The brother by Rein Raud

The Brother by Rein Raud

Estonian fiction

Original title – Vend

Translator – Adam Cullen

Source – personal copy

Well, I’m on book review 999 on the blog and I have decided on a novella from the Baltic states an area I haven’t covered enough I feel so my second read from Estonia is from the well known Estonian scholar Rein Raud. He had a philosophical show on the tv there for a number of years From a talented family his brother is a musician his parents were both writers. He has written several novels in which a number has been translated into English. This was his first to be translated into English. It is also another from Open letter book the US publisher of books in translation.

“I would have expected anything” Brother said while unlacing his knee-high boots; the brother, of whichshe hadn’t the slightest clue just a  moment earlier, but whom – she now knew- se had awaited for so long.

“I would have expected anything, but not that,” said Brother. “When I arrived at the villa’s front door was locked and no one came to open it when I rang the doorbell. I went around back to te garden to see if you were walking the paths or sititing in the gazebo, but my heart was already punding with fear od finding,perhaps that the windows facing the yard had been boarded up  and not aa single soul occupied the house anymore, because i had come too late.

Her brither appears out of the blue.

In his afterword, he tips his hat to both Clint Eastwood and Alessandro Baricco’s works. This is a spaghetti western plot in a way or a classic revenge thriller in a way as it has the character of the stranger at its heart a man just known throughout the story as the Brother. The stranger heer is the half  Brother that Laila doesn’t know she had when he appears at her door in his hat and knee-high boots making him stand out. This happens after she has been cheated out of her inheritance a villa by the men of this town that is run by the males. Laila had taken this loss but the brother has come to take on these powerful men they have powerful jobs within the town A banker, a lawyer, and notary (I felt this was a nod to the western as Notaries are often mentioned in Westerns). As he starts to ruffle the feathers in the town the locals try to find out more about this new challenge to them and find out about Laila half brother what is his story? a rat-faced assistant of the lawyer starts digging into the past. The brother also has a fling whilst in the town.

 The notary’s secretary accidentally knocked over an inkwell, which spilled accross ten or so signed contracts awaiting archiving, and the lawyers wife was complaining of chronic headaches every evening. The banker was still in a bind with his branch office: customers were closing their accounts there en masse, and in order to resolve the temporary liquidty problem, he had been stable for a long peroid of time; shares, whichlaunched into an unexpected rise two days laters. However, all these kinds of things shouldn’t have lasted for very much longer.

The pressure the brother brings starts to show on the main chanracters lives.

I mean the obvious example of the main character in this book is the character played by Clint Eastwood in the classic western High Plains drifter as a stranger enters a town to sort something out another film I remembered was the Bruce Willis film Last man standing where he goes to get revenge on a corrupt town.  Even The equalizer  I remember those lines in the advert Got a problem? Odds against you? Call the Equalizer and the brother is like that Laila has been beaten down this is a book that draws the line that this is males inflicting the loss on a female character. The brother is her savior as she had lost hope and excepted the status quo. The novel has a great atmosphere the chapters are short almost like short scenes in a fast-moving western as the action moves from here to there as the brother starts to ruffle the feathers and they find out how Laila was conned out of her inheritance by deceit and trickery. A great little gem as with the Peirene books this is easily read in an evening.

30 covers for #WITMONTH A dane whose personal book touched me




















I have had this a while but earlier this year I reviewed a more personal book from this Danish writer Carls book or its English tile When death takes something fro you give it back a work dealing with the loss of her son at an all to young age I read this and as we have been dealing with the grief of losing my brother in law since last November where he took his own life for me I love that more personal book but this is a novel about a son discovering his father legacy after his death. My review of the book mentioned is her 

