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

Spanish Lit Month 2021 plus Portuguese lit

Since 2012 the has been a Spanish lit month in July every year a couple of years ago Richard and I expand it to include Portuguese lit which for me was a way to try and read a few more Portuguese works which is an area I feel is weak on the blog. SO I announce this year’s Spanish lit month and I will be doing two reads this month.

The first week this year I would love people to try some modern Latin American lit there has been so much that has come out in recent years. The writers from Andres Neuman to Mariana Enriquez have shown how diverse Latin American Literature has been. I have chosen a book from a publisher that has brought us some great books from Latin America Charco Press there backlist is a good place to start with the best of the new writers from Latin America. The book from them I have chosen for a read-along in week one of July is A collection of short stories from the write Federico Falco A perfect cemetery the study obsessive love, romantic love, and how we deal with death and grief as a mayor tries to build the perfect cemetery for a dying wish.

Week two Spain no read-along just a book or two from Spain there been so much from Latin America in recent years. But maybe not as many from Spain. but it is great to read some Spanish fiction or even some nonfiction work. any suggestions welcome.

Week three classic lit. Well, modern classics really I have chosen a book by Peruvian Nobel winner Mario Vargas Llosa his best-known book which is Aunt Julia and the scriptwriter which describes Mario a thinly veiled version of Mario himself working in Peruvian radio doing the highly popular daily soap operas we follow his writing and personal life. I read this years ago and wonder if it has dated any in the time since I last read it. There was a Hollywood version of the book which I had hoped would be online or available for watching but tune in tomorrow isn’t available shame as it is a great film.

Week four is Portuguese week a mix of lit from Portugal and its ex-colonies I hope to read the madwoman of Serrano by Dina Salustio the first female writer from Cape Verde to be translated which Dedalus books brought out a while ago there has been a number of great African titles translated from Portuguese in recent years. I also hope to read a book from Portugal this week.

Will you be joining in? what books will you choose?

You’re not dying by Kathrin Schmidt

You’re not dying by Kathrin Schmidt

German fiction

Original title – Du Stirbst Nicht

Translator – Christina Les

Source – Review copy

It is strange when you have heard people talking just last week about what makes it through to English in Translation and how sometimes great books get missed as they don’t fit the mould of what is expected from a country’s writing or like this book just seem to get missed the book won the German book prize (the German equivalent of the Booker prize) which had Herta Muller and Clemens J Setz on the shortlist. Kathrin Schmidt has written eight collections of poetry and five novels this is the most successful novel she was on the Berlin discussions called the round table and has been an editor in the past the book is described as autobiographical in parts as the writer herself had recovered from a stroke in the time she was writing the book.  There is also a collection of short stories in the pipeline to be translated into English.

She knows that voice.It’s Inga. She sems to have bought someone with her. “Come on in!” says a deep voice, butthen there’s the sound of falling over, followed by a gloating laugh. Why can’t she just open her eyes! She has to work out what just happened. Her fruend Inga wanted to visit her and was encouraged to come in, but there must be a deep piton the other side of the door. They’ve fallen into it. She becomes agitated now, she realises. What.s happened to her friend, whose voice she heard so clearly? Ahthere she is again, unsuprisingly upset.

Early on she start to know who is talking to her but still has large gaps in her memories of her past.

The book is told from the viewpoint of Helene as she recovers from a life-changing stroke which put her in a coma as she comes round from the sedation they have put her one we see how she starts to piece together her life after the stroke. What do you do when you have forgotten everything everyone you have known is new to you as you start to awaken from a blur this is described? We see as she starts to piece together the post wall german as she remembers her youth in East Berlin. It is a battle as she starts to fill the gaps that are in her kind as she has lost control of her body. and is slowly regaining control of it she looks at who she was and doesn’t know herself and starts to begin life anew the book question who are we what makes a person what are we the sum of our past or the person we are now! Then what happens when we lose that can we refind love or does it come from elsewhere this is a powerful work that tackles difficult subjects.

Legs up! Both of them

Helene’s lying on the mat,. Her left leg gets to ninety degrees, her right leg manages maybe thurty. Not bad, she thinks. She knows her right arm won’t manage anything, though- she can’t direct a single finger even a tiny bit. And here comes the command already.

