What have you left behind ? by Bushra AL-Maqtari

 

What Have You Left behind ? by Bushra AL-Maqtari

Yemeni Non-fiction

Original title –

Translator Sawad Hussain

Source – Review copy

I got sent this from the folks at Fitzcarraldo a press I have loved since they started there is rarely a press that you have never read a book you didn’t like in fact more than that their books have been among my favourite reads of each year for the last few years . So when I got this and on the back cover I saw the words that it was inspired by her reading of Svetlana Alexievich. Bushra Al Maqtari is a novelist and writer she first came to the fore in 2012 with her novel behind the sun and then her writing has become more nonfiction. This book lifted the lid on the personal effect of the long-running and under-report civil war in Yemen.

My brother is still tormented, he can’t sleep, he can’t forget. He’s preoccupied with finding treatment for his injured son. I carry my brother’s sorrows on my back, I enter the house and the memories come rushing back.

I remember my brother’s children and his wife, their laughter, the noise they would make, our beautiful life together. Damn the Coalition and whoever came with them to our country, damn every side that has murdered Yemeni people. They’re all just that – murderers. Who will bring back Malak, Malakat, Mohammed and Asma to my brother? Who? Tell me who? Who?

No one. No one cares about what happened to us.

Ahmad Abdel Hameed Sayf

At 5.40 p.m. on Thursday, 26 January 2017, the Arab Coalition aeroplanes targeted Ahmad’s brother’s house, Fahmi Abdel Hameed Sayf in al-Qutay in the governorate of al-Hu-daydab. His brother’s wife Asma Abdel Qader Yassin Sharaf (30 years old) was killed, and her children: Mohammed Fahmi

The last paragraph and what happened to Ahmad and his family in the opening narrative.

In her Nobel-winning speech, Svetlana Alexievich described how Flaubert called himself a Human Pen from his writing but Alexievich described herself as a human ear. That is what we have here with Busrha’s narratives they are a polyphonic collection of voices of the outfacing of the v=civin=il war a collection of people killed by the war. The book opens with Ahmed’s account of a bomb landing on his brother’s house meaning the loss of his sister-in-law his niece and his nephews. This is how the book is formed each chapter an account and each account ends with when the attack or killing happened where and who died. under the mango tree AL Ahamad says how he dreams of those he has lost all the time. Mothers lose their children as they are targeted and killed by Militia How the loss of children changes mothers, This is a chorus of loss and the ripple effect of this the immediate damage and loss but also the long-term trauma and loss to the society.

I lived in a country where dying was taught to us from childhood. We were taught death. We were told that human beings exist in order to give everything they have, to burn out, to sacrifice themselves. We were taught to love people with weapons. Had I grown up in a different country, I couldn’t have traveled this path. Evil is cruel, you have to be inoculated against it. We grew up among executioners and victims. Even if our parents lived in fear and didn’t tell us everything – and more often than not they told us nothing – the very air of our life was poisoned. Evil kept a watchful eye on us. Svetlana Alexievich

I feel this maybe capture so well what Bushra Al-Maqtari is trying to capture in this book the horror of war is known but the personal effect isn’t the families or those we loved we have lost adds to a  more powerful narrative voice a chorus of loss. You can see the nod to a book like Chernobyl the way you grab the attention of the reader is a polyphonic collection of experiences a patchwork of the war the gaps are those doing the killing these are this effect but the killer of the forgotten war. What we see is how it we deal with the human cost of war and the loss of the fabric of society. I was reminded of how the late great Dasa Drndric had described to me that the Italian version of her book had a rip out section of the book list of list Jews oink the war in Italy she’d pass it round and have people rip out names of the knew as the did the book fell apart like society itself with the loss of all these lives and voices.  This is their civil war is tearing their world apart the how=rror and cost of the war in Yemen haven’t been reported enough it has taken a strong voice like Bushra to be an activist and voice for this war and its effect. Have you a favourite book about war that uses first hand accounts?

