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.

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Lost Empress by Sergio De La Pava

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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!!

The Tree of the Toraja by Philippe Claudel

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The Tree of the Toraja by Philippe Claudel

French fiction

Original title- L’Arbre du pays Toraja

Translator – Euan Cameron

Source – review copy

I have been a fan of Claudel’s writing since I read Monsieur Linh and the child review it here a few years ago. Since then I have also reviewed his book Parfums. So when this dropped through the letterbox his latest book to be translated into English. I always think books and life sometimes run so close together it makes one wonder. As I struggle with my own grief and questions of life. I find that his latest book is about similar subjects being middle-aged and questioning what life was about.

We bury our dead. We burn them too. Never would we dream of entrusting them to the trees. Yet we lack neither forests nor imagination. Our beliefs, however have grown meaningless and inconsequental. We prepetuate rituals taht most of us would find hard to explain. In our world, nowdays we play down the presence of death. The people of Toraja make it a focal point of theirs. So which of us in on the right path

The lines where he questions whether we are right in trying to avoid death rather than celebrate it.

Our Narrator is a filmmaker as the book opens he is visiting The Toraja people of Indonesia their island home of Sulawesi. He arrived there after he heard about the custom they have of sewing inside the bark of the village tree the bodies of children that die within in the first few months of their lives. They are then placed in the tree bonding them with the tree. This is also tied with death on the island where it can take a year to organize a funeral of an adult that has died and to organize everyone coming. This is all in the bag when we see are narrator returning to his home and finding out that his close friend from school days Eugene is dying. This leads our narrator to question his life when his friend dies he starts to question his wider life and what death means. As this is the first death he has seen that isn’t by accident, old age or suicide. He has to take the time to question his own life. This involves meeting a younger woman in his apartment block. Slowly his life moves on as he thinks about a new project involving this younger woman in apartment 107  and finishing his film about the Toraja.

I have always been haunted by the words of Montaigne that “To philosophise is to learn how to die” and that “it is not death that is difficult but dying” I am not a sixteenth-century man, accustomed to epidemics, to wars, to the sudden and frequent loss of friends, paerents and children, and for whom a forty-year-old is already an old man.But his book we read affect us with the intensity of a knife thrust into an organ without the “Survival prognosis” – this is an expression that has always delighted me in that it ascoiates a light hearted subject, such as a horoscope, a racegoer’s prediction, a weather forecast, with a word that causes us to tremble like a leaf – being really life- threatening”?

How death has change the line when he was forty and an old man struck me as I don’t feel old and am in the later forties myself.

This was a very personal journey for me as a reader I really felt a real connection with the narrator. Firstly I was interested in the Toraja customs mention this of course lead me down a rabbit hole of death around the world via google. I took a similar journey after reading the white book by Han Kang. We all see death differently around the world and being I have read many books over the years touched with how we view death especially this last year or two. What Claudel shows us here are the different ways it is viewed. As the narrator questions various people about death from philosophy through his own media of films and writers like Kundera who his friend Eugene recite his book titles as he was near the end. This is a highly personal book you feel the Narrator is in some ways Claudel himself he is of that age when you can lose close friends to illness like Cancer. What he shows is what we all do what I have done since my mother’s death and that is to take stock on what is happening in my own life and what we do to carry on the narrator like me felt does he have the right to carry on. Maybe we should all be like the Toraja and celebrate death turning the end into a celebration then carrying on. This isn’t a light book but a thoughtful book and maybe one for a lot of us middleaged reader that taste death at close quarters for the first time !!

The shape of the ruins by Juan Gabriel Vásquez

 

The shape of the ruins by Juan Gabriel Vásquez

Columbian fiction

Original title – La forma de las ruinas

Translator – Anne McLean

Source – review copy

I read this a while ago but as the world cup unfold in the last week and it being Spanish Portuguese lit month I waited to review it. I have long been a fan of Vasquez books having reviewed three of his books. He uses the history of his country and has said he tries to avoid the Rhetoric of the Magic and marvelous Latin America. He has been on the IFFP shortlist in the past and his last novel in English the sound of things falling won the Impac award.

