Insane by Rainald Goetz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Insane by Rainald Goetz

German fiction

Original title – Irre

Translator -Adrian Nathan West

Source – review copy

I read this last month but it has taken me to now to talk Insane by Rainald Goetz. He was considered a breakout writer when he wrote this book in 1983. The book is based on he experiences as a doctor in an asylum in the early 1980’s. I took time as this book in some sense is dated in its view of treatments. But in others show the same problems people tackle today in Mental Health. I work within a ward for people with learning disabilities, but also have a number of mental health issues. So the world he described is an older view of the world I work in. Another inventive German writer like Jorg fauser I read a few years ago.

I recognized nothing

Let loose from the madhouse, each day in the evening. I would walk to the tunnels of the U-Bahn, not bothering to look around. Had I even caught the scent of spring? Still rattled from the journey. I made my way to my room, and nothing was as it had been before I stepped oblivous  among the beer cans, bottles , newspapers and bits of clothing in the floor, qyesting aimlessly.

He even is distracted in the opening lines of the book.

We follow the first year in his new workplace of Dr Raspe after qualifying as a psychiatrist. As he gets stuck into the day to day world of the asylum his eyes are open to how bad the system is the range of patients the attitude of his fellow psychiatrist all start to chip away at the young man as he sees the people trying to solve the patients failing in a way. The practices in this book are long gone. We don’t chemically cosh people like they did twenty years ago and the scenes of electroconvulsive is rarely used these days. We see Raspe falling apart piece by piece as he spends his nights and weekend with his punk friends and his days getting more disillusioned with his world. A view of a world gone but also important to remember what happened to drive out Raspe.

All the work of these last few weeks, all the dedication reduced to a couple of keywords, medicines, dosages: numbers from one end to the next. It’s true that there is nothing objectively graspable abput what we do save for the prescription of medicines, the constant attempt to establish the correct dosage. At the same time, Our real work vanishes behind these objective data, the conversation, the empathy, everything that for me constitues the indispensable accompanimentof medical theray.

I loved this description of writing and notes, Ive seen it go from one extreme to the other in my years in care.

Thou the world in this book is long gone the problem of what happens with people that have mental health issues is the same now as it was then. How we treat people is different .But there are new problems due to lack of funding and maybe also a lack of any concrete way ahead. but that is above my grade. In the book, it captures a time that has long gone but also5the day to day struggles of staff looking after people with people with mental health issues.Also the struggle of the patients.  You get a sense of how intense Goetze was as a person when you see him reading at this time in the video at the bottom which shows him reading at a piece at the Bachmann prize giving at which in the middle of which he cut his head open.. A punk gesture to his intense nature and also a nod to those he treated.

 

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Companions by Christina Hesselholdt

Companions by Christina Hesselholdt

Danish fiction

Original title – Lykkelige familier, camillia and family and others 

Translator – Paul Russell Garrett

Source – review copy

I know to expect the books from fitzcarraldo to be challenging and also enthralling to me as a read and her with there latest fiction novel we have a book from one of the leading writers in Denmark. Christina Hesselholdt studied for a degree in Literatue. After that, she wrote for the Danish lit journals Banna split and The Blue Port. She is considered one of the leading figures in Danish minimalism writing. This is her first works to be published in English this is a number of her earlier books all about the same set of friends.

 My Husband does not believe I have a flair for words. Nor does he think I know how to move. One night when I couldn’t sleep I went into the kitchen to fetch some water, and when I came back to bed he said: “Your shuffling is keeping me awake”

I shuffle.I stomp. I shuffle and stomp and trudge about.Shuffle-shuffle-stomp-stomp-trudge-trudge.

I can’t sing, hence my husband thinks I am unable to hear music, I didn’t sing. I refused to sing. I trudged around the Christmas tree like a silent vessel

Kristina talking about her husband Alma and how he views her.