Winstons score – +A another home run for Fitzcarraldo

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Paradais by Fernanda Melchor

Paradais by Fernanda Melchor

Mexican fiction

Original title – Paradais

Translator – Sophie Hughes

Source – Personal copy

Well I am on the next stop of this years Booker International longest and to a writer that cause a buzz last Time her book. was on the longest but I was one of the readers that just didn’t connect with the book. I didn’t even review it well I was a bit wary of reading her again. But actually connected a bit better with this her second book so much so I may go back and reread the first book of hers Hurricane season again and see if it was just my connection to the book on the first reading. Paradais is her second book to be translated to English. Also is the second book to be long listed. Fernanda Melchor is a journalist and has written about literary journalism in the past her first book was a collection of essays . In her debut Novel see used a fictional version of a murder in her home tow. This time she is using a gated community to show the class divide ion Mexico but also how young men on both sides of that class can be swayed into crime and violence in a world full of it.

Polo never told Fatboy anything during their drinking sessions; he never shared what he really thought of him or his ridiculous fantasies about señora Marian, at least not in the beginning during their first meetings down the doc, when Fatboy would get hammered and spend hours telling Polo what filthy shit went through his head, sparing no details and without a hint of embarrassment: about the porn he watched and how many times a day he masturbated, or the things he do to Señora Marian when he finally got his hands on her.

Fatboy and Polo early on as the two drink and Franco(Fatboy) tells polo about his neighbour

The book is the story of a relationship it would be hard to call it a friendship as it isn’t really that it is two young men on the cusp of adulthood at that age were woman or men become central to your life and also drink and drugs. But these two men are on different side of the fence in there lives their is Polo he is a Gardner at the gated Paradais community (that also gives itself to the title of the book)He just draws of a better life like most working class men he is doing his gruelling job but dreaming of a better life I was remind at times of Arthur Seaton another working class man that dreams of just escaping into drink at the weekends. He also had a thing about Married woman but had some charm about him. Then we Have the other main character Franco although he is mainly referred in the book as Fatboy, an overweight loner from one of the rich families on the Paradais estate this fat boy dreams of engaging in carnal acts with his MILf neighbour. The two connected I never viewed this as a friendship it isn’t but they bond over want to escape there now and come up with a plan involving the attractive wife next door as they drink and draw up this plan.

That was the kind of grief Polo woke up to each day before the sun had even appeared at the window, just as the neighbour’s cockerel was clearing its throat to complete with hi mother’s phone alarm. Polo would grumble and toss and turn on the floor, on the sweat soaked petite his mouth dry, his eyes glued together with sleep and his temples throbbing with the headache that now never went away, no matter how many Alka-seltzers he drankHe would aim to get up as early as he could.

Polo world far different from fanboys as he struggles with drinking all night and working hard all day takes its toil.

This is a story of two losers really they aren’t the nicest characters they each have huge problems . But they also have a lot of what we all have growing up that is been attracted to older women at times, like a drink and just wanting to escape our now to find a better then. The only difference is the Franco and Polo are from Mexico where the world they see is so juxtaposed Fromm the village of Polo with the drugs and everyday violence that is the norm this is something that she touched on in her other book with the murder in the village! do you become use to Violence when it is all around. But then there his the gulf between Franco and Polos world which is a chasm difference . I can’t imagine being Polo having to leave his world and enter this world of Paradais everyday no Paradais for him . Then there is Franco maybe he is a product of his environment a fat loner kid from money that because of the world he is trapped in isn’t able to form a normal relationship and uses porn with a mix of his neighbour imagine a relationship. This is a brutal book about two men on the cusp of adulthood both not fitting in their own worlds that come together and as we have often see this is a classic cliche for a film the two loser getting together against the world but it always ends up going wrong as it dose with this plan and the two men that have come up with it.  I will, go back and read Hurricane season again at a later date. I found this easier to connect to and read it in a single sitting. They show a machoest side of life that has gone out of control and what happens when you see sex and violence in a certain way. Have you read this book or Hurricane season ?

