Harraga by Boualem Sansal

 

 

Harraga by Boualem Sansal

Algerian Fiction

Original title – Harraga

Translator – Frank Wynne

Source – review copy

Out of my Algeria
they made the prisons taller
than the schools.
They sullied the nocturnal roots
of the People,
the serious Tree
of the remote Berbérie…
They denied the certainty of our Land,
they tore apart Islam, its color,
its fantastical tribes, even the shame
that makes them live.
They denied the Vital Fire, our Flag
They exiled the humble joys of our huts
slow at the return of corn…
Blind! Blind!

Well I had hope to get this book last week as it is one I feel we all need to read .Boualem Sansal  had a government job in the  early 2000’s til he start complaining about the government , his books since then have been critical of Algeria in particular how the vast money made from Oil is being spent and in this book womans rights .Boualem Sansal still lives in Algeria as he says the his country needs artists to pave the way to peace and democracy .He has won many awards and written six novels .He is one of the strongest critics of his country’s regime .

This is how a whirlwind sweeps into your life .Nothing absolutely nothing in my past led me to suppose that one day i would open my door , open my life to such mayhem .I opened the door because that’s hat you do when someone knocks , you answer .

Lamia just after Cherifka arrives at her door and the effect she has on her life .

Harraga is the story of two women , Lamia , who up to now had lived a quiet life behind the wall of her house , just living in her own world and Cherifika a 16-year-old unmarried pregnant girl arrives in the middle of the night at Lamia ‘s door , she was sent to her by Lamia brother Sofiane .Sofiane is also the inspiration  for the title the only member of Lamia family left alive he is a Hararaga , some one trying to escape Algeria for Spain across the sea .Meanwhile the two worlds of Lamia nad Cerifka start to clash , Sherifka is having to lay low but is struggling to do this in a way she is  a new woman wanting to be equal wanting to be heard but this is dangerous for a girl with child that is unmarried could be killed for Honour .This is what Lamia is trying to do ,whilst seeing the world anew through this young girls eyes making this meek woman who maybe is an example of what woman have been in Algeria she gets stronger .As the two woman adjust to each other and the world outside .

Cherifka is bored .I’ve noticed that she’s become less voluble , less frivolous , she is brooding , preoccupied serious .I scarcely recognised her .She is like a caged bird that has forgotten how to sing , to splash in its bath , to hop and skip for joy – a joy it can scarcely remember , one too distant and to fleeting to gladden the heart .

Lamia sees how being held up in the house is affecting Cherifka , these lines remind me of the lines of Maya Angelou in a way .

This is in some ways a classic odd couple story , the pair Lamia and Cherifka in some ways to me reflect the two faces of woman in the modern Arab world Lamia has hidden herself and in her own way is a romantic living behind a wall in her own world with ghost but not really living as she has settle for the life she has .Cherifka is the modern girl wanting to live , having a boy before being married , wanting to be seen and heard in a world where woman should really be meek like Lamia .Boualem Sansal has lifted the veil on being a woman in Algeria , but not just that through Sofiane and his trying to leave Algeria he has shown the problems in the country a country rich in its own world with oil money but only for the few .Then there is the house and the city t,the house has itself been part of Algeria and its history and through these two woman is seeing another turn in the country’s history .I know Frank the translator really hopes this book gets a wider readership because its writer has a voice that needs to be heard , silenced  in his own country even here this book hasn’t really got the coverage a work of its quality and insight needs .

 

Have you a favourite book from Algeria ?

Winston’s books a tale of two cities !

Well there was four books arrive this week at Winston towers .

IMG_1975

First up is two more in the series Tales from the OUP press , this time they are visiting Copenhagen , with stories from Hans Christian Anderson , Jakob Esersbo , Soren KIerkegaard and Karen Blixen on the back it says it takes you from the narrow twisting streets of the old town centre to the shady docklands ,captures the essence of Copenhagen and its many faces .Next we are off to Vienna and a few more familiar names to me Arthur Schnitzler , Joseph Roth , and Veza Canetti it says about Vienna tales , situated on the cusp of West and East ,between the foothills of the Alps and the mights “Blue Danube ” Vienna has long presented authors with a wealth of material for stories that entertain and intrigue .I love these snapshots of a cities writers and how a place has influenced a writer .

IMG_1974

Next up is a novel by one of Algeria’s most controversial writers Boualem Sansal set in a crumbling mansion in the old quarter of Algiers we meet two women one young and rebellious ,the other is a recluse Lamia whose world is turned upside by the arrival of the young Cherifa at her home .Frank Wynne has translated this novel so I am rather excited about this one .

IMG_1976

The last book is one I have reviewed ,but will mention here as it has been made into a series for Radio four in the UK it seems , The boy from Aleppo who painted the war ,is the Debut novel of Sumia Sukkar , is one of the first works of fiction to cover the recent war in Syria .

What books arrived at your house this week ?

