Come with me by Nicola Viceconti

Come with me Nicola Viceconti

Italian fiction

Original title – Vieni Via

Translator – Laura Bennett

Source – review copy

I have reviewed one book from the new publisher Aspal Prime that has here a prize-winning Italian novel from the writer-poet and sociologist Nicol Viceconti a writer of over ten books. A lot of his works have focussed on Latin America where he has worked particularly in Argentina where he was award an honor by the people of Buenos Aires and was called an Italian with an Argentina soul. He likes to travel and has a real interest in Human rights his writing has been called Novelas por la identidad”  which means in search of identity here it is an old professor looking at his past as he hunts an old flame.

Someone had taken Irina to Vladivostok, away from me forever. What if that was really happed, I wondered in a low voice.

Even just the vey thought of this theory sent a shiver down my spine. I dropped the coat on the floor and, still clutching the note in my hand, sank into the chair ]. I closed my eyes and fell back into the seat. I began to wonder about what had haoopend to her. While my eyes followedthe words from one side of the paper to the pther. I heard their sound, as if she was saying them. Suddenly eveything had imagined about her vainshed, bursting like a bubble.

The note is found is his imagined version of what happened right or was it different

Eighty-year-old franco Solfi had completely forgotten about a young Russian girl he had met in the sixties when he was a communist in Paris and not as tainted as he was now.  when she disappeared he thought she had died Irina. But when he finds an old note, that had been left for him in a coat he hadn’t used since that time and the discovery is like a Proustian Madeline as it reignites something he had forgotten.  he is convinced it is a sign and decides to go on a journey to discover what happened to Irina a journey that goes into the past and mix history the cold war and these two peoples journeys as he first goes to Paris and then into what was Irina Homeland as he tries to discover the truth about what happened all those years ago was it was he imagined was all that it seemed at the time as this is a flip of being a communist in the Paris and living under communism in the sixties in Russia the trip will take him to Moscow then through to Siberia and then even to Mexico city. Will he find out if Irina is alive will the present heal the past?

I decided to travel by tain for two reasons: on the one hand I wanted to enjoy the landscape of Europe I had almost forgotten on the other, I needed to give myself the time needed to reflect on some episodfes of my life spent with Irina, A thrity six hour journey seemed to take stock of the situation before I suddenly found my self catapulted into the past.

I have always lived travelling by train. I must have inherited the passion for it frommy uncle Renato, my father’s brother, who spent fifty years of his life as a train driver on the line that went from Rome to the lake as Castel Gandolfo. It was the fifties and to the delight of romans, this, one of the most scenic routes in central Italy had recently been open.

He heads into his past as he tries to foind put what happened to Irina all those years ago.

One of the things I have found over the years is there are so many books not translated you only have to look at the blog the untranslated that covers those gems that have yet to find a translator or have been signed up and never got to us in English so many great books await us so we have books like this a writer that has published a number of books but given his style which is a mix of Latin American and Italian in his style. this book finishes in Mexico and this is all parts that he wanted to bring into the bok the militants of the sixties a certain type of Italian that is marked by Franco then he wants to touch on certain events in Mexico in the 40s, 50s and 60s and then he wanted to use Irina as a way of connecting all these ideas as we follow Franco as he looks for her and in a way discovers what happened to make him the disillusioned 80 years old he is on a quest a short of Odessey into the truth. This is another perfect example of why small publishers do such a great job.

Winstons Score – B is a gem about one man’s journey into his past

The Liquid land by Raphaela Edelbauer

The Liquid Land by Raphaela Edelbauer

Austrian fiction

Original title – Das flüssige Land

Translator – Jen Calleja

Source – review copy

My second woman in translation month book takes me to Austria and a book that was on both the German and Austrian book prize lists make the German book prize shortlist in 2019. Raphaela Edlebauer studied philosophy and has published in numerous publications since 2009 and has had three books published two of them novels and this her first novel was written with a grant she got to write it. She grew up in Hinterbruhl which has a location near it that was the inspiration for the village of Gross-einland in the novel Liquid land a satellite camp, that was making plane parts in the second world war in an area surrounded by former mining sites. Which is similar to the village in the novel.

It was the fourth day of my journey in the Alpine foothills, and I sat down with the nearly split bread rolls in order to plan my trip for the day. As id this inconsqnential rhythm of stopping off at inns, contemplation, dinner, sleep and breakfast buffets were leading me to utter lethargy. I decided every morning  to uphold it. I hadn’t yet been able to let go of the hope of finding Greater Einland I loved simplicity of the conditions.

