Seven Empty Houses by Samanta Schweblin

 

Seven Empty Houses by Samanta Schweblin

Argentinan  fiction

Orignal tile – Siete casas vacías

Translator – Megan McDowell

Source – Library book

This is the third book I have reviewed from Samantha schweblin. It is the first I have really connected with as a reader before I got them and why people loved them but it hadn’t been a total bowl over for me. The other books my fellow readers on the shadow just seemed to have connected with more than myself. She has been on the Man booker list with her three previous books, so it I thought it was a good idea to read her latest just in case it made the longlist. This is a collection of short stories. As with her other books, it has a dark side to her stories. Samanta Schweblin lives in Berlin and has written five books. One of them is currently being filmed by Netflix. So let us enter the Erie unsettled stories she has given us.

My mother, who was in the process of getting out of the car, freezes a moment and then drops back into her seat. I’m worried because night is falling, and I don’t know if I’ll be able to get the car out in the dark. The forest is only two houses away. I walk into the trees, and it takes a few minutes to find exactly what I need.

When I get back, my mother is not in the car. There’s no one outside. I approach the front door of the house.

The boy’s truck is lying on the doormat. I ring the doorbell and the woman comes to open the door.

“I called the ambulance? she says. “I didn’t know where you were, and your mother said she was going to faint again.”

The opening story of the mother and daughter None of that.

A mother and daughter head out in a car. Where they end up in the middle of nowhere and end up on a posh estate and the. other goes into a house. The mother starts to wander around the house as though drawn by some spirit and things just go strange as the oddness of the actions. Then the longest story in the book breaths from the depth. The story has a classic hook to it in the newcomer in the area when a single mother who moves next to her and her longstanding husband. They lost their sons many years ago. But Lola gets weary when her husband is drawn to the young boy next year all this is back as Lola’s health is waning. But who is this neighbour why does she feel familiar at times she is fat but there is something there. elsewhere people are caught between homes. A teen strips and redress in some underwear. I loved this collection.

The list was part of a plan: Lola suspected that her I life had been too long, so simple and light that now it lacked the weight needed to disappear. After studying the experiences of some acquaintances, she had concluded that even in old age, death needed a final push.

An emotional nudge, or a physical one. And she couldn’t give that to her body. She wanted to die, but every morning, inevitably, she woke up again. What she could do, on the other hand, was arrange everything in that direction, attenuate her own life, reduce its space until she eliminated it completely. That’s what the list was about; that, and remaining focused on what was important.

The opening of the longest story in the book breath from the depths

I loved the stories especially the short ones like when the mother and daughter head into the village in the middle of nowhere. Then into the backyard of the house and into the house itself. When she is drawn to a sugar bowl the story has such an undercurrent to it the sense of something more to it. Like Lola, I was reminded at times of the Pinero novel that made this year’s Booker list. As it had a similar feel to the character of a person in pain and with. A lot in their life. This collection uses the usual hooks in Horror fiction, strange places, haunted feeling houses, and people on the edge. But I think what She does so well is making the normal everyday humdrum characters. Seem just enough off-kilter and odd to be believed and not over the top. I love the cover art for this book. We have to ask ourselves will this make the longlist again , I think it may do the only reason it may not is if they want to give other writers a chance to make the longlist. Have you read any of her books?

Winstons score – +A Finally loved one of her books.

 

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Artforum by César Aira

 

Artforum by César Aira

Argentine fiction

Original title – Artforum

Translator – Katherine Silver

Source – Personal copy

I had read one other book by Aira it seems it is the one most people read it is An episode in the life of a landscape painter. That was in 2016 and I had brought a few of his books but they just went on to mount TBR and I think with them being short I had just never got to them so when I saw it was on the Moose on the gripes podcast last month I decided I would listen to them chat about him as he is a writer I felt I should have read more of as ever Trevor and Paul’s sheer joy grabbed me so what did I do I went and ordered two more book that would make six books I have to read and I choose this to start with as it seemed short and also a book about obsession appears I tend to be a flighty obsessive Itend to deep dive in and out of things so I will thing of a band I loved order loads cds and vinyl listen to them then be on to something else. Like many of his books it follows a man that lives in Corona Pringles. He has been drawn to getting and discovering the art magazine Artforum.

WHEN I MADE THE TRANSCENDENT DECISION to take out a subscription, I thought that all my problems were over. It wasn’t easy, I had to overcome the internal resistance of the primitive economist that I was, who didn’t buy anything if I couldn’t hold it in my hands and pay with banknotes I pulled out of my pocket. I had never taken out a subscription to any magazine, and it was strange that I hadn’t subscribed to Artforum until then, not only because it was my favourite magazine but because of how difficult it had always been to procure.

