The Principle by Jerome ferrari

The Principle by Jerome Ferrari

French fiction

Original title – Le Principe

Translator – Howard Curtis

Source – review copy

Well from a new French writer to me yesterday with Pierre Senges to an old favourite of this blog Jerome Ferrari has had his two earlier books translated into English The sermon on the fall of Rome and Where I left my soul.  He won the Prix Goncourt with his last novel and lived in Abu Dhabi where he teaches Philosophy. but now lives in Casablanca , like his other novels I have read this is a look back at recent history this time he has looked back at those fever years of the war when scientists where trying to build the Bomb.

You were twenty-three years old , and it was there, on that desolate island where no flowers grow, that you were first granted the opportunity to look over god’s shoulder,There was no miracle, of course, or eve to be honest , anything resembling God;s shoulder, but to give an account of what happened that night, our only choice, as you know better than anyone, is between metaphor and silence . For you , there was first silence, then the blinding light of an exhilaration more precious than happiness

This the time he made his famous uncertain principle

we are drawn into the world of Germany in the  early 1930’s  and onwards when the country falls under a dark shadow of the Nazis,  we follow the life of Werner Heisenberg , a man best known know for his uncertain principle .We glimpse into his world one of knowledge , but he was best known for something he worked out many years earlier his principle . we see his life unfold drawn into the Nazis world of the hunt for the Bomb as he was the one that made classic science become the atomic age of science he is at the forefront. What we see is how a man of science and his own principles has to walk a tight line of the age he is trying but not trying if you know what I mean ! Faced with a world he didn’t expect to be in from those early days  of discovery .

They’re all bored to death

Something in them becomes gradually worn pout over the  endless weeks

Professor Heisenberg plays Mozart sonatas, by heart on the piano. Nobody listens to him anymore. Every day, Professor Hahn walks for hours in the garden, never tiring .He calculates the distance he’s covered. If he’d walked straight ahead , he would have crossed the sea. By know he would have been ages in Germany

They struggle to get the Bomb made .

This was a clever novel that is a good autobiography in a novel form of a figure , that was at the heart of the burning atomic age a man who provide the turning point in the way people thought of Physics. Like his earlier books lament and sorrow under lie the main character in a way also like his earlier books he deals with how people deal with those situation where we have no chance to turn and the world seems in utter chaos. In Where I left my soul it was the Algerian war and the sermon which was an angrier look back at his childhood homeland  as ever using his poetic writing style to look at one person struggle in this world . Here it is the madness of the Nazis and Hitler wanting the Bomb before the allies. There is similarities in style too In search of Klingsor by Jorge Volpi which was also a look at the same group of people in this novel from a different angle where they try to find the top man in the programme. An interesting look at the times .

The art of killing well by Marco Malvaldi

The art of killing well

The art of Killing well by Marco Malvaldi 

Italian fiction 

Original title – Odore di chiuso

Translator – Howard Curtis 

Source – Review Copy 

Politeness and civility to visitors is one of the things masters and mistresses have a right to expect, and should exact rigorously. When visitors present themselves, the servant charged with the duty of opening the door will open it promptly, and answer, without hesitation, if the family are “not at home,” or “engaged;” which general same thing, and might be oftener used with advantage to morals.

Miss Beeton on visitors seemed apt for this book source 

Now I feel awful ,I met Marco at the more bloody foreigners  lunch earlier in the year .Marco is from Pisa  , he has written a guide to his home city .He is a crime writer and Chemist .He has a series of crime novels the Bar lume series and this is a new series .Marco is a fan of cooking and cook books this is how he came up with the idea for this story .This book won Isola d’Elba Award and the Castiglioncello Prize.

Arrived safe and sound at the castle of Rocapendente .

The castle is beautiful , but the interior strikes me as unusally devoid of furnishings , although it may be the sheer size of the rooms and staircases that gives me that impression ,

as far as beauty of appearance is concerned , even the servants are well suited to the castle .

