None like her by Jela Krečič

 

 

None like her by Jela Krečič

Slovenian fiction

Original title –  Ni Druge

Translator – Oliva Hellewell

Source – review copy

I am as many of you know A huge fan of Istros books , this is the first in a series of books they are doing in a new partnership with Peter Owen , where they will release three books  from one country and the first series is books from Slovenia. This is the first of the three books in the series is a novel for Jela Krečič , she is known for being the wife of Slavoj Zizek, she is a journalist her most famous piece is an interview with the Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.

As he focused on her face, he saw that he liked it. It was pale distinguished by her severe, uneasy expression and stern feature but softened by her lip.And ,if he was not mistaken, by her big blue eyes too, although with the enormous amount of black eyeshadow all over them he couldn’t be quite sure of the colour.Her lower lip punctured with a piercing, a decoration repeated once more on her eyebrow. A red-head version of Larsson’s girl with a dragon tattoo

How ofter do we see this type of girl about whether in Ljubljana or London .

Well this book is an odyssey in a way the title refers to Sara the former partner of Matjaz. He is obsessed about her but to get over her or get her back he has decided to go on a quest to find other woman.What follows is a series of relationships as we see what the women as like in Modern Ljubljana , Each chapter is a different relationship Matjaz is a strong macho man he is a photographer , he is one of this men that uses at times his power over women making them feel less , although at one point this is turned on him when he meets a red head that reminds him of the lead character in the dragon tattoo who doesn’t fall for his patter. For me it is an interesting look at modern balkan relationship. The types you can meet anywhere a TV for example her runs into in a gay club and what one would call a cougar an older woman who husband left her for a younger woman so she now finds younger men. This is a journey of one man to becoming a real man a modern man.

checkmate by the very fact of being born. That’s why she always liked names where she could see the beginnings of a ‘mate’: Matej, Matjaž, Matko, Matic, Matija, Matilda, Mateja, Matahari and so on. But Grandma is dead, he said to himself, he was convinced of it – she had a headstone at Žale cemetery, along with dried flowers, burned-out candles and all of that. Then maybe he was just imagining it; maybe the heat was messing with his head. Finally he looked up – and he saw her. Sara.

She was coming towards him with a crumpled newspaper and her distinctive smile, which struck him right in the stomach. ‘Your newspaper’s crumpled,’ he said upon greeting her, slightly embarrassed. He hadn’t seen her for more than a year.

Late in in the book we meet the woman who started it all  Sara .

This is a clever juxtapose tale with a female writing a male main character, whom she said in an interview she based on those french film stars of the fifties. . But what really works in those women that matzaj meets they are more than just a type Jela manages to make these types see real in the dialogue between the characters. This is a story of Love lost and a hunting of love obsessive love. This is how one man lost in life and obsession through this group of women he finds himself. I love how easily people fall for this guy he is like the Fonz of ljubjana but also like the Fonz character at his heart is a broken soul yes a strong man behind leather jacket but like Fonz , Matzaj is that tragic comic hero in a way the Fonz is yes girls fall at his feet but at his heart he is sad , but there is also a pinch of classic bad boy as well the way he treats his woman as Jela says like a fifties male with that feeling of position of male over female being held.

 

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Life begins on Friday by Ioana Parvulescu

Life begins on Friday by Ioana Parvulescu

Romanian fiction

Original title – Viaţa începe vineri

Translator- Alistair Ian Blyth

Source – Review copy

For my second book for Woman in Translation month I move west from Russia to Romania and to a EU prize-winning book Life begins on friday by Ioana Parvulescu. She grew up in Brasov , she came to Bucharest as an 18 year old and in her Eu prize-winning interview unlike most people from the town where she came from she fell in love with the city, fist with its good parts and then with its bad parts. She has written ten book this is her first to be translated into English. May I note this has an after word by Mircea Cartarescu whose book Blinding was hailed as a great book , why this equally challenging book for the reader has fallen on deaf ears ? This is maybe a reason we need woman in translation month.

The people of Bucharest were having a good day. It had snowed, there were still twelve days till the end of the year and twelve hours till the end of the day. The whiteness, which stretched from one end of the city to the other, from Cotroceni palace to the obor district, and from the serban voda cemetry to the flower beds on the Chaussee and then onward, into the horizon, was melting in the afternoon sun. The icicles looked as if they were coated in oil and here and there were beginning to drip onto the heads of the passer-by.

