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.

The Black notebook by Patrick Modiano


The Black notebook by Patrick Modiano

French fiction

Original title – L’Herbe des nuits

Translator – Mark Polizzotti

Source – review copy

I’ve been having a slump in reading and reviewing the book this last couple of weeks. I have started, maybe half a dozen books and just not been settling in them and had finished a couple of these books. Then not felt like reviewing them. So then I decide yesterday to have a good look through my pile of books and decided on something to try and click my mind back into the groove and I decided , I had three of the Maclehose Modiano books to read and as I have only reviewed one since his Nobel win, two in total, as I had reviewed him before the prize, came out.

No it wasn’t a dream. The proof is that I still have this black notebook full of my jottings. I need precise words in this haze, so I look in the dictionary. “Note: a short piece of writing that is used to help someone remember something.” The pages of my notebook contain a succession of names, telephone numbers, appointments and also short texts that might have something to do with literature.But what catergory should they be listed under? private journal ? fragments of a memoir?

Jean discovers his old Black notebook and the time with Dannie


The Black notebook is the story of a writer called Jean, who is sorting through some old items when he comes across the black notebook of the title. What follows is him reading through the notebook. As he does he is remembering a time in 1960 and reliving and retracing his footsteps at the time. When he started dating a woman he knew as Dannie, she had some involvement with Morrocan security. He ends up meeting her mostly at night in the Montparnasse region of Paris. He gets involved with the characters around a certain hotel in that part of Paris. The Unic Hotel were he spent time with Dannie, Paul Chastagnier, Aghamouri, Duwelz, Gerard Marciano and “Georges”. All seem shady characters, Dannie, as Jean discovers over the course of reading back through the notebook had a number of Alias. Now the past seems shady, but at the time he said he was of the age when being in seedy places at night seemed ok. Weekends in a mysterious country house. As he retraces his steps,. early on in the book.  He remembers this is also the Paris area that Gerard De Nerval, a man famous for walking a lobster. But also one of his most famous books is about a man dealing with the loss of three ladies. He wonders what happened and what was real and what he added to the notes as a writer.

On the day we met, I’d written “Dany” in my notebook, she had corrected the spelling, using my pen: ” Dannie”. Later, I discovered that the name. Dannie was the title of a poem ny a writer I admired at the time, whiom I occasionally saw leaving the Hotel Taranne on Boulevard Saint Germam, strange coincidences do happen

Jean is remembering but is he also inventing Dannie as he does .

Modiano is a writer I fell in love with his style the first time I had read him. He is a writer that use familiar themes in his books. The first is a missing person or people, in this case, Dannie is the main person that is missing even though we found out he knew little about here Jean. He tells s her name isn’t even Dannie. The second is place Paris is like London for Dickens or Dublin for Joyce you sense Modiano can relive his own past as he writes about the streets in Paris. He uses Jean as an avatar for revisiting the Paris he has grown up in living a different life similar a writer of crime fiction, who may have been involved on the very edge of a crime.Modiano maybe writes books that seem similar all three I have read have similar topics a missing person, Paris and a sort of detective story as someone piece thinks together as a fragmented nature to his stories. This, as I read in his book pedigree, as he writes about his mother than he barely knew.




3 from Maclehose and a Lithuanian crime novel









I am showing some recent arrivals for the blog first we have three books from Maclehose press. First off is After winter by The Mexican writer Guadalupe Nettel I have featured her book The body where I was born   This is a novel set between Prais and new york, two people on either side of the Atlantic have troubled lives until they meet.Nettel is regarded as one of the best Mexican writers around.









Next up is another writer from Latin America, that has also featured on the blog. this is the latest from Juan Gabriel Vasquez, he has featured three times on the blog. This is his most ambitious book The shape of ruins based on an actual event in Columbian history just after world war two, this event and one of the characters involved also inspired Gabriel Garcia Marquez in his book one hundred year of solitude.









The last book is the one I am most intrigued about. One clear ice-cold morning at the beginning of the twenty-first century by Roland Schimmelpfennig. Is the first novel from the renowned German playwright. It follows a wolf as he wanders one cold morning into the Heart of Berlin and sees the morning through his eyes. An unusual sounding book.









Then we have The music teacher the latest book from Noir books a publisher bring the best in Lit from Lithuania. This is their first crime novel. A small town police investigator who had an affair before with her music teacher. She is now investigating the murder of a teenage girl and her ex-lover now a local politician is putting pressure on too close the case.

