Die, my love by Ariana Harwicz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Die, my love by Ariana Harwicz

Argentinean fiction

Original title – Matate, amor

Translators – Sarah Moses and Carolina Orloff

Source – review copy

This is the last of three books I was sent by Charco press earlier this year. I had reviewed the other two before the Man Booker longlist came out and this was on my reading pile so it was great to see it on the longlist and also a new publisher like Charco press on the list.Ariana Harwicz had been compared to Virginia Woolf and Nathalie Surraute. she is one off the most radical writers in Modern Argentina. This book is the first of a trilogy and her debut novel. She currently lives in France and this is the first book by her to be translated into English.

I’m at the table after dinner. The meal has been cleared away and all that’s left is my glass. The plates are drying on the rack, the salt is in its place and my husband has gone to lie down. The new dog is about to pisss somewhere. I know I have to get up, but I don’t I stretch my legs out onto another chair and nod off while sucking on a toothpick. Now the dog’s coming to piss under the table but I still don’t get up. My trousers are unbuttoned.

Her life has drawn to a halt in places and she can’t be bothered at times like here .

The book is narrated by an unnamed female narrator. She lives with her husband and their kids in a rural area of France. Now this is a book that floats in a world of no setting really as there is no names given to anyone just her husband my son and her. What we see is a woman struggling with her world. the world is one of those who dream of a world away from the city. You are given that this woman had followed her husband dreams to live this rural dream. A back to nature that for her is like an ever decreasing circle a world that is shrinking daily for her. At one point she mentions read Mrs Dalloway and there is a shared feeling of  being trapped in a world that we see over space of one day in Woolf’s  work here the whole experience is more drawn out and more horrific for it the gentle grinding hatred of her world the sheer horror of being alone in this rural idyll that has for her become like a journey into Conrad’s heart of darkness were violence may be the last way out.

I stay in the car, the windows foggy. I turn up the volume and take my foot of the clutch. “Mrs Dallowway is a novel about time and the interconnectivity of human existence”. How long has it been since I’ve heard that kind of language? Interconnectivity. Fucking hell. I try to turn the plastic cog but the seat win’t recline. My husband watches me swear from afar, reading my lips and smiling.He has a cigarette behind his ears like a shopkeeper. I wonder wg=hat i’d make of this very woodland , this rustic setting, the half built house, the man nailing down planks of wood, if a critic said my writing dealt with he “interconnectivity of human exixtence “I burst out laughing

A black humoured look at her life and lack of cultural outlets for her in the rural world alone as she is

This isn’t an easy read it is very much in the style of Woolf and for me, I was reminded of Duras the books I have read by her. It is a slow burning book of rural life but the underlying hatred of her world is slowly burning and shrink around her. I felt at times the scene in Brief Encounter where Laura is just sat listening to Rachmaninoff and her world seems to have trapped her. The Narrator is like Laura as she is trapped in her marriage she hasn’t an Alec for a glimmer of light no just a build hatred and disappointment of her life and her family as she shows her vulnerable nature and broken dreams, which can easily become some far worse you feel.

 

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The White book by Han Kang

 

Image result for han kang white book cover

The White Book by Han Kang

Korean fiction

Original title – 흰

Translator – Deborah Smith

Source – personal copy

I must admit first up for me as a reader, I was never as swept away by the vegetarian as some other readers were. So when this Han Kang’s latest book was on the longlist ,I wasn’t maybe as keen to read this as some as the others on the longlist. This is the third book from Han Kang to be translated to English and was published in Korea in 2016. It is also a different book from the first two books as for me it is a narrative prose piece for me.

Faced with that question, it was this death that came to me. It was a story which I had grown up inside.The most helpless of all young animals. Pretty little baby, white as moon shaped rice cakes. How I’d been born and grown up in the place of that death.

“White as moon-shaped rice cake” which never made sense until at six, I was old enough to help out with making rice cakes for Chuseok, forming the dough into small crescent moons. Before being steamed, those bright white shapes of rice dough are a thing so lovely they do not seem of this world.

I loved this image of the rice moon and child’s face.