The taker by Rubem Fonseca


The Taker and Other Stories

The Taker by Rubem Fonseca

Brazilian short stories

Translator – Clifford E Landers

Source – personal copy

Well, I’m suffering from the weather as it has sapped my mind and made me not read a lot in the last week.I am trying to read early in morning and late at night. Anyway I now stop at Brazil this Spanish and Portuguese lit month and one of the best known Brazilian writers. Rubem fonseca studied Law then became a policeman in Rio many of the police characters in his books are drawn from his time in the Police. He then spent time US being sent to study US police techniques. He then decided to become a writer full time.He is best known for his shprt stories and a collection of books about a lawyer. Mandrake one of his main characters ab amoral Lawyer that has been made into a tv series by HBO.  He has won many prizes the Biggest the Premio Camoes is considered like a Portuguese Nobel prize. Fonseca himself became friends with Thomas Pynchon and like Pynchon has rarely been interviewed and has maintained his privacy.

Betsy waited for the man to return to die.

Before the trip he had noticed that Betsy was unusally hungry. Then other symptons emerged: excessive drinking of water, urinary Incontinence. Betsy’s only problem till then was the cataract in one of her eyes. She didn’t like to go out , but before the trip she had unexpectedly come into the elevator with him and the two of them had strolled along the sidewalk by the beach something they had never done.

Betsy waiting fot the man to return the opening lines .

The taker has 13 stories. I will mention a few  of the stories that I really liked. As for the whole the collection it  shows the brutal nature of Rio.  Where every day can be a struggle for some people living on the edge. We also see how violent the city can be. The first story I will mention is Betsy as for me it was a little different to the other stories as it remind me of the way Roal Dahl would leave a twist to the ery end of the tale here we see what we at first see as a woman dying waiting for an unnamed man to come home and then her last evening. Only in the last few words of the story you get a real twist that makes think. Then in the opening story we see a buisnessman arrive home his wife wants things his kids want things next thing is he is out in his car and heading striaght at someone. Then later we have a police like account of what happened when a cow is hit on a bridge and we see the local poor people running to cut up the dying cow. elsewhere we have serial killers a man trying to find his past that others would rather he had forgotten.

Early on the morning on May 3 a brown cow was crossing the brigdge over the Coroado river, at marker %£, in the direction of Rio deJanerio.

A passenger bus of the Unica auto Onibus firm, license plates RF-80-07-83 and JR-81-12-27, was crossing the Coroado bridge in the direction of Sao Paulo

When he saw the cow, the driver, Plinio Sergio, tried to avoid hitting it . He collided with the cow and then the bus hit the side of the bridge and plunged into the river .

On the bridge the cow was dead.

The report of an incident this could almost have been a police report theat Fonseca maybe wrote himself at some point.

Now I knew this would be a great collection as how often do you get a Pynchon quote on the cover of a book he says “Each of Fonseca’s books is not only a worthwile journey: it is also, in some ways, a necessary one. There is a sense of the policeman sat times in tthe clipped nature of Fonsecas prose that police report style that over time sees them cutting to the bone of the matter. The stories show the acts also he does have a clever way of twisting a tale like Betsy where it isn’t to the last few words the story is turned on its head.  This is a man rasing the torch tothe city he had spent most of his life in Rio this isn’t the glamor of copacabana this is the side streets the  poorer areas of town. He has a way of opening the door on the darker side of life from a man randomlly running some one over to the man that just takes what he wants. The taker is one of those collections that isn’t for every one but if you want see the real side of Rio in its fully brital nature this will appeal to you.

Abahn Sabana David by Marguerite Duras

Abahn Sabana David

Abahn Sabana David by Marguerite Duras

French fiction

original title –  Abahn Sabana David

Translator – Kazim Ali

Source – title

So a new translation into English from one of the best known French woman writers Marguerite Duras is of course  a good choice for Woman in translation month. Duras is best known for her novel The lover which I reviewed  six years ago . Duras early novels were quite plain and it was to mid way in her career she decide to become part of the french Noveau roman movement , a movement which the writer tries to write a new novel in a new style every time they write a novel.

