Lord of all the dead by Javier Cercas

 

Lord of All the Dead

Lord of all the dead by Javier Cercas

Spanish fiction

Original title –  El monarca de las sombras

Translator – Anne McLean

Source review copy

I have reviewed five books by Javier Cercas before four novels and a work of non-fiction he is one of my favorite writers so I am always excited when new work has been translated into English by him. For me, he has a unique talent at telling an individuals story and using that one person’s tale as a wider view of his homeland from that of the storming of parliament in 1982 and the story Lt Col Telero or the tale of one mans lies in the imposter.  This is his latest book and a personal story of a family legend for Cercas last name is Mena and this is the story of Manuel Mena a favorite uncle of his mother that fought on the Republican side during the Spanish civil war.

Manuel Mena was born on April 25,1919. Back then Ibahernando was a remote, isolated and miserable village in Extremadure, a remote, isolated and miserable region of Spain, over towards the border with Portugal, The name of the place contraction of Viva Hernando; Hernando was a Christian Knight who in the thirteenth century contributed to conquering the moors from the city of Trujillo and incorporating it into the possessions of the king of Castil, who presented his vassel with adjoining lands as payment for services rendered to the crown,Manuel Mena was born there, his whole family was born there including his niece, Blanco Mena,including Blanco Mena son Javier Cercas.

A hundred years tomorrow was the birth of Manuel it seemed fitting to publish this review in time for this .

This was a story that Cercas had longed to tell about his own family hero. But in doing so he would have to accept his families past and the fact his father fought for the Franco side in the civil war. Manuel Mena has a lot of similarities to the young character in his book soldier of Salamis where the young man in that saves a leaders life and is a hero what here made Manuel Mena the family hero he was and this is what  Javier sets out to find out paint his early life in remote isolated town how he came from young boy to the man who in two short years left the village and died from wounds before his turned nineteen. Cercas finds that a man in a famous family photo of Manuel and his fellow soldiers. he interviews this man and finds out more how his uncle was injured and died in the largest battle of the war. Then another photo was taken as he posed with his cap to one side and looking relaxed before he went to the front. Cercas compares his uncle’s wartime service to That of Drogo in Dino Buzzatis work The Tartar Steppe or of a character in a work by Kis. He discovers a man caught in time and maybe we all have a family Hero.

The top two buttons of the jacket are left undone, as is the right brest pocket : this delibrate carelessness allows a better view of the white shirt and black tie , both similarely spotless. It is striking how thin he is; in fact, his body seems unable to fill out his uniform: it is the body of a child in the clothing of an adult.The position pf his right arm is also striking, with his forearm crossed in front of hisabdomen and his hand clutching the inside of his elbow, in that gesture does not seem natural but diocated by the photographer (we might also imagine the photographer suggesting the jaunty angle of the peaked cap, which cast a shadow over Manuel Mena’s right eyebrow) But what is most striking is his face, it is unmistakeably, a childish face, or at most adolescent

Manuel Mena in a photo is still a child in the army.

I was reminded in this novel of  my own family hero story of my own grandfather that served in the Africa and Italy during ww2 but told a story of a first aid box he constantly had during the war after getting in trouble for leaving it behind once the one story he told of his war really but he was on the cover of the telegraph liberating an Italian village with his fellow tank drivers . What Cercas does  is remind us how important these single stories of are the war every family has a Manuel Mena in there past and that is what reminds us how horrific a war is the loss of this pone boy barely an adult in his jaunty hat in the biggest battle of the civil war has a ripple effect that leads to this book to his mother grief at the loss of this beloved uncle she briefly knew. That ends with Cercas finding the battleground where his great uncle passed. I discussed this earlier on twitter and was told it was a favorite of a Spanish translator I said for me it was great but I still loved the Anatomy of a moment.

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The faculty of Dreams by Sara Stridsberg

The Faculty of Dreams

The Faculty of Dreams by Sara Stridsberg

Swedish fiction

Original title – Drömfakulteten

Translator – Deborah Bragan-Turner

Source – review copy

This is the second of the Man Booker longlist that wasn’t out at the time the Longlist came out. But it was brought forward and came out a few weeks after. Sara Stridsberg was trained as a Lawyer but decide she wants to be a writer. She won acclaim for her first novel Happy Sally wich liked this book focused on a real person in that book it was the first Scandinavian woman to swim the English Channel. She has also worked as a translator. She worked on the Swedish version of The SCUM Manifesto from the main character of this book Valerie Solanas. This book won the Nordic council literature prize the biggest prize in Scandinavian fiction

A hotel room in the tenderloin, San Francisco’s red-light district. It is Alril 1988 and Valerie Solanas is lying on a filfthy mattress and urine-soaked sheets, dying of pneumonia,Outside the window, pink neon lights flash and porn music plays day and night.

