for the book and was asked in the Q & A when her translation would be out she decided to pick up the Baton. As for me, I did read the Seamus Heaney about the time it came out as there was such acclaim for that book as it made the poem more accessible but I always feel language moves and there is always room for new angles at old works if it brings something new to the table. as Borges said in his poem about his thought on translating Beowulf.

Poem Written in a Copy of Beowulf

At various times, I have asked myself what reasons
moved me to study, while my night came down,
without particular hope of satisfaction,
the language of the blunt-tongued Anglo-Saxons.

Used up by the years, my memory
loses its grip on words that I have vainly
repeated and repeated. My life in the same way
weaves and unweaves its weary history. Borges

The opening of Beowulf in the new translation!

Bro! Tell me we still know how to speak of kings! in the days

Everyone knew what men were: brave, bold, glory-bound.Only stories now, but I’ll sound the Spear-Danes song hoarded for hugry times

Their first father was a foundling: Scyld Scefing.

He spent his youth fists up, browbeating every barstool-brother, bonfiring his enemies. That man began in the waves, a baby in a basket.

but he bootstrapped his way into a kingdom, trading loneliness for luxury. Whether they thought kneeling necessary or no, everyone from head to tail of the whale-road bent down:

There’s a king, there’s his crown!

Thats a good King

The opening 11 lines of Beowulf !!

 

Beowulf follows the hero of the Title as he heads from Anglo Saxon England (Although England is never mentioned in the text as Q (Arthur Quiller-Couch) pointed out in a lecture in his work “On the art of writing”. he travels to help the king of the Dane who has lost many of his best men to the monster Grendel. he offers his help to kill Grendel and creature that has been terrorizing the kingdom since the creature is meant to be descended from Cain a nod to biblical connection in the origin of the book. They celebrate when Beowulf kills him with his own hands and then on the next night they are attacked by Grendel mother as Beowulf isn’t there but when he arrives back there follows a great battle Beowulf returns home and is made king of his own land only many years later to die fighting a dragon now this is the story but what Maria has done is made it easier to get into with the use of street terms and add a little more flow to the prose.

 

Hidden by fog,grendel roved the moors, God-cursed

Grudge worsening. He knew who hunted:

wine-drunk, mead-met men, and he oined

for his prey. Under storms clouds, he stalked them,

in his usual anguish, feeling a forbidden hearth,

that gulded hall stop the hill, gleaming still,

through years of bloodshed.This was not

the first time he’d hunted in Hrothgar’s hall,

butnever before nor later had he such hard luck.

no one worthyhad historically lain in wait

10 lines from early on in the book just show you how the book pops.

Christopher Hitchens said in his review of Harry Potter many years ok said it would spark a revival of anglo Saxon works like Beowulf as it has since the likes of Tolkien and C S lewis been interwoven with the world of fantasy as well. With dragons, quests warriors it has a link to Fantasy and also back to greek epics but what Maria has done is make it also sound modern with her use of street slang with words like Bro. She has also made it bloody it’s almost as though it has mixed a Nordic noir with an episode of Vikings and has also made the female characters appear a little more than I remembered in the Heaney translation. This is a great new version of the book if you haven’t read it this may be the edition for you if you like a=fantasy or greek epics this is the bridge between those works a cornerstone of English literature given a new breath of life for a new generation !!

84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

Epistolary work

Source – Personal Copy

I sometimes like a change and like most of us book bloggers, we all love books that are about books and book people. Here is a great epistolary work that contains the letters sent and received from the 50s through to the late sixties by New yorker Helene Hanff she was a playwright her early books covered her struggling to get a foot in the New York theatre scene. Later she wrote scripts for Elery Queen. Marks and co a bookshop of the title based at 84 Charing cross road published and advert in the Saturday Review of Literature that they could get hold of ut of print books this leads to the letters that form the book as Helene a well-read woman had struggled to get certain books. I have tried to find the advert in the online collection of the Saturday Review of literature but haven’t found it just love to see the original advert.