He takes the plunge and decides to subscribe to his favourite magazine

 

This is a quest a man’s quest obsession for a square Magazine (I was reminded of archipelago books here they are always on the whole square editions and always collectable ) He has spent years trawling shops overseeing and wanting this Magazine from America he in the ends even subscribes and he does that dance which I think many of us, well I know the is it here yet dance has the postman got it and then there is an added dimension he feels the postman may steal and sell the magazine to the book stalls and he laments that over time he had brought copies of art forum from there then he hears of some that have died and his collection is in a shop this reminds me of the weekly flick through records my local record shop does it has all the new second-hand records and if I see that one I may one I can’t wait to get there to get it myself. Then as it seems to happen a lot of books by Aira from what Trevor and Paul said there is a sudden change of tack and suddenly we are talking about a broken clothes spin (peg we would call it) this leads him to Claes Oldenburg therapist that made giant everyday objects. What happens when it stops coming?

WITHIN THE DAILY ROUTINE OF THE HOUSE-hold, small inexplicable incidents also occur. Why did it happen, why didn’t it happen? Nobody knows. All we know is that something happened. What?
Well… so many things! Something is always happening, and it’s difficult to set one incident, one anecdote, apart. How to know what deserves mention? One should talk all the time, or remain silent forever. The trifles that feed innocent chatter sink into the subsoil of the silence of the responses. Sometimes a chance repetition insinuates a meaning.
“Another clothespin broke! What bad luck!”
“I’ll fix it.” (I thought that the spring that connects the two halves had gotten detached.)
“No. It broke. It can’t be fixed.”
“Throw it away!”
“Throw it away!”

Then we discover a broken clothes peg almost like a chapter from another book had fallen in this book.

I loved this short novella I am someone that so gets obsession with something as I have a little of that and also that feeling of wanting something I think this is something that has changed in my lifetime and maybe what he has caught here is a lost world in the future what he captures is that going through racks looking for that lost copy that lost record that whatever, which is something I n the click and get off the modern world we are losing. So I am thankful that I decided to listen to Mookse and gripes podcast I m sure you all do but if you don’t subscribe they just make you a reader who really wants to discover and revisit books. We follow a man’s obsession and get drawn into his world for a short time will it come today or not? How often have I waited for that book to arrive or that record etc. Do you have obsessions or go down a rabbit hole? Have you a favourite book by Aira ? where should I go next?

Winston’s score – +A rediscovering a writer you think you may love

Empty Words by Mario Levrero

Empty Words by Mario Levrero

Uruguayan fiction

Original title – El discurso vacío

Translator – Annie McDermott

Source – personal copy

I am back with another for my Spanish lit month and this time I am heading down to Latin America and one of the countries that I really should have read more books from over the year and that Is Uruguay and her we have a book from the late writer Mario Levrero a writer that as the translator said in the intro he is hard to put in a Genre. I liked in his Wiki page that it said he had left school due to a Heart murmur. Then he had spent his time listening to tango music and reading. He spent the latter part of his life trying to finish his novel The Luminous novel which he had spent a number of years working on he had been influenced by Franz Kafka and Lewis Carroll. This is the first book I have read by him and it was like going down a rabbit hole.

My graphological self-therapy begins today. This method (suggested a while ago by a crazy friend) stems from the notion – which is central to graphology – that there’s a profound connection between a person’s handwriting and his or her character, and from the behaviourist tenet that changes in behaviour can lead to changes on a psychological level. The idea, then, is that by changing the behaviour observed in a person’s handwriting, it may be possible to
change other things about that person.

My aims at this stage of the therapeutic endeavour are fairly modest. To begin with, I’m going to practise writing by hand. I won’t be attempting calligraphy, but I’ll at least try to manage a script that anyone could read – myself included, because these days my writing’s often so bad
that not even I can decipher it.

What he is trying to do is explained .

What happens when you get some writer’s block. Well, our narrator unnamed has been told by a friend to just write with a pen and paper every day ( this is something you see a lot these days in self-help videos and how to become creative). What we have here is his jotting the life his outpouring and over time you see how Levrero has let his narrator pour out his life and his life is one that is seeing him wanting to go up the ladder at work he writes crosswords and his mother is now showing her age. His stepson is distant so most of his time is spent Wirth his dog Pongo. But what we see is a man trying to write trying to expand from tales of his dog and the cat next door. This is one of those books that is just great but is hard to describe I’ve seen it compared to Bernhard in a way especially as he had Also written about trying to work through writer’s block.

