Under pressure by Faruk Šehić

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Under pressure by Faruk Šehić

Bosnian fiction

Original title – Pod Pritiskom

Translator – Mirza Puric

Source – Kickstarter copy

I don’t do many kickstarters but when Istros did one for this book the second book by Faruk Šehić they wanted to publish they choose to do a kickstarter. I choose the one that gave me a copy of the book and a tote bag. Faruk Šehić was studying to be a vet when the Bosnian war broke out and he joined the army eventually he led a unit of 130 men. He chooses to study literature after the war and when he published his first book and was part of the mangled generation of writers that were born in the ’70s and lived through the war. This book won the European Union Prize for literature.

I got drunk and fell asleep on the wooden stall where Jagoda displayed her groceries, in front of the Austro Hungarian residential building in which I lived

I was wearing light shorts and a T-shirt.

Mother saw me from toilet window.

They brought me in holding me by the arms

washed my faceover the tub.

I felt like a foreign object within a foreign object.

I looked like a weary robot

the first of the Haiku from the Haiku diary

 

This book is made up of a number of stories in different styles of writing they are fragmented that capture what is the story of the fifth army as they fight and also in those downtimes in the war in the Krajina area where 200000 people were forced from there homes. We have an intro that uses the river Una The smell of the river and the birds on the river. Then straight into a man heading to the foggy frontline as he talks about his hierarchy of life which is

  1. war
  2. Alcohol
  3. poetry
  4. love
  5. war again

So even thou he has love and poetry war is still there his favorite book is Plexus by Henry Miller and his favorite weapon is Hungarian Kalashnikov. Elsewhere he has Haiku diaries then we have more frontline action people returning to the frontline after the last time burying comrades then we have those that fell apart on the psych ward a soldier lets loose about what happened in the war. The tales bring forth the horrors and also the comradeship of wars. later on, there is a touching list of fighters

NOw I weigh 70,000 g. I was 180 cm tall last time I was measured whin I served in the Yugoslav people’s Army. My eyes have turned darker, probablyfrom alcohol. Juicy, kosa, Ani and I are standing in front of the Cafe Ferrar.Hari Palic toook the picture,Its a colour photo…..

The image is cold and objective an embalmed section of wartime, I assume we’ll live forever in that piece of plastic coated paper. But, before we ride into immortality wearing the invulnerable faces of dead men, we ride into Cafe Ferrari for an aclohol rhapsody.

The opening and close of a passage calle the The photograph that captures how war has craved these men into lean mean fighters but also I love that it is a monent and those four may not get through it to the end but live in the picture!!

I had read Quiet flows the Una his debut book but never got to review it.I will get to that one at som,e point but now I will give my thoughts on this book. It is a book that isn’t for the faint-hearted it has warts and all view of the war but it also has those other reflections on how they grasp at the literature when they can or grab at love or just a woman to keep them warm. The language is rough in an interview he said he had liked the way the translator Mirza Puric had tried to recreate the dialogue as they would have said it with there local accents so it is in place it is like being in a working man’s club but for me, that is the feel of the frontline those men. This is a brutal world that has been brought to life in these stories it is a fragment in nature rather like the war for those that fought it. A powerful collection.

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Two new Istros titles A wild woman and a lost place

I am a huge fan of Istros books as Susie the publisher has brought us so many great books from the Balkans and Mittel europa and here we have an example of both here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wild woman is set against the tough 1970’s in Croatia as we follow a love affair between to literature students as they plunge into an early marriage only for them to discover her other half is a womanisering freeloader. Stuck in a marriage and trying to break free of him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then we have an example of Mittel European literature and two novellas post after his death by the Jewish writer Ludovic Bruckstein he was born in Czechslovakia in what is now Ukraine and grew up in the northern region of Transylvania an area which at the time he grew up had a large Jewish community and the books show the effect of the Holocaust on these rural Carpathian villages and how they were havens of religious and racial acceptance before the dark times of the war and after. Have you read you read any books from Istros have you a favorite?

Doppelganger by Daša Drndić

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Doppelganger by Daša Drndić

Croatian fiction

Original title – Doppelgänger

Translators Susan Curtis and Celia Hawkesworth

Source – Personal copy

I held back on reviewing this to this month as it seemed fitting I had two books by the Late Dasa unreviewed and I decide to do this one first and Women in translation month seemed the perfect time for a female writer that was one of the strongest voices of Balkan writing in recent years. Dasa studied English literature and then got a master in Theatre. She then worked as a Tv Editor,  a professor of English. Her books had been shortlisted for the IFFP and the EBRD prize in recent years. In the recent books, there is an undercurrent of a warning of Europe slipping into a new Right-wing Nationalistic era. I met her once and spent a good hour talking about books Europe and Lit. She sadly passed away last year I do hope they retroactively give her the Nobel prize anyway. The Publisher of this told me this was one of her favorite works.

