Wonderful, Wonderful Times by Elfriede Jelinek

 

Wonderful, Wonderful Times by Elfriede Jelinek

Austrian fiction

Original title – Die Ausgesperrten

Translator – Michael Hulse

Source – Personal copy

I had read this for GermaN Lit Month but I just didn’t get to it in time. This is the second book I had read from the Austrian Nobel lit winner Elfriede Jelinek she is one of those Nobel winners that over time has fade that said I had partly read a non-fiction work the Fitzcarraldo had brought out earlier this year I will finish that at some point. When describing her win the Nobel committee said of her writing. “musical flow of voices and counter-voices in novels and plays that, with extraordinary linguistic zeal, reveal the absurdity of society’s clichés and their subjugating power. This is certainly a book that deals with the cliches of society. It first came out in 1980 and is of that time the period in the post war years it is set in the fifties.

ONE NIGHT AT the end of the fifties an assault is committed in the Vienna municipal park. The following persons all grab hold of one solitary man out walking.

Rainer Maria Witkowski and his twin sister Anna Witkowski, Sophie Pachhofen (formerly von Pachhofen), and Hans Sepp. Rainer Maria Witkowski was named after Rainer Maria Rilke. All of them are about eighteen, Hans Sepp is a year or so older than the others, though he too is without a trace of maturity. Of the two girls, Anna is the more ferocious, which can be seen in the fact that she pays most attention to the face of the subject. Particular courage is required if you are to scratch a man’s face while he is looking full in your own (though he cannot see much since it is dark) or indeed try to scratch his eyes out. For the eyes are the mirror of the soul and ought to remain unscathed if at all possible. Otherwise, people will suppose the soul is done for.

The opening lines open with them grabbing a man

The book happens to deal with the dark side of Austrian society at the time the undercurrents of the post war era. it is the late fifties when a group of four teens attack a man. The four teens are Rainer and Anne who are twins. Their father was in the SS during the war and is now disabled. Hans whose mother is a communist and Sophie an athletic girl(maybe a symbol in some way of Aryanism ?). The book shows the inner working of these teens. Who are just vile and very violent commit crimes? These angst teens are all that happened in Austria before they were born. Now they have been chewed up by the country they are in and have been spat out that they are the dark side of teens. This is a bleak work of teen violence ce lust sex and the past blended together and spat out on the page. Dark kids have a weird connection and love between them. The kids are maybe a symbol for the violence of the past they are like a champagne bottle shaken constantly after the war that undercurrent of the war, nazism, regrets, teen lust and hormones all shaken in the bottle to that single act.

The twins’ unhappiness makes them superior because they have shaken off the shackles and do what they want. Rainer says: people’s lives are predetermined in some way or other, but not mine, I’m superior to them on account of my Will. On the other hand, the individual is free if he wants to be. Rainer avails himself of that freedom, graciously: here he is, being awarded his accreditation certificate. There is a certain heroism in him. In this lonely youth. Lonely in the sense that no one sees him, which halves the value of even the prettiest heroism. Still, at least Rainer can look himself in the face when he’s alone with his mirror.

The twins are the heart off the book here you see the way they look at the world.

There is something about those writers of the post-war era of Austria Bernhard and her with Jelinek. They dived in and tore out the dark heart of the post-war and the past that lingered underneath th country and here it is kids of the rail this is like Holden Caulfield if he had grown up in Germany in love with his sister. This book is dark and complex I saw it describe as Molasses there is something about just the thick rich nature of her writing dark and vile in it tones but wonderfully written. I recently read High Wind in Jamaica another book about kids going off the rails as a group like here it shows how kids can be seen as violent for no reason. Then book like The dinner by Herman Kick another book about  kids and violence shows the after math of the act of violence this is a book that connect the two a sort of inner working of the kids caught in the violent acts they are doing. I wish it hadn’t been so long between reading Jelinek’s books she is a unique writer. Have you read any books by Jelinek ?

Winstons score – A the post war embers still burn in the kids of a SS officer.

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What have you left behind ? by Bushra AL-Maqtari

 

What Have You Left behind ? by Bushra AL-Maqtari

Yemeni Non-fiction

Original title –

Translator Sawad Hussain

Source – Review copy

I got sent this from the folks at Fitzcarraldo a press I have loved since they started there is rarely a press that you have never read a book you didn’t like in fact more than that their books have been among my favourite reads of each year for the last few years . So when I got this and on the back cover I saw the words that it was inspired by her reading of Svetlana Alexievich. Bushra Al Maqtari is a novelist and writer she first came to the fore in 2012 with her novel behind the sun and then her writing has become more nonfiction. This book lifted the lid on the personal effect of the long-running and under-report civil war in Yemen.