From the diary of Pellegrino Artusi ,just after he arrived on the friday for the weekend .

The art of killing well is the story of Pellegrino Artusi man Italian nobleman that had enjoyed many cooks in his time and was shocked at the time to discover no one had written the recipes used down .So he set of round Italy collecting the best dishes of  Italian cooking ,which he intended to write as a book for himself and his friends any way he did and the book snowball till the book  became a staple of most upper class and middle class families in the late 1890’s ,a sort of Italian miss Beeton .Well the art of killing well is an imagine incident in Pellegrino’s life ,we meet him just as he has finished his travels around Italy and has chosen to take up an invite from a Baron to sample his chef and finish writing his book oh and the chance to hunt Boar .Anyway a body turns up in the cellar the family butler  .Pellegrino feels he has the talents via his nose and knowledge of food and cooking to find who the killer is before he strikes again and kills the baron .Will he find the killer in time ?

” Thank you m Barone .I must ask you all to be patient for a moment .I have just made a preliminary examination of the body of Teodoro Banti ,as a result of which I find myself unable to issue a death certificate ”

The doctor tells them the dead butler is actually murder .

Well imagine this now book now it is like Gordon Ramsey does crime or Jamie oliver invesigates .Of course there has been one cooking detective I know off and the was Henry crabbe in the tv series pie in the sky .But Pellegrino was the orginal Chef ,the best known of his day ,this is a book about smells and taste and how they can help solve crimes .This book is a clever turn on the amateur detective ,of course a cook has skills to be a detective ,like in his other series where the main character is a barista in a coffee shop .So if you want a slice of upper class Italian life in the 1890’s  and a weekend  murder mystery ala country house style ,this is the book for you ,I really hope Marco chooses to  writes again about Pellegrino and also includes more of the recipes like he did in the back of this book .Have you a favourite amateur detective ?

Jacqui reviews Ten by Andrej Longo

ten Andrej Longo

Jacqui is back again to review Ten for the Shadow IFFP Jury

Ten by Andrej Longo
Translated from the Italian by Howard Curtis

Andrej Longo’s Ten consists of a series of hard-hitting short stories set in Naples. Each story takes one of the Ten Commandments as its theme and we see regular working-class people struggling to get by in the face of temptations and challenges that come their way.

In the first story we meet a teenage boy who wants to keep his head down and stay on the right side of the tracks. But he gets caught up in trouble during a night out with his girlfriend, the consequences of which will set his life on a different trajectory. Another story centres on a talented singer who becomes too ambitious and greedy. We follow his rise and fall into a life of drugs and debt – in the end his only way out is to become a guinea pig, thereby enabling his dealer to test the safety of each batch of coke:

I get off at the terminal. I lean on the wall to stop myself from falling and drag myself to where there’s an open space. I sit down in the sun or the rain, it’s all the same to me, and I wait, leaning against a pillar, like the others. I wait for them to bring the syringe, already filled, look for a vein that still has room, and put the needle in. And they wait to see the effect it has, and whether you live or die. (p. 34-35)

The mafia are never very far away — to the fore in some stories, in the background in others — and we see how people have grown accustomed to living their lives under this shadow:

Maybe Ricardo was right. Maybe like he said, to avoid asking myself too many questions, I’d stopped taking any notice of what was happening around me, the mountains of rubbish in the street, the murders, the bag snatching, the parking attendant who asks for money even when there’s a meter. I’d got used to keeping my eyes down to avoid trouble, paying so that I could drive my lorry in peace, without them slashing the tyres or breaking the windows. Maybe it was it was like he said but I didn’t want to admit it. (p. 113)

All this might sound rather grim, but some of these stories capture moments of love and longing. In one of my favourite stories from the collection, ‘Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy’, a woman longs to spend a Sunday with her husband but is unable to because her man can only find work in Rome. He returns on a weekly basis, but always Tuesdays, never at the weekend:

