Butterfly wings by Mohamed Salmawy

 

Butterfly wings by Mohamed Salmawy

Egyptian fiction

Original title أجنحة الفراشة

Translator – Raphael Cohen

Source – Library edition

I took some short novels from the library to read on my time off , but as ever when you are away time was short sightseeing and spending time with amanda but I did manage to read this great Arabic novel by Mohamed Salmawy . Salmawy is the president of the writers union of Egypt and secretary-general of the Arab Writers and also editor of a leading daily newspaper. This book came out just before the events of 2011 , so in a way is quite insightful about what happened then .

Doha imagined that meeting Ashraf al-Zayni on the plane had been a chance encounter.It would be over when the flight ended and they went their separate ways- she to Milan for the annual fashion show and he to Palermo in Scilly for the international NGO conference. Fate , however had something in store for her that she neither expected nor imagined.

The three and a half hours of the flight from Cario to Rome left an impression that would remain with her for the rest of her life.She had never met anyone like Ashraf al-Zayni before .She saw in him something she not seen in other politicians, plus  he had brought back to life something inside her that she had not believed still existed

The chancce encounter leaves an impression on the both .

This is a story with two main characters in it Doha is a fashion designer , a sort of link between the west and arab world , she comfortably travels between here homeland and The fashion world of Italy . Her husband is a leading figure in the Murbareck regime . We see their privileged world . But after a chance encounter with Dr Ashraf a man from the opposition she meets when they are both in Rome after talking to him she sees a new insight into her world . But even with this sense the wind may be changing in her homeland she returns and like the old saying about chaos theory a butterfly wings flapping can change the world the butterfly appears time after time whether flying or in patterns on the clothes Doha is wanting to show , the two meet later in the book as the tables are turned slightly from their first meeting  . Add to that a couple of small side stories about a man waiting to meet his internet wife and a pair of brothers hunting for the real mother.

Unable to rest, Doha flicked through The butterflies of Egypt , she came to a photograph of the mural in the tomb where the ancient  Egyptian artist had painted a picture of the butterfly . The tomb belonged to a noble called Nob Amun. According to the book , there were fifty-eight indigenous species in Egypt , which was a relatively small number in comparison with other countries. This was due to Egypt’s desert environment . Neverless , Egypt’s butterflies had adapted to the harsh conditions and were able to survive and maintain their beauty despite hardships

LIke the country itself the butterflies make a good metaphor from the Egypt post Arab spring .

This is another book that captures the can of worms that was opened in Egypt when Murbarek regime was on the verge of collapsing as part of the Arab spring A figure like Ashraf , is a passionate voice of a the young people on the street we saw so much in the TV coverage  clever wanting a bright future , which as we know never really happened . There is also echos of this change in the brothers seeking their mother a new mother maybe is clever metaphor for a new country and leadership. I also love the subtle use of butterflies as a recurring Motif throughout the book. But also a larger motif of the country emerging as a butterfly from it catalyst moment of the riots being the start of something beautiful like a pure white Butterfly. This is clever look at the recent past of Egypt.

That was the month that was May 2017

  1. War and turpentine by Stefan Hertmans
  2. The Unseen by Roy Jacobsen
  3. Traitors Niche by Ismail Kadare
  4. Fish have no feet by Jon kalman Stefansson
  5. Monte Carlo By Peter Terrin
  6. Mourning diary by Roland barthes
  7. Bodies of summer by Martin Felipe Castagnet
  8. Hair everywhere by Tea Tulic
  9. Belladonna by Dasa Drndic
  10. The Children by Carolina Sanin
  11. Listening for Jupiter by Pierre-Luc Landry

Things got back to normal on the blog this month after a couple of lean months review wise. I managed to finish the man booker longlist. I managed to read books from 10 countries .No new Publishers this month but the second book from Notting hill editions the Barthes Diary. So I have reviewed 49 books this year on the blog leaving me on course to read over 100 books this year.

Book of May

Belladonna by Dasa Drndric

It is a tough month as there has been a number of books that have touched me the Barthes is a great book for me at the moment but in the long run Dasa’s book is one that needs to be read Andreas Ban is a anti hero that shows us , what we need to be thinking about.

None book discovery

 

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I am due to leave work tomorrow after 17 years , I am sad but also looking forward to my new job in three weeks. I have just brought a Lomo La sardina Camera for my holiday next month, a retro camera with flash filter should make some memorable photos from our holiday.