The Impostor by Javier Cercas


The Impostor by Javier Cercas

Spanish Non-Fiction

Original title – El Impostor

Translator – Frank Wynne

Source – review copy

Well, a change from German lit month for a book from one of my favourite Spanish writers of recent years. Javier Cercas has featured on the blog three times before. This is his latest book to be translated. He has won the Iffp prize in the past.Also has been the Impac Dublin book prize longlist a couple of times. This book is rather like his earlier book Anatomy of a moment as it uses an actual historical event as the start of the book. This is a look at one man Enric Marco. He was thought to be a champion of the Unions with a history of fighting fascism a survivor of the Nazi death camps and opposed Franco.

On May 11 2005, the truth was discovered: Enric Mrco was an impostor. For the previous twenty-seven years Marco had claimed to be prisoner No. 6448 from German conce/ntration camp Flossenburg: He had lived this lie and had to made it live: for almost three decades, Marco gave hundreds of talks about his experiences of the Nazi regime, he was president of the Amical de Mauthausen, the association of Spanish survivors of Nazi camps, he was awarded notable honours and medals and on January 27 2005, he moved many members of both houses of the Spanish parliment to tears ..

He spoke so well on what wasn’t his life but anothers .

The book begins at the point when in 2005 He was unmasked as a fake.Cercas met him four years after that but it wasn’t until a few years later he decides to try and find the truth behind the man and his story. Marco is an enigma as the first part of the story shows called Onion skins like Gunter Grass whose biography is called Peeling the onion. We peel the layers away from the man and his story. The time Marco choose to invent his history is about write a time when people could still make up a past if they wanted. He is a man that wanted to be more than he was. He wanted to be a hero also a champion of the underdog. But as he rose in the public eye the lies he had told became harder to hide.He had been in a German Prison. He went to Germany as a worker not a prisoner from the republic. when he was in the civil war he went to France and was arrested as a criminal, not to a death camp.He rose to be the leader of the Spanish organisation for prisoners of the death camps and their families. it was just as they were to celebrate sixty years as the story of his deception broke he wasn’t in the camp he said he was and his story starts to unfold.

Marco was born in an asylum ; his mother was insane.Is he mad too? is this his secret, the condrum that explains his personality? is this why he always sided with the majority ? Does this explain everything, or does it at least explain the essentials ? And if Marco truly is mad, what is thhe nature of his madness.

Now, this is a great piece of narrative non-fiction like his earlier book Anatomy of a moment. Cercas has chosen a historic event to explore his own countries past, but this through one man’s journey.This book is around maybe at just  the right time. We are so interested in real life tales with the podcast like S town and serial. There is a saying that truth is often stranger than fiction and Enric Marco is an example. He was bigger than Billy Liar. His story held up longer than the fake 9/11 victim that like Marco wanted to be held up as a hero and also fight for the victims. This is a study of what makes a man lie! Then the snowball effect of those lies, how when the ball is rolling it was hard to turn back time and stop it. Till like in Marcos case it is a final event that explodes his world open. As ever frank has brought a poetic tone to Cercas words. This is a tale of a man’s twisted journey he did good but is that enough for the lies? Marco is an enigma even after this I still not sure what to make of him.

Nevada Days by Bernardo Atxaga




Nevada Days by Bernardo Atxaga

Basque (Spanish) fiction

Original title – Nevadako Egunak

Translator – Maragaret Jull Costa

Source – Review copy

Another from the ten-year celebration library of Maclehose Press called Read the world. I have already reviewed one of the Series Belladonna by Dasa Drndric , which I reviewed last month. Like Dasa Bernardo is another favourite writer I have read most of his books, there are two under review here. Seven house in France and The Lone man . There is still a number of books to come from the read the world list it is worth checking them out they are all from well known or rising writers from around the world.

In the image I found on the internet the spider was black and shiny, as if it were made of a mixture of metal and plastic. It had a red mark like a diabolo on its belly. Its legs were long and strong and hairless, almost polished. Its body was no longer than a hazelnut.

According to the article accompanying the image, the poison of the black widow was a neurotoxin, and its bite, which might seem innocuous at first, caused severe pain, like the pain of a heart attack or appendictis, only simultaneously. It also caused tremors, faintness, dizziness, nausea and wort of all , a sudden rise in blood pressure. the article emphasised, however , that the bite was rarely fatal,  and was only really a danager to children and the elderly.

The meeting with the Black widow that nipped him .

