A strangeness in my mind by Orhan Pamuk

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Well for the 600th book to be reviewed on the blog it is fitting that it is a translated novel by a Nobel winner. I have reviewed Orhan Pamuk twice before on the blog silent house and the museum of innocence , I have also read snow , my name is read and The white castle before I started blogging, its fair to say Orhan Pamuk is one of those Nobel winners that fit into the writes good not great books I have loved every book by him I have read. This is maybe his grandest book as it tackles Four decades of Istanbul life. Writers and their cities Joyce with Dublin , Doblin in Berlin and Pamuk with Istanbul. This time he has seen the city through one man and the extended network he has.

This is the story of the life and daydreams of Mevlut Karatas, a seller of Boza and yoghurt. Born in 1957 on the western edge of Asia, in a poor village overlooking a hazy lake in central Anatolia, he came to Istanbul at the age of twelve, living there, in the capital of the world, for the rest of his life. When he was twenty-five, he returned to the province of his birth, where he eloped with a village girl.

The intro Mevlut (the del boy of Turkey) goes to town only to return for his girl.

THe main character in A strangeness in mind is Mevlut, he like many of his generation was drawn to the ever-expanding Istanbul. Like many a young man well he was twelve at the time in search of money and a new life. Of course like many broken dreams Mevlut never quite get where he wants, he is rather like a Turkish Del boy in that way he tries different jobs Selling yoghurt, guarding a car park and always drawn back to selling the Boza in the evenings as he tries to escape the world he is in.

Following months of endless debate, they decide that these letters should be based not on Mevlut’s notions about women but rather on what he knew about Rayiha in particular. Since the only aspect of Rayiha known to Mevlut was her eyes, logic dictated that they should be the focus of the letters .

Mevlut meets her and then in a chater we find out how he started writing love letters to her .

Add to this the love affair between Mevlut and Rayiha, part of the novel is formed of the love letters he sends her back to the village they come from, eventually after a few years she comes and joins him and they are married have kids but their life is tough hence the roles of second jobs Mevlut has to have to make ends meet during the book. As he struggles to fill the role of man of the house that is expected of him.As he says maybe he has a strangeness in my mind , he is a daydreamer!

Through all this feverish activity, the authorities could still send the gendarmes to a hastily built home and knock it down whenever they felt like it or found it politically expedient to do so. The keywas to finish building the house and start living in it as soon as possible. If a house had occupants, it could not be demolished without a warrant, and this could take time to obtain. As soon as they had chance anyone who claimed a plot of land on a hill would , provided they had any sense, recruit their friends and family to help them put up four walls over night then move in immediately so that the demolition crews couldn’t touch them next day.

The slums grow and are knocked down if you aren’t clever enough to claim your spot .

THen the third main character in the book is the background that is the city ever shifting from the early days when he arrives we see how the city grows but like an unruly plant has to be tend and cut back and the parts that are cut back are the parts of the city that Mevlut and his friends live in the slums. Filled with the little people who keep this huge city running and the people who live their in the background , the sellers , the guards , the cleaners the once that never get really notice. The ones that are drawn their by dreams and eventually like where they live crumbled in their dreams.

A huge novel in scope this is maybe  his most ambitious novel. As he takes an almost Dickensian look at the city he so loves and those that are on its underbelly. The inner working those we know but don’t always see the Mevlut yes he is like Del Boy dreams of that one big break but we know in our heart it will never come.I said the other day maybe writers don’t write their best books after winning the big prize. But possibly Pamuk is bucking that trend.

A strangeness in my mind by Orhan Pamuk

Turkish fiction

Translator – Ekin Oklap

 

Voice Over by Céline Curio

Voice over by Céline Curio

French fiction

Original title –  Voix sans issue

Translator – Sam Richard

source – Library

 

“Secret Meeting”

I think this is full of spies
I think they’re onto me
Didn’t anybody, didn’t anybody tell you?
Didn’t anybody tell you how to gracefully disappear in a room?

