The Principle by Jerome ferrari

The Principle by Jerome Ferrari

French fiction

Original title – Le Principe

Translator – Howard Curtis

Source – review copy

Well from a new French writer to me yesterday with Pierre Senges to an old favourite of this blog Jerome Ferrari has had his two earlier books translated into English The sermon on the fall of Rome and Where I left my soul.  He won the Prix Goncourt with his last novel and lived in Abu Dhabi where he teaches Philosophy. but now lives in Casablanca , like his other novels I have read this is a look back at recent history this time he has looked back at those fever years of the war when scientists where trying to build the Bomb.

You were twenty-three years old , and it was there, on that desolate island where no flowers grow, that you were first granted the opportunity to look over god’s shoulder,There was no miracle, of course, or eve to be honest , anything resembling God;s shoulder, but to give an account of what happened that night, our only choice, as you know better than anyone, is between metaphor and silence . For you , there was first silence, then the blinding light of an exhilaration more precious than happiness

This the time he made his famous uncertain principle

we are drawn into the world of Germany in the  early 1930’s  and onwards when the country falls under a dark shadow of the Nazis,  we follow the life of Werner Heisenberg , a man best known know for his uncertain principle .We glimpse into his world one of knowledge , but he was best known for something he worked out many years earlier his principle . we see his life unfold drawn into the Nazis world of the hunt for the Bomb as he was the one that made classic science become the atomic age of science he is at the forefront. What we see is how a man of science and his own principles has to walk a tight line of the age he is trying but not trying if you know what I mean ! Faced with a world he didn’t expect to be in from those early days  of discovery .

They’re all bored to death

Something in them becomes gradually worn pout over the  endless weeks

Professor Heisenberg plays Mozart sonatas, by heart on the piano. Nobody listens to him anymore. Every day, Professor Hahn walks for hours in the garden, never tiring .He calculates the distance he’s covered. If he’d walked straight ahead , he would have crossed the sea. By know he would have been ages in Germany

They struggle to get the Bomb made .

This was a clever novel that is a good autobiography in a novel form of a figure , that was at the heart of the burning atomic age a man who provide the turning point in the way people thought of Physics. Like his earlier books lament and sorrow under lie the main character in a way also like his earlier books he deals with how people deal with those situation where we have no chance to turn and the world seems in utter chaos. In Where I left my soul it was the Algerian war and the sermon which was an angrier look back at his childhood homeland  as ever using his poetic writing style to look at one person struggle in this world . Here it is the madness of the Nazis and Hitler wanting the Bomb before the allies. There is similarities in style too In search of Klingsor by Jorge Volpi which was also a look at the same group of people in this novel from a different angle where they try to find the top man in the programme. An interesting look at the times .

2084 the end of the world by Boualem Sansal

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2084 The end of the world by Boualem Sansal

Algerian fiction

Original title – 2084  La fin du Monde

Translator – Alison Anderson

Source -review copy

A few weeks as they say in politics is a lifetime and since I read this at the turn of the year this book has probably more meaning than it did two weeks ago .Boualem Sansal is a writer that talks about the uncertain world we live in his books are frequently banned in his homeland, I have reviewed him before with his book Harraga  , this book is set in a distant future and is a reworking in a way of Orwell’s book 1984.

The reasons for these restrictions are not known. They date from long ago. The truth is that the question had never occurred to anyone, harmony had reigned for so long that no one knew of any reason for disquiet .Even disease and death, which took their turn more often than was fair, had no effect on people’s moral. Yolah is great and Abi is his faithful delegate.

This is what happens when one man takes power to far the rest forget why the rules were put down in the first place .

 

Ati lives in a future where his country Abistan is a totaliranian regieme the coutry is named after its leader Abi a man that found and was given a new book to live by from a new god Yolah . The new religion is of course a twisted version of Islam we see beheading , stoning of the criminals as examples to the nation. As they have to pray nine times a day  . Now he happens to meet an archeologist that says he has discovered some truths in the caves about the village they have found Nas tells Ati about this but this discovery could threaten the regime that wants to control the lives of the citizens by watching the every move like in 1984 . Can ATi and his friend Koa get to the village and discover the real truth behind Yolah and Abi ? Before they are caught by the regime !

