Nocilla Lab by Agustin Fernandez Mallo

Nocilla Lab  by Agustin Fernandez Mallo

Spanish fiction

Original title – Nocilla Lab

Translator – Thomas Bunstead

Source – review copy

There are two books that finish a series of novels that could be in the Man Booker longlist when it comes out in a few day and thet are The end by Karl Ove Knausgaard, I read but never got around to reviewing this epic book and the end of his cycle of books. Here we have another the last in the Nocilla trilogy by the Physicist turned writer Agustin Fernandez Mallo. This is the last of his series that was herald as a new style of writing in Spain when the books came out and lead to him become part of the Nocilla generation.

True story, very significant too, a man returns to the deserted city of Pripyat, near chernobyl, a place he and the reat of the poulace fled following the nuclear reactor disaster 5 years before, walks the empty streets, which, like the perfectly preserved buildings, take him back to his life in the city, his efforts as a construction worker here in the 1970’s were not for nothing, comes to his own street, scans the tower block for the windows of his former flat, surveying the exterior for a couple of seconds, 7 seconds,15 seconds, 1 minute, before turning the camera around so that his face is in the shot and saying, not sure, not sure this is where my flat was, the gazes up at the forest of windows again and says , not to the camera.

The odd opening of the first story has a rrapid feel to the writer writing it as we read it.

This book differs from its previous two books as it is less jumpy in its style what we have in this is three tales two novellas and a graphic novella if there is such a thing. What the first story is about a couple who are on a trip around the world the story is made up of little stories about their travels and the places they have been around the world until when they are in Thailand and the boyfriend crashes this is where we get this recounting of there travels mixed with books he has read especially Music of hance by Paul Auster where the main character Juliet spends a year traveling in her Saab but gets to pick up a man who leads her life down a different path and this is maybe what Mallo is trying to capture the book is a single eighty page sentence that captures the travels in the now although they were in the past and gave the writer time to write his trilogy the title of the collection is Automatic search engine which is maybe how Mallo’s mind works at time a series of jumps that rabbit hole of googling discovery and if you are sat recalling a trip the net would add the dimension it does here a sort of padding to the story . the next story follows a couple around Sardinia this tale is simpler as it is more on the mundane side of life those little everyday events. as the travels follow the project is this the same couple? The last part is a graphic novel where the writer himself is the main character.

10.

In the days that followed, without straying far from the area we’d been exploring, we returned the car and hired another, a slightly larger Lancia. I can’t remember the model.

The weather stayed stormy, and once or rtwice we got caught on beaches.

The second story as tyou see with this brief extract has a very different feel to the first story a simple mundane tale in a way.

It is another interesting book from Mallo he has really tried to break the mold of what fiction is in a way he is like his science background experimenting with how stories work first here with a stream of words a Beckett like babble that comes together as a man tries to outpour what has happened to him I was reminded of the Beckett piece, not I, I have the sense it would work in the same way when reading at a speaking speed.  The second is almost testing if you tried to make a story as mundane as possible with just every day a sort of modern take on the kitchen sink drama of the sixties where a trip to Sardina comes down to the everyday events of life. The last is an autofiction take on the graphic novel. This book isn’t as adventurous as the earlier two but in a way is maybe the most accessible of the series for that. I hope it makes the longlist for me this is the sort of fiction we should be championing the ones that make the reader work at times.

 

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Nocilla Experience by Agustin Fernandez Mallo

Nocilla Experience by Agustin Fernandez Mallo

Spanish fiction

Original title – Nocilla Experience

Translator – Thomas Bunstead

Source – review copy

I had the third part of the trilogy of novels from Agustin Fernandez Mallo. It reminded me that I hadn’t reviewed the second part after reading it so a quick rereading today Christmas eve. He is one of the leading lights of Spanish fiction and his books test the barrier of what fiction is this is similar to the first book Nocilla dream which I reviewed a couple of years ago. He is a writer that mix styles and almost cut his piece into small chunks. Here some chapters are only a few lines long, other glimpses of personal stories.

Henry Darger died at his Chicago home in 1970, having played out what is the strangest, most solitary episode in the history of art. He believed to have been born in Brazil in 1892. When he was four he lost his mother, who died giving birth to a girl who was later given up for adoption . Henry never met this sister. Soon after, bith Henry and his father were admitted to mental institutions. Henry’s diagnosis was that “His heart is not in the right place”.He never saw his father again after that.