14 East 95th St

November 18, 1949

WHAT KIND IF A BLACK PROTESTANT BIBLE IS THIS? Kindly inform the Church of England they have loused up the most beautiful prose ever written, whoever told them to tinker with the Vulgate Latin? They’ll burn for it, you mark my words.

It’s nothing to me, I’m Jewish myself. But I have a catholic sister-in-law, a methodist sister-in-law, a whole raft of presbyterian cousins (Though my Great Uncle Abraham who converted) and an aunt who’s a Christian science healer, and I like to think none of them would counternance this Anglian Latin bible if they knew it existed(As it happens, they don’t know Latin existed)

The Bible incident the wrong Bible was sent they later sent a better copy.

What follows is a series of letters that see Marks finding the books well FPD as they sign themselves in the early letters, Boks from the likes of Hazlitt Stevenson. The cost of these old but as Helene says fine books too good for her Orange crate bookshelves far better than their modern counterparts she has brought in the US. There is humor at times when they send a bible she calls a Black protestant bible and says it had ruined the Latin version in the translation to English as she said she was Jewish but has Methodist and Presbyterian relatives. As the book moves on Helene finds she is talking mainly to Frank Doel who is the main buyer for Marks and co. She discovers the hardship of post-war Britain makes her choose to send a food parcel from Denmark here she writes after sending it with concerns about if the owners are Jewish as she sent Ham to the bookshop but no everything was ok she receives letters from other staff on the side thanking her and wishing her well and looking forward to meeting her. But the main body is her and Frank as he hunts down the books she wants but life means she struggles to get to the UK.

Dear Miss Hanff,

We are glad you liked the “Q” anthology. We have no copy of the Oxford Book of English Prose in stock at the moment but will try to find one for you.

About the Sir Roger de Coverly papers, we happen to have in stock a volume of eighteenth century essays which includes a good selection of them as well as essays by Chesterfieldand Goldsmirth. It is edited by Austin Dobson and is quite a nice editon as it is only $1.15 we have sent it off to you by book post. If you want a more complete collection of Addison & Steele let me know and I will try to find one.

There are six of us in the shop, not including Mr Marks ancd Mr Cohen

Faithfully yours,

Frank Doel

For Marks and Co

Her love of Q lead to a later book I’d love to get about how Q influenced her reading

I love this book I have a special VMC hardback I brought a number of years ago it has the follow-up. The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street. Which finally saw Helene make it to the UK. This is a window into a bygone world Marks and co is gone and most of the shops that made up Charing Cross road have gone over time. It’s hard to split the book now from the film for me though I did feel the film was well cast the humor of Helene that came across in the letters a sort of deadpan wit was well portrayed by Ellen Burstyn. Frank equally was played as a straight-laced English man by Anthony Hopkins. I have a number of books she mentions I have been a fan of Arthur Quiller couch or Q as he was known as the editor of Oxford book of English Verse which I have had for a long time as it was often mentioned on Rumpole of the Bailey which I loved as a kid. This is one of those books that reminds us why we all love books and reading and the bygone age when we had to hunt for books which we still do, well I do there are so many translations I would love to find like Helene I’d love to find an 84 Charing Cross road. Have you have read it?

Vile bodies by Evelyn Waugh

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh

English fiction

Source – personal copy

Well, I enjoy Kaggy and Simons year club this time we are now back in 1930 this time for the 1030 club and when I looked at a list of books published in 1930 this one was jumped out at me as I have read this a few times before it is one of my favourite books in English. I may review mainly translated fiction these days but in my youth, I loved the works of Waugh and have in the past did a small weekly blog event for Waugh. This book for me maybe captures those bright young things at the best and worst the only book that comes near is Henry Greens party going.

“French, eh/” he said. “I guessed as much, and pretty dirty, too, I shouldn’t wonder. Now just yoy wait while I look up these her books? – how he said it! “in my ist. Particularly against books the home secretary is. If we can’t stamp out literature in the country, we can at least stop it being brrought in from outside. that’s what he said the other day in parliment, and I says “hear,hear,” =Hullo,hullo,what’s this, may I ask?”