A village that has disappeared into the ether !

The book follows Ruth Schwarz as she has to deal with the death of her parents in a car crash. She is in the middle of her final thesis at university about the fluid nature of time and is struggling to finish this when the death arrives. This means she has to go back to her parent home village the lost vilage it seems of Greater Einland a village that her parents was form but seems to have diappeared in the time since they left eventually she arrives and start to dort out arrangments of her parents funeral. She is only thinking this may take her a few days but as she starts to speend time in the village she finds the village is caught out of time as the countess the head in a way of the village has tried to stop the effects of time on the village so it is a place oiut of time and also siting in the middle of lots of former mines as this is causing holes to appear around the area and the village seems to be oblivous to this and she evens finds that they already have the answer to why these things are happening with the details held with in the town Library ? What has happent ot make thew Countees act like this what has happen to the village and as time seems to stretch and days become weeks will Rith ever leave Greater Einland as those days she had intend to spend become weeks as she is drawn into find out why all this has happened.

It wasn’t until a few days after the strange encounter with the Countess that it occurred to me that I’d had missed my appointment for the funeral arrangements. I hurriedly called the company’s office from the reception and invented a tall tale about a psychological breakdown, The lady in the secretary’s office gave me a new appointment for the following day without complaint, and asked whether I happened to already know when my parents be transferred.

I said that I didn’t, and [romised to be in touch again soon, Too restless to work, I listened, lying on the floor back in my room, to a coulle of  Chet Baker albums I’d brought in a second hand shop, which fused with the autumn weather.

She meets the Countess and then time slips through her hands

The book has echos of things like the village in Whicker man an island but the way this village is hdden it could be a island itself also with a population that seems to oblivous to the outside world and the start of this is from the Countess that has something of the Miss Havishaim about her, in the way she has wanted time to stand still around here. Time is a large theme in this book a scientist that is sudying time, a village where time seems to move different to the world outside the village and the holes like black holes add ruth surname and the holes you have black holes and this is what is happening her a village caught in darkness as time is slowing down as it falls back but in Ruth’s eyes time is speeding past there. This has nods to a world of Kafkaesque twists and turns if Franz Kafka Dickens and Bernhard co written a book this would have been it a mix of great expectations , a kafka nightmare about to happen and a austrian sense to it all is an interesting mix I felt. Have you a favourite German language woman writer ?

Winstons score – A a new talent a clever tale of time and turniong a blind eye.

Childhood by Tove Ditlevsen

Childhood by Tove Ditlivsen

Danish memoir

Original title – Barndom

Translator – Tiina Nunnally

Source – personal copy

I am late to the party on this trilogy of books from the Danish writer Tove Ditlevsen. It was published in the 90s as a book with the second vol but it wasn’t till last year the full trilogy came out I was lucky enough to find the first two books in the trilogy in a local Oxfam shop and thought it would be the perfect choice for  Woman in Translation month. Although she wasn’t that old when she died only 58 she was one of the best-known writers in demark having written over 29 novels a lot based around her childhood which was tough and this lead to struggles with alcohol and depression in her adult life. She was married four times and eventually the struggles lead to her taking her own life.

Down in the bottom of my childhood my father stands laughing. He’s big and black and old like the stove, but there is nothing about him I’m afraid of. Everything that I know about him I’m allowed to know, and if I want to know anything else, I just have to ask. He doesn’t talk to me on his own because he doesn’t know what he should say to little girls. Once in a while he pats on the head and says “Heh ,heh.” Then my mother pinches her lips together and he quickly takes his hands away. My father has certain privileges because he’s a man and provides for all of us

Her father a socialist and maybe a typical father of the time.

This is the story of Tove and her friend Ruth a red-haired girl that to Tove was a lot of things that she couldn’t be when she was growing up, From the gruff parents her socialist father that doesn’t want her to be the writer and struggles to connect to his kid this typical father of his time. Add to that a brother that is maybe a few years to old to connect too She wants at times. she has and the friendships she has made.  the lack of being able to express herself what comes across is a world that hard she lives in the slums of Copenhagen a tough place where they are considered worse of as the flat hasn’t a view of the street. At the heart is her childhood growing up a reader poor but in love with books. There is a passage I love a piece where the teacher talks about children books and the young Tove turns around and says she is reading Victor Hugo which made me smile in what is a dark world this is what is at the heart of the problem to Tove her childhood is tough as she is different to the other kids it is lat on when she discovers poetry the first light appears.

