Dear Reader by Paul Fournel

Dear reader by paul Fournel

French fiction

Original title – La Liseuse

Translator – David Bellos

Source – Library book

Well we enter the second week of Pushkin Press fortnight with a quirky french book. Fournel is a culture icon in France , he has worked in publishing and has written a number of novels he is also the secretary and president of the Oulipo , the french writing collective whose members include Italo calvino , Georges Perec and Harry Mathews te later with whom Fournel wrote a book with. he has also been a cultural attaché in London and Cairo .

The big boss , Monsieur Meunier , told me too ..

“Is that what he is called ?” Meunier ”

“Don’t you know him ?”

“only too well ”

So you know, He told me to bring you this ”

“This being what , precisely?”

“Er, it’s a reader, A kindle , an Iclone .One of those gizmos He said he’d put all your weekend manuscripts on it, it would take a weight of your shoulder.Do you want me to show you ? Look it’s like a screen with all your manuscripts on it .They’re on your genuine wood style virtual bookshelf.One tap and they open . There’s a heap of them . you’ve never going to get through all that in two days !Look this is how you open a book .”

Dubois get his device to read his scripts on instead of good old paper .

This book is an ode to books in a way , this age of e readers we meet an elderly french publisher looking back at Robert Dubois , is looking at the present this middle aged man is struggling to get up with the modern world of e books  and how his younger colleagues dress and talk ,  whilst struggling with the tech he looks back at a life in the books in france and even further a field with a piece about publishing in England. . So what is the constraint on this book in line with him being a member of Oulipo , that was to make the book that couldn’t be c hanged .His view was that in the future what the reader will interact with the written works they are reading so the works will be fluid .

I’ve set aside tomorrow morning for what I consider to be the finest bookshop in Europe: Mr James Daunt’s establishment in marylebone . It’s got a modest exterior but inside turns into a labyrinth. Yopu go from room to room and pass on section to another . Nothing but dark wood, stairs , gangways and books – all as English as its leather armchairs.Adele is daydreaming in the long room on the lower floor that constitues the travel section .daunt is a courteous host and takes me on an owner tour

His favourite bookshop is one of the great bookshops of London

This is both quirky and an Ode to the written world I was reminded of other books about reading and books. Thank you for not reading by Dubravka Ugresic , her book like this laments the changing taste of readers in her case the celeb world of books , in fournel book interactive books and reading may be on the way . Then there was Dublinesque by Enrique Vila-Matas  another publisher looking at the changing world of books as he take a pilgrimage to Dublin maybe to bury the modern book  and publishing like Dubois struggling with the move towards e-books .This is work on the paper of books and what that means , for books aren’t just the book but the art work the item themselves as it is pointed out here you can’t keep notes on an e-reader screen can you !!

What  is your favourite book about Publishing you have read ?

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the art and craft of approaching you head of department to submit a request for a raise by Georges Perec

perec

the art and craft of approaching your head of department to submit a request for a raise by Georges Perec

French fiction

Original title – L’Art et la manière d’aborder son chef de service pour lui demander une augmentation

Translator – David Bellos

Source – library book

Well as you can tell by the title this book is a little different .I have previously review his most famous book a life a user manual , a novel that works inch by inch through an Parisian house and the people who live their .Perec was a member of the Oulipo movement that like to challenge the writing using various devices .This book is from one such challenge a French computer expert in the sixties want to see if Perec could write out the various routes of a flow chart he had produced  and make it readable here is the result .Yes this flow chart as you may guess from the title is a guide on what is the best way to ask for a pay rise .

Having carefully weighed the pros and cons you grid up your loins and make up your mind top go and see your head of department to ask for a raise so you go to see your head of department let assume to keep things simple – for we must do our best to keep things simple – that his name is mr Xavier

so mr x is mr xavier actually the opening lines of the book .

The story follows an unnamed employee as he wants to as his head of department for a raise .The Head Mr x is some one he doesn’t know well ,but through the course of the story as the various ways ,times ,day he could approach Mr x are discussed we see the narrator construct  a life for his head of department has he a daughter, or four what happens if they have argued .Thus we see a man worrying about getting a raise and try to pick the absolute best time to do this task ! we see him work outr evry possible combination of outcomes .

watch the cafeteria menu because if fish is on the menu your line manager could easily swallow a fish bone and thereafter be in a really awful mood which will not be in your favour

Another option is before or after lunch to ask ?

 

I have always admire the Oulipo movement as in many ways it is hard enough to write ,but stay different and creative with follow a strict framework is harder .I was reminded in this book of the recent short novel by fellow Oulipo movement member Italo Calvino the castle of crossed destinies   where he like Perec in this used a device in that case build the story around a grouping of tarrot cards ,where as Perec has used the various outcomes on the flow chart to be the thoughts the narrator has as he awaits the right point to discuss his raise .That is it a short book 75 pages long neat translation by Bellos .An unusual idea but it works Perec has pulled of the challenge he was given .