Artur Biodi(C), born in Labin, 1921. Extramartial son of Martistella Biondi(C) (deceased) and Carlos Theresin Rankov (deceased). The father of Artur Biondi(C),Carlos Teresin Rankov (deceased) was born in 1900 on the shores of the river Tanaro, as the extramartial son of Teresa Borsalino, co-owner of a hat factory in Alessandria, and the serbian Military officer of the Austro-Hungarian army under Ranko Matic (deceased)

Artur police dossier and it is strange he is a son born of a son brom out of wedlock as well. Then there is the hat connection!

Doppelganger is two novellas I have chosen to talk about the first short novella called Artur and Isabella as it is a real rollercoaster ride of a story the tale of two lonely widowers who know each other but take it further oneNew Years eve with a shocking knock-on effect. It shows how when someone loses their life partner there is a void in their lives that is never refilled the two Isabelle has been trying to become a Croat citizen on three occasions. The final one which happened seven years before. She moved there following her husband’s death some fifteen years before. Then we have Artur a retired Yugoslavian Naval officer known for his extensive collection of hats. The two then spend the new years eve together the story has as a side police dossier pieces on the both but also on the people around them there is a terrible outcome from this evening. The second story sees another lonely figure a man who visits the zoo every day. Talks to himself but the later story has echos of the first story. Both are visions into what makes us human.

Isabelle always unwraps her chocolate balls with care so that she can save the silver paper. Over the year she collects the foil wrappersin a book beside her bed because she eats most of the chocolate balls in bed. When she finshes the book, she will put the wrappers into anothert one. At the moment she is reading an exciting book . The book is called “This way for the gas , Ladies and gentlemen” she puts Karl marx foil wrappers in it. By the ehd of the year, she will have collected a lot oif wrappers for the christmas treem more for the branches on the walls

Isabelle and her chocolate balls which she is an expert on

I often wonder if I am too positive about books well I am on the whole especially as I am now choice more that I read I have brought myself. If you ever met Dasa the effect she would have on you is the same as she had on me as someone that just seemed to have that finger on the pulse of what makes us human but also what is going on in the wider world, Here in the first stories we see the loneliness of the old age. We see the two talk about old age losing control of their bodies wearing Adult diapers and such. Then when they meet they get into a sex scene which reminds me somewhat of the scene in Dennis potters singing detective where the main character is trying to forget the young nurse is touching his body Isabelle is seen going through a list of things as she performs a sexual act on Artur.In these days when the world is so fast The older people sometimes get left behind. But also the past of Yugoslavia where everyone was watched by someone in the Police dossiers on them from their lives to Artur Hatmaker. A tragic view of lives touched with a dark humour at times from the chocolates those Mozart Balls!!. Have you read Dasa ?

 

30 covers for #WITMONTH Istros

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have long been a fan of the publisher Istros books and Susie that runs it so for today which is my wedding anniversary I pick my favorite cover from them I love this owl on the cover I reviewed this collection here. I loved the story about Kasper Hauser which is a favorite film of mine as well.

Singer in the night by Olja Savičević

Singer in the night by Olja Savičević

Croatian fiction

Original title – Pjevač u noći.

Translator – Celia Hawksworth

Source – review copy

I’m back from my short holiday and back with a book from one of my favorite publishers Istros books and also a book that does something that in the time I have been blogging we are seeing and that is a second book from a writer coming out in English. Sometimes we see a great novel from a writer then never see any of there other works translated so this is the first of two returning writers that Istros have brought out this year the other I will be bringing you shortly here. I reviewed Olja first book farewell cowboy a novel that followed a sibling hunting for a lost brother with touches of lost time from her generation often called the lost generation. She grew up when Yugoslavia was still just together and saw the birth of a new country. This book like her earlier book, this is set in Split and also has a similar theme of a female looking for a lost male her it is Clementine’s story of searching for her ex-husband.