Darger maybe a perfect example of the Loner a modern man before Modern men appeared he wrote a 15000 page book no one read!

How to describe a novel by Mallo it is a hard thing as it is ideas stories and concepts in one package. But with this rereading, I got into the rhythm of his writing. It is like when I was young and used shift through the radio stations and dipped in and out of shows. I loved listening to the shortwave and the old Russian and US propaganda stations and This reminds me those years clips of stories like clips from the book at bedtime. Marc a Spanish man reads old agriculture guides and sorts mathematical formulas and lives in the present via the net a lonely man may be a reflection of the modern man. interrupted with clips of dialogue from Apocalypse now another lonely man as we have martin Shaws words as he waits in Saigon for that fateful mission. Then we have a Us soldier that has a son that is born in Iraq when he is station there John Smith has an Iraqi son. Then we have a number of connections to Henry Darger and his work around the Vivian Girls. Darger, I knew off after seeing a documentary a number of years ago I imagine Mallo may have seen the same documentary was largely unknown in his own life only when he died it was discovered a 15000-page work off written and drawn of this world he had invented and a great battle there. He also references a song by Sufjan Stevens a singer I love and one worth checking out he has one song about Darger A later number of chapters in the book see a Mexican Chico as he makes his way through the US after crossing the border.

Marc consults the Philips agricultural guide 1968. The section on “Cowsheds and other outbuildings” Contains a description of how to put together a toilet for a washroom to go with the milking stalls. He turns the diagram around to see how to adapt his toilet to his hut. He can’t concentarte, His mind keeps being drawn back to a theory he’s pndered for a number of years now, one which fits into something bigger anf broader, which he calls socio-physical theory. The sphere of action, the testing ground, would extend no further than 2 or 3 blocks around the roof terrace. The neighbourhood contains everything he needs comestibles, mundane conversations and seasonal clothing made from polyester. The theory is intended to demonstrate in mathematical terms that solitude is a property , a stat, natural in a btter sort of human being and , to the end

Another nod to modenr men and the solitude in Marc a man using old gudies and gripped in theroies of the world around him.

I fell in love with Mallo style this time around. I struggle with the first book but this time I got his style the jumping in and out of lives is a style I have seen in various films of the last twenty years Magnolia is a good example as it also mix facts at time like this does with a number of interviews with the cream of indie music over the last twenty years maybe the questions are similar they are about what makes each of them whether they are still punk or the impact etcetera. Then Shaw’s lines from Apocalypse now which sees the opening dialogue he had to extend bit by bit as he is in Saigon. Then we have other facts scattered through the book about the likes of Alan Turing, Malcolm Gladwell, and ancient sayings. Mallo tackles the modern way of viewing the world where we tend to jump from here to there as we get stuck down Google tunnels at times. As I said it is a work that drifts but maybe behind it all is what it is like to live in the Modern world.

Tell them of Battles , kings and Elephants by Mathias Enard

Tell them of Battles, Kings and Elephants by Mathias Enard

French fiction

Original title – Parle-leur de batailles, de rois et d’éléphants

Translator – Charlotte Mandell

Source – review copy

A break today from German lit a recent novella from one of my favorite writers of recent years Mathias Enard. This Novella appeared in French after his book Zone Reviewed here and street of thieves which also I have reviewed. This is a book that for me is more connected to his most recent book Compass as it tackles the connection between the east and the west the gateway to the Orient as once it was known  Constantinople. What Enard has done is used a piece of actual history around the time and added a story that might have happened to it.

Three bundles of sable and mink fur, one hundred and twelve panni of wool, nine rolls of Bergamo satin, the same quality of gilt Florentine velvet, five barrels of saltpetre, two crates of mirrors and one little jewellery box: that is the list of things that disembark with Michaelangelo Buonarroti in the port of constantinople on Thursday, 13 May 1506. Almost as soon as the frigate moors, the sculptor leads ashore. He sways a little after six days of difficult sailing. No one knows the name of the Greek dragomanwaitint for him, so we’ll call him Manuel.

The trade imortance is shown by what has arrived with Michelangelo in the boat from Italy.

