Fish have no feet by Jon Kalman Stefansson

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Fish have no feet by Jon Kalman Stefansson

Icelandic Fiction

Original title – Fiskarnir hafa enga fætur

Translator – Philip Roughton

Source – Review copy

So I reach the final post of this years Man Booker journey , with one of my favourite writers and a writer that has been on the longlist for the old iffp . Jon Kalman Stefansson is another of those talent Icelandic writers. This is also the first time he has tackled a more modern-day Iceland than before in his books the earlier two I reviewed were from his trilogy Heaven and Hell and The sorrow of angels . Like his earlier book it also involves family and  but in a more personnel way than before.

I mean no disrespect , but ari is the only person who could have dragged me back here , across  the expanse of black lava that ground to a painful halt hundreds of years ago, naked in places, but elsewhere moss has softened and soothed it, clothed it in silence and serenity; you drive out of Reykjavik past the long aluminium smelter and into the lava, which at first is an old scream , and then moss-covered silence .

Ari returns to a changed place with his friend !!

This is a journey into the heart of what is modern Iceland told through two generations of the same icelandic family . The first is Ari in the present but also his childhood years  on the seventies and eighties . He has arrived home from Copenhagen and  is remembering his childhood in the town of Keflavik , a town that is home to the huge Us airbase NASKEF that was in use til 2005 , this also had like many airbases there is a ripple effect this is seen through Ari memories of his childhood of trying to grow up in the Iceland of the day which wasn’t the one we know but on the way and being tinged by America .Then Nordfjordur is the setting for the second tale a small fishing village cling to the land and the story of Ari grandparents is a tragic love story . This is juxtaposed by the modern marriage of their grandson. This is a story of nation that has changed so much in two generations .

We walk past the january 1976 bar , from which two middle-aged woman emerge , lighting cigarettes before the door shuts behind them, shuts on Rod Stewart singing “Maggie May” inside, It’s evening and we’re tipsy from the red wine and whisky we drank at the hotel and we walk down Hafnargata street, which is far tidier now than in the past, when we first walked down it with Asmundur ; Mayor Sigurjon has done a good job cleaning things up.

I liked this passage as it was as thou past, present we’re one leading me to think the narrator wasn’t in the present just the past !

Now it is hard not to see Ari in some part as being a veiled version of the writer himself , there is points when he talks about the eighties and growing up the music he listen to you feel him looking at his own collection of music and life , Like Ari Jon Kalman spent time in Denmark and also grew up in Keflavik. He has managed to writer a semi biographical novel using Ari but not as ari but more as a friend of him that is the narrator of the story, I was reminded of tv shows of recent years that use a detached voice as the narrator for the series , especially the recent netflix series thirteen reason why  which like this recounts past events in the present. Also Desperate housewives   where the whole series was told by a woman who was dead at the beginning of the book.Is this unnamed narrator an actual person or a lost friend of Ari that is long gone. In some ways this is maybe his answer to the likes of Knausgaard writing less of rooting in ones own past and pouring it on the page for every one to read no this is a carefully picked version of his history and how it feels to return home and remember what you like because the black side is there but isn’t what we remember this is the sense of drawing what was best in someway in your childhood.This is more personnel than his  earlier books which means it is maybe a harder read but more accessable

The unseen by Roy jacobsen

The unseen by Roy Jacobsen

Norweigian fiction

Original title – De Usynlige

Translators – Don Bartlett and Don Shaw

Source – review copy

Well I’m a year late reviewing this one it was one of those that fell through the net of books , I get sent a number have my own and library books sometimes one misses some great books so when it was on the Man booker longlist , I was pleased I had a copy near at hand  and with the shadow shortlist due out tomorrow ,I’m reaching the final few books of this years list. Roy Jacobsen life is interesting he spent time in Prison as a youth as he was involved in gangs he has twice been up for the Nordic book prize , woth his earlier Novel seierherrene is considered a classic of the class journey people can take in Norway culture “the great class Journey ” . This book was a bestseller in Norway which considering Jacobsen is a writer with 13 earlier novels  and a number of short story collections is a writer that os seeming produce great books still.