April 9 is a void in Colombian history, yes, but it is other things beside; a solitary act that sent a whole nation into a bloody war; a collectibe neurosis that has taught us to distrust each other for more than half a century. In the time that has passed since the crime we colombians have tried, without sucess, to comprehend what happened that friday in 1948, and many have turned it into a more or less serious entertainment and their time and energy have been consumedby it.There are also Americans – I know several – who spend their whole lives talking about the Kennedy asassination, its details and most recondite particulars

The parallels explained at the dr party early on in the book.

This book is in many ways the most personal book from Vásquez as the writer himself is at the center of the book. He is at a party held by Dr. Benavides a family friend when he meets another man Carlos Carballo over this evening they discuss a couple of events in the past of Columbian history an event the Carballo compares with the Kennedy assassinations of JFK and Robert. The first killing is that in 1948 of Jorge Gaitan a progressive liberal politician that was shot to death by Juan Sierra. This man was later killed by a mob. This assassination does echo the JFK and the killing of  Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby. Then an earlier killing of another liberal Leader and Senator who was hacked to death by two men in Bogota. We see Vasquez and the two other men look into their countries past. Carlos is a man that sees conspiracies and a long dark arm going through Columbia history. There are pieces of each story they discover have gone missing over the coming years. But we do see the spine of Gaitian in a Jar an eerie look at the death like those relics of the JFK Killing that leads those like Carballo to those wild theories of what happened. Along side this we see the everyday life of Vasquez the writer, his marriage, his wife giving birth. A man looking at his own countries dark past.

“My Father believed there’d been a second shooter” said Benavides,” At least for a time”

He was referring to one of the many conspiracy theories surrounding Gaitián’s assassinatin. According to this one, Juan Roa Sierra did not act alone on April 9: He was accompanied by another man, responsible for the other shots and one of the lethal bullets. During the 1950’s , the theroy of the second shooter was gaining groundm in large oart due to an uncntrovertible fact: one of the bullets that killed Gaitian had not appeared in the course of the autopsy”And of course, peoples imaginations does what it does said Benavides

Missing Bullets and other missing parts to the case lead to questions of what really happened.

I loved finding out about these two deaths this is what Vásquez does well as a writer and that draws you as a reader into his homeland’s history. This shows that everywhere has it conspiracies There is many Carlos and also many people like the Dr and Juan that are drawn into uncovering these stories of their own countries dark past. The feeling of him diving down the rabbit-hole of these deaths does remind me of the interviews and claims Oliver Stone made around the time he made JFK the parallels of these stories with the US killing is easy to see there are gaps in each story that can draw people into making their own stories of what happened. The character of Uribe in a twist back to Marquez was the person he based Aurelio Buenida in 100 years of solitude. So as England face Columbia tonight maybe you could try a great novel from there.

Daša Drndić, At true great of European fiction has passed.

The pic is of Dasa when I meet her the day at the IFFp in 2013 when her first book to be translated into English. Trieste had been shortlisted for the prize. I had a good half hour chat that evening with her. She told me about how the Italian edition of the book Trieste had a tear-out section of the list of names of Jewish people killed in Italy and the idea was that people could take out a name they knew and over time as the pages went like the losses of the people the book became unstable like the loss of all those voices on society. This is a perfect example of the power of her as a writer. I have reviewed the three books she has been translated into English they are Trieste, Leica Format and Belladonna. She also paid me the highest compliment in say she had read my blog, although I could do with an editor she said. She also commented a few times on the blog which for me was touching. Her books dealt with big subjects and showed the brutal heart of Europe a writer that needs to be read. I’m sorry to hear of her passing today and remember a warm summers day I meet her a number of years ago. Her words when her last book was up for the Croat book of the year sum her views up well.