Nevada Days is a wonderful collection of Vignettes about a nine-month visit to Nevada where Bernardo Atxaga is to teach at the Basque department at the University of Nevada. We see over 150 of these snippets how he and his family settle in. From their initial meetings with a few of the less savoury locals a racoon that takes to watching over them, then a Black Widow spider. Then the scenery of this place drifts over Bernardo reminds him of his past, but also the present as he drifts from his Basque childhood to the present and wild horse in these little gems. The family, I laughed at times especially when he talks to his mum a remark about his brother that never married ( he is gay ) a worry for his elderly mother. Then there is the food the shock the first time we see them eat they are shocked by the size of the portions which face them.

“I can remember waking up in the morning, and, as far as i could see in any direction, there were only sagebrushes and rocks and runted little junipers. Though the Basques are used to being alone, these deserts were something else. In the first months, how many times I cried in my camp bed at night – remembering my home, remembering the beautiful green Basque country”

The early Basques that came to Nevada were Shepards, poor and struggle to adapt from there homeland.

Atxaga stated in an interview he had 250 of these small reflections he had written at the time and he had edited down to 150 pieces. His other books have all reflected somewhat on life from the lone man a  man with secrets, then in seven house, it is a reflection on a war. Here it is a reflection on his life a time in his life when he sees more behind him than in front of him. This is classic Maclehose press choice of a book. one that defies categories it is part autobiography, part fiction and part lament for Basque home and family life. The tales range from the intimate to the observational, witty and laments. A piece about the shepherds reminds me of the shepherds from Basque Adrein Bosc book Constellation that died in that crash but on the way to a new life in Nevada.

The children by Carolina Sanin

The children by Carolina Sanin

Colombian Fiction

Original title – Los niños

Translator – Nick Caistor

Source – review copy

When I started the blog ,I be hard pushed to have name more than one writer from Columbia that wasn’t Marquez but in the years in between we have seen a wave of new writers from Columbia Rosero , Vasquez and Gamboa .Now here is another name to add to that list . This is her first book to appear in English and her second novel she has taught in New york hispanic studies and is considered a rising talent .

Laura Romero heard that the woman  who watched the cars outside the supermarket was offering her a child. She heard her say “I’ll keep a child for you “. But Laura was not sure whether the woman really did watch the cars. She knew that when she finished her shopping , she gave her some coins as if to pay, and that her car had never gone missing . Maybe that was because she only left it there during daylight and when there were lots of people about , but it was also possible that the woman had some influence over the car thieves.That she was their mother , for example

Before Fidel arrives Laura misses what she said at the supermarket.

The children is one of those books that is hard to put in a category. The story Follows Laura after she is going to the supermarket one day and like other days she is met by a beggar woman , but is ask if she wants her a child thinking no more of it she gives her some money .But later that night a boy appears outside her house .The boy fidel know nothing other than his six years old . So she sets off to find out about this boy. Laura herself is a strange character as the story unfold she has money from her families salt mines  , she works as a housekeeper as she like to clean and sort the  houses she works in  a strange OCD, but doesn’t need the money . She is reading Moby Dick maybe the boy is her Moby Dick as he seems to have come from nowhere and maybe at points he has trance like fits you wonder is he real or maybe like the whale in the mind of the crew a ghost that isn’t real just in Laura’s eyes in Moby Dick a metaphor for something else .Then we she Laura battling the bureaucracy in what is a Kafka like nightmare  race to find out about Fidel  as she sees how slow the wheels turn.

Brus became aware of Fidel’s existence before she did it was shortly before midnight on Saturday , and laura had just filled the hot-water bottle she took to bed with her.The dog began to bark and then howl, and in between could be heard sobs that  seemed to have been learned by heart, as if they came  from a child who knows he is too big to still be crying like that . Laura titled her head that way Brus did when se asked him something , and realised that the sound was coming from the street, on the right-hand side of the building as you looked out. She went onto the balcony . A boy was looking up from the pavement, three storeys down. As soon as he saw her appear , he stopped crying

Fidel appeared and was noticed by her dog Brus .

This is one of those novels that leaves you with more questions than answers, much in the vain of a number of latin American novel particular Evelio Rosero .But also a framing of a lost child or ghost child that has frequently appeared in literature . Also a connection between a woman and a child that isn’t her child this is a theme that appeared in Fever Dream. Add to that Laura is reading Moby Dick a book itself that is about obsession and ghosts. This is a clever novella that like Fever dream from this years Man booker shows the strength of latin american fiction.


Belladonna by Daša Drndić

Belladonna by  Daša Drndić

Croatian fiction

Original title Belladonna

Translator Celia Hawkesworth

Source – Review copy

As I said in yesterday’s post , I’d be back in Croatia today with one of my favourite writers Dasa is someone I was lucky enough to have met when her first book in English was shortlisted for the old IFFP . Ispent a good hour talking books and lit with her so this book is no surprise as one of the things we talked about is how important books can be at highlighting the darker side of the world we live in and this is something she felt English novels miss somewhat. Dasa is a writer in various ways radio plays , short piece for Croatian magazines like work , savremenik and literary word.