 

Camilla and Charles are the main figures during these books (I love the fact these two share the same name as our royal family).Then there is Alma, Edward, Alwilda and Kristian. The first part of the books follows Alma and Kristina mainly on a holiday in the UK. That starts in Wordsworth country as they talk about the poet and also move around many lit sites in the UK the husband is a writer himself. But this is a couple just getting by and lost faith in one another as the wife says my husband believes I have no way with words or to understand music.Then Wedward dealing with losses in his life and writing int in his Mourning diary-like Barthes did.  Then we meet Camilla and Charles as they go for an expensive meal out, in which they envoke the love of all things Slavoj Zizek and how well he has his finger on the pulse of the modern world. Edward had split with his other halfAlwilda before the events in the books. What follows is the year and glimpse of all the pasts of the friends as we follow them telling their tales in small glimpse and Monologues. A rye look at how lives loves and relationships shift over time this is like a map to there worlds but six individual maps to these lives.

I wish I was Zizek. Zizek can get everything to ,make sense, if I had been Zizek now, right now, I would be lying in a punic bordello having a fucking match with houellebecq, the whorse would not be traffiked, just glo-ba-lized – can you hear it being sung by Gregorian monks, or a eunch: glo-ba-lized pro-sti-tutes, ohh the humans, the oh so Zizekiaan eed to make sense of things where none exists.What is it that I cannot make sense of ? My Memory? My Love life ? we will have to take a closer look at that.

 

This book owes much to the Modernists writers. I saw one review mention Waves by Woolf which is told in Six voice like this book. I was also reminded of other writers of that generation Waugh there is a turn of humour like Waugh had at times also Powell as it follows a group of friends as they grow and shift through time. I may also note having read Havoc recently read and also his poetry is mentioned in the book, his minimal style is maybe the best guide to modern Danish minimalism writing.

 

The Shadow Man booker shortlist

We choose this year to announce the shortlist after the actual announcement . This was mainly as we all had a number of books to read this year and a number were 400 plus pages we gave everyone chance to read them , I read them all in the time but haven’t reviewed them all yet this week I hope to be done and will look back at the six below titles as we try to find the actual shadow winner .Well our six books are

Fever dream by Samantha Schweblin

Compass by Mathias Enard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Unseen by Roy Jacobsen

Judas by Amos Oz

Fish have no feet  by Jón Kalman Stefánsson

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Bricks and Mortar by Clemens Meyer

So there is our six a great list I feel as it has two books by two of my favourite publisher Fitzcarraldo and Maclehose press. What has been your favourite book

Bricks and Mortar by Clemens Meyer

Bricks and Mortar by Clemens Meyer

German Fiction

Original title – Im Stein

Translator – Katy Derbyshire

Source – Review copy

I rejoin my late run on the Man booker longlist to try to get through the books , which I have now all read including a rereading of this book. One of the joys or reading so much in translation is to meet writers you have reviewed earlier as they move on in the careers and here is one such case . I first reviewed Clemens Meyer when on of his early short story collections All the lights was translated and published into English , so when six years later his Magnus opus arrived in english I read it, but struggled how to review it as it is like his earlier work an unflinching account of his east german homeland.So when it was longlist I decide a reread and maybe a new look at Im stein the book was also on the german book prize list when it came out in Germany

If this year goes well  I’ll have saved up a nice sum. Most girls can’t kep hold of it , like guys with their cum – money I mean . Gucci here, Prada there ,sure I treat myself now and then , what do you think ? (wink wink !smile to camera , and my little winter comedy’s rolling after all , oh well , it’ll be a nice little hotel job, the perfect end to a working day , and a gentlemen with champagne and hopefully not one of those monster dicks , mind you , wink wink !)

One of the girls early on about the life and how easy it is to get caught up in it and who is that next Man !!