On April 30 her body is found by hotel staff. The police report states that she is found kneeling by the side of her bed( has she tried to get up?Has she been srying?) It states that the room is in perfect order, papers neatly piled on the desk, clothes folded on a wooden chair by the window. The police reports also states that her body is covered with maggiots and her death probably occurred around April 25

The opening is the sad end of this poor womans life.

This book is a novel that tries to build a life for the radical feminist Valerie Solanas. She wrote the radical SCUM Manifesto. That put forward the theory that Man had ruined the world and it was up to the woman to mend the world and get rid of all the men. The society of cutting men as it stood for. This follows her life from her tough childhood where she was abused and ended up at a young age on the streets battling to get to college and how to see ended up in the New York her life is a mix of ups and downs and also a lot of mental illness so she never quite seems to have control of her world and even some of her friends like cosmo and silk boy verge on being surreal the action is told in conversations with Valerie both with the likes of Andy Warhol whom she had sent a play to that was too graphic for even him. She even ended up with a part in one of his films. She was on the verges of his factory scene. But that leads to what is maybe what she was most famous for and that was trying to kill him after she had a turn and want the script back she had sent him years earlier and shot him. There is clips of the trail what Stridsberg tries to build is a fuller picture of this deeply troubled woman. Her frequent visit to mental hospitals shows how fragile she was.

The Narrators

A. A heart full of black flies. The loneliness of a desert. Landscape of stones. Cowboys. Wild mustangs. An alaphbet of bad experiences.

B. Blue soke on the mountains. I am the only sane one here.There were no real cowboys. There were no real pictures. I vacuumed all the rooms; the dust was still there. I cleaned all the windows; I still could not breathe. It had something to do with the construction. The sun burned through the umbrellas.

C. The american film. The camera’s lie’s. World literature’s. America was a big adventure with its unreal blue mountains, its desert landscape.

The books has couple of alphabets like this one.

I was aware of Valerie mainly as she is part of the song cycle that Lou Reed and John Cale did for the songs of Drella which mentions Valerie and what happened with Andy. Sara has tired here to maybe make her seem a slightly more complete person rather than have that one event be the epitaph of her life. This pieces her life from her abuse and living her family and the times on the streets which meant she sold her body and also it fixed those ideas which she wrote about in her Manifesto as all men as a rapist. Her view was extremes but this shows how they were formed by her own life which was tragic. She also recently featured in an Episode of American horror story the cult series but this is maybe the best version of her life it brings a cinematic view of her life. I was reminded of some French novels of recent years that also take a real person as the central figure and build a novel around it from HHHH to The adversary and build a life narrative like that.

Winstons books some recent arrivals

I haven’t done an arrival post for ages anyway here are a few recent books I have been sent or I have brought my self.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I never got my copy of this just think it was lost in the post.  I have been waiting a while so I decide to buy this as I am a huge fan of her writing this is a novel that features two stories that mirror each other in a way I have already read the first half when it arrived this afternoon. I love this cover as well which suit the first story so well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An arrival from QC is always exciting this slim novel is about a woman’s life and a novel about her life blurs together her lover dream of prague as always I have high hopes for this as I haven’t read a bad novel from QC and so much of contemporary Quebacian fiction is cutting edge and appeal to me as a reader.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next, a new arrival from Maclehose press The office of Gardens and ponds follows a village when there Master carp catcher suddenly drowns putting the future of the lives in the village and the palace that takes there carp. Written by the Secretary General of the academie Gincourt and is also a member of the Academie de marine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another Maclehose title here and the sequel to Roy Jacobsen The unseen, back on the island of Barroy we see Ingrid trying to save her lover from being caught by the Germans as Norway is no under there rule and she saved the man from a bomb ship and now has to try and get by.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have been seeing that the Scottish publisher Vagabond voices bringing a number of books in translation out so I had a look at some of them and this one appeals to me shortlisted for the Russian booker it follows a Russian Estonian man and an Indian man in a Danish refugee camp their daily lives in the 90’s  and life on the road as they  dream of other places. Based on Ivaanov own experience as a stateless man in Denmark in the 90’s

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I saw a recent post from Messy bookers blog about a Carlos Fuentes novel Old gringos   I remarked it had been a while since I read him well looking back I had one review from him and have a few books but decided to add a few this one I had my eye on a while is a retelling of the Dracula story transport to Mexico city as Fuentes says ten million blood sausages (people) and a police force that  won’t mind a few disappearances

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The other is an epic his tenth novel is narrated by a baby in the womb just before the 500th anniversary of Columbus discovering the new world comic work this sounds different.