I was born on December 14, 1918, in a little two room apartment in Vesterbro in Copenhagen. We lived at Hedebygade 30a; The”A” meant it was in the back building, in the front building, from the windows of which you could look down on the street, lived the finer people. Though the apartments were exactly the sames as ours, they paid two kroners more a month in rent, It was the year that the Worl War ended and the eight hour day was insituited. My brother Edevin was born wne the World war began and when my father worked twelve hour days. He was a stoker and his eyes was always bloodshot from the sparks from the furnace.

The tough world she lives in and her brother who is distant as well.

that reminds me of the stories I heard of the thirties in the northeast an industrial area where life was tough and parents and children relationships were far more traditional than they are now what she draws is a world that has gone even though it is Denmark and Copenhagen it could easily be Newcastle, Belfast, glasgow any of those cities where there are large slum areas and poverty was a way of life for many and like her fathers view culture wasn’t for his daughter. It was easy to see why so many people fell for this trilogy there is clarity to the writing. She is like a color-lego figure in a grey-lego city out of place and never quite in place. She depicts a world that has gone but we needed to be reminded off. this is another of those lost gems that keep turning up. also shows that being a biography it doesn’t need to be huge this is under 100 pages long and is a gem. I  have the second part which I will save for the next woman in translation month. Have you read this book?

Winstons score – A+ perfect lost gem.

 

The return of the Caravels by Antonio lobo Antunes

 

The Return of the Caravels by Antonio Lobo Antunes

Portuguese fiction

Original title – As Naus

Translator – Gregory Rabassa

Source – Personal copy

There is a name that has for most of the time I have been blogging that has been on the list of potential Nobel winner Antonio Lobo Antunes is always on the list of potential winners. The former doctor served in the Portuguese army in a number of conflicts in the 60s and 70s they feature in a number of his book they have been in the two books I have previously read from Him. Here also there is a feel of the aftermath of those conflicts. He has written a bi-weekly column for a Newspaper he has written over twenty novels he is influenced by William Faulkner in his style which is dense and modernist.

He’d passed through Lixbon eighteen or twenty years earlier on the way to Angloa and what he remembered best were his parents rooms in the boarding house on Conde redondo where they were staying in the midst of a clatter of pots and womans exsoerated grumbling. He recalled the communal bathroom, a washbasn with a set of baroque faucets inimtation of fish that vomited out sobs of brownish water through there open gils, and the time he came upon a man on in years smiling on the the toilets with his pants down around his knees . At night the window would be open and he’d see the illuminated Chinese restuarents, the sleepwalking glaciers of electrical appliances stores in the shadows, and blond heads of hair above the paving stones of the sidewalks.

The opening lines show how the past and opresent mix together.

Inside the Jeronimos Monastery In Lisbon, there is the copper insignia that were on the ships from Portugal those Caracvels those ships the Portuguese used when they conquered their empire. Well, this book mixes those figures famous for the discovery and conquering those lands have returned to a mix of Modern well it is the mid-seventies after the falling apart of the Salazar regime and the decision to leave their empire so when figures like Vasco  De Gama the king, smaller figures like Luis as they all return and see what has happened the journey of their empire has gone full circle as the past and present crash and the figures of the past drift into the present as they see what has happened over the past three hundred years of history as the fate of their empire and its downfall is shown in full color this isn’t a plot-driven book it is more a revision and view of the past and present at once it is about the Portuguese empire and its downfall. the darker side of all is shown like in his other works he doesn’t hold back.

When Vasco da Gama arrived in Vila franca de Xira by van, with the poker deck in his pocket, ain=ming to find work at the cobbler’s trade, instead of the trees and houses and streets he’d remembered at night in Africa with meticulous precision of longing, he found a land that had extended beyond the rooftops and the pagoda of the bandstand submerged in the vast spread of the halted waters of the Tagus, drowning farms,cows and walls abd driven by November rains. Famlies clinging to the tops of poplar trees saw passing by, adrift in the whirlpools of mud, the bloated bodies of bereaus mules and dogs, double basses lost their clefs forever, woman with their figers motionless in sewing gestures, and their mugs thatr said souvenir of Loule.

Vasco De Gama one of those figures to return to the present

This is a tough book about a tough period in his countries history. What he does is mix those great names of the past and the underbelly of what has happened since. It looks at what the likes of Da Gama Legacy mean for them. Style-wise this is a book that owes a lot to the writers he likes Faulkner springs to mind it is a work about thoughts and ideas more than a plot about the legacy good and bad about the Portuguese empire with warts and all that has happened there are little side stories like Luis who comes to Lisbon on a ship and his father’s coffin. The mix of past and present in the world that sees the modern and the [ast as one is an interesting insight into the heart of the Portugal of the time. It is like a mixtape of Portuguese history with rifts on top of rifts as he samples the past and presents working them in together to produce something unique a seem less mixing of both that has been beautifully translated by Gregory Rabassa who for me has always been one of the best translators around.