We live in a very sick time, in a time that destroys spirit, thought, freedom, individuality, joy, beauty, knowledge, and love, and at the same time destroys ourselves. Just like a carcinogenic pancreas, whenever it eats the bodies surrounding it, it disappears alone. To those who write this topic to pretek. Within this globally collapsing, decaying world (the world), floats countless stories of small and large, known, unknown, for literature more than enough. After all, those who read (and increasingly reads a leafy, quick and easy digestive book with enough additives to absorb the original flavor of ‘material’) are at least at times privy to their voyeur passion, a foolish fool, in English called the ‘pacifier’. So the everyday life remains cloudy, and the imaginative readers are unaware of their existential limbo.(a google translation but gets the spirit of her words)

 

The blind spot by Javier Cercas

 

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The Blind spot by Javier Cercas

Spanish Essay

Original title -El punto Ciego

Translator – Anne Mclean

Source – review copy

I am loving the fact that in recent years there has been more and more non-fiction lit book been translated into English. This time it is one of my favorite Spanish writers Javier Cercas. I have featured his novels on the blog before four of them all of which have made me question what a novel is? This is in part the question he answers or tries to answer in this book. This book is formed from a series piece he had read or written before thus formed into a book-length essay on various aspects of the novel.

In 209 I published a book , called The anatomy of a moment, which at the time the Majority if Spanish readers did not consider a novel; I myself, althoug I knew or felt that it was a novel, would not allow my editor to present it as one. Why?

Anatomy explores a decisive momnet in the recent history of Spain. It happened the last time we Spaninards practised our national sport, which is not football as tend to think, but Civil war or , failing that a coup d’etat; at least until very recently; after all, up until very recently all experiments with democracy in Spain were ended by Coup d’etat, to such an extent that in the last two centuries there were more than fifty of them.

I loved the football piece in this opening to a chapter about his book on the 1981 coup attempt.

The first thing that captures in this book is the cover which depicts the great white whale of Moby Dick and is the same cover as the Spanish version of the book. The points that Cercas fix on is one the Blind spot of the title in the Novel. That is the question in some books that seem central to the book that can go unanswered the perfect example of this is Quixote where Cercas points out, the question is Don Quixote crazy or Not. Other examples are for Example in Kafka trial what is Josef K exactly accused off! Waiting for Godot the blind spot is Godot himself. The more Cercas mentions examples the more I thought of myself I thought of the blind spot of what is happening to Europe in regards right-wing politics in Dasa Drndic Belladonna(I choose a fellow Maclehose book as this for me was an example I thought of when reading this piece.) Then he also asks the question which I have asked at times and that is about his book The Anatomy of a moment and how you classify a novel like this which walks the line between being reportage, history, and fiction. I go back to the word I was told there is in Slovenian for just good writing that defies categories. He also mentions books like HHHH and in cold blood, also New Journalism which was started by the likes of Tom Wolfe and expands this into a third novel for on top of the two that he had heard Milan Kundera. These are the digressive novel like Quixote and the second the realist novel with books from Zola and Dickens. Cercas says the third movement is writers like Calvino and Perec as he says Postmodern Narrative and may the anatomy of a moment belongs here.

Let’s get back to the question of form.

Vargas llosa considers himself a realist writer, This means in short, that each one of his novels aspires ideally to cinstruct a fictious reality as powerful and persuassive as real reality, a hermetic world fabricated out of words in which to enclose the reader under lock and key to make him live through a vicarous experince. That is Vargas Llosa objective, and to that objective the moral framework and formal arrangment of all his novels are subordinated.

A piece about Llosa and in particular his debut novel The time of the hero

As you can see I loved this essay series as it was one of those books that made me as a reader want to discover more about the books discussed in the essays. But also in a way found some answers to my own blind spots as a reader of Cercas work and that is how he views his own worker, in particular, The anatomy of a moment which for me when I read it eight year ago this week early on in the life of this blog was one of the books that drove me forward as a blogger as it was such a clever novel and since then it has led to  a quest for me as a reader to push the boundaries of what we call fiction in the books I read  and also what drives us as readers. Also to what connects books from different places like Cercas highlights here  with the blind spot is an example of a thread that can link a lot of great books together from around the world.

