A horse walks into a bar by David Grossman

A horse walks into a bar by David Grossman

Israeli fiction

Original title – סוס אחד נכנס לְבָּר

Translator – Jessica Cohen

Source – personnel copy

I have been a fan of David Grossman for a while now and have reviewed his books twice before on the blog. Grossman has seen his books translated into more than 30 languages and has won many lit and other prizes .he has published over twenty novels and children’s books as well as plays and this is his latest book to be translated into english and like the previous two I have reviewed it is again translated by Jessica Cohen

“I want you to come to my show “he said on the phone after finally breaking pleasant recollections from our twice weekly walks from Bayit Va’gan to the bus that took me home to Talpiot. He talked about those walks with great enthusiasm; “It was a real friendship we started there; he said a couple of times and giggled with bemused happiness. We’d walk and talk for ages. Walkie talkie friendship; he continued, reminiscing in great detail, as though that brief friendship was the best thing that had ever happened to him

A chance call and Avishai get a call to see the show that particular night .

does what it says in the title in a way it is a story of a a joke and a comedian. We meet Dovaleh g an aging comedian , but in the audience are two of his dearest friends are in the audience this is a man setting his life in front of his audience the story of his life in a stand up show and how they end up here and how they are able to take Dovaleh show that is bad not just bad  it’s offence at times , our narrator one of the two friend there a retired judge wonders where the night is going and why his friend is doing this whince at the lines and what has the small woman he keeps drawing into his story and of friendship truth and having to make decisions that have a lasting effect on all those around you this is more than a man on stage in crisis this is a story that can face all making decisions at times .

“These kind of things are done quietly and quickly in our system.Three or four months and the whole hing was over” I laughed “You see, sometimes the wheels of justice do turn quickly.”

He didn’t respond. I was a little disappointed at my inability to make a comedian laugh.

“Every time I saw your name somewhere; he said “I would remember how we were, and I was interested in what you were doing,where you were. I wondered if you even remembered me. I watched you climb he ladder and I was really happy for you honestly ”

The two share banter but it is a deep cut and past he has brought him here to remember !

As ever Grossman is a writer of the most powerful of human feeling and is maybe using the stand up as a character to look back on a life maybe not his but some one of his generation there is five years between him and the comedians age. This is one of those books that need time to dissect it is full of bad jokes and bad feelings as the night turns nasty but he is scratching the surface of real life and how many people say one thing and think another ! A book about deep wounds and also maybe about what happens when pain is buried as ever Grossman is a writer of true brilliance not an easy read but a lasting read.

Have you read Grossman ?

 

Winston’s books hello again

Well this week has seen arrival of two book by writers I have written about before but also from different sides of the middle east .

Hilltop by Assaf Gavron

First to arrive this week was this Novel from Israeli , the fourth book to be translated to english from this writer whom I first reviewed here on the blog with his book Almost dead , this seems to a more mature work from a writer whom , I like first time round .this book has been called the Great Israeli novel and follows the goings , comings and politics of one hilltop in modern Israeli .

The broken mirror / sinalcol by Elias Khoury

Then today dropped through from Elias Khoury ,another writer I have reviewed before on the blog two books by him  Yalo  and As though she were sleeping .Considered by many to be one of the finest voice from Arabic literature this is his latest offering and follows one man’s journey back to Beirut from the safety of France to find the mythical ghost of a man the hero of the civil war Sinalcol .

So two writers from different sides of the middle east both at the height of the career be interesting to see which I enjoy most this time round .

Have you had anything interesting arrive this week ?

Falling out of time by David Grossman

Falling out of time by David Grossman

Hebrew Fiction

Original title –נופל מחוץ לזמן 

Translator Jessica Cohen

Source – Library

 

 

Would you know my name
If I saw you in heaven?
Would it be the same
If I saw you in heaven?

I must be strong
And carry on,
‘Cause I know I don’t belong
Here in heaven.

I was struck by this song the first time I heard it the same way I was with this book Eric clapton’s Tears in Heaven is also about the loss of a son

I’ve review a book by David Grossman before his wonderful book from a few years ago To the end of the land , which I really enjoyed so when I saw he had a new book out and it had made a few end of year lists including Boyd Tonkin (usually an early sign for the IFFP prize ) .I decide it was time to read a book by him again .Since I last reviewed him , he has been involved in protests about the further settlements in Israeli where he was actually beaten by the police .He lost his own son in 2008 how like most Israelis was serving his military service and was killed in the line of action at just 20 ! .Like the earlier book this one looks at the Grief ,but in a different way .

Woman :

The earth

Gaped open.

gulped us

and disgorged

Don’t go back

There , do not go ,

not even one step

out of the light

Man :

I could not , I dared not

look into your eye,

that eye of

madness ,

into your noneness

a the start when he mentions going home .

Falling into time is one of those books that is hard to pigeonhole in many ways as it is rather like a play with characters names and what they said , but then like a poem with rhyme and rhythm to the words spoke by each of the characters , then there is a story in their as well .The book follows a man and woman as the walk to the place where their son died , as they go along they gather up more people each telling of their own losses along the way almost like a chorus building a nation of stories of sons and children lost as the town they live in comes together in some sort of collective grief as the town all starts to walk along the man and woman .