Over time Ati found some peace, which allowed him to settle into the routine he dreamt of. At last he was a believer like all the other; he was no longer in danger. He rediscovered the pleasure of living from day to day without worrying about tomorrow, and the joy of believing without asking any questions. Rebellion is impossible in a closed world where there is no way out. True faith is in surrender and submission, Yolah is omnipotent, and Abi is the flock’s infallible shepherd

Ati nearly falls for a quiet life of being blind to the truths around him that he knows are their .

Well how strange the book has so many echoes of what is happening now this is of course the other end of Trumps world a state that  has taken an extreme version of Islam that seems very similar to the language of Trumps world . Even the fact the village means the history is different to the History Abi is trying to give other since I read the book I am reminded of the Alternative Facts quote from the Trump camp. This is a timely novel as much as 1984 is seen to have much in common with Trump this take on 1984 is maybe more scary as this is partly Trump but maybe what could happen if the regimes Trump has just kicked by banning their citizens take another path could become Abistan. I can see why this book made a lot of book prize shortlist in France it is maybe better than Houellbecq book that every one was talking about last year . A powerful book against totalitarianism in all its forms whether eastern or western!

The street kids by Pier Paolo Pasolini

The street kids by Pier Paolo Pasolini

Italian Fiction

Original title –  Ragazzi di Vita

Translator – Ann Goldstein

Source – review copy

Pier Paolo Pasolini is best known now as a filmmaker now and even the subject of a film of his own life  . Passolini was one of the leading lights in Italian cinema and also in writing during his time , unfortunately his life was cut short. I am pleased Europa editions had decide to do a new translation of his debut novel that at the time it came out cause a storm due to its subject matter of the kids on the street of post war Italy.

It was a very hot july day. Riccetto, who was supposed to take his first Communion and be confirmed, had gotten up at five ; but, heading down Via Donna Oilmpia in his long grey pants and white shirt, he looked more like a guy going out in his sunday best to pick up girls along the Tiber than like a communicant or a soldier of Jesus . With a group of boys like him , all in white shirts, he arrived at the church of divine providence, where at nine Don Pizutti gave him communion and at eleven the bishop confirmed him .

Maybe the first step on the road to being a man in Italy is being confirmed into the church .

The story follows a group of street kids in those chaotic post war year in Italy , well Rome Riccetto is a street boy but he is turning into a man and this is the story of that time when a boy becomes a man. The story is how this one boy and his friends try to get their world seen by the greater world . These boys steal to get by in their world , like steal chairs and then spend the money on food to get by but as they steal they also end up sometimes getting stolen off in turn. Then there is also the other part of boys becoming men and that is the sexual side , this sees them visiting ladies of the night with various results. This is a story of a tough world told by those inside it  and how hard it is to grow up in this world.

Discouraged, and displaying their discouragement with a sneer, the three delinquents sat on the parapet: Lenzetta was lying down, stomach up, with his hands under his dusty neck, singing, Riccetto sat on the edge with his legs dangling; only Alduccio was standing, leaning against the all with his hip and elbow, his legs nervously crossed.He was the only one who didn’t seem bored, who was awaiting events with some hope.

The gang are growing and trying to get by but also have many a fall along the way .

This is a book that is considered a classic of its time and it is it needs to sit alongside the likes rome open city the great post war master piece of Italian cinema , as a piece of neo realist art describing the post war struggle of Italy and it underclass that as is shown in the book was largely unknown as is shown by the boys wanting to get people to see them rather than turn the other cheek , there world is one that is maybe older than the one around them it is a world of thieves and a warp sense of honour among thieves  is maybe more from the world of a dickens novel. The main characters could almost be from Oliver Twist or even maybe part of Grass post war Danzig from the tin drum trilogy .