They walk silently past the store , there will be no shopping today, continue down to the trading post and clamber on board the faering . Hans Barroy observes the wind has turned and picked up , it is now a south-westerly. He hauls up the sail and struggles to make a sharp tack homeward.Then the rain comes down. Harder and Harder the further they get ti the mouth of the Fjord. Barbo and Ingrid shelter under the sheepskin.

He captures the cold and danger of just sailing home .

The Unseen is  for me a perfect set up as a novel , I love villages and this is a village but even better a village on a small island . I love tales of people caught out of time the main family Barroy Ingrid and her father Hans he time is the start of the last century as world war looms .Hans wants to link the island to the mainland and the island can’t be seen from there but the island can see the main land . This is a tough place like many island communities they have to battle to survive scrapping out a living on fishing and farming of sorts , this is a place where people mark the seasons with the return of certain birds a place of isolation an island separate that is being pulled towards the modern world .

The hosed]s on Barroy stand at an oblique angle to each other. From above they look like four dice someone has thrown a random, plus a potato cellar that becomes an igloo in the winter. There are flagstones to walk on between the houses, clothes racks and grass paths radiating in all directions, but actually the building act as awedge against stormy weather so that they can’t be flattened, even if the whole sea were to pour over the island .

This remind me of the old huts and how they were built of Alisha craig

I was reminded of the Scottish islands where life is tough but communities thrive as they survive just because they had to but like Barroy a lot of these faced at the time the book is set the loss people as the distant Mainland via war and communication becoming quick shrank . I was  most remind of Alisha Craig the outcrop os an Island that until 1928 was the source of the granite for Curling stones a small island that like Barroy in the book had grown  into its own little microcosm . This is a beautiful insight into a world that is familiar but strange at the same time a place no gone with the modern age these islands are as connected as anywhere and in a way have lost their identity somewhat that is what Jacobsen gives us an insight into a lost world .

Echoland by Per petterson

Echoland by Per Petterson

Norwegian Fiction

Original title – Ekkoland

Translator – Don Bartlett

I was in the library the other day looking for some new books to read that may be on the Man booker international longlist when it comes out next month. Per Petterson won the old IFFP prize in 2006. This is his debut novel which has been translated into english for the first time it is nice to see that  it has been but a shame that it has taken over ten years since the success of Our stealing horse and twenty years since this book itself came out. But that said time hasn’t effect this book no it has a timeless nature to it .

They sailed across the sea to Denmark. Along the Fjord the bonfires lit up the summer evening and Avrid stood by the railing gazing twoards land, pretending they were stars. The lights rose and fell and they shone on the water and he heard laughter and singing from the shore, but the ship was quiet

maybe the last line of the opening paragraph should be a hint of what is in fromt of him

Echoland is the story of Avrid , he is twelve and like many lads of his age is just become an adult. he is on his yearly family holiday to Denmark to the small island that his grandmother lives on . But he has reached an age where this small island is maybe to small . He captures a couple in the dunes in the middle of the act . He also sees the tension between his mother and Grandmother that he has never seen before , the family coping with the loss of a child  and meanwhile we see a young man struggling to cope with his growing up that awkward sense you have as a chap at that age. Then there is the outfall of previous visits and then we also in the ending what his raging Hormones drive him too.

He wasn’t alone. Some distance away a man was jumping up and down in the water. the man was laughing out loud, and the Avrid saw the man wasn’t  on his own either. A knee was stuck up on either side of his chest above the water and when the man turned Avrid saw her face against his neck. Her long dark hair hung straight down, heavy and wet . She was quite still, clinging to the man and Avrid walked off through the water in the opposite direction, back to the rushes .

Avrid sees a couple up to more than he expected in the beach as he wandered .