We’d been living like this for thirteen years. Seeing each other only on Tuesdays. Just so we could pay the mortgage and provide for the kids as they grew. But now the mortgage was almost entirely paid off. And the kids were grown. They were working now, making a living for themselves. I know there’s never enough money. But I could look for a job. Anything. Just as long as he came home in the evening and slept in our bed. Just as long as we could spend one Sunday together every now and again. Go for a stroll somewhere, without counting the hours, without feeling that time was slipping through our fingers. A Sunday together like everybody else. (p. 50)

Longo is a critically-acclaimed writer of short stories as well as pieces for the theatre, radio and cinema. When he isn’t writing, Longo works as a pizza-maker in the city of Naples and he draws on his understanding of the city to great effect in this collection. He takes us through the backstreets and clubs of the city, into the homes of its inhabitants and in doing so gives us a real sense of the place, its culture and social landscape. Knives and guns seem common place here and it’s an environment where kids and teenagers often have to grow up ahead of their time to survive.

Stu has already talked about how this collection illustrates what great short stories can do; they give us a slice of the world as we glimpse people for the briefest of moments. One of the things I liked about these stories was their directness and raw honesty. Longo’s prose is quite stripped back but he quickly creates a sense of tension and atmosphere as he pulls us into these individuals’ lives.

I also liked the shifts in tone, mood and pace across the stories. We experience flashes of violence, situations with a pulsating sense of urgency, but there are times when the pace shifts down a gear as characters reflect on their regrets, their hopes and fears.

One of the reasons I wanted to get involved in shadowing the IFFP was to discover exciting examples of world-lit with a real sense of place, fiction that vividly captures the voice and the essence of a specific location and/or culture. And that exactly what Ten delivers.

Ten is one of three collections of short stories longlisted for this year’s IFFP. The other collections are Revenge by Yoko Ogawa and The Iraqi Christ by Hassan Blasim (and one could also argue that Andrei Makine’s Brief Loves That Live Forever reads as a series of interlinked stories). As for Ten’s chances in the IFFP, I’m at the halfway point in reading the longlist so it’s a little difficult to tell at this stage…but it’s an excellent collection of stories and one which I’m very glad to have discovered.

Ten is published in the UK by Harvill Secker.
Source: personal copy

My review of Ten 

The break by Pietro Grossi

break-grossi2

The break by Pietro Grossi

Italian fiction

Original title – L’Acchito

Translator – Howard Curtis

Source – Personnel copy

I’ve been meaning to try Pietro Grossi ,after a couple of years ago Rob of Rob around books raved about his previous book Fists  .I also knew its would be a winner when I mentioned on twitter I was reading it for Pushkin press fortnight and two people from over publishers tweeted their love of this book .Pietro Grossi is an Italian writer ,he was born in Florence is a huge fan of Hemingway and J D Salinger ,started writing age eight ,he has won a number of prize in Italy and has written five books so far .Pushkin have translated two his previous book the short story collection Fists made the Independent foreign fiction prize short list in 2010 .

When Dino got home ,Sofia was at the far end of the living room ,making soup in the kitchenette ,surrounded by steam and sliced vegtables .

“Hi” Dino said .

Sofia turned with soiled hands ,a look of suprise on her face “Oh” she said. “You’re early ”

“Yes it wasn’t my night ,” Dino said

“Weren’t you winning ?” Sofia asked ,turning away again ,and although she had her back to Dino ,he knew there was ironic smile hoovering on her lips .

Great interaction of the couple .

The break is the story of Dino a stonemason and huge billiards fan .His life is steady ,he lives in a small town and does dream of travel and others things with his wife .But isn’t really going anywhere ,then his wife tells him she is pregnant .This cause Dino to maybe face up to his life and future more than he has done before ,he also enjoys a huge success via an old mentor in a billiards competition .Add to this secrets of bribes in the local area and Dino needs to pull himself together and start facing his life ,wife and future .