Have you had anything exciting to arrive at your house recently?

 

The capital by Robert Menasse

The Capital

 

The Capital by Robert Menasse

Austrian  fiction

Original title – Dia Hauptstad

Translator – Jamie Bulloch

Source -review copy

Robert Menasseis an Austrian writer. He studied German studies, philosophy and political science then after that he lectured in Brazil. He published his first novel just as he left Brazil. Since returning to Europe he has written a number of books which have He have recurring theme loneliness and alienation. What he also sees as the growing antisemitism in the German-speaking world.  He has been translated into twenty languages this book won the German book prize and is considered the first book to look at Brussels as the capital of Europe. Menasse moved to Brussels in 2010 so he could be part of a man-made world that is the EU.  I reviewing this as part of Blog tour tomorrow is David 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fenia Xenopoulou hd started off in the Directorate-General for competition. The commissionor, a Spaniard, had been clueless. But each commissioneris as good as theor office and she had stood out as an outstanding element of a perfectly functioning office. She got divorced. She had neither the time nor inclination to have a man sitting in her Brussels apartment every second- or later every third or fourth- weekend, or to visit him in Athens and listen to him gossip about athenisan sociey and puff on cigarettes like a caricature of a noveau riche. She had married a star lawyer and ended up throwing a provincial solicitor out of her aprtment!

Fenia is a high flyer after the her first post but then this jobs tests her.

The Captial starts with a Pig on the loose in the city as part of a protest about exporting pigs to China. A greek eurocrat Fenia Xenaopoulou’s is given a new job in the dread directorate-general for Culture is ask to do a celebration for 50th anniversary of the EU an idea. She spends time thinking of what to do and comes up with the idea of Auschwitz . Elsewhere we see David an elderly man move into a nursing home he is a Holocaust survivor who last saw his parents on a train to Poland. An economist Professor Ehart is in Brussels from Vienna trying to sell his Utopian view of the way Europe should move forward. Elsewhere we see an inspector and a Polish hitman circle each other. The is so brilliant piece of observation like when Fenia is given the job and one by one the other people around the table in the group to decide the big part leave with just her left to sort it out. Then a piece that said every Austrian politician says the love the book “a man without qualities”. I could see Thomas Bernhard laughing at this quote.

But I’d like to run through it with you, minister. The personal questions, suchas your favourite boo.

What do you suggest?

It’s a traditional in Austria for politicians to ment the man without qualties. You can’t really opt for a lesser work. And living authors are stictly taboo. People don’t want living authors.

Alright then, Let’s be good Austrians. The man without qualties.Kreisky loved that book as far as I recall.

And sinowat, Kilima and Gusenbauer.

Only socialists ?

I was remind of that desert island with David Cameron that seemed as thou it was done by comittee to appeal to a certain type of people.

We stand 40 odd days away from pulling the plug on us being in Europe. This isn’t a book by a Euroskeptic writer no this is a book about the madness that is the city and the world of the Eu, yes it is a huge monster but at its heart is the principles it was born in that is a greater Europe and yes Auschwitz is a mad choice to celebrate it there but in a way Menasse choice of there is at the heart of what his book is about and that is the divergent route we now face as people in Europe that is moving forward together or get caught up in a far-right xenophobia anti-semetic view of Europe we see it in every country and Maybe yes in looking back at what happened in the Holocaust in this tongue  in cheek way is an eye-opening way. Brussels is the capital of chaos in a way from pigs on the lose bizarrely pigs in  Europe is a recurring theme in the book. This takes satire and the nonsense that follows it in a place like the EU and uses it well I was remind of the pig in the English film A private function which like this also had a celebration at its heart and a pig being kept the secret then on the loose. Another tale of how twisted bureaucracy can get. Read David’s  and the other reviews this week for this book coming out.