Looking forward

 

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I have had a little extra money last few months so have slowly been getting some US translations from publishers like Open letter, Dalkey archive , Deep Vellum and archipelago books . The Castagnet from this month was the first of these books , I have a Magdalena Tulli I am reading at the moment. How was your month and what plans have you to read next month ?

That was the months that was March April 2017

  1. Cheese by Willem Elssch
  2. Compass by Mathias Enard
  3. Octavio’s journey by Miguel Bonnefoy
  4. The Major Refutation by Pierre Senges
  5. The principle by Jerome Ferrari
  6. Judas by Amos Oz
  7. Fever dream by Samanta Schweblin
  8. Black Moses by Alain Mabanckou
  9. Mirror , Shoulder , Signal by Dorthe Nors
  10. The Santiago Pilgrimage by Jean-Christophe Rufin
  11. Bricks and Mortar by Clemens Meyer
  12. The explosion chronicles by Yan Lianke

 I Missed last month for obvious reasons so this is a round up of the twelve books I managed to review between April and March . One new press Contra Mundun from whom I reviewed The Major Refutation a quirky french novel .Eight countries have been covered by me in the last two months and I have read a number of french novels pushing the blog total to 90 french novels and nearer the goal of 100 for this year . with the twelve here it brings this years total of books reviewed to 38 .

Book of March and April

Compass by Mathias enard

I think this is a masterpiece an ode to a world that has now long gone the syria of many years ago is told over one night and a love story .

None book discovery

Well being Honest this has been a crap couple of months for me . I lost mum in March we had funeral in April and I am now mid way in the process of getting a new job in NHS , so I am rather sad at having to leave a place I have worked for twelve years but with my mum and step mothers passing in the last couple of year I had decided long term I need a job that would see me best in my last twenty odd years of work. But like many folks in time of trouble we seek solace in what we know and for me that has been the last two star wars film which I got on bluray disc the last few months they have given me many an hours break from what has been a hard couple of months.

Looking forward

well we have the shadow shortlist to come out soon . I have a number books I have brought recently and a huge backlog of review books to read. BellaDonna  I hope finish tomorrow is another great book from an old favourite of this blog Dasa Drndic , also the second Peter Owen world series three books from Spain I have read Nona’s room already a stunning collection of short stories .

Judas by Amos Oz

 

Judas by Amos Oz

Israeli fiction

Original title – שיצא לאור ב

Translator Nicholas De Lange

Source – Personnel copy

I’m back and reviewing the first of the books I have been reading for the Man booker longlist I hope over the next few week or so to get most if not all the books reviewed before the shortlist although this year we will announce ours a little later as this year we have all had more books to read than other years . First up is the second Israeli book on the longlist I had reviewed the first by David Grossman  before the longlist was announced . This is a book by one of my favourite writers and one I had purchased before longlist as I have reviewed Amos Oz twice on the blog and both were translated by Nicholas De Lange who in fact strangely messaged the blog about the book Days of Ziklag which forms a small part of this novel as one of the main characters .

A woman of around forty-five, she held herself erect and moved around the room as if well aware of her feminine power. She was wearing a plain light coloured dress that reached her ankles and a simple red sweater. Her long dark flowed softly down on one side of her neck to land on the mound of her left breast .Beneath the hair nodded a pair of large wooden earings .Her clothes hugged her body

Atalia captures the young mans eye at first sight when he comes for the job with Wald

Shumel is a young man who is trying to finish his degree but unable to do so quits and just as he is about to leave sses a job for a student on a board at the university , he applies for this job which is to take note and write down and be a partner in speaking to an old man Gershom Wald , he starts talking with the young man about his life and his own life , he sparks a light in the boy who had gone out and the is the story of Judas what was his person , a difficult story and the way history has viewed him this is done through a number of books that he has read Oz lists the books in his notes about the book. The book is set in the sixties and adding to Shumel life at the house is the third member of the household Atalia she is the former daughter in law of his son who cares for the older man  , but capture the eye of the younger man she is 45 , but looks younger and her father was also connected to the begining of the state , which is a main thread in the book as we see how the old man admired David Ben -Gurion  calling him the most exalted person of the war and even now , meanwhile Atalia whose   late father was one of the few to question the tactics of the time by David Ben-Gurion as he was a the heart of the regime at that time  , this time and the outcome of the decisions these men made is  strangely is also the time that is covered by Days of Ziklag which follows one of the army groups on the ground . as the young man gets closer to the older woman .