4 October
A bad day for calligraphical exercises, and for lots of other things too. It’s raining (which I enjoy, though it makes me even more inclined than usual to sleep and do nothing). Yesterday (today) I went to bed after five in the morning; at ten thirty I was woken up by a truck with loudspeak-
ers attached, which stopped right outside our house and held forth about some stupid raffle, at great length and appalling volume. Then, without having got back to sleep properly – I’d been dozing, but that was it – at twelve thirty I was woken up once and for all by Juan Ignacio and his
grandmother, who were shouting for the dog in a deafening chorus. Because of all this, my eyes are burning and I don’t feel like doing anything. I notice, however, that except for the odd slip-up, my writing is large and clear.

A few days later and we see how he is getting on with his daily task of writing.

 

Another review said that Uruguay is known as the place of the strange ones when it comes to writers. I think that this would be one I struggle at times it is one of those books that hasn’t any real plot other than we know he is writing every day to free his writing up. this is an overweight guy with heart issues ( this is another nod to Bernhard in a way how often his characters have a sort of spite to their own world !!). It is maybe a writer trying to write about a writer trying to escape writer’s block whilst the writer himself is trying to escape the writer’s block he is suffering. His other book the luminous novel is also like this about trying to escape writer’s block. He likes to take the reader down rabbit holes of a writer struggling in his life there is a sense of the absurd nature of the world around us at times. The writers mentioned by his translator are evident Kafka there is a sense behind our narrator there are more mentions of having to live away from his home in Uruguay.An interesting book for this year’s Spanish lit month I will be getting his other book. Have you read this or any other writers from Uruguay? this is a Spanish Kafka trying to get out of writers block by imaging he is Thomas Bernhard whilst following his dog into a rabbit hole.

Winstons score – B a solid intro to a writer I liked to read more from a book that is unusual and challenging but the sort I love as a reader.

 

The Shape of Bones by Daniel Galera

The Shape of bones by Daniel Galera

Brazilian fiction

Original title – Mãos de Cavalo

Translator – Alison Entrekin

Source – Personal copy

Well, I’m back posting here post- heatwave and working nights during said Heatwave sapped my energy so I am running late with Spanish / Portuguese lit month-wise . BUT I think a few books was planning to read, I can carry over to next month rot go with my women in translation books I have planned to read. Anyway, it is back with a book I finished just prior to my holiday a book from a writer I had read before, I like blood drenched beard by the Brazilian writer Daniel Galera, a writer and translator that has worked on E-zines, launched his own publishing house and has seen a number of his works made into films and plays. He is considered to be one of the best young writers from Brazil. This is the second book from him I have reviewed. As we are near the endow this year’s Tour de France. A book that at its heart has a couple of bike rides seems very apt.

The Urban cyclist lies in the middle of the street for at least ten seconds, his leg still caught in the bike, while the neighbourhood dogs bark in a frenzy. When his brain starts working again, the first thing that occurs to whims is that his face must be deformed. He runs his hand over it and finds a little blood on his thumb. His tongue registers the sour taste and what appears to be a small flap of loose skin on his lower lip. He frees his leg from the bike, the right one and examines it. A small white circle under his knee begins to sprout minuscule red dots, which become drops of blood that swell and start to run down his leg.

I think we have all had a fall from a bike like this as a kid or an adult that bad crash.

 

The book has a twin storyline that both focus on Hermano a young surgeon and husband but he is distant in his marriage as we see him sneak away from his sleeping wife and child. As we follow him as he sets off early one morning to drive through Porto Allegro to fetch a friend for a ride. We see the man remember his childhood in the rougher side of time and the group of friends he knew then a bunch of rough kids as they tore through the streets like a character on a bike from an early Springsteen song as they grew up in Esplanade district of the town a working class young part of the city.  As we follow him in the present trying with a friend to scale a mountain ( apt as yesterday was the last day in the mountains in the Tour) he passed through his old neighbourhood on the way the past comes to the fore in his mind as the start to climb the mountain and we see how what happened in the past with the boy shaped the man how the urban cyclist and his gang made this distant surgeon in the present. How one event in those years is still haunting him in the present.

The street that served as a finish line at the bottom of the stairs wasn’t very busy, but it was still a miracle that there hadn’t been any deadly collisions with motor vehicles. The most skilled riders managed to stop their bikes with a skid before they got to the kern, but the manoeuvre came with its own risks.

This is one of the passages that made me think of those early Springsteen songs of kids in cars ion his songs but tearing through streets like they do here on the bikes on the edge of life.

