Octavio’s Journey by Miguel Bonnefoy

 

Image result for miguel bonnefoy octavio gallic

Octavio’s journey by Miguel Bonnefoy

French fiction

Original title – Le Voyage d’Octavio

Translator – Emily Boyce

Source = review copy

I hope to reach 100 french books under review on the blog this year and one of those publishers that has helped me reach that total is Gallic books they mainly publish french fiction and this is the first book by them I have reviewed this year and it is one that was a runaway success in france for a debut novel . Miguel Bonnefoy was born to a Venezuelan Mother and a Chilean father he spent his childhood in France, Venezuela and Portugal this book was on the longlist for the Prix Goncourt for a first novel .

Don Octavio was born of this land,

He lived on the hillside in a modest , flimsy , slate clad house to which he held no deeds. The space must have formed a single room, was decided into a living room and bedroom ,  wardrobe stood beside a glassleess, curtainless window typical of the tropics , with a camp bed and rush-seat chair nearby. At the back of the living room , candles burnt on a little altar, casting flickers of light on the walls. Apostle figures were carved into beroom handles and also etched on glass which had been filed with rum to guard against misfortune . The scent of wild herbs hung in the air

His humble home was a simple beginning for Don Octavio

This is one of those books that maybe short but seems much longer the book follows the life of Octavio , we meet the young boy as he is unable to read as he is sent by the doctor to the chemist luckily whilst embarrassed a woman named Venezuela like his homeland opens this young boys eyes to the power of words as the two fall in love , Don Octavio grows and we drift into the past of his homeland as the church arrives land is saved by a lemon tree that is seemed as a miracle . Then Don Octavio journey to the heart of his country and the jungle and sees how the country is and decides to stay there .This is one mans journey to the heart of his country and feeling in doing that .

Venezuela suffered from acute insomnia , which meant that for the past twenty years she had to nap at odd times of the day . She had grown used to irregular bedtime, sometimes eating in bed and getting up in the ,middle of the night roam her apartment. the doctor advised ger to stop taking her sleeping pills. Out of embarrassment, she began avoiding pharmacies where she might be recognised and ventures out to the little chemists shops in the suburbs where she could buy what she needed unnoticed amid the anonymity of the crowd

The woman who teaches Don Octavio to read but is she also an allegory for the home land in recent years .

This is of course a book that owes a lot to Marquez and even in someway I felt Calvino . There is a magic realism at work When Don Octavio seems to move back through the history of his homeland and that is what is at the heart of this book an ode to Venezuela , we here much of their recent trouble this is a look back at what is the beauty at the heart of the country a woman , the forest and the chance to make something of yourself like Don Octavio he is maybe a sign of what can happen in Latin America where one can become someone from none . Another books I was reminded of is G Cabrera Infantes book a view of dawn in the tropics which also like this book mixed fiction with the history of his homeland in Infante’s case Cuba here we see Bonnefoy in an ode to his homeland and a fable like tale of what was and maybe a feeling that is lost . This is under hundred pages long a perfect evening read .

 

 

 

The Eskimo solution by Pascal Garnier

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The Eskimo Solution by Pascal Garnier

French Noir fiction

Original title – La Solution Esquimau

Translators – Emily Boyce and Jane Aitken

Source – review copy

I can’t believe that four years have flown since I first came across Pascal Garnier , when Gallic books sent me the first of thew late writers books and actually in the line of his publish” romans “(novels )the first .)I have reviewed four of his books before here is a link to the reviews. I have found his books funny and dark at the same time he had a very black humour that is all of his own. It safe to say every time a book o his drops through the letter box it is a treat.

Louis’s mother took all her medication for the week in one go on Monday morning so that she could be sure she wouldn’t forget. That was he best day of the week . She laughed at anything and nothing,spent an hour staring at the pattern on her waxed tablecloth, moved her knick-knacks about and invariably ended up embarking on a complicated recipe for which she only possessed a fraction of the ingredients. At eight O’clock, she collapsed in a heap for at least twelve hours .

Now this is a strange story that is set in Normandy a writer has taken a small cottage after an advance from his publisher he has taken to finish a novel he is writing. Now the novel is narrated by a man called Louis, and louis has a job and that is riding the world of Older people first he starts of with his own family member his mother and then spreads his wings and starts to help his friends with their relatives. with their older family members . Now the serial Killer Louis has been written in turn by the writer Louis and people around the writer louis of a certain age are also dying . Has his writing seep into the world or is he really Louis and a killer not a writer .