Bucharest in snow then in melts away under the sun in the day.

 

The book follows thirteen days in 1897 the end of that year . It starts when a man is found injured not really knowing who he is . The Man Dan Kretzu or as he is known in this time Dan Cretu has come back to this time from the present or the future (this is not really clear ) But we see him recovering in a house where the father is looking after him and The Daughter Julia is caught up in the world of the novel Vanity fair. This is a glimpse into a city that at this time was a shining light in Europe and also to an age where the human soul was maybe less  weary. But this is seen through modern eyes. Add to this there is also a murder in the background as it happened just by where he was found this 113 day glimpse in the past changes him and also all those he touches.

Today I experienced a great joy. A surprise. It was about time, otherwise I would have said that I was beginning to resemble Amelia from vanity fair, and heaven knows nowadays kind, weepy creatures are more unfashionable than Grandmother’s long nails and her bunches of curls hanging next to her ears.

Julia doesn’t want to be like the Naive Amelia n the book

Ioanna in the interview after winning the EU prize says the main character in all her books in the city of Bucharest and so it is here in this book. The city is full of life here as she choose this time as she felt it was an Epoch moment in both the city itself which shined bright at this time , but also in the sense of human nature she felt the soul of humans was different then we had a future to look forward to the world now has moved on so much. You can see this is Julia the way she is so drawn into a book and into that world of fiction vanity fair was cutting edge when it came out in how it viewed relationships. and Becky sharp was maybe one of the first woman of her own mind many young woman would read about. This is just one line of the book there is a few other threads but this is one of those books you have to read to fully get. I must note know the shame of brexit I have read so many great Eu lit Prize winning books over the last few years with money from the EU to bring us these books in English , which come UK leaving europe will happen no more a sad loss to all us fans of World lit.

Have you a favourite EU Literature prize winning book ?

Byron and the beauty by Muharem Bazdulj euro 2016 post 3

Byron and the beauty by Muharem Badzdulj

Bosnian fiction

Original title – Đaur i Zulejha

Translator – John R cox

I have briefly met Muharem a couple of years ago when I was out for the day with his english publisher Susan and we bumped into him before the first Balkan day at the british library. It wasn’t till I sat to write this review I was remind of the fact I had met him briefly . He lives in Belgrade and has had a number of small piece translated before one was included in the best European fiction 2012. Muharem himself is a professor of English and AMerican Lit and has translated piece from Auster, Rushdie and Larkin to name a few. I choose this as we see Turkey in the opening game the other day of Euro 2016 play a fellow Balkan team Croatia so it gave me chance to shoehorn this book in as Croatia and turkey have been two of my favourite teams to watch over the last few decades as both fans have such passion and this is seen on the pitch.

Isak pointed towards the mountains. “North of here, and to the west ” He said : “A stern and beautiful land. I spent my youth there it is a perfect land, as a Turk once told me, wherever you dig, up comes potable water, and wherever a seed falls, there a tree will sprout. Nowhere is the water any sweeter, or the shade any more beautiful, my lord. This place you were speaking of, my lord , this sintra, seems to me to be complete sevdah, but Bosnia is at once Sevdah and Dert.

Isak tells byron what Bosnia is like in the most poetic way as Bosnia is considered the poetic heart of the balkans .

It’s interesting that Muharem has translated poetry and choose a poet as a lead figure in this book. The figure in this book is Lord Byron the mad bad boy of romantic poetry. We meet him here as we spend two weeks with him as he waits in the Balkans Byron his group of people and a man called Isak whom is the interpreter. Then there is the third character in the story a Bosnian beauty called Zuleiha who is part of the Turkish royal Harem. At one point Isak said her beauty is that much it can’t be described so we have an English man in love with an eastern beauty that he can’t have .They can’t even say he name after she married. We see Byron trying to work out how eastern culture works through his western eyes.

“No my lord” Isak replied, “her name has not been utter since the wedding. All those who’d been saying she would definitely appear re now as silent as can be. Such a story, however cannot be invented. She is here somewhere my lord; I can feel it; and I fear that we Iliad will miss her, that she will come to Yannina, and leave again, while I’m away

Isak talks about Zuleiha and her wedding and after .