Winstons score – + A stunning like a rich dessert it is intense and full of flavors of Portuguese history!!

Working Woman by Elvira Navarro

Working Woman by Elvira Navarro

Spanish fiction

Original title –La trabajadora,

Translator – Christina Macsweeney

Source – personal copy

Another of the writers that were on the first Granta best Spanish writer list(note there is a new edition out if it is half as good as the first as there have been so many great writers from the first list) . Elvira Navarro studied philosophy at university and has written six novels and a number of collected stories. She has won many prizes for her writing. She is known for her innovative writing making her one of the leading writers of her generation most of her novels have been translated into English. This is the first book I had read from her.

Then one fall day, Fabio turned up. He was Mexican, thpough no would have guessed it, given his Irish looks. I had kind of an obsession with anything blond{She made a vague gesture, like a Thompson gazelle lying in wait for a camera in a wildlife documentary. I was about to say something, but..} One day my psychoanalyst said I was looking for the child I used to be all the blond men I fell in love with. A second shrink, Jungian this time came out with the idea that I worshipped the Ayran race{I looked at the floor, if susana wanted to beleive her, these ridiculous observations weren’t helping, but on the other hand, the part of me that curiously observed and envied her freedom in constructing an image of herself gave a faint signal of delight, I was accustomed to her exggarations , even to her lies

What is truth is a big part of this book who is real as well !

The book is a story of two roommates Susana and Elisa, Elisa is a copy editor and proofreader that has seen her job shrink and has had to move to a smaller place and then even couldn’t make ends meet she takes in Susana as her roommate. So she has left the center of Madrid and had to move to the outer suburbs. The book flicks between both their lives as at times we see Susana’s life through the eyes of her roommate as she writes down her roommate’s stories. What we see are to women struggling with their lives mental health is touched on the loss of dreams the struggle of life as the two are drawn Elisa is a lost soul as she wanders the town the graveyard both actual and the left behind abandon house half-built dreams in the dead of night. Susana an artist is making maps out of clippings and pieces of the local area. It is a story that sees you at the limit of what is life a woman on the edge is there even two women is Susana a sort of creation for Elisa to live out her fantasies in a way Susana is described in such a way she seems too good to be sometimes !! Is it a friendship or just a dream this is where Navarro does well to tread a line that as a reader you are never sure? Add to that all a relationship with a dwarf !!

Becoming an indepedent contractor had been the first step. Then they started getting behind with my paychecks, only making them promptly when i complained. They used to say this courtsey- meeting their obligations- was a sign of how much they valued me. When winter came around, I hadn’t been paid for two months, and I’d started without much success, testing the waters at other publishing houses.I wirker till late on galleys that left me without the slghtest desire to read to go on looking at the screen, and then I’d need to get outside , walk and have a couple of beers.

The tough publishing world has woirn her down and seen her move out of the city

When I saw on the back cover that Lina Meruane had called her disturbing and had an eye for the unusual I was drawn in and her novel seeing red I loved. This is a story of two women or is it one woman Elisa is failing in her job as she is working on editing a memoir she has a psychiatric condition which she is trying new meds is this all an illusion is Susana a character created to comfort her to inspire her with her tiny maps and her being the opposite of Elisa or is she real. Navarro has drawn the two roommates so well as at times the story goes between them and at times Susana’s story is told by Elisa. Not the easiest read it sees how easy it is for us to all fall into despair and a downward spiral. I do wonder if Navarro is a soft cell fan with the whole dwarf side story reminded me of the song of theirs from the 80s sex dwarf! Have you read her ?  which book would you recommend next?

Winstons score – -A near-perfect gem from a talented writer.

Gold Dust by Ibrahim al-Koni

Gold Dust by Ibrahim al-Koni

Libiyan (Tuareg) fiction

Original title – التبر

Translator – Elliot Colla

Source – Personal copy

I shift from Spanish lit to join in Lisa Indigenous lit week for this year and the Libyan Tuareg writer Ibraham al-Koni a book that I have had for a long time. al-Koni grew up as a child in the Desert not learning to read and write Arabic till he was twelve he then went on to study comparative literature in Moscow. This is where he discovered the Lit theory of Geroge Lukac about the novel can’t be outside the city and then decide to set the novel he has written in the desert world he knew thus working against Lukac theory. He has produced over 80 books there have only been a few translated to English. He has taught all over the world and is considered one of the best Arabic writers alive. he was longlisted for the man booker international prize a number of years ago.