My brother is still tormented, he can’t sleep, he can’t forget. He’s preoccupied with finding treatment for his injured son. I carry my brother’s sorrows on my back, I enter the house and the memories come rushing back.

I remember my brother’s children and his wife, their laughter, the noise they would make, our beautiful life together. Damn the Coalition and whoever came with them to our country, damn every side that has murdered Yemeni people. They’re all just that – murderers. Who will bring back Malak, Malakat, Mohammed and Asma to my brother? Who? Tell me who? Who?

No one. No one cares about what happened to us.

Ahmad Abdel Hameed Sayf

At 5.40 p.m. on Thursday, 26 January 2017, the Arab Coalition aeroplanes targeted Ahmad’s brother’s house, Fahmi Abdel Hameed Sayf in al-Qutay in the governorate of al-Hu-daydab. His brother’s wife Asma Abdel Qader Yassin Sharaf (30 years old) was killed, and her children: Mohammed Fahmi

The last paragraph and what happened to Ahmad and his family in the opening narrative.

In her Nobel-winning speech, Svetlana Alexievich described how Flaubert called himself a Human Pen from his writing but Alexievich described herself as a human ear. That is what we have here with Busrha’s narratives they are a polyphonic collection of voices of the outfacing of the v=civin=il war a collection of people killed by the war. The book opens with Ahmed’s account of a bomb landing on his brother’s house meaning the loss of his sister-in-law his niece and his nephews. This is how the book is formed each chapter an account and each account ends with when the attack or killing happened where and who died. under the mango tree AL Ahamad says how he dreams of those he has lost all the time. Mothers lose their children as they are targeted and killed by Militia How the loss of children changes mothers, This is a chorus of loss and the ripple effect of this the immediate damage and loss but also the long-term trauma and loss to the society.

I lived in a country where dying was taught to us from childhood. We were taught death. We were told that human beings exist in order to give everything they have, to burn out, to sacrifice themselves. We were taught to love people with weapons. Had I grown up in a different country, I couldn’t have traveled this path. Evil is cruel, you have to be inoculated against it. We grew up among executioners and victims. Even if our parents lived in fear and didn’t tell us everything – and more often than not they told us nothing – the very air of our life was poisoned. Evil kept a watchful eye on us. Svetlana Alexievich

I feel this maybe capture so well what Bushra Al-Maqtari is trying to capture in this book the horror of war is known but the personal effect isn’t the families or those we loved we have lost adds to a  more powerful narrative voice a chorus of loss. You can see the nod to a book like Chernobyl the way you grab the attention of the reader is a polyphonic collection of experiences a patchwork of the war the gaps are those doing the killing these are this effect but the killer of the forgotten war. What we see is how it we deal with the human cost of war and the loss of the fabric of society. I was reminded of how the late great Dasa Drndric had described to me that the Italian version of her book had a rip out section of the book list of list Jews oink the war in Italy she’d pass it round and have people rip out names of the knew as the did the book fell apart like society itself with the loss of all these lives and voices.  This is their civil war is tearing their world apart the how=rror and cost of the war in Yemen haven’t been reported enough it has taken a strong voice like Bushra to be an activist and voice for this war and its effect. Have you a favourite book about war that uses first hand accounts?

Winstons score – +A another home run for Fitzcarraldo

Nobel winner 2021 Abdulrazak Gurnah

It is that time of year again when the Nobel literature prize is announced it just has and this year’s winner is Abdulrazak Gurnah a writer that is not known to me so he is  a leftfield choice I have just ordered two of his books I see that Lisa has read him at Anzlitlovers  .  He has been on the booker list twice in 1994 and 2001. If you have read him what would you recommend ?