The story of the Lost child by Elena Ferrante

 

 

 

 

 

The story of the Lost child by Elena Ferrante

Italian fiction

Original title – Storia della bambina perduta

Translator – Ann Goldstein

Source – Personnel copy

Score B+ last of a four part series of two women growing up in Modern Italy works as a standalone novel just interesting insight into being a writer and woman in Modern Italy.

Now when the longlist was announced I am sure there was one book each of us shadow folks hoped wouldn’t be on the longlist. Well for me it was this book. I have read My brilliant friend and part read The story of a new name, but haven’t quite got swept up with the world of Ferrante. That said the other side of her as a writer that has shunned the limelight and the fact people are now trying to piece together parts of this series of books to find out who she is, I find great. There was a recent piece in an Italian newspaper where A professor had taken dates and references in the books to events and worked out a year the writer could have been at university at that time and came up with a name of a professor of history, who has denied she is Elena Ferrante so the hunt carries on.

The evening was spoiled. Nino said it was my mother in law who told Lila that I was in Naples. He spoke with great embarrassment, choosing his words carefully, emphasizing points like: she didn’t have my address; she asked my sister for the phone number of my colleague; she telephoned a little before I was to leave for the station; I didn’t tell you right away because I was afraid you would get angry and our day would be ruined. He concluded, desolate

Early on Elena still has problems with Lila from the past .

Well this last book brings the two woman who have been at the heart of the four books into the modern age. Elena and Lila are now two grown up woman far different from the ones I read in the first part of the books Elena who was always the clever one is now a fully fledged writer, her narrative in this book I really enjoyed two-fold as it seemed Ferrante was toying with a writer most unlike her one that is in the public eye. Lila meanwhile has left her background but is still the fighter I remember in the first book but in this book has a distance from her old friend at the start of the book . But here at a point  she has left disappeared  and Elena is remembering their past and trying to find her in the present. This shows how the two have always been like two trains on different tracks but at certain points in their life to run close together and other be miles apart and then even nearly hit each others at some point. How does a friendship live through more than fifty year ?

That I had a sort of double identity was true. Up on via Tasso Nino brought me  is educated friends, who treated me with respect, loved my second book in particular, wanted me to look at what they were working on. We talked late into the night with an attitude of worldliness. we wondered if there was still a proletariat or not, we alluded to the socialist left and with bitterness, to the communists ( They’re more cops than the cops and the priests)

I love the line about double identity as Ferrante has been doing this for years.

Well I must admit I liked this more than I had thought I would it made me miss that I hadn’t read all the books. But for me this last book is maybe the best it seems Ferrante in some ways has maybe read Knausgaard and partly used his style of self confession in this last volume with the looking back at the earlier events they seem much more touched be a real childhood than in the first book. Maybe this is just me but given Ferrante seems very well read it is so far-fetched she had read him and he had influenced this last book. Does it deserve to be one the longlist well yes these books should have been  on the longlist before so this last volume deserves to be here as the three other books should have made the longlist. For me this will make actual shortlist who knows she may even be at the shortlist party next week !

 

 

WIT month My lack of #Ferrantefever

Well I decide today to go back and reread the first and second of what is now a quartet of books by the mysterious Italian writer Elena Ferrante , yes reread as I read the first book in the set around the time it came out as I was sent the proof , but for me it was ok , I frankly didn’t get the hype from others (although always weary of hype ).Now was it fact that I maybe read it at the wrong time ? well now I a deep in a month of mainly female writers it  may help as I do mainly read male writers , so maybe the book may conect more as I have read more female voices this last three weeks than in the last five years  .Another thought is maybe she just  isn’t the writer for me we can’t like every writer cane we  ? well a second crack of the whip may help me decide .I remember thinking that she had set the scene well but at time of the first reading I maybe did race through it as it was one I had maybe thought I would like , did I set my level to high in that case .Anyway for me as a reader and fan of translated fiction I hate to not be getting  one of the big stars of translated fiction at the moment , so lets hope it is second time round for me .As this evening I dive into My brilliant friend

What did you like about Ferrante , maybe if I see what others like it may help me get in to it ?

 

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