I know you put in the hours to keep me in sunglasses, I know
And so and now I’m sorry I missed you
I had a secret meeting in the basement of my brain

It went the dull and wicked ordinary way
It went the dull and wicked ordinary way
And now I’m sorry I missed you
I had a secret meeting in the basement of my brain

I think this place is full of spies
I think I’m ruined
Didn’t anybody, didn’t anybody tell you?
Didn’t anybody tell you this river’s full of lost sharks?

i ‘m sorry longer than usual lyrics but The national are a band I love and the line at the end a river of lost sharks maybe encaptures this book and the world described this book is a secret meeting in her mind !

Well we reach the second book in the project Lisa and I have to look back at some of the past books from the Independent foreign fiction prize as it turn 25 years this year.This book was shortlist in 2009 and was the debut novel of french writer Céline Curio. Who at the time she wrote this book was living in new york and working for the bbc .She has since written three other novels and a few non fiction book .

There isn’t a sound in the apartment . She is on the couch , the apathetic man has gone , it’s early afternoon . Around her are littered empty glasses and gorged ashtrays . In the toilet , she fins a Heinken bottle standing in the corner . The mess is even worse in the kitchen :

Detatched lives lead to no one helping to clean up and messy lives and homes !

Voice over isn’t the exact translation of the title the title is voice without issue which makes no real sense but to me it does in a way when you’ve read the book . The book is named by an unnamed narrator that actually does a job where you need no name .She is one of the voice of the main train station in Paris as an announcer . The story is the story of her life the love she has for a man she has seen . But he has another lover . She is then approach by another man a friend of the man she is in love with that likes her .

She’s done . The actress has covered her mouth with her hand .She doesn’t feel anything in particular , only satisfaction of having said exactly what she wanted to say at the moment when she wanted to say it . She stands up ,There is nothing to add . To continue would be superfluous . Their two hands shake .They won’t see each other again .

She watches the film and almost falls into it as she watches it ,connecting with the star .

I liked this book , but I can see where people wouldn’t as it light on details like names these are just voices we are listening too . There has been much mention even in the american BTBA 2008 about the comment on the back of the book by Paul Auster . Know I initially ignored it as he is on the same uk publisher as Celine Curiol . But when I finished the book part me thought does she know him ? As this book has although very french a tinge of the new york fiction of a writer like Auster . I was reminded of his work on the film Smoke .which rather like this is a collection of stories about love loss and modern life without much commentary about the people just glimpse . This book looks at modern life and the detachment that can bring people do we need to know the narrators name ,well no do we know the name of the people we see every day these days often no we know them just by sight in the years since this book was written just six I wonder if the world of this book has become more so than when it was written ?

Have you read this book ?

 

Fear and Trembling by Amelie Nothomb

 

Fear and trembling by Amelie Nothomb 

Belgian fiction 

Orginal title – Stupeur et tremblements

Translator – Adriana Hunter 

Source – Library

Loving you is driving me crazy
People say that you were born lazy
‘Cause you say that
Work Is A Four-Letter Word

So change your life
There is so much I know
That you can do
Come and see …

I choose one of my favourite song by The Smiths work is a four letter word as it caught in part this book .

I decide a month or two ago to start adding a few books by writers I have enjoyed in the time I have been blogging ,to add depth to blog and to the list of books read ,so I read Amelie Nothomb’s The character of rain  three years ago and had a time want to try more of this talent Belgian writer ,this book like the character of rain is another book set in Japan Amelie Nothomb ,lived in Japan and was born there  in Kobe .The title of this book is a reference to how the average citizen should have felt when greeting the Emperor of Japan .

Miss Mori was at least five feet ten , a height few japanese men achieved .She was ravishingly svelte and graceful despite the stiffness to which she, like all Japanese women , had to sacrifice herself .But what transfixed me was the splendor of her face .

She was talking to me ,The sound of her soft voice brimmed with intelligence .She was showing me some files , explaining what they contained , and smiling. I was dimly aware that I wasn’t listening to what she was saying .