Gershom Wald was convinced that Nestor never existed and that there had never been any converted preist, but that all these foul texts were written by narrow indeed little Jews because they were afraid of the attractive power of christianity and trued to exploit the protection of Muslim rule by attacking the figure of Jesus while sheltering safely beneath the cloak of Muhammad

Shummel disagreed:,” but the Polemic of nestor the priest shows a certain acquaintance with the world of christianity , a knowledge of the gospels , familiarity with christian theology

Wald just loves to argue it is what keeps him going so he will always take the opposite side .

This book is all about how the man Judas is seen , but not just him anyone that does what he did and could be viewed one way or another , even who was Jesus a christian or a Jews ! , this is a really interesting field and one that the two men discuss as the older man tries to spark the interest lost in the younger man also whilst Shumel falls for the older man ex daughter in Law . As ever the translation by Nicholas De lange is very readable and he had said he would love to translate the epic days of ziklag one of the best Hebrew novels  of all time , we got the first book by its writer S yizhar. This is a thought provoking book and for me one of the best of the list I have read so far .

 

London Book Fair and Man Booker International longlist

I had a long bookish day yesterday. I set off just before 8 in the morning to London to go to the book fair for a third year . I took a Quebec novel to read on the train which I managed to finish before I got there .

Just as I pulled into London the Man Booker announced their second Longlist .

Compass – Mathias Enard (France) translated by Charlotte Mandell.My review 

Swallowing Mercury – Wioletta Greg (Poland) translated by Eliza Marciniak.My review 

A Horse Walks Into A Bar – David Grossman (Israel) translated by Jessica Cohen.my review 

War And Turpentine – Stefan Hertmans (Belgium) translated by David McKay.Part read

The Unseen – Roy Jacobsen (Norway) translated by Don Bartlett. have to read

The Traitor’s Niche – Ismail Kadare (Albania) translated by John Hodgson. on order from Library

Fish Have No Feet – Jon Kalman Stefansson (Iceland) translated by Phil Roughton.Have read will reread

The Explosion Chronicles – Yan Lianke (China) translated by Carlos Rojas.On order from library

Black Moses – Alain Mabanckou (France) translated by Helen Stevenson.Not out ask serpent tails due in next week then be sent out for review

Bricks And Mortar – Clemens Meyer (Germany) translated by Katy Derbyshire.read will skim through then review

Mirror, Shoulder, Signal – Dorthe Nors (Denmark) translated by Misha Hoekstra.half read

Judas – Amos Oz (Israel) translated by Nicholas de Lange.Have to read

Fever Dream – Samanta Schweblin (Argentina) translated by Megan McDowell.Finished yesterday

As you see I have three reviewed two more read at time list out and one read since so have seven books to read before the short list . I then sped across london to the Fair and head to the Lit translation centre where there are talks given around translation , I grabbed a coffee and bumped into David Colmer the translator  he had done the Bakker novels we chatted he has a classic dutch novella he is translating for archipelago , then Louise Roger Laurie for a quick chat then sat in on a panel with ra page of comma press chatting about metropolitan fiction and the lack of fiction from outside cities and other things .

Then I wandered I want to meet and say hello to Karen at Orenda books as they had a small stand and she had been a support of the blog back in her Arcadia books day > I went and said hello and she was just as she is on-line a really warm friendly person , I also chatted to her editor Camel West about translation and various other things , I got a sample of her latest novel in translation and a new star she has just published .

 

then I was due to meet Susie from Istros . We meet and went for a bite to eat and a drink , I said how shock I was Panorama missed the longlist !! From the first world series she has done with Peter Owen , luckily they had three of the second in the series which Spain is the focus , I could have and also a nice hardback film tie in of Silence .

We also chatted about the longlist, I said Compass for me was the best book of the ones I have read a wonderful book , whilst chatting Susie met the publisher of another small press she knows Archane press , they don’t as yet do translation but have some interesting short story collections . Then we bumped into Rosie Goldsmith whose euro lit network has now gone into print called The Riveter . I then left the fair and meet my dad who was also in London doing some shopping , we had a nice meal at Barbecoua in Piccadilly then I went and got fever dream and Mirror ,shoulder and signal . I had hope with a couple of hours to my train and two and half train journey . I managed to read Fever dream which I will review soon.

 

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