A long night in Paris by Dov Alfon

A Long Night in Paris

A long night in Paris by Dov Alfon

Israeli fiction

Original title –  לילה ארוך בפריז

Translator – Daniella Zamir

Source – review copy

I was sent this and usually maybe not into thrillers. As a youngster, I read more thrillers my father is a huge fan of the genre so growing up there was always a thriller around to read if I want. In recent years the only thriller writer I have read in English is Le Carre being a huge fan of the BBC versions of his smiley works in the 80s  I have read his books from time to time so when Dov Alfon work was compared to that of Le Carre it made me want to read it then when I saw Alfon himself had served in the 8200 unit on top of that had been editor of Ha’aretz the leading Paper in Israeli I knew this book would be one that was relevant and true to life.

Nine people witnessed the abduction iof Yaniv Meidan from Charles de Gaulle airport, not including the hundreds of thousands who watched the security camera footage once it had been posted online.

The intial report of the French police described him as ” an Israeli passenger, approximately twenty years old”, although a week earlier he had celebrated his twenty fifth birthday. His colleagues described him as “Mischievous”, some calling him “Childish”. They all agreed he was “Fun-loving”.

The opening chapter and the sense of how far info goes is caubght in the line about the camera footage !

A night in Paris opens when a young man a marketing man for a software company disappears with a woman in a sexy red dress after arriving at harle de Gaulle. Then another passenger from the same flight happens to disappear from his hotel room. The French police assign Commissaire Leger to sort the case. But also on the same flight, the two arrived on is the new head of 8200 unit Colonel Zeec Abadi Like Alfon that wrote the book is from Tunisia and had family in Paris he is on the way to visit his mother so he contacts his deputy in Tel-Aviv  lt Oriana Talmor to try and get info on the victims and what is happening to lead to the third side of the story a bunch of Chinese commandos sent and using the woman in red to get hold of certain people in the hold of certain facts. As the night goes on the bodies pile up and even in Tel-Aviv the deputy has trouble after falling out at a meeting and then she is subject to an attempt to be rape only saved by the fact she is very good a Krav mag. A long day will Zeev get to the kidnap victims back.

Oriana hoovered above Paris. She knew it was Paris because she could see the Eiffel tower below, and Abadi was waving to her. She landed softly beside him, like tinker bell. She wore a short, peach-coloured dress but she was not cold; it was a beautiful day with as blue a sky as only a dream might conjure. She asked Abadi weren’t supposed to be in uniform. Abadi said no. He was wearing a three piece suit but had fins on his feet; he told her they were going diving into the seine to find Rav Turai Yerminshi’s body and that she was dressed prefectly for the mission

THe two in aParis search for the second kidnap victim as they aim to search the river!

I like this it has a wonderful flow t the tale it is told in 120  short chapters each a little tale in itself as we wind our way around Paris and find out what is really happening it has some great thriller touches Zeev the main man has a touch of Bond and Smiley maybe more of the Smiley side the 8200 unit collects data and codes and is the leading technical unit of its sort in the world. That is what Alfon has caught this is maybe a new line in the thriller with China as the enemy. We also see technology and information as the new currency in the spy world. The place is something that is covered well here Paris is a great backdrop to the night of action here as we move around the city’s arrondissements. Every main character in a thriller needs his back team and in Oriana, he has a modern woman that has sharp wits and is his only ally at this moment.So all the box are tick for a great thriller add to that black suit Chinese commandos with heat seeking bullets you have great thriller it has been sold to make both a film and Tv series in Israeli. This is what Steve Jobs would have written as a thriller or Bill gates this is the modern thriller for the tech age where what we think and the information is paramount.

Katalin Street by Magda Szabo

Katalin Street by Magda Szabo

Hungarian fiction

Original title – Katalin utca

Translator – Len Rix

Source – review copy

I am surprised I hadn’t reviewed Szabo already I had read the doo and Iza’s Ballad and had enjoyed both but it seems they may have both gone unreviewed. So I start with the latest of her books to be translated into English this is a new translation there was a translation a number of years ago but this is by Len Rix who has also translated The door by her. Szabo wrote post world war two and her initial works saw her fall foul of the Communist authorities in Hungary which meant she lost he job in the ministry and became a Teacher for a few years at a girls school.