Have you a favourite Oulipo movement book ?

The castle of cross destinies by Italo Calvino

castle of crossed destinies

The castle of Crossed Destinies by Italo Calvino

Italian Fiction

Orginial title – Il castello dei destini incrociati

Translator – William Weaver

Source – Library

Well I’ve review three  of Calvino’s books before on the blog the Cuban born Italian writer is one of my personnel favourite writers ,he is considered one of greatest writer of 20 th century ,he wrote in various styles from realistic like his book into the war I reviewed here ,which was based on his world war two experiences  ,to surreal  like if on a winters night which I reviewed here  and post modern .He was also a member of the Oulipo group of writers .

i also try to

Now I mention the Oulipo connection because this book is just a perfect example of what that movement hope to achieve .The book takes the form of fifteen tales told at a castle and a tavern .Now it is how the stories are told ,because the people in the book telling the stories have been struck silent and have now power of speech to talk to each other . So they tell each other their stories via a pack of tarrot cards and are narrator fills in the gaps and makes stories for each of them .so we meet an alchemist ,grave robber doomed bride amongst others  at the castle .At the tavern we have waverer ,a forest seeking revenge and warriors .The narratives told are similar in there ways to books like Decameron and canterbury tales .The cards frame the stories and characters .

calvino

The stories show how as Calvino said ” a finite number of elements whose combinations are multiplied in a billion billion” Thus a pack of tarot could throw up any number of tales ,but then we have how do we tell the stories ,is it through the words of the narrator or the pictures on the cards how do we decide where to go when the same card with different number appear in different stories .What Calvino does is to spin the tale each time from card to card as he chooses the cards for each tale so we see how each character arrived at the castle or tavern and what has happened to them rather like the tales of the decameron and Canterbury  ,there was meant to be a third part to this et at a motel in the future that Calvino never wrote .This book is very unusual and is one of those books people are going to either love or hate ,now I loved it I love the thought of playing with what is storytelling test the boundaries by in a way cutting the chances down I mean each of these stories is formed from a tarot pack which normally contains 78 cards so thou the stories are infinite the route of the story has only a 1 in 78 chance to move on .Have you read any Oulipo books ?I chooose to use pages instead of writing quotes as it illustrates the stories much better than just the writing as you miss half of it because of their being no cards to see .

What’s going on in the world of translation !

Well it’s been a while since I round-up some Gems and news I’ve come across in the world of translation .So after a week away from the blog it seemed a nice way to ease myself back into the old routine .First of is one of two new publishers that have crossed my path in recent times A publishing house called Deep Vellum ,set in Texas ,they have three title coming soon I believe ,the first is a collection of short stories from Mikhail Shishkin ,I shall be reviewing The light and the dark by him soon and from that could see his short stories being quite tasty pieces ,Sergio Pitol the Mexican writer and translator is the second writer ,he has won the prestigious Cervantes prize in the past .Lastly they are publishing A member of the Oulipo group of writers Anne Garreta ,she was first member  to be  born and chosen to join the group after it was founded ,She has won the Prix Médicis in 2002 for her book not a day

the_missing_year

Next up is a remind I think but their first book is due very soon and it is the New York based New vessel Press the first book is The Missing Year of Juan Salvatierra by Pedro Mairal a man who was a mute spend six decades paint the history of his village on the shores facing Uruguay ,when his sons die they find these scrolls .This reminds me rather of the story of the outsider art of the American Henry Darger who spent year writing an epic saga called the Vivian girls .The book is due out as an Ebook on the 15th July one for the Dairy I think !!.

This week saws the winner of the Oxford Weidenfield Translation prize announced –

Tess Lewis for Lukas Bärfuss, One Hundred Days (Granta)
Louise B. Popkin for Mario Benedetti, Witness (White Pine Press)
Sam Taylor for Laurent Binet, HHhH (Harvill Secker)
Frank Wynne for Alonso Cueto, The Blue Hour (Heinemann)
Philip Boehm for Herta Müller, The Hunger Angel (Portobello)
Mike Mitchell for Jean-Pierre Ohl, The Lairds of Cromarty (Dedalus)

hunger angel

The winner  was The Hunger Angel by Herta Muller  here is my Review  .I may also draw your attention to another book from the shortlist  ,here is My review of The Blue Hour ,A book overlooked I feel as it is better than the more well-known Red April also set in Peru .

20130529-164953.jpg

Also a reminder for the forthcoming Thomas Bernhard week .I have a specially commissioned  piece this Thursday that I have been lucky to get from another writer about his love of Thomas Bernhard .