The return of the Caravels by Antonio lobo Antunes

 

The Return of the Caravels by Antonio Lobo Antunes

Portuguese fiction

Original title – As Naus

Translator – Gregory Rabassa

Source – Personal copy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Perfect nine by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o

The Perfect Nine by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o

Kenyan fiction

Original title – Kenda Muiyuru

Translator – The writer himself

Source – personal copy

Now I reach the writer that on the man booker list that was the biggest name on the list Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o’ is one of the best known and most respected African writers of his generation. He is often mentioned as a future Nobel winner in the last few years he has been high in the betting each year.  He was one of the first writers to break through and also one of the first writers to question the colonial times and what happened. I reviewed his 1967 novel a grain of wheat a number of years ago that was his best-known book he wrote in English initially before in later years he has written in his native language Gikuyu which he wrote in originally and then translated into English. Which I feel was a great idea as he has kept what must be the rhythm the book had in its original language as this is a novel in verse that has a nod towards greek classics.

Peace! May all glory be to thee, Giver Supreme, peace! May all glory be to the, giver supreme.

In some parts of africa, they call it Mulungu, but it is the same Giver.

The Zulu call himUnkulunkulu, nut he is the same giver.

Others call it Nyassi, Jok, Oldumare, Chukwu, or Ngai, but each id the same giver.

The Hebrews call upon Yahweh or Jehovah, and he is the same giver.

Mohammedans call him Allah, and he is the same Giver

The second chapter connects the story of the giver to both Islam and christian traditions

The story is the story of his own tribe a writing down of the oral history of the story of the Perfect nine the nine daughters of Gikuyu and Mumbi have had nine perfect and beautiful daughters and well there is a tenth daughter. So the news of these daughters has spread so when 99 suitors appear for them.  they are sent on quests ad challenges of strength and skill along the road to find the best set by the parents to the mountain and lands to discover, The last challenge for those that are left is to find the cure to help Wariga the tenth daughter who has been injured and needs a cure that is held by an Orge king so the suitor’s team up each with daughter and then set out this is the origins of the tribe as each daughter settles with them suitor these are all told in little verse in the book that tells of them settling such as Wantjiru, the matriarch of the3 Anjiru clan Wanmbui, Wanjiku and so on these are all the matriarchs of the clans that make up the tribe.

Wanjira, Matriarch of the Anjiru Clan

Of the Perfect nine, she is the oldest.

It is saqid she once put a curse on a hyena

But she had simply put a curse on greed.

Her face exudes empathy and goodness, and

She does not falter when fighting for peace;

She swears by her clan as she calls for conflicts to cease.

When visitors decend upon her from anywhere,

She says, “Don’t ask hunger questions. First give it food”

Her beauty makes men fight to walk beside her.

One of the clan stories of the nine and how they staert the clans.

 

This is a poetic book that has a nod toward the greek epic verses. That is also told in verse poems like Aeneid.  But there is  also the oral tradition of the storyteller around the fire. This is the history of a tribe that had been passed down from generation to generation. It is an origin story that has echoes of other origin stories from around the world. Gikuyu and Mumbi cold be adam and eve and their descendants. But also a nod to tribal histories I remember Michael Palin visit a tribe and being shown a similar history to this. It follows also follows a classic quest story a sort of quest to find something like The lord of the ring’s journey that sees the daughter’s show strength but also sees the suitors fall to one side a survival of the fittest. Myth and reality blur as the epic tells of the start of the tribe. It is very different from his earlier work but also an interesting work that embodies a tribal and vocal history that in these fast-changing times is disappearing like Hunter school which I read earlier this year tribal history is fast disappearing in this modern age where we all want to be connected and the world is shrinking but individual tribes are disappearing and histories are. So that is the tenth book I have reviewed from this year’s longlist three left!

Winstons score – B+

 

 

Under the Glacier by Halldór Laxness

Under the Glacier by Halldór Laxness

Icelandic fiction

Original title – Kristnihald undir Jökli

Translator – Magnus Maagnusson

Source – personal copy

I have featured a number of Icelandic writers of the years. But had yet to feature their Nobel-winning writer Laxness won the prize in 1955. Even though I have six of his books on my shelves so I decided it was about time and I choose this one of the six I had as it seemed different from the others. Laxness wrote for nearly 60 years this is a later book he called a visionary novel. He is best known for Independent people he wrote in various styles over the years. There was a film made of his book.

The bishop handed me a dog-eared scrap of paper that could hardly have come through the post; it looked as if it had been carried from farm to farm and shuffled from pocket to pocket through many districts. Nonethe less, the letter evinced a mental attitude, if you could call it that, which has more to it than meet the ye and which expresses the logic of the place where it belongs but has little validity anywhere else , perhaps, the bishop rattled on while I ran my eye over the letter: And then he’s said to have allowed anglers and foreigners to knock then he’s said to have allowed angler and foreigners to knock up some monstrosity of a building pratically on top of the church – tell him from me to have it pulled down at once!