I loved this the book Avrid has been in another Petterson book I read and I also know is in another i have yet to read  so he is a character that he revisit through his life. This is like the year after stand by me , I remember the lines in Stand by me about being a boy before you see girls well this is the year after that when hormones get you at the worst times . This is a classic growing up story but like many young men we miss sometimes the world around us the deep scars in his parents relationship that he doesn’t really see. I remember my own youth when my own parents split i was ten but for years I never really saw the fall out in their own lives till I had grown up in retrospective. I remember the years I was like Avrid a holiday in Spain about the same age when I had just discovered girls and my hormones where raging so could connect with some of the situations Avirid finds himself .I wouldn’t been shocked to see this on the Man booker .

Have you a favourite Per Petterson ?

Some rain must fall by karl Ove Knausgaard

Some rain must fall by Karl Ove Knausgaard

Norweigian fiction

Original title – Min Kamp Femte Bok

Translator – Don Bartlett

Source – Library book

Well I said in last post I am still reading but with three weeks til we move we are busy buying stuff and packing for the new house move. I really want to read this although I hadn’t reviewed part four of Knausgaard I have decide to just review part five now as I really enjoyed this last but one part of Karl Ove life. As was noted in the LBF talk I saw Karl Ove is maybe in part to thank for the increase in Translated sales that was mentioned in the Man booker post on sale yesterday .

“That book you were reading, could I have a look at it? ” I said to Kjetil.

“Of course”, he said and passed it tome. I skimmed through it.

“Where’s he from?”

“Argentina , I think, but he lived in Paris for a very long time.”

“is it magic realism?” I said

“Yes you might call it that ”

“I really like Marquez.” I said “Have you read him ?”

Kjetil smiled

“Yes but he’s not quite my style. Its a bit too high flown for me.””Mhm” I said, handing the book back and writing Julio Cortazar in my notebook

I love discovering writers and the connections with other writers around the world .

So we meet karl Ove as he is really starting on his journey as a writer , as he becomes a student at a writing course in Bergen where one of his tutors is Jon Fosse, a writer i have to try but one that is often mentioned in the nobel betting the last few years. What we see here is Karl Ove struggling to find himself as a writer as he starts to tackle those writers that matter James Joyce is one he has trouble with but also Claud Simon a writer I reviewed last year I can understand why he struggles to get these writers as they are so far from what Karl Ove is as a writer but I am sure this is part of what made him the writer we know. What we also see is how voliatile his personnel life is but also the first inkling of him as a a writer and also a close friendship with Fellow Norwegian writer Tore renberg whose See you tomorrow I hope to be reviewing soon as they bounce writing ideas of one another and share a taste in music .

“My manuscript has been accepted. It’s coming out this autumn! I’m going to make my debut!”

“Is that rue? But fantastic, Tore” I said

All the energy I had drained away. I walked beside him, black to the core inside. It was so unjust. It was so bloody unjust. Why should de, four years younger than me, have the talent and not me? I had reconciled myself to the fact that Epsen had talent his debut was no surprise, it made sense. But Tore? and so young?

Shit

Tore  was beaming like a sun

His friend and sounding board Tore is first to the post with a book out but in the long run well time will tell !

Tony in his much deeper review of this book says we all look for more in Karl Ove than maybe other writers as we are all a similar age to him,  well Tony and I  are to Karl Ove  he is four years older than me and this was one of the first times  in the books  I felt a gap in my taste and that of Karl Ove.  I have never fully got XTC as a band and a few of the other bands he liked I did like in the day in particular the sugar cubes but most of all I connect when he mention Smashing Pumpkins a band I like but never lovered but had seen by chance of being a Catherine wheel fan back in the day on the first uk tour. I  like Karl Ove  have  struggled with writers Like Simon and Joyce , I like Karl Ove read them to discover the world of writers although I’m not told by Jon Fosse to do so lol. I was really touched by his dedication when he said he had read the Danish edition of Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann against the Norwegian as it had been abridged in the Norwegian edition a point which as a fan of translated fiction and not over editing or abridging books in translation. This is the struggle of a young writer in what one may call the Bildungsroman book of Min Kamp.

 

The prophet of Eternal Fjord by Kim Leine

the prophets of Eternal Fjord

The prophet of Eternal Fjord was a book that arrived late last year and grabbed me straight away from the Jacket Copy. Plus my lack of knowledge of Greenland the main setting for the book, I have  wanted to read a book about Greenland after two things Hearing   the pogues song Greenland whalers that evoked the world of the whalers when a place like Greenland was central to the world for it supplies from the whaling industry  and also  learning a bit about it at school in a project about vikings . So this book seemed the perfect chance to learn a little history of Greenland at a pivotal moment in their history .From a prize-winning Danish novel.This is Kim Leine fourth book and this one won the prestigious Nordic council Literature prize.

The widow has come up here of her own accord, no one forced her. She has beaten the lice from her finest clothes and put them on. She has washed her hair in the urine tub of the communal house and tied it up. Silently observed by her heather cohabitants, she scrapped the sooty grease from her cheeks and consumed the good meal that had been put before her. Then she came up here, carried along by a lightness of step. Now she sits on the brink of happiness, expectant and with warmth in her cheeks, at the edge with her legs tucked decorously beneath her in the way all widows, the way she sits at home on the little side bench under the window opening.

The opening lines drag you in with this rich opening passage.

The prophets of Eternal Fjord is set in the late 1780’s. In 1787 Morten Falck a new priest from the hustle and bustle of Copenhagen is given a new job on Greenland, his job to get the Godless Inuit to convert to the Danish church he is consider the man for the job as he is very evangelical . So he sets of on a whaler ship top the far corner of the Danish empire. When he arrives he finds things are far worse than he had been lead to believe before he left, some of the villages have joined together and broken away from the Danish rule wanting their own freedom. Added to this Morten isn’t all he seems whilst studying he discover he had a liking for being close to women.So he arrives in Sukkertoppen with a priest in two minds surround by a harsh world.Ready to try to get the people of the Eternal Fjord on his side (this is the area that has formed their own colony away from Danish rule )

Jesus christ, our Heavenly father!

It gushes from him the moment he pulls up his cassock and sits down on the privy seat, a mud-like mass, almost without smell, an inexhaustible landslide of brown. His intestines writhe in agony, and yet there is a considerable element of joy at being able to release, to discharge this spray of filth and empty the bowels. He groans, bites his hand and chuckles. His sphincter blares and squelches, and then there is silence.

I know this is a rather bad passage but it capture the earthy dark feel of this world broken and with illness.

 

 

The book has a rich style almost like Dickens, I was also reminded of the world painted in Eleanor Cattons book The luminaries. This is also a  world of tough men and brave women similar to Catton’s world. among these brave women would be the widow she is involved with the breakaway from Denmark but has also caught the eye of Morten. I loved the feel of a world at breaking point almost as though the string from Denmark to its distant outpost has been stretched, worn down by the sea and is ready to break. All seen through the eyes of this confused priest a man with his own demons trying to rid the locals of their demons. A classic tale of colony’s and colonism  we could change this for any outpost of the british empire at the time they wanted to break away.Martin Aitken has done a wonderful job in the way he has kept what is a poetic dark world or Greenland.

Danish fiction

Original title Profeterne i Evighedsfjorden

Translator Martin Aitken

The other woman by Therese Bohman

The Other Woman by Therese Bohman

As I said in yesterdays covers post, I have read a couple of great books from Sweden by female writers this year, this being one of them the other being Wilful disregard by Lena Anderson which I reviewed earlier in the year. It was because I enjoyed wilful diregaerd so much I choose to review this from Other press.Also two great books from world editions from sweden as well it has been a great year for Swedish fiction on the blog .

