So You don’t get lost in the Neighbourhood by Patrick modiano


So you don’t get lost in the Neighbourhood by Patrick Modiano

French fiction

Original title –  Pour que tu ne te perdes pas dans le quartier

Translator – Euan Cameron

Source – review copy

I so enjoyed the last Modiano I decided to carry on reading another of the few by him I have on my TBR pile.This was the last of his books to be translated into English and the came out in French the same year as he won the Nobel prize. He has written one more book since but that hasn’t been translated into English. I said last time he has written the similar books and this is another twist on those themes.

“I should like to speak to Monsieur jean Daragane,”

A deary and threatening voice.That was his first impression.

“Monsieur Daragane? Can you hear me ?”

Daragame wanter to hang up. But what was the point? The ringing would start agan. withpu ever stopping, and short of cutting the telephone cord permanetly ..

“This is he.”

“It’s abput your address book, monsieur”

Giles rings up but is slightly threatening at first to jean

Again like in the last book the main character in this novel is a writer. Like in the last review he is called Jean but we get his full name in this book Jean Dragane. The story in this book is like the last review set of by the discovery of something old. This time a man has got hold of the old telephone book of Jean. The book has the name of Guy Torstel someone Jean had once been acquainted with many years ago. At the time he knew this person there was a murder.At the time he lived with a showgirl Anne in the seedy part of town. He is helped by the girlfriend of the man who has phoned him when he meets the man, to discuss his old telephone book. That man is  Giles Ottolini and his girlfriend, Chantal. A man that since then has drawn away from the world and lived as a recluse writing books one that may have a clue into what happened in the past. The past is a lost country in this book and Jean has to revisit it.

And so would the name Torstel which had once used in a novel.Simply because of its resonace. That is what Torstel  conjured up for him. There was no need to look any further. It was all he had to say. Gilles Ottolini would no doubt be disappointed. Too bad. After all, he was not obliged to give him any explanation. It was none of his buisness

The name from the past inspired a character in a novel but what about the real Torstel ?

As I said there are themes in his books. Jean is almost a mirror image of the writer having grown up in the dark post-war days. He also lives near Paris and spent time with a showgirl in the seedy part of Paris where there are twist streets and never quite sure what is around the corner the same Paris as Maigret walked in books like Maigret sets a trap. Then there is what I would be called missing memories another recurring theme of a misty past that the main characters seem to want to forget their Past. I feel Modiano is working his own past and his love may of a good mystery into books. I enjoyed this as I have all his books the Nobel win was such a treat for us the English reader as pre-Nobel I had struggled to find a book to read in the weeks before the prize and so many have come out since.


The Black notebook by Patrick Modiano


The Black notebook by Patrick Modiano

French fiction

Original title – L’Herbe des nuits

Translator – Mark Polizzotti

Source – review copy

I’ve been having a slump in reading and reviewing the book this last couple of weeks. I have started, maybe half a dozen books and just not been settling in them and had finished a couple of these books. Then not felt like reviewing them. So then I decide yesterday to have a good look through my pile of books and decided on something to try and click my mind back into the groove and I decided , I had three of the Maclehose Modiano books to read and as I have only reviewed one since his Nobel win, two in total, as I had reviewed him before the prize, came out.

No it wasn’t a dream. The proof is that I still have this black notebook full of my jottings. I need precise words in this haze, so I look in the dictionary. “Note: a short piece of writing that is used to help someone remember something.” The pages of my notebook contain a succession of names, telephone numbers, appointments and also short texts that might have something to do with literature.But what catergory should they be listed under? private journal ? fragments of a memoir?

Jean discovers his old Black notebook and the time with Dannie


The Black notebook is the story of a writer called Jean, who is sorting through some old items when he comes across the black notebook of the title. What follows is him reading through the notebook. As he does he is remembering a time in 1960 and reliving and retracing his footsteps at the time. When he started dating a woman he knew as Dannie, she had some involvement with Morrocan security. He ends up meeting her mostly at night in the Montparnasse region of Paris. He gets involved with the characters around a certain hotel in that part of Paris. The Unic Hotel were he spent time with Dannie, Paul Chastagnier, Aghamouri, Duwelz, Gerard Marciano and “Georges”. All seem shady characters, Dannie, as Jean discovers over the course of reading back through the notebook had a number of Alias. Now the past seems shady, but at the time he said he was of the age when being in seedy places at night seemed ok. Weekends in a mysterious country house. As he retraces his steps,. early on in the book.  He remembers this is also the Paris area that Gerard De Nerval, a man famous for walking a lobster. But also one of his most famous books is about a man dealing with the loss of three ladies. He wonders what happened and what was real and what he added to the notes as a writer.

