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 ?

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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 ?

Pig’s foot by Carlos Acosta

pigs foot

Pig’s Foot by Carlos Acosta

Cuban fiction

Original title –  Pata de Puerco

Translator – Frank Wynne

Source – from Frank the translator of the book .

Well when I first heard last year that Carlos Acosta had a novel out ,I was a bit sceptical the whole celeb writing novel is never a real winning formula in my Opinion .Carlos  is someone I have been aware of for a number of years as one of the face of Ballet ,where he has been a star of the Royal ballet and is considered the greatest male dancer of his generation .It wasn’t till I saw Frank’s name attached to the book as the translator , I knew this was more than a run of the mill celeb writes novel (May be awful but celeb names sell books is my usual view on celeb novels and why they come out  ) .

Beuno … Ok .. the first thing you need to know about me is I never knew my mother or my father ,in fact I only found their names a couple of months ago .My memories begin on the day i came home from primary school dragging a dead cat by the scruff of the neck .I must have been about seven .

What happen before he was seven has he blocked this out ?

So pig’s foot is the of a family told by its last surviving member as he holds the pig’s foot  amulet a family talisman passed through the generations .Also to the very small village in the hinterland of Cuba is  were a  family story and the story of Cuba during the past four generations is told .So from Oscar and Jose who were  Slaves  that helped in the freedom  and end up settling in the village after Cuba gets it Independence in the 1850 ,we see the the next generation through the eyes of three children relate to another Oscar in the present day the last of this family line .alive , as the years past we see the good and bad of Cuba ,from the rise of Us involvement to the fall of the regime that was toppled by Castro .

I looked at the pendant in disgust .The pig’s foot was not dried and shrivelled ,in fact seemed to be alive ;the veins pulsed ,the flesh was red and bled constantly .I fetched a damp cloth to wipe up the blood inside the drawer and on the floor then ran back into the kitchen and threw the gruesome amulet in the bin .

The amulet comes to life ,this remind me a bit of Marquez .

Now I loved another Cuban novel  I reviewed ,well  novel isn’t  the right word it’s actually a collection of vignettes about Cuba .The book view of the tropics in the  dawn  by Guillermo Cabrera Infante ,this book also follows Cuba through snippets from independence to the Castro took over so actually serves well as a companion to this book ,Carlos book is on a more personnel level but also shows the struggles Cuba have had since its independence .I read an interview with Carlos about the writing of the book and the writers he loves and he read his first book in his twenties and it was a book by Marquez and the is touches of magic realism in this narrative ,he also loves the writing  Borges ,which for me I felt more as there is a lot of looking where the modern Oscar comes from about the mirror of his life almost and to me that is a very Borges thing to do .As ever frank has work wonders on this book ,Carlos even thanked Frank for his input to the final edition .You will remember I had this on my IFFP prediction its a shame it missed it the book is more than a celeb novel ,in fact it could be the first step for Carlos Acosta in a post dance career .

Have you ever read a celeb novel that is as good as this one ?

The Patagonian Hare by Claude Lanzmann

The Patagonian Hare by Claude Lanzmann

French Non-fiction biography

Translator – Frank Wynne

Making a history was not what I wanted to do .I wanted to construct something more powerful than that – Claude Lanzmann on Shoah

Where to start with Claude Lanzmann ,he is maybe one of the most interesting figures in France .He hid as a jew from the Nazis ,then joined the french resistance during second world war post war he joined Sartre as editor of the magazine Les temps Mordernes and also he made the film Shoah .That is Just the tip of the iceberg ,this guy has really lived a number of lives in one life time .

Anyway so we move on too  The Patagonian Hare is his autobiography ,to a Life that has touch every part of french history and Jewish history since the second world war .He begins talking about his family ,what his father imagines for him in the future  a postman but boy how different his life was ,how they had to escape and hid at first in the second world war in france ,then how he joined the resistance movement in france fighting the Nazis .He did this with the communist ,this maybe served him well later when he made Shoah behind the Iron curtain .The style of telling his personal story is very personal almost throwaway. This is an interesting life, but he tells it with out glamour or the seeming need for praise from you as a reader thus drawing you into his life I like his wartime experiences but  for me the most interesting part of the book is after the war when he joins Sartre at les temps Modernes the lit magazine that shaped Sartre’s view of lit in france and maybe lead french lit , Lanzmann edited from the early days and still does  . The look inside the magazine his involvement  with the founder and his Girlfriend  and lover Simone de Beauvoir ,the way the opposed the Algerian war in the 1960 joining the anti-war movement and the fallout from this decision also how they viewed various figure in french lit in the fifties and sixties most of which I knew very little about (this is a dream for googling and learning about french lit ).