Ever day at the same time I go up to my study, read over these pages and ask myself,” What’s the point of writing a story I already know off by heart? “I’ve explained it to so many people that the tiresome formality of putting down on paper is about as exciting to me as opening the TV guide to discover The longest day  showing on every channel. In an ideal world I’d sell the story as it is, in its raw state, to someone who had some enthusiasm for writing it.Or didn’t but would write it all the same.

Louis with his story he knows so well maybe to well as it seeps into his world as he works on it himself .

This is one of the books that make you think as the lines between the real and written world blur for one man. I was reminded of the film stranger than fiction where Will Ferrel is a character in a book but doesn’t know it so is louis a character or the writer or one the same ?This as the novel moves on is harder to tell as the lines between them blur . What is being talked about and done by Louis  is  Seincide(killing the elderly )  as it is called is also what the title refers to this is where the Inuit used to place old people on the ice to float away and die .Many cultures have myths or old customs around killing the old and of course there is a number of books and films about it as well like Logan’s run where 30 is the oldest people can be or the novel wanting seed by Anthony Burgess which tackles over population and has various solution.,I feel this maybe was a writer playing with an Idea of real and written life blurring . He maybe could fleshed it out some more but, it is the usual length of his books which makes me wonder did he writer for a certain reader as I find his books can be read in an evening and keep ypou think all the next day and more in many cases. Another in the late writers Cannon and on his french wiki page it seems there is a number of other books still to come out .

French rhapsody by Antoine Laurain

French Rhapsody large

French Rhapsody by Antoine Laurain

French fiction

Original title – Rhapsodie française,

Translator – Jane Atiken and Emily Boyce

Source – review copy

Well two french novels in a week and the second here is the third book by Antoine Laurain I have reviewed I enjoyed the two earlier books the presidents hat and red notebook  Both of which have a similar nostalgic feel to this book. His earlier books have won two prizes . this is his third to be translated to english.

Paris 12 September 1983

Dear Holograms

We listened with great interest to the five track demo you sent us at the beginning of the summer. Your work is precise and very professional, and although it needs quite a bit of work , you already have a sound that is distinctive. The track we were most impressed by was “Such stuff dreams are mad on ” You have managed to blend new wave and old wave whilst adding you own rock sound.

Please get in touch with us so that we can organise a meeting

Best wishes

The letter Alain got telling him of Polydor like their demo now to find the other band member , I live the song title just out of the 80’s

The book has a clever framing device like his two earlier books a starting point to the past in a way in this case it is a letter that had been deleivered thirty years earlier, but had fallen behind something in the letter box and wasn’t discovered to the house had repairs done the letter was to ALain Massoulier and was a reply from the record label Polydor saying that they loved the demo from  the band he was in The holograms and now this is 30 years later and the various members of the band have long since lost contact so Alain goes on a journey to reunite the band and bring them to polydor 30 years late for their one chance .But where have the Band gone Alain is now a settled but maybe not happy GP others he decide to do the 21st century thing and google them , he has vague ideas but what are they the other three guys and one woman well one is one the verge of being the biggest french leader another was an artist that last big piece was a 25ft brain (that rein me of Jeff Koons for some reason ) , another was in the movies and the last in the rising voice of the far right french . This is a story of paths we take in life how could five people in a group end up so far apart and what would have happened if the letter had arrived well that is a twist in the story waiting 30 years to be told .

Who is JBM ? asked the front page of Le Figaro above a photo of the businessman. He had grey hair now, almost white at the temples, but still the same melancholy expression, the same cat-like smile. His hands were clasped in front of him and you could see the domed blue cufflinks . This photo must have been taken at conference .He looked as if he were listening attentively to something or someone

JBM a fellow Band member but has taken a very different path to his old band mate .

Laurain has a real eye for capturing the past this time with the music and memories and stoking the fires in ones own mind I was on the edge of a band , well hung out with them and suggest a few ideas after this book I was left wondering what had happen to them. Laurain captures that band time but also he has shown how one point can lead to so many different points how five people’s lives can take such drastic paths into art, politics , movies sort of , being a face in the crowd and being the cheerleader of a baying crowd in a way each could have been the other but they weren’t and it shows how fracture modern France can be at times. Another gem from a wry fun writer that in this one will make you think what if I had that letter or piece of Take hart or poem published

Have you read any of his book ?