The other woman is a take on being the other woman like it says on the cover. This is story of the affair told from the female perspective , we see this affair start and how it slowly grows through her eyes. The two main characters work in a hospital , she is a general dogsbody in the kitchen and he is a doctor , she finds out his name  Carl Malmberg and also that he is married  . He captures her eye one day and then they begin to spiral near each eventually coming together in a bang. The affair begins as they meet in secret, but is it all she hoped are dreams and reality the same

Occasionally I have wondered what it would be like to have an affair with one of them. particularly the tall handsome consultant who comes in for lunch all too rarely. I have thought about where we would meet, imagined him at home with me, even if the idea of him in my tiny apartment among my things is an unlikely scenario.I picture him sitting on my sofa, we are drinking a glass of wine , chatting. Perhaps we are discussing literature, which turns out to be a shared passion.

She daydreams of meeting Carl after seeing him where she works .

It is easy to see this as a standard love affair, which has been covered many times in fiction from The end of affair one my favourite Greene novels , through books like Lady Chatterley’s lover, which for me is like this book accept the roles are flipped the male is the one in the role of authority and the narrator is the lowest of the low in this world they live in. Also wilful diregard saw a may to december romance which this novel  is as well.What makes this stand up is the narrator’s voice and the overall world we are drawn into where even in a modern setting Class and social standing still there like in Lawrence’s day.

We get out of the car, he locks it, and we dash through the rain to the apartment block and , inside, over to my door. He stands behind me as I open up, I can feel his eyes on my back. I have rarely felt more present in the moment, I register everything – the grain of the wooden door frames, his scent, the key sticking slightly in the lock before it turns – while at the same time I am acting entirely on instinct .

The dream now is real he does come to her apartment .

For me the main character the unnamed narrator of the book is more than we first see , yes she works in the kitchen .But this woman is one that reads important books ,  she talks about the books she readsones like, notes from underground , Death in Venice and even the huge Magic Mountain she describes how on a course she sees everyone around her reading what she call banal books compared to her. She is a woman wanting to be more than a partner in bed, which it turns out is what she has become.We see a ugly duckling  wanting to be a swan in the world can see do it ?

He is a perfectly ordinary lover too. After I have asked him if he wants to come back to my place, and we have stood outside my door drunkenly searching for topics of conversation to fill the time between both of us thinking that we want to kiss each other and actually doing so, and we have kissed our way through the hallway and into bed, he makes love to me in a way that is kind of functional .

No books to discuss and no fireworks with Carl really .

Add to this a confident of the narrator called Alex , whom she starts to tell about the affair but is this Alex all they seem ? Then there is also the senses that Bohman does so well to ignite through her prose which in Marlaine Delargy translation come through so well. Also the sense of a detached style I have found a lot the last few years in Nordic fiction we almost look into this world of class, love, social standings like a voyeur feeling part of it but not able to touch it .Carl maybe see her as an object in a way even in the way he picks something for her to wear at one point. But for the narrator there is a whole other story and this affair is maybe just the start of her real life .This is Therese Bohman second novel to be translated to English I will be seeking out her first Drowned to read.

Have you a favourite female writer from Sweden ?

Swedish fiction

Translator – Marlaine Delargy

Source – review copy .

 

She is not me by Golnaz Hashemzadeh

She Is Not Me

She is not me by Golnaz Hashemzadeh

Swedish fiction

Original title – Hon är inte jag

Translator – Katarina tucker

Source – review copy

Two ways to choose,
On a razor’s edge,
Remain behind,
Go straight ahead.

Room full of people, room for just one,
If I can’t break out now, the time just won’t come.

Two ways to choose,
Which way to go,
Decide for me,
Please let me know.

Looked in the mirror, saw I was wrong,
If I could get back to where I belong, where I belong.

I choose joy divison as the first lines of the something must break capture the daughters life on a razors edge .