It is here that the adventure of Shoah begins :my friend Alouph Hareven ,director-general of the Isareli ministry of foerign affairs invited me in and spoke to me with gravity and a solemneity I had never experienced from him .Having congratulated me on Pourquoi Isarel ,this is in substance what he said to me “there is no film about the shoah ,no film that takes what happened in all its magnitude ,no film that shows it from our point of view ,the viewpoint of the Jews .

How he decided to make the film Shoah !!

Then you come to  the last third of the book as thou the first two-thirds were not enough of a life lived  is mainly dealing with his epic film Shoah for those of you who haven’t seen it you should Shoah is the film that examine the holocaust and is a bit like the world at war as it is mainly eyewitness testament, as at  the time when Lanzmann started making the film a lot of people involve with the holocaust where still alive to give their stories over to him for posterity .He spent years filming people getting them to open up and visiting the sites across Europe involved (yet again for the third book some figures from Treblinka are mentioned ) also getting Nazis to admit what  really happened in the camps . I personally would put any one that ever denies holocaust in a chair for nine hours to watch this and then still denied  what happened during the second world war  .I loved his descriptions of making the film this is where you felt this guy’s passion flow of the page this was more than a project it became a mission to him to get across what had really happened . Then when it was made we saw how people reacted and how he tried to get it to as wide as audience as possible .Also we get a chunk of the writers own insight into his own sex life  through out the book ,you have a rare book indeed .

I find it hard to fault this book I m not a big non fiction reader ,but when I see a book I d like to read ,like this I know I love it even before I open the cover . I  even asked  for a copy of this from the publisher, after its translator Frank suggested I read it ,needless to say frank has made the book seem as thou it was written in english the actual writing by Lanzmann involved him dictating too two women Juliette Simont a Sartrianne and Lanzmann own secretary Sarah Strelinski a writer in her own right  they manage to pull together his memories of a life live into a book that has been described rightly so as a master piece by Le monde, Der Spiegel and FAZ .  Lanzmann is one of those rare people who has made a difference  and this book shows a man  close up from the french left-wing and literary world .

Have you seen Shoah ?

Have you heard of him before ?

 

Purgatory by Tomas Eloy Martinez

Purgatory by Tomas Eloy Martinez

Argentina fiction

Translator – Frank Wynne

I read his Santa Evita a mythical magic realism tale based around the life of Eva Peron early on in the blog and have Tango singer sat on my shelves so when this arrived from Bloomsbury I was excited even more so when I saw it was one of Frank Wynne’s translation ,for me one of the best translators  in the world and certainly when in comes to complex fiction like this .

So Purgatory was Tomas last novel and the fact that in part it is narrated by a north american based Argentina writer as Tomas Eloy himself .The story is centre on Simon and Emilia these where husband and wife, when thirty years earlier in the seventies at the height of the disappearances in Argentina by the Junta .Simon disappear whilst doing his job as a cartographer .Now thirty years later his wife Emilia walks in a bar and sitting there is Simon ,but he hasn’t aged a day ,is it him or a ghost that never really gets answered but as the story progress Martinez jumps from the events leading up to Simon disappearance there married life ,their work as cartographers ,also what was going on around them .We also her Emilia talking to the writer in the modern day about her life and Simon .Also the outside world of the world cup of 78 which was held in Argentina ,Orson Welles    and UFO  all crop up along the way .

Simon disappeared in Tucuman at the beginning of July .The days were mild and the nights frosty .He and Emilia had been sent to the Tucuman by the automobile club on an easy mission , virtually a holiday .They were to map a ten kilometre stretch of an invisible route – nothing more than a dotted line on the map to the south of the province .

in this quote it seems ok til you read it closer .

 

Now this story is layered the title is a give away to the subject Purgatory and even this has many faces ,Emilia unable to properly move on with her life after Simons disappearance as she has been in limbo like many wifes of the disappeared  ,has maybe by see him purged this feeling  from her life .Argentina its self maybe after a time of not looking at what happened during the time of disappearances and now is maybe  just recently is able to face what happened during that time of the junta .I ve seen this in a number of recent Argentina novels I ve read Kamchatka and open secret to name two  .Also Martinez who at time he wrote book had cancer and maybe this book is his way of purging what happened at the time as well he saw many thinks at first hand and at a distance as he was a journalist at the time .The story mixes what happened with fiction so well and also how it affect everyday Argentina’s .Again Martinez shows his ability to use magic realism to make reality even bolder than before .A fitting testament to his writing life and a great job as ever by Frank bring it to English.

Have you read Martinez ?

The manual of darkness by Enrique De Heriz

The manual of darkness by Enrique De Heriz

Translator – Frank Wynne

Spanish Fiction

Enrique De Heriz is from Barcelona ,this is second novel in TO be translated to English ,a best seller in his native spain when it came out .He is also well-known as a Translator of books from english into spanish .

