Scenes from a childhood by Jon Fosse

Scenes from a childhood by Jon Fosse

Norwegian short stories

Original title (part of ) – kortare Prosa

Translator and selector of the collection – Damion Searls

Source – review copy

It is strange I choose this book today. As it was just a couple of days ago we found out that the Nobel prize for this year is due to be announced in a years time alongside the 2019 Nobel. Well, today’s writer Jon Fosse is a writer that has been slowly climbing the ladder of Nobel betting. He has written a number of Novels and plays. He has won various awards Including the Nordic lit prize and the French order of merit. I have featured him in his novel Aliss at the fire . So I was pleased to see a collection of his stories, coming out from Fitzcarraldo.

THE AXE

One day Father yells at him and he goes out to the woodshed, he gets the biggest axe, he carries it into the living room and puts it down next to his father’s chair and asks his father to kill him. As one might expect, this only makes his father angrier

One of the vignettes from the first piece.

 

This is a number of stories collected together the first part of the collection is a collection of Vignettes about a childhood , there is a child like sense to the prose from Father holding an axe, through those points in childhood when things start to be notice like the time someone has a pink handbag, girls, the first smoke, the odd youth Asle we see through the young boys eyes drunk at first on some community steps and then later the older lads father grabs the youth as some pallets come crashin down on the dock near where he just was. Then we have a longer novella which in some ways had a similar theme to the curious incident of the dog in the night as a dog is killed. This death involves a dispute between neighbors. It is told from a young boys perspective so we see his view of the world. Then the last part is an older brother still a young voice talking about his young sister in another collection as his sister is born and the times they have together like falling asleep in the same bed his sister’s hands in his hair.

I think the man by the bend has shot your dog.She says

I hear her say that she thinks the man by the bend has shot my dog. What ? what is she saying? shot the dog? What can she mean someone’s shot my dog.

I saw the go and I heard a bang.

What the fuck is she saying ? shot the dog ? What the fuck does she want ?

Just now, she says

Shot the dog? I say

Yeah. I saw the dog, she says. I saw the dog run up to his house and then I heard a bang, it had to be a gun.

I looked at her and I know that if someone’s killed my dog i’m going ti kill whoever did it

THe novella “And then my dog will come back to me ” about a dog dying and who did it

This has a real sense of a writer at the height of his powers. That as a writer Fosse likes to use the bare minimum view of the world. These stories show what a subtle touch can do, these stories are like the diamond that is seen by the diamond cutter as they see it in the rough diamond each story has been cut and polished til they sparkle. The vignettes are like a captured glimpses of a life almost like the snatches of dreams those glimpse we each remember in the morning maybe not even place or time just what happened. Fosse has been compared to the greats and as this is the second book by him I have read and I am still left wanting to try more. Have you read Fosse?

 

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The Harafish by Naguib Mahfouz

Image result for harafish naguib mahfouz

The Harafish by Naguib Mahfouz

Egyptian fiction

Original title –  ملحمة الحرافيش

Translator – Catherine Cobham

Source – personal copy

I was looking for a number of books to do for the 1977 club and this was another that cropped up as coming out in Arabic that year. Mahfouz was a Nobel winner. He was regarded as the first truly modern writer in Egypt and his books have been described as Existentialist in their style. He is maybe best known for his Cario Trilogy. A man that spoke out for what he believed in most of his books were banned in the Arab world to his Nobel win. It also gives me a chance to fill a gap in the writers that should be on this blog.

Nothing like this had ever happened in the alley. The police only came near it in extreme emergencies. The clan chief’s numerous crimes were usually unattributed, thanks to the testimony of false witness. was inspector Faud Abd al-Tawwab going to do what nobody had done before him of Mohammed Anwar’s body was discovered on the path or under the archway? How had Muhammad had the insolence to go to the police for help, and why had the inspector been ready to challenge Nuh in this underhand way?

The police were rare visitors to the Alley here because someone went outside the alley world.

The harafish is a family saga told over ten chapters as we follow the family living in an alley from Ashur Al Nagi whom is the chief of the family in the first tale through the years and generations til the last story Ashur crops up again the chapters are told in small vignettes. I liked the style it was almost like reading or listening to gossip on the street among the Harafish as the people of the alley are called. Exist is hard at times I remember a line on page 301 where someone says “you’d preserve your youth forever ” this shows the toughness of this world. The cycles of the alley violence trying to get to the top is repeated over the chapters the characters are different sons or daughters of earlier characters. I loved the part in one chapter, when the police appeared which was considered an outrage as they liked to run there own little world.

The emotions of the Nagi family and the harafish were set in turmoil by the unexpected return and sudden disappearence of Samah. His sons were probably the least affected of anybody because he came and went while they were asleep and anyway, as far as they were concerned, he was no longer much more than a faint memory, like their mother in Bulaq. His story was told far and wide, and became a legend and a cautionary tale.

The opening of the fifth chapter and already past battles become like a myth or legend.

This is a clever book as you think it is cardio and feel as though you know the timeframe of the novel. But nothing is ever said about the timeframe of the novel or the location of the book all we know is that the families live in an alley where the characters all live. A true family saga covering the years of a place. Mahfouz was a fan of Zola and Balzacs works and there is a feeling of their worlds here a tough look at life realist but also at the same time without time and place it could be another place even if you change the names and in that regard for me it is a true work of Existentialism of the question why are we here why are they there what makes their world. A great second choice for 1977club and for me another piece in the canon of books and writers I have covered on the blog. I hope at some point to bring the Cario trilogy to the blog.

 

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

NOBEL WINNERS

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 ?

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