When Ukhayyad received the camel as a gift from the cheif of the Ahaggar tribes, he was still a young colt. Back the, on moonligh nights, Ukhayyad liked to brag about the throughbred camel to the other young men of the tribe, taking pleasure in posing questions to himself and then answering them

“Have any of you ever seen a piebald Mahri before ?”

“Never !”

“Have you ever seen a through bred so graceful so light of foot and so well proportioned?”

“Not until now.”

Have you ever seen a Mahri who could compete with him in pride, fierceness, and loyalty?”

“Not like this one”#”Have you ever seen a gazelle who took on the form of a camel?”

“Of course not”

He loved his camel ? a gift the two become close the camel is almost human at times it seems

 

The book focuses on a young Tuareg man as he rejects the wife his father has chosen for him after being persuaded by his wife’s cousin  Duda to divorce her which he pays him in gold dust.  and has thus had to go into exile with only his camel which he was given as a gift by the chief of the Ahaggar tribe it is a thoroughbred camel his pride and joy a piebald camel. The tale is of these two a man and their camel as the two try and survive in the desert as Ukhayyad tries to avoid the men of his tribe the war in the south of the desert as we follow them. The two have a bond that is almost like a pair of best pals the camel at one point saves him from a well when he has fallen down. The camel who like his owner drifts from good health to being on the edge of life as the desert takes it toll on the two of them. the two end up in caves where the walls are covered in prehistoric painting where we see Ukhayyad dream of a house deserted as he hides away from those chasing him.

When the herders brought their camels to the well, they found the young man’s emaciated, bloody body stretched out naked beneath its edge. His foot was still fastened to the tail of the throughbred Mahri that looked as if he had been skinned alive, The camel sttod over his head using his body to shield him from the scorching sun, They carried him into the shade of a nearby lote tree. Under that thick canopy crown, ther dunked his head into a bucket and poured water over him, An older herder hasten to light a fire and heat a kettle of water . The man rifled through his belongings and returned woith a handful of Fenugreeek seeds that he proceeded to cook. The camle herder served the broth to him with a spoon, all the while holding his head like mothers do when they breast feed their children.

ukhayyad nearly dies in the middle of the desert to saved by some camel herders

I have had this on my shelf for too long I know it is considered one of the best books from Arabic and one of the best about desert life as I said this is a buddy book the man and his camel but there is a third character and that is the desert itself the harsh world of the Tuareg is opened up as we follow Ukhayyad and his camel through the Sahara the changing environments as the two on the run try to get by in the tribal world where he has rejected that world when he divorced his with for a bag of gold dust. It is a book about man, desert, tribal life, Sufism, and the natural world. Ukhayyad is a character that isn’t easy to like but you feel for him and the [redicment he has got himself into. A great choice for Lisa’sindigenous lit month ! Have you read any of his books ?

Winstons score – -B an interesting insight into the tuareg world

 

 

The Cheap eaters by Thomas Bernhard

The Cheap Eaters by Thomas Bernhard

Austrian fiction

Original title – Die Billigesser

Translator – Douglas Robertson

Source – personal copy

It has been two years since I reviewed a book by Thomas Bernhard I have reviewed eight books by him so had to limit myself as I only have a few unread books left to review or buy. Bernhard would have been eighty this year but he passed away over twenty years ago. He has long been one of my favourite writers so when I saw there was a new translation of one of his novellas that hadn’t been in print for a number of years had a new translation. of the cheap eaters out I knew I had to get it. It is among the last few I have left on my shelves to review.

While talking the walk that had been raking for the purposes of his studies every late afternoon for weeks- and also routinely at about six in the morning for the preceding three days, a walk that had passed through Wertheimstein park, in which he said he had once again been able, owing to the ideal natural conditions prevailing solely in Wertheimstein park, to return after rather long interval from a worthless trains of thought regarding his physiogonmy to a useful, indeed, ultimately uncommonly profitable one and hence the resumption of his workon his essay, an essay he had neglected for the longest imaginable time owing to his inability to concentrate

He is a grade A procastantor 16 years on this essay is his life work but he has been dodging it for years.