Now another connection the mad bad boy of romantic poetry , grew up 20 miles from where I live in his family home of Newstead abbey ( I went a few years ago and Byron had some mad family members one who made the staff of the estate take part in naval battle in small ships with real cannons on the lake ) I knew I had read something similar by Byron and I rooted out my battered copy of Bryon’s poems that I have had for years .

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I found that after Childe Harold he had written a poem or turkish tale in fragments called The Giaour  a story with three character a woman from the Harem an Infidel (also the name given to Byron in the Bosnian edition ) as she is thrown to the sea after being involved with the infidel.But strangely the poem is also one of the first mentions of Vampires and given that most vampire storys start in the east is this maybe the start of it given that it is explained to Byron about the Bosnian Dert and Sevdah Black bile and blood  This book is a modern take on how Byron looked at the east back then how we in the west held eastern culture in such mystery at the time. It is also a tale of love that won’t happen a great lover that misses out on getting the great beauty maybe for the first time . There is no actual record of this two weeks but Byron spent time in-between turkey Albania and the Balkans in 1809  to 1811 on his grand tour when he fell in love with not just the Balkans but also the old Levant region of south eastern europe and north africa.

Have you a favourite book set in turkey ?

Winstons Post Down the Una

Two books that I received this week .The first is a Novel that follows one man’s journey through the past through the Bosnian war , but also the world around him the river Una and also the flights of fancy every child and young man has. The book has the original cover and illustrations that were in the Bosnian edition of the book. This book won the European union prize for literature. Another gem from Istros books who as ever is bringing us the best of Balkan Lit .

Another arrival is a book I was told about a couple of years ago. I was lucky with a couple of other blogger to have an afternoon tea with the great Christopher Maclehose. Whilst having tea we were told that this book had just been signed to be translated and that Kurkov considered it his best book The book follows characters through the soviet years from the end of world war to to the edge of the crumbling communist world . The title comes from the inventor of the fuse for Dynamite. The book has a lot of what is best in kurkov it say I have reviewed two of his books before The milkman at night and his famous death and the penguin  and love the way he shows the madness and satirical side of the communist years.

 

Winstonsdad’s Books of the year

Well it was a busy reading year if not reviewing year at winstonsdad I managed to read 128 books but as said yesterday managed to review a far fewer books so the ones I have chosen I have reviewed as well barring one .All the books this year are translations I have picked twelve in no particular order .

 

Farewell cowboy by Olja Savicevic – I met Olja this year her book follows a sister return to her home town in former Yugoslavia to find out what happened to him. We see how much the years she was away have effect her hometown and those she left behind.

Bridge over the Drina by Ivo Drina – Yugoslavia again and a vital crossing in the region is used as the cornerstone of a collection of stories through time. I found this was so forward-looking as the simmering undertensions that later erupted into the wars of the Balkans.

 

My documents by Alejandro Zambra – I had read his novels short books that lead me to think he would be a great short story writer. A collection that follows someones first days on a computer to footballing moments remembered from Chile’s past .

What became of the white savage by Francoise Garde – A lost gem of this year this prize winning french novel based on the real life tale of a french sailor who went native in the 18th century after his ship sank .What happens when you return to the world you left behind many years ago.

Street of thieves by Mathias Enard – A boys journey to manhood from Algeria to Europe as we see how he has to change to survive in the modern world .From the buds of the Arab spring to the wilting flowers of life on the streets of Barcelona .

Ventoux by Bert Wagendorp – Four friends go back to the great tour de France climb of Ventoux after twenty years and the loss of a friend on an earlier trip to the region. Funny and dark in places, I can’t wait to see the film of this one.

Fall of man in wimslow  by David Lagercrantz – The death of Alan Turing told by the detective investigating his death. The book before he took on the Milenium series .First of two books I connect with due to location in the top ten.

 

20150828_151617The illogic of Kassel by Enrique Vila- Matas – The story of when Enrique was asked to be an art piece sat in a chinese window in the city of Kassel for the Documenta. A city I spent time in years ago another connection to my own life .

