Segu by Maryse Conde

Segu by Maryse Conde

Guadeloupean fiction

Original title – Ségou: Les murailles de terre 

Translator – Barbara Bray

Source – Personal copy

I said in my Nobel post the other day that Maryse Conde was the favorite for this year’s prize. She is still there as I checked before this post. Maryse Conde was born into a large family and was the youngest in her family by a number of years she started to write at 12. She studied at the Sorbonne. In the sixties, she taught in Guinea, Ghana(where she was deported for her political opinions and the Senegal. Then she taught in France after the sucsess if this book in the 80’s she starts to teach in the US and Universities in France. So as with other years, I like to add a writer from the betting list that I haven’t read I have had this on my tbr a while ago.

Dousika was a nobelman or Yerwolo, a member of the royal council a personal friend of the king and the father of ten legitmate, sons, ruling as fa or patriach over five famlies, his own and those of his younger brothers. His compound reflected his standing in the Segu society. Its tall facade overlooking the street was ornamented with sculptures as well as triangluar patterns carved into clay, and surrounded by turrets of varying heights and pleasing effect

Dosuika is a man of standing at the start of the book.

The book is set in the kingdon of Segu in 1797 which was a kingdom in the 18th and 19th century in what is now Mali we follow the family history of this time through the life and family of the most trusted advisor of the kings family Dousika Rearore, but he is seeing changes as the kingdom has more and more Islamic people appear but he falls out of favour as others in the palace seek to disgrace himhe dies young and we follow the story through his four sons. As the four sons he had set forth the oldest Tiekoro coverts to Islam is expelled from Tibuktu where he was studying like his father has children with different women one of which commits suicide. His life is full of up and downs like his brother and his two half brothers as we see te family move from the home across the globe.

In the countryside he came upon his host and a stout magnificently dressed man with a turban and the complextion of a moor. He greeted them briefly and was just going into his room when Abi Zayd sprang up in front of him and told him without waiting to be asked “Abbas Ibrahim is a scholar from Marrakesh who teaches at the university. He’s written several books about Metaphysics,Its a great honor, his coming to see us asking to marry my sister.

Tiekoro broke out in a cold sweat , for El-Hadj Baba Abopu’s four elder daughters were married already

Which one he asked

Abi Zayd hopped from one foot to the other

Ayisha he said mockingly

Here we see Dousika son and the evidence of Segu being more Islamic than earlier.

This a great saga of one family that in a way even thou written a couple of centuries ago is still relevant now with the growth of Islam still in parts of Africa the event her can mirror events still. The book cover family strife arguments racisim crimes and violence this is a saga of a tale vibrant colourful and in a large part based on the latter years of the Bambara kingdom through one man and his descendants. I will be reading more of Conde work see is from the West indies but spent time in West Africa due to her first husband being West African. Have you read any books by her ? would she be a good Nobel winner on the strength of this book and the sheer volume of books she has written I would think so. We will have to wait to Thursday to see if she wins !

International Poetry day Nobel Poets ? Ko Un and Adonis

Today is international poetry day,I have rarely featured poetry in translation,I personally read very little poetry maybe one or two collections a year if that so if tomorrow sees a Poet winning the Nobel I will be interested to read more as to get the prize for the best body of work must mean something anyway with today being international poetry day I will feature two short piece by two of the poets riding high in the Nobel Literature betting this year. Which poets from around the world have you read ?

Ko Un

The poet called the poet of his people .I liked this short poem Ear of the few I read by him.There is an article about him from the guardian a few years ago .

Ear

BY KO UN

TRANSLATED BY SUJI KWOCK KIM AND SUNJA KIM KWOCK

Someone’s coming
from the other world.
Hiss of night rain.
Someone’s going there now.
The two are sure to meet.

 

Source 

The second poet often mention for a Nobel is the Syrian poet Adonis or Adunis . I have read many of these piece from the wonderful Arablit about Adonis , you can also find a lot on the Arabist site as well .I choose a part of a poem about childhood think of those children in Syria or on the way here at the moment.

Adonis or Adunis (Ali Ahmad Said Esber)

 

I have mention him a couole of times in previous Nobel literature build up posts .