Liveforever by Andrés Caicedo

andres caicedo liveforever

Liveforever by  Andrés Caicedo

Columbian fiction

Orginal title – ¡Que viva la música!

Translator – Frank Wynne

Source – Review copy

“Caicedo is the missing link of the lost boom. He is the first enemy of Macondo. I do not know if he committed suicide or maybe was killed by García Márquez and the dominant culture of those times. He was less the rocker that the Colombians want and more an intellectual. a super genius tormented nerd. He had imbalances, anguish of living. He was not comfortable with the life. He had problems to stay on his foot. And he had to write in order to survive. He killed himself because he saw too much.”

Albeto Fuguet the acclaimed Chilean writer on his early death .

Now as any one who has been following the books read section of this blog will know I read this a few months ago ,but at time I was reading it was when Richard and I started discussing Spanish Lit month again .I want this to be the first book of the second Spanish lit month .I first heard of this book when Frank the translator mentioned it was meant to be coming a couple of years ago ,but with delays it didn’t arrive to this year .What first grabbed me was when I read up about  Andrés Caicedo life ,this was his only book ,he killed himself after this book came out .He had said to live more than twenty-five years was madness .He lived in Cali the main setting for the book ,had a deep love of cinema which meant he had dreamed of selling his plays to Roger Corman .He ran a club showing films and discussing the films with the students and intellectuals of Cali .Anyway for more go to his Wiki page  .

I’m blonde ,blondissima .So blonde that guys say ,hey angel ,you only have to flick that lustrous mane of hair over my face to free me of the shadows hounding me .it was no shadow on their faces but death .And I was scared to lose my sheen .

The opening lines of Liveforever .

 

Now to the book ,it’s a sort of coming of age story ,we spend time with María del Carmen Huerta ,Her story is told as she is now a high class prostitute ,her best days in that job behind her she looks at her life and this one day .The day she he miss school and just dance the way through the city of Cali ,from her own end of the city the upper class part of town ,her father is the man the photos the upper classes of the city ,the music she hears and moves to is the rolling stones western rock ,but as she moves down into the seedier darker side of the city ,junkies and drugs but also the salsa beats drive the city out open doors ,dance schools we see Maria drawn further into this world as her body pulsates with the beats of this part of town .As we see Maria drift between the groups within the city .Maria journey is one for her of discovery about herself and her world .

Who knows who maps our path through this world or how they do so ; here in beautiful Cali I am the queen of guganco I stepped out into the street ,into the sky so clear ! An enormous moon and deep wind from the mountains bore witness to my devastating revelations in that moment : that everything in life is lyrics ,is words .Maybe my words are of  a different order .

I found these lines so poetic ,Guganco is a type of Cuban rumba .

Now its hard not to miss connection with other books ,frank posted a review of this book that mention catch in the rye ,yes I agree partly with that but Maria isn’t a Holden for me .Caicedo was known for his wanting to break away from the writers of the Latin american boom in his writing ,so it hard to compare with writers around him from that time like of Marquez or Lllosa  as seen in the opening quote on this review .No this is far more a book about setting forth ,setting free a mind .A woman discovering herself and her body at the same time ,of course Nada springs to mind ,the Spanish catcher in the rye ,but also the style of literature she was involved with the Tremendisomo ,the world told in its brutal and true way ,having just read Cela another master of this art ,I can see part of this in Caicedo writing the brutal nature of the city of Cali comes alive and burst of the page .Add to that his love of films Corman in particular ,Corman made the film The trip about LSD ,which ike this book caught the experience of taking drugs .The other main part of this book is the music there is a three page discography of the music that is feature within the book ,from the driving rolling stones of the seventies ,through salsa ,I brought a number of the tracks from the discography into a spotify playlist  which I suggest you listen too and get a real feel of the book and the pace of Caicedo writing .So welcome to spanish lit month .

 

IRÈNE by Pierre Lemaitre

Irene Pierre Lemaitre

IRÈNE by Pierre Lemaitre

French crime Novel

Original title –  Travail soigné

Translator – Frank Wynne

Source – from translator

“There is a blessed necessity by which the interest of men is always driving them to the right; and, again, making all crime mean and ugly”
Ralph waldo Emerson from Quote dictionary 

Well I was sent Alex last year and was just on the Verge of reading it when I heard mention it was the second book about commandant Verhoeven .So I thought I’d wait as I had seen on franks website he was doing this the first book in the series .Pierre Lemaitre was born in Paris and had taught literature for many year ,before becoming a novelist .He has described his own work as a permanent “exercise admiration of literature” .He has so far written five books in the Verhoeven series and three stand alone novels one of which won the Prix Goncourt the most respected prize in french lit .

Hardly had he taken three paces into the room than he found himself faced with a scene he could not imagined even in his worst nightmares : severed fingers ,torrents of clotted blood , the stench of excrement and gutted entrails .Instinctively , he was reminded of Goya’s painting ” Satan devouring his son ”

The first crime scene set the tone for the murders .