 

The egghead republic by Arno Schimdt – I had long want to try Schimdt and strangely found an edition in my library system as a taster before his huge opus Zettels dreams is due out in English this year .This followed a reports trip to a strangely floating city of scientist .

Tram 83 FINAL FC

Tram 83 by Fiston Mwanza Mujilla – A city told through the eyes of two friends as civil war rages and diamonds, sex , people are sold nightly at the night club Tram 83 .A vibrant trip to Congo DR in a great debut novel .

 

Til kingdom comes by Andrej Nikoladis – I have met Andrej twice now this is the third book from him and also the one that features events of the first day I met him when we saw a man being photograph in Red lion square the home of Istros books. Part of the tale of a man uncovering the truth behind his parents .

 

Oh and the on I haven’t reviewed or finished –

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The epic Zibaldone by Gicamo Leopardi the notebooks of the Italian poet as he takes you through his thoughts of what he reads , thinks and every thing in his life from the origins of myths to Italian .I have been sipping this all year round. I will be reviewing this when I finish this masterpiece just say it is maybe the greatest book of its time.

 

So that is it ask me tomorrow it would be twelve  different books There have been some great  books this year .

 

Til kingdom come by Andrej Nikolaidis

Til Kingdom come by Andrej Nikolaidis

Montenegrin fiction

Translator – Will Firth

Source – review copy

 

You better run You better run and run and run
You better run You better run
You better run to the City of Refuge
You better run You better run
You better run to the City of Refuge

You stand before your maker
In a state of shame
Because your robes are covered in mud
While you kneel at the feet
Of a woman of the street
The gutters will run with blood
They will run with blood!

You better run, you better run
You better run to the City of Refuge
You better run, you better run
You better run to the City of Refuge

No other reason to feature this song other than I know Andrej is a Nick Cave fan and we meet in a huge city of refugee for so many .

I have featured the first two books from Andrej Nikolaidis ,what is a loose trilogy that this book forms the third part of set . The book take part around the city of Ulcinj .Andrej also did a piece for the blog about his love of Thomas Bernahrd .I have also meet and had lunch with him a couple of years ago (more about that later ) .Any way this is the latest title from him and his publisher Istros books .

I wrote for the newspaper and that’s how I made ends meet .For a while , I used the money my grandmother has leftnto me , but soon learned to save , and what I earned from six articles would last until the end of the month

I wrote quickly and with ease , and what I wrote had an audience ,They were commentary piece at first , fiery and provocative .People liked to read them, especially those who didn’t agree with me –

I laughed at this as Andrej writes a lot of articles and is known for speaking his mind !!

The story starts here Ulcinj ,as a report writes a story that leads to him finding out his own history isn’t true the person who brought him up wasn’t a relative and who was his mother ? This leads him into a world of women trained as killers and trained to kill opponents of the Yugoslavian government of the time .The journey goes to london and back but also to the present and the past as one man tries to find out the truth of his own heritage .Add to this a dose of Jewish mysticism , philosophy and being cynical you have a story that never lets up from start to finish .

That’s how I remembered you – it’s not every day that someone listens to the story about the hidden grave as if it was the greatest secret in the universe  .More tea ? He asked as he shook my hand and apologized for having to leave me . “Work calls ”

Felling poisoned by all the nicotine .I walked to the other end of the square , passing a Korean who must have been a singer and was posing in a white shirt for a photographer and his numerous assistants .I jumped the fence and headed to the left ,I strolled into the Conway hall ..

I loved the scenes in London Conway hall is home of Istors books Andrej’s uk publisher .

I included this long quote above about being sat in red lion square , as I sat in red lion square and drank mint tea and smoked cigarettes with Andrej ,Susan from Istros  books the day we had lunch , whilst we did this a man who did look rather like a pop star was having a number of pictures taken by a professional photographer .I am amazed that an event I was at creeped into a book as a very small scene , that just shows the writer’s mind at work , Andrej said he was working on this book at the time we meet , but little did I expect the place and events i had also witnessed that day to make it into this book . As ever Andrej has used his books to examine the past of his homeland ,but also ask questions about that past about how we remember the past and what importance that past has now . For me this is what makes him a significant writer as he leaves us the reader with many questions long after we put the book down and for me that is one of the great things literature should make us do and that is question and wonder about our own existence and the world around us .