On the day we met, I’d written “Dany” in my notebook, she had corrected the spelling, using my pen: ” Dannie”. Later, I discovered that the name. Dannie was the title of a poem ny a writer I admired at the time, whiom I occasionally saw leaving the Hotel Taranne on Boulevard Saint Germam, strange coincidences do happen

Jean is remembering but is he also inventing Dannie as he does .

Modiano is a writer I fell in love with his style the first time I had read him. He is a writer that use familiar themes in his books. The first is a missing person or people, in this case, Dannie is the main person that is missing even though we found out he knew little about here Jean. He tells s her name isn’t even Dannie. The second is place Paris is like London for Dickens or Dublin for Joyce you sense Modiano can relive his own past as he writes about the streets in Paris. He uses Jean as an avatar for revisiting the Paris he has grown up in living a different life similar a writer of crime fiction, who may have been involved on the very edge of a crime.Modiano maybe writes books that seem similar all three I have read have similar topics a missing person, Paris and a sort of detective story as someone piece thinks together as a fragmented nature to his stories. This, as I read in his book pedigree, as he writes about his mother than he barely knew.




The Clown by Heinrich Böll










The Clown by Heinrich Böll

German fiction

Original title –  Ansichten eines Clowns

Translator – Lelia Venneewitz

Source – personal copy

I think it is a tradition to have a book from Heinrich Böll for German lit month. Having featured him three times before on German lit month on the blog. I have long been a fan of his works. This book is one I have wanted to put on the blog as the themes in the book are at the heart of what drove Heinrich as a writer and that was post-war Germany, the Catholic church, families and being a German male in post-war Germany. I fear he is slipping away from view, for many as a writer. I know there was some reissues. But that was a few years ago, luckily his books can be found fairly cheaply second hand.

I thought of Marie: of her voice and her breast, her hands and her hair, her movements and everything we had done with each other. Also of Zupfner, whom she wanted to marry. We had known each other quite well as boys- so well that when we met again as grown men we didn’t quite know whether to use first names of not – either way we felt embarrassed, and we never got over this embarrassment no matter how often we met.I couldn’t understand how Marie could have gone over to him of all people, but perhaps I never “Understood” Marie.

Hans looking back but also thinking what went wrong woith Marie.

The clown of the title is one Hans Schnier a 27-year-old. He makes his living as a clown around Germany. He is from a rich protestant family.But was sent to a Catholic school. Where he meets and lived with Marie for five years.She was a Catholic girl , they never married but spent many years ago . til she was drawn back towards the church and want Hans to join her.They were meant to go to an event at the hotel but Hans had to perform the night they were due to go to the Catholic even.  he got back to the hotel and in the morning she is gone, five years down the drain and the love of his life has gone with a man called Zupfner. We are told this in retrospective as the book opens with Hans after Marie has left lamenting her leaving him. He also has family problems as he confronts his father over there childhood, the family position after the war and its effect on him and his brother.

Even in the bathtub I missed Marie. She had sometimes read aloud to me as I lay in the tub, from the bed, once fro the old testament the whole story of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, another time the was od the Maccabees, and now and again from mThomas Woolfe’s Look homeward ,Angel. Here I was, lying completely deserted in this stupid terra cotta bathtub,  the bathroom was done in black tiles, but the tub, soapdish, shower handle and toilet seat were terra cotta. I missed Marie’s voice. Come to think of it, she couldn’t read the Bible with Supfner without feeling like a traitor or a whore.

Later he laments her but also has a wicked dig at the man she is with and his catholic religion.