Now for me as an English reader the white book as a title seems less dark than if this book was called the Black book , but in a way that  should be the real title of the book. It is a series of small vignettes split into three sections that mainly focus on the birth of Han Kang’s older sister that was born and died after two hours after her mother 22 gave birth. A child that is described as looking like a rice moon cake when born the first section the vignettes seem to interlinking with a few recurring motifs in the prose pieces a list of white objects , but as the pieces unfold we see how white is never really white. From the child’s face to a moon rice to snow in all its forms from thick blizzards to sleet showers. An ode to a sister that was never known but also to the colour of mourning in Korea which is white and things connected to mourning in Korea like rice also the is a colour connection of Blood mention and the fact in Korea Red chilli powder is put in the rice at a funeral. A wonderful mix of piece that draw you as a reader into a young woman”s grief but also a poetic vision of grief and mourning.

sleet

There is none of us whom life regards with any partiality. Sleet falls as she walks these streets, holding this knowledge inside her. Sleet that leaves cheeks and eyebrows heavy with moisture, Everything passes. She bears this rememberance – the knowledge that everything she has clung to will fall away from her and vanish- through the streets where sleet falling, that is neither rain nor now, neither ice nor water, that dampens her eyebrows and steams from her forehead whether she stands still or hurries on closes her eyes or opens them

Such a poets mix of life and death in a vision of sleet.

I so pleased this has come after the vegetarian as anything after this would be a let down for me as a reader this book has a fragile nature like a pile of rice barely held together. It has a sense of the fragile nature of life the sense of grief of losing a daughter so early in ones own life. But also the poetic side of the list of white things that litter the book. The ones around snow I found so poetic the way sleet turns to water on contact with skin almost like the daughter life a brief moment of time this is about how brief life. This is a perfect choice of why I read world lit these books that open our eyes as readers to the wider world poetic visions and grief so

 

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.

 

Man Booker international 2018 what will be there?

Well here is where I do my yearly look in the mystic ball of translated fiction and guess what I’d like to see on the man booker international longlist.

Books read or reviewed

 

I have decided to divide this year into books I have read or partly read or reviewed in the last year.First off we have Tea Tulic, book Hair everywhere, I always am bewildered why Istros books haven’t had any books on the longlist. This is a story about a family coming to terms with a mother dying, it really touched me.The three peter Owen Serbian books with istros are also worth a place on the longlist.Staying in the Balkans we have another favourite one thanks to doing the shadow jury for all the years I did I meet and it is Belladonna by Dasa Drndic a man looks back on his life and the post-war history of Europe and the worrying rise of Fascism across Europe.Then we have seeing red by Lina Meruane a story of someone going blind another gem from Latin America, Another Spanish language writer caught my eye with Such small hands by Andres Barba a creepy story of an orphan. Now a trio of books by one of my favourite translator Another Spanish novel The Imposter by Javier Cercas a true life story of a man who pretends to be a survivor of death camps. Then two I have part read and will be finished this year Vernon Subutex by Virginie Despentes a story about the title character a former record shop owner that has a final recording of a mysterious star that died too young.Then we have the French art of war by Alexis Jenni an old man tells a story about his life and the wars France have been involved with since world war two to a young man in return to a younger man.Dance by the canal is one of my favourite Peirene books of recent years so should be there IMHO. One woman’s downfall from the former east to the west.Fitzcarraldo has three in my mind that could be on the list Insane by Rainald Goetz recounting his years as a psychiatrist in an autobiographical novel. Companions by Christina Hesselholdt sees three Danish couples as their lives go separate ways in a minimalist novel. Then river by Esther Kinsky is one of those books I loved so much I’m having to build up to review. A personal novel that had a similar effect was Blue self-portrait by Nomei Lefeberve a woman internal monologue as she wanders Berlin. Fireflies by Luis Sagasti another transgressive book of ideas. A poison Apple by Michel Laub a mised concert maybe led a man down the wrong path. Last due out soon The dinner guest by Gabriela Ybarra the story of her own grandfather being kidnapped is a personal book about family and coping with a tragic event it.So from what, I read there is a few now a quick list of some other books.

Not read but could be there

The 7th function of language by Laurent Binet – a theory on the death of Barthes in a novel.

In every moment we are still alive by Tom Malmquist – the tale of a father bring up a baby after losing his wife in child birth.

The white book by Han Kang – About life starting with a white list.

My cat Yugoslavia by pajtim Statovci – a delicate book set during the Balkan wars in the 1990’s.

Lullaby by Leila Slimani – a Nanny turns out not to be all she seems

What do you think will be there?

 

 

This is a call anyone want be a shadow Man booker international 2018 juror member ? update

 

 

I have with Tony of Tony’s reading list have run for the past six years a shadow jury for the old IFFP prize and the last two Man Booker international prizes over this time we have reviewed every book on the longlist. I’m not sure how many reviews we have produced over this time but with every longlist having at least three reviews it has to be in the hundreds by now. Well this year after a number of years some Jurors are taking a year off or have other plans,.So I m asking if anyone wants to join in we don’t get sent any books so it is a commitment to buy borrow or beg the books on the list. The longlist comes out on the 12 and we have a month to read and choose our shortlist from the books on the longlist. please contact my self or tony via comments or email or twitter etc if you are interested in joining ?

A quick update, I have stood down as I have decided it is my time to move on so I will ask everyone to  contact Tony about the shadow panel.

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