Last month I review a storm blew in from paradise , another swedish novel about the refugee experience that one was about the trip of coming to a country and how the next genration deals with it . Anyway World edition the publisher  said they had another book from Sweden about being a refugee they felt I may enjoy as well . They sent me this the debut novel from Golnaz Hashemzadeh , she arrived in Sweden when her family fled Iran as a child .She studying at the Stockholm school of Economics , she was the eighth woman to study there and the first to be president of the students ,She has worked in finance and set up the non profit Inkludera invest a company that invest in social enterprise and ideas in Sweden .

In the beginning Mama and the Girl were joined at the hip. She sat on the toilet seat while mama showered in the mornings. Mama sat on the floor next to the desk with her strong tea while the Girl did her schoolwork. They changed together when it was time for the night shift at the nursing home. Mama changed into her nurse’s uniform , the Girl into he pyjamas .

They were close once but life draws them apart.

She is not me is maybe mirrored by Golnaz own experiences in a way it follows the fortunes good and bad of a family from Iran that have arrived in Sweden, we see the parents dreams of this new freedom not come quite the way they wanted them to end as they don’t quite fit in their new homeland .So it is their daughter who they start to push getting her in the best school .The daughter unnamed within the book is the main character as we she how she gets in school but finds she has to change who she is as a person and as she does we see how she struggles to fit in and how that affects her as a person as she walks a tightrope between what her family want her to be and what her peers want her to be .The point comes where tis has a long term effect on her .

Papa was the one who found the Elite School. He understood tha elite meant taking advantage of opportunities, that elite was the result of dreams and hard work, Papa understood that she should elite . He placed the pink business paper next to her physics books , circled photos and headlines .

All of them attended the Elite School

The father pushes her to become the best she can , but maybe to hard at times as she bends to fit in .

 

This is the story we don’t often see  on the news or in papers , we she people arrive in a new country and then see the next generation maybe. But what about the kids and families that arrive their .What happens to them , I not read many stories about that Golnaz captures well what a struggle it must be to try to stay in one world with your parents the world they escaped, but never quite leave in their minds .Where as she is of the world she has come to but not fully so she is caught with a foot in each camp being Iranian but growing up swedish but also wanting to be accepted by her peers .This is a real struggle and this is what Golnaz captures so well the emotions of growing up a divide soul .

Have you read a book about living in a new country after you escaped tyranny ?

 

The defenceless by Kati Hiekkapelto

Defenceless B- format front

The Defenceless by Kati Hiekkapelto

Finnish crime novel

original title – Suojattomat

Translator – David Hackson

Source – review copy

 

I come only with my punishment
There comes only my conviction
is my fate Running
In order to deceive the law
Lost in the heart
of the Great Babylon
They call me the Clandestine *
’cause I do not carry any identity papers

To a northern city
i went for work
I left my life behind
Between Ceuta and Gibraltar
I’m a just a rake on the sea
A ghost in the city
My life is prohibited

I choose the English translation of the Lyrics to Clandstine by Manu Chao a song about being an immigrant.

This is the first of three books from a new publisher Orenda books , which is run by Karen who used work for Arcadia books who published kati’s first book in English the Hummingbird .Kati Hiekkapelto is a prize winning finnish writer, she is also punk singer, performance artist and a special needs teacher (earns my respect as someone whoi supports people with learning disablities ,I know how hard it is to be a teacher ).She also lives on an isolated island in the very north of Finland .She also which is maybe the seed for this book taught Hungarians in the region of Serbia that has a large Hungarian population .This book won the 2014 best Finnish crime novel .

Sammy had arrived in Finland in the same manner and using the same route as the heroin that he knew so well, smuggled in to feed the hungry veins of Western Europeans: hidden in a truck belching thick exhaust fumes and driven across the endless steppes of Russia, illegally

The heroin continued on its way ; Sammy had stayed put

The opening lines and someone  is just  like drugs just a thing to be moved alive or dead they don’t mind these gangs.