His name is Andreas Ban

He is a psychologist who does not psycholoise any more

A writer who no longer writes.

He is a tourist guide who no longer guides anyone anywhere.

A swimmer who has not swum for a long time.

He has other occupations that no-one any longer needs , he least of all

He is sixty- five , he looks pretty good, like fifty

Andreas is treading water in his life when the end of his career comes.


The hero of this book is Andreas Ban , a writer , psychologisvt and what one would say is a intellctual in every sense of the word. But he is now in that last third of his life facing retirement and this is his life from them . Looking back on the past and trying to see what brought him to the point he is at.Now the title of this book has a varied meaning in part it is best shown in the croat cover where the cover has an eye with a drop , which is what Belladonna is used for to help open the eye but also on the cover Belladonna is written in red the colour of bloood and also in Braile below. I feel this gives the really meaning of the book it is a look back on the blood of his home land  both in a fictional sense and also in the sense of real history in the use of  history again like in her earlier work Dasa use list of names to amplify the lost sense of history . I know this is something Dasa is passionate about using the horrors of the past to shine a light on the way Europe seems to be going blind into a new right-wing world . Any way we see this through Andres Ban eyes a man who has become a piece in a machine an email tells him he has left his job then he becomes ill and feels like a piece in a machine in this ever quickening world .Maybe the answer is in the title for what Andreas has to do !

For a year and a half , the angel of death (Mengele) keep his seven dwarves in a human zoo and examines their insides.

The worst were the gynecological experiments.They would tie us to a table and the systematic torture could begin. We got shots into our womb, they took blood from us, samples of our flesh and fluid from our spinal cords, they pierced and cut us, pulled out our hair, examined our brain , our nose , our mouth, our legs and arms, they dug around and drilled through us in the name of those who will come .I am Elizabeth

A passage about past hours that reminds us of the dark not so distant past we had .



It is hard not to sing the praises of Dasa , after you meet her she is articulate passionate and one of those writers you meet and know you will love all their books. I also feel the same feeling she does the growing right-wing nature of the world we live in is one we are slowly going into and with out books like this to remind us of what is around us .Like in here earlier books she blends fiction and non fiction and the use of list of names is as powerful as when she used it in Trieste as she said to me when you remove these names from the book it becomes unstable and unbalanced and that is what happens in the world when these people are killed for no reason. Dasa is one of the great writer one that needs to be more widely read !!


Monte Carlo By Peter Terrin

Monte Carlo by Peter Terrin

Belgian  fiction

Original title – Monte Carlo

Translator – David Doherty

Source – Review copy

Now on to the books that could be on next years man booker list and first up is the second book I have reviewed buy the rising star of Belgian fiction Peter Terrin , I reviewed him first when he was part of the best european fiction in 2010. Since then he had his novels the Guard and post-mortem come out in english this is the first of his books I have read , I do have the earlier books and read the guard but it slipped the review net at the time. But this is a book about a time I love the golden age of motor sport in the 60’s when we got the feel of this book in the film Grand prix .But the other side of this book is obsession Male obsession and also how scars can become attractive to woman .

It happens by accident . The woman has been holding the camera for some time , peering through the viewfinder now and again, taking the occasional snap. But now she waits, realising that the film is almost full, that she probably has only one photograph left. She wants to wait for the right moment, yet later she will not be able to recall taking the final shot .The fuel is no longer liquid , the transition is taking place.She remembers the heat hitting her face, an invisible cloud, the fire not yet fire

The photo misses Jacks part in saving Dee Dee

The book starts as we join jack Preston ,he is a mechanic for Team sutton, the rising team on the grid. They are in the city of Monte Carlo for the Monaco Grand prix , probably the most iconic of all the race on the formula one circuit and always one to attract the beautiful people and One such is Deedee one of those sixties starlets , I got a feel of cross between Bardot , Fonda and Rigg . Even to later in the book having a part in  the Avengers .Well she has caught Jack’s eye and as an accident on the grid cause a fireball and he save her  from it and after wards has to return to his old home to recover and awaits a thank you but no mention .This is where the book turns and the screw of obsession turns as he waits for her and for his team to come to his aid and free him from provincial life.His wife also has become a bit of vixen driven by her husbands scars

One evening Deedee looked straight into his eyes

Steed had disappeared without trace and she did not know whether he was alive or dead. Speechless, racked with doubt, she wnet into the bathroom, leaned against the washbasin and gazed into the mirror – straight into the camera’s lens – for seconds on end

Jack Prestons nails deep into the arm of the settee.

there was no need for her to speak.