“Arms out in front, and up!”

The left one goes up.

“And what about the right one?”

The physion knows the answer to that, so can’t she just get off her case.

Now the woman shoves her fist under Helene’s shoulder and stimulates the shoulder blade with her knuckle – she can clearly feel it , but it’s hardly painful, The physio guides Helene’s right arm up and turns it slightly outwards. As she’s holding it outstretched and up in the air, she challenges Helene to brace herself against her hand, at short intervals,

The recovery is slow as her body starts to regain its movement

What I loved about the book is how it used language so well even in translation how it builds the vocabulary used and wording of people changes like early on the nurse is just called the bum wiper simple words but as we see Helene grow as her brain starts to recover the vocab builds. It is a journey of discovery a woman rediscovering herself but also facing a past that she has forgotten. It shows you what a journey of self-discovery Helene takes after the stroke..The is great us of how we recover things like noise in the hospital that triggers memories of her past life. A road to recovery told as the past is gone and the future awaits but we see how the bridge of recovery is built piece by piece as the past slots together like a jigsaw. A great book that should come out sooner it won the German book prize 12 years ago. Have you read this or any other German book prize winners or shortlisted books?

Winstons score – +A a lost gem

 

The Door was Open by Karine Khodikyan

The Door was Open by Karine Khodikyan

Armenian short stories

Original title ԴՈՒՌԸ ԲԱՑ ԷՐ

Translator  Nazareth Seferian

Source – review copy

Something I have enjoyed the last few years is the books from Armenia that Glagoslav has been great to read as there are so few books from Armenia around to read. So we have another Armenian writer here Karine Khodikyan she has been a teacher and Journalist, also edited a couple of magazines, and was also the deputy culture minister for a period of time. She has written plays which has been staged around the world and hosts a tv show on Armenian  TV and is currently writing a humorous Detective novel this is her first work to be translated into English.

Every time, one second before she took the key out of her bag, herfinger seemed to be covered in frost, and each time it seemed certain that the yellowish metal would touch her finger and chafe some of the skin. But when she opened the door and the emppty darkness of her corridor rapidly embraced her with greed, she wpuld feel like she was growing acquainted with her own grave. and when she would sticj her hand into darkness woth the same rapidity to find the switch and turn on the light, she would onece again feel assured that being alone with death would scare her.

The opening of the door was open paints that darkness that is felt in the tales.

The stories all have female characters at the heart from the opening tale the title story of the collection with a story of women and her growing fear of an attack by a serial killer that is killing single women the man bare-chested she mocks him coming to her until an open door and a sudden noise makes her feel somewhat different. Then in Etude, we have a warring couple a husband and wife that are arguing but the wife is always the one coming out on top in their arguments due to her superior language skills. But my favorite tale of the ones in this collection was the smell of bread and death the story of a family history told through the smell of bread being made a family of gravediggers told from the grave. Then we have a monster under the bed at the heart of a childhood tale. But elsewhere death lingers of these dark tales a collection that is a great intro to an interesting writer.

The first time he realized that his family was different had been before he had even turned five. He would libe a few years more and turn twelve before he fully understood, before that wet, cloudy day when his father did not even look in his direction as he said in an unusal voice(or as he would consider later, a guilty voice), or perhaps one could say he asker,

“Come with me..”

But there was still time left before that day would arrive , and Avet, who was not yet fivem would never forget the loneliness that invaded him when he realized that his family was living in that town with the stigma of being different,No he didn’y trmember which grade he was when he was when he read the word “stigma” in a textbook for the first time and relaized that he had found it. His family stigma..

The stigma of being the twon gravediggers hangs over the family in the story The smeel of bread and death.

the collection has a female voice and perspective even when the characters are male it shows the female as in Etude it is the wife that is the stronger character. But there is also darkness and melancholy all over these tales from childhood scares of a monster under the bed. To a half-naked serial killer going around killing single women. Then the stigma of coming from a family of gravediggers there is a veil of darkness over these tales but they draw the reader in. Khodikyan has a way of blurring time so the reader feels as though they’re floating in time at times. The vivid prose style comes through at the time with a richly descriptive style at time sticky dark floors the translator has done a great job keeping such passages that add to the feel of darkness in the stories. I keep saying tales as there is at times a feeling of dark fairy tales in the collection. Have you a favorite book from Armenia?