At the heart of this is a lot of issues that were close to Boll. How Germany moved forward after the war.As Hans tried to break free of the family by being a clown.  How the church influenced people especially the Catholic church, his hometown of Koln is a very Catholic town. He must have also seen the effect of the church on Ireland a place. He visited many times as seen when I reviewed his, an  Irish Journals, a few years ago.You can even stay in his Irish cottage if you are a writer.Marriage is another thing that is touched on in the book. Hans and Marie lived together for five years, but Marie always viewed it as living in sin. This has echoes of works from Graham Greene, a book like the end of the affair.Which touched similar subjects, to this book was another novel that examined Catholic church.

Nobel lit 2017 Kazuo Ishiguro

Image result for kazuo ishiguro


Well we have just seen the winner announced live a true shock . The winner is Kazuo Ishiguro. I haven’t  on the blog here is a review and this is a shock. He is best known for remains of the day. Here is him on desert island discs . I have only read two of his books and hadn’t had him in mind for this so don’t know what to say.

A different sea by Claudio Magris

A different Sea by Claudio Magris

Italian fiction

Original title – Un altro mare

Translator – M.S.Spurr

Source – Library copy

Claudio Magris in yesterdays list of Nobel hopefuls, earlier in the summer. I read this short novella by him. But have waited till now to review it. Claudio Magris has won many prizes with his books like the Stega for his book Danube. Which I hope to bring to the blog at some point. He has also won some prizes for the body of his works like the Prince of Asturias and Franz Kafka. 
In those brief, still days, Enrico had seen the threads of his destiny, had seen the coins of his life thrown up high  and glitter for a moment as they turned over in the air. When Argia was not on the beach she was indoors playing the piano, Playing Beethoven for Carlo she revealed the abyss that comes between the individual and his destiny; she annulled time and with it the misery and transcience of life, and she demonstrated the tragic joy to be gained by living only for the moment.
This piece shows how Enrico lived his life, like his friend had said .
This book follows Enrico, a young Greek man, in the early part of the twentieth century. He is good friends with the Italian Philosopher Carlo Michelstaedter. A man who passed away to young. But his philosophy was about living in the moment by living in the moment is how a man can set him free. There is a third friend, Nico whom Enrico keeps in contact with over time. We Follow Enrico after his friend died. He sets forth to try and live in the moment By setting off to Patagonia. The life there where he lives with his Greek books and the idea of his friend. He spends over a decade working herding animals. Whilst he reading as he escaped National service by escaping to South American. He then returns to Trieste and the Istria coast. In those inter-war years, as we see through his eyes. The political landscape  of the time in that region and also what living in the moment can make on one’s life. 
After all , he left the country to avoid military service, and he is fed up with hearing about the Great War. What do they expect of him, sitting there at their desks? Let them learn the aorist tense: that is already enough
In patagonia he kept in his pocket both the Odyssey and the Agamemnon edited with commentary in Latin by Simon Karsten. But a discourse on the fate of the sons of Atreus, or on the suffering of Electra- Carlo liked her best of all – would be out of place in front of these boys.
I was remind of my step grandfather who carried Dickens in his pocket all his working life .
This is a sparse novella, that shows how to follow an idea of what happens. When one chooses to live in the present as Carlos had chosen to do so. It is a wonderful insight into the lone life on the Pampas as he searches for a life free of Social falsehoods. The search for who we are set off by the early death of a friend and also wanting to act out on his ideas of Michelstaedter. A man I knew very  little of her is an interesting piece about him here.I liked this novella it left  me thinking of what life is about and also the world they lived in which when Enrico returns is one that is in flux as the clouds of the following years are seen through the world of Istira and Trieste.

Nobel lit 2017 who will follow Dylan









Well it is fast approaching the time of year when the betting for the Nobel literature prize opens

Ive look at odd checker and here are the top ten runners-





  1. Haruki Murakami – Always near the top of the list Not sure it is his year myself review 
  2. Ngugi Wa Thiong’o – For me, this may be the year, a review of one of his books
  3. Magaret Attwood – Only read one of her books I did like it so maybe
  4. Amos Oz – I loved his latest Judas  when we read it for Man Booker my review of it
  5. Adunis – always near the top he is another one I feel may win I did have one poem by him
  6. Claudio Magris – A writer I love and pleased to see him here my review of blindly 
  7. Don Dellio – probably one of the best American writer around  I reviewed him a few years ago
  8. Ko Un another poet I did feature one poem a few years ago
  9. Javier Marias – he has written one epic trilogy and a number of good books  have reviewed him before .
  10. Jon Fosse – could it be a home win I have reviewed him here 

Then I have a few names outside to mention

Laszlo Krasznahorkai – brilliant writer

Antonio Lobo Antunes – another favourite of mine

Ismail Kadare – a solid writer like Pamuk!