She was entrusting something to him.To him alone.Her look was like a whisper in his ear.

Jack’s obsession with Deedee has grown since he returned home .

He has been compared to Kafka before but at times this was to me an Homage to Hitchcock in a way the way Dee Dee is described made me think of the classic starlets that made the golden age of Hitchcock films like Vertigo or rear window(even Grace Kelly is at the track ) .He manages to get the feeling of male obsession as Deedee becomes both a thing of love and hate in Jack’s eyes . Terrin manages to get the feel of the time a new tobacco sponsor for the team reminds you of when the cars where Jps or Malboro colours  . This novel is about  how Jack  thought he saw something in a glimpse of a second just  before the  disaster struck and how that small moment has led to a mix of obsession and hate as he awaits being acknowledge for what he did. Then there is the return home and his obsessive wife for his scars  that has made her a vixen.While Jack grows in love and loathing at lack of thanks for what he did from Deedee which means a year later the race has a sad start as things come to a head.Terrin has written a short novel that has a classic feel to its writing and settings .


Fish have no feet by Jon Kalman Stefansson

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Fish have no feet by Jon Kalman Stefansson

Icelandic Fiction

Original title – Fiskarnir hafa enga fætur

Translator – Philip Roughton

Source – Review copy

So I reach the final post of this years Man Booker journey , with one of my favourite writers and a writer that has been on the longlist for the old iffp . Jon Kalman Stefansson is another of those talent Icelandic writers. This is also the first time he has tackled a more modern-day Iceland than before in his books the earlier two I reviewed were from his trilogy Heaven and Hell and The sorrow of angels . Like his earlier book it also involves family and  but in a more personnel way than before.

I mean no disrespect , but ari is the only person who could have dragged me back here , across  the expanse of black lava that ground to a painful halt hundreds of years ago, naked in places, but elsewhere moss has softened and soothed it, clothed it in silence and serenity; you drive out of Reykjavik past the long aluminium smelter and into the lava, which at first is an old scream , and then moss-covered silence .

Ari returns to a changed place with his friend !!

This is a journey into the heart of what is modern Iceland told through two generations of the same icelandic family . The first is Ari in the present but also his childhood years  on the seventies and eighties . He has arrived home from Copenhagen and  is remembering his childhood in the town of Keflavik , a town that is home to the huge Us airbase NASKEF that was in use til 2005 , this also had like many airbases there is a ripple effect this is seen through Ari memories of his childhood of trying to grow up in the Iceland of the day which wasn’t the one we know but on the way and being tinged by America .Then Nordfjordur is the setting for the second tale a small fishing village cling to the land and the story of Ari grandparents is a tragic love story . This is juxtaposed by the modern marriage of their grandson. This is a story of nation that has changed so much in two generations .

We walk past the january 1976 bar , from which two middle-aged woman emerge , lighting cigarettes before the door shuts behind them, shuts on Rod Stewart singing “Maggie May” inside, It’s evening and we’re tipsy from the red wine and whisky we drank at the hotel and we walk down Hafnargata street, which is far tidier now than in the past, when we first walked down it with Asmundur ; Mayor Sigurjon has done a good job cleaning things up.

I liked this passage as it was as thou past, present we’re one leading me to think the narrator wasn’t in the present just the past !

Now it is hard not to see Ari in some part as being a veiled version of the writer himself , there is points when he talks about the eighties and growing up the music he listen to you feel him looking at his own collection of music and life , Like Ari Jon Kalman spent time in Denmark and also grew up in Keflavik. He has managed to writer a semi biographical novel using Ari but not as ari but more as a friend of him that is the narrator of the story, I was reminded of tv shows of recent years that use a detached voice as the narrator for the series , especially the recent netflix series thirteen reason why  which like this recounts past events in the present. Also Desperate housewives   where the whole series was told by a woman who was dead at the beginning of the book.Is this unnamed narrator an actual person or a lost friend of Ari that is long gone. In some ways this is maybe his answer to the likes of Knausgaard writing less of rooting in ones own past and pouring it on the page for every one to read no this is a carefully picked version of his history and how it feels to return home and remember what you like because the black side is there but isn’t what we remember this is the sense of drawing what was best in someway in your childhood.This is more personnel than his  earlier books which means it is maybe a harder read but more accessable

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