Dear citizens, householders, close friends, fellow townsfolk, mild and attentive civil servants and waiter, courageous and patient nurses, magicians, secretaries, dresser of abundant hair, eternal children in short trousers, seasonal ice-cream sellers, dealers in intoxicating substances, drivers who brake on bends, gondoliers of urban orbits, captains of foreign ships, foreign girl on captains, neighbours – agreeable disco gladiators, neighbouring proto astronauts and everyone else in Dinko Simunovic street, not to list you all

The book opens when a poetic letter is posted by someone calling themselves the nightingale. This letter an ode to the street in a district of Split and his wonderful neighbors from the daily rising to there lovemaking. This letter leads into a sort of hunt for the writer of it from someone that was his wife  Clementine now a successful soap opera writer sets of to find the Gale but also driving her car around the places they visited we see her take a drive into her past and what happened to bring them to the present from the street of the letter writer we see a trip to the seaside and the to the Capital of Zagreb where her job is launched and her street poet other half and her drift war and life drifted them and this fragment work shows a women grasping at the past love and trying to reconstruct her life and like most her fellow country people make sense of the war still there in the background and she has to face what is her reality what is her truth this in her world is maybe now rewritten like a soap episode and shows what happens when we make those choices.

All right, I’ll tell you, so ,my name is Clementine. On outside, I’m a blonde orange. I have a Brazilian hairstyle, I drive a two seater Mazda MX-5 covertible, gold, but inside I’m a black orange. Full of black juice.

The day bfore my meeting with nightingale’s mother, the meeting with which I began this story, I travelled from Ljubljana to Split. I decided to make the journey after I had spent tje whole of the proceding week vainly calling Gale every day,. When I tried to pay money for the boat’s berth  I discovered that his account had been closed months before, at the marina they told me he had paid all his bills, but, they’d noticed for some time no one had been coming to the boat. His mobile was dead and at first that annoyed me , then it worried me( we had not been in touch often, in fact very rarely in recent years, and then mainly in connection with our shared boat, but nevertheless).

Clem explains why she want to find the gale.

This book brilliantly is a mix of a road trip novel as clementine revisits her past in doing so sees where her life start from her home town and the mirror of her friends from then with her kids a life that she could have had there is a sense of a soap opera at times the way the tale opens piece by piece wanting us the reader to get to the next episode as one would say a lot of cliffhangers. This is also a detective work in a way we follow Clem and her hunt for the Gale and like a good detective novel those little clues of there lives and past are scatters as the picture builds this is a single night read that lingers with the reader. It has a heady mix of lost love, poetic writing, post-war Croatia  and pre-war Croatia without ever wallowing in the war just showing the outfall from letter by the likes of the old warrior.

Fleeting Snow by Pavel Vilikovsky

Fleeting Snow by Pavel Vilikovsky

Slovakian fiction

Original title – Letmý sneh

Translators – Julie and Peter Sherwood

Source – review copy

I now move over from France to Slovakia and the second book from there I have reviewed. Also, the first to be published by Istros press from there as they move a little further afield. They have chosen a writer considered the greatest living Slovak writer. He only wrote two books whilst communism was in control of the country. but since the regime change, he has written over a dozen books. This was his latest Novel to come out in Slovakian. He is also a leading translator of books from English into Slovak including great writers like Faulkner, Conrad, and Woolf. It is great to see more Slovakian fiction coming out.

1.B If, as the saying goes, every person is unique, their name ought to be unique too. Except that it doesn’t work like that. What is unique about say, Stefan Kovac, whose name is about as common as Stephen Smith is in english? In this country, no first name can ever be truly unique – the church and the clerks at the register office have seen to that – and if your surname happened to be Kovac the to boot, you’ve had it: you’ll end up being known as Kovac up the valley, or Kovac the shepherd. Slovak is a garrulous language, we don’t mind throwngin an extra word here and there, but even with additional piece of information, does a name convey anythingunique about a person?

the second part of the first story about how come the name is but also how they use extra wrds to identify a stefan Kovac who is ours ?

This is a book that has five interweaving stories at its heart. This is a fragmented book almost like a snowflake with the five points coming out. The first story is the tale of a man at the end of a long marriage that seems to be losing his mind early on we hear he is called Stefan Kovac but has now taken the name Cimborazka and is a self-declared Cimborazka. The second story tells us about a pair of step twins and talks about the soul. The third starts with an avalanche and the fourth story strand a scholar called Stefan, that has recently had a book about North American Indian languages in the US. This fourth links to the first story and where we have a talk about certain US place names that may have Native American origins. The fifth strand finds someone looking through old photos. The strands of the stories cross and the link they are about life, language particular Slovakian and old age. The loss of memory in old age. The snow is the metaphor in a way for so much in this book memories fade like snow old age leads to dementia which is like an avalanche that clears that top layer of one’s memories leaving what was under.  There is a sense of the fleeting nature of life art tines and what makes us as people who is Stefan Kovac a name we are told early on is as common in Slovakia as Stephen Smith is here.