Peter Handke – maybe to outspoken but has written some great books

Cesar Aira – A writer I’d like to read more of !!

Who do you think will win after Dylan last year ?

The hive by Camilo Jose Cela

Image result for the hive camilo jose cela

The hive


The Hive by Camilo Jose Cela

Spanish fiction

Original title –  La Colmena

Translator – J M Cohen in consultation with Arturo Bare

Source – Personal copy

A few years ago I reviewed another book by the Late Nobel-winning Spanish writer Camilo Jose Cela and had since then want to try him again so when I recently found this second-hand edition it struck me a perfect choice for Spanish lit month. When the book first came out due to a number of sexual or erotic scenes in the book it was banned in Spain due to the strict censors at the time and first published in Argentina.

Dona Rosa comes and goes between the cafe tables, bumping into the custmers with her enormus backside. Dona Rosa her cafe is the world, and everything else revolves around the cafe. Some people claim that Dona Rosa’s little eyes begin to sparkle when spring comes and the girls go short sleeves. I think this is sheer gossip; for nothing in the world would Dona rosa ever sacrifice a solid five-peseta piece, spring or no spring.

 I loved the image of Dona Rosa the heart of the cafe in he story .

The hive is the best description for this story it is like cutting into a beehive, except the beehive is the city of Madrid it is December 1943 and this captures a few days in the city and  a small corner of the city is told from a small cafe in the city its owner  Dona Rosa is the cafe owner nd the story flies out from the guest and into the nearby Brothel and men looking for women like Don Pablo, dodgy businessmen and the jobless this is the city a few years after the Spanish civil war, the wounds simmer under the surface here . This is a book that buzzes as we meet the 300 plus character that appears in the seven chapters of the book some appear in a line others slid through the book mainly Dona Rosa her cafe it the beating heart of this book a place for gossip, meeting, romance or even just to waste time.

The young man who is writing verse licks his pencil and stares at the ceiling.He is one of those poets who writes poems with “Ideas”. This afternoon he has his idea but not yet his rhymes. He has got a few down on paper. What he is looking form is something to rhyme with streem, which must neither seemnor team. He is turining and redeem and gleam round in his mind.

“I’m shut up in a stupid armour, in the shell of a common clod. The girl with the deep blue eyes.. But I want to be strong,more than strong

A poet crops up and I wonder if he is the young Cela putting himself in the story.

Sometimes a city is captured at the perfect moment in a book. Dublin by Joyce in Ulysses, Havana by Infante’s three trapped tigers, Istanbul by Pamuk. This seems to capture a post-war world of Madrid a city getting used to life under Franco. But also the darker side of life in a city the brothels, affairs and fighting. This is a book full of clever observation of human life and human nature the humdrum world in full technicolour as we shine a light over the dark streets. Unlike Joyce and the others there is no main figure in the book no this is a collection of voices situations most just like you’ve walked past them a mere snippet leaving you at times to fill in the gaps of the  stories or what happened next this could have lead to a lot of follow-on stories about the characters here. Note not my cover mine is a sceptre edition, but I liked this old ace cover

Nobel thoughts 2016


Well today is the day , we see who has won the nobel prize for literature. As ever I have been following the betting for the last week or so . Unlike other years the betting has been fairly stable and the names on the list the same as other years. The lead name this year is Ngugi Wa Thiong’o the Kenyan writer , he writes a lot about the colonial and post colonial times in his native land. I have reviewed him  . Then next on the list is Haruki Murakami , I still think it isn’t his time yet , I know others think it is but for me he needs to write that one defining book. Then we have Adonis the Syrian poet has been on the list for many years , I have once feature a poem by him about childhood. THen we Have Don Delillo has risen in recent days in the betting now for me he is maybe the best American to win ,he has written the book so to speak Underworld is a true epic , I have reviewed him once on the blog . The we have Jon Fosse I read him earlier this year and for me he maybe along side Thiong’o is the best place to be the nobel winner .his writing capture the feeling of modern Scandinavia . Well there we go , of course there is a number of outsiders as ever , now for me there is Javier Marias, Laszlo Krasznahorkai and Peter handke all writer that would be worthy winners but maybe not yet , but wouldn’t be shocked if they did win today.Then there would be the shock winner not translated into english yet , lets say Ulrich holbein for example.  So 11.45 today we find out have you thoughts ?