The book is set in 1506 where we join the rising Artist Michelangelo who has been asked to make a trip to Constantinople by the Sultan of the town to try and design a bridge to go over the Golden Horn. He is following in the footsteps of Leonardo who was asked to design a bridge but his design wasn’t liked by the Sultan so he has asked Michaelangelo to come and put his mark on the world by building a great and wonderful bridge to Join east and west. The young man has his eyes and heart opened by the Ottoman world he sees so different from his own home as he tries to bridge the ap and one night sees a singer that captures his eye. As he is guided around the city by Mesihi (an actual member of the Ottoman court at the time). We also see the trade route that the city is the crossing road of the produce from the Orient to those going from Europe to the east on the various ships and barges he sees in the port area. As he tries to get the bridge right in his mind and then on the paper but eventually he gives his friend Mesihi a drawing of Elephants.

Little by little, sittin cross-legged on his cushions, Michelangelo feels overwhelmed with emotion. His ears forget the music, or elseperhaps it’s the music itself that is plunging himinto this state, making his eyes tremble and filling them with tears  that will not flow; as it was on that afternoon at Santa Sophia, as it is every time he touches beauty, or approaches it, the artist shivers with happinedd and suffering intermingled.

Next to Michelangelo, Mesihi observes him; he sees him overcome by this pleasure of the body and soul together that only Art, or perhaps opium and wine, can offer, and he smiles, happy to discover that the foreign guest os moved by the rhythm of the androgynous jewels to which his eyes riveted

He falls for the androgynus singers of the Ottoman era the first time he sees them

This book cleverly uses real people all the main character existed. Leonardo did go and design a bridge that was rejected. But there is no proof that Michaelangelo did although as Enard points out there is drawing in the Sultans collection that had been attributed to Michaelangelo. If a bridge had been started or even built a huge earthquake three years after the book is set could destroy it. The book shows the art of storytelling a simple idea did he go is a way of lifting the veil of the Ottoman world of the 16th century and also its importance as a trading post and crossroads or a bridge between to worlds as Orhan Pamuk said “To be able to see the Bosphorus, even from afar—for İstanbullus this is a matter of spiritual import that may explain why windows looking out onto the sea are like the mihrabs in mosques, the altars in Christian churches, and the tevans in synagogues, and why all the chairs, sofas, and dining tables in our Bosphorus-facing sitting rooms are arranged to face the view.” His modern city has seen many changes from the Sultans time but the Bosphorus is still the blood ruing through the body of the city connecting the west and east sides and the two worlds. The title is a nod to Kipling and is a quote from a story that is told by an elderly Indian to a young westerner.

River by Esther Kinsky

River by Esther Kinsky

German fiction

Original title –  Am Fluss

Translator – Iain Galbraith

Source – review copy

I have reread this for German lit month as I read it late last year and never reviewed it and had wanted to but as time flew this year I picked it up last week. Esther Kinsky is a German writer and translator she had lived in London for a number of years with her late husband the German to English translator Martin Chalmers. In her work as a translator of English books into German she had worked on books by John Clare his journey from Esse. That follows Clare walk in the countryside of 1841.  she also translated Iain Sinclair’s book which he followed in Clare’s footsteps and she has also done works by Henry David Thoreau of the books she has translated this three jumped out at me as they seem to connect to this wonderful novel.

The king stretched out his hands and the ravens gather around him. Several settled on his arms, shoulders and hands, briefly flapping their wings, lifting again and flying a short distance, then returning. Perhaps each bird wanted to touch him art least once, or perhaps they had no choice. Thus encirclircled by birds, he began to make gentle swinging and circling movements with his arms, as if they were haunted by a memory of wings

The King in the opening chapter see saw one evening a strange figure .

This is one of thos novels that have no real plot it is a meandering work just like the rivers our narrator tells us about. She is a German that has ended in our capital. She has then drift to Hackney and spends her time wandering the marsh-river area around the river Lea the book and many strands all come from these meandering walks the memories of her past and time in her childhood on the Oder and the single visit of her father but then the other people she meets eccentric character like the King a Man in a headdress that  I was never sure was just an imaged person a sort of modern take on the Crow King especially when she said he opened his arms and the ravens drifted around him. Or was this just an eccentric dress like a beefeater that wanders the river paths of the Lea? Then she meets orthodox Jews and other people that have ended up in this multicultural area like people from Former Yugoslavia leads to another digression to the rivers there many views of the rivers both in Europe and America she had seen over the years form a sort of memory of her life and also flow like a river as you read it.

What were my memories of rivers, now that I lived on an island whose thoughts were turned seawards, where rivers looked shallow and pretty, noticable only when they frayed into flats, or cut deep channels as they flowed out to sea ? Sometimes I dreamed of rivers I had known, rivers that cleaved their wat through plains and towns, rivers kept at bay by flood defences, or which rippled through the bright countryside. I remembered ferries and bridges and endless searching in unfamilar terrain for ways to cross a foreign river . I spent my younger years by a river that appeared to me in dreams when I ran a fever.