They had a big notebook with a thick  coloured cover ,where they wrote down  everything in preparation for when they left .They had called it The travel book ,which wasn’t much of a name when you thought about it ,and yet every time they mentioned it or took it in their hands there seemed to be something great about it

Dreams can be great ,like Dino Amanda and I have many we need to start living .

I connected with Dino ,I am not a billiards player of talent ,but have played snooker and pool in my time so that part of the book I could connect with but the billiards is also used as a metaphor because Dino suddenly discovers clarity at the game but also maybe discovers clarity in his own  life  at the same time .I also connected with Dino as a person I myself find my life at this point as rather like Dino’s at a point of treading water ,I like dino have maybe settled for a simple easy life and have let life pass me by at times .I enjoyed Grossi vision in this Dino is a character that anyone in mid-life can connect with the book is about those huge turning points in people’s life ,in Dino’s it is a baby on the way and the responsibility that will bring  and wanting to live out some of his dreams .I like Dino need to finds some drive in my own life and maybe stop treading water on my life .The book is a small part of the modern world ,his trade a stone mason dying out but also overlooked due to corruption ,coping with a new baby ,getting on in the world these are all questions that face all of us in some ways in the modern world .

Have you ever really connected with a character in a book like I did with Dino ?

 

The castle of of whisper by Carole Martinez

The Castle of Whispers

The castle of Whisper by Carole Martinez

French fiction

Original title – Du domaine des murmures

Translator – Howard Curtis

Source – review copy

Carole Martinez is a rising star of historic fiction in France this is her second novel .She is a middle school teacher ,she began writing during maternity leave nine years ago .This her second novel won the Goncourt Lyceens in 2011 ,previous winners are Phillippe  Claude and Andrei Makine .The prize sees twelve books read by 2000 students and they choose the one they like .

in the year 1187 , Esclarmonde ,damsel of the whisper ,resolves to live as an anchoress at Hautepierre , confined until her death to the sealed cell built for her by her father against the walls of the chapel that he erected on his lands in honour of Saint Agnes ,who was martyred at the age of thirteen for having accepted no other bridegroom than christ

How esclarmonde end up a damsel of whispers .

The castle of whisper is set in 12th century France ,a young women  ,the fifteen year old Esclarmonde is due to marry a rather unworthy Knight that has a wandering eye .She decides to turn her back on this marriage and join the Church much to her fathers dismay and she  becomes a mistress of Christ .She chooses to use her dowry for her entry to the church  instead of her marriage and builds a stone chapel where she entombed herself  in a cell ,the years pass and she can only contact the world via a small gap .She has become a link between the world of now and the dead ,her words tell what may happen ,the whispers of this place change the outside world .A world gripped in violence and the crusades are taking part .

My father had not yet put in an appearance outside my cell .In the autumn ,he had taken a second wife ,a young childless widow not much older than myself .whom I had often glimpsed since her arrival at the castle .her name was Douce ,and she smiled at me whenever she passed the maple .

What will the new stepmother bring into Esclarmonde life ?

I have struggle with historic fiction in the past ,I must have been the only person not too enjoy wolf hall ,so it was with nerves I decided to read this as it was another book set in the middle ages .But was surprised to find I liked it Martinez is a poetic writer ,she shows the transformation of the young girl to a woman in the walls of a church .I enjoyed the series on the TV in the  eighties Robin Hood ,which like this novel drift at times into the world of mysticism ,Esclarmonde and her castle of whispers are a French take on the same themes touched in the TV series ,people tended to believe in the other world ,worlds more than they do now .Gabriel Garcia Marquez is mentioned on the back cover  from a review ,I agree she has the same way of making the extraordinary seem less so the world isn’t so surreal as Marquez does in his books .The castle of whispers is about the power of men and women to battle the world in different ways one with love the other with violence .How faith can make people change and grow .

Do you have a favourite historic writer ?

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