She is small and slim, wearing a long black dress. Her companion is of medium build, wearing a coat lined with white fur. “I’m Sabana , “she says “this is David. We’re here, from Staadt .”

The man walks slowly towards them.He smiles

“take off your coats.” he says “Please sit.”

They do not answer. They remain near the door

They do not look at him

IThis first meeting between Sabana David and Abahn maybe is a warning for what is to come .

The book takes part over the course of one night and involves four characters . David and Sabana have come to Guard Abahn (A jew) but also under the orders of their boss the cringo. Then later in the evening a fourth man called also Abahn appears after this point the first Abahn is mainly called the Jews by Sabana who is talking about him as David is asleep and she is worried that The Jew will turn on them.Over the course of the night all the problems of the 20th century from Soviet to Nazis have been discussed by the group. Leading to what they are all doing there what  their positions where with in the group and why they have been sent a sort of questioning of meanings and values.Also what happens when Abahn become the Jew when the second Abahn appear the change sparks a change in how he is spoken about !

“Which forest ?” ask Abahn

Tears fall from Sabina’s eyes. She thinks on it

“the forest”

“You don’t know what’s beyond here,” says Abahn. “Where is the forest ?”

she searches her thoughts.

“Where I don’t know. We have to talk about it.”

“The wild forest,” says the Jew.

“Yes” she says, pausing.”Where is it ?”

“Deep within Staadt” says the Jew.

She isn’t crying anymore. She looks at the Jews once more.Her gaze has become somber again, somber and blue.

The forest is in Davids mind as well ” Says the Jew

This talk of a forest for the Jews made me think of the words the Nazis used to disappear Jews inWW2

This is a classic bit of Noveau roman. Duras has drawn on Theatre of the absurd for this piece I was reminded so much of the works of Pinter in particular the birthday party where two characters turn up at a characters house and through the night discuss the power and use of power. This is one of those piece that show power and the abuse of it like in this case the fact Sabana and David have been sent for a dual purpose from the Cringo to Abahn in the Staadt these terms can be interchange with a number of places and political parties within the 20th century. This is what we are drawn to think by  the way  Duras has apart from the dialogue drawn the bare bones of a story over this work leaving us the reader to fill in the parts unspoken or unsaid ourselves. A powerful Novella from one of the best French writers of the 20th century.

Have you read any more books by Marguerite Duras ?


Post exoticism in 10 lessons.Lesson 11 by Antoine Volodine

Post exoticism in 10 lessons.Lesson 11 by Antoine Volodine

French fiction

Original title -Le Post-exotisme en dix leçons, leçon onze

Translator J.T Mahany

Source – review copy


It began when they come took me from my home
And put me in Dead Row,
Of which I am nearly wholly innocent, you know.
And I’ll say it again
I.. am.. not.. afraid.. to.. die.

I began to warm and chill
To objects and their fields,
A ragged cup, a twisted mop
The face of Jesus in my soup
Those sinister dinner deals
The meal trolley’s wicked wheels
A hooked bone rising from my food
All things either good or ungood.

i choose Nick Cave’s mercy seat as it is also a man reflecting on his life in Jail .

This is the second of four books I got sent from Open Letter the american publisher .I have been aware of Antoine Volodine ,via the three percent podcast (a good podcast for fans of translated fiction ) .So Antoine Volodine is the main Pseudonym of a french writer , he has also used Lutz Bassmann ,Manuela Draeger and Elli Kronauer .All the books he has published have been around a near distant future and a group of writers that form a movement called “Post exoticism ” .

Lutz Bassmann passed his final days as we all did ,between life and death .A rotten odor stagnated in the cell , which did not come from its occupant, but from outside. The sewers in the city fermenting, the docks in the habor were emiting a rancid signal, the covered markets were stinking terribly as they often did in the springtime when both the waters and the temperature began to rise .

The opening lines evoke his last days so well .