The Embi sees the letter that lead to his task.

The book follows the sending of a young emissary from the Bishop of Iceland to the pastor of Snaefells Glacier as there have been reports that pastor Jon has been a strange course. The Bishop tells the young man of the glacier and its connection to the Verne book and it has an entrance to the centre of the earth. He wants to find out what is going on he tells the young man just blend in talk with the locals about the weather and gently find out what is going on. So from then on our unnamed emissary is called the Embi he arrives at the glacier finds a church not just run down but also nailed shut by order of the Pastor. He starts to talk to the locals as he discovers how they view what is going on. Why has Jon start being a sort of odd job man and they feel the glacier is now the centre of the world we know it. There is a feel of them all become like a bunch of new-age hippies. While the Embi get to the bottom of what has happened, will he see the truth through the lies he was told to listen to both by the Bishop as he said in the lies he may see more than the little titbits of truth there is a lot of mystery in this book there is a sense of something looming behind the enigmatic Pastor Jon and his wife as the Embi unpicks everything bit by bit?

It’s appropriate here to make a long story short.

Yopur emissary, however, doesn’t wish to delay giving a summary of the tales thart have lived here in this past of the land since time immemorial about a mysteryious women: sometimes gthis woman, sometimes a multide. Sometimes this women has taken the form of somerather disagreeable luggage. Tumi jonsen has now started to tell the icelandic sags in a style that consists principally of casting doubt on the story being told, making no efforts to describe things, skating past the main points, excusing the main characters for performing deeds thart will live as long as the world endures, erasing their faces if possible but wiping them clean, just in case. Therefore it never becomes a story, at best just a subject for a poem. The women carry on with their scrubbing. This was a long morning.

The locals are changing the facts

This is one of those books that has you laughing in one bit as this bizarre outland of Iceland and it locals with there views from the Pastor and his clerk then we start pondering what is going on in the glacier. The style of the book is in reports and dialogue of the interviews he does with locals. As the dead bodies, aren’t getting buried and the talk about being the centre of the world what is happening? What I loved was the collection of local oddballs he meets as he tries to discover what is going on for the Bishop. As Susan Sontag says this book could be sci-fi at times, comic or as Laxness called it visionary novel it is one of those books that has so much more it seems that some of the things that happened in the book are partly based on the actual pastor in the first half of the twentieth century. We view one of those strange community that is cut off from the rest of the world. Have you read any books from Laxness ?

Vlad by Carlos Fuentes

Vlad, a novel by Carlos Fuentes

Mexican fiction

Original title – Vlad

Translators – E.Shashkan Bumas and Alejandro Branger

Source – personal copy

I move to Mexico for the second stop on this year’s Spanish and Portuguese lit months. I am reviewing the writer that until the last ten years was the best-known writer from Mexico Carlos Fuentes. One of the great figures of the Latin American boom this was the last book he published while alive. He is best known for the death of Artemio Cruz he wrote over twenty novels in various styles and was often considered as a possible Nobel winner although he didn’t win that prize he won all the major prizes for Spanish language fiction.

“I wouldn’t trouble you, Navarro, if Davila and Uriate were available. I’m not going to call them your inferiors- subordinates sounds better – but neither will I forget that you are a senior partner, primus inter pares, and so are higher ranked in the firm. I am entrusting this task to you because first and foremost, I consider this a matter of utmost urgency ….”

Weeks laterm when the awful adventure had ended, I recalled that, at its beginning, I had chalked up the absence of Davila dn Uriate to luck. Davila was off on honeymoon in Europe and Uriate was tied up in a Judical embargo …

He is given the case it seems great as he is just getting back to work after his recent loss Yves.

This is a short book and is a clever take on the Vampire story. It imagines that Vlad the Impaler has decided he needs to leave Europe and has chosen Mexico city as his new home. The book opens as an estate agent is Yves Navarro a lawyer and he estate agent wife is tasked with finding a fort like home which will be easy to defend, against intruders,  have an escape tunnel and Blacked out windows. The two of them and their daughter are just getting over the death of their son. This is all for the strange  European Vladimir Radu. but maybe is he really Stokers  Vlad the Impaler. Vlad is putting himself into the couples live as he tells the narrator he loves his wife’s smell. Slowly, as he starts to get his way into the lives of this grieving family as he has viewed Mexico city and the way it is as his chance to feast on the city starting with Yves and his family. Could he bring their son back for them?