Winstons score +B a great intro to a new writer

 

The Dangers of Smoking in Bed By Mariana Enriquez

The Dangers of Smoking in Bed by Mariana Enriquez

Argentinean fiction

Original title – Los peligros de fumar en la cama

Translator – Megan Mcdowell

Source – Personal copy

I’m back on with the last few Booker International prize books with the shortlist been announced yesterday, the shadow jury will announce our shortlist in due course. One of the things I have really enjoyed the last few years is the emergence of a new generation of Latin American writers and in that, we have a lot more female writers to read than there were when I started Winstonsdad. This is the second collection to be published but as is the way in the world of translated literature this was actually the first book of stories to be published by Marian Enriquez. She studied journalism and Rock Journalism and was a fan of Stephen King and HP Lovecraft when growing up.  Both masters of the Horror short story. She has also written four novels her last won one of the Major book Prize the Herralde Prize.

I found the bones after the rainstorm that turned the back patch pof earth into a mud puddle. I put them in a bucket. I used for carrying my treasures to the spigot on the patio where I washed them. I showed them to Dad. He said they were chicken bones, or maybe even beef bones, or else they were from some dead pet someone must have buried a long time ago, Dogs or cats. He circled back around to the chicken because before, when I was lttle, my grandmother used to have a copp there.

What are the bones who are they ?

This collection opens with a Will Oldham quote which to me was a sign I would like these stories. When the collection opens with the spirit of a dead baby after the bones are found by a granddaughter in the grandmother’s garden. These stories all hark back to those dark years of the Junta and Dictatorship. So we have teen girls using an ouija board to try and talk to those they have lost. I loved the opening of this story as it mentioned the Band Slayer who my best friend is a huge fan of this is a nod to those classic horror genres of teen girls horror films and Metal music a nod to the times. Then I was reminded of a book I read earlier this year by another story in the collection when those children that disappear start reappearing which reminded me of the Novel A luminous republic which had a group of list children suddenly reappearing this is another classic horror story and movie. The rest of the stories all have classic nods to the horror genre and a look at the times they are set in especially the abuse of Girls which crops up in a number of the stories a powerful collection.

At that age there’s music playing in your head all the time , as if a radio were transmitting from the napoe of you neck, inside your skull. Then one day that music starts to grow softer, or it just stops.When that happens, you’re no longer a teenager. But we weren’tthere yet, not even close, back when we talked to the dead. Back wthen, the music was at full blastand it sound like slayer, Reign in blood .

We started the Oija board at Polack’s houser locked in her room. We had to do it secret because Mara, the Plack’s sister was afraid of ghosts and spirits. She was afraid of everything – man, she was a stupid little kid.

The last story in the collection.

Like the later collection Enriquez, she is a master of the Horror Genre I used to read a lot of Stephen King stories in my teens and she has lifted the lid on the dark corners of the human souls and the darkest of times in her homeland this is like a collection of testaments to that time this is a theme I see cropping up time after time in a lot of literature from Argentina it seems the time has come to look back and try and piece apart what happened. This isn’t a collection that sits easily with the read no it is dark and brutal at times may be less polished than her later collection it is still worth reading. A mix of the macabre, folklore, and the dark of the times. Let’s hope her novel is as good when it comes out next year in English Our share of the Night the one that won the Herralde Prize.

Winstons score – B+  a dark collection

Minor Detail by Adania Shibli

Minor Detail by Adania Shibli

Palestinian fiction

Original title – تفصيل ثانوي

Translator – Elisabeth Jaquette

Source personal copy

I must admit I haven’t reviewed as much Arabic fiction as I use to I have a number of books on my shelf and had a couple of other books I thought would be on the long list this year. This book I was aware of and would have got round to eventually as I have read nearly all the blue cover books from Fitzcarraldo and have not read a bad book from them. Adania Shibli has written a number of other books she has previously had three other books translated. She studied at the University of East London. She was also on the list of writers under 39 that was collected together in Beirut 39. She now lives in Berlin. So here we go on the latest stop on this year’s Booker international longlist.