Woman in translation Five from the Archive

One of the beauty of blogging for six plus years is I have a good selection of reviews to look back on so today as others have I ‘ve decide to look back on five books from the archives

The rest is silence by Carla Gulfenbein

The rest is silence

 

A young boy discovers there is more to his mother dying , when he discovers a mp3 file of her talking .She manage to capture a good child narrator in this book .A great way of how we view the world when young and what happpens when that falls apart .

The last brother by Nathacha Appanah

the last brother

Now off to Africa and a small piece of history told in this book ,Raj and David meet after David arrives with his family of to try and get to Palenstine after the second world war . One first from Maclehose press worth looking back on .

The belly of the Atlantic by Fatou Diome

belly of the atlantic by fatou diome

Now A real early review on the blog is this tale of dreams and migration , seems more fitting now than it did six years ago . One boy follows his football dream but it goes wrong .With recent scenes in France this is a must read african novel .

The tongues blood does not run dry by Assia Djebar

the tongues blood does not run dry

Off to North africa and the late Assia Djebar , a collection of stories that are about the modern role of women in Algeria and North Africa and after the recent arab springs is an interesting look at the past for woman and what could change in the future .

Accabadora by Michela Murgia

accabadora

The story of a woman that sees to the dying a sort of reverse midwife for the dying .As she face up to her job and rural life in general .

 

 

Now also worth noting my good friend Susan from Istros books has a sale on via Impress books of a number of the Female writers they have published in the last few years such as Exile a wonderful short story collection from this year

Farewell , Cowboy by Olja Savičević

Farewell , cowboy by  Olja Savičević

Croatian fiction

Original title – Adio  kauboju

Translator – Celia Hawkesworth

Source review copy

 

I seem to recognize your face
haunting, familiar, yet i can’t seem to place it
cannot find the candle of thought to light your name
lifetimes are catching up with me
all these changes taking place, i wish i’d seen the place
but no one’s ever taken me
hearts and thoughts they fade, fade away…
hearts and thoughts they fade, fade away…
i swear i recognize your breath
memories like fingerprints are slowly raising
me, you wouldn’t recall, for i’m not my former
it’s hard when, you’re stuck upon the shelf
i changed by not changing at all, small town predicts my fate
perhaps that’s what no one wants to see
i just want to scream…hello…Now

I think the lyrics in this old pearl Jam song elderly woman behind echo Dada return to the town .

 

I have met both the writer and translator of this book earlier this year at London book fair and had intend to blog about it then as things are and rather like this book family happens and things go astray .Olja Savičević is an award-winning poet and novelist , she has six collection of poetry this was her debut novel and was a huge hit in Croatia already been made into a stage play over there . A part of this was used in the Dalkey archive best of european fiction collection in 2014 .

This business with the cowboys was my father’s doing . He started it , and somehow it was his story . Everyone else in Yugoslavia liked Indians best , apparently because our most popular TV series , which had Winnetou , the indian boy as the hero . It was only much later that cowboys came into their own .

Why everyone liked Indians in the Old Yugoslavia

 

Farewell , cowboy is the story of a brother and sister Dada and Daniel . Dada has returned to her hometown to find out what has happened to her beloved brother .This small seaside town in post war Croatia is seeing the first signs of  people from outside the country starting to buy property in this town , add to this a film crew is making a western Dada needs to find out why her brother killed himself by throwing himself under a train . She meets a band of eccentric characters as she starts to piece together her brothers last few months  whilst seeing the broken town see grew up in and mixing her memories with the broken and changing childhood town so badly scared by the war .

Daniel , my brother , died in his eighteenth year , by jumping from a concrete bridge over the railway under a speeding Osijek -Zagreb – Split intercity train .

He hadn’t appeared at school that morning , he had turned off towards the highway , beside the dry stream , then under it through the secret tunnel beneath the road and along the well know gravel path to the railway . I can imagine it clearly

Dada recalls how Daniel lost his life .