The river of my childhood was the Rhine. The chugging of barges

I remeber a few evening by the Rhine in my early twenties a much broader and buiser river than ours in the Uk in a way.

Now anyone that follows this blog knows that this is the sort of book I am a fan of those that can not be put in a pigeonhole. I pointed out that she had translated John Clare the peasant  poet and his walk of 1841 which was redone by Iain Sinclair another great writer around London and this is another grea\t view of that city from an outsiders eyes like Sebald she views the places she sees differently and drifts through time and place this is another book that would be great to map out the places mentioned on a google map guide like someone did with Sebald’s rings of Saturn if I ever have a spare week or two I may even try this myself as it made me think of the times I used to walk along the river Dane in Congleton growing up then past Alnwick castle with my first dog as I meet a whole host of people as Alnwick was always full of tourists and finally to the still canal waters of here my home and those cold mornings with my old pal Winston this is what great fictions do when a reader connects and that draws you into the tale.

Drive your plow over the bones of the dead by Olga Tokarczuk

 

 

Drive you plow over the bones of the dead by Olga Tokarczuk

Polish fiction

Original title –  Prowadź swój pług przez kości umarłych.

Translator – Antonia Lloyd Jones

Source – Review copy

I read flights but one thing and another last year I never reviewed it which was a shame as I really liked it as it turned out it was well reviewed and my little review would have been a small piece in a larger yes for the book. So when I was sent her latest to be translated I decide I pull my finger out and review it as soon as it came out. Olga has been writing since the late 80’s and has twice won the NIKE prize in Poland which is their version of the Man Booker prize. She also won the Man Booker international prize last year. This book is very different to flights.

The naming of Big foot occurred in a similar way. It was quite straightforward – it suggested itself tp me when I saw his foor prints in the snow. To begin with. , Oddball had called him “Shaggy”, but then he borrowed “Big Foot” from me. All it means that I had chose the right nam for him.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t choose a a suitable name for myself. I regard the one that’s written on my identity card asscandalously wrong and unfair- Janina. I think my real name is Emilia or Joanna. Sometimes I think it’s sometimes I think it’s something like Irmtrud too. Or Belldona. Or medea.

Meanwhile Oddball avoids caling me bymy name like the plague. That means something too.Somehow he always finds a wa to address me as “You”

The use of names bring the human characters near the animals in a way.

The book opens with the main character Janina Duszejko a sixty-year-old that is a translator of William Blake, works at the local school. She also is interested in Astrology ad loves her animals. She is with another local Oddball at the home of another neighbor Bigfoot a local hunter who has died. In bizarre circumstances choking on a small deer bone. The two of them dress him before the police come. But they can’t explain the animal footprints around the dead man and the exact cause of his death. Now for Janina, this seems like the animals are maybe getting the revenge she even starts seeing this in the stars she likes to read the signs she says are in the movement of the planets. This idea grows when more local hunters and people that abuse animals start turning up dead around the local Valley. But the valley has also changed in recent years this is told in a long spoken warning by Janina. Then Janina tells the police but they think she is just an old busybody. Who is the real killer?

That evening, just after dusk, Big fFoot’s dog began to bay again. The air had turned blue, sharp as a razor. The deep, dull howling filled it with alarm. Death is at the gates, I thought. But then death is always at our gates, at every hour of the day and night. I told myself. For the best conversations are with yourself.At least there is no misunderstanding.I strtched out on te couch in the kitchen and lay there, unable to do anything else but listento that piercing wail

The dog of Bigfoot miss his master.

I like this it had a piece of classic Noir. In other places, it drifts into Magic realism as Janina sees the Animals doing the killings as she sees how the stars have written what is happening in the way she is reading them. I also felt echoes to classic crime writers the use of Endless night by William Blake which is also used as a title for an Agatha Christe novel. The busybody nature of Janina is rather like Miss Marple if Miss Marple had been written by Gabo she’d have been Janina reading the stars and living in her own world of Blake. But she starts to scare her pupils with her ideas.This questions on what we would do if the animals did turn on us we have seen this in other media over the last few years the tv series Zoo that saw animal turning on people. But the nearest comparison for me was the video for Queens of the stone age video No ones knows which saw a deer attacking humans. This is a thought-provoking work about the changing world of hunting how we treat animal development in rural areas. Add to that The words and thoughts of William Blake a man that had a lot to say about good and evil. This is a novel that subverts crime and noir and uses a different lead character that isn’t a detective but at the heart of the events happening.