IRÈNE is the name of commandant Verhoeven’s wife for note , he is happily married and expecting their first child .The title is although t different to the French title which is craftmanship ,but it keeps it in line with the first English translation Alex using similar front cover design .Verhoeven is called into a investigate a series of murders ,Brutal and violent  in their acts , but as they continue the murders appear to be copying famous murders in Novels  from Brett Easton Ellis ,James Ellory  books ,then maybe is the murderer also killing people in other countries ? and in the meantime  the murderer is called by the Press “the Novelist ” .This leads to a cat and mouse came between the commandant and the Novelist that will leave both will suffer as they try to avoid capture and capture drawing them closer and closer to the end  and both leave scared .

Finding IRÈNE hale and healthy ,lying on the sofa watching television , her hands resting on her belly , a broad smile on her lips .Camille realised that since morning his mind has been swirling with images of dismembered women .

His wife is expecting their first child .

Irene is a crime novel that pays Homage to the greats of world crime fiction in the murders that are recreated in the book we move from the murder from American Psycho ,then The black dahlia and Laidlaw ,we see Lemaitre’s  obvious  love of crime fiction in these crimes and how he uses them . But also how it will shape  Verhoeven we see him changed from the beginning of the book  to the end and I expect what happen here makes him a much more interesting character as the series move on in the rest of the series .This isn’t the first crime book that has used a killer that copies crimes there is a book by Jeffrey Deaver that was made into the film The bone collector which feature recreating Victorian crimes from an old crime book .I felt this book better caught the killer in the bone collector it was a little obvious who it was here we see the investigation unfold .

Have you read this book or Alex ?

A French Novel by Frédéric Beigbeder

a french novel

A French Novel by Frédéric Beigbeder

French Fiction

Original title  Un roman français,

Translator – Frank Wynne

Source – From Translator

I have reviewed Beigbeder before I reviewed his book about 9/11 windows on the world ,so when Frank sent me this after I mentioned it on my IFFP longlist post as I thought it would be one that would in fact should make the cut .Beigbeder is somewhat of a character ,he was arrest in 2008 on the night his older brother ( a successful and well-known french businessman ) was made a member of the French la legion d’honneur ,this book follows that arrest in a brilliant piece of Autofiction about his childhood viewed from the cell on that night .Beigbeder is also working with VW on a new car .He  is dating a 18-year-old Russian ,if only our writers were so interesting as him  .

My only hope ,as I embark on this diving expedition , is that writing can rekindle memory , literature remembers what we have forgotten :to write is to read within oneself .Writing reawaken memory ;it is possible to write as one might exhume a body .

I loved this how true this is what great writers do .

So I’ve set the scene we meet a writer called Frédéric Beigbeder on the night his brother is honoured and he is there  getting drunk ,when later that evening he is arrest for sniffing cocaine and ends up in a Paris cell .He begins to think what brought him to this point and he feels he can’t remember his childhood but as the night wears on he remember his younger years and the France of his youth from the music ,shows to his parents their lives .He also recalls his parents past Their parents the writers Grandparents that he never meet but had effects on both his parents and like a newtons cradle had an effect on him and his brother .What is painted is a childhood that is full of the 70’s fance ,his parents get divorced and both meet new partners in his father’s case many new partners .His brother Charles a rival and at times friend ,he notes early on that his own father hadn’t spoken to his own brother for years and wonder how this effect their relationship .You grasp that he is trying to discover himself in this French police cell .

The only names from my childhood I remember are those of the girls I loved and who never had the faintest idea : Marie-Aline Dehaussy , the Mirailh sisters , Clarence Jacquard ,Cecile Favreau ,Claire Guionnet ,Michele Luthala ,Beatrice Kahn ,Agathe Oliver ,Axelle Batonnier …I think most of them dated my brother ,but peroids and places get mixed up ..

I loved he remember the girls more than the boys in his childhood .

Well as you see the title of this book is suited it is very much a French novel .Although Autofiction isn’t a French invention it has flourished in France and here Beigbeder has shown how you can make your own childhood into a novel ,what do we remember of our childhood ? , for me it glimpses at time the shuttle launch whilst staying with my dad at my aunties house ,my brother biting his tongue run on top of an old fire engine on a family holiday ,dungeons and dragons  on tv and my friend Steve loving the show ,spangle sweets .Could I stitch these into a novel ,well no. But here is what Beigbeder has done .I’m a few years younger than him but touchstones in this book,TV shows music ,running his hands through his father’s music collection and even his parents divorce are all events I could connect to my own life .I also felt he caught the France of the time ,this is the time  Citroen DS,  ,Pompideu and then later Mitterrand. A huge change in France post 1968 which Beigbeder grew up in the nearest book in english I have read would be something like Black swan green by David Mitchell  .I still don’t know how it missed IFFP longlist for me it is a novel by one of the best living French writers .

Have you read Beigbeder ?

Previous Older Entries

June 2017
M T W T F S S
« May    
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
2627282930  
%d bloggers like this: