That’s how whales are born by Anxos Sumai

THAT’S HOW WHALES ARE BORN

That’s how whale are born by Anxos Sumai

Spanish fiction

Original title –Así nacen as baleas

Translator – Carys Evans-Corrales

Source – review copy

Anxos Sumai is regarded as one of the best writers from Galicia in Spain. She has written four novels and also worked as a radio journalist. She was voted Galician writer of the year in 2007 the year this book came out it also won a prize for short novels. This is another in the series of books that have been sent to me from Small station press who are bringing to us so many new voices from Galicia.

Mother had just turned fifty-five when she decided to lock herself up in her bedroom. The stores had been functioning for a long time without her assistance and were doing well – very well.It was time for her to fall into one of those agonizing maelstroms, because this how it had been throughout her life, When she locked herself into her room she was defeated, yearning to be transported th some place where destiny would be waiting for her. It didn’t matter where: Mother always needed a destiny to set herself into action, to relinquish the voluntary self-exile she would impose on herself when neither death nor her loved pnes could move her at all .

The motherlocked away from her life and the world in pne trying to give up .

The book follows a young woman journey home. Having escaped her family and living in Baja California Mexico where she is studying Marine biology.In particular to do with whales that do crop up as a recurring thought in her mind. The girl receives a call from her Aunt that her mother a figure whom she had numerous problems with her mother. As she returns we found out about her past the mother who never seemed to recover from the husband that left her even now she has shut out the world and lives in her room. The older brother Ramon, a fat boy with a violent temper and disability that is always eating in her mind and then sleeping this was the time they could get around him without him lashing out. The whale at times is a figure she uses for her brother, with the vast appetites. Add a caring Nann the Aunt and Uncle we see a woman struggling to readjust t0 her home but also seeing those around her after returning.Maybe time is right. She is caught up in an affair with her tutor.

Except that the little girl barelyunderstood anything she was being told when Ramon interrupted them, Excuting turns at the entrance to the kitchen, ramon looked like a fat, flabby potato that gyrated and gyrated until he hit one of the walls. The little girl burst out laughin. Ramon made her ;laugh all the time, unless he was asleep.It was like having a clown all to herself, a joyful clown weighing over one hundred kilos.ramon could eat her up if he wanted to. He could eat her up in the same way he could eat a roasted capon all by himself.He could even flatten her when he breathed.

The brother larger than life like a whale a mystery at times

This is an interesting study of a family a modern family. This maybe shows who the dynamics work when there is no father. The problem of having a large than life figure in that of the brother Ramon. He may be overshadowed the narrator(I sense this we never even know her name). THere is a feeling of her runaway but the elastic of her home never quite breaking and being flung back into the family. But with her eyes opened by the trip to Mexico and also maybe having spent time with whales she sees more in her brother Ramon than she did. This is a book about memories the writer has said in interviews also she wants us the reader to draw our own view on the family.The title came from the time she imagined Ramon spending in the tub a fat boy in the tub and a whale ! I really like this book as it does what she wants us as a reader to do and that is thinking about the characters and the situation of an unnamed girl returning to her odd family.

 

Sweet potato by Kim Tongin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sweet Potato by kim Tongin

Korean short stories

Original title – Gamja  감자

Translator – Grace Jung

Source – review copy

Kim Tongin or Kim Dong-in as he was also known. Like many Koreans of his generation in the early 20th century he studied in Japan in Tokyo. But dropped out to become a writer as he had funds from a family inheritance, which meant he lived an extravagant lifestyle til his funds start running out in the thirties, he launched a magazine in the mid-thirties.He then visited China and in the forties, he was sent to jail in Japan. He died in 1951 aged just fifty. This is the first collection of his stories to be published in English from new publishing house Honford star.

It’s strange how when one person gets disciplined everyone else in the room shakes. (it’s neither public rage nor camarderie.) It;s not just that the body shakes, but thae heart shakes with it.the first time i experienced these shakes is when I got beaten up for three hours straight and shook like a po[lar in the detention room for two hours.(This is now something I deal with at least twice a day) the room is like a dead person’s cell.Not a sound . I can’t even breath loudly.No one wants to look inside here for fear that that they might encountewr a ghost.

From the story flogging a powerful passage on fear of violence shown in a body shaking .

There is a selection of stories from all over his career. They paint a picture of Northern Korea that I think is now long gone. From a tale of boat folk a brother who is a boatman make nightly trips from a small fishing village a story told over a number of years. Then Flogging is about a man in a jail in Japan, there is a real sense of the hatred between Korea and Japan in the way they treat each other. He builds a sense of fear, with comments like when one person gets discipline they all shake around him a real sense of fear. Then the title story follows an arranged marriage of a young poor girl to an older man shows power struggle as she ends up in poverty after getting raped at a salt mine by the boss and ends up turning to the street.This is also one of a number of well-written female characters in the book. A woman has an affair with a married man whom she tries to turn into something better.

Fighting, adultery, murder, begging, imprisionment – the slums outside the Ch’ilssong gate were tje point of orgin for all of life’s tragedieds and conflicts. Pongnyo and her husband were farmers – the second in class ranking (scolar, farmer,artisan and tradesman). Pongyno was poor but raised in a household that upheld principles.The strict rules of sonbi were left behind once the family fell into the rank of farmer.But some level of discipline, order and intelligence lingered.

The opeining lines of Sweet potato tell of a girl that grew with pricnciples but has a hard life when she marries.

 

Kim was known for the realistic nature of his works and he does here seem to set a world that is long gone the Korea of the past a more rural world, a slower world than the one now and in the case that most of the stories are set in the north of Korea a world that is now shut to public eyes. The title story has been made into a film a couple of times the first version is on youtube but hasn’t subtitles which is a shame. The cover art for the book was specially painted by a south Korean artist jee-ook Choi to reflect the title story.A great intro into one of the best regard writers from Korea one of the first true modern writers from that country a man that fought for a Korean voice in his writing.

Goodbye, bird by Aram Pachyan

Goodbye, Bird

Goodbye, bird by Aram Pachyan

Armenian fiction

Original title – Ցտեսություն,_Ծիտ

Translator – Nairi Hakhverdi

Source – review copy

Well, I haven’t added many new countries in recent times, since getting over 100 countries the task gets harder. So every time I come to a new country to review a book from it is a bonus.This is another title from Glagoslav and their decision to bring us lit from a lot of Post-Soviet countries this time Armenia. This book was a best seller in its homeland.Aram Pachyan was born into a family of doctors and studied law. But also wrote getting his first story published in 2007 he now works as a journalist and columnist and hosts a radio show. This was the first novel after he had a collection of short stories.

I am 28 years old. That’s what it says at the beginning of every page of his notebook, which he opens every hour and leafs through, and incessantly repeats it with his skin turning dark red with anxeity, first looking at his arms to check that two has not suddenly turned into three.then he hangs his melon-looking head like the limp head of a dead man over one of the pages in his notebook and write two will never become three, because after being discharged the only governor of space and time is you, just like your grandfater who, at the break of dawn, finally closed the books on history.

The opening line shows the complex nature of this book

This novel finds a 28-year man has returned to his hometown and is now trying to piece together his life. The man is fragment like the book itself which drifts through time as we see his childhood years the friends he had then. Then the major part of his life in the Army seeing action losing comrades as he remembers a cat called bird, returns home and regains a girlfriend. But all in a fragmented style of almost PTSD world of the ex-soldier it all harks back to events in the army one horrific events and his trying to piece all this together and move forward. But there is also the everyday side of life listening to pink Floyd discovering Madame Bovary and other things as he pieces his world together.

“Everyone is guilty of my suicide. Is this not your creation, a mutual killing factory where time is killed until it’s time to kill and where everyone is forced to wait until the next time to kill, and then the next, the next time to kill, until a sniper’s bullet bores into your eye and you retun home for the last time,even if it’s in eternal silence in a coffin

This reminds us of the brutal nature of war at times and the repative effect of being in battle.

This is like a giant jigsaw of a book the pieces are there but this is like opening the box and piece it together without a picture. It is a young man’s world but told from his view others point of view and in a third voice at times. This makes it a compelling and challenging piece of prose. I was reminded at times of another recent book the novel Fado Alexandrino even down to what one may say is a feeling of Saudade in that book is also tinged in this book. A man looking back as well to his life in the army in the army and after the army.Also how to deal with PTSD in the fragmented nature is about trying to grasp life once again.  This was one of the most challenging books I have read recently but also one of the most interesting for any world lit fan this is an interesting first book from Armenia to read.

Two new shorts and a german seagulls

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m off for a night out later so not time to do a review. So I have chosen to show a few recent arrivals at Winstons towers. Sweet Potato. The first is from new publisher Honford Star. The collection from Kim Tongin is an insight into the first fifty years of the 20th century in Korea a time before its rise in power.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pushin press has a new collection of stories by the mast of the short story Chekov in a new translation from Nicolas Pasternak Slater the nephew of Boris Pasternak. There are thirteen stories in the collection including ones such as a day in the country, The lady with the little dog and the kiss.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now some purchases first is a collection of short stories from Robert Wasler from a few years ago. I have read one of his books but now how well regarded he is as a writer. The book covers most of his life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then two books by the late Swiss writer Urs Widmer. The first the Blue Soda siphon is an adult fairy tale that follows a man returning to his childhood in the 40s then his younger self, going forward to the 90s and the gulf war. In the congo follows a man that works in a retirement home where his father has just moved in and it follows the discovery his father wasn’t a boring man as he thought he was.The journey takes him to Congo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A trip for a grandfather and grandson to China goes slightly wrong. when then grandfather dies the grandson carries on writing back to family fantastic tales of what they were doing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then a second book for the tbr pile from German poet Hans Magnus Enzensberger. Tumult follows his life and the world from 1963 til 1970 as he was a left winger, spend time in the Soviet Union and Cuba. the last four books are all from Seagull books.