The manual of darkness at it heart is the story of Victor Losa we follow him over the period of a year at the start of the book he is a well-known Magician who has just been named the worlds best magician ,just as this happens he is struck down with blindness a huge moon like white spot in his vision ,the early part of the book deals with his initial reaction to this and also we have two other narratives one about his father who was a bit odd a scientist that loved keeping ants  nd seeing how they live .The other narrative is Victor tracking the history of a Victorian pickpocket called Peter grouse he finds this out via his mentor Mario Galvan they also discuss a myriad of other subjects .As the book unfolds , we see that the chance tha Victors sight is going to return is very slight ,so he seeks to help via a helper from ONCE ( the spanish equivalent of the RNIB in the uk )   Alicia helps Victor learns about how to cope in a unsighted world ,in the latter parts they are vignettes of famous blind people as we see how they coped with there sight loss .In the end victor starts to come to terms with his new life .

such a small degree of hope is like a minuscule balcony in a poor man’s home .Perhaps it looks out towards the bleak north ,perhaps it is not large enough even for one miserable chair and perhaps ,over time serves only to house three empty flowerpots that upon a time contained something living .It extends the space of the apartment only in the mind of those who live there .This is its meagre function ,and even if it succeeds in this it is a miracle ,Victor spends little time nurturing this vain 0.2 per cent of hope ,and whole days mony of them ,regretting that it will not come to pass .

Victor had been told he had 0.2 per cent chance of full vision

Where do I start with this book ,well at his heart is Victor he is a man who has gone from the top to the bottom of the world  in a second as he lost his sight ,but he copes in a way as he learns new things as he once spent a lot of time learning new tricks ,also a link back to when his father told him ants are deaf  he links this own blindness also an either or situation of which is worse condition .The book does what a lot of modern Spanish fiction does and that is make you think beyond the story into your own life and those around you .I suppose the nearest comparison would be the works of Carlos Ruiz Zafon  like his books this is a book that has many different levels to it .As ever Franks translation is well executed .

Waiting for the wild beasts to vote by Ahmadou Kourouma

Source – personnel copy

Translator – Frank Wynne

 

Earlier this year when I interview Frank Wynne the translator of this book to name his favourite translation he choose this book .By the late Ahmadou Kourouma ,he grew up in Ivory coast ,from a well-known family he spent time in the french military and studied in Lyon in france (mathematics).But after his homeland of Ivory coast gained independence from france in 1960 ,he questioned the leadership of Felix houphouet-Boigny  and was sent to prison and after that spent thirty years in exile returning in 1994 just after the death of Felix H-B .Ahmadou Kourouma died in 2003 .

So what is waiting for the wild beasts to vote about well ,it is a story of an African leader told by a Bingo a sora (a storytelling singer) told over five nights .The leader Koyoga was an orphan that became a leader of the gulf coast ( a made up african country but easily a number of countries round ivory coast )and along the way gain a huge mythology about his life and what had happen to him .we see the french involvement at the start with what are called the naked people ,then Koyoga father was the first of this tribe to wear clothes .Then we see Koyoga a solider take power in his homeland and start of with ideals and standards a friend of the west france in particular .But then his promises start to fall apart and people start to doubt him so he turns to violence and corruption to keep power .

When you recovered the Qur’an and the aerolite,you will ready yourself for democratic presidential elections . Elections based on universal suffrage supervised by an independent National commission .You will seek a new mandate secure in the knowledge that you will triumph ,that you will be re-elected .For you know ,you are certain ,that if by chance men refuse to vote for you ,the beast will come from the jungle ,will lay their hands on ballot paper and will elect you by a landslide .

The closing page and the title of the book is made clear .

Well this book is a must read for anyone ,part magic realism part african folk tale ,also a chunk of history of post colonial africa .Is Koyoga far-fetched ,well no if you’ve watch the film  the  last king of Scotland or any programme about the regimes and the leaders in Romania ,North Korea and many others to know that fact and fiction and what these people did in their lives are very blurred . Kourouma is a wonderful storyteller Bingo brings the leaders life to life through his tales .This book is also closely related to the Latin american dictator novels by Roa Bastos or Angel Asturias in the fact like them it examine the character of the people in this case post french africa ,there is some say that it was Togo president Eyedema was the main blueprint for the leader as he like Koyaga had a mythical status having being the sole survivor of a plane crash .But in my opinion it is far wider than that and yes it is based in africa but erase the names and some of the place it could be south america ,south-east asia or even post soviet states .So if you want an insight into africa ,the mind of a dictator ,how much the western world has influence in the third world .I know this is due out shortly as an E-BOOK as Frank told me when I meet him at IFFP prize .This is probably in the top ten novels about Afica for me if not top of that list .It sold over a 100,00 books in france when published .

Do you have a favorite African novel ?

Do you have a favourite dictator novel ?

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