The custom officer confiscating his books and his own manuscript as he arrives back in the UK.

The book focus on the ups and downs of the life of Adam Fenwick Symes as he returns to London after time in America trying to write his magnus opus of a book which he has in his Case. The first down for him is that he loses this book and the money he was going to get for it from his publisher as it is seized by an over efficient custom officer with a hatred of literature. Putting at risk his marriage to Nina Blunt this on-off marriage runs through the book as he on a number of occasions tries to get her father a rather mad colonel. He returns to his hotel and by chance doing a magic trick wins a sum of money which he is persuaded not to keep but by a Major to let him bet on a sure thing outsider horse that is running at 33/1. So when the horse wins he needs to find this Major this is another thread in the book. Also, he is given a chance of a job as mr chatterbox by his publishing tycoon boss in a chance to redeem himself as Mr Chatterbox. A role Adam jumps at but then as his predecessor in the job got in trouble he is pushed by Nina just to make up characters and events and trends like a green bowler hat which leads to fact and fiction blurring as people start wearing them. Will Adam get Nina will he get his money or even his book back?

(… Masked parties, savage parties, victorian parties, greek parties, wild west parties, Russian parties, Circus parties, parties where one had to dress as somebody else, almost naked parties in St John’s wood, parties in flats and studios and houses and ships and hotels and night clubs, in windmills and swimming baths, tea prties at school where one ate muffins and meringues and tinned crabm parties at Oxford where on drunk browbn sherry and smoked Turkish cigarettes, dull dances in londonand comic dam=nces in Scotland and disgusting dancesin Paris – all that succession and repetition of massed humanity …Those Vile bodies

In his Mr Cgatterbox piece we see the title as Adam describes those bright young things parties and what they get up too !!

Well this is a book that is timeless in fact since the last time I read it Adam stint at Mr chatterbox seems more apt than ever we live in a time that Gossip is now news it seems ever more to me every time you see a red top paper there isn’t news just gossip as news and also the angle of Fake news the reporting of green Bowler hats a piece of fake news that drifts off into reality,. The book is based on Waugh own life and his circle of friends at the time from the batty to those near the prime minister of the day mad relatives. It is for me his funniest book his later books have humour but also the tinged  by world war two this is a moment between the wars that saw as Stephen Fry retitled the book for his film those Bright Young things were able to party and be carefree just before the crash and far enough away that hope had grown after world war one. A perfect first choice for the 1930 club have you read this or have you a favourite Waugh book?

A gun for sale by Graham Greene

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A gun for sale by Graham Greene

English fiction

Source – personal copy

I found a few days ago every book I was reading wasn’t grabbing me I start three or four never getting more than forty pages in so I decided it was time to try an old classic one of my Graham Greene for me he is one of those go to writers when you have been struggling to find something great. Graham Greene is one of those writers that didn’t write many bad books and this is one that isn’t as well known as some of his other books but it was made into a film in the forties an Italian and Turkish films and a tv film in the nineties and was written before Brighton rook and like Pinkie raven is a very amoral character.

Murder didn’t mean much to Raven. It was just a new job. You had to be careful. You had to use your brains. It was not a question of hatred. He had only seen the ministeronce: he had pointed out to Raven as he walked down the new housingestate between the little lit christmas tree, an old, rather grubby man without any friends, who was said to love humanity

The cold wind cut his face in the wide continental street. It was a good excuse for turning the collar of his coat well up above his mouth. A hare-lip was a serious handicap in his profession; it had been badly sewn in infancy, so that now the upper lip was twisted and scarred. When you carried about you si easy an identification you couldn’t help but becoming ruthless in your methods. It had always, from the first been necessary for Raven to eliminagte the evidence

The opening two paragraphs could jump from a classic american hard boilded noir i loved them!!