Warwick prize for woman in translation Longlist

One of the things that has come about due to things like the woman in translation month is this new prize. The longlist has announced a mix of Adult fiction, Children’s fiction and Poetry. It is great to see a mix of lit in a prize. My personal favourite is the book from Istros life begins on Friday as Susan has been so supportive of this blog over the years.

  • The Art of being a Tiger by Ana Luísa Amaral, translated from Portuguese by Margaret Jull Costa (Liverpool University Press, 2016)
  • The Song of Seven by Tonke Dragt, translated from Dutch by Laura Watkinson (Pushkin Children’s Books, 2016)
  • Clementine Loves Red by Krystyna Boglar, translated from Polish by Antonia Lloyd-Jones and Zosia Krasodomska-Jones (Pushkin Children’s Books, 2016)
  • Second-hand Time by Svetlana Alexievich, translated from Russian by Bela Sheyavich (Fitzcarraldo Editions, 2016)
  • Life Begins on Friday by Iona Pârvulescu, translated from Romanian by Alistair Ian Blyth (Istros Books, 2016)
  • Memoirs of a Polar Bear by Yoko Tawada, translated from German by Susan Bernofsky (Portobello Books, 2016)
  • The Fox was ever the Hunter by Herta Müller, translated from German by Philip Boehm (Portobello Books, 2016)
  • Eva Sleeps by Francesca Melandri, translated from Italian by Katherine Gregor (Europa Editions, 2016)
  • Mirror, Shoulder, Signal by Dorthe Nors, translated from Danish by Misha Hoekstra (Pushkin Press, 2017)
  • Swallowing Mercury by Wioletta Greg, translated from Polish by Eliza Marciniak (Portobello Books, 2017)
  • Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin, translated from Spanish by Megan McDowell (Oneworld Publications, 2017)
  • Swallow Summer by Larissa Boehning, translated from German by Lyn Marven (Comma Press, 2016)
  • The Dutch Maiden by Marente de Moor, translated from Dutch by David Doherty (World Editions, 2016)
  • Record of a Night Too Brief by Hiromi Kawakami, translated from Japanese by Lucy North (Pushkin Press, 2017)
  • Mårbacka by Selma Lagerlöf, translated from Swedish by Sarah Death (Norvik Press, 2016)
  • The Coast Road by Ailbhe Ní Ghearbhuigh, translated from Irish by Michael Coady, Peter Fallon, Tom French, Alan Gillis, Vona Groarke, John McAuliffe, Medbh McGuckian, Paul Muldoon, Michelle O’Sullivan, Justin Quinn, Billy Ramsell, Peter Sirr and David Wheatley (The Galley Press, 2016)

I have read four of the books from the longlist and have also reviewed other books by a couple of the writers. Nice to see the first longlist of this new prize more details about the prize. Have you read any books on the list?

A Czech crime trio

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Earlier this year I found one of this trio of books written by the Late Czech writer Josef Skvorecky. Around the Sixties, he wrote about Lieutenant Boruvka of the Prague Homicide Bureau. The books reflected the Czech regime of the time and things like LSD arriving there. Last year one of the book was recorded for radio here. It was said in his obituary the four books of Borkuva could be read as an epic work, I have the three books as they are said to convey the everyday life of Prague at the time very well.I hope to read them soon have anyone else read them?

 

That was the month was July 2017

  1. The 6:41 to Paris by Jean-Philippe Blondel
  2. Love and Garbage by Ivan Klima
  3. Nona’s room by Cristina Fernandez Cubas
  4. The hive by Camilo Jose Cela
  5. The Irish Sea by Carlos Maleno
  6. Severina by Rodrigo Rey Rosa
  7. Wolf Moon by Julio Llamazares
  8. The secret of Evil by Roberto Bolano
  9. Ash Wednesday by Miguel-Anxo Murado
  10. Before by Carmen Boullosa

I manage to read books from 6 countries last month. I also read from one new publisher New Vessel a press, I had been wanting to try so was pleased to get a paper edition of one of their books. I started my new job this month and I am now doing three long days a week doing 13 and half hour days which will take some time to get a new blog routine. I fully started last week of the month as I had 19-day training last month. Anyway back to the blog we got off to a good start with Spanish lit month. I managed to read 8 books for that and expanded it out next month to include Portuguese lit into the Spanish lit month.

Book Of July

Image result for the hive camilo jose cela

The Hive was my book of the month the second book by the late Nobel winner Camilo Jose Cela was a book buzzong with life of post civil war Spain an undercurrent of the anger that was just below. It was one of two books about the civil war the second was Wolf moon also following a post civil war that with people on the run and hiding from Franco’s forces.

Non Book discovery

I have to keep harping back on to Mark Kozelek band Sun Kill Moon released a second collaboration with British experimental band Jesu. This like his three most recent records is Mark singing about his life and day to day events around him, he has become in some ways the Thomas Bernhard of alt rock in these recent albums a vent of anger at times and also a world wide view. This is just a singer at the peak of his songwriting.

Here is one of my favourite tracks a one with a number of Lit references in it as he received a book from a fan that is a bit of a beat hipster in the way he looks.

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 .

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