Scenes from a childhood by Jon Fosse

Scenes from a childhood by Jon Fosse

Norwegian short stories

Original title (part of ) – kortare Prosa

Translator and selector of the collection – Damion Searls

Source – review copy

It is strange I choose this book today. As it was just a couple of days ago we found out that the Nobel prize for this year is due to be announced in a years time alongside the 2019 Nobel. Well, today’s writer Jon Fosse is a writer that has been slowly climbing the ladder of Nobel betting. He has written a number of Novels and plays. He has won various awards Including the Nordic lit prize and the French order of merit. I have featured him in his novel Aliss at the fire . So I was pleased to see a collection of his stories, coming out from Fitzcarraldo.

THE AXE

One day Father yells at him and he goes out to the woodshed, he gets the biggest axe, he carries it into the living room and puts it down next to his father’s chair and asks his father to kill him. As one might expect, this only makes his father angrier

One of the vignettes from the first piece.

 

This is a number of stories collected together the first part of the collection is a collection of Vignettes about a childhood , there is a child like sense to the prose from Father holding an axe, through those points in childhood when things start to be notice like the time someone has a pink handbag, girls, the first smoke, the odd youth Asle we see through the young boys eyes drunk at first on some community steps and then later the older lads father grabs the youth as some pallets come crashin down on the dock near where he just was. Then we have a longer novella which in some ways had a similar theme to the curious incident of the dog in the night as a dog is killed. This death involves a dispute between neighbors. It is told from a young boys perspective so we see his view of the world. Then the last part is an older brother still a young voice talking about his young sister in another collection as his sister is born and the times they have together like falling asleep in the same bed his sister’s hands in his hair.

I think the man by the bend has shot your dog.She says

I hear her say that she thinks the man by the bend has shot my dog. What ? what is she saying? shot the dog? What can she mean someone’s shot my dog.

I saw the go and I heard a bang.

What the fuck is she saying ? shot the dog ? What the fuck does she want ?

Just now, she says

Shot the dog? I say

Yeah. I saw the dog, she says. I saw the dog run up to his house and then I heard a bang, it had to be a gun.

I looked at her and I know that if someone’s killed my dog i’m going ti kill whoever did it

THe novella “And then my dog will come back to me ” about a dog dying and who did it

This has a real sense of a writer at the height of his powers. That as a writer Fosse likes to use the bare minimum view of the world. These stories show what a subtle touch can do, these stories are like the diamond that is seen by the diamond cutter as they see it in the rough diamond each story has been cut and polished til they sparkle. The vignettes are like a captured glimpses of a life almost like the snatches of dreams those glimpse we each remember in the morning maybe not even place or time just what happened. Fosse has been compared to the greats and as this is the second book by him I have read and I am still left wanting to try more. Have you read Fosse?

 

Not to read by Alejandro Zambra

Not to read by Alejandro Zambra

Chilean essays

Original title  – No Leer

Translator – Megan McDowell

Source – personal copy

I was talking last week on twitter on #Translationthurs about what books people are reading. Jeff a fellow translation fan said he was in the middle of this book the latest by Zambra to be translated into English and also the first non-fiction to be translated into English.I have reviewed his novel ways of going home and his short story collection My documents. Which like this collection came out on Fitzcarraldo editions. I loved his short story collection so was looking forward to this as it was a collection of short essays.

The Mexican Josefina Vicens preferred the slippery simplicity of natrual phrases, even if she had to spend years searching for them. In one of the few interviews she granted. She tells of that time Julio Rulfo asked her why she was taking so long to publish another novel. The joke made sense, since in the end of Vicen’s oeuvre turned out to be even smaller than Rulfo’s: her two novels were recently published together in a volume that could fit in a shirt pocket.

Her most well known work El libro Vacio (the empty book), from 1958 which took eight years to write and which depicts the process of a man fighting against a blank page

A novel about writers block , I hope this books gets reissued at some point.