Celebrating Childhood

BY ADONIS

TRANSLATED BY KHALED MATTAWA

Even the wind wants
to become a cart
pulled by butterflies.
I remember madness
leaning for the first time
on the mind’s pillow.
I was talking to my body then
and my body was an idea
I wrote in red.
Red is the sun’s most beautiful throne
and all the other colors
worship on red rugs.

Voices from Chernobyl by Svetlana Alexievich

 

voice from

Voices from Chernobyl (The oral history of a nuclear disaster ) by Svetlana Alexievich

Ukrainian Non-Fiction

Original title – Чернобыльская молитва

Translator – Keith Gessen

Source – Library book

Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son?
And where have you been my darling young one?
I’ve stumbled on the side of twelve misty mountains
I’ve walked and I’ve crawled on six crooked highways
I’ve stepped in the middle of seven sad forests
I’ve been out in front of a dozen dead oceans
I’ve been ten thousand miles in the mouth of a graveyard
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall.

I choose Bob Dylan’s a hard rain is going to fall a song wrote years before Chernobyl but about the effect of a nuclear fallout .

Now this is always the time of year I try to squeeze in one or two names from the list of Nobel hopefuls .For the last couple of years Svetlan Alexievich name has been one that has risen in the betting .Svetlana born in Ukraine grew up in Belarus , became a journalist and wrote a few novels then she developed first via Zinky boys her account of the fighters in Afghan wars a technique of gathering first hands accounts from people and crafting them into monologues .This book won the National book critics circle award for its English translation .

The smoke was from the burning bitumen , which had covered the roof .He said later it was walking on tar .they tried to beat down the flames ,They kicked at the burning graphite with their feet … they weren’t wearing their canvas gear .They went off just as they were , in their shirt sleeves .No one told them .they had been called for a fire , that was it

Lyudmilla on how Vasily her husband a fireman attend the disaster , he later died .

Voices from Chernobyl blends the voice of those directly connected to the disaster .The books opens with the account of the wife of one of the fireman that first attend the explosion at Chernobyl . Her’s is a very touching account of how her husband died after he had been there that day , but also little things like how the doctors that helped that day were all destined to die .Then about how the disaster effect the land nearest the blast .As the monologues build we see , how the disaster effect the land , moved people made some act one way and others act another day . How the children born at that time are sick .So the events of that day in 1986 and the years after how the government tried to cover up how bad it was in the reality .

My little daughter – she’s different .She’s not like the others .She’s going to grow up and ask me :” why aren’t I like the others ?”

When she was born ,she wasn’t a baby , she was a little sack , sewed up everywhere , not a single opening , just the eyes .The medical card says :”Girl born with multiple complex pathologies :aplasia of the anus , aplasia of the vagina , aplasia of the left kidney .” That’s how it sounds in medical talk , but more simply : no pee-pee ,no butt , one kidney on the second day I watched her get operated on , on the second day of her life .She opened her eyes and smiled , and I thought that she was about to start crying .But , God, she smiled !

Larisa talking about the birth of her daughter effected by the Chernobyl disaster .

I loved the style of this book Alexievich has a great way of mixing the voices she has recorded  . She really pulls together whatwas told to her the first account in this book was so powerful Lyudmilla telling the story of her late husband Vasily Ignatenko .The style is like one of those collages made up of smaller photos that when you step back and look forms that iconic image of the blown reactor at chernobyl .For the second time in a few weeks I rediscover the strength of non fiction writing from the former soviet bloc , like Dubravka Urgesic Svetlana Alexievich shows the power of good non fiction writing for hitting home with the reader , what you get from these accounts is a sense of the  sheer despair at how the government failed , lives fell apart and people were rip away from their homes and left without anywhere to really be .I can see why here named is mentioned as a potential Nobel Literature winner .I know need to find a copy of Zinky boys to read by her .

Have you read her books ? Do you have a favourite Non fiction writer in Translation ?