The story is rather like a classic American gangster film plot in a way ,I ‘m think Scarface in a way for the story of Tony in Scarface is similar to that of Arnie the main character in Bricks and mortar . They both come from the tough sde of town one aC killer that escapes to american and the other an East German football thug . Now they have different path tony is of course drugs but Arnie makes his with woman and sex in what is often called the oldest profession and as in Germany it isn’t strictly illegal he sees his empire grow from the early days in 1989 to the modern-day from the dark side of the trade with young children and the pipeline bring women from around the world to the doors . We also see the shifting tastes of his client’s as his empire grows but like all empires he has to protect it and this we see in full police and other people wanting to step in on the trade . We also see the world from the inside with the voices of those on the blunt end the girls

You open , your eyes and you’re not alone . There’s a woman sitting there , on the chair by the wall , right under the flower print . She’s black , her skin , and black curly hair and a  pale pink dress . You don’t understand right away because it’s not possible. ou work with a couple of African women , it used be the Vietnamese to begin with and now its the Africans, but why has this woman of all people come to visit you ? And didn’t they tell you no visitors for one or two days ?

A detached voice of a girl caught up in this world telling of the change faces she has seen

This is a brutal books , Meyer like earlier German writer like Jorg Fauser (who I reviewed here ) or Doblin in Alexanderplatz  they are much better at looking at the dark side of life and here Meyers use the prostitutes and the pimps to show how the old East German stumbled into the New Germany not smoothly but kicking and screaming like a premature child of one of the girls on the came screaming to go back to the safe world of the east at times not the capitalist world of commerce , webcams money to be made from the girls all day every day yes they have rights but some don’t and as the book goes on you see them become more of a wheel in a money-making machine for Arnie and others , hence I choose their voices for the quotes as they really hit home I felt  the hopelessness of this a brutal world elegantly written by Clemens  and translated by katy and another gem from fitzcarraldo a publisher trying to bring the best and most challenging works into English .

Compass by Mathias Enard

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Compass by Mathias Enard

French fiction

Original title – Boussole

Translator – Charlotte Mandell

Source – review copy

Well strange I did my round-up and book of the month for february yesterday .I am sure unless something unexpected comes along this will be March’s  book of the month only a day in . This is the third novel by Mathias Enard I have read and for me this is his best . It won the Prix Goncourt in 2015. Mathias Enard studied Persian and Arabic and has spent long periods in the Middle east . This is his tenth novel

Sarah found that pharse extraordinary, “Take me, lead me where you like ; I won’t bother you, I sleep all day, in the evening you can let me go to the concert and at night you can do what you like with me ” a declaration of absolute beauty and despair, a total nudity – unlike Liszt , I know where she is buried , the montmatre cemetery. Which Sarah showed me

sarah quotes Marie Duplessis Liszt’s mistress and a woman who inspired Alexander Dumas .

The last but one  sentence of the intro is the key  to what  this book is about  simply Enard is a huge fan of the Middle east and this book is his ode to the way us in the West and the east mix together . I’m now not sure what we call this area the middle east or as Nawai El Saadawi who’s middle east , the Wests middle east ! so from the middle west here is my view of this wonderful book . Then we have the term Orient the older term which is the one Enard seems to prefer . Anyway the Arab speaking world and How Enard has chosen to show us this  west and east struggle via Franz Ritter a Austrian musicologist who over the space of one late night and early morning suffering  with a bout of insomnia he recalls his frequent trips to this part of the work . so from Istanbul to Tehran and place like Aleppo and Damascus we follow Franz but also Sarah a spirited french woman like Franz caught between west and east. SO as the night goes on the arc of the relationship maybe also arcs the relationship of west and east . Like the point of a compass this book points east to the heart of Arab world and an affair that was doomed but also the clashing of the west and east how the west has viewed the east through music , art and literature and how these have been tinged by the East from Franz Liszt to Agatha Christie the east has touch many artists and their works .

The debate became stormy ; Sarah had mentioned the great name, the wolf  had appeared in the midst of the flock , in the freezing desert: Edward Said .It was like invoking the Devil in a Carmelite convent ; Bilger , horrified at the idea that he could be associated with any kind of Orientalism, immediately began embarrassed auto criticism, renouncing everything : Francois-marie and julie were nuanced on the question, while still acknowledging that Said had asked a burning but pertinent question : the relationship between knowledge and power in the Orient

Said one of the main names you connect with Orientalism

Well as you see this book is one that it is easy to fall in love with it is one of the novels that you will also need a note-book and maybe Spotify hand to listen to the music mentioned and the books mentioned. So as we see Franz wrestle with on coming sleep and the dreams to remember the good and bad times of the relationship. This is also an ode to that lost world his times in Aleppo , which is now a smoking ruined city instead we see the Aleppo that drew people there before the war . We get a sense of a past that isn’t there now a time when the world wasn’t so tense in this Joycean evening of vivid dreams of a long past relationship and world .

