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.

 

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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.

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?

The sixteen trees of the Somme by Lars Mytting

 

The sixteen trees of the Somme by Lars Mytting

Norwegian fiction

Original title – Svøm med dem som drukner

Translator – Paul Russell Garrett

Source – Review copy

I missed his other novel when it came out in English. The book was a huge success,  Norweigan Wood chopping, stacking and drying wood the Scandinavian way. The book has since been brought to be made into a movie. he works as a journalist and editor. he has written four books, this is the second of his books to be translated into English.

Why did he torment the trees? I stood there for a long time that night, between the white trunks that seemed to be an infinty of flagpoles, rehearsing an anger towards a man who was dead, an an anger which I soon set aside because I realised that I was merely copying Bestefar.

His Grandfather  Bestefar still hits out at the Uncle the great wooodworker by his treatment of wood far different.

This is the story of one man trying to unravel his families past. Edvard is a farmer in a remote part of Norway. He only has his grandfather, as his parents died in France to a poison gas grenade.His grandfather is a simple man that makes simple things in wood. But also has a dark past as he fought on a theNazii side in the Norweigan Legion in the war the haunts the family as well. Then there is his grandfather brother his great Uncle Einar a renowned woodworker in his day. But something happened in the past and he left the family home and ended up living in the Shetland Islands. When a wonderfully craft coffin arrives at his grandfather home. Edvard decides it may be time for him to start setting straight all that had happened in the past. But what happens the number they have for Einar inj SHetland is said to be that of a Hairdressers, but as he goes there and he starts to discover his great uncles past he finds he was in love with the said Ladies Hairdresser. He also meets Gwen a posh English girl also looking into her past and Einars past lead him to the Somme and the wood he found in the horror of the war.

“There’s a bit of Einar in you ” the priest said. “He coukd capture the form of something he had seen and use it in another context. Einar interpeted everything the experienced, he was a thinker and a dreamer”

“But when did he make the Coffin? ” I said

His gaze grew distant. When he answered,it was as though he had not grased what I had said

“Einar” he disappeared from us. Twice disappeared. The villag’s foremost cabinetmaker. One of the best in all of Gudbrandsdalen

The local priest sees some of his great uncle Einar in Edvard himself.

This is a sort of mystery novel about families past. It is showing the rigs of the family like the trees that keep cropping up it shows the ages of this family. As we follow Einar as he tries to piece together the jigsaw of his grandfather and great uncles falling out. But also his own parents past and their deaths that he never really knew much about. A trip that goes from Norway via Shetlands and then France in the present day, but then the Russian front and the Somme in the past. Edvard has taken his past like a lump of wood in a lathe and worked it into a family tree unique and maybe full of dark parts but also love and love of wood. I also loved Edvard talking about the music he listens to through out the book.

The painter of birds by Lidia Jorge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The painter of birds by Lidia Jorge

Portuguese literature

Original title – O Vale da Paixão

Translator – Margaret Jull Costa

Source – personal copy

Well, I managed to return after a busy while, my first lot of nights in my new job and a course and two long days meant the days off I had in between all this I hadn’t much chance to blog. But as I said last month I choose, to add some literature from Portugal, I looked up on Wiki a number of writers from the region and decided to choose those that were available second hand. Lidia Jorge is considered one of the leading voices of the new wave of writers that came after the Salazar regime. She spent time in Africa married to a military man then she lived with a well-known Journalist. This book won a number of prizes when it came out.THis book also covers woman in translation month.

For that reason,  on the night Walter Dias visited her, the bullets and the revolver were out of sight, and he wanted to take the gun away from her on that rainy night , he wanted to take the gun with him, but she realized that if he took it, when walter did disappearm he might disappear entirely. He even said to her “Don’t be silly!”But she couldn’t give him back the weapon. Giving it back would be like handing over the fragile link that bound his existance to hers.

They meet but she doesn’t want to let him go and break that bond that links them .

The painter of birds is the story when a young woman the narrator of the books starts to look back other her absent father’s life. SHe has a strained relationship with him and in the family farmhouse where she is just inland from the Algarve where Jorge grew up is salt worn from the sea. He painted pictures in his letter home from his many travels as she read through these letters and she sees the father she never really knew. There is no strong time line in the book so there is a real sense of the present and past drifting together as she reads and the world and place he went to coming alive.As the bits she knows the pictures family tales bring Walter Dias a man she only twice met in her younger years.A rogue of a man who left the nearest neighbours daughter her mother with child and started to travel the world with the army fighting in the various wars from the 30s onwards.