“Yes, boss” I said almost seetly, sensing his need for consolation. While feeeling myself vunerable because of my affection, memories, and even gratitude.

“You have to hurry. It’s urgent. Have a look at these papers”

He let go of my hand I took the papers he proffered and then walked toward the door. He said, as though from a great distance;

“From Vlad, you can expect nothing but evil.”

and in a lower voice

“Do you think I don’t have scruples or even a conscience I don’t have a fever burnong in my soul?”

I turned my back on him I knew that I would never see him again.

Yves starts to find out the real truth about his client !!

This is a very short book more of a novella than a novel it has echos of the great story by Stoker Yves and Harker in the original book both have wives or finances that Vlad seems to connect the two stories. Then him moving westward as well first to London at the turn of the century a sprawling city and the comparison is apt with Modern Mexico city the city is huge and perfect for Vlad. Then he has the grief of the family and the family story Yves and his wife Asuncion mourning the loss and trying too move forward. this is subtle take there isn’t the violence as in the Stoker book it is more about the menace and characters also about loss blinkering the main character as he heads with his wife into unkn=own waters with this odd European man who is he really with his black outfit just making him seem dark. An interesting last book from one of the great Latin American writers. Have you read Fuentes?

 

The end of a Mission by Heinrich Böll

 

Image result for the end of a mission heinrich

The end of a mission by Heinrich Böll

German literature

Original title – Ende einer Dienstfahrt

Translator – Lelia Vennewitz

Source – personal copy

It has become a tradition in a way to review a Heinrich Böll for German lit month. I have reviewed five of his book before.I have a few more on my tbr pile and with Penguin putting his debut novel out. It has been over thirty years since Böll died so it nice see he is getting new attention as for me he alongside Gunter Grass was the voices of post-war West Germany. This book came in 1966a mid-career book by this writer.

The evidence of the elderly Inspector Kirffel was short and to the point. He said that the scene of the crime was known to all local inhabitants for miles around as “Kupper’s tree” ; although there was no tree anywhere in the vicinity and never had been – not even in his childhood had he ever seen a tree there – he  chose to use the name because it appeared on the regional maps. Herr hermes, the teacher from Kireskirchen who was such an expert on local lore, had explained the name this way; some generations ago a tree had probably soodthere , and someone called Krupper had either hanged himself or been hanged from it .

The place the jeep was found was a place named after a tree that may have been there at some point !!

This is maybe the most german novel by Böll I have read. The book is set around a trial in a small county court in an otherwise sleepy town and the trail of a father and son Johann Gruhl and his son Georg. The trail of these two came about as the son stole an Army Jeep near the end of his conscription in the army he takes it to his fathers and the Jeep is burned out.the jeep was found near a local landmark which is highlighted a number of times in the book.  The book follows the trial the son was sent out in the jeep in a meaningless exercise to get a certain mileage on the jeep was ask to drive around but end up at his father who was in trouble with some huge outstanding bills in the family Cabinet maker business. The Jeep got burnt was this malicious or an act of art or being anti-military! The trail is held by a local judge known for being a bit of a pushover. The judge is just on the verge of retirement. So over the course of the books, we see witness setting the events first one way and then another to discover what really happened this is a comic book that also highlights the absurd nature of the state and the army at times when a system becomes inflexible. The book follows the inner working of a trail and the madness of it sometimes.

Upset and nervpous as he was, Dr Stolfuss (he had also known Gruhl senior from childhood and had always had a soft spot for him – a few weeks before the incident he had even employed him to restore a valuable Empire chest of drawers which had finally, after a lengthy inheirtence dispute with his cousin Lisdeth, sister of Agnes Hall, come into his possesion. In paying Gruhl he had in fact, if not demostrably. put himself in the wrong because, knowing that Gruhl was being snowed under with seizure orders, he had sliiped him his money privately)

Another witness and another odd tale and tonuge in cheek at time

This is different to the other books I have read by him but is an interesting comic work into the absurd nature of the state, justice system and the way being draft in the army can change the family business. The absurd jeep ride by the son it is all tongue in cheek at times but also shows the bureaucratic process and justice system at its most absurd as the two men are set to the fact the Judge. This is the sort of novel that would struggle to get out now as it is cerebral and also comic also it subject matter of a small country trail around a stolen burnt out jeep isn’t the most exciting but that is what sets this apart as it is stunning read by one of the great writers of his time. I enjoy the fact the way he takes apart the inner workings and shows the madness the state can sometimes have. Have you a favorite Böll