After dinner, he went straight to the second hut, where he told the guard to bring the girl and follow him, and he headed to his hut. Followed by the guard and the girl, who were in turn followed by his dog. On the way there, he passed by the supply dump in the middle of the cam and appeared a few moments later woth a folding bed, which the guard rushed to carry for him.

When they arrived at his hut, he took the folding bed from the guard and brought it inside, while the others waited outside. after a moment a latern’s glow, then the noise of furniture being moved around the room reached them

Just as the act the minor detail is due to happen.

The book revolves around a minor event in the summer of 1949 as the Israeli army is setting up camp in a remote area what follows is the mundane event of setting up the camp near the Egyptian border in the desert.  what we see is the boredom of this camp from the point of view of their commander. The heat and uneventful nature of this camp lead to a horrific event when the first people they see a group of Nomads passing through who the troops that are trigger happy after the waiting kills them but one bedouin women has been left alive when the Commander brings her back to the camp she is raped this event just a small part a minor detail in the war is rediscovered in the present by a writer as she vis in Ramallah trying to uncover more about the events that lead to this horrific crime. It shows the past and present and how little has changed and the way not to lose the past avoid rewriting history.

so, one morning when I was reading the newspaper, and happened across an article about a certain incident itself that began to haunt me. Incident itsef that began to haunt me. Incidents like that aren’t out of the ordinary, or let us say, they happen in contexts like this. In fact they happen in contexts like this. In fact, they happen so often that I’ve never paid them much attention before. For instance , on another morning when it was raining. I woke up late, which meant I couldn’t sit and work at my table in front of the big window; instead I had to go straight to my new job. When I arrived at my stop, and got off the minibus a bit before the clocktower.

The reading of a minor detail gets a writer down a rabbit hole of wanting to find out more about what happened.

This is a clever way of using the past and present the two views of the same event and looking at what happened to this Bedouin girl the only person left after the rest of her group was killed by the soldiers. And a writer from the modern-day and reading about this event and what happened in a brief report in a newspaper. That sparks her to have to try and find out more about this and this minor detail in history. but it shows how little has changed for the Palestinians in modern Israeli as she struggles to get to access the sources for the info. As she gets through the labyrinth of bureaucrats. The first part of the book is an account of war but also the way it can lead to horrific events like this the events are like what happened in Lord of the flies or clockwork orange where a group of young males whether school kids, a gang or a group of soldiers overstep the mark. This does what a good novella should do and that feels like an epic on a small scale this takes one single event and like a Macro lens blows it up to it fills the screen and is thus a motif for the great events of the war of independence

Winstons score- B a solid novella leaves the reader thinking for a while after.

The War of the Poor by Éric Vuillard

The war of the Poor by Éric Vuillard

French Fiction

Original title – La guerre des pauvres

Translator – Mark Polizzotti

Source -review copy

His last book The OPrderer of the Day was one of those books that seemed to be everywhere when it came out I do have a copy of it but the hype put me off a bit even though it was a Prix Goncourt winner. Eric Vuillard studied under the great Jacques Derrida and traveled a lot whilst he studied. He is a screenwriter, writer, and film director. He said when it was on,y when this book came out he made a link in the story of times around the German Peasants revolt and the involvement of the theologian Thomas Müntzer. Thomas Müntzer. He then notices similarities with the current Yellow vest movement that had been running in France for the last two years.

More than anything, Muntzer goes after Latin. He sets the simplicity of the common folk against Latin, and this simplicity is not vulgar, it can be coverted. Mud is gold. And while Luther translates the bible into German, Muntzer speaks to those who cannot read in their own language.

He goes further than Luther, In the church of Allstedt, God speaks German. The Gemran mass causes an uproar. People flock from miles around Allstedt to hear a priest talk to them for the first time in their language.

The opening of the chapter The word is about how he wanted the sermon and bibnles in German not Latin !!