I love novels that use the twin storyline as a narrative tool because when it is pulled off like it is here it is a wonderful way to give insight into a character’s past and why they are like they are in the present you get the sense early on that there is something in Hermano’s life that isn’t quite right yes he has it all the life away from his childhood home, the wife, the child the dream job but there is that niggling sense the way he sneaked off the way the drive through a place sparked the past that one moment in the past that set the present this book does that brilliantly also the pacing with the drive and ride on the mountain as pacing to the book as the morning and the memories of the gang the tearing through the streets this is a man-made good but at what cost!! I am teasing you as this is a book that I think maybe slipped under the radar blood drenched beard of Course with the title which grabbed people I would imagine is a great book but for me, this is the better book by him. Have you a favourite book that uses two timelines in the Narratives?

Winstons score – +A a man faces his past whilst on a bike ride perfect reading whilst the tour is on.

Space Invaders by Nona Fernadez

Space invaders by Nona Fernandez

Chilean fiction

Original title – Space Invaders

Translator – Natasha Wimmer

Source – personal copy

I saw the cover of this book on Twitter and it caught my eye so when I was away last week in Northumberland and I had seen it in the new book shop in Alnwick and started to feel the Drag of books in translation again I decided it would be a great choice for this Spanish lit month. Nona is a pet name that the writer had growing up and she has had a variety of jobs firstly selling clothes growing up and Began to write she wrote her first novels whilst living in Barcelona. Her writing is considered part of the literature of Children’s canon(Literatura de Los Hijos) a term coin around a group of novels from Chile mainly but elsewhere in Latin America that view the years of the dictatorships around Latin America through children’s eyes. the term was originally coined by Alejandro Zambra. I have reviewed books by him here.

Santiago de Chile. 1980. A ten-year-old girl walks into Avenida Matta school holding her father’s hand. A leather satchel hangs on one shoulder and the laves of her right shoe are undone. Outside, the pavement is strewn with the remains of a celebration; flyers, empty bottles, trash. The new constitution proposed by the military Junta was approved by a broad majority. The school caretaker sweeps the litter from the gate, watching the girl’s father. The man takes off his officer’s cap to say goodbye to his daughter. He gives her a kiss on the cheek and whispers a few words in her ear. The girl smiles and heads down the hallway with one shoelace trailing on the tiles. In front of the statue of the Virgen del carmen, she kneels and kisses her thumb

The opening a girl with one lace undone is the centre of the book.

So this is a strange book as it isn’t a linear story more a collection of pieces memories, dreams, nightmares and letters about a class and one of the pupils in that class Estrella. She was in the class but her father was a high-ranking official in the Pinochet regime over a period of years from that ten-year-old girl with her father just as the new constitution was proposed. Then someone in the class remembers her two long braids and pulls them this is the nature of the book a fracture scattering of the class and what happens over time as they grow first in the present in retrospect that time and their present. Things like the regimented nature of the class line up singing the anthem(these bits remind me of old communist schools I remember seeing on the tv years ago that indoctrination at a young age). Then what it means to live under the regime when a teacher stumbles when asked about politics shows how dark these times were deaths in the poor areas common described through the eyes of the children. as the class moves through time we come back after each life lost a few years later to we come to them as adults. Add to this is a chunk of the 80s

a green glow in the dark hand. Riquelme keeps dreaming about it, can’t shake it. This time he sees it on a television screen, The hand advances rapidly, in the pursuit of extraterrestrial children. They run back and forth, fleeing in terror, but the hand clutches at the first martian within reach and at its touch there is an explosion. The body of the little Martin flies apart into coloured lights that vanish from the tv screen

The liking to the space invader as one of the other characters plays it.

This book tries to see how you cope with the trauma of being a child in a conflict and how those events can haunt our waking moments and or dreams as kids Estrella was in their class and the events around them were out of their control so this is a horrific fragment journey into there lives around Estrella and the events and how in retrospective they seem a lot darker. Nona uses the space invader of the title as a sort of framing device as the story moves on each part is life in the game. I have read a number of books from the children of literature over the years and they all have a fragment sent to them and also that sense of how we view and remember childhood events and then what happens when later in life parts cross again. I enjoyed this it is a mosaic of time and events it’s left for you to fill the gaps at times and it is like a collection of soundbites of the time. The book is a short one I read it in an evening and have reread a lot of it this morning. Have you read any books from the literature of children genre ?

Winston score – B what happened to the class is remembered and what it meant rinds deep.

Still Born by Guadalupe Nettel

Still Born by Guadalupe Nettel

Mexican fiction

Original title – La Hija Unica

Translator – Rosalind Harvey

Source – Personal copy

It is always good to get back to a writer you have read and enjoyed it is like getting that old jumper out of the draw you know it will fit you perfectly. `So I am late to my Spanish lit month but I am starting in Mexico with Guadalupe Nettel. A writer from Mexico has written a. number of novels and short stories and we are lucky that most of her books have been translated into English. She is one of the group writers in the Hay Bogota 39 group a number of years ago. I have reviewed her twice before on the blog and both those books were ones I loved so when I saw this had come out I just had to get it to read especially when I read the theme of motherhood and being able to choose to have children something that has taken years for society’s view on women having children.