The dwarf by Pär Lagerkvist

Image result for the dwarf par lagerkvist

The Dwarf by Pär Lagerkvist

Swedish fiction

original title – Dvärgen

Translator – Alexandra Dick

Source – personal copy

When Simon and Kaggy announced the 1944 club, I searched the list of books published that year and this was one that jumped out at me especially when I saw the cover. Par Lagerkvist was a Nobel winner. He grew up in a house where the books he had to read were the Bible and the book of common prayer. But in later life he didn’t turn against religion he was a socialist but had a deep interest in what man his symbols and God. What man’s position is in that world. This book is a perfect example of what he did in a lot of his writing question what is good and Evil.

What abput the Prince ? Does he suspecgt nothing? or maybe everything?

It looks as thpugh the matter of her secret life did not exist for him. But cannot tell, with him one can never be quite sure of anything. He consorts with her in the daytime, and it seems as though he himself were daytime in person , for he is so utterly irrahited with the light of day. It is odd that such a person should be  beyond my comprehension – just he! but perhaps that is because I am his dwarfm and again – he does not understand me either !

This passage does make you wonder is Piccoline is just another side of the Prince .

The book is narrated from the point of view of the dwarf of the title he is the court Jester  Piccoline. He is in the court of an Italian Principality. He has the ear of the prince. He is also told secrets by other members of the court such as their lovers and who is doing what which gives him a greater insight into the inner workings of the town. But this little guy has a real twist of evil in him he is a true Machiavellian figure. The town they live in is in many a feud with the local towns. This is et in the 15th century Italy around the same time as some of the other villages built great big towers here they have hired Bernardo to do some painting (This character could be a version  Leonardo Da Vinci) The town could be Milan but the time and place isn’t ever really mentioned so for me it is just a mixture of tale of the time when Italy was made of small towns and states that were at constant battle what is the problem here is the dwarf they all see as just a jester in a way is twisting them and helps the prince when he has to poison someone for the Prince he does this as he hates the person but he hates everyone around him he isn’t the jovial figure they think he is as we see how he sees the downfall of his town and the violence he has in part he has unleashed.

I am no blasphemer. It was they who blasphemed, not I , but the prince had me clapped in irons for several days. The little jest had been intended to amuse, but I had to spoiled it all and the guests had been very upset, almost scared. There were no chains small enough so they had to be specially mad, and the smith thought it was a great deal of trouble for such a short sentence. But the prince said that it might be as well  tohave them another time. he let me go sooner than he had planned

Again is the dwarf real  and does the prince really see the dark side of him and what he has inside him .

I was drawn in by Piccoline narration of his life he is truly a dark figure. He is maybe more of a dwarf on the inside and that is the question is he a real figure or maybe just the dark side of the Prince of the town. His dark inner child in a way the acts and thoughts of Piccoline has that childlike way of seeing good and evil as he views the world as very black from his mere 26 inches. This is the reason I love events like 1944 club is they make you look out older books. I have always tried Nobel winners when I have seen their books around second hand so I would have got to Lagerkvist at some point but this coming out in 1944 meant I got to it sooner. Lagerkvist does seem to question through Piccoline what our actions are when we are faced with violence and conflict around us. A lost gem of world literature as this seems to be out of print at the moment!!

Should been Nobel

Well with the Nobel suspended for a year. I decide to name a few writers who should won the Nobel but didn’t. Join in and name some yourself these next few weeks. using the hashtag #nobelmisses here are my three . I could name a hundred or more over time from Burgess to Bolano, Calvino to Perec!!

James Joyce

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now I don’t know a writer that has influenced and changed how we wrote as much as Joyce did of course other writers did similar things but Joyce managed tostick everything into his books. So he is my first should won the nobel.

Jorge Luis Borges

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another omission ok he never wrote a novel. But he created some of the finest short stories that set other writers on the path to writing a hundred novels. since in his stories he showed how we can twist ourselves and reflections of our lives and rewrite history into a whole new reality.

Assia Djebar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Algerian is a writer I need to read more of but was an important female voice from the Islamic world in recent times she gave voice to those that didn’t have one.

These are my three choices #nobelmisses pick yours and let’s get a chat about who missed the Nobel Lit prize over time as there isn’t a winner this year.

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