Francisco Dias used to talk about Walter too.

It was clear to him that black cloud hung over his youngest son. He would say so to anyone who would listen when he had free times on Sundays, before dozing off, though never speaking directly to Walter’s niece, but then he never spoke to her anywayy. He did not, however, conceal from her the difference between Walter and his other sons, should she care to hear, if she could hear.She walked among them as if she were deaf, and didn’t care whether she heard him or not.Francisco Dias put it all down to school, the place where, in his opinion, the life of a man was not only shaped but also summarized and foretold.THis is how he explained it.

Her grandfather had a very different view of his wayward son .

I like the narrative flow of this book it had a crime like pace but with a sense of  piecing  the past together piece by piece but also a sense of not seeing it all as Walter is a rogue but also does these wonderful bird pictures, but then there is the past of Walter from her  family tell her of him a man that ran out on her and her mother and briefly appeared in her she wants to love him, this will appeal to the fans of books like English patient as both share a sense of piecing  the past together from fragments and piece of gossip and side stories.

 

The ultimate Tragedy by Abdulai Sila

The Ultimate Tragedy

 

The ultimate Tragedy by Abdulai Sila

Guinea Bissau fiction

Original title –  A Última Tragédia

Translator – Jethro Soutar

Source – Personal copy

Well I decide to add Portuguese lit to the Spanish lit month I had a look at what was out there and this is one of the first books to catch my eye as it is the first book from Guinea Bissau to be translated into English. Abdulai Sila studied electrical engineering and worked for cisco and other companies in the US before he returned to Guinea Bissau, where he set up Sila Technologies to bring affordable tech to his homeland. He has written three novels this is his second book and the first to be translated into English.

Ndani had prepared for the journey meticulously. Nobody in Biombo knew anythingabout it, nobody other than her friendly stepmother. It was her stepmother who’d taught her ghe phrase she was now repeating, and one of two others besides. Her stepmother had een made Ndani memorise certain rules of behaviour, things white masters demanded of black house helps: particular ways to respond; gestures that showed b=obedience and submission

The young girl needs to learn how to be in the big city for the white folk !!

This is maybe a classic African tale it is the story of one woman’s journey and also shows a time when Africans in the former Portuguese colonies were starting to question the place in the world. Ndani is sent from her rural village to work for a Portuguese family in the capital Bissau. The first thing that happens is the woman of the house starts to try and get her to believe in the church as her children have flown the nest and her husband has his eyes elsewhere she is trying to baptise the young girl, but as Dona Deolinda is doing this. The master of the house has other ideas for the young maid she tries to esca[e him but in doing so is shown the door . Where on she meets the village cheif  Regulo, but he is uneducated but the young girl is settled he has tried to improve his village much to the opposition of the administrator, by building a school and his huge house to try and show the locals are moving up in the world. Ndani also meets the teacher from the school a man she connects with but what will happen.

“Thou shalt not covet”, one of gods comandments . She was Regulo’s wife , the teacher could harbour no ambition to have her. God’s laws were sacred, they had to be upheld. Violating them would be a sin. A good christian and a teacher besides,must not sin. At least not in such a flagrant fashion. This is something he taught his students every day ,how could he ignore it himself ? nor could he ignore the fact that the Regulo had been good to him

The teacher after first meeting Ndani is torn between religion and Lust in a way .

As I said a classic tale of a young woman leaving her home, now she has been told by the local juju man that she is the carrier of a bad spirit and in a a lot of ways her journey is a long one and through her eyes we see the awakening of the locals in the Village chief and the way he wants his village to improve. As I say this is a universal story It reminds me of one of my favourite stories Stones in a landslide which also followed a young girls journey from a village. There are other stories from Africa like the Zimbabwean novel Nervous conditions which show a young girl growing up in the background of that country breaking from colonial rule. May I also say this is one of the most eye catching covers of the year.