1.J My real name is Cimborazka but I haven’t told ayone. What would be the point ? It would be the same changing your phone number: your friends will remember your new number but the will still use it to ring the same person as before, the same idea of a person. But I don’t want to receive letters addressed toDear Mr Cimborazka, which would be like addresssing a different person each time. Cimborazka is a clean blank sheeet; a reminder that I am a person – not an entity, just a being, albeit a human one. And that every human possibility is therefore still open to me each and everytime. It is a silent, secret challenge to honour my name

What is a name like the first quote another on identity as Kovacs becomes Cimborazka or does he .

This is a meandering book about the nature of life in a way questioned in many ways. Language and how it is used the short passages that make this book up reminded me of the little snippets in books like The book of Disquiet or Zibaldone thou this has more narrative and a central figure that of Stefan Kovac is he the same person, or a step twin or just another character. As in the end all the strands end in one final passage as a couple talk about how many words are in Slovakian and then as they wander on to find a disk on the ground showing distance to place and maybe placing them back in their world with a thrown word over the fact that Vienna is only 57 kilometers away. This is a writer in his old age trying to write a series of themes that must have been important to him in his life like Slovakian for a translator which is a language he mentions for how many more words there are in it. What we are what he has written about what lies after the writer’s life is gone or like the snow what remains when it has melted just the memory of it.

Winstons Dozen my favourite books of 2017

I read and reviewed more than in the last couple of years so have decided to pick 12 books of the year.

Brothers by David Clerson

 

QCFINF16 - CoverBrothers_v9

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two brothers go on a quest to find the father in a mythical coastal world. The older brother has an arm missing, the arm is his younger brother with his stumpy arms and legs. One of the first reads of this year and one of the funniest and strangest books I have read.

Havoc by Tom Kristensen

Danish modernist novel one mans downward spiral from journalist to drunkard. A lost gem of European modernist fiction coming out in 1930. Partly inspired by the writer’s own life.

Summer before the dark by Volker Weiderman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The fictional meeting of Stefan Zweig and Joesph Roth in Ostend in the summer of 1936 two men at the height of there fame. Both their lives will take different roots after this meeting.

Compass by Mathias Enard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A lament for a lost world of Syria and for a lost love as a man goes through a sleepless night as Franz dreams of Sarah and his romance alongside their travels.

The Major Refutation by Pierre Senges

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An imagined thesis that discredits the discovery of the new world another quirky book that has had a champion it like a lot of the books on this list.

Bricks and Mortar by Clemens Meyer

Post east german history told through the oldest profession and the characters involved in that industry as they go from simple german girls to digital and woman of all nations. Another Fitzcarradlo novel on the list.

Hair everywhere- Tea Tulic 

A family saga told from the daughter in fragments of stories as her mother is dying of cancer another wonderful choice from Istros books.

Belladonna  by Dasa Drndric

A novel for today a warning of ignoring the rise of right-wing rhetoric as a retirng academic looks back and forward on his life. from one of my favourite writers.

The ultimate Tragedy by Abdulai Sila

The Ultimate Tragedy

Ndani story in postcolonial Guinea Bissau is the testament to what many young women have to do in her position to get by working in a family homemade to join the church and avoid the advance of the male head of the householder.

That’s how whales are born by Anxos Sumai

THAT’S HOW WHALES ARE BORN

This follows a young woman who had escaped to study whales in Mexico but her mother ill health bring her home to her Galician home and the secrets of the past.

Three days by Thomas Bernhard

A film he made years ago has a companion book a wonderful insight into a great writers feeling. I still love the lines I am a story destroyer.

The house of remembering and forgetting by Filip David

A man remembers his survival of the death camp and recalls it all after visiting an exhibition. I have loved the six peter own istros titles this year but this was my favourite of them.

A common thread in these books is families, loss, past and remembering. In the year I lost my mum this list maybe reflects my journey and how books help us get over things. What have been your books of 2017?