Winstons score – +B a solid novella about being in a world of two extremes

Stu’s year of Books winstonsdad best of 2021

I am late to the mark here with my best-of list basically I’ve been reading other Blog and Vlogs best-of list for the last year and completely missed that I had not done my own hitting the ground review and reading-wise it isn’t till now I have decided to go back over the last year and pick those books that have stuck with me. Now this may be a different set of books from highlights I have pick of the months of last year as I feel books change after we read them some grow some just stay others just wilt away. So I am not a huge stats person to now I am moving forward using Goodreads a lot more as a way to track my reading and also gain some end of year stats. I reviewed 91 books from 30 countries. I had want to read more African books last year I had read a few more but there is room for a couple more this year. I read books from North and south America, Africa , Europe and Asia but missed books from Oceania and the Pacific which I need to fix this year.any way here are my books of the year I am doing them in the order I read them in the year.

At night all blood is black by David Diop

This tale of two African soldiers in the trenches a story that hasn’t been talked about a lot it follows what happens when your best friend is shot and the enemy is there and you have to get revenge.

30th April 1945 by Alexangder Kluge

Anyone that has followed this blog in the last couple of years will know a writer I am championing and absolutely love is Alexander Kluge here with have vignettes fact and fiction that circle the world on the day that is near the end of world war two.  His books are rabbitholes for the mind it is hard not to pick the other book by him I read but I will resist anyway go out pick him up !!

Tower by Bae Myung- Hoon

I read a hell of a lot more Korean books this year than I have previously and this was one that really stuck with me a futuristic tower building a dystopic world of interlinking stories that in place are funny.

A musical Offering by Luis Sagasti

I’m seeing a theme her of interlinking stories in the book here is another collection that has music at its heart and a diving board for the tales with like Kluge a mix of fact and fiction I loved his previous book I think he is my favourite Latin American writer at the moment

In memory of memory by Maria Steponova

Oh well, another book that drifts as she goes through her grand flat she looks back on her own families history and her homelands at the same time a book that is in that grey area between fiction and non-fiction in a way.

Elegy for Joseph Cornell by Maria Negroni

Oh another collection here of prose and poetry piece that area a bio and tribute to the artist Joesph Cornell a lost gem from Dalkey a man that like to wander his home city of New york

The cheap eaters by Thomas Bernhard

A new translation of one of his lesser-known books a man is drawn onto a group of men that eat the cheapest meals every day in a government-run restaurant in Vienna. I am a long time Bernhard fan and it is always great to add another title to the list of books I have reviewed by him.

The return of Caravels by Antonio Lobo Antunes

Like Bernhard Antunes is a writer I love and this a bok that mix the past and those seafarers returning to Modern Lisbon much to there horror a writer that always deals with his own countries past so well and openly.

To see out the night by David Clerson

A writer whose novel I loved returns with a collection of short stories, I said in the review I am not a short story fan well going through this years choice I think I am a bigger fan than I think anyway QC have been brought use some great books from Quebec her we have people turning to great apes and secret cities under cities.

Special Needs by Lada Vukic

As many of you may know I work on a ward caring and helping get better people with Learning disabilities that are in crisis so I was wary of this book as it is hard to capture that voice of someone with learning disabilities without it seeming wrong but for me this is the best such voice I have read it is such a voice of someone with Autisms view of the world.

 

3 Minutes and 53 Seconds by Branko Prlja

A series of vignettes form a bildungsroman using the writers love of music and the songs for each year I like this as a lot of the songs I knew some I loved other I didn’t but it was a great way to show the upheaval in the  Balkans in his teen years having to move to a new city and his use of music to convey that another underrated gem from Dalkey

Three Bedrooms in Manhatten by Georges Simenon

I have been working through the Penguin books as they have brought out a lot of his books in New translations here is a book from his time in the US capturing those dark post-war years before the shining fifties to lost souls in a big city.

Well there they are my twelve books of the year as ever I feel I am on my own journey in books I love books that have interlink stories of vignettes around themes and also champing small presses and writers I have loved for a long time. What were your books of the year where did your journey take you last year did our paths cross?

 

Shadow Booker Shortlist 2021

Well we have read all the books between us in the shadow jury and had a successful first-ever zoom chat to discuss the books and it was clear there we had only a few titles of this year’s longlist that we all really loved and for a change they were the same books we all seemed to champion and like this list, this year has a scope but the books although diverse in the style of writing from memoir, verse, vignettes, short stories, nonfiction fiction, sci-fi, historic, autofiction and a novel for a novel prize!