It is easy, when we are young, to have ideals and to live according to them. What is more complicated is acting consistently over time, and in spite of the challenges, life puts in our way. Shortly after I turned thirty-three, I began to notice the presence – the appeal, even – of children. For two years, I had been living with an artist from Asturias, who would spend hours in our apartment devoted to his work, impregnating the air of our shared space with the heady scent of his oil paints. His name was Juan. Unlike me, he knew how to be around children, and enjoyed it. If he came across a child when we were out at the park or at a friend’s house,

Nettel, Guadalupe. Still Born (p. 21). Fitzcarraldo Editions. Kindle Edition.

The book follows the path around the theme of motherhood or whether to be a mother around a couple of friends Laura and Alina who are high fliers in their jobs and are both climbing the career ladder. They don’t want to have children at the moment well Laura doesn’t want to and she felt as though her friend had the same feeling as she did. So when the two women go on their own paths as one decides to have not children Laura makes sure she can’t have kids. But at this point, her friend meets someone and then decides that she wants to have a child this is the second strand her first IVF treatment which is told with a wonderful detached nature that gives it that clinical feel to such a personal moment in a woman’s life. Then when during the birth there is a twist that will change the future of `Alina and her partner Aurelio when they discover their newborn will have a disability which makes them reassess their future and what motherhood will be for them with a child with a disability and short-lived outlook. Then add to this there is a second tale of motherhood with the son of a neighbour.

On Monday I turned up at my gynaecologist’s office without an appointment and asked him to tie my tubes. After asking me a series of questions to gauge how certain I was, the doctor looked at his diary. I had the surgery that same week, convinced I’d made the best decision of my life. The surgeon did his job skilfully, but while I was recuperating in the hospital, I got an infection caused by one of those superbugs are so hard to eradicate. I returned home with a fever and spent several days like that without telling anyone what I’d done, not even Juan. Afterwards, when I was given the all-clear, I called Alina, feeling sure that only she would be able to understand me.

Nettel, Guadalupe. Still Born (pp. 22-23). Fitzcarraldo Editions. Kindle Edition.

 

This is an insight into the world of choosing not to have a babe and it uses the two friends as a wider comment on how society views motherhood and having children. I thought back to a film like Parenthood that dealt with having kids but society has moved on and there are more women wanting children Later in life or not at all as they want to pursue a career. It is all about choices and the ability to have them. But it also tackled the problem of having a child with a disability, after 30 plus years of working with people with disabilities you find there are certain ways parents over time have dealt with their children but also the way things have changed over time. The narrative times in the book have a detached nature at times that may be due to Laura being the one that is narrating the events and is the one that isn’t into children or being a mother. She views the world in her way and that gives it an interesting perspective and feel to the book. bu Laurt has a close bond with her friend and the horror of learning about they’re  Child’s disability and the effect it will have on everyone. Have you read any books from Nettel ? or around motherhood or choosing not to have children?

To sir with love by E R Braitithwaite

To sir with love by E R Braithwaite

Guyanese fiction

Source – personal copy (on kindle)

I posted my interest in the Jubilee reading list and this is one of the books on the list it appealed as I hadn’t reviewed a book from Guyana and I have never seen the film and it is rare I’ve not seen the film to a book especially when it is a well known film so I decided to read to then hopefully at a later date I will be able to see the film. Anyway E r Braithwaite Had studied in New your before he joined the RAF this is where this novel starts as it is autobiographical.He like the character in his book went to the Uk after the war. We see his struggle and how he Fell into teaching this lead to him have a long connection in. the education system where he worked for a number of years along side his writing career as a educational consultant for UNESCO. He actually lived to the ripe old age of 104 when he passed in 2016.

The bus pulled away from the stop, but I remained standing there, feeling suddenly depressed by the prospect around me. I suppose I had entertained some naïvely romantic ideas about London’s East End, with its cosmopolitan population and fascinating history. I had read references to it in both classical and contemporary writings and was eager to know the London of Chaucer and Erasmus and the Sorores Minores. I had dreamed of walking along the cobbled Street of the Cable Makers to the echoes of Chancellor and the brothers Willoughby. I wanted to look on the reach of the Thames at Blackwall from which Captain John Smith had sailed aboard the good ship Susan Lawrence to found an English colony in Virginia. I had dreamed. . . .

Braithwaite, E. R.. To Sir With Love (Vintage Classics) (p. 9). Random House. Kindle Edition.