Henriette always insisted that she had a perfectly clear memory of the day they moved into Katalin Street, but that could have hardly been true. If by “remember” she meant thing she could directly recall herself, then that extended only to the h=general upheavel and excitement, the train going over the bridges and the facesof one or two people who would play key roles later on in her life. Everything else had been told by her parents, by the Eleke’s family, or by Balint, who was the oldest of the four children and the one with the clearest recollection of events. Likewose, with the exception of a single sentence, her “recollection” of what had been said on that day had also come down to her, in all its detail, through her parents or the other children, she had after all, been just six years old when they moved from the country

The opening of thw 1934 section and the arrival of the Held’s on the street.

This is a tough book to get into. It is a strange collection of voice we come across in the opening. We here about the Elekes family Mrs. Elekes and the children of Katalin Street Balint, Iren and Blanka the sister of Balint who ends up in Greece telling her story and adding the story of Henriette Held the daughter of the \jewish Dentist. Then the novel becomes more straightforward as we have a number of different years that follow the children of the street from 1934. That is when the Jewish Held arrive on the street and quickly become part of the street Iren gets a gold card from her teacher her father is the head teacher much to the dismay of her sister Blanka the sort of wild younger sister the children of Major  Balint. Blanka notes Balint always had a thing for Iren. This is shown when the two of them get together. The father the Major tries to help the Held’s but is unable to stop them going to the deaths. Blanka is horrified by the war and post-war is a different person as we see via the Balint now a doctor working at the same hospital as Blanka. the street itself in 1956 is having a facelift as the old house they all lived has changed. The next two sections round of the stories of the Eleke’s parents, Iren their daughter the youngest now in Greece and son of the Major. Also, the spirit left behind of the young Henriette Held is there seeing the post-war times.

Even today I don’t understand why it was only then, and not much earlier, that I realised I was jealous of Henriette. Ever since she had moved into the street she had somehow belonged not just to all of us but especially Balint. That he had never smacked her as hard as he did either Blanka or Me was not in itself surprising, She wasn’t the sort of person you would ever want to hit, being so quiet and timid, and the smallest of the three, There was a certain pleasure in slapping Blanka, in pinching her leg ir smacking her bottom, but it was never like that with Henriette.

Iren remember the fragile Henriette in 1944 when she dies like her parents.

I was reminded of when I was a child and would get a jar or bucket full of creatures from a rockpool and watch them over the coming days some lived others as I was too young to know to need the changing tide to feed and were trapped in that rockpool I had caught them in. This novel like that Bucket is a microcosm of the rockpool. Szabo has gathered together four children and the parents like the little fish and shell creatures of the rockpool and we watch them over time. The events they see have changed Budapest and its own Microcosm forever from the end of the great Austro Hungarian years in 1934 till the shadow of the Nazi and the loss of the Held’s echoing so many others in the city. The post-war years and people like Blanka seeing the world with eyes afresh after the war and being changed by the war and what she saw. Szabo gathers the horror and the post-war communist suffering of Hungary. in fact, this novel is maybe one that needs reading now as we see the suffering of both sides here and the world before that in a brief glimpse at what was a better world before the chaos of the Nazi and Soviet eras of Hungary. Not the easiest book to get into but worth the last two-thirds of the book. Have you read Szabo or have you a favorite Hungarian writer?

My Name is Adam by Elias Khoury

My Name Is Adam_TPB.jpg

My Name is Adam by Elias Khoury

Lebanese fiction

Original title – Awlad AL-Ghetto- Esme Adam” (أولاد الغيتو- اسمي آدم)

Translator Humphrey Davies

Source – review copy

Well I haven’t reviewed a novel by Elias Khoury in a while. I reviewed While you were sleeping and Yalo a few years ago. I am a huge fan of his work he has a wonderful way of capturing the world he lives in and is lauded as a future Nobel winner and one of the leading voices of his generations of Arabic fiction. This latest book he uses a modern writer to look back at the moment in 1948 when the world around his home fell apart. This book is the second time he has tackled the 1948 conflict but this time from a whole new angle.

These notebooks came into my possesion by coincidence, and I hesitated at the length before deciding to send them to Dar Al-Abab in Beiruit for publication. To be hionest, the reason for my hesitation lay in that ambigous feeling that combines admiration and envy. love and hate, I had met the writer and hero ot htese text. Adam Dannoun or danoun in New York, where I reach at the university. I remember I fold my Korean student how good looking I thought he was . It was towars the end of Feburary2005.If memorey serves me correctly.