 

After the winter by Guadalupe Nettel

After the winter by Guadalupe Nettel

Mexican fiction

Original title – Después del invierno

Translator – Rosalind Harvey

Source – personnel copy

I move on to Mexico today and a rising star of Mexican fiction. I had reviewed an earlier novel by Guadalupe Nettel The body where I was born a couple of years ago.This book won the Preimo Herralde one of the leading prizes for Spanish language fiction. Her books have been translated into ten languages. She also featured in the group of writers picked for Bogota 39 for the best Latin American writers under 39 in 2007.

I became Ruth’s lover convinced that in terms of love I was handicapped. At first, my attraction to her was minimal. I was seduced in large part to her elegance, her expensize shoes and perfume. I met her one evening at my friends Beatriz’s house, a swedish woman who had emigrated to New York at the same timeas I had, and who shows in a couple of SoHo galeries. Betriz has a loft decorated with funiture from the 70’s she has collectedfrom garage sales she often goes to.

Claudio on how he meet his older woman Ruth.

The story focus on two people first we have Claudio a young Cuban living in New York. Her has a rather small flat that opens out in to a wall. But it is the location of the flat that is the bonus Manhatten then he is in a relationship with an older woman Ruth. He has a strange relationship with her where he is in control of there relationship. He is a man of rigid habits he is a book editor, A man above overs in his ways sometimes. We meet Cecilla a young Mexican woman who has come to Paris to study literature. This young woman is drawn to the great graveyard of Pere-Lachaise. He flat overlooks this graveyard. she spends time wandering looking at the famous grave Chopin being one of them. I am always amazed how often Chopin crops up in books. he leads such an interesting life thou and such a young death as it is noted in the book. Now Cecilla notices her neighbor is also drawn to the graveyard they chat. But this is a short relationship. The book follows these two each t=chapter told by one of the other as we see how Claudio by chance ends up in Paris.

“Is there something wrong?” I said defensively as I opened the door. I was wearing my own annoyed expression.

“The radio” He replied, like someone giving a password.

I was silent for a few seconds, trying to understand what he was refereing to, but it was useless.

“It’s been on in your room for more than five days and you haven’t eveb got the decency to turn the volume down at night.”

His reply surprised me. By that point, the presence of the radio had become a background noise I never thought about.

“If it annoys you that much I can turn it off” I said, to put an end to the matter.

Cecilla meets her neighbour Tom for the first time after this the two are drawn closer for a time.

The other novel I reviewed by Nettel saw a woman growing up.  Here we see a shy woman experiences Paris and has a small chance when she meets her neighbour but he isn’t so well and just as things seems to be going one way he has to leave to the country. Then we see Claudio a man living his in his world that he has drawn so many lines he is a man tied by not want to let himself free. His vanity at times is huge. So we have two people each with there own quirks and on different continents but like Chaos theory there is that one chance like a butterfly wing flapping causing something larger this is a book that follows two characters ripples in the world and wonders what happens when they collide. I love Cecilla as she wanders this graveyard looking at the names of those there.

 

One clear ice-cold January morning at the beginning of the twenty first century by Roland Schimmelpfennig

 

One clear ice-cold January morning at the beginning of the twenty-first century by Roland Schimmelpfennig

German fiction

Original title – An einem klaren, eiskalten Januarmorgen zu Beginn des 21. Jahrhunderts

Translator – Jamie Bulloch

Source – review copy

Well, I decide to via of the MBI list and this is one book I have been dying to read since it arrived at Winstons towers earlier this year. It is based around Berlin which for me has always been a city that has given me as a reader rich pickings. Roland Schimmelpfennig is best known as a playwright in Germany. Where he has developed a unique style where the actors interact with the public and his stories often have surreal or fantasy elements to them. One clear ice cold… is his debut novel.

Then he saw the wolf was standing in front of the sign at the side of the snowy motorway, seven metres in front of him, no more

A wolf Tomasz thought, that looks like a wolf, ot’s probably a large dog, who would let their dog roam around here, or is it rerally a wolf?