So what are our choices here they are-

David Diop (France) & Anna Moschovakis
– At Night All Blood is Black (Pushkin Press)

Benjamin Labatut (Chile) & Adrian Nathan West
– When We Cease to Understand the World (Pushkin Press)

Olga Ravn (Denmark) & Martin Aitken
– The Employees (Lolli Editions)

Adania Shibli (Palestine) & Elizabeth Jaquette
– Minor Detail (Fitzcarraldo Editions)

Maria Stepanova (Russia) & Sasha Dugdale
– In Memory of Memory (Fitzcarraldo Editions)

Andrzej Tichý (Sweden) & Nicola Smalley
– Wretchedness (And Other Stories)

Our journey of books takes us from a Sudan soldier in world war I. Then a  book about science and those odd little tales of how things come about. Then a crew of a spaceship both human and android is interviewed about what makes us what we are. A footnote in history that saw a girl’s life change is recalled then and now. A flat clearing turns into an epic about a family but also about art during the 20th century. Then there is a story of breaking free of our roots or is it! Three of the publishers here have supported this blog with books over the years. the other was new to me at the start of this years prize we will be rereading discussing and deciding our winner watch this space guys !!!

Minor Detail by Adania Shibli

Minor Detail by Adania Shibli

Palestinian fiction

Original title – تفصيل ثانوي

Translator – Elisabeth Jaquette

Source personal copy

I must admit I haven’t reviewed as much Arabic fiction as I use to I have a number of books on my shelf and had a couple of other books I thought would be on the long list this year. This book I was aware of and would have got round to eventually as I have read nearly all the blue cover books from Fitzcarraldo and have not read a bad book from them. Adania Shibli has written a number of other books she has previously had three other books translated. She studied at the University of East London. She was also on the list of writers under 39 that was collected together in Beirut 39. She now lives in Berlin. So here we go on the latest stop on this year’s Booker international longlist.

After dinner, he went straight to the second hut, where he told the guard to bring the girl and follow him, and he headed to his hut. Followed by the guard and the girl, who were in turn followed by his dog. On the way there, he passed by the supply dump in the middle of the cam and appeared a few moments later woth a folding bed, which the guard rushed to carry for him.

When they arrived at his hut, he took the folding bed from the guard and brought it inside, while the others waited outside. after a moment a latern’s glow, then the noise of furniture being moved around the room reached them

Just as the act the minor detail is due to happen.

The book revolves around a minor event in the summer of 1949 as the Israeli army is setting up camp in a remote area what follows is the mundane event of setting up the camp near the Egyptian border in the desert.  what we see is the boredom of this camp from the point of view of their commander. The heat and uneventful nature of this camp lead to a horrific event when the first people they see a group of Nomads passing through who the troops that are trigger happy after the waiting kills them but one bedouin women has been left alive when the Commander brings her back to the camp she is raped this event just a small part a minor detail in the war is rediscovered in the present by a writer as she vis in Ramallah trying to uncover more about the events that lead to this horrific crime. It shows the past and present and how little has changed and the way not to lose the past avoid rewriting history.

so, one morning when I was reading the newspaper, and happened across an article about a certain incident itself that began to haunt me. Incident itsef that began to haunt me. Incidents like that aren’t out of the ordinary, or let us say, they happen in contexts like this. In fact they happen in contexts like this. In fact, they happen so often that I’ve never paid them much attention before. For instance , on another morning when it was raining. I woke up late, which meant I couldn’t sit and work at my table in front of the big window; instead I had to go straight to my new job. When I arrived at my stop, and got off the minibus a bit before the clocktower.

The reading of a minor detail gets a writer down a rabbit hole of wanting to find out more about what happened.

This is a clever way of using the past and present the two views of the same event and looking at what happened to this Bedouin girl the only person left after the rest of her group was killed by the soldiers. And a writer from the modern-day and reading about this event and what happened in a brief report in a newspaper. That sparks her to have to try and find out more about this and this minor detail in history. but it shows how little has changed for the Palestinians in modern Israeli as she struggles to get to access the sources for the info. As she gets through the labyrinth of bureaucrats. The first part of the book is an account of war but also the way it can lead to horrific events like this the events are like what happened in Lord of the flies or clockwork orange where a group of young males whether school kids, a gang or a group of soldiers overstep the mark. This does what a good novella should do and that feels like an epic on a small scale this takes one single event and like a Macro lens blows it up to it fills the screen and is thus a motif for the great events of the war of independence

Winstons score- B a solid novella leaves the reader thinking for a while after.