 

 

Hair everywhere by Tea Tulic

Hair Everywhere by Tea Tulic

Croatian Fiction

Original title – Kosa posvuda

Translator – Coral Petkovich

Source – Review copy

I return with a couple of novels from Croat the first her is a debut prize-winning novel , from one of my favourite publishers Istros books. Young Tea Tulic , took her own life experience of losing her mother and wove it into this novel. Tea was born and grew up in the Croat city of Rijeka and has written many short piece in Serbian ,Croat and Macedonia. This won the Croat book prize for the best young writer. She said in an interview one of her influences  and mentor is  the great Dasa Drndic whose latest book I review tomorrow and was also thanked by Tea in this book.

When I was a t primary school, I was allowed to keep little freshwater turtles as pets. I fed them with dried shrimps. I put a green plastic palm in the aquarium for them, to make them feel more at home. They never grew big because they fell ill – Their shells became soft. I massaged the shells with butter, but it didn’t help. I buried all six of them in a big park, in matchboxes.After the last burial I said to my parents: Don’t ever give me those dying animals again .

In the piece another pet dies but maybe it also echoes the slow death of her mother.

Hair everywhere is a collection of short pieces a mosaic of a novel , called by its publisher a fragmented novel . It follows the daughter of woman , whom is dying and also has an elderly  grand parent who she is trying to look after keep alive. Then there is recurring items , Hair on the head of people , on the floor and clothes when it as fallen out. The passion flowers . A dream about a snake and a selection of Pets she had that all either died or disappeared , the colour purple are all motifs in this book . This is a child voice and mind dealing with a sick parent but also what lies past that. I flew through this book it is a real page turner I read it in one sitting.

When mum opened the drain in the bathtub and pulled a lump of hair from it, she said to me “Look, this is your bloody hair ! I’ll cut it short”. In her wet hands were long brown strands, once adored , now loathed. It’s like having a dog in the house!”Once we did have a dog in the house. I found him in the fron of school and brought him home while Mum and Dad were at work .  He ate all the soup and bread. He was big and hungry, as was Dad that evening . So he had to go

Hair and a pet both motifs , also never mention is cancer of the reason for the hair lose , so like a child.

This is a touching account of dealing with a parents death , I know this experiences so well having lost but my mother and step mother in the last few year. So still raw this detached child like voice drifting between the everyday , past and present with her mother in and out of hospital reminded me so much of my own recent past the lonely nights the thought of our shared past in this case through a selection of pets. Tea has also released a spoken word album, I can see a connection between her work and music This has the same feel of confessional lyrics that many of my favourite singers have especially Mark Kozelek , this is a bare voice stripped and telling snippets of  a life twirling out of control as the shadow of death drifts over their lives until the end comes and all you can do is buy some purple shoes for your late mother. Touching elegant prose beautifully sketching the last few months of three generations of a female hierachy. Tea manages to do what Mark Haddon did so brilliantly and that is capture a child’s voice at the worst time of their lives , that way of seeing and not seeing \mum is ill but no mention of the treatment and reason she lost her hair.

Winstonsdad books of the year

Well I reviewed less than other years this year so I am only going pick a few highlights of my year this year.

The Prophets of the eternal fjord by Kim Leine

the prophets of Eternal Fjord

Was an epic Danish novel following a priest sent in the 18th century to Greenland to try to wrestle the natives back to the christian line a tale of times now gone. This would make a great HBO series full of mud and ice .My review

The Dirty Dust by Maitain O Cadhain

 

This was one of two translation of this classic Irish novel into English. Set in a small village graveyard we here the generations buried there talk about their lives and the past they had together and the hates they had together and the loves together.My review

Byron and the beauty by Muharem Bazdulj

Bryon in the Balkans falls for a beautiful woman only to find she is out of his reach for once the bad boy of british poetry struggle to gets what he wants .My review

 

Sudden Death by Alvaro Enrigue

A fiction tennis match between an italian painter and a spanish poet is the backdrop to this tale that flows around the world of the time just as man is discovering science and thought the age of enlightenment is on them.My review

One Million cows by Manuel Rivas

 

ONE MILLION COWS

This was a gem of short stories by one of my favourite spanish writers Manuel Rivas by a press started by his translator her we see the shackles of Franco be shaken of a people return to spain other have their last day at school looking forward .I have recently read his debut novel also from small station press .My review 

Constellation by Adrien Bosc

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The stories of a plane that crashed told from the point of view of the flight but also the stories of those on board from the man from Disney to a group of poor Spanish shepherds .One of those french novels that remind how great french lit can be . My review 