Nocilla dream by Agustín Fernández Mallo

 

Nocilla dream by Agustín Fernández Mallo

Spanish fiction

Original title -Nocilla Dream

Translator – Thomas Bunstead

Source – Review copy

Agustin Mallo is one of those rare writers that cross field he Physicist by training that became  a writer. Cp snow used to talk of science and literature as being two cultures  .He was part of a new generation of writers in Spain pushing the boundaries of what fiction is the so-called Nocilla generation named after this book which got a lot of praise and prizes when it came out.Mallo has also made films of two to nine minutes of length on his blog.

It’s logical that in a brothel there are all different kinds of women, and even more so here in Nevada Desert. Whose Monotony, the most barron in the whole of the american Midwest , makes necessary certain exotic pallatives. Sherry having make- up applied in the ad-hoc backstage out back.Besides the now dry well.she doesn’t trust the lightbulb-frame mirror they have provided her.

the desert has a brothel that is exotic for its clients .!!

This is one of those books that proves the novel can live on I often here about books challenging the genre and get disappoint when they don’t so when I read this the first in the Nocilla trilogy I was blown away so much I want to wait to do two Mallo books together. this is one of this books that hasn’t a linear story just the fact that the action in places takes part along the line of Route 50 a road that goes across the desert to the glitter of Las Vegas so from a shoe tree where someone one threw up a sho and other follows this is the original tree one of many that form a back bone of small roadside attractions in  the us . Elsewhere we find a woman fall in love with a collector of found images .Mallo’s physics side is an event with small piece on the 113 chapters that form this book and then we have  bits on the birth of the personal computer and  even further afield is the story of a man staying in the airport in Singapore rather like Tom Hanks character in The terminal .An exciting mix of piece by Mallo and other writers mixed to one Oh and one piece is from Bernhard so a double thumbs up from me .

In 1971, a group of hippies took over an abandoned military base in Copenhagen, Denmark proclaiming it the free state of Christiania: a micronation. After grappling with the Danish Government for a period of time, in 1987 it was finally recognized as an independent micronation.Among the eighteen students who occupied the base that night was Hans still a teenager then and as he lay on the floor in a greenish half-light that like a military effluvium seemed to float between the paving and the skylights high above.He made the decision to never wear shoes again : his bare feet a symbol of peace and nonviolence.Christiania present-day population comprises 760 adults, 250 children, 1500 dogs and 14 horse

The no wearing of  shoes here and shoe tree connect the two pieces in a way

 

I often wonder would fiction ever be like hip hop music or like the films of recent years I love like Amelia . Hip hop uses the music  which  is around the people making the music and this is what Mallo does in a way layering written piece , non fiction and fiction in a collage almost  a mix tape of Mallo’s mind. This is like going through a radio stopping for seconds in  some places then a longer time this is a book that A shows what fiction and the novel can be it isn’t a dying art it is a form that can be reinvented. There has been a number of German writers that have used similar techniques using other writers work to mix with their most notably Ulrich Holbein (not translated into english ) and Helene Hegeman whose first novel cause a storm as it used parts of another book. So Mallo is obviously a fan of Borges and Borges was always trying to push the fields of what stories do but in a novel form. Like AMelie this is a novel that darts from place to place and connects unconnected events even down to the finding of photios a main storyline in Amelie This is the first part of a trilogy I have the second part read ready to review soon. I am thankful for Fitzcarraldo as they show why small publishers are so valuable as with the two Enard novels they publish books for the love of words not to make money.

 

Winstons books from Spainsh nutella to french love

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Well some new arrivals I start of with this interesting book about love , it is a collection of male and female voices on love no names descriptions but just thoughts on what love is for each of us . I finished this last night and it is a one of my favourites so far this year.antother interesting book from And other stories soon to be located in Sheffield ten miles from me .