In Memory of Memory by Maria Stepanova

In Memory of Memory by Maria Stepanova

Russian Literature

Original title -Памяти памяти

Translator – Sasha Dugdale

Source – Personal copy

This was a book that was mentioned before the prize and others questioned if it was a novel at all well it for me fits in that ground between fiction and non-fiction a personal quest the likes of we have seen in books from writers like  Sebald and one of my favorite books of recent year Dušan Šarotar book Panorama. This is a prose work from the Russian writer and Poet Maria Stepanova a graduate of Gorky literature Institute she has been a big presence online in Russian Literature having been behind the site’s open space a Russian daily cultural site and the Colta website project. She is married to a well-known Russian Critic and Journalist this is the first work of hers to be translated she has also a poetry collection that has also been translated by Sasha Dugdale that has also come out she has won a number of the big prizes. So we are off on the next stop on the Booker international list!!

Memory is handed down, history is written down; memory is concerned with justice, history with preciseness; memory moralizes, history tallies up and corrects; memory is personal, istory dreams of objectivity; memory is based not on knowledge, but on experience; compassion woth, sympathy for a desperate pain demanding immediate involvement. At the same time the landscape of memory is strewn with projections fantasiesand misrepresenations – the ghost of today, with their faces turned to the past. Hirsch writes

I love pasages like this that describe what a memory is to us as against history

How to capture this book as it isn’t a novel it is a sort of patchwork of pieces that are all come about from when she cleared her aunt apartment what she does is build a picture of her family as she says they are just ordinary Russian jew family she uses the similar idea to Sebald a sort of post-memory of these lives that haunt her past and the flat she is clearing as she looks at the flotsam and jetson we all leave behind us the photos and letters that are full of ghosts that maybe she is the last to know who and what they were. And in the time they lived in the Ginzburgs is a family that had not lost lives in the Stalin days and with the exception of one member of the family went through the second world war the son of the aunt died in Leningrad it is a touching section a letter from him is followed by the letters of his death.  There is also a piece about how Dickens kept there spirit up in the war when reading great expectations. Near the end of the book her thoughts taker her to the American artist Joseph Cornell(this is a strange series of connections I recently got a novella that is about this artist) he made boxes that are little worlds in themselves and the fact this is her box.

The cemetry as address book foor all humanity sets out everything we need to know with concision. in effect it comes down to names and dates- we don’t need to know any more. We read and remember at most two or three familiar names, for who could fix all its thousands of pages in mind? But supposing those who lie there have an interest in whether they are remembered? All they can hope for is a passerby to stop and read, a strangers, filled with an age- old curiosity about life beforehe appeared in the world, who will pick out their grave from all others, and stan and remark on it. This belief in the redemptive regard of a stranger

What are we this hits it on the head at least a grave that occasionally catches a passerby eye.

I am a fan of this sort of book it is like being on a trip with someone a quest for life it is like breath on the embers of a dying flame just to get them to reignite and spark off again that one last surge of heat. Sebald and Pamuk have influenced her she says that a few times in the book. Unlike those, this is a story of lives that have nothing other than they lived through some of the grimmest and hardest times in Russian history and managed to get through without making a real mark which is an achievement how to avoid death in the siege and then before that Stalin’s purges is a story in itself. what are we when we have gone that is the question without someone to remember us to pass that memory on like an Olympic torch? This is the patchwork quilt of her aunt’s world made up of pieces but in places, there are Maria’s own thoughts filling the spaces in their lives.  Russian Jews family caught in Amber.

Winstons score –  +A a book that just makes you know why you love reading that is something special.