His dream ideas and reality hit one another

The book follows Ricky Braithwaite a fthinly veiled version of the writer himself and the book opens as he is in the Rf and is getting demobbed where he struggles with getting a job in the field he is trained for from his RAF job as an engineer so struggling he takes the one job he can get as a teacher in an East end school. The school is eye opening for Ricky as the students aren’t ike he was as they struggle to read and learn this along with the fact he is constantly tease and disrupt with noise and other things by the students. Then he worries about the female students and their periods. This see him try a new approach where he want to show them there is more to life and with Gillian another young teacher he tries to show them Museums and the wider world. As the two teacher grow closer. His methods work but not everyone sees that as some prefer the old fashioned tough approach to the students and the way the behave.

The smells arose from everything, everywhere, flowing together and remaining as a sickening, tantalizing discomfort. They flowed from the delicatessen shop with its uncovered trays of pickled herrings, and the small open casks of pickled gherkins and onions, dried fish and salted meat, and sweaty damp walls and floor; from the fish shop which casually defied every law of health; from the Kosher butcher, and the poulterer next door where a fine confetti of new plucked feathers hung nearly motionless in the fetid air; and from sidewalk gutters where multitudes of flies buzzed and feasted on the heaped-up residue of fruit and vegetable barrows.

Braithwaite, E. R.. To Sir With Love (Vintage Classics) (p. 9). Random House. Kindle Edition later on the same and next page this evoked for me Call the midwife so much in this description of the smell of the East End!!

This is a book that opens the eye to attitudes in post war Britain and how they changed for Braithwaite character from the time he was in the RAF in the war where he felt that he was an equal the shocking crash to earth afterwards where the doors close. But that lead to him teaching and that was a passion he had all his life. I loved the descriptions in the book of theEast End of the day it was similar in feel to the early series of Call the midwife in fact as I reed through the book I imagine the class full of the students and kids seen in that show. It shows what one person can do to change those pupils life it is a look at the old system of teaching that was around discipline to what were newer ideas to nourish and inspire pupils which is what I always try to do here. I really want to watch the film which I haven’t seen or if I had I can’t remember this sits along side the early wind rush books as showing how it was to come to the Uk from Guyana or the Caribbean in those post war years when the were hopes for a better life often dashed like early in Ricky’s time but some do like Ricky make a way and become a success.I would love to read another book that was written by one of his former pupils to see how he viewed the experience of Ricky teaching him. Have you read this book ?

Winstons score – -A an interesting ;book at post war Britain and education from a teacher struggling to teach and be accepted.

Phenotypes by Paulo Scott

Phenotypes by Paulo Scott

Brazilian fiction

Original title – Marrom e Amarelo

Translator – Daniel Hahn

Source – personal copy

Now I am back on the long listed books for the Booker international. This time it is a book from Brazilian writer Paulo Scott. I thought I had reviewed his earlier book nowhere people but I hadn’t when I looked back so this is the first book I have reviewed by him he studied public law and taught it for a number of years, he was also involved in student politics and was involved in the re-democratisation of Brazil. He has now written six novel and seven collections of poetry. This book use the tale of two brother to put under the spotlight the question of race in Brazil which is something I hadn’t know a lot about or thought much about.

I was an important researcher into the so-called hierarchy of skin colours on pigmentocracy and its logic in Brazil, on the perversity of colourism, on compensatory policies and their lack of understanding among Brazilian elites, that I’d advised NGO’s in Brazil, in Latin America and the rest of the world, that I’d consulted for Adidas, oh yes that’s right , Adidas the famous German-founded company making High performance sportswear, the man was foolish enough to emphasise, as if that were the high point of my biography, and did consider interrupting him, saying like hell did I ever consult for Adidas, That I’d merely acted as intermediary for an agency that did advertising for them

This was how he was introduced but also shows how facts can be twisted and rewritten so easily.

The novel focuses on Federico and his brother Lourenco. They have a father who is black and mother that is white.The brother  have a huge difference in the skin tones and are different Federico is much light in his skin tone than his brother he could pass as white as the book opens we see him in his late forties as he is the last member of a government appointment committee that is dealing with quotas in High education as he is introduced in the opening lines we see how much he has done but also maybe a bit up himself as he complains how they talk about him getting his name wrong a small project with Adidas that they seemed to think more important but as the project he is involved with grows he starts to question what is happening he grew up in Porto Alegre and hadn’t much been touched by race mainly due to his light skin tone and the fact he hadn’t been touch  by racism as much. But when events from within his own family and the fact that som thing that happens with his brothers family makes him question the nature of race but also how absurd some of the solutions to this problem can be and how maybe a software program isn’t the answer. This is a novel that asks to question the hard question of race and also look under the skin of a nation.