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Now I read the first part of this trilogy last year but I missed reviewing it Mallo in Nocilla expereicne follows what he did in his previous book Nocilla dream and that is walking a fine line between fiction and non fiction in what is true and untruth. A truly refreshing writer. from one of my favourite publishers Fitzcarrado editions.

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Next up is The boy a story of a mother trying to find out what happened when her son is found dead on a school trip . How is it he  died.this  Leads to a snowy  night in  Bulgaria she has tracked down her sons teacher and the weather is closing in .The two woman alone in the middle of nowhere .

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Then I brought four books on a recent trip to Derby with Amanda , I brought four books whilst the so clockwise we have the Lost daughter by Elena ferrante , yes I know but this is a stand alone novel follows a mother coping with her daughters going to live with their father .Then we have a life full of holes a story of a street arab as told to Paul bowles a story of a loner fighting his way out of poverty . This seems very unusual book to me. A Bolano novella A little lumpen novellita follows a brother and sister as they plan a crime with two criminals after their parents have died. Then we have thirst for love by Yukio Mishima a widow moves in with her father in law and then avoids his advances for her instead turns to a servant but is he interested ?

What new books have you got ?

 

 

Football by Jean-Philippe Toussaint euro 2016

Football by Jean-Philippe Toussaint

Belgium Non -Fiction

original title – Football

Translator – Shaun Whiteside

Source – Review copy

Jean Philippe Toussaint is a writer I had long wanted to get to his novels are well-known for a minimalist style , so when this collection of prose piece by him on football arrived from Fitzcarraldo editions I got a chance to tick off a writer I had wanted to get to for a while. He has written nine novels which have been translated into many languages and he has won a number of book prizes as well .This also ties in with my current set of Euro 2016 related books as it follows his life in recent years tracking the Belgium team.

Childhood

In Brussels, in the playgrounds of primary school no. 9 , we used to play football at break time and the criterion used ro seprate the two teams was nopt little versus big or fair versus dark or year four versus year five, it was moral versus religion . At the start of the year, in this secular school on rue Americaine in Ixelles, you effectively had to choose between Moral and religion, according to whether you parents or we ourselves wanted to take catechism classes.

I love this way they choose the teams in my day it was against a wall and I was often near the end .

The book is a collection of short essays about his early life and football , things like playing with friends , getting a bad injury whilst a kid. what jersey he loves.I like the insight into shirts and teams we always think of certain teams and colours his examples are France in Blue, Brazil in Yellow and Germany in White.But what happens when they don’t where that shirt of course here in the England this was the case on our biggest game ever the 66 final where the team wore red shirts! Then he finally watches matches as an adult first in France 98 which strangely serves as a mid-point in the book and a tying to the end of the book as of course both involve the french player Zidane.Toussaints memories are tied to his team Belgium and their course through the cup which in this case was three draws . Then what follows is how he sees the team at the following world cups the next saw them make the 2nd round only to lose to Brazil.then the missing belgium team means a short piece on 2006. Then South Africa also a year without Belgium . The work is rounded off with an earlier piece he wrote on Zidane about the mad night 2006 when Zidane end his career getting sent off for the first time for headbutting an italian player in an act out-of-place for the great player and hero of the first year Toussaint talks about .

Night has fallen over Berlin now, the intensity if the light has faded and Zidane has suddenly felt the sky darkening over his shoulders, leaving nothing in the firmament but the flayed trails of blck and pink clouds. Water mixed with night is an old remorse that will not sleep

No one in the stadium has understood what just happened.

That moment in 2006 from the piece Zidane’s melancholy

Now I find hard not to like this book as Toussaint is a true football fan , the real shame for me is the book ends just as the story of his team and country is about to turn the book ends in 2010 , when in 2014 the belgium team makes it quarter-final and even this time have been maybe the best team or second best team at euro 2016 so far with their team of stars. So lets hope we get a football 2 with these years at some point Toussaints take on Hazzard, Fellani and so on. The Belgium team is packed with talent not seen since the days of Enzo Scifo the great Belgium player with the Italian name that caught the eye in the 80s world cups where they finished 4th in 86 and Scifo was one of the stars of that year.This is one of the best football books I have read. But for further reading on the Benelux football I would point you in the way of Brilliant Orange a book on the mad genius of Dutch football .