That was the month that was July 2020

  1. The treasure of Spanish civil war by Serge Pey
  2. Montano by Enrique Vila-Matas
  3. A glass eye by Miren Agur Meabe
  4. Fracture by Andres Neuman
  5. Vicious by Xurxo Borrazas
  6. Hunter School by Sakinu Ahronglong
  7. Rolling Fields by David Trueba
  8. A beautiful young woman by Julián López
  9. The day my Grandfather was a hero by Paulus Hochgatterer

It was the first of two months of Spanish lit month last month so we had a Spanish feel to the books reviewed last month. We started with a French novel set in Spain from a writer descended from a Spanish civil war refugee that grew up in a camp. THen a man is plagued by people creeping in as he tries to Write. Then we Had a Basque novel about a woman with a glass eye and a sort of history of the Glass eye in with it. Argentina is next stop a book set in Japan written by the wonderful Andre Neuman. THen a man on the run a story with a number of timelines intertwined and a baroque feel to the work. Then off to Taiwan and a young man learn his hunting techniques and the shrinking world around him. Then another son takes his father home and evaluates his life as a singer-songwriter as he does. Then back to Argentina and a son remembering his mother in fragments. I finish in the Austrian hills and a young girl and a Russian on the run in the last days of world war two.

Books of the month

First is Andre Neuman his story of one man that saw the bombs dropped on Japan and destroyed his home town then in the present the destruction of the nuclear power in the present,  as he is asked about these events and times by an Argentinan journalist. This is my Spanish lit month choice.

I had to chose this as it is such a touching book a son on his father a hard man to like but one that had taught him to hunt and he sees the world of his tribe shrinking around him over the passage of time. Also the environmental damage of these changes over his lifetime.

NOn-book matters

Well life is slowly freeing up we have a few more things to do one of those is swimming which I have enjoyed doing this last week or so getting up to pre lockdown levels of swimming which hurt but after a day or two I noticed my muscles hurt less. Another treat has been a coffee  the first in a few months still being very careful but this isn’t over yet. I also brought the 40th-anniversary edition in the vinyl of Joy Divison second albm unknown pleasures a haunting Album it also had three singles  in 12 include that came out from them around the same time including the towering Love will tear us apart

Next month

Well, a few more books from Spanish world. I m nor sure yet  100% yet I also have a couple of books the Balkans and Quebec to read. I  also hope to get near to ten books to try and get back near 100 books for the year, What are your plans for August. What was your highlight for July book wise ?

Grove by Esther Kinsky

Grove by Esther Kinsky

German fiction

Original title  – Hain

Translator – Caroline Schmidt

Source – review copy

One of the things I love best about blogging for so many years is the chance to read the second and third books that get translated by writers you had loved first time round and this is such a case River the debut translation in English from the German Writer/ Translator Esther Kinsky. It was a book that touched me her wonderful view of the world around her a wonderful observation of nature and the world around us. This book was written not long after she lost her husband the German to English translator Martin Chalmers. The narrator of this book has gone to Italy to get over a bereavement of her husband.

It is winter evening comes early. When darkness falls , the old village of Olevano lies in the yellow warmth of streetlights. Along the road to Bellegra, and through out the new settlements on the northern side, strtetches a labyrinth of dazzling white lamps. Above on the hillside the cemetery hoovers in the glow of countless perptually burning small lights, which glimmer before the gravestones, lined up on the ledges in front of the sepulchres. When the night is very dark, the cemeterty, illuminated by Luce Pertuea, hangs like an island in the night. The islanf of Morti above the valley of the vii

The unnamed narrator looks out in the dark over the village this passage really touched me.

Our narrator’s loss of her husband two years earlier she has decided to head to a small Italian village in winter to live there and try and work through her bereavement. In the early part of the book, we see her observing the village as it ebbs and flows in front of her as she sits on the balcony of her small cottage. Visiting the graveyard and seeing the names are the same as those in the shops she has been visiting. But then the feel changes as the woman remembers her childhood trips to  Italy. These sepia-toned memories of her family holidays seeing the old ladies of the villages. Carnivals and the variety of life they saw then. Then she heads to the river Po like in her book river the book springs with the world of the river the gardens around the river that she sees with that wonderful eye this is a book that sees the beginning of winters and people visiting graves then we have the remembrance of her past that seems to bring her to the now and remembering in the end of the works of Fra Angelico. A painter I had run across in a book by the Italian writer Antonio Tabucchi.