The book is one long piece that is based on Lutz Bassmanns last days ion a prison in the near future as he looks back on the Post exoticism movement and the writers involved in the form of ten lessons .The text forms a description of his present in the jail and intersped with piece from his fellow writers in the Post exoticism movement , so we get a piece about the romance ,whioch mentions an earlier book in the series Minor angels (which was the first in the series I remember hearing about ) .Other lessons specific terms critics of the time use in the reviews .Through to a final list of 343 works that make up the cannon of Post exoticism (I assume these are books the writer has in mind to write or use in other works ).I struggle to describe this as it is a series of pieces about this imagined movement  as great whole as a radical movement of testing writers breaking the law with the words .

7 Specific Terms

We all know that is hazardous to analyze the post-exotic production with terms conceived by official literary critics, made for performing autopsies on textual cadavers that riddle their morgues. The exercise is possible , though at a price of mental contortions that turn post-exoticism into a meeting place for the schizophrenic and haughty elite, perversely infatuated with illegible music .

One of the lessons about how to critic and use certain terms .


I struggle to describe this book,as it is totally  unique  and really it is part of a great whole that forms a great work, almost a  vision .A new  way at looking at fiction .The words and works these writers involved with this movement in the near future are testing the boundaries and testing what writing can do .This is maybe a radical look at the future and how writing could be dangerous again .This book is maybe a great starting place as we find a little about the series and the writers involved (although they are all Antoine Volodine ).For me it was a start of a journey through this writers work with at least 20 plus books to be translated we have a lot to look forward too .I have been hooked this is a short book that will set you thinking about this future and the myriad of writers Volodine has conquered up for us to discover .

Have you read Antoine Volodine or one of his alias ?

The one before by Juan José Saer


The one before by Juan José Saer

Argentina  fiction

Original title – La Mayor

Translator – Roanne L. Kantor

Source – Review copy

Message In A Bottle”

Just a castaway
An island lost at sea
Another lonely day
With no one here but me
More loneliness
Than any man could bear
Rescue me before I fall into despairI’ll send an SOS to the world
I’ll send an SOS to the world
I hope that someone gets my
I hope that someone gets my
I hope that someone gets my
Message in a bottle
(Message in a bottle)A year has passed since I wrote my note
But I should have known this right from the start
Only hope can keep me together
Love can mend your life
But love can break your heart

I strangely choose A old Police lyric just as one part of arguments is about throwing a bottle with the word message in into the sea .

Now when this a three other books from the american publisher Open letter arrived for review , I was pleased this book in Particular is by a writer that is on my list of writer to read . Juan Jose Saer born to Syrian parents in Santa Fe , he studied philosophy at Litoral University and after that taught history of cinematography , he later got the chance to studied in Paris where he stayed in Exile up to his death ,Exile , Santa Fe and twins are recurring themes in his fiction according to his wiki page .He passed away in 2005 .

I ate the foods of the world ,My hands touched the stones of famous cities and my body , shriveled now but fit and feral , walked the streets more numerous than ripples in a river ,What man have I not known ? what book have I not read ? What might there be in the warehouse od visible and invisible things that could still be sold to me as a novelty ?

A poet remembering the places he has been Memories serve a part , another story is called scent memory

This book is a triptych of stories . Arguments are snatches of stories range from a paragraph to a few pages ,  thin slices of stories that range from little piece of info , arguments about books , being an exile , and memories  that stack up together to make you as the reader both think and feel  . The second and third story are more straight forward Half erased and the one before . I read the intro by the translator  and found that the Character Pigeon Garay is a character that has featured in other works by Saer ,here  he first appears in arguments here ,we see him wrestling with leaving his life in the last story , but his home town is also wrestling with an on coming flood almost as thou it is trying to wipe clean where he was . But also may drown him where he is which isn’t where he wants to be .

“The best thing a message can say ” said Barco , “is just message .So even when everything would seem to indicate we should write HELP! , I’d suggest that we write this is a message , Or just message  short and sweet .

Tomatis considered this a moment and at last agreed , only to encounter another question : who would write the word ?