Amelie as she says is transfixed by Miss Mori on their first meeting .

The story of this book is a fiction Amelie going to work for a large company in Japan the Yumimoto corporation ,she has managed to get a job for a year with them .initially it is great she loves the way she is greeted by the people in the company ,but then she is put under the perfect Miss Mori .This is the point that things start to go wrong for the young Amelie ,because she just cannot do anything right ,she has hit the brick wall of Japanese etiquette and the way things are done .She eventually she her self doing less and ,less as every task she is given she seems to fail at in the eyes of the task perfect Miss Mori ,Amelie is also strangely attracted to Miss Mori and the way she is .Amelie ends up with one job sorting the toilets on the 13th floor of the building a toilet that just she and Miss Mori use ,even this she isn’t very good at in the eyes of Miss Mori .

I SPOKE RARELY in my new post , not because it wasn’t forbidden but because an unwritten rule stopped me .When your job is as dreary as mine was the only way of preserving your honour is by remaining silent .

Amelie on her last job the bathroom attendant .

What i loved about this wonderfully short novel is the humour that is there from the clash of cultures ,the western ideas of Amelie cut no way with Miss Mori .Miss Mori leaps of the page as a perfect example of a women in business in Japan she has to be better than the men beside her and above her this is what drives her perfection and in some ways the way she treats Amelie .Miss Mori has her own problems she is turning thirty in the new year and this is traditionally the time a women in Japan is expected to be married .Like character of rain Amelie Nothomb has a great way of casting an outsiders eye on Japan without turning it into a joke and a freak show that so many times happens when we view how Japan works .I felt Miss Mori could have been one of the figures of love from a Murakami novel ,she is just so perfect or tries to be .Amelie at one point imagines her and Miss Mori’s position as similar to that of David Bowie and Ryuichi Sakamoto in the film Merry christmas Mr Lawrence .

Amelie -san

CONGRATULATIONS

-MORI FUBUKI

I added this as it is the last lines a letter Amelie received just after her first novel came out from Miss Mori .

Have you a favourite book by a Belgian writer ?

Winston’s year the books

Well it’s that time of year when people start putting across the best of list .I have decided to do my best of year ,given the focus of the blog it is going be just translations ,I will not I have read The luminaries and lowland both on a lot of best of list I liked both but haven’t got round to reviewing them yet ,so I’m not mentioning them .As for other books in English not translated my favourite by far is The boy from Aleppo who painted the war by Sumia Sukkar the first I ve read around the current Syrian conflict .So to the top ten of 2013 .

the mirror of beauty

The mirror of beauty by Shamsur Rahman Faruqi 

I reviewed this yesterday as I want it fresh in people’s memorey the rest of the list is books I have loved but by far this is my book of the year .An epic following the mother of a well-known Urdu poet in 19th century India and actually in an update to my previous review due out in the UK may 2014 .

My review 

the son Andrej Nikolaidis

The son by Andrej Nikolaidis 

A son wander around the port town of Ulcinj and thinks about his father and the history of this town .Andrej shared his love of my next book in the list  and its influence on this book .

My review Thoams Bernhard the loser Faber Finds

 

The loser by Thomas Bernhard 

Glenn Gould in Vienna blows away two music students and we see the aftermath of a touch with a Genius on two people’s lives .

My review 

ten Andrej Longo

Ten by Andrej Lingo 

A short story collection based round the ten Commandments ,around the dark underbelly of the city of Naples .This also reignited a real love of short stories in me ,more about that at a future date .

My review

TD-covers

Mother departs by Tadeusz Różewicz

A son looking back on his mother ,growing up ,world war two and his brother from the foremost living Polish poet .A wonderful mix of prose and poems .

My review 

my fathers' ghost is climbing in the rain

My fathers ghost is climbing in the rain by Patricio Pron 

Certainly if i had a side prize for the best title of the year this book would easily walk off with it .A son returns to Argentina and discovers more about his father than he thought .