The book unfolds after a hired assassin Raven kills the minister of war in a distant European country. his father was hung for murder and his mother committed suicide so he grew up very amoral and with his own code.  He returns home to get paid by his paymaster a man called Cholmondeley. It is only after he is paid he gather he has been double-crossed when the notes he is using are stolen and being tracked by the police. He finds that Cholmondeley is heading on a train to Nottwich a fictional midland town. This is where the man that paid Cholmondeley is a steel magnate Sir Marcus paid him to kill the minister. On the train he meets a chorus girl who is the fiance of a detective on the tail of Raven, So he takes Anne with him but as she knows Cholmondeley real name which is Davies and helps him get to him as a way to keep her self alive. Will he get Davies and find out who paid him and will Anne escape.

Nor did the meter fail him. He had a schilling to spare. When Mr Cholmondeley led the way in by tthe Euston war memorial to the Greart smoky entrance and rashly he gace it to the driver: rashly because there was a long wait ahead of himwith nothing but his hunderd and nitey-five pounds to buy sandwich with. For Mr Cholmondeley led the way with two porters behind him to the left-luggage counter depositing there three suitcasesm a portable typewriter, a bag of golf clubs, a small attache case, and a hat-box.Raven heard him ask which platform the midnight train went.

Raven tracking after he found he had been double crossed and they head tio Nottwich on the train .

This is an early Graham Greene written before Brighton rock Raven is maybe an early take on the Pinkie character that sort of Amoral man of circumstance here raven is a cold-blooded killer and isn’t pleased when double crossed so he then goes on an act of revenge. It is wonderfully paced keeping you gripped to the last page and has an interesting set of character the chorus girl Davies the middle man Sir Marcus the man paying for the killing and Anne’s boyfriend the main detective on Raven’s tail to add a nice twist in the tail. This is Greene before he was Greene a writer early on his career it has pinches of Buchan, Conrad and a touch of American Hard-boiled thriller. But for me it still has that Catholic guilt that in a lot of his fiction. Have you read this or have you another favorite By Greene?

 

Services edition Graham Greene

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was at the local Flea market today which over the years has turned up a few gems the Gunter grass  cat and mouse arc I found there the other year today I found something I had been looking for a while and that was an Old world war two service edition books both The Uk which is mine produced these books for the Forces Penguin then guild and other presses. The Us editions used have two novels or other books in one edition. The book I found today was The confidential agent by Graham Greene. I am a Greene fan and have his biography

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A sort of life and 11 of his novels < I hadn’t a copy of confidential agent as a kid I read a lot of Greene and in recent year when I start getting together all of Anthony Burgess novels together which I have nearly done there is only a couple of Burgess books left to get thanks to the new Irwell editions. My mind turned to those other writers I liked as a kid and teen Greene, Steinbeck, Hemingway and Waugh. I have got a few more Greene to get but they are something I rarely see secondhand and the ones I have left to get are his lesser novels. So I have opened the door on another project after Burgess which I still have a lot of his books to review on the blog. I also love that Greene and Burgess had a history as they lived near each other near the end of there lives and had a few run-ins

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have you seen any service editions? are you a fan of Graham Greene

 

The pianoplayers by Anthony Burgess

 

The Pianoplayers by Anthony Burgess

English fiction

Source – personal copy

I review another of the lesser known books from Anthony Burgess this has actually just been reissued by Manchester university press as part of the Irwell series. In fact, if you order the books now there is 50% off for next week or so . I have all the books they have reissued barring Beard roman women and Puma (although I have the end of the world news which puma is a part of the book now removed into a separate sci-fi novel).This book was near the end of Burgess life and in a way was maybe more personal than his other books as it is set in Manchester and one of the main characters had the same job as a piano player as Burgess own father had. Music has been a large part of Burgess life he considered his own music more of an accomplishment than his writing.