This is a clever book which sees the writer himself Elias Khoury looking into fictional writers notebooks. This happens when the man Adam Damnoun he is an old man who grew up in the early years of the founding of Israeli but eventually left there and fled to the US. He strangely for an Israeli strangely end up in New York working in a restaurant serving Middle-eastern dishes where his path crosses the real-life Khoury the two talk but when Adam sees A version of one of Elias books as a film,  he storms off and that seems to be it. But when this old man dies in a fire his lifetime of notebooks falls into the hands of Elias Khoury. What we see is Khoury reading and pulling into shape this mans past and his family connection to the events that happened in 1948 around the city of Lydda an infamous massacre and what was his families part in it! The tough times that the 1948 conflict had on everyone on each side. What was his true / past is he the man Khoury thinks he was or had Adam been someone else in the past and just rewritten his history. Was the man Khoury got to know as Adam really an Israeli or Palestinian.

As my mother told the tale, I was born in thrist. Now, as I write about that woman who vanished from my life when I was fifteen, I don’t know whether her lips were indeed cracked in Parallel, straight lines, or of it is the image of thirst, which has pursed me since childhood, that transforms her thirsty lips whenever I recall her.

She was my mother, and she was Manal, daughter of Atif Suleiaman, f the village of Eliabourn in Galiee. When I remember her , I say “Manal was …” for to me she’s like the first word in a sentence that was never completed. After I left the house at fifteen to work in Mr Gabriel’s garage in Haifa, I discovered that the woman passed through my life like a sigh of wind, leaving behind her nothing but her world of stories,

The stories of his mother and his mix together in this book.

I love the framing device here of the fictional meeting of these two men of similar age one that is a clever device for Khoury telling the story of 1948 from another angle. The point when Adam runs off and losses contact with Khoury is when he saw the Film version of Khory’s book A gate of the sun which is another book dealing with 1948. So when Khoury starts working through the notebooks of Adams history and tales of his families life through the same time he gives light to another voice and another world from Adams perspective. This is the first in a collection of novels by Khoury called the Children of the Ghetto a nod to Lydda which is where the first ghetto in the region as the native Palenstines called it.

Lampedusa by Pietro Bartolo and Lidia Tilotta

Lampedusa.jpg

Lampedusa gateway to Europe by Pietro Bartolo and Lidia Tilotta

Italian Memoir

Original title –  Lacrime di sale

Translator – Chenxin Jiang

Source – review copy

Its take a while to get to this book. I did stat it when I was sent it last year but it got put to one side as I got caught with other books. Which was a shame as I was enjoying the few pages I had read? The book is written by Pietro Bartolo the doctor in the Island Clinic on Lampedusa. Where he has treated and helped many of the refugees that have arrived on the coast from North Africa. He was helped by RAI journalist Lidia Tilotta in writing this book.

One red shoe on Favaloro Pier. That one shoe and so many others like it lie there, scattered like pebbles in a trail thatleads nowhere, breaking off abruptly like the migrants”hope of coming ashore in a different world. Those shoes appear in my nightmares. So do all the little pendants, necklaces, and braclets on all the tiny bodies I examine. It is my job to unzip them, one by one, from those horrible green bags.

Pietro haunt by those dead childs bodies he has to see day after day.

The book is formed of a number of short memoir pieces as Pietro as he describes the world he lives in where he runs the clinic on Lampedusa. Where he has treated and seen most of the quarter of a million refugees that have arrived on boats to this small Italian Island over the last 25 years in a growing number. From the deaths hitting home in the second piece which talks about the one read shoe that he sees on the beach. For me, it evokes the famous words from Hemingway bay shoes for sale never worn. a single read shoe is all that is shown of a life lost at sea. Then we see his own life his father and the boats they took to sea in. Two women in another tale Faduma and Jerusalem one from Somalia and the other a younger one from Eritrea as he tells there tales Faduma 37 seems much older paralyzed struck by the emotional and mental trauma of her life. Then Jerusalem 15 thinks she may be with child but thankfully this young girl tyha\t thinks she is a woman isn’t. Each is touching brutal images a bay found attached to the mother still by the umbilical cord both buried with a teddy that Pietro had put in it. One man and his island trying there best to get the best care for these new arrivals but struggling under the sheer numbers at times.

Faduma: aged thirty-seven, Somali. Jerusalem: aged fifteen, Eritrean. The list grows longer. My USB drive fills up every day with names and faces of women, some of whom are adults, other little more than children. Mothers, daughters, wives. I catalgue their names and preserve their stories with merticulousness of an archvist.