Once we stayed in Chiavenna. We found a guest house, managed by a woman with a severe expression. Every piece of furniture and every step creaked. We were given a family room, which smelled of mothballs. the beds stood sombre and massivein in the large room, as if randomly placed and lefty there standing.My parents had an argument ad ,y father went out I lay under the stiff sheets pretending to sleep. My mother sat at the window, waiting for my father.

I wqas remind of a guest house we stayed in Devonwith an old fashioned own and stiff sheets like her.

This is for me even better than the river it is so personal its hard to not think of it being Esther’s own story of how she got over her own personal loss that of her husband. The book is a path of that recovery in a way starting as cold as the unnamed narrator arriving in the small village of Olevano an outsider in the winter slowly opening as the world goes on around her but in many ways still detached as she sees those villagers visit the graves and she ventures to see the names and t=in a way this is a path to her own remembrances of her past and then the last section the Po flows to the sea and toa wider world. An insight into grief and the struggle we all make with it and the different ways we can find to get over it. A book that is rich in the world around her and insight into a human soul. Have you read either of her books ?

The other Name by Jon Fosse

The other name septology I-II  by Jon Fosse

Norweigan fiction

Original title – Det Andre Namnet 

Translator – Damion Searls

Source – review copy

I have twice before reviewed books from Jon Fosse I first reviewed him as he was a name that always is high on the list of Nobel Hopefuls. So when he made the Booker longlist I was happy.  He is a writer that is considered one of the best around the world at the moment and this is the first two-part of seven books. He has won the Nordic council prize and in Norway was given a Grotten one highest honors from the Norweigan royal families for his contribution to the arts. The translator learned Norweigan just to be able to translate his books. That is how good he is as a writer that said he isn’t the biggest on plot but there is more questioning within his writing on many levels.

The Art School, I think, and ever since my first show at The Beyer Gallery it was Beyer who’s sold my paintings, I think, and he always manages to sell almost allof them, but sometimes, in the first couple of years. I have to admit, they sold for a terrible price, to tell the truth, but most of the pictures sell for a good price now, and there are always a few that don’t sell for a good price now, and there are always a few that don’t sel, the best pictures too a lot of the time, and beyer doesn’t sell those ones cheap any more, he stopped doing that a loing time ago, He’d rather put them in what he calls the bank, the sideroom of the same gellery. Where he keeps and storees the lictures gthat aren’t in the show

He has brought his painting for years to help him make a living.

Here the question is one of what makes us who we are the two books tell the tales of an Asle and aging painter. They had a happy marriage but is now lonely with only his neighbor Aselik a fisherman and Beyer that runs a gallery that sells his work this is one story. But then in the same town is another painter Asle.  but this is where the paths split as one seeks salvation in people the other takes it in a bottle this leads to the usual questions of life why are we here. This is a slow work nothing really is quick it is a slow descent into the bottle and then the flip side of finding a different path out of grief this is about love but the aftermath of love those space in our world an artist can fill them with art but then as we have seen other time overs break and fall into the bottle. As they asses their lives they see that in the same place and same time things can be different. At times the prose cross and events in one life seem to be happening in the other lives.

You and this faith iof yours. Asleik says

I don’t always understand you, he says

But no one can think their way to god, I say

Because either they can feel that god is near or they can’t . I say

Because god is both a very faraway absence, yes well, being itself, yea and a very close presence I say

Maybe it’s like that for you. Asleik says

But it doesn.t really make sense, he says

God is there as well well faith and what it means at times .

I read an FT interview with Fosse in looking for info about this book he described his books as slow prose. He taught Knausgaard a long time ago. He is often compared to his pupil but I feel they are different this isn’t about his own life. In a way he is the anti-Knausgaard this is slow-moving works that explore the innermost thoughts and desires that drive us all but also those demons yes Knausgaard talks about demons in his life and his family but this is in a different way Asle’s show the flip side we all have like the dice man is life can sometimes just be broken down to a few decisions or events. so yes even a turn of dice can decide a life as death and loss of a loved one can lead to many different paths. I wonder where he will take us in the next five books this is the quiet man’s Knausgaard this is a work from a quiet man that loves to challenge his readers and himself as a writer. What are your thoughts of his writing I am a fan I like Karl Ove but this guy is next level to me he is one of the most human writers you can read?