My father wasn’t really getting married. What he was going to do was just live with a woman who kept a pub, a woman separatedfrom her husband,her husband had gone off with a young girl, a barmaid I think it was. The woman had had the pub licence from the husband who had died previously , not the one who’d gone off.The pub was called the grapes though it sold no wine except port and sherry, it was in a slummy district it was big and full of brass rails and it had two singing rooms as they were called.

This remond me of the pub in the northern based comedy Early doors like this pub an old pub for the working man the sort that is dying out now.

As I said this book is partly based in Manchester it has two storylines that are in the present which at the time the book was written well earlier maybe but sometime between the late sixties and eighties we meet Ellen Henshaw she is a madam on the French coast her life goes back to the backstreets of Manchester and the story of her fatherBilly  a drunken cinema piano player. He is one of the men that made the music to the silent films before sound took off and  played in pubs as well as she follows him from Manchester through places like Blackpool and the Lancashire mill towns in the ups and downs of his life as the cinema jobs dry up and he starts to fall down the bottle some more this leads to the latter half of the book which is Ellen’s own journey from a convent girl to the sort after girl to spend the time with for money as that career wanes she starts a school of love.

This maggie had a snub nose and a bit of a double chin coming on, but she had these very lovely legs, I’ll say thart for the little bitch. They were very long and you could seethem right up to her bottom, and they were in sheer black silk stockings with the seam absolutely straught at the back.They were beautiful legs, and she didn’t deserve to have them. They were like the legs you see much more of post-war legs having got longer due to better nutriment or Marshall aid or something,My dad played a song for her, nut while she did her bit of monolougue i couldn’t helo notice that he kept looking at these legs

When he has to do Vaudeville with an older act but with great legs as he points out here.

This is a personal book the best character is Billy which is based on Burgess own father who like Billy was a piano player then there is a connection with Ellen who had escaped England which is something that Burgess had done himself in his later years he lived in Tax exile all around Europe. This is a comic lament of a world that is long gone of men playing along to films trying to stay sober to the end of the film and the coming of the talkies meaning they had to leave Manchester and head to the Vaudeville stages that were still around at that time and these pubs with piano players. Maybe not his best book after the death of Billy Ellen story is maybe less believable than that of Billys. But the book is worth reading as the first part evokes those years of piano players in the cinema and how hard it was to improvise to the films there is a number of passages around the musical  notes he played not being musical I not sure how good they were but Burgess was a composer so I expect them to be accurate. Have you read any of Burgess lesser novels I have a lot more to get through by him but this is a fun book by him .

A Vision of Battlements by Anthony Burgess

A Vision of Battlements

 

A Vision of Battlements by Anthony Burgess

English fiction

Source – Personal copy

I have over the years I have been blogging talked about my love of Anthony Burgess for me he was one if not the best English writer of the later 20th century. I did a post of all the books I got over a year ago since then this came out as the Manchester University Press has been bringing out some of his out of print novels. This was the first in that collection the Irwell collection it has a lengthy intro by Burgess biographer Andrew Biswell who is also director of the International  Anthony Burgess Foundation. There is also the previous intros from the earlier books the only piece that is missing is the illustrations that were in the first edition a series of cartoon depictions of the story.

Ennis, sergeant Richard Ennis, A.V.C.C , lay in his hammock on the sergeants’ troop deck, shaping his miond, behind his closed eyes, against the creacks and groans of the heaving ship, a sonata for Violoncello and piano. He listened to the sinuous tune of the first movemnet with its percussive accompaniment, every note clear. It was strange to think that this, which had never been heard except in his imagination, never been commited to paper, should be more real than the pounding sea, than the war which might now suddenly come to particular life in a U-Boat attack, more real than himself, than his wife. It was a pattern that time could not touch, it was stronger than love.

Like Burgess Ennis is a composer Burgess often felt himself more a musician that a writer.