Too close to the edge by Pascal Garnier

 

Too close to the edge by Pascal Garnier

French noir fiction

Original title – Trop près du bord

Translator – Emily Boyce

Source – review copy

Its been a while since I reviewed a Pascal Garnier  I have reviewed three of his earlier books  , I have been lucky to been sent all his books by Gallic books and have read most of them he is always a joy to read. But a new year and a new cover on the series and this latest from the French Noir writer caught me from the blurb as one I would like. It is more than 6 years since he died, he wrote over sixty books it wasn’t til 2000 when the French publisher Zulma decide to collect his works under one publisher he had written books for various publishers over the years , this was published in 1999 a number of years before his death in 2010.

She was one fo those people who had always been and would remain attractive in a wholesome, obvious sort of way. She never needed to give nature a helping hand. Just a touch of lipstick now and then when she and Charles went out of an evening, purely for the raspberry-flavoured kisses. Even the few wrinkles gathered around her eyes brought a new charm to her face. It was as though time had polished her with beeswax. Only Charles’ passing had slightly dulled the sparkle in her eyes, and placed her smile in permanent parentheses.

eliette one those french woman who just look wonderful no matter what even at her age !

This is the story of one old woman, recently widowed Eliette , who lost her husband just before they where due to retire to their mountain home which they had spent many years doing up. Much to the dismay of her kids Eliette decides to carry on with her plans and she ends up in this huge house in the middle of nowhere. Her means of getting about is a small Aixam car (on a small aside I have seen these cars over the years and never knew they were french made ) which takes her on her weekly trip to the town to stock up , it is on one such trip that her vehicle breaks down just as she chanced on some new clothes to make herself feel younger and she meets the a stranger also stuck as his car has broken he helps her she then gives him a lift . Next day the son of a neighbour has been Killed in a bad hit and run, is it murder how did it could this good Samaritan be a killer ?

He appeared to be in his forties, not very tall, not especially thick-set, with a baby face. His shoes and trouser bottoms were covered in mud. As he set to work on the wheel, the rain began to drop like a portcullis. Eliette could not tear her eyes from his muscular back, which showed through his sodden shirt . He was finished in under ten minutes.

Her Hero or is he a kiler he helps her change the wheel on her car the next day a neighbours son is dead are the two connected ?

This is a classic piece of noir a stranger appears next day some one is dead. But it is also a look at growing old eliette is a woman on the edge of being old see is trying to keep young hence the rebelling and living by herself so when a charming young man helps her by the side of the road her heart flutters a beat. I do often wonder if Tales of the unexpected was popular in France at the time it was first shown in the UK as I often feel Garnier has a touch of that series in his writing A story that starts of about an oldish woman retiring into the middle of nowhere then the car breaks down is like a classic framing device that was often used in the Tales series of programmes. If you want a great piece of modern Noir Garnier is a must read I feel his books mix both the darkest parts of the human world and comic moments so well.

Have you read Pascal Garnier ?

 

Two new arrivals a Czech classic and French Noir

I’ve had a bad week really , some really bad news .So a couple of books arriving has brightened a morning up to what is a sad time at Winston’s tower .

innocence by Heda Margolius Kovaly

First is a Czech crime novel the only novel from a writer better known for her non fiction work the biography  Under a cruel star .Heda Margolius Kovály was a Czech writer and translator , her book about the war and what followed from being a Jew in the Czechoslovakia . she lived in exile from the late 1950’s onwards ,where she worked as a translator translated many books from English to Czech including Raymond Chandler . I mention Chandler as John Banville has compared this book to his work .Set in Prague it follows the investigation into a murder at a cinema and the women that work as ushers in it .This is also translated by Alex Zucker .

boxes by Pascal Garnier

The second arrival today was Boxes the latest from Gallic books noir series , that has been putting out the novels of the Late Pascal Garnier .This one follows Brice and Emma a couple that have just moved into a new house . Their neighbour Blanche lives next to the grave yard and she says Brice looks like her Late father .

What books have you received recently ?

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