Shtetl Love Song by Grigory Kanovich

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shtetl Love song by Grigory kanovich

Lithuanian fiction

Original title – Местечковый романс

Translator – Yisrael Elliot Cohen

Source – review copy

I reviewed the first book from the new publisher Noir press Breathing into Marble which I enjoyed. this their latest book from Lithuanian is a true gem of a book. Grigory Kanovich is a well know poet and writer. He currently lives in Israel and before he emigrated there was the head of the Jewish community of Lithuania. He also served as a people’s deputy during Soviet times. Born into a tailoring Jewish family of the Shtetl community if Jews in Lithuania before world war two. what he brings in this book is the lost world of his family and their friends. 95% of Shtetl jews died during world war two when Germany invaded.

For a long time I have intend to write about my mother with that joyous enthusiasm and the kind of abundant detail with which it is fitting to recall one’s parents, the people closest and dearest to you. But to my great shame, for one reason or another, i have kept putting it off.Or, if I have started, then I have written nothing more than casual scraps, limiting myself to separate episodes that dealt with my relatives and the other people from my hometown. Wanting to somehow soften my feeling of guilt, I began to recall things, conjuring up memories even when I was sleeping, However the following morning I would mercilessly erase the words that has seemed so appropriate the night before

Grigory explains his struggle with this book he want to honour his mum and home town.

The book starts with Grigory saying he had long wanted to tell the story of his mother and family in pre war Lithuania in those years before he turned twelve and they had to leave and returned later to a changed country. I saw somewhere that said the Grigory was maybe the only person that could bring this world to us as readers as so few people are left alive from that time.. This follows his father and grandfather and their spouses Mama and Dovid ,Grandma Rokha as they leave their home and head to Lithuania after the end of another war to first Vilnius and then on to the home town of Jonava. What follows is the history of the following years of the family as they grow into village ,life but also stat planting roots which we see his mother Hennie settle and explain the village around them the rabbis, traders and characters. This is a description of a world long gone but also a family history a view of the world they live in which at the time was one where their is big changes as the country they live in Lithuania that had just become a country but is also trying to stay a country and not get eaten up by either of the two large powers that are  nearby the Soviet and German regimes have their eyes on the country.

Wake up. Hirshele! Wake up, my golden one! today it’s an important holiday. Pesach! Passover! I’m going to take you today, my little dove, to the synagogue for the first time. To the Beit Knesset Hagadol .

“Where?” my eye. still not unstick from my sweet sleep expressed nothing but fear.

“To the great synagogue. You’ve never been before.Each day Gotenu, our dear god, decends from heaven to there. We will be pray together and thank our protector and Benefactor for delivering us from Egypt thousands of years ago and liberating us from the Pharohs.

I love and fear going place like this with my grandmother at times.

I have read a lot of lit about the war and Jewish life , but there isn’t many books  out there that touch this book for the way it captures the day-to-day family life As many of you know I am a huge fan of those books that capture village small town life and this is what this does . But also the black humour the jewish community is well-known for shine through at times that saw their world change. The action is in the pre war period but the sense of the wider world invading the small is evident as the family goes on but their world will be for ever changed. Grigory has written all his life about the Litvak community of Lithuania. This is his most personal book and the last he has written so far, it won a number of prizes including the Lithuania National prize. I loved the small boy on the cover he capture this world so well in a way.

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Ashes by Sergios Gakas

Ashes by Sergios Gakas

translator -Anna-maria Stanton-ife

Greek fiction

Source – review copy

Sergios Gakas studied in france in paris ,he studied theatre ,after that he took up writing first with plays for children finally turning to fiction in 2001 ,this book was published 2007 .his books have also been translated into french and Italian .

Ashes is set in Athens in 2004 just before the Olympics and there is a huge fire in a house  ,a former actress Sonia Varika is in the house she shares with a African family of refugees ,but she is the only member of the household to survive the fire ,it so happens that the next two nearest people to house ,fire and case happen to be here Ex’ lovers .one  is the landlord of the house Simeon Piertzovanis  he is a man who has drifted, he was a lawyer and now a slum landlord and a man looking for solace in the bottle  ,the other is Colonel Chornis Halkis ,he is the police man assigned to solve how the fire started and who had started it , he works for internal affairs in the Hellenic police force .So as you see this is  in the classic noir formula if you weren’t told it was Greece by the names and places it could be any where ,ex lovers ,secrets and lies ,love rivals all play a part as the  book  unfolds ,given the fact that Gakas has mainly work in the theatre before writing fiction this book is driven forward by the dialogue between the characters partly the two male leads which have some great inter actions during the course of the book .also the fact space is need for the olympics that is just round the corner and Athens is all of a flutter with that as well .

“When did you first meet her ?”

“21st July 1999″

the policeman was visibly irritated .”look- either you’ve got a very good memory or -”

“or?”

“or that date must be important to you ”

“it’s my name day – St Simeon the holy fool .It was during the break in a game – she opened her diary and wished me a happy name day – the only person to do so all day ”

Simeon and Vhronis meet early on in the book .

I like this book as soon as it hit the door step ,I love old noir films the tense and darker side of the world where no one is black or white just lighter and darker shades of grey ,so it is here the two men both have the failing but in varying degrees ,Sonia is a classic femme fatale but one who’s beauty is past and is in decline but she has at times touched these mens lives and that plays its small part in the case ,there is also pressure on Chronis from outside  and inside the police and also this leads Chronis into drugs himself much as Simeon is heading deeper into the bottle .also racism raises its head as there is a lot of tension between  the refugee /native greek communities .so all in all a classic noir reset in modern Greece .the translation works well the dialogue in particular has a good flow to it .

Do you like Noir ?

Have you a favourite greek book ?

The Fugitive by Massimo Carlotto

Source – Library .

Massimo Carlotto lived the story within this book ,he was involved with the terrorist group Lotta Contina he found a man stabbed in 1976 as a 19-year-old this lead to a life on the run and a huge case in Italy eventually he was pardoned in 1993 after an eventful 18 years of battles and running from the law .This is my first foray into Italian noir .

We catch the fiction Max in Mexico ,then we move back to see him first of after fleeing from the law and what would have been a lifetime Jail term ,he is in Paris he hangs out with the criminal and general underclass the people that we pass in large cities ,the under paid and petty thieves at this point is one of my favourite scenes in the whole book when he goes to a dentist due to agonizing pain ,he borrows a chilean medical card but whilst at the dentist is found out .

Listen ,doctor ,could you tell me something ? Would any dentist have noticed ?

No I worked in Chile for a couple of years ,

I started to laughing:

you mean to say that out of the hundred of dentists in Paris ,I ran into the only one that could cause me problems ?

He wa laughing too . that’s probably right .

so long doctor .

Max is treat by a dentist that finds out who he is but keep the secret .

A wonderful scene the book darkens as the main character decides to he’d off to Mexico as he been told it is a safe place but it turns out to be far from that and leads to a high climax .

I choose to get this after the bbc Italian Noir show remind me off it ,Massimo is the master of pace and tone ,you get shivers up the spine and have the constant sense of time ticking as Max runs from the law .It takes a long hard look at life on the run and how to deal with .The book was translated by Anthony Shugar and published by Europa Editions ,he has since wrote many novels a number of others available in english .

Have you read any Italian Noir ?

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