One hundred twenty one day by Michele Audin

One Hundred twenty one days by Michele Audin

French fiction

Original title – Cent vingt et un jours

Translator – Christina Hills

Source – personal copy

Another book for Woman in translation month. This is a real gem as well as being the second book from a female member of the Oulipo group to be translated into English. Michele Audin is a French Mathematician and professor her special area was Symplectic Geometry. She joined the Oulipo group in 2009. Her father was a famous Mathematician as well that was killed in Algeria an event that led to her turning down the Legion of Honour. After the president refused to reply to a letter about her father her mother had written.

The murderer had his sense knocked out of him

(le petit Parisen, july 2 1917)

We have been informed that Robert Gorenstein(and not Roger Goldstien, as we printed in error), the polytechnician and officer on leave who arrested last week for the murder of his uncle, his aunt and his brother( three and not four crimes as was written in haste in the previous article) was a victim of an artilery shell last January. Almost all the men in his battery were killed, and he himself hit his head.

In a horrible development, according to informantion gathered from neighbors, the three Gorenstein children were orphans and had been raised by their aunt and her husband.

As th time, miltary doctors considere him recovered, and he was sent back to the front. He is presently undergoing psychiatric exams

One of the news paper reports about Robert G .

Now when you know a book has come from an Oulipo writer you know it is going be an unusual book. This one also doesn’t disappoint. it is a mixture of styles of writing about a group of various mathematicians from France and follows both wars. From an opening piece on a childhood, we follow with a diary set in the middle of world war one following the worst parts like Verdun from a French woman’s point of view. Then a collection of newspaper cuttings about various figures from world war one then on afterward about the case of Robert G a man that killed members of his family in a sort of what would now be called a PTSD attack. Then we see the announcement of Magurite the writer of the diary and a professor. Then a chapter involving Andre Silberberg as the led character. Later we see how his life led to the title of one hundred and twenty days as that was the happiness in his life he worked out in a later chapter in the book. The rest follows with people trying to find out more about various mathematician a chapter of just numbers and their meaning in relation to the book. The book also shows what part peoples notebooks can play in history as people in the present search for the notebooks of various mathematicians. Including Christian M one of those Mathimaticians he grew up in Senegal we follow his wart years.

The numbers, in order, starting with the negatives:

-25  the tempratur (in dgrees celsius) in Upper Silesia in January 1945 during the evacuattion of Auschwitz

0.577215…., Eulers constant

0.625  or 5/8 Jewish would have been each of Mireille’s and Andre’s children

1   single bullet managed to remove one of M’s eyes, his nose, and half his Jaw

1.414213…, the square root of 2, the length of the diagonal of a square with a side of 1

A selection of numbers from the chapter of numbers.

 

This is a clever book that use the various styles of writing to build layers of lives that we dip in and out of and those mathematicians. The thread that runs through the book is maths and the wars the knock-on effect of these seen in various documents. The families involved in the texts have the lives followed through the 20th century. I like this book it is one of those books that can be reread and reread like most of the Oulipo books it is complex and like the type of maths she studies about complex linear groups and patterns, this is a complex  piece of writing building on lives through the years and it shows  how the war affects them. From a brief fling of 120 days, that means more than anything to one man. To seeing others that collaborate during the war years.  This is a challenging read from a great small publisher Deep Vellum this is why we have a publisher like them those books that are edgy clever and relive history in a different way to others. Also to keep up with the number theme this is the 100th French book on the blog

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The French compass points to Lithuania

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I decide as two books arrived today I would talk about them and save you another review til tomorrow. The first is the first from this years Fitzcarraldo editions and it is a big prize-winning French book this won the Prix Goncourt , I have read a number of the recent winners, this is from a writer I have really enjoyed before Mathias Enard. The book follows a night in Franz Ritter as he is unable to sleep but as the night pass he travels the middle east from Istanbul through Aleppo to Tehran. a bridge from east to west I read an interesting interview about the book and its Orientalist angle of the book from a french website L’orient Litteraire  a very insightful piece. Mathias Enard is one of of the most inventive writers around this is the third book from him I have.

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Then I was contact by the publish of this prize-winning Lithuanain novel as he noted I had yet to review a book from their and this is the first book published by a living writer Laura Sintija Cernauskaite won the 2009 eu prize for this book. The book follows a family with a son with epilepsy whom mother adopts another boy a young Orphan taking him to their country home where their lives will never be the same . This is first of two book they are publishing at Noir press .

What books have you had arrive ?

Bar Balto by Faïza Guène,

 

Bar Balto by Faïza Guène,

French fiction

Original title – Les Gens du Balto

Translator – Sarah Ardizzone

Review – personnel copy

 

I am tall and I am thin
Of an enviable hight
And I’ve been known to be quite handsome
In a certain angle and in certain light

Well I entered into O’Malley’s
Said, “O’Malley I have a thirst”
O’Malley merely smiled at me
Said “You wouldn’t be the first”

I knocked on the bar and pointed
To a bottle on the shelf
And as O’Malley poured me out a drink
I sniffed and crossed myself

Another death in a bar happens in Nick Cave’s O’malleys bar

I did a post when the new forty under 40 granta list came out a few years ago of writers in translation that were stars in the making and under 40 , one of whom was Faiza Guene the French Algerian writer .She published her first book when she was just 19 .She has also made a number of audio visual piece having studied this when younger . This was her third novel ,she is currently working on film scripts .So my third book for women in translation month is a rising star of French fiction .

I’m not Turkish .