Trysting by Emmauelle Pagano

20161015_153128

A book of voice another French gem this is clips of what love is bits of people lives this is love stripped to the bone no names places or times just the acts of love shown. My review 

 

Land of my Father by Vamba Sherif

A freed slave returns to Africa from the Us to Liberia but not all is as he imagines it , he has to follow his calling and try to convert the natives .My review

Revulsion Thomas Bernhard in San Salvador by Horacio Castellanos Mayo

cover image for

A man returns to sort his mother affairs and gives a speech during the evening denouncing the country of his birth and why he had to leave and become Thomas Bernhard on his passport. An homage to the great writer from a great latin American writer .My review 

Panorama by Dusan Sarotar

 

My book of a year by a country mile this is simply why I read books in translation that once a decade discovery of a voice so exciting and fresh yes part Sebald but also a new tale of traveling from the very western tip of Europe back to the Balkan heart of it.My review 

There are my books of the year been lots of other great books

Three loves, one death by Evald Flisar

Three loves, one death by Evald Flisar

Slovenian fiction

Original title – Ljubezni tri in ena smrt

Translator – David Limon

Source – review copy

At Last is probably the Slovenian writer with the longest career since the late 1960s Evald Flisar has been writing books and plays.He has also written many travelogues and studied comparative literature and lit theory in Slovenia then afterwards studied in london English language and literature. This is the second book by Flisar that Istros has published but the first I have reviewed and the last in the partnership with Peter Owen in the world series  on Slovenia.

 

As for Vladimir, we had to understand that he had a very young, flighty wife, who was sometimes too much even for a hero in possession of ten partisan medals for bravery. Peter’s notes on meteors and so on were, of course, a matter for discussion between him and the professor under whose supervision he should long ago have finished his degree in cosmology. Certainly, the earth would not crumble into dust merely because a naughty girl wanted to frighten her nearest and dearest.

‘And Vinko,’ said Mum in conclusion, ‘can explain himself who he is burying in the garden.’

Vladamir another one of the family and peter the star man .

Well this is a classic tale in many ways that we will all have seen in some way or another . It follows a family leaving the city in this case Ljubljana to the countryside to work on an old house this is told by the point of view of one of the sons.The family short-lived dream of peace and rebuilding this old house is shattered when various family members reappear in the families lives. The uncle Vicko an accountant but also a man who wants a glimpse of fame like growing the biggest cabbage forfilling the Warhol  saying of everyone getting there five mins of fame. Then we have aunt Mara and her daughter Elizabeth the one that all the sons seem to wa\nt the older son Peter has returned home to study the night sky making the most of the dark skies the house has given them but also a boy with many sexual cravings . Oh and last but not least the narrator a young son wanting to be a writer this book is part of a trilogy with the other book that Flisar has published by istros, then last is the other Uncle Svejk  a war hero by accident that joins the local fire brigade and looks after their old fire engine maybe like his Czech name sake he is is a character that gets in the most scraps and comic asides.

for  it was like nothing we had ever seen before. Above all, it had no flat surface on which to stand it. From the central mass, which had no discernible shape or function, there protruded without order or symmetry all different kinds of steel, aluminium and even wooden growths. With some imagination it was possible to recognize among them the cubist forms of spades, picks, hoes, perhaps sickles and scythes, perhaps rakes and other tools, but these were just the ends or beginnings of what they were supposed to be. In between, joined with other pieces, it was possible to discern the links of a chain, half a cogwheel, a toilet bowl, the workings of a wall clock, two weights and blackened frying-pan handles.

If only these parts or fragments had been bound together with wire or welded together into a whole! Then the entire object could be ascribed to the imagination of a modernist sculptor, and, by relocating it to the domain of art, where everything is possible and everything permitted, it could be deprived of the aggressive concreteness before which we squatted like helpless children.

A longer quote gives a sense of place a sort of junk yard of old communist pieces .

So we have sons after the cousin , three  men all trying to be head of the house in a way. This is a novel that shows the best of family life and the worst but also has some humour and dark parts. I didn’t know til I finished the book Evald had lived in the uk. For me there is almost something of the H E Bates about the story there is that comic look at country life but also with showing the human side of life and love one is remind of Mariette and how her power on men is similar to the power on the sons in this family of the cousin elizabeta.Yes had Bates been a Slovenian in post communist slovenia he may have written something like this. Evald  is a writer that you can see has travelled and brought what he has seen and read from around the world and brought it to a personal story of life in his homeland. I will be reading his other istros at some point in the next few weeks.

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