I choose the police lyric due to these lines , I love the second part who should write the message .

Well this was my first collection by Saer , he is considered one of the main figures in Latin American fiction . For me I see lots of Borges in the first section .These stories  are like tapas like little pieces of fiction and as I say they are  thin slices so like tapas can be mixed together to everyone’s taste  however each reader approaches them taken what you want from them , rather like Borges made the reader work at times to get to the centre of the labyrinth . For me I got out his love of fiction , his feelings of exile (the parts on exile remind me of Goytisolo another great writer on exile ) The second two stories have a more visceral feel to them more of  a modern feel say like Aira and Bolano write and show how Saer was a writer that links the stylish style of Borges with that brutal cutting edge of prose of Bolano  .A great first book from Open letter books , I have two others coming in the next week or two .

Have you read Saer ?

weekend reads Labyrinth to New York

alain robbe Grillet

I am finishing this Novel this evening as my weekend begins , well I am working but this Classic Noveau Roman novel by Alain Robbe-Grillet is a strange journey into a darker seedier new york and the actions of one underground group  in a near future New york of the time , I’m being remind of both Burroughs and Burgess  in some ways .I must admit I love the cover of this copy from the library an old Calder and Boyars with a great piece of typewriter art .

the physics of sorrow

The other book on my radar for reading this weekend is The last of the three novels I was sent from Open letter and the one I have saved as I have really enjoyed the other books from Bulgaria I have read and this story that is described as a modern take on the minotaur story with its narrator following a labyrinth of stories The Physics of sorrow by Georgi Gospodinov .Is one of the books  I am most looking forward to this year so far .


There is one last thing and that is this The last NME as it is before it becomes a free magazine .This was the music paper I read in my youth some of those covers on the cover I remember the Stone roses one which to my shock is from 1989 my god that makes me feel old . But its sad to see the fact so few people buy it now it was viable to sell it but do it as a free music paper (I imagine with a lot more adverts in than now ) .

What is on your weekend tbr ?

Winston’s books Open Letter books and Nobel winner ?


Well I arrived home to three brown envelopes through my door a real bonus , on a day that had been busy at work . I opened them to find three more books to add to the one I got on Saturday from US publisher Open Letter which is attached to the university of Rochester and their three percent website (a real joy for serious lit in translation fans ).The three books were a collection of Poetry from the Italian poet Lucio Mariani , A  well regard and translated poet .Then there is The physics of sorrow by Georgi Gospodinov , a Bulgarian writer , I have reviewed two books from Bulgaria and have a third on my pile of books to review , so I am pleased to read another what seems by the cover blurb another witty and clever books from Bulgaria and he was suggested back at london book fair to me as another writer from that country to read  .Then last but no means least is  a French novel and writer that has been on my wish list for a good while since I heard of an earlier book Minor Angels by Antoine Volodine , I have want to enter the future world of radical writers and exploring the power of writing this book is part of a great project that interconnects a lot of his books . Then below is the book that arrived is another to add to the 10 other writers I have read from Argentina Juan Jose Saer latest translation is a collection of three stories around Exile and memory .He sadly died a few year ago but is another I had on my radar for a while . I am hoping this may spike interest in the uk to this publisher making it easier to get their books in the uk .I know they are easily available on amazon , but I like to buy my books in a bookshop and the nearest place to get their books to me is Nottingham or Manchester .


Then I got two books from the library today that I had ordered one writer that maybe should have won the nobel in his time Alain Robbe Grillet was a leading writer in the Noveau Roman movement also a filmmaker , last year in Marienbad was his film .I managed to find my library system had one this one project for a revolution in New York .Then there is a name that has been around as a future winner the last few years and thankful my library managed to find the copy they had at last of Voices from Chernobyl the oral history of  nuclear disaster written by Svetlana Alexievich , I always try to read one or two of the names not mention in regards Nobel Literature prize .



May 2022


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