Nona’s room by Cristina Fernandez Cubas

Nona's Room

Nona’s room by Cristina Fernandez Cubas

Spanish fiction

Original title – de La Habitación de Nona

Translators – Kathryn Phillips-Miles and Simon Deefholts

Source – review copy

My first book for Spanish lit month is the first of the three from the second |Peter Owen World series were they are every year publishing three books from a certain country the first in the series was Slovenia this second series is three books from Spain. The first book is from Cristina Fernandez Cubas she has bee writing since the 1980’s this is her first book to be translated into English, she has written ten books, including one using a male pseudonym, this collection won National Narrative and critics prize when it came out.

My sister is special. That’s what my mother told me at the time she was born in the bright and sunny room in that hospital.She also said, “Special is a lovely word.Never forget that “. I’ve never forgetten, oif course , but it’s more than likely that the scene I’ve described didn’t happen in the hospital but much later in some room and that Nona wasn’t a newborn or even a baby but rather aa little girl of three or four years old .

Nona isn’t what we think this is the start but as the story unflds it takes more turns.

Cubas is well known for putting her female characters in very unsettling situations or out of their comfort zone. The first story is told by an older sister about her young sister Nona of the title of the book. As the story unfolds as told by a child you sense something is very wrong with her younger sister almost unnatural in a way. The next story follows a young woman who is about to meet a friend in a cafe feels sorry for an older woman Ro as she finds out that is sat by herself in the cafe looking lost and lonely.The young woman called Alicia is in need of a place to stay and this older woman offer hers a place in her flat, encourages her to see the flat before her friend arrives. She does but does she return and is all as it seems is this older lady whom she seems. Then a story revolving around a picture that is a girl looking for something under a bed another strange figure leads a writer to she the picture in person. There are three other stories.

Alica thought Ro was charming , a charming old lady.

“I’m on the fifth floor.”

Alicia imagined the fifth floor was like. There would be an enormus flat full of keepsakes. It would be a flat typical of the Ensanche district. There would be the dining room and a glazed veranda at one end and the master bedroom at the other .There would be a long corridor, which Ro would struggle up and down a thousand times a day. Ro, she said to herfself .Now she thought about it , her last chance was actually RO

Ok I’ll come in for a bit, just for a bit

Alicia goes to see a flat but is that All ?

This is a collection of  slightly creepy stories , I was reminded of Roald Dahl  short stories, at times she is almost a female version of his tales of unexpected where everything isn’t what it seems on the surface the perfect example is the second story talking to old ladies that until the last third seems a simple story of an older lady offering a younger a place to stay but no there is a classic twist in the tail, which is what Dahl did so well in his tales of the unexpected stories .I’m surprised it has taken so long for her to be translated into English

Listening for Jupiter by Pierre-Luc Landry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking for Jupiter by Pierre-Luc Landry

Quebec fiction

Original title – Les corps extraterrestres

Translators – Arielle Aaronson and Madeleine Stratford

Source – review copy

The small Quebec based press QC fiction are translating some wonderful Lit from the french speaking part of Canada. The first book I reviewed Brothers by David Clerson was one of my favourite books from last year so when then latest book looking for Jupiter arrived I was excited .Pierre-Luc landry is a professor of French studies and found the journal La Chachoir de flaubert a spittoon of ideas ! and won the Ottawa book prize for french fiction with this novel .

I sat down in front of the TV to watch a documentary on Jupiter’s red spot , a massive  anti cyclone that was first seen almost two hundreds years ago and still looks the same today. The scientists who were interviewed compared it to a never-ending hurricane with winds raging at over 550 kilometers per hour. The more they study the phenomenon , they said the less they understand it

Man is this just the best summary of the book , a twirling circle , jupiter a recurring Motif and also a TV show.

This is a tale that takes place in the real and dream world and with two characters Xavier a rep working for a pharmaceutical company , sell a drug that he isn’t very sure works . But in his dreams he lives in a different world he joins and connects with Hollywood a man living what seems a dead-end life as a grave-digger  ( a job Dave Vanian of the damned had and also Joe Strummer ) , Hollywood is a student in fact in many ways embodies the classic Slacker role and in a way Xavier is maybe the classic Yuppie but as the novel unfold we see that The Slacker life of Hollywood as Xavier falls ill and lose his position  and starts on a path to becoming each other and live in a world where their lives are numbed by Music TV shows and films.As the weather has freaky nature during the book.