They don’t get the difference .They’re always calling me “Turkey boy” .But I’m not Turkish .I’m Armenian .Well on my mum’s side .

My name is Taniel .My old lady calls me “Lazy bugger ” and “shit head ” most of the time .For school it’s daniel and for my mates it’s just “Turkey boy ”

I often hear people call people this and that without even knowing the person or where they are from .

This is a story of a bar told in Voices from the Owner whom is lying dead on the Floor Joel “The rink ” to Tani , the slut , the twins , the spaz . What we get is the story of the bar and the people who came to this Bar . We see how Joe treated certain people differently due to their race .Each person story is like a little statement we are left to wonder if each had something to do with his death .This is a quiet village at the end of the rail line and this is the most exciting thing to happen there for a long time .This is a place where the people dream of leaving .As Joe and the bars world unfolds in front of us .As a mother goes to this bar as an escape a young girl really wants to be paris hilton and that is just the women then there is the men Joel in particular .

It’s Joel Morvier to you , and I’ve decided to tell this story in my own words .Thirty years I’ve been surrounded by newspapers , so there’s no pulling the wool over my eyes .I can see how they can twist the facts rather than trust my own mouth ,

I ‘d turned sixty-two in april , twelfth of the month ,I’m telling you that as a point of fact ,I’ve never celebrated a birthday in my life .

They say I’m not an easy man to like .I’d say I didn’t get as much love and sympathy as I deserved ,As for slurs .I’m not racist , I’ve just got values, and clearly that bothers some people

Joel will have his story told .The rink says he is no racist but you will see others views .

This is a book that is full of undercurrents of what has happened in france since maybe the undercurrent of racism there between Joe and his customers .Faiza also captures the dreams and humour of being in a small out-of-the-way village I felt there is humour . A point I felt is that maybe the style of voices haven’t quite made it through in translation .I always feel slang must be the hardest thing to translate so some what a layer of what must have been in the original french book maybe was lost .But that said it is no reason to not read this book from what the french feel is a great writer in waiting .For me I feel Faiza is just 30 and given recent events both in France and north africa is bound to be one of the voices of this era .

Have you read any great writers in waiting .

#bookaday 9 A film tie in book

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I generally don’t buy many film tie in covers having usually tried to have read any book I really love well before a film is made now the first choice I had for this wasn’t a tie in version but I was sent it when film was due out tarantula by Thierry Jonquet that became the film the skin I live in and is one of the most hit post on this blog with 2000 plus views .Instead I went for this bbc series tie in from last year I missed series working over Christmas but brought the book to read before it made it too netflix and is one of three books by Zola I hope to read soon .Do you but film tie-in coves ?

The people in the photo by Hélène Gestern

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The people in the photo by Hélène Gestern

French fiction

Original title – Eux sur la photo

Translation by Emily Boyce and Ros Schwartz

Source – review copy

Hélène Gestern is a French writer she is based in Nancy in France is a teacher and researcher at a laboratory studying linguistics   .She is also on the editorial committee of a literary review magazine dedicate to autobiographical writing .Her interest are photography and cats .This is her first book to be translated to English.

                                                              Ashford ,25 march 2007

Madame / Monsieur

I have only just read your advertisement ref 248 .22o in the Libération of 12 February

I believe I may have some information concerning the person you are inquiring about :I am convinced it is my father , who often used to spend his summers in Interlaken .I am enclosing the photocopy of his Geneva Tennis club membership card from the 1960’s ,which I have found among his papers .You will see his photograph on it

Could you tell me how you obtained his name and why you are seeking information about him

Yours faithfully

S.Crusten

The first letter to Hélène from Stéphane that starts their journey .

 

The people in the photo is an epistolary novel .The book starts when    Hélène an archivist discovers a photo of her late  mother and two men the photo was taken in 1971 at a tennis tournament in Interlaken .Armed with this info she puts an advert in the French newspaper Libération with the names on the back of the photo and is shocked when she gets a reply from Stéphane a swiss biologist that is based in Kent ,he believes it is his father is one of the two men with Hélène’s late mother .This is the basis of the book the letters that follow try to find out what happened between the parents at the time ,try to get to the bottom of how Hélène’s mother died .

                                                    Paris , 17 Febuary (email)

Dear Stéphane

As if you had to ask ! I will yes ,as molly bloom would say , come with you to Geneva .And we can stop off to see Jean on the way back : I’m dying to meet him .Did the nurse tell you exactly what happened ?

I’ll be waiting for you at the flat on Friday .You know the way ,but you’ll need th new magic number b220

A tender kiss

Hélène

AS you see they draw closer over the course of a year of writing to each other .

Now the book is an exploration of find out the secrets that can be kept from kids by their parents .The two main characters each in turn discover more about their parents than they wanted .The choosing of the epistolary form shows that even given the change from letters to e mails it still shows how the tension can be built from mail to mail as these two uncover the long-lost secrets of the past .Each some how finds out where they came from ,discover what problems can happen when there parents may have had a liaison in the past and what does this mean for the two of them now because although they have been drawn together by chance they actually start to like each other as the go on the journey of discovery .Photos play an important part in the book Hélène Gestern brings the pictures in this book to life in the prose as we see the family snaps of the two pass and the past come alive .This is one for loves of family secrets it is full of them ,loves of photos and if you are like me and see a picture and build your own narrative around it this is one for you ,how often have you found or seen a picture and wonder what happened then and what happened at the time ,also a book for the fan of the epistolary form .I will soon have a q&a with Hélène Gestern .

Have you a favourite epistolary novel ?

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