He took a photo of the animal in front of the sign in the driving snow.The flash in the darkness.

A moment later the wolf had vanished.

Tomasz takes his later to be famous picture of the wolf where he hasn’t beenin a century and a half.

One clear ice-cold January morning .. starts with a snowy day and a wolf is seen for the first time in more than 160 years. A Polish Man Tomasz is stuck on the motorway between Warsaw and Berlin heading back to Berlin to be with his girlfriend Agnieszka. He is a hard-working man in construction that is trying to keep him and his girlfriend together. When he looks out to the hard shoulder and glimpse the Wolf and manages to do what no-one else has so far and that takes a photo. Which he later sells as he struggles to get by and keep his girl with him. Then we have a boy and girl that are on the run and initially befriended by an older man who was a failed teacher but later drawn into just getting by on the streets Of Berlin but occasionally get some help. A woman burns her mothers diaries. A Romanian Chilean man also trying to get by in the Modern Berlin.

The girls mother did nothing. It wasn’t the first time the girl had failed to come home.

But that evening a woman from the police was at her front door and then the missing person announcement was issued.

Yes she and her daughterhad quarrelled.

The policewoman was also from the village. She knew the two children, she knew the boys family and she knew the girls mother two

A boy and girl elope to the city but will the dream of Love and everything live on.

The book is told in a series of small stories as we jump in and out of the characters lives. This is the outsider’s view of Berlin like the Wolf wandering west it shows the struggles of the Modern immigrants to the city. Also like many children in the past the boy and girl seem to disappear onto the streets. Like many the classic tales of Berlin this like Berlin Alexanderplatz shows the underbelly of the city. I was remind of Wim Wenders angels wandering the city especially in the second film he made in the city Faraway so close a film which  like this  book shows, the unified city but also the cracks for those just getting by and like Cassiel and Daniel we jump in and out of many peoples lives as we see how all those that had been touched by the wolf whether seeing it or its tracks as they also headed to Berlin.Detached voices at times the Boy, the girl the older man all give a sense of a wider story of the modern city and the people who are drawn to it. The book is out this Thursday to try it have you a favourite Berlin-based book of Film.

Vernon Subutex 1 By Virginie Despentes

 

Vernon Subutex 1 by Virginie Depsentes

French fiction

Original title – Vernon Subutex

Translator – Frank Wynne

Source – Review copy

Well I am pleased that Frank is the first person to have books from two languages he has translated on the short list he also translated from Spanish The imposter also on the Man Booker longlist.As far as I can see looking back this is a first for the prize even going back through the IFFP years. He won the Old IFFP with his transition ofWindows of the world in 2005. Anyway back to this book and the writer is well known as well she wrote her first book Baise Moi in 1999 which she also made into a film. Virginie has written a number of novels since then this is the first of a trilogy. She also worked as a rock journalist at about the time this novel starts.

Vernon had just had enough time to rediscover his love of a long lie in – for more than twenty years, come hell or hideous hangover he has rolled up the metal shutters on the shop six days a week no matter what. Only three times in twenty five years, had he entrusted the keys to one of his colleagues: a bout of gastric flu, adental implant fitting and an attack of sciatica it took him a year to relearn the knack of lazing in bed and reading in the mornings. It felt like it .

Vernin starts slacking after his shop revolver closes down.

The book follows the downward spiral of Vernon Subutex. He was once the owner of the most well-known record shop in Paris.A man that like Joe from empire records one of the great films from the gen x years a man people wanted be and has a magnetism for women.  His story is maybe a reflection of the music industry in a way. But also a thesis on Generation X. He finds he in the early 2000’s is without a shop and had been helped by a friend Alexandre a heavy drug user from his past.Is his help  to get by with rent and his daily life but when the friend dies he has to go round visiting old friends and spends time sofa surfing one of those homeless people that avoid being homeless till they have run out of them this is what we see with Vernon a man alone in the world after all his dreams have fallen spend time with old friends from an ex-lover that has a sterlie flat , a wife beating husband who he never really knew as he falls through these peoples lives we see a mryiadof the city of paris what happened to the hipsters when they aren’t hipsters anymore.