This is a very short book, not even a novella really an unusual choice for the Booker prize. War of the poor is the story of the German Thgeolgian Thomas Müntzer and his life. The book opens with how his life was hard his father had hung himself. By the age of fifteen, he started a league opposed to the Archbishop of Magdeburg and the Church of Rome. He started to preach in the borders of Saxony in the backwater of Zwickau. as he stood in for a minister and he started to use the ideas that Luther had put forward, but he would later want to take things and the reforms within the church further than Luther who he later was opposed to. Then the action shifts back a couple of centuries and the tale of another religious reformer that preached about reforms in the church and the Church of Rome, he wants English bibles and like MUntzer wants to do services in languages other than Latin. He also inspired Wat Tyler a leading figure in the English peasant uprising this inspired Jan Hus a Czech religious reformer and this is what leads to the doctrine that Muntzer preaches notably in The sermon of the Princes his notable sermon there is even an edition published by Verso that has an intro by the left-wing Italian writer collective this event is what leads to him being Involves in the German peasant revolt and well I leave it there !!

Mund means mouth and Zerstorung, destruction. As such, we are free to hear, in Thomas Muntzer, a prodigious affinity between word and negation. Of course, we could see Muntzer as one of thopse passionatie idealist whom the medical profession habitually ridicules. We cpould shove Rosseau, Tolstoy and Lenin onto the couch and squeeze information out of them. We could see in any revolt and in any ardour personal pain transfigured, what of it?

Suddenly, heads turn and bodies have the wieghtlessness of light. And then, anything can be said!Thoughts streak, draw together, those that leave no verbal treace fall away for ever. They fall into the pit. We no longer hear them, no longer see them. We love them with remorse, and remorse is good for you tje great equality of the void.

Muntzer is like many other figures that have stood up over time.

This is one of those books that even though short packs a punch I had never heard of Muntzer I knew a bit about Luther and had heard of Wat Tyler and the English Peasant revolt there is an echo with the modern yellow vest movement this is one of those books that would be described as a turning point or as Javier Cercas said the blind spot, in this case, it is the events leading to the end in the book. This is also an example of the French books that I have seen the last few years as someone once said to me there is a sort of book that isn’t a history book. It is like the Binet work HHhH this has parts that are pure fiction that said it was an evening read I even managed to read it twice. I learnt a bit about the German peasant revolt and can see the connection to the modern movement as freedom, wealth and power are still unequal every where so much has changed but also so little !!

Winstons score – -B would loved a little more but enjoyed what was there!

Earthlings by Sayaka Murata

Earthlings by Sayaka Murata

Japanese fiction

Original title – Chikyu Seijin

Translator – Ginny Tapley Takemori

Source – personal copy

I got this book last week for my birthday i had given Amanda a list of books that I thought maybe on Tuesday’s booker longlist and this was one of two Japanese novels this was one the other was Breast and Eggs which if it is on the list Tuesday i will get otherwise it will be a while before I get to that one anyway back to this the second book by Sayaka Muruta to be translated into English the first Convenience store women was a hit and one of those books I didn’t read due to the hype but this had been on my radar mainly because I loved the cover art which in fact relates to the book. Sayaka Murata grew up reading sci-fi and mystery novels from her family see even started to write a novel when she was 14. Finally publishing a novel when she was 24 she has published 11 books so far winning one of Japan’s biggest book prizes Akutagawa prize for her book convenience store women. Her books deal with Family, sex, celibacy, asexual relationships, and sci-fi elements.

I took Piyyut out of my bag. He loked like a white hedgehog plush toy, but actually he was an emissary sent by the magic police on Planet Popinpobopia. Piyyut had given me the magic wand and mirror to help meuse my maigical powers, I explained.

“Wow, Natuski, thats amazing” YUu said, his face serious. “It’s thank to you protecting the earth that we’re living in peace”

“Right”

“HEy. What sort of place is that Planet Popinpo- What’s it called again?”

“Popinpobopia. I don’t know really. Piyyut said it was secret.

“OH”

She is given magic powers to help save the earth by the plush to that is an emissary from another planet.

The novel is told from the point of view Natsuki she grows up spending her summers with her family in the remote mountains with their grandparents in the WIld Nagano Mountains and also there is her Family her Aunt and Uncle and her cousin Yuu. it is during these summers she buys what Piyyut which she thinks at the time is a white hedgehog toy but he is really an alien from the planet Popinpobia to give Natuski magic powers to save the earthlings. What follows is an account of her youth which has two events that shape her future and that of her family the first is abuse from a teacher that sexual abuses her and the other is a sexual awakening alongside her cousin Yuuwhich they are caught meaning the family unit is split and they stop talking to the aunt and Uncle. So when many years later when she is trapped in the city she describes it as a baby-producing factory and she is stuck in a sexless marriage. As she is driven to go back to the mountains this leads to a reunion with her cousin and also the secrets of her youth breaking through the loss of family she missed the after ripples of the kissing and sex with her cousin in her youth. This leads to a shocking end to the journey through the book.