I do this because I do not want them to be forgotten. I travel all over Europe telling their stories , and I want to give each of them the space they deserve. I do not want to leave any of them put. I hope their gripping tales will help people to understand what is happening . They have certainly helped me understand what has changed over the years, and what kinds of problems we can expect to confront.

The tale of two women and their world is what Pietro is trying to keep alive when he talks to people or here has written about them.

There have been a few books about the situation in Lampedusa but this one is very touching from a man that has been at the heart of the crisis that is facing Lampedusa. The mix of his own past and the present flesh out him and those near him. This is a man that has sen a trickle of people from around the world tries to enter the promised land of Europe via boats some not even getting there in overcrowded boats or just being too worn down by getting to the coast of North Africa. Form Africa and places like Syria. His clinic has been a become of hope but as the local mortician, he sees everyone as he records all the people he has seen over the years to his USB. A crisis that hasn’t really been given the full coverage of the Horrors they have to endure. I remember the shock of the Vietnam boat people ok the journey was long but these short journeys are so dangerous and the dream isn’t there for most. I

Tropic of Violence by Nathacha Appanah

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Tropic of Violence by Nathacha Appanah

Mauritian fiction

Original title – Tropique de la violence

Translator – Geoffrey Strachan

Source – review copy

I often wonder when I review a book from one of the more unusual places around the world if I will ever review another book by the same writer. That was what I wondered over the years when I reviewed Nathacha first book to be translated into English The last brother that was eight years ago , I had seen a copy of another of her books had come out in the US last year which I had been looking at getting so when this dropped through my letterbox I was excited to be reading her writing again. This is set on another French colony of Mayotte which at the time I wrote the review of The last brother she was living of the island of Mayotte this is from her experiences of this distant island.

She points to one of the baby’s eyes. I don’t understand, i can see nothing , the baby’s asleep. ashe becomes impatient, she points to her two eyes, then to mine, then to those of the baby. Oh, is your baby blind ? She shakes her head vigorously ad suddenly the baby begins to wriggle, smacks its lips once or twicce, as if it is searching for the nipple and the young woman holds it out to me as you might do with something theat both frightens you and disgusts you. I don’t know why I take this baby that’s being handed to me and the infant stretches out in my arms and this warm little body snuggling up to me is wonderful, The child opens its eyes. the mother shriks back against the bed.

His mum is scared of him due to his eye colour but what happened to this young woman.

This is the tale of a sons journey to discover who he really is the story opens with Marie she is a nurse the books opens with her story of a failed marriage and her not having her child with her husband this is how she ended up in Mayotte working as a nurse in the frontline of the city so when one day a Baby that has one green and one dark eye that his teen mother feels has the curse of the Jinn on it Marie adopts this baby. She calls him Moise for the first few years of his live everything is great he is in a private school a dog called Bosco after his adoptive Mums favorite writer Henri Bosco. But he is a teen and being raised in this all-white world in a way he knows he is different he questions his background. Then the worst happens his world falls apart when Marie dies so the young boy takes his mom backpack and the boy and the river and sets of to Gaza the large Slum near the capital of Mayotte this brings him into conflict with the head of a local gang Bruce he also meets a policeman Called Oliver and a volunteer called Stephane as the young man tries to discover his past but also tries to survive in the present as Bruce sees him as bad as the white people that come to the  slum to help out.

La Teigne told me about you, he told me he’d met a Black Muzungu but he thought you were African, a proper negro, one of them who wears shirts and trousers and speaks Frenc, not one of them dying in the gutter in rwanda, the Congo or Somalia. He said you followed him everywhere like a dog, that you put your hand into your pocket without a second thought and you were  called Mo and had a weird eye. Weird that’s the word he used, the dumb bastard.

Bruce in Gaza the Slum when Mo first goes there and is seen in a certain way by them.

This has some similar traits to the earlier books a boy struggling for identity which was a thread in the earlier book The last brother. Another common theme is that of identity her it another boy struggling with his childhood and being different. This has been a theme of many books of the years. There is something Dickens at times the story of Moise fits neatly into a Dickens-like story adoption having a good life the losing it could almost be Great Expectations. There is also something a bit Magic realist to this as well the sense of Moise journey that reminded me at times of Marquez writing that sense of viewing the world the way he did is something that we see with Moise.Also the thread of the book by Henri Bosco a writer I haven’t read yet but will be doing at some point.  There is something of a commentary on the place itself Mayotte. This distant colony has struggled with its large refugee population slums which have led to riots on this far-flung piece of France. This won a  big prize for female writing in France the Prix Femina Des Lyceens a prize for Female fiction which is chosen from a shortlist of ten by high school kids.