A vision of Battlements is partly based on Burgess own experience at the end of the second world war and the time just after the war. He was like the hero well anti Hero of this book Richard Ennis based on that small British island of Gibraltar. Like Burgess Ennis has a job teacher troops about The British way and purpose which was a collection of essays the war office had brought together to illustrate the British way to the everyday squady. Ennis is a musician a heart that loves music and poetry and really has ended up there by the fact of being drafted into the Army. He teaches the students in his own way. But he is viewed as a left winger when he gives his talks. He also has a problem with Authority he frequently clashes with his commanding officer. Major Muir a man sidetracked to the position he is in and one that has invented his own history that finds Ennis a bright younger man a threat and someone to worry about.  This is the everyday life of the Gibraltar post the argument of the men and the way they lived the frequent drunkenness of the men. Ennis is allowed to go into Spain here he falls in love with the poetry of Lorca and decides to translate him and he gets into trouble with the Christain brother who views these poems as godless. Ennis then also has relations with a local widow.

Major Muir was a regular W.O 1 with a first class ceritficate of Education. Wounded early in the war, he had been commissioned as a lieutenant in the army Educational Corps, then transferred, with promotion, to this newer organisation. He had delusions of grandeur and had invented fantasies about himself – the many books he had written, the many universities he had attended.He spoke often ungrammatically, with a homemade accent in which Cockney diphthongs stuckout stiffly, like bristles. His ignorance was a wonder

.Muir and ennnis don’t get one it is rather like the dads army pair of Captain Mainwaring and Sergeant Wilson

Now this book was actually the first book he wrote. He finished it in 1953 and put it to one side when he had published a few books in 1961 he gave it to one publisher they passed on it and in 1964 he gave it to the publisher that published the book. The book came from a series of blue notebooks Burgess kept whilst he was posted to Gibraltar doing much the same things as his hero Ennis was doing there is also a nod to Burgess great writing Hero Joyce he used the Aeneid as a loose frame to the book like Joyce had used odyssey in Ulysses. So certain names echo ones in the Aeneid Iabrus is Barasi and Turnus becomes Turner a character that is a complete opposite to Ennis. This book has a sprinkling of the comic the sort of view of army life that only those that have lived in the barracks can see and write about. Ennis was written about the same time as Amis wrote Lucky Jim and they are similar in a number of ways both are loved in a way by those they teach and mistrusted by those around them and also have trouble with the authoritarian figures in the world. This book has been out of print for forty year which is a shame as it is an interesting slice of world war two history not heroic but that everyday side of the army when you are in a place that isn’t near the front line but still needs to be manned. Burgess referred to this as wasted time and a huge chunk of his life. I will be back sometime soon with another Burgess as I still have a lot to cover for this blog.

Abba Abba by Anthony Burgess

Image result for abba abba anthony burgess

Abba Abba by Anthony Burgess

English fiction / Italian poetry

Source – personnel copy

I said earlier in the year I intend to try to review a Burgess novel or work as this year saw the 100th anniversary of his birth, but as ever I found other things to read so a few months later I return to a second book. This time it is a historical novel, which Burgess wrote a number of in his lifetime and like some of his other historical novels he uses historical fact to construct a novel from and the actual fact is that the English Poet John Keats lived in Rome at the same time as the Italian poet Guiseppe Gioachino Belli.

Giovanni Guliemi, doctor of letters of the university of Bologna, had a small private income derived from the rents of the land in Lazio  left him by his father, who was untimely dead of Naples cholera, some british gold invested with the banker Torlonia, and what he got from the tenants of the first and second floors of the large house facing the Basilica of Santa Cecila in the Piazza named for her in the Tratevere district og Rome. The third, top , floor was enough for his mother and himself.

Another fatherless man also the connection between Keat and Belli whose poem he translated into English

 

So what Burgess imagined is that these two great poets actually meet in Rome. Belli was well-known for writing his poetry in a rough Italian dialect. We find Keats a man who is in his end days he is dying at a house near the Spanish steps where he can hear the music of a nearby fountain. The two meet as Keats gets hold of a translation of one of Bellis earlier poems a poem about manhood. We see the two men try to converse as best they can as neither speaks the other’s language as they connect via French. The second part of the book is a brief description of how JJ wilsom the translator of the Belli works in the second half of the book. explains how a Salford Schoolboy discovered Belli and decide to translate his works as he studied Italian as well as English as  a student a later discovery of his complete works in Italy.