 

 

 

The bridge over the Drina by Ivo Andric

bridge over the drina

 

The bridge over the Drina by Ivo Andric

Bosnian fiction

Original title – Na Drini ćuprija

Translator – Lovett F Edwards

Source – personnel copy

This table has four sturdy legs
And a heart of very near wild oak
When others would have screamed out loud my friend
This one never even spoke

I’ve been sat upon, I’ve been spat upon
I’ve been treated like a bed
Been carried like a stretcher,
when someone thinks they’re dead
I’ve been dined upon, I’ve been wined upon
I’ve been taken for a fool
Taken for a desk,
when they should have been at school

The table in the song by beautiful south is a dumb witness of history source 

Well this has been a book I have want to add to the blog for a while . Part of what I need to do is add books like this and writers like Andric .Former Nobel winner .He was born to Bosnian Croat parents ,was rought up in the town of Visegrad where this book is set and the bridge is .He won the nobel mainly based on the value of this book it was the first of a trilogy of books he wrote set in his native Bosnia .

For the greater part of its course the river Drina flows through narrow gorges between steep mountains  or through deep ravines with precipitous banks  . In a few places only the river banks spread out to form valleys with level or rolling stretches of fertile land suitable for cultivation and settlement on both sides . Such a place exists here at Visegrad , where the Drina breaks out in a sudden curve .

The town has people living on both sides of the bridge .

The bridge of Drina is well what it says on the tin the story of this bridge that in a way links east and west . The bridge is set in the town of Visegrad . The bridge was built-in the 16th century by the Grand Vizar to connect the two sides of the town and two worlds really . Through the book we see families torn apart on the two sides of the river . The story starts with a Serbian boy  whom has been  taken from his parents  .The parents of the boys taken suffering . Through the door of everyone living in the town we see the small world there but also the larger world of the Balkans .WE see the religions of the region and how they affect the townsfolk Catholic , orthodox and muslim altogether .This is a huge book about the region through glimpse of the world through three centuries .

In all that ten days long bombardment no major damage was done to the bridge .The shell struck against the smooth piers and rounded arches ,ricocheted and exploded in the air without leaving other marks in the stone than light ,white scarcely perceptible scratches . The fragments of shrapnel bounced off the smooth firm stone .

The bridge came through world war one fairly unscathed .unlike the world around it

Now this book was written in Belgrade during the second world war .It maybe shows much of what happened after the second world war . The cracks that finally broke up the post Tito Yugoslavia can all be seen in these little stories in this book as we see the lives through 300 years which has seen many people trying to gain control of the town and over Bosnia and the wider region . from the Ottoman empire .then the interaction between the Serbs and the Muslims .Andric enters all the lives of the town he grew up these are little stories glimpse of people’s lives that he knew and must have heard of growing up in the town .Also the  folktales of the place all drawn together .The bridge is like a dumb witness to the history and the wounds left during the three hundred years in this book .Which formed scabs after this book that was maybe ripped off to bleed again by the Balkan conflicts at the end of the 20th Century .This is my second book for east European month and maybe one of the best and earliest books of the post war eastern europe .

Have you read this book ?

What time is it ? Noble time

IMG_1912.JPGW

Well as the article in the Guardian pointed out yesterday we are just a month away from The Nobel literature prize being announced is it really 12 months since Alice Munro won ? The article mentioned the fact the odds of Ngugi Wa Thiong’o had shorten greatly ,well this served as a timely reminder that  I haven’t a book by him reviewed on the blog so I hope to reread grain of wheat or read petals of blood this next week or so , is the move a sign he is going to win ,for me usually a name or two jumps up in the weeks before it is the name on the few days before that the odd shorten on the tends to be the winner .As for the other names in the running according to ladbrokes –

Murakami favourite

Assia Djebar & Ngugi Wa thiong’o joint second favourites

Svetlana Aleksijevitj  & Joyce Carol Oates third favourites

then Adonis ,Kundera ,roth ,Nadas ,Dao ,Cartarescu ,Un ,Fossee Pynchon and Eco

Well it is similar list of names to last years list and my speculation post .For me I’d throw in Krasznahorkai,Goytisolo,Vila – Matas ,Marani  and Handke as names I’d love to see win .Who would you like to see win this year ?

 

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