Friends are diffeerent. Spending years together listening to records, going to gigs, arguing about bands, these are sacred bonds, You don’t stop seeing each other simply because of a change of venue. But what had changed was that he had to call and arrange to meet, whereas before they could just come into the shop if they were in the neighbourhood.He was not in the habit of organising dinner parties, trips to the cinema.

I was remind in these lines of John Cusack character in High fidelity Vernon friends are shop friends.

This is a searing knife through the social lives of a generation cutting into the gen x lives and what has happened to them it is like a Parisian version of the slacker film as we follow Vernon going through those who moved up and down through those years as he had met them when he was hip. He is also a story of how music has suffered record shops where the hiding meeting and place to be seen a generation ago for me when I was young it was a shop called beat route  alas like Vernon shop it is no more as music is online these days the other thread is the last recordings he has of his friend and benefactor Alex Bleach a well-known star. I can’t wait for part two to see where it takes us with Vernon and like one of those classic works of French lit by Balzac or Zola more about how modern Paris treats those on the downward spiral. Which for me is always far more interesting than a rise from the bottom to the top what about you?Also, this is one of the most eye-catching covers in the last year I think also slightly disturbing.

 

So You don’t get lost in the Neighbourhood by Patrick modiano

 

So you don’t get lost in the Neighbourhood by Patrick Modiano

French fiction

Original title –  Pour que tu ne te perdes pas dans le quartier

Translator – Euan Cameron

Source – review copy

I so enjoyed the last Modiano I decided to carry on reading another of the few by him I have on my TBR pile.This was the last of his books to be translated into English and the came out in French the same year as he won the Nobel prize. He has written one more book since but that hasn’t been translated into English. I said last time he has written the similar books and this is another twist on those themes.

“I should like to speak to Monsieur jean Daragane,”

A deary and threatening voice.That was his first impression.

“Monsieur Daragane? Can you hear me ?”

Daragame wanter to hang up. But what was the point? The ringing would start agan. withpu ever stopping, and short of cutting the telephone cord permanetly ..

“This is he.”

“It’s abput your address book, monsieur”

Giles rings up but is slightly threatening at first to jean

Again like in the last book the main character in this novel is a writer. Like in the last review he is called Jean but we get his full name in this book Jean Dragane. The story in this book is like the last review set of by the discovery of something old. This time a man has got hold of the old telephone book of Jean. The book has the name of Guy Torstel someone Jean had once been acquainted with many years ago. At the time he knew this person there was a murder.At the time he lived with a showgirl Anne in the seedy part of town. He is helped by the girlfriend of the man who has phoned him when he meets the man, to discuss his old telephone book. That man is  Giles Ottolini and his girlfriend, Chantal. A man that since then has drawn away from the world and lived as a recluse writing books one that may have a clue into what happened in the past. The past is a lost country in this book and Jean has to revisit it.

And so would the name Torstel which had once used in a novel.Simply because of its resonace. That is what Torstel  conjured up for him. There was no need to look any further. It was all he had to say. Gilles Ottolini would no doubt be disappointed. Too bad. After all, he was not obliged to give him any explanation. It was none of his buisness

The name from the past inspired a character in a novel but what about the real Torstel ?

As I said there are themes in his books. Jean is almost a mirror image of the writer having grown up in the dark post-war days. He also lives near Paris and spent time with a showgirl in the seedy part of Paris where there are twist streets and never quite sure what is around the corner the same Paris as Maigret walked in books like Maigret sets a trap. Then there is what I would be called missing memories another recurring theme of a misty past that the main characters seem to want to forget their Past. I feel Modiano is working his own past and his love may of a good mystery into books. I enjoyed this as I have all his books the Nobel win was such a treat for us the English reader as pre-Nobel I had struggled to find a book to read in the weeks before the prize and so many have come out since.

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