The creation of the world

One day the bakers god and son set to

and baked, to show their pasta-maker’s skill,

This loaf the world, though the idd imbecile

Swears it’s a melon, and the thing just grew,

They made a sun, a moon, a green and blue

Atlas, chucked stars like money from a till,

Set birds high, beasts low, fishes lower still.

Planted their plants, they yawned: Aye that’ll do

First verse of a Belli poem translated by Burgess himself from Italian

This is a short book the first part is a mere sixty pages of Keats in Rome a city which Burgess himself had a flat for many years , so we get a real feel of the city and also of the character like Elton,  Severn  and Bonaparte’s daughter all were part of Keats life at the time(I googled Isaac Marmaduke Elton as that named seems a little surreal he was a real character and friend of Keats.  We have the meeting of the two great men may be like a brother relationship between Keats and Belli as Abba means father, they also both lost the fathers very young as well. They had a lot in common as poets. Belli is relatively unknown and was a poet that Burgess championed with his translation of his works into English. This shows what Burgess did well in other books like a dead man in Deptford and this is to use a piece of history here Keat in Rome and the fact that something else occurred that Belli was there at the same time. He did the same with Marlowe in the dead man in Deptford making him into a spy and much more than he was. That is the brilliant touch Burgess had to just imagine the scenario and build his book around it.

 

Tremor of Intent by Anthony Burgess #Burgess100

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Tremor of Intent by Anthony Burgess

English fiction

Source – personnel copy

Well today sees the 100th anniversary of the nirth of Anthony Burgess. You may ask why  me the translated fiction fan likes Burgess so much. Well like many young men of my generation his Clockwork Orange was part of those books us boys read back in the day, alongside brave new world, on the road , naked lunch , the naked and dead etc well I did read clockwork orange .But I feel Burgess really didn’t hit me to I read Dead man in Deptford around the time it came out in 93 I was really grabbed by him and read everything I could get my hands on at the time which was maybe half his books . But as this year loomed I had tried to get back and read more by Burgess I decided to buy all the books I haven’t got so far I have all his novels bar three early books one of those is changing hands for 300 pound , m/f ,man of Nazareth and beard roman woman. that said I have 27 novels by him to start reading as with Dead man in Deptford which has a spy twist in it I decide to read Burgess only outright spy novel.

“This damnable sex, boys – ah you do well to writhe in your beds at very mention of the word. All the evil of our modern times  springs from unholy lust, the act of the dog and the bitch on the bouncing bed , limbs going like traction engines , the divine gift of articulate speech diminished to squeals and groans and panting .It’s terrible, an abomination before god and His Holy Mother

The two lads are taught this at school , how can Hiller ever be like Bond !!

He wrote this as he found the spy novels of the time lack a sense of humour in them , so he decide to redress the balance with this book. The hero of his book is Dennis Hiller a spy sent to try to bring back a scientist that has defected. Roper the man who has defected is an old school pal . The two like Burgess himself grew up North and in a catholic school this is where the pair met . But also left Hiller scared so i=unlike Bond say he suffers Catholic guilt every time he make it with a woman and is remind of his teacher at school .So he arrives on the cruise where he has to try to persuade Roper to change his mind and not join a cruise , there is a woman Miss Devi a femme fatale  and a teen girl for him to contend with a and the Huge and mysterious mr Theodorescu , whom sound like he was a missing Bond villain a huge balding man who smoked cigars .This is more tension missed chances than action of the bonds say. This is a cat and mouse cruise through the Med as we see if Hiller comes back or was he meant to !!