The book centers on a group of four men that meet every day for the cheapest meal that is available at the Vienna public kitchen every day of the week. When they were he happened upon by Koller as he was meant to be heading to the park. But decided to go to the VPK  but the decision changes but Koller life and the way he is working on his essay. So when he ends up in the kitchen where he sees and eventually becomes part of the cheap eaters’ group. He lost his leg years ago after a dog bite he is a typical world-worn and down-trodden figure. When he found out about the cheap eaters could be the center of his work the exact people he had spent the time search for. He has been working on a character study and writing a piece about Physiognomy he isn’t the quickest he has been working on this piece for 16 years and now the direction has been changed after the chance meeting of the cheap eaters Koller life has become about by a number of chance events the loss of his leg, the length of time spent on his work, the chance meeting sets Koller life into a spin and a new direction. Why are they the cheap eaters there and will Koller ever finish his work?

he had already formed thi impression that the cheap eaters were uninterruptedly concentrated on eating the cheapest food at the VPK even before he had sat down at the cheap eaters table; he had already straightaway been able to infer for his purposes, to infer it first solely from the cheap eaters physical comportment and physicsl movement, and then later also from theit intellectual comportment and intellectual movement. he had inferrred that they were born and personified cheap just as he had always been a born and eaters.

Koller is so caught by the cheap eaters when he happens to chance on them by accident.

This has a tongue-in-cheek feel to it and the world he spirits up of the cheap eaters and the world that revolves around the cheap meals Mon to Fri and why they do this.  that soon ends up drawing in Koller to them and their world. but it also sees a man that isn’t much for the world as a loner a typical sort of Bernhard character down beaten by the world. This is a less ranty Bernhard character not as hard pushed by the world a sort more of a loner than an embittered figure that we usually meet in his work. This is maybe a great intro to Bernhard it has the character traits of his work long paragraph that strong voice that marches on as the book goes on. There is more of a comic edge at times to this world and not quite the bile that he has in other books. But he is yet another figure on the edge of society that Bernhard was so good at writing. I think I will next read his debut work Frost which has sat on my shelves for a few years. Have you read this translation or the earlier Osers one ? have you a favorite Bernhard?

Winstons score – -A maybe an entry-level Bernhard novella

Eulogy for the living by Christa Wolf

Eulogy for the living by Christa Wolf

German Memoir

original title – Nachruf auf Lebende

Translator – Katy Derbyshire

Source – personal copy

I have a lot of books from Christa Wolf on my shelves but haven’t reviewed a book by her here on the blog until now. I have decided to start with a book about the start of her life, with a work that was published after she passed away found in her writings was this piece which she wrote in a four week period in the early seventies she had tried many times to write about her childhood here own families experience at the end of the second world war where here family left the home which after the war became part of Poland this is the period that covers that times as she has her last day at school as the family head further towards the center of Germany to avoid the oncoming Red Army. This was an experience and time she had tried many times to write about this time.

it embittered me that the Fuhrer’s portrait was torn from the walls in all the houses in the town. Our Fuhrer was an oil painting, sixty by forty centimetres, dressed in tones of grey. A red ribbon ran around his elegantly tilted grey peaked cap, the cord at the front was also grey. He didn’t look at us, insteadgazing rather precisely at the sliding glass door between the dining and living rooms, a door that made my friends consider our home modern, and displaying his strong straight nose to us in oprofile along with a single grey-blue eye, which was rigid and whiochwe therefore thought was firm. He gazed firmly, Not always, Frauelun Dr strauch had told ius when we talked about the uprising of the goths-

The loss of the pictures shows the changing tide and the quote from her favourite teacher later tried as a leading Nazis.

The book ties in with another work on her childhood patterns of youth she also wrote about her early years. But this is just about the escape from her hometown as they head to safety. As her family Leaves her hometown of Landberg on the Wrathe. so on 30th January in 1945. When her mother decides it is time for the family to head out of the town. As the story unfolds the young Christa can’t grasp how the regime has fallen apart the spot on the walls in the town where the Fuhrer portrait had been taken down as the locals await the appearance of the red army. Her school the Herman Goering school. her favorite teacher later arrests as a leading Nazi this is a young girl’s view of this world her family settled middle class her family ran the grocer’s shop like when her mother considered bringing the fur coat with her shows the class of her family. She finds it hard joining the escape as she had the doctrine from Nazis in her question of whether heading to safety is the best. This is a short period of time looked back at with a clear sense of the time. it is easy to see why Wolf struggled writing about this time.