My review 

A man in Love

A man in love by Karl Ove Knausgaard 

I love the first part of this collection and had hopes it would carry on and was surprised part two was  even better Karl now with kids and a struggling writer in the fictionalized version of his life ,can’t wait for part three next year .

My review 

Brief loves that live forever

Brief loves that live forever by Andrei Makine

I have loved his other books a glimpse at soviet summers of the past and fleeting romance and lives .Makine back on form here .

My review 

parrots Flippo Bologna

The parrots by FlippoBologna

A gem of a book about writers and a book prize we meet three unnamed writers at three stages in the career as they wait to see if they have won the big book prize .

My review

sidewalks

Sidewalks by Valeria Luiselli

A collection of non fiction writing from the wonderful Mexican writer mainly on the journey of discovery like looking for a grave in Venice .

My Review  

 

The Loser by Thomas Bernhard

Thoams Bernhard the loser Faber Finds

The Loser by Thomas Bernhard

Austrian fiction

Original title – Der Untergeher

Translator – Jack Dawson

Source – personnel copy on Kindle

Well I couldn’t take part in German Lit month and not review  a book by Thomas Bernhard could I ? I had read this for Thomas Bernhard week I did earlier this year but held it back for German lit month .I have mention quite a bit about Thomas  Bernhard and his life in my previous reviews and pieces all found here .This is the Fifth book by him I have read and review on the blog  .

The teacher’s child ruined my Steinway in the shortest period imaginable, I wasn’t pained by this fact, on the contrary, I observed this cretinous destruction of my piano with perverse pleasure. Wertheimer, as he always said, had gone into the human sciences, I had begun my deterioration process. Without my music, which from one day to the next I could no longer tolerate, I deteriorated, without practical music, theoretical music from the very first moment had only a catastrophic effect on me. From one moment to the next I hated my piano, my own, couldn’t bear to hear myself play again; I no longer wanted to paw at my instrument.

Bernhard, Thomas (2013-02-21). The Loser (Kindle Locations 65-70). Faber & Faber. Kindle Edition.

Now The loser isn’t very different to the other books I have read by Thomas Bernhard .It is told in the form of a monologue a recollection of two mens life and the event before ,during and after a meeting with the world-famous pianist Glenn Gould .We never get told are Narrators Name as he recounts how he and his friend Wertheimer they are both studying Piano at Salzburg .They are invited to see Gould play the Goldberg variations and are to say the least blown away bu this mans talent ,more than any one they know or have seen play .This revelation brings the two men to the edge and we see how for a long time after they try to discover a new way as they now see the music they loved isn’t worth as much .The narrator left music to become a philosopher  .The other Wertheimer is drawn into a dark spin of suicide and a life falling apart .

If I hadn’t met Glenn Gould, I probably wouldn’t have given up the piano and I would have become a piano virtuoso and perhaps even one of the best piano virtuosos in the world, I thought in the inn. When we meet the very best, we have to give up, I thought. Strangely enough I met Glenn on Monk’s Mountain, my childhood mountain.

Bernhard, Thomas (2013-02-21). The Loser (Kindle Locations 97-99). Faber & Faber. Kindle Edition.

Well as you see this has all of the traits you would expect from a Thomas Bernhard Novel a narrator ,art in this case classical music ,life’s falling apart .Now what makes this stand out a bit is the inclusion of Glenn Gould ,he is a real figure and his life could almost read like a Bernhard novel .I must admit I am not a huge Classical fan but among the few Albums I do have is Glenn Gould Goldberg Variations which I got after seeing the film thirty short films about Glenn Gould in the nineties .

I advise if you haven’t seen it try to next time it is on tv or on stream somewhere .This book is less bile filed than say the woodcutter is similar in style the monologue is very like the woodcutter in the way it recounts past events .But this book is more about loss ,loss of a dream ,loss of direction .The German title is actually a word that means more than loser meaning one that goes under ,almost like in the Stevie smith poem these character are in a sea of music and are drowning after seeing Gould  and this book is them waving at us .

Have you listened to Glenn Gould ?

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