The Fallen by Carlos Manuel Álvarez

The Fallen by Carlos Manuel Álvarez

Cuban fiction

Original  title – Los caídos

Translator – Frank Wynne

Source – review copy

I will for the next few days add a few books that might make the booker longlist later this week and here I start with a great debut novel from a Cuban writer that has written short stories and also contributed pieces to The BBBC, New York Times and Al-Jazeera. As well as co-founding an online magazine in Cuba. He was on that Bogota 39 list from a few years ago which has already produced so many great new voices from Latin and Central American. Here is one of my choice for the longlist as it has been wonderfully translated by Frank Wynne into English.

THE MOTHER

I’m alive and in my panties and my skin is yellow. I’, in a heap lying on top of the bed, the dirty sheets. By the time I finally get up, my arms are covered in goose bumps. I open the wardrobe, put on a housecoat and go into the kitchen. Afrmado is making coffee. His movements are slow and graceless, The way he holds the coffee pot, the way he turns on the gas, the way he strikes the match and holds on to the ring. He is so slow that his every action already contains within in its own repetition.

He looks at me and smiles and there is something in his smile that unsettles me. He ask me if I want coffee, I say yes, a little. I ask him how he slept and he says better than most nights. I asj him how he slept and he says better than most nights. I ask him if he had a dream and he say no. He says this as if I alreay know, but how could I know soemthing I have no reason to know ? I don’t ask any more questions

The line about his smile and what’s behind it hit me a lot.

This is a story of a family but what is great it takes the four members of the family the mother and father and there son and daughter. This is a family that is in the middle of a crisis is the mother who you feel is the glue of the family it turns out over the first few chapters she has started having a few health problems mainly a number of falls more than normal and increasing in frequency, This is described by her daughter as she just drops to the fall but after three occasions you sense her daughters worry. Her husband the father is worried stuck in an office job but not too high he also has a car he hates his Nissan is heavy on the fuel and he is always running out of fuel. This is a poor family as the son observes they hadn’t even a table at one point. There is an insight into the way people get money in Cuba a sort of reverse universal credit where the less your family had meant the more some got also maybe a tip of the hat to the corruption in the system. The father thou is also a man of honour as those other he knows to get on he sticks to the rules and isn’t one for bribes as the matriarch of the family is failing her daughter worries of life without her. The sin hates his father mainly for his standpoint in life to not take what he may see other take. A wonderful look into a family in the current Cuba where a family still struggles to have a table when poor and corruption just ripples under the surface.

THE DAUGHTER

The first time was five months ago, a muffled thud. The human body doesn’t sound like a vase shattering. It doesn’t sound like a crystal glass. It sounds like a sack of cement, like a thick, heavy dictionary. There was a spot of blood on a corner of the wardrobe. I noticed it straight away, Mama was lying on the floor, unconscious. There was a gash in her cheek like the hollow in an agave. I did everything you’re not supposed to do. I moved ger from where she was lying. I tried to put her in a different position. She was a dead wieght. She’s talll and heavy, and I couldn’t After three minutes, she started to stir and after a while she came round. We thought it was an isolated incident,but people think a lot of things.

HEr daughter describes those early falls she saw.

Fitzcarraldo has brought so many good books to us in recent years and this debut is another gem. It captures the family so well a family just getting by but now with his wife’s illness there is an impending doom in their also cracks of those things that within a family you sometimes bury until there is a shift in the power or a loss forthcoming that means cracks like those between the father and son appear. It is bare on names and details it is a description of a family coping with a vital member falling ill. the shifting voices remind me of the way the voices shift in Faulkners as I lay dying not as many voices but each voice add the narrative and the story. This technique of shifting the story around to see it from each family members point of view has also been seen a couple of times on soaps recently where we had a week of five perspectives of an event here it is the same four view of a woman failing and the feeling once that happens it will have a knock-on effect. An insight into family life for those scrapping by just in Modern Cuba. Have you read this book ?

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