I once asked my husband why he’d registered at Surinuke dot.cpm. “I thought it was written into our contract not to pry into that”, he said, clearly uncomfortable.

“I’m sorry, that was out of order. I didn’t mean to infringe on our contract>”

“No it’s okay. I feel suprisinglu relaxed talking with you. Natsuki.”

It wasn’t that my husband had no interest in sex. Instead he thought it wasn’t something to do rather something to observe. He enjoyed watching, but he was apparantly disgusted by the notion of touching and being touched by someone else who was discharging fluid. Another problem my husband had was that he hated working. This was obvious in his behacviour at work, so he found it hard to hold a job down.

Her advert and contract husband isn’t all she had hoped for at times.

I am not a huge sci-fi fan as you may know but this uses the sci-fi to drive the narrative and also to point things out. This is studio Ghibli if they let the writers from Law and order special victims unit had written it this uses the sci-fi element as a sugar coating to the horrors of sexual abuse from a teacher which then leads her fumblings with Yuu which then leads to suicide and a family break up these events then lead to her marriage and the events at the end of the book. Murata manages to tackle the subjects subtle and with a uniquely Japanese take on events Piyyut is like a Pokmon character manga creation, then things like advertising for her husband in a very Japanese way the loneliness of the city, and being friendless as a teen the knock-on effect of abuse is seen. A powerful work Natsuki is the flip of those lonely males of Murakami’s novels a female perspective on modern Japanese life. Have you read this book or her first book ?

Winstons score  -A an unusual book

Birthday books and other arrivals

I’ve had a busy last three days was meant ot be off for my birthday but ended doing a couple of hours of work helping to cover lunch breaks for my colleagues on a couple of days off. Then with the other day off the boiler was playing up so the plumber came round but it took most of the day for him to come so I haven’t read much as I have taken Amanda on a couple of drive out round chesterfield and a little in the peaks and had a couple of walks as she is fed up of being at home as she is shielding through corona any way I’ll be back to reviews on tues. I have quickly done a couple of stop-gap posts for the next few days first some book porn lol.

The first two books I got for my birthday one from Amanda and the other from my in-laws. Both are ones I think maybe on the booker list at the end of the month. One a Japanese novel following a woman looking back on events in the countryside in her youth. The other is an Arabic book prie winner who follows six people’s stories in an unnamed Arab country talking about their lives and it is from Oneworld a publisher that has had a few books on the list recently.

Next three books I’ve been sent You’re not dying won the German book prize in 2009 nine and is a novel following a woman’s recovery from a life-changing illness and she rebuilds her life. Andrea Victrix is a Catalan dystopian novel about a man waking after being frozen for 85 younger than he was in 1965 when he was frozen in time what will he make of 2050? Then the latest in Penguin quest to bring out all the books from Simenon this latest is a man covering for his wandering wife. I have reviewed a number of books from him and have a number more to review over time from here.

I love Nordisk cover art here is their latest tale of a couple that both work at the same paper that sleeps together one night  is a critic the other a journalist. As we see the aftermath of that event.

Then a pile of books I have brought myself Caverva from Juan Filloy one of the lost gem of Argentinean writer I have reviewed another book by him but this one appealed as well, The Snapshot Claudio Magris is a collection of short prose pieces that he wrote for an Italian newspaper for a number of years. Then  Alain Mancklu latest is set in his homeland and home town but in the seventies, I have enjoyed every book I have read by him over the years. Alindarka’s children follow two children in a camp as the leader tries to turn them into Russian instead of speaking the native language Belarusian.I saw this reviewed somewhere and it appealed to me. The last is from Istros the Fig tree follows the post-war life of the family of Jadran that follows it from the fifties the early years of Tito to the break up of Yugoslavia and the aftermath of this.