This must be her boss , Mt Theodorsecu . He was nobel fatness; the fat of his face was part of its essential structure, not a mean gross accretion, and the vastly shapely nose needed those cheek-pads and firm jowls for a proper balance,..The chin was very firm.The eyes weren’t currants in dough but huge and lustrous lamps whose whites seemed to have been polished .He was totally bald , but the smooth scalp – from which a discreet odour of violets breathed – seemed less an affliction than an achievement, as though hair was a mere callow down to be shed in maturity.

The Villian is straight out of a Bond script , a sort of man like the Beast from fantastic four .

This is a tongue in cheek take on a spy novel . He want to change the dry books of say Le Carre,  so Hiller is flawed character  not from OXBridge , but deeper in a way  and unlike Bond isn’t easy with woman due to his upbringing  and for me this is of course the bit of Burgess I like for me he was the first writer I knew that was Northern but with out shouting I am Northern he grew up in the Manchester the same time as my own grandfather in those inter war years he like my grandfather is from a working background his father a piano player and tobacconist , my own great grand parent was a builder my grandfather trained to be architect but at night in the day he work with my grandfather on the build sites sort cleaning brick putting up walls etc so I imagine the two must have crossed paths at some time , not sure they ever did but for me Burgess is after his childhood and teen years he travellled , translated books ,wrote music and was a linguist which all connect him more to this blogger so watch out over the next year we will be travelling the world of Burgess .he is my pile to work through .

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Constellation by Adrien Bosc

Constellation

Constellation  By Adrien Bosc

French fiction

Original title – Constellation

Translation – Willard wood

Source – review copy

I again go back to France as I seek to move the total of books reviewed on the blog from France towards the hundred mark with this the 80th french book reviewed , from a rising star of french fiction . He has set up the publisher edition Sous-sol a very succesful French publisher. This was his debut novel it made a number of longlist and shortlist of major french prizes when it came out and I also noted when it arrived that it was one I felt , I would love as it remind me somewhat of the fellow french novel windows on the world  that also followed  a group of people after a major event.

The passengers are strapped in , Marcel Cerdan jokes with Jo Longman, while Paul Genser stares fixedly out of the pothole. Ginette Neveu clasps the case containing her two violins , A stradivarius and Guadagnini – a week ago she only owned one. At the front of the aeroplane, their seat harnesses clinched, the cockpit crew prepare for landing

The violin in piece later turned up in pieces by the Azores

 

Constellation follows the 48 people who where on an Air France plane a Lockhead Constellation from Paris to New york one of those wonderful post war planes all silver and gleaming like the cover of the book . The plane has to stop at the Azores to refuel this is where the plane had crashed. What Bosc does here is tells the post war years through those 48 people in little pen pictures of them all. From five Basque shepherds that are trying to get to the new world to make a new life for themselves following a path that many Basques did at that time. Then there is a boxer on the way to a title fight in America, a former lover of Edith Piaf . Then the story that touch me most is that of a Ginette Niveau a child prodigy on the violin now an adult she is heading to america to perform as her career is on the p Piaf’s lover also on the flight Marcel Cerdan lover Piaf said afterwards she and him would have travelled a thousand miles to Her Neveu . Then we see the pilots story of the war years, then the man who brought Disney merchandising to europe that meant every child had chance for mickey mouse on their wrist.

Only world war II slowed Disney’s rising power. THe company built on its popularity by taking part in the war effort. On July 14, 1942, the studios – in collaborations with Lockhead aircraft (The company that would build the constellation) – released a cartoon on the techniques of riveting aeroplanes,, an instruction manual in the form of a short animated film, Four methods of flush riveting , aimed at the governments civilian contractors.

Disney’s war years through there war films is just a small hiccup in their eventual rise to a mega company they are today .

I loved the way Bosc sitch together fact and fiction from Niveau a well-known person so her life is fact to that of the lowly five Basques who have left their village in search of the new world. Then the modern world from Kay Kamen and the birth of merchandising to coming to America to box or perform . This is a collection of lives just as europe was getting on it feet caught in an air crash that end their lives but we see the paths they were taking and what France and the real world was like at that time a nice slice of historic fiction for those who like me aren’t always the keenest on historic fiction.

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