Don’t forget what a wonderful childhood you both had! My mother had words like these at her disposal, she would put her hand on your shoulder to say them, and there was no face you could present to words like that. Why are you acting so stiff? we did have a wonderful childhoof and now it’s over, we were walk-ons in a oplay guaranteed a happy ending on the days of our birth, and now they were casting us into the midst of a tragedy, its laws absolutely unknown to us- although it is a little flattering in the far corner of one’s conscious mind to be entrusted with such a difficuly and productive role. fear immediately ceases once the loss one trembled at the thought of has come to pass. All at once, the thin dew of boredom that settles on circumstances too long immobile is blown away.

I loved this passage it shows how as children even the hieght of Nazism a perfect childhood could be had.

This was found in her writings after her death wolf was best known for the way she looked at the east german regime her first book coming out in the sixties. She wrote often at odds with the Stasi but with a socialist heart to her works, she only wrote one book that came out after unification which she was opposed to which question the Stasi’s actions at the time. the subtitle of this book is called taking flight as we see the young Christa loved her school her teachers her home and in a way was blinkered at that age to the wider vision but her experience is a personal testament of the time which is drawn from her own experience of the time. It is easy to see why it was a struggle to write about without inhibitions as she said as she looked back on the time and how her mother reacted through her eyes her mother strength shows through. I have the latter part of her life next on my list of Christa wolf’s books the last part of a series of diary entries she wrote for the same day for over fifty years. Have you read a book by her?

Winstons score – B  an interesting insight into her life that was a struggle to write

Lamentation for 77,297 victims by Jiří Weil

Lamentations for 77,297 Victims by Jiří Weil

Czech Prose Poem

Original title – Žalozpěv za 77 297 obětí

Translator – David Lightfoot

Source – personal copy

I now review a very short but powerful work from the Czech Writer Jiri Weil best known for his work Life with a star which was long champion by the writer Philip Roth. It wasn’t until after the war Jiri Weil starts to write about his Jewish Heritage before the war he had only once mentioned his Jewish heritage. But after the war, he was one of the first writers to address the Holocaust and what had happened. After the war, Weil became the librarian for the Jewish Museum in Prague and his style of writing started to change. This is where he came across the boxes that contained the list of the names of all the Jews that had died in Bohemia and Moravia. Weil survived the war by faking his death. He wrote two well-received novels l

Smoke from nearby factories shrouds a countryside as flat as a table, a countryside stretching off to infinity. It is covered by the ashes of millions of dead. scattered throughout are fine pieces of bone that ovens were not able to burn. When the winds wcome, ashes rise up to the sky the fragments of bine remain on the earth. Qand the rain falls on the ashes, and rain turns them to good fertile soil, as befits the ashes of martyrs. And who can find the ashes of those of my native land; there were 77,297 of them? I gather some ashes woth my hand, for ony a hand can touch them, and I pour them into a linen sack, just as those who once left for a foreign country would gather their native soil so as never to forget, to return to it always.

The opening lines of pieces

The prose poem uses a style that mixes a number of styles of writing it opens with him talking about the factories and ashes from them and then the lament of the ashes of the 77,297 victims then the poem continues with a narrative strand about the events of the shoah. Then there are personal accounts of the people their age, job, and how they died. Then we have passages from the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) these build a portrait of those lost voices of the dead from Josef Friedmann an immigrant from Vienna, through to Adolf Horovic a seventy-year-old that waited hours for a meager hand out. The prose ends as those lives are ending with Weil telling us about the victims and how they were shipped out in their thousands to the various camps around Europe with thousands going and as few as 2 of the 100o come back when sent to the horrors of places like Treblinka this is a slim work that conveys the horror of the Holocaust in its full power from a writer that lived through it.

Robert aufman was returning home from the Branik quarries to his apartment in Karlin. He was dead tiredfrom unaccustomed labor and was barely able to keep ion his feet, since he was not allowed to sit down on the tram. In Podoli a German wirh a badge on his lapel boarded the tram. When he sa w the star he grabbed kaufman by the shoulder, kicked him, and threw him from the moving tram. Kaufman fell on the hard stone of the rail lin, lacerating his face till it bled and breaking a leg. He lay there for a long time until he was taken to the Jewish hospital. He was takenl ha wheel barrow. On the way Kaufman roused from Unconsciousness and moaned in pain

Remove thy stroke away from me

This is a touching piece that can be read in an hour it has an afterword that describes the original work which featured photos of what remained of the  Prague Synagogue in a small photo with touching cover art. It also tells us that one of the first reviewers said it captured the events of the two nights that saw most of the Jewish victims removed on March 8/9, 1944. The prose can be read in a number of ways it set out here or the three sections can be read separate the Personal tales, the history of the shoah, and the passages of Tanakh.   This is a writer exploring how to describe the indescribable of the holocaust. How to capture the full effect of war and the loss of all of those voices. It is a testament to those who lost those voices gone and deserves to be sat alongside the best of Holocaust literature  From a writer that faked his own death to get through it all. Have you read any works from Weil?