Aliss at the fire by Jon Fosse


Aliss at the fire by Jon Fosse

Norwegian fiction

Original title – det er als

Translator – Damion Searls

Source – personnel copy

One thing I have started to do since I moved house is buy a few very cheap books from amazon of writers I have had on my to read list forever. Jon Fosse is a point in case I have had him down for a few years as a writer to read since he started to feature near the top of the nobel hopefuls every year. I was a bit put of by the fact he is compared to beckett but when I saw this a recent book from Dalkey archive for under a pound plus postage I couldn’t resist it. I’m , pleased I did as this is my book of the year so far. I can see why Fosse has won every major prize at home and around the world barring the big one the Nobel.

I’ve seen much better boats, she says

I like this boat, Asle says

But couldn’t you get yourself a bigger boat a safer boat, Signe says

I don’t want a new boat , Asle says.

Why do you like this boat so much,Signe says

I knew the man who built it, and he built it for me,Asle says

He built boats his whole life, the man who built it and he built one for me, he says

Yes , Signe says

The boat had been a worry for his wife Signe before the day he drowned in the Fjord as she watched in the Black water.


Aliss at fire is one of those single paragraph work of monolgue, at time I was reminded of Thomas  Bernhard for this long winded style. The book is told as a widowed wife looks back on the her life with her dead husband Asle , but also the family that has been on that spot next to the fjord where she sits on a bench looking out at the black water like she did the night her husband’s boat ran into trouble. She imagines the family over time in other boats other deaths on the fjord her connection to the boat times she asked him if he wanted a new boat for the lake and he said no he was happy with his old boat.This is an inner monologue of time drifting her life now than and before as ghosts seem to haunt here in the dark coming out to touch her almost, at points she even touches her own body to feel close to the past.A tale of a woman trying to cope with death.

But forward, it’s moving, and the boat moves out across fjord, out father and father, in the wind, in the rain and even through the darkness is dense and thick around him in a weird way it’s not dark he thinks, because the fjord is shining black then it it’s not really that cold, he is wearing his thick sweater keeping him warm from rowing,he thinks and he looks back over his shoulder and there up ahead, far away there, there near the middle of the Fjord, what is that over there ?

Asle on the water in the boat he had built for him. The use of black is interesting.

This is one of those short novellas ,  that last with you as a reader, I thought when i put it down it was like a lost Peirene in a way.The story is dark as dark as the black water , hair and nights that are a recurring theme in the book boats also crop up a lot maybe as a vessel from this life to the next maybe the Fjord is this families river of sticks. As I said I was reminded of Bernhard but also maybe the constant mention of black hair , black water remind me of Dylan Thomas under Milkwood especially took me back to seeing that as a one piece monologue by Richard Burton Nephew .This is death playing chess or the dark sections of a film by Roy Anderson the real dark side of Nordic life Fjord and boats are dangerous. Fosse may well win the Nobel in the next few years.

Have you read Fosse ?

A Nobel Double Two by Svetlana


I have in the last few days received two books from last years Nobel winner. This the first book that arrived Second hand time is a selection of interviews she has taken to form a piece on the post soviet world and how it has formed a new world and in her use of many voice to individual monologues see how the post soviet society is affecting the every man and woman on the street. This is the first new work from her since the Nobel win to reach us in English and is out from Fitzcarraldo editions. Penguin are also releasing new editions of her previous books I have reviewed this one in its earlier release as Voices of Chernobyl I had reviewed this last year as it was the only book I could get before the Nobel prize was announced .So as with Patrick Modiano the year before we now have a number of books from this wonderful Non fiction writer whose ability to work the people she talks to into a chorus of voice on the soviet and post soviet world she grew up in .

Have you read any books by her ?


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