After the sandman

They remain standing for some time before the hole in the window, watching the meteor shower. They say nothing. They both believe that, at this rate, the sky will eventually burn out. Then hollywood shouts:

“It’s cold in here”

“But it isn’t snowing.It’s stopped ”

I loved these short passages this one is so Borges like I felt !

This is a classic piece of what I would call Gen x lit mixed with a work of magic realism .I was reminded so much the films I grew up with where the slacker characters  turned into the anti hero Ethan Hawke in reality bites was similar to  Hollywood. In the way he is like with his friends a the way Hawkes character was über cool  like and  on the other hand Xavier is rather  like Ben stiller characters an up and coming yuppie but unlike stiller Xavier has a soul , but also with a tinge of the Campbell Scott’s character in the film singles who ends up as a slacker when he seems his dream and office career fall apart. Then there is the master of Gen x fiction the man who started the genre Douglas Coupand this is a tale pf young people caught up in their own worlds as they collide. This is a trip into a world that may not be real as it is warm in the cold part of Canada and snowing in Europe you feel as thou the two characters need to meet to change the world back and make it run as normal. There is also a chink Of Borges for me the character circling a labyrinth of the dreams and the reflective nature of the two worlds they live in are all motifs that Borges used in his stories .

The children by Carolina Sanin

The children by Carolina Sanin

Colombian Fiction

Original title – Los niños

Translator – Nick Caistor

Source – review copy

When I started the blog ,I be hard pushed to have name more than one writer from Columbia that wasn’t Marquez but in the years in between we have seen a wave of new writers from Columbia Rosero , Vasquez and Gamboa .Now here is another name to add to that list . This is her first book to appear in English and her second novel she has taught in New york hispanic studies and is considered a rising talent .

Laura Romero heard that the woman  who watched the cars outside the supermarket was offering her a child. She heard her say “I’ll keep a child for you “. But Laura was not sure whether the woman really did watch the cars. She knew that when she finished her shopping , she gave her some coins as if to pay, and that her car had never gone missing . Maybe that was because she only left it there during daylight and when there were lots of people about , but it was also possible that the woman had some influence over the car thieves.That she was their mother , for example

Before Fidel arrives Laura misses what she said at the supermarket.

The children is one of those books that is hard to put in a category. The story Follows Laura after she is going to the supermarket one day and like other days she is met by a beggar woman , but is ask if she wants her a child thinking no more of it she gives her some money .But later that night a boy appears outside her house .The boy fidel know nothing other than his six years old . So she sets off to find out about this boy. Laura herself is a strange character as the story unfold she has money from her families salt mines  , she works as a housekeeper as she like to clean and sort the  houses she works in  a strange OCD, but doesn’t need the money . She is reading Moby Dick maybe the boy is her Moby Dick as he seems to have come from nowhere and maybe at points he has trance like fits you wonder is he real or maybe like the whale in the mind of the crew a ghost that isn’t real just in Laura’s eyes in Moby Dick a metaphor for something else .Then we she Laura battling the bureaucracy in what is a Kafka like nightmare  race to find out about Fidel  as she sees how slow the wheels turn.

Brus became aware of Fidel’s existence before she did it was shortly before midnight on Saturday , and laura had just filled the hot-water bottle she took to bed with her.The dog began to bark and then howl, and in between could be heard sobs that  seemed to have been learned by heart, as if they came  from a child who knows he is too big to still be crying like that . Laura titled her head that way Brus did when se asked him something , and realised that the sound was coming from the street, on the right-hand side of the building as you looked out. She went onto the balcony . A boy was looking up from the pavement, three storeys down. As soon as he saw her appear , he stopped crying

Fidel appeared and was noticed by her dog Brus .

This is one of those novels that leaves you with more questions than answers, much in the vain of a number of latin American novel particular Evelio Rosero .But also a framing of a lost child or ghost child that has frequently appeared in literature . Also a connection between a woman and a child that isn’t her child this is a theme that appeared in Fever Dream. Add to that Laura is reading Moby Dick a book itself that is about obsession and ghosts. This is a clever novella that like Fever dream from this years Man booker shows the strength of latin american fiction.

 

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