Winstons score – +A a powerful, work on the horror of the Holocaust

Blind man by Mitja Čander

Blind man by  Mitja Čander

Slovenian fiction

Original title – Slepec

Translator – Rawley Grau

Source –  review copy

In a podcast, Mitja described himself as a man with three titles the first and his main one for most of his life was as an essayist and literary critic which he did to his 40s then he decides to start helping organize large cultural events such as the city of culture in Maribor and various book events. Then in his last role, he became a director of the publishing house Beletrina. He himself like the main character in his book has always had a problem with his own sight the book came out of his memoir then he decided to make it into a novel. After he got feedback from a well-known Slovenian playwright.

I handed the grocery bags to my wife, sat down at the kitchen table , and pcked up the newspaper. I glanced through the headlines.

“could you bring me something to eat, please? I’m starving, I said without looking up.

She stopped putting the foodaway in the fridge

“They gave you rotten lemos again!

“It happens”I answered calmly. “I doubt it was intentional.”

“This is the second time now. Not long ago iot was the bannas. Those ladies have good eyesight, you know.”

“I’m sorry, but I’m hungry ”

I trusted people on princilpe. I trusted them to always give me back the correct change.

The rotten lemons again this is another passaged that made me laugh

Like tMitja himself the main character is a successful book editor and critic and has been severely impaired vision since his childhood. Thou he has never been part of that blind community so when his vision starts to get worse. He is married and his wife is an editor and translator they live their lives we get some insights like when he shops for the house and returns with fruit and veg she says the people in the shop that gave him the worst produce. This is how he has lived to try to avoid his blindness but after trying to give a talk to a blind group and then is told to apply for funds for his blindness. Then when he doesn’t he appeals but this process ends up being invited into politics and to join and talk to a  party called the front this then grows and becomes the main party in Slovenia and our narrator is invited to join the government and start to organize a large event rather like the city of culture project but this is a huge concept of what will happen in future but the project is underfunded and is maybe a view of the country its self in the 30 years that followed the setting up of Slovenia as an independent country

“You get more beautiful every time I see you!”

“you say that, but you’re half-blind, you know – you don’t see wrinkles, the circles under my eyes, or the other blemishes…but thanks anyway, dear”

In my eye women with truly long hair automatically had an advantage. When we were stdying world literature at university, and even later, when we would bumpo into each other now and thenn, she had always kept her hair short, or medium length at most, Our most important lectures had been in the evening, and they were often the prelude to a long night, she had been one of the most avid oartiers I knew, and no jealous boyfriend could ever comvience her it was time to go to bed, Her boyfriends in fact, had always been somewhere far way,either studying in foreign lands or foreigners themselves, guys she had met travelling or on student exchanges.

I loved the opening of this chapter a compliment or was it !

 

The first part of the book seems to be based on Mitja own life he is blind but he has never been in the government but has been involved in the fact he had organized these large cultural events he has seen how politicians are at first hand. So this is a thinly veiled look at how Slovenia has been since they began so our narrator is impaired in his vision and many in the government has been short-sighted or impaired. There is a great use of language and humor in the book he says in the podcast he used to tell anecdotes you can see some of them grow out into the text a sense of humor and satire of his own life and the world he lives in. He also said he used short sentences in this novel. The descriptive way is described is well caught as that of a man with impaired vision ( having worked and often chatted with a man that lost his vision slowly like Mitja the veg story remind me of a story he told me of making breakfast when his wife had mistakenly put peaches in the place of tomatoes so when he ate his breakfast it was hot peaches, not tomatoes!, also the mapmaking we spent many months walking into the village where I worked till he eventually walked himself remind me of our narrator talking about his blindness in the office )so the world is seen through his prism it is a man trying to work out his place in the world the kafkaesque quest for a grant shows what makes us blind in the eyes of government what happens when you are blind but can see! What happens when those running a country get blinded by their own shining lights rather than what is in front of them a brilliant insight into Slovenia a man that strides both sighted and impaired world but also is blind running a project that is too large and underfunded from a shortsighted government !! What happens like the many chess references in the book that a country plays out and ends up in a stalemate you go back to what point did it happen! a sort of satire of Slovenia!

Winstons score -A an insight into one man’s life that is a wider commentary on the world he lives in

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