Its been a while since I covered a number of  translated crime novel on this blog so to get sent three of what is the most popular genre for books in translation is a refresher for me of the genre so the first stop in the trio of Orenda books is Finland and the second book in the Anna Fekete series . The book starts when a body is found dead in the middle of the road .He may have been killed by a Hungarian Au-pair this is the case Anna Fekete is given  this case rings with her own past .Meanwhile her police partner Esko  is stuck in a case of trying to track a gang that are bring illegal immigrants to the Finland. As the two police officers follow each of the case like a candle burning a both ends a discovery brings the two case to an explosive end .Add to that a biker gangs one native Finns the other immigrants.

Anna sighed. She felt sorry for Gabriella: she would probably receive a minor punishment, but whatever it was the sentence would be a blow. It would be a nasty blot on her record. Would she ever get a job again ? At same time Anna felt a foul sense of satisfaction . Not exactly Shadenfreude, but something similar. What is about that girl that bothered me, she wondered. Why do I think this somehow serves her right?

The au pair gets off but is still involved as the case takes a twist .

I have read a number of Nordic crime novels during the time of this blog, For me The defenceless is up among the best. Anna Fekete leaps of the page, in this up to date novel .How often have we turn the TV on the last few years and seen stories about Immigrants and illegal gangs that bring them into countries what hiekapelto has done is taken that and used a crime novel to dissect the story from both ends the people who arrive in the country and the dreadful gangs that bring these people in dangerous circumstances. Kati has brought these threads together in what is a great Nordic crime novel with a slice of social conscience. I will be back with the other books from Orenda books .

Have you read any crime novel that tackle topical topics in their novels ?

A storm blew in from paradise by Jonannes Anyuru

A storm blew in from Paradise by Johannes Anyuru

Swedish fiction

Original title – En storm kom från paradiset

Translator – Rachel Wilson -Broyles

Source – review copy

Father
It’s not time to make a change,
Just relax, take it easy.
You’re still young, that’s your fault,
There’s so much you have to know.
Find a girl, settle down,
If you want you can marry.
Look at me, I am old, but I’m happy.

I was once like you are now, and I know that it’s not easy,
To be calm when you’ve found something going on.
But take your time, think a lot,
Why, think of everything you’ve got.
For you will still be here tomorrow, but your dreams may not.

Father and son by Cat stevens is the song that leaped in my head .

I said I would tell the story the opposite way round to the last book I reviewed .This is someone leaving his home in Africa (Uganda in the seventies ) and making a new home and life in Europe as a refugee .Another thing has happened since I read this book and that is the story in the book has maybe become more relevant than it was earlier in the year given the current crisis in europe of refugees . The writer of this book Johannes Anyuru was born to a Ugandan father and swedish mother , he first started writing as a poet and spoken word artist  , this is his second novel and the first to be translated to English .

The first time he heard Amin speak on the radio was the same day he received the news of the coup from the Greek cadet .He had gone to the barracks and sat on his bed ; one of his classmates was there , an Acholi .P passed on the news to him . and both of them tried to call relatives from a payphone in the corridor .

Idi Amin took the country whilst the father P was in Greece learning to fly .Note the mention of his classmates tribal heritage

The book is a story of a father and son and is told in the here and now and back in the seventies when P the father in this story is a pilot in trains for the Ugandan airforce in Greece  .He grew up in a rural village in uganda  , had lost his own parents and had an older brother that to say the least was rather hands on in his care of him .So he fights his way to be a pilot and train at the point he is training .The country’s regime changes when Amin seizes power and this leads to him trying to escape after returning home and finding tribal lines have changed  .So p tries to get back to europe . We follow him through interrogation by people in Tanzania (the neighbour of Uganda ) , but this shows the tribal lines of the people don’t always follow the lines that craved up africa on the map as the main thing they have against him is his heritage .The second part of the book is P son’s story of him trying to write his fathers story .

Here is the body ; it had its history , it came out of a life that could have been a different life .But a storm blew in .I stand beside my brother .Soon we will have to push the alarm button and tell them .But for a moment we stand on either side of the body .I take of the oxygen mask and hang it beside the bed .A storm blew in from paradise .The storm was life

The title is the last lines as father and son are together .I was touched by these words very poetic .