Into the war by Italo Calvino

Into the war by Italo Calvino

Italian Fiction

Translator Martin Mclaughlin

Italo Calvino was considered one of the most inventive modern italian writers in his time born in cuba he grew up in San Remo which was occupied by the german when the occupied the northern area of italy ,he joined the partisans ,this collection of three short stories  set during the second world war was published during the fifties .They have just been translated into English .

Into the war is a trio of loosely interlinked short stories this collection is only 90 pages all together .It also demonstrates the more straight forward side of Calvino’s writing ,more known for his later  experiential works like invisible cities and on a winter night .. .The books are set in 1940 and focus on three different generations , the first into the war we meet a young guy just join Il Duce’s army he is moved around told to do this and that and is let down from the dreams he had in a way .the second Avanguardisti in mention ,we join an army unit this is a slightly more  experienced solider ,as he  and his comrades travelled to an occupied part of france and the only bit that the Italians took early in the second world war .The third story is a comic war-time tale as we see what can happen in a blackout ,as a man the narrator isn’t where he was supposed to be looking after a school, no he is  trying  to find strange delights in the night .

It was a moonless night .The school building still reflected a vague brightness .I had arranged to meet Biancome there,but of course he was not on time .Beyond the school ,in the darkness ,there were houses and fields .You could hear the sound of crickets and frogs .

from story UNPA  nights (an Italian form of air raid wardens )

I can’t say much about the stories as that give away too much, a little research into Calvino’s own background shows that a lot of what happened him these stories certainly the first to is from first hand experience ,he was in the fascist scouts and briefly had to join the army and travelled to the part of france described in the second story during the same  time  as the story set .These as I said a start are from the journalistic side of his writing and shows that at the end of the day he was a great writer with out the need to use the  clever tricks and oulipo style he used in later novels and is more known for than this more autobiographical style of writing .I now really want to read his novel based on his time during the war” The path to the nest of spider ”  which he published before these stories but is also largely autobiographical like the stories are The three stories were translated by Martin Mclaughlin and these stories were translated by him last year 2011 .A worthy successor to the great William Weaver who translated most of Calvino’s other work .

Have you read any of Calvino’s works ?

 

The flight of Icarus by Raymond Queneau

The flight of Icarus by Raymond Queneau

French Fiction (OULIPO movement )

Translator – Barbara Wright

I ve long been interested in the oulipo movement of which Queneau was the co-founder ,inventive and constrained fiction and poetry .Well the flight of Icarus is firmly in the inventive side of Oulipo .What is it about well we meet Hubert a writer in Paris in 1895 .He is working on a new novel .Well he comes on morning to discover that the main character in his book has disappeared searching through what he has written he has no luck no Icarus has flown the text so to speak . THe book then is told in two storylines well short scenes really 74 in all in 158 pages .the first follows Hubert trying to find Icarus ,first by talking to fellow writers to see if one of them has stolen Icarus then he hires a detective .the second story line follows Icarus as he has broken the constraint of his book discovering new pleasures in the seedy part of Paris .THE two storyline draw closer as we reach a wonderful climax .

Hubert – he doesn’t seem to be here

Surget – He ? Who’s he ?

Hubert – You remember the other day .I read you the first few pages of my new book ….

Surget – No reason to come and turn mine upside down !

Hubert – You were good enough to think highly of my chief character though I had barely begun to outline him .You complimented me on him

Surget – perhaps

Hubert – He was called Icarus

Surget – I remember

Hubert – Well – he’s disappeared !

Surget – He can’t have ! What a joke

Hubert searches his rooms for the missing Icarus to see if he has jumped book .

As you can see the novel is in script form a novel Oulipo idea I would think .So Icarus has done what the call in tv terms broken the fourth wall and that is escape the confines of his book .Hed goes round tasting the pleasures of Paris at that time absinthe and such very much in the style of the classic Belle Époque fiction of the time from the likes of Proust and Musil Icarus is a man discovering the world for the first time .Hubert himself is an homage to Humbert Humbert the main character of Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita  like Hubert a writer in paris .Icarus is like his greek namesake a man who gets unstuck once he tries to escape his confines this being a book he has been written in . The book is typical of th other Oulipo works I ve read by Calvino ,Perec and Mathews .It works well where as a couple of the others I have read in the past are  oft style over content this one has a workable narrative and is very funny in parts .

All – he ‘s falling ! he’s falling to his death !

Icarus falls

But what happens well you’ll have to find out .The translation was done by Barbara Wright translated most of his worked and lived in Paris and was a specialist in translating surreal and existentialist writing .

Have you read any Oulipo movement books ?

Have you read Queneau ?

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