Lost men is a theme in this book the siblings own father has disappeared many years ago , he was a fan of Cowboys when a strange thing in Croatia most people who watch western films connected with the Indians in the films not the Cowboys . Of course the film industry paid a huge part in pre civil war Yugoslavia with TITO attracting and encouraging  film crews many of the great western films of the sixties and seventies were filmed in Yugoslavia .I would recommend the film Cineman Komunisto , which Susan from Istros books suggest I watch , so I did it shows how Tito used films  control people but also the great filmmakers from Yugoslavia that appeared  . Anyway back to the book Daniel seems to be in some ways an everyman for the lost innocence of a generation that was involved with the war and the way many men where missing from this generation brother fathers and husbands .Dada is like an old fashion private investigator trying to find out the clues to her brother’s death , in fact in some ways I was reminded of Twin peaks with some of the odd characters she meets along the way . A novel about a country on the cusp of what is to come just after the last bombs and deaths , the new money just coming and old wounds waiting to heal Olja captures what it is like to be a Woman in a country where the men have gone .

Have you a favourite Croatian Novel ?

 

 

My day at London Book Fair

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Now this is London book fair , well part of it . I was lucky to get an invite to come and spend the day from Susan at Istros books at The Croatian writers stand .I got there just in time for the opening of the stand by the Croatian ambassador .

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Where he mention the events over the next few days and the wonderful list that Peter Elborn and the British Croatian society which featured all the books from Croatia translated to English although a few more have appeared since it is a wonderful list one I will be using to find a few books to read .Now the first event at the stand was a reading from the Bulgarian writer Alek Popov , who’s first book Istros published Mission London my review of this book.

20150414_120755He was reading from his second novel to be translated into English Black Box a dual story of one man in New york a Bulgarian abroad and a man returning to Bulgaria to find a man named Kurtz (Yes a connection to Heart of darkness /Apocalypse now ) . His new book is to be published by Peter Owen  , I will have a review soonish as I managed to get a copy from them  .At this point I decide to wander the fair although having made the unwose decison on new shoes for the day hop round the fair would be a better . I took chance to say hello to some people I know via twitter .Catherine Taylor from English Pen , Victor from Haus publishing , he told me about a great book they are due to publish this year about Thomas Mann and the decision he made in 1936 to writer a letter about the Nazi Regime and send it to a paper in Germany .I also had a nice long chat with Alan the blogger from Words of mercury . I also finally meet Malcolm from Oxygen books that publish the city lit series of books but is also doing a project for the arts council in the south-east promoting books in translation .I eventually got back to the Croatian writer stand before the next event .

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The next event was the launch of Farewell cowboy by Olja Savičević , this was the first of two launchs of the book here and in the evening at the embassy .Olja read from here book in Croatian then the passages she had read were read in English by the translator Celia Hawkesworth .The book follows a sister returning to find out more about her brother’s death . I have read the book twice and will be reviewing soon. I managed later in the day to grab Olja and have a short chat with her about the book .

IMG_20150416_091217 (1)

Then after the reading we had two types of traditional Croat Spirits Rakija one is made from Honey Medica and the other from Mistletoe Biska .Then we all departed to the evening reception and launch for the book at the Croatian embassy , so as I said to my wife I was in Croatia ,which did worry her that I had run off til I explained i was still in London .

20150414_185651

So The ambassador Dr Ivan Grdešić, introduced Olja and Celia again and we had another reading and then some wine and Fig cake to celebrate the books launch .Then Olja, Celia and Susan from istros books were all filmed by the Croatian News team as they were going to be on last nights news in Croatia . I was amazed that writers still make the news and arts is still held in such high regards to be newsworthy in Croatia . It was a double celebration for the ambassador his son-in-law had won this years European union literature prize that day 

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Thanks to Susan from Istros for the day and all the lovely Croatian writer union and publishers I meet on tuesday

Hello London , Bok london LBF here I come

I write this as I am waiting for my taxi to take me to station to get a train to bring me into London around 10 this morning . I have luckily been given the chance to go to the London book fair and meet the  writer Olja Savičević at the launch of her first book in English Farewell cowboy at the Croatian writer union stand and the publisher Istros books .I’m excited as this is the place a lot of translation deals are made so I hope to see if only at a distance how this works . Mexico is the country of note this year .I have 9 Novels from Mexico under review at winstonsdad . I may do a few short blogs today if I get chance to give the atmosphere of London book fair .

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