This is autobiography as fiction this is a son trying to find his father and trace his route back to his roots and that of his father . It is about fatherless families both his own and his fathers , this is a story that crops up so often how many Steven speilberg film had a missing father at their heart ! This is also a story of lost dreams in one generation but the hope of being in a safe place the story of the journey refugees take from a pilot to no one is such a common journey .I myself worked in a factory in Germany alongside a number of Kosovar couple one of whom was a professor of Albanian literature and her husband work on the Balkan version of match of the day .I can see why this was such a huge hit in his homeland and why it is so poignant a read now .There will be a good many sons in thirty years writing their stories but how many will be in english !!!! Sorry .

Have you a story of refugees that has touched you ?

 

This should be written in the present tense by Helle Helle

 

This should be written in the present tense by Helle Helle

Danish fiction

Original title -Dette burde skrives i nutid

Translator – Martin Aitken

Source review copy

Being boring

I came across a cache of old photos
and invitations to teenage parties
‘Dress in white’ one said with quotations
from someone’s wife, a famous writer
in the nineteen-twenties
When you’re young you find inspiration
in anyone who’s ever gone
and opened up a closing door
She said we were never feeling bored

’cause we were never being boring
We had too much time to find for ourselves
and we were never being boring
We dressed up and fought then thought make amends
And we were never holding back or worried that
time would come to an end

I choose this as in someways it is maybe a writer looking back on her youth” her twenties “

Helle Helle is one of the leading writers in Denmark .She studied literature in Copenhagen , she started writing after that she has worked in radion and written childrens books .But with her adult fiction has won a number of big prizes such as the PO enquist prize . This is her first book to be translated to english .I am pleased to add Helle Helle to the list of writers I have reviewed this woman in translation month .

I slept soundly that night .I didn’t hear a peep from the couple in the front room , or from the trains ,or the boiler in the utility room next door.It must have kicked in during the night , the place was sweltering when I woke up .My cheeks felt like they were on fire .It was light outside and the sky was blue .I stared emptily at the bark of the old pear tree for a minute , then came another gentle knock on the door and after a second it opened .

Haven’t we all slept and then woken in a newish place expecting it to be one way , I once woke thinking it was Germany but found out I was still in Holland !

 

This was a book I read the back end of last year , I quickly read through it this week just to refresh me of parts of the book .This should be written in the present tense is a vibrant book about being young it is the story of Dorte she has just left home moved into her own flat near the university in Copenhagen .Well that is what everyone thinks she is doing busy studying .But no she is busy well doing nothing much other than a journey of her own to discover who she is as a person .As she is busy doing this in the shopping district of the town with her poet friend and her boyfriend Per .What we see is the stor is a series of episodes of Dorte’s life rather than a straightforward short glimpses of a young womans life .As she finds friends herself , men and the wider world instead of studying at university .

One day I went for a bike ride while Per was having a nap .I cycled aimlessly in the direction of the nursery ,it was late afternoon .The forsythias were in bloom in a few small front gardens .I was soon too hot in my jumpers .I stopped to take it off , then carried on in my t-shirt.A smell of seaweed and salt waters hung over the fields .

Smells bring back the memories of growing up .

Maybe books are like the countries they come from ? well if that is the case maybe this book This should be written in the present tense is the perfect novel for how we see Denmark and the danish ! Maybe this book is clean in the way it is written as I said it has a epsodic nature about it and the passages are little gems of writing maybe like little lego blocks that we put together one by one to build what is a model of Dorte and her world but in that lego way all clean lines and bold strokes .Now that title where did she get this should be written in the present tense from , I did wonder and found out she was parapharse a quote from Samuel Beckett ,whilst doing that it said in the same article in Danish (using google translate )I discovered that she views the book as her most personnel book and parts of it is autobigraphical .I loved Dorte’s life it remind me of my younger years I was a wander in my teens instead of college I used hitch into Newcastle most days and wander arond this city meeting and observing the world .

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