Other arrivals is the latest Viynl from the wedding present a collection of their hits rerecorded semi acoustically over the lockdown. One my favorite bands I love this album. Also a cd from former Nick Cave guitarist Mick Harvey. An album with Mick Harvey and C R Barker of the poetry of Edgar Bourchier a touching collection of poems set to music evoke world war 1.  What have you brought or got sent recently guys?

 

Beowulf A New Translation by Maria Dahvana Headley

Beowulf A New Translation by Maria Dahvana Headley

Classic Epic poetry

Original title – Beowulf

Source – review copy

I haven’t reviewed a lot of poetry over the years of the blog which is strange as I have a lot of poetry on my shelves that I tend to dip in and out of so when I was given the chance to read a reworking of the great Anglo Saxon Poem Beowulf. In the acknowledgments for the book Maria said she came up with the idea of translating Beowulf when she was up for a world fantasy prize for her acclaimed book The Mere Wife how she had used a translation of Beowulf in the research for the book and was asked in the Q & A when her translation would be out she decided to pick up the Baton. As for me, I did read the Seamus Heaney about the time it came out as there was such acclaim for that book as it made the poem more accessible but I always feel language moves and there is always room for new angles at old works if it brings something new to the table. as Borges said in his poem about his thought on translating Beowulf.

Poem Written in a Copy of Beowulf

At various times, I have asked myself what reasons
moved me to study, while my night came down,
without particular hope of satisfaction,
the language of the blunt-tongued Anglo-Saxons.

Used up by the years, my memory
loses its grip on words that I have vainly
repeated and repeated. My life in the same way
weaves and unweaves its weary history. Borges

The opening of Beowulf in the new translation!

Bro! Tell me we still know how to speak of kings! in the days

Everyone knew what men were: brave, bold, glory-bound.Only stories now, but I’ll sound the Spear-Danes song hoarded for hugry times

Their first father was a foundling: Scyld Scefing.

He spent his youth fists up, browbeating every barstool-brother, bonfiring his enemies. That man began in the waves, a baby in a basket.

but he bootstrapped his way into a kingdom, trading loneliness for luxury. Whether they thought kneeling necessary or no, everyone from head to tail of the whale-road bent down:

There’s a king, there’s his crown!

Thats a good King

The opening 11 lines of Beowulf !!

 

Beowulf follows the hero of the Title as he heads from Anglo Saxon England (Although England is never mentioned in the text as Q (Arthur Quiller-Couch) pointed out in a lecture in his work “On the art of writing”. he travels to help the king of the Dane who has lost many of his best men to the monster Grendel. he offers his help to kill Grendel and creature that has been terrorizing the kingdom since the creature is meant to be descended from Cain a nod to biblical connection in the origin of the book. They celebrate when Beowulf kills him with his own hands and then on the next night they are attacked by Grendel mother as Beowulf isn’t there but when he arrives back there follows a great battle Beowulf returns home and is made king of his own land only many years later to die fighting a dragon now this is the story but what Maria has done is made it easier to get into with the use of street terms and add a little more flow to the prose.

 

Hidden by fog,grendel roved the moors, God-cursed

Grudge worsening. He knew who hunted:

wine-drunk, mead-met men, and he oined

for his prey. Under storms clouds, he stalked them,

in his usual anguish, feeling a forbidden hearth,

that gulded hall stop the hill, gleaming still,

through years of bloodshed.This was not

the first time he’d hunted in Hrothgar’s hall,

butnever before nor later had he such hard luck.

no one worthyhad historically lain in wait

10 lines from early on in the book just show you how the book pops.

Christopher Hitchens said in his review of Harry Potter many years ok said it would spark a revival of anglo Saxon works like Beowulf as it has since the likes of Tolkien and C S lewis been interwoven with the world of fantasy as well. With dragons, quests warriors it has a link to Fantasy and also back to greek epics but what Maria has done is make it also sound modern with her use of street slang with words like Bro. She has also made it bloody it’s almost as though it has mixed a Nordic noir with an episode of Vikings and has also made the female characters appear a little more than I remembered in the Heaney translation. This is a great new version of the book if you haven’t read it this may be the edition for you if you like a=fantasy or greek epics this is the bridge between those works a cornerstone of English literature given a new breath of life for a new generation !!

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