Walkers :

But they are so

alive ! they flicker

with flash of smiles

with questioning and sorrow ,

as if those longing , desperate faces

wish to try out

every last expression

one more time,

to thereby taste

the potency

of plundered feelings ,

The collective walkers in the story talking as one about the dead .

Now I said hard to place this book the nearest two books to it I can think of are under Milkwood , which is shares a spoken feel  to the words  , this book is one that probably work  best if read a loud to get the full power of Grossman’s prose .The other book I was reminded of was Mr Darwin’s garden that came out a couple of years ago from Peirene press anoother book of voices again set in a small town like this book and like this it also built as the book went along .But unlike them there is little about the place they are in or where they are this is a book about grieving for a son a daughter a bother husband wife etc .Another feeling is almost the words go back to be almost like the words we all know from prayers or bibles with a feeling of repetition to hammer the words and their meaning home to use as the reader  .Heartfelt is what I came away with from the book a real feel of a writer pouring out on the page what he must have felt be feeling since the loss of his own son .But what he has also done with the lack of place and time has turned the grieving into universal grieving so the parents could even be Arab ! .

have you a favourite read about Grief and Death ?

 

 

Rhyming life and death by Amos Oz

Rhyming life and death Amos Oz

Rhyming life and death by Amos Oz

Hebrew Literature

Hebrew  title חרוזי החיים והמוות (רומן

Translator – Nicholas De Lange

Source – library

Well I ve read a number of books over the years by Amos Oz I have one under review here ,the Iffp book from 2012 scenes from a village life  its hard to sum up Amos Oz he is probably the best know Hebrew writer of his generation he has won a number of large national and international awards ,his name is frequently mentioned as a future Nobel literature prize winner .he has written 27 plus books in his time covering both fiction and Non fiction .His book have been translated into 36 languages .

These are the most commonly asked questions . Why do you write ? Why do you write the way you do ? are you trying to influence your readers ,and if so how ? what role do your books play ? do you constantly cross out and correct or do you write straight out of your head ?

The opening lines the writer talks about what he may be asked tonight I was reminded of the Peter Kay line about talking to taxi drivers and what we say .Been busy etc .

Well Rhyming life and death is set on one evening in the mid eighties in Tel Aviv ,we meet a writer ,we are never told his name .But it is his story an evening in his life we follow him from a literary event ,and earlier before the event in a  cafe and then to wandering in  the night .The story drifts from the actual events of the evening to the imagination of the writer as he tells himself tales from the world around him  .As we see him answering mundane questions and deeper questions in between the questions he images little stories for the people in the crowd .Then to a cafe where he starts imaging and giving a name to a waitress that is serving him ,he calls her Ricky and sketches a life for her  with himself .He also  turns two gents on another table in the cafe , into a pair of henchmen working for a gangster .These flights of fantasy he has a carefree and full of that middle age  groaning for what life could have been .

While he caresses Rochele he closes his eyes tight and tries to recover lost ground by visualising the outline of Ricky’s underwear , the asymmetric line of her knickers that was visible through her short skirt and caused him so much excitement earlier in the evening ,before the literary event .

The writers thoughts can be racey at times .

I was reminded at times when I read this book  of  the world of Dennis Potters works particularly the singing detective the Lead character is very like the lead character in the singing detective is also a writer and  a daydream .It’s easy to see the writer as Oz himself he was in his mid forties when the book is set .The beauty of Oz is his ability to change styles between books and still keep the reader its easy to write similar books and live in a comfort zone as a writer but Oz never does .I think Oz answers the question Why do you write that is mention on the first page of the book by showing how his imagination works using the unnamed writer as how he maybe uses his skills to construct stories out of the every day .Also I was made to think if a writer at an event looks out and writes tales about the people in the crowd ,Have I ever been noted and written or has any of us ? A short book from Oz but a highly enjoyable one .

First SHADOW I.F.F.P REVIEW

I posted everyone’s reviews before the list had come out Thursday .Now we have our first review and it is from mark – Blooms of Darkness by Aharon Applefeld 

A holocaust novel as his previous works have been he was in a concentration camp during the war ,this theme  has cropped up in his other books .

Now I didn’t give my reaction to the longlist the other day ,well on the whole I m happy there were 98 books to choose from and the 15 selected I’d read six and had a six others on my wish list ,a couple including the one mark has just reviewed were new to me but I always say you can’t keep track of every book in translation and I can’t ,hence the I.F.F.P being such a good prize .Ones that I thought may have been there well down rabbit hole or all the lights by the new publisher and other stories I had hope to see on the list .Another book I had hope but due to the writer being dead was ineligible was Purgatory by Tomas Eloy Martinez .Rob pointed out the lack of a book from MachLehose press this is very sad as they publish some great books The foxes in the night by Cees Nooteboom is one that I really enjoyed last year .So I hope to have my first review in a couple of days and keep them coming .

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