This is a collection of short piece where we discover what drives Zambra as a reader. From the first piece Obligatory reading about those books that we tackle in school. He talks about what he feels of the choice of Madame Bovary, where he learns for the first time movie adaptions can be a little liberal with the story. Then we have a piece about the great Argentina writer Julio Cortazar. He talks about how good the writer is and how he is a fond memory from school. The essays are like discovering little gems,  as the essays go on we see times he read photocopies of great books passed around when he was studying. He  mentions writer after writer, people like Josefina Vicens  and Nicanor Parra the first a great Mexican writer, I looked up but only one book translated and it wasn’t available at a sensible price then we have the great Chilean poet Parra who passed earlier this year, a number of his poems can be found online he is was called the alpha male of Chilean letters. Later he visits the hometown of Cesare Pavese, now one of his books is due out this summer from Penguin and Peter Owen have also published a number. Zambra talks about how he was searching for the settings of the books as he wandered around where he lived.

Only now do I fully take in the landscape. A tranquil green lingers in the eyes and it seems I can take everything in with just one long look: te valley , the hill. the church, the ruins of a medieval tower. I search for the setting of the moon and the bonfire . I adjust the image to position the Belbo river and the road to Caneli, which is the novels vanishing point, the corner where the worlds begin.

Zambra visiting the home town of Pavase and trying to find the setting for one of his great novels.

This is just a small glimpse at the writers mentioned in the book. As with his novels and short stories, Zambra is the master of the small. He is almost like a Bonsai master his piece are so neatly trimmed that they are almost like a gallery of his trees the root of his writing is that of him as a reader for to be a great writer one must also be a great reader. Here we see those roots of him as a reader but also why he reads this book over another book a sort of system of choice he makes. Also what he finds in writers from the Julio Riberyio a fellow Chilean, who is very shy or as he say when Mario Vargas Llosa called him “the shyest man he has ever met ” and that from the least shy writer from Peru as Zambra puts it. A great collection and a wonderful journey with a reader around the world lit and in particular Latin American fiction, I have added a few writers to my list of writers to read

Winstons Dozen my favourite books of 2017

I read and reviewed more than in the last couple of years so have decided to pick 12 books of the year.

Brothers by David Clerson

 

QCFINF16 - CoverBrothers_v9

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two brothers go on a quest to find the father in a mythical coastal world. The older brother has an arm missing, the arm is his younger brother with his stumpy arms and legs. One of the first reads of this year and one of the funniest and strangest books I have read.

Havoc by Tom Kristensen

Danish modernist novel one mans downward spiral from journalist to drunkard. A lost gem of European modernist fiction coming out in 1930. Partly inspired by the writer’s own life.

Summer before the dark by Volker Weiderman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The fictional meeting of Stefan Zweig and Joesph Roth in Ostend in the summer of 1936 two men at the height of there fame. Both their lives will take different roots after this meeting.

Compass by Mathias Enard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A lament for a lost world of Syria and for a lost love as a man goes through a sleepless night as Franz dreams of Sarah and his romance alongside their travels.

The Major Refutation by Pierre Senges

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An imagined thesis that discredits the discovery of the new world another quirky book that has had a champion it like a lot of the books on this list.

Bricks and Mortar by Clemens Meyer

Post east german history told through the oldest profession and the characters involved in that industry as they go from simple german girls to digital and woman of all nations. Another Fitzcarradlo novel on the list.

Hair everywhere- Tea Tulic 

A family saga told from the daughter in fragments of stories as her mother is dying of cancer another wonderful choice from Istros books.

Belladonna  by Dasa Drndric

A novel for today a warning of ignoring the rise of right-wing rhetoric as a retirng academic looks back and forward on his life. from one of my favourite writers.

The ultimate Tragedy by Abdulai Sila

The Ultimate Tragedy

Ndani story in postcolonial Guinea Bissau is the testament to what many young women have to do in her position to get by working in a family homemade to join the church and avoid the advance of the male head of the householder.

That’s how whales are born by Anxos Sumai

THAT’S HOW WHALES ARE BORN

This follows a young woman who had escaped to study whales in Mexico but her mother ill health bring her home to her Galician home and the secrets of the past.

Three days by Thomas Bernhard

A film he made years ago has a companion book a wonderful insight into a great writers feeling. I still love the lines I am a story destroyer.

The house of remembering and forgetting by Filip David

A man remembers his survival of the death camp and recalls it all after visiting an exhibition. I have loved the six peter own istros titles this year but this was my favourite of them.

A common thread in these books is families, loss, past and remembering. In the year I lost my mum this list maybe reflects my journey and how books help us get over things. What have been your books of 2017?

 

 

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.

 

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.

 

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