It isn’t a gremlin match day, but it’s the eve of the eleventh, the last day on which let December the Gremio team won the Intercontinental cup, the Toyora cup, the day on which, every month the Gremistas, en masse, go around in the club shirts to commemorate the historic victory. As it’s Friday, it’s not surprising to see a group of friends won’t be able to meet up in the Saturday marking the occasion in advance at domestic barbecues, in restaurants, in bars, on the streets

1983 was there greatest moment the home team of Porto Alegre not much to do with the story but I am a huge football fan so I like this celebration of that moment even after decades.

I enjoyed parts of this novel and in places not many I didn’t it felt as thou the message was more than the story at times.  I didn’t connect with, but the story it was telling is an important one and maybe in the use of a family it tackled it the best way as we see how the tone of the skin of each member of the family and also how they are viewed this is the question at the start does race effect the chance but then how do you deal with it the is a section where the program is mention then a fellow member of the group talks about skin tone as thought it was like the myriad of paint tones. What he is trying to do is lift the lid on the question of race in Brazil as Daniel explains in his after word this is hard to convey from one language to the next as it is a lot about the language used and maybe this is what is missed but I am not sure I like it in parts and others it wasn’t grabbing me. This is one I may reread at a later date and see if I connect more with it but in parts this is great the opening draws you in `and things like the discussion of the software has a touch of the comic at times. Then the family events around Federico niece grabbed me. race is a hard subject to tackle and for me a white male a hard subject to write from my perspective but I can see how hard this subject and how to make the system fairer is hard to tackle as it is so complex and this is an interesting insight into it. Have you read any books that try to tackle this subject.Have you a favourite novel around race ?

Winstons- score B a brave book about race

One in me I never loved by Carla Guelfenbein

One In me I never loved by Carla Guelfenbein

Chilean fiction

Original title – La estación de las mujeres,

Translator – Neil Davidson

Source – Review copy

One of the things many years ago that annoyed me at the time is when you discovered a writer you had enjoyed and then find they hadn’t anything else translated this is something that over the time I have been blogging happens a little less so it was great to get through the port another book from the Chilean writer the third to be translated and it is the second I will be covering here I loved her first book to be translated to English which came out in 2011 The rest in Silence. I did read the other book that was translated but never got round to reviewing the book In the distance with you although I did enjoy that as well so when this arrived I knew it would be one I like she is another of those great female latin American writers she has worked as the fashion editor and also the art director of Elie in Chile she has won a number of prizes and the title of this novel was The woman’s station in Spanish I prefer that to the English title myself.

My body unlike his, is expanding and collapsing alittle more each day, creasing, wilting, falling in on itself in weary rolls. Sometimes I hardly regonize it as mine

Someone else’s body is a place for your mind to go

Today is my fifty-sixth birthday. It’s ninein the morning and I’m sittingon a bench carved with Jenny Holzers texts. Phrases of hers gone onto t-shirts, golf balls, caps, mugs, and even comdoms. The bench is oin the public garden opposite the gates of Barnard college, where dozens of shameless butteflies flit in and out withkirts up to their crotch and backpacks of their shoulders. I watch them.

She mentions the comdom on the first page with her husband.

I love novels that are composed of vignettes or short stories and this is what we have here an interlinking collection of stories that take place in two-time frames in the present we have the story of a woman Margarita who is turning 57 that period in our lives where you are looking forward to your retirement and such. But her life is spun out of control by a number of events first her husband a teacher is having an affair but also the concierge in her building a young woman called anna has disappeared but was reading a book about how we can all disappear in America what has happened to Anna. Then an older friend ask her to help find someone that many years ago helped change the course of her life. Then we have a second thread around the poet Gabriela  Mistral and the letters she wrote in the late forties to her love Doris Dana add to this we discover that her young lover had a fling with another woman near her own age. An image far different from the one that was portrayed of Mistral all this is packed into a short novel and uses a number of styles part epistolary part spoken and part detective at times.

It is half past eleven one moning in this year of 1948. Light through the unopened letter is, Doris Dana can almost see it sinking into the counterpane of her unmade bed. Her head rings with the fish sellers unending whistling and the clatter of his cart on the cobbles. And woth the knife grinder’s howls “BRiiing out your kniiiiiives and scissoooors! she knows him. His name is Sid, and boasts of being the finest knife grinder in New york. She covers her ears with her hands then presses her fingertipsto her tired forehead. It is the third letter from Gabriela in five days. Or the fourth? she does not need to open it to know the words are bitter

I loved the lost nature of this opening to Doris’s story especially the word counterpane as someone i looked after used it all the time !