 

A Nobel Double Two by Svetlana

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I have in the last few days received two books from last years Nobel winner. This the first book that arrived Second hand time is a selection of interviews she has taken to form a piece on the post soviet world and how it has formed a new world and in her use of many voice to individual monologues see how the post soviet society is affecting the every man and woman on the street. This is the first new work from her since the Nobel win to reach us in English and is out from Fitzcarraldo editions. Penguin are also releasing new editions of her previous books I have reviewed this one in its earlier release as Voices of Chernobyl I had reviewed this last year as it was the only book I could get before the Nobel prize was announced .So as with Patrick Modiano the year before we now have a number of books from this wonderful Non fiction writer whose ability to work the people she talks to into a chorus of voice on the soviet and post soviet world she grew up in .

Have you read any books by her ?

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Winstonsdad’s Books of the year

Well it was a busy reading year if not reviewing year at winstonsdad I managed to read 128 books but as said yesterday managed to review a far fewer books so the ones I have chosen I have reviewed as well barring one .All the books this year are translations I have picked twelve in no particular order .

 

Farewell cowboy by Olja Savicevic – I met Olja this year her book follows a sister return to her home town in former Yugoslavia to find out what happened to him. We see how much the years she was away have effect her hometown and those she left behind.

Bridge over the Drina by Ivo Drina – Yugoslavia again and a vital crossing in the region is used as the cornerstone of a collection of stories through time. I found this was so forward-looking as the simmering undertensions that later erupted into the wars of the Balkans.

 

My documents by Alejandro Zambra – I had read his novels short books that lead me to think he would be a great short story writer. A collection that follows someones first days on a computer to footballing moments remembered from Chile’s past .

What became of the white savage by Francoise Garde – A lost gem of this year this prize winning french novel based on the real life tale of a french sailor who went native in the 18th century after his ship sank .What happens when you return to the world you left behind many years ago.

Street of thieves by Mathias Enard – A boys journey to manhood from Algeria to Europe as we see how he has to change to survive in the modern world .From the buds of the Arab spring to the wilting flowers of life on the streets of Barcelona .

Ventoux by Bert Wagendorp – Four friends go back to the great tour de France climb of Ventoux after twenty years and the loss of a friend on an earlier trip to the region. Funny and dark in places, I can’t wait to see the film of this one.

Fall of man in wimslow  by David Lagercrantz – The death of Alan Turing told by the detective investigating his death. The book before he took on the Milenium series .First of two books I connect with due to location in the top ten.

 

20150828_151617The illogic of Kassel by Enrique Vila- Matas – The story of when Enrique was asked to be an art piece sat in a chinese window in the city of Kassel for the Documenta. A city I spent time in years ago another connection to my own life .

 

The egghead republic by Arno Schimdt – I had long want to try Schimdt and strangely found an edition in my library system as a taster before his huge opus Zettels dreams is due out in English this year .This followed a reports trip to a strangely floating city of scientist .

Tram 83 FINAL FC

Tram 83 by Fiston Mwanza Mujilla – A city told through the eyes of two friends as civil war rages and diamonds, sex , people are sold nightly at the night club Tram 83 .A vibrant trip to Congo DR in a great debut novel .

 

Til kingdom comes by Andrej Nikoladis – I have met Andrej twice now this is the third book from him and also the one that features events of the first day I met him when we saw a man being photograph in Red lion square the home of Istros books. Part of the tale of a man uncovering the truth behind his parents .

 

Oh and the on I haven’t reviewed or finished –

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The epic Zibaldone by Gicamo Leopardi the notebooks of the Italian poet as he takes you through his thoughts of what he reads , thinks and every thing in his life from the origins of myths to Italian .I have been sipping this all year round. I will be reviewing this when I finish this masterpiece just say it is maybe the greatest book of its time.

 

So that is it ask me tomorrow it would be twelve  different books There have been some great  books this year .

 

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