Lost Empress by Sergio De La Pava

Lost Empress_HB.jpg

 

Lost Empress by Sergio De La Pava

US fiction

Source – review copy

I don’t often review non-translated titles these days. But there is maybe one writer I would always review it would be Sergio. Naked singularity was a great slice of modern America the madness and chaotic world of the legal system. So when I saw this book took two more uniquely American themes. That of Sport, which for me as a none American has always fascinated me the way the stats to these sports become such an integral part of the sport. Also, the nature of Franchise in sport is an American idea that I hope doesn’t creep into UK sport. The second thread is Prison the overcrowd privatize nature of American jails is also a trending coming over here.

Legless woman runs out of time

A Bronx woman, who a decade ago lost her legs following a vicious assault by her boyfriend, was killed yesterday in the apartment of that same man, when he savagely beat her to death using one of her prosthetic legs.

Miranda Johnson, 39, apparantly crawled on he belly to dial 911 during the assault, but was then unable to speak into the line provide any information. 911 operator 7744 was unavailable for comment, but her inability to procure the information is beinf viewed ad a proximate cause of the tragedy.

One of the 911 calls, this had a slightly dark humour to it.

The book follows two lives. Nuno DeAngeles An inmate of Rikers Island that has been locked up apart from Dia who is the Love of Nuno life. But she Dia is the deputy of the other main character Nina She is the daughter of a wealthy sports team owner and had been running the Dallas Cowboys where she had to lead them to a number of championships. But when her father passes, she is only left with a small indoor football team the Paterson Pork.he arrives there and we see a glimpse of Paterson a town famous for the poems of Wiliam Carlos Williams and the recent film from Jim Jarmusch set there. So when her brother no in control of the Bigger Dallas cowboys gets greedy and causes a lockout of all NFL games. She tries to attract the crowds to watch the less popular Indoor game. Then we have Nuno who is a criminal that is on the ladder each time he commits a crime he is going up the ladder of the scale of crime so he wants to escape the prison to get to the money that he sees will get him back to Dia. These three lives are a slice of the various class and worlds in Modern America. Nuno is wanted to avenge a death of a young boy and this is why he has to get free to avenge a mistake in the justice system.. He is a strange character he asks for the books the Tunnel in Spanish and Man without qualities in German when first in prison. Add to this a third storyline some different items like 911 logs, pamphlets. Then we have a thrilling climax but I leave that to you to find out.

What the hell is Paterson, New Jersey anyway? That the pork are based there is close to happenstance. Their original owner, Marion Bent, a highly respected Mobster who was dogged by constant rumors that he had ties to egtimate buisness, had essentially exhausted what little community goodwill there wasfor his Edison Emperors.One night, or early morning, under the cloak of darkness(a cloak that was entirely unnecessary as no-one really cared), he loaded all Emperor chattel, most of which had already been heavily lienedon, into several company trucks whose acquisition involved more broken thumbs than Bent’s nearby littlest league catchers Camp nd translorted everything north into the welcoming arms of the then-Mayor of Paterson

How the team arrived at Paterson could never see an English fooball team moving town but who knows it has happened once !

I used to want to try the great American novel and over the years have read books that fall into this category. From Moby Dick through the Great Gatsby, Herzog the rabbit books the epics of Norman Mailer. I only fell down of Infinite Jest which is a shame as this book has a sports theme like that one did. But I did read Underworld which for me was the great American novel of the later 20th century and for me, Sergio is writing books that capture the Trump world of America the overblown nature of sports is shown here. The nature of the world were sports is overblown run by money. I was reminded of the film Idiocracy where the sport has become primitive and overblown over time. Nina shows how sports are run and when her team isn’t on tv it is unknown outside New Jersey she tries to get the contract to fill the void left by the lack of NFL. Then we Have Nuno and his prison his trying to help his cousin who had lost his son and felt justice hadn’t been done. Again like in Naked singularity bring the cracks in the US legal system to light like the myriad of podcasts that have appeared since Serial first came out a few years ago. When books capture the Zeitgeist of the time they may be called the great novel of that time and maybe this is what Sergio is doing in his books. This has a lot of threads and isn’t at the time the easiest to follow but if you want easy you’d not be reading this blog or trying a 600 page novel about indoor football in New Jersey and a prison break from the unbreakable Rikers Island!!

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