I loved the patchwork nature of this book it isn’t really about the plot more about glimpses into the private lives of a number of women over two different eras. That is why I prefer the Spanish title have we caught them at a point in their lives almost like being at the station where are we going there are many options and that is what is here piece of lives some answers, not all of them it is one of those books that leave you after you have read it filling in the gaps making you own conclusions and for me, this for some people is annoying it is like those films that don’t end with all the threads fastened in neat bows and that is because life isn’t neat and tidy it is about life and love lovers cheating husbands cheating people disappearing find someone once lost so many threads this is something I like in her other books and that is she is a writer that is able to squeeze so much into her writing it is intense and like one of those finger food collections where we have little versions of things that have the taste and feel of the bigger versions of what they are meant to be this is a micro view of these life just little bits small moments of Margarita life also what is happening round her then also the lovers in the late 1940s and a betrayal. Have you read any books by Carla Guelfenbein ? or another female writer from Chile ?

Winstons score – B a novella  with a yearning to be that Epic “honey I want be a big novel !! “

Home reading service by Fabio Morabito

Home reading service by Fabio Morabito

Mexican fiction

Original title – El lector a domicilio

Translator Curtis Bauer

Source – review copy

I take a break from all things German and one of those writers that I feel is at home in winstonsdad as the life of Fabio Morabito has seen him live in two countries and use two languages. Born in Egypt to Italian parents he grew up in Milan until his parents emigrated to Mexico when he was 15 although he didn’t speak much Spanish but learned and has since written all his books in Spanish. he has written four collections of Poetry and also four of Short stories. He has also translated a lot of Italian poetry into Spanish. He won one of Mexico’s biggest literary prizes with this novel.

I never knew if the Jimenez brothers had been married beofre. The thing now, as old men, they lived together like bachelors. Their home, and judging by the long hallway thart connected to living room to the rest of the house, it must have had lot of rooms, or at least I imagined it that way.

Luis, the one who looked a little dimwitted, was crippled andf seemed to be the older of the two. It was difficult to knpow if he really was dimwit or not. While I read out loud., he sat stifly in his wheelchair.

The opening lines as he read to the two brothers.

the book follows one man Eduardo he lives in the Mexican town of Cuernavaca. He has been sentenced to one year of community service and the task he has been given for his sentence is to read to the towns old people and disabled.  As his father says it was a misfortune that cause the sentence and loss of his driving license. So he sets forth to read to these people. So as he starts to read the books to his collection of listeners and in one case lip readers, he isn’t really absorbing books like Henry James or Dostoyevsky. to an odd cast of characters that makes up the people he has read to. People like the two brothers one mute that the other one speaks to a retired colonel (I was reminded a bit of Marquez, he had a lot of retired military men in his books) an opera singer in a wheelchair a deaf couple with hearing children. But as time moves of=n what happens is we start to see Eduardo a mna absorb in himself even though he lives in a crowd home with his father who is dying with cancer, his sister and a Celeste the women she looks after. But it is later on when he discovers his father had a long time ago Isabel Frarie as he reads this poetry it finally dawns on him all this reading and this poet’s words unlock a door. This is a tale of a man discovering a world he hadn’t seen that isn’t the violent Mafia lead world of his town.

What I was sure of is that Papa didn’t know Isabel Faire, and that it hadn’t ocurred to him that he could have known her. For all he knew, Isabel Faire could have died thrirty years ago or already have been dead when he’d started to read her poems.

I ;ooked for the poe Papa’d copied in his ledger and I found it right away. I wpndered of he’d copied the poem to read to margo. I took it out of my briefcase to compare it to the orignal.Papa’d copied it out perfectly without adding or omitting anything, and that unfailing fidelity made me sad.

As the door opens and he discovers his father like the poet Isabel Faire !

When this arrived I knew it would be one for me. Eduardo is a man that isn’t moving anywhere fast in middle age living with family it isn’t to this sentence sends him around meeting people he didn’t know was there and people that slowly along with the discover life in a book that mixes dark parts of the world they all live in but also past romance those people getting by day to day. so what we get is a mix of dark humor at times and discovery of his own family’s past through the poems his father had once slowly copied and spent time writing for a romance many years ago. Another interesting writer from Mexico. as it is described it shows the healing powers of words and how they can transform one man’s life. If you love poetry and fiction and the power they can have this is the book for you it shows how we can all be touched when the find that key to unlock the door to the library of literature. All through Eduardo’s eye an everyman for a lot of modern Mexican men stuck in a groove just above being a criminal. Do you have a favorite book that involves books and reading?

Winstons score – -A nearly perfect read.

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