The people Opposite by Georges Simenon

The People opposite by Georges simenon

Belgian  fiction

original title – Les Gens d’en face 

Translator  – Sian Reynolds

Source – review copy

I am as you may know a huge fan of simenon both his crimes and no crime works which over the last decade or so Penguin has been bring out in new translations. I have reviewed 11 from the books that have. come out so far and my intention is to try over time read all the books Penguin has brought out from him a long term project for me not a race as I find myself reviewing two or three a year from him and I do have a couple on my shelves. But was happy when I was asked if I was interested in reviewing this which is an early book in his writing life being written in 1933 and is also for Simenon a political book it came after he had a trip to Stalins Russia in 1933 and came back and wrote this book.It was originally published in seven parts so there is that pacing of a serial work.

The only newcomer present was Adil Bey, and he was so recent that he had arrived in Batumi that very morning. At the Turkish consulate, he had found a single official from Tbilisi holding the fort.

The official, who would be leaving again that night, had brought Adil new along to the Italian consulate, to introduce him to his two colleagues.

Adil is the new boy in the town.

The book was written on his return and what we get is the Stalinist Russia caught in a small Black Sea port and we are introduced to the New Turkish consul AdilBey who has been sent to the port town which is a multi cultural place. But he feels out of place  and why did his previous consul turn up dead and why did thethe other Turkish staff disappear back to his base as soon as he appears. there is a sense of poverty the town, even thou it is near the oil rich fields of Russia. Adil is alone in this town and so when his Russian secretary appears Sonia she has been sent to help him and this sparks Aldi how falls for `Sonia and gets obsessive around her as he watches her in the room opposite his office.But is she trying to tempt him ? we see the two grow close but there is always a sense of more to this relationship she lives with her brother a member of the GPU( the state police). The action slowly unwinds you cans see where this relationship is going and it isn’t going end in wedding bells and roses !!!

This girl, Sonia, could hardly be more than eighteen years old. She was a slip of a thing, with a pale face, fair hair and light blue eyes, yet she had a calm and self assured strength that panicked the consul. The door had remained open and he walked over to watch, as she told the crowd to leave.

She was standing very upright in. the middle of the office, pen in hand, and speaking Russian, without raising her voice but gesturing to stress what she wanted. Since the woman nursing the the baby had remained sitting in her corne, she walked straight up to her, removed the child from the breast, and buttoned up the woman’s blue herself

His initial meeting with Sonia his secretary when she arrives you sense his wonder at this young woman.

For me has caught what must have been the soviet world at times where everyone at some point seems to be spying on one another. It has a slow burning as we see the two grow closer I was remind of the relationship in tinker tailor soldier spy with Ricky and the Russian wife there is always a sense that this isn’t going be a good outcome. He slowly unfurls their relationship but then you figure there may be more to it than first meets the eye this is of course Stalin’s Russia and there is the under running current of fear and worry in the book and the way people act at times.It also capture a lonely man a women in a situation that is caught between love and duty. I liked this book it is different to his other books but he is very good at what makes people tick at times and he has caught that here the way the characters although obvious show how the system was and also the effect of a system like stalinism on those inside it and also coming into it from the outside was there a similar Sonia figure that maybe caught Simenon eyes when he was on his trip too Russia. There is an intro where he does say a bout his time in Russia. I do wonder  how ,such pop Adil is him in disguise as he wrote this straight after his return. Have you a favourite Simeon or book in Soviet Russia written from someone that visited Russia at the time ?

Winstons score – A a solid afternoon read that deals with Stalinism through the prism of two characters one inside and one outside the regime.

 

Three Bedrooms in Manhatten

Three Bedrooms in Manhatten

Belgian fiction

Original title – Trois Chambres à Manhattan

Translators – Marc Romano and Lawrence G Blochman

Source – Review copy

I’m late to my review of this I initially picked it up in the summer and just wasn’t connecting to the book then I often find if I try a book at another time like I did with this one I get into it. When I have more time on my side and as I had a morning and I have always found Simenon writes books that on the whole are under two hundred pages long and can be read in a single sitting like this one. As this book now makes a Dozen book I have reviewed by him this is one of his standalone books. This book stems from the post-war years that Simenon himself had lived in New york. It follows a couple of European like himself who have been transplanted and are wandering around the big city like lost souls into they meet in this book.

He was surorised to find himself eyeing the boy who had took their order to make sure he didn’t know her, thart she hadn’t come here a hundred times with other men. Would he make some sign of recongnition to her ?

Yet he wasn’t in love with her. He wasn’t sure he wasn’t already he felt irritaion watching her fumble in  her purse for a cigarette, woth her commonplace gestures, the way she brought the cigarette up to her  lips, smudging it with her lipstick as she fished around for her lighter

Even at the start it is on rocky ground as he isn’t sure of Kay.

The two lost souls at the heart of this book are Frank and Kay. Frank is a middle-aged Actor divorced and struggling after a scandal that saw his wife leave him for a younger actor and he is now been in America for six months (this was about the same time Simenon himself had been in the US when he wrote this book). Then we have  Kay a socialite who has fallen on hard times as they meet in the night after drinking in one of the all-night dinners that are about in Postwar New York. These lost souls connect and end up sleeping together and as they connect and meet on a couple more occasions what happens is a relationship between two souls that are at the lowest ebb and clinging to each other and this brief interlude of sex in sordid hotels, I was struck at his description of a run in Kay’s stocking that she had just to live with a harrowing place to be in. Frank and Kay are damaged but in the end, it is a relationship doomed to the three bedrooms they end up in as we see this brief relationship.

She took his head in her hands. She pushed it against her shoulder, pressing his cheek to hers. She held it therm almost by force, as if to fill him, bit by bit, with her heat and  her presence.

He kept one eye open. Inside was a block of anger he meant to keep intact.

“You weren’t as alone as I was , ” she said. She said it softly.He wouldn’t have heard the words if herlips hadn’t neem by his ears.

It means more to her it seems at times that it does to Frank

This is different from the other books that I have read by him. There is a feeling it must have some of his own experiences spent in New York, just after world war two whereas seen in the book there is a lot of ex-pats wandering around after dark in this city it is like the cover picture which is Edward Hoppers Nighthawks painting apt as these two could have a jump of the picture. They also are like characters from a Tom Waits song or a Raymond Carver short stories this has a large chunk of Dirty realism at its heart this is the dark side of those early post-war years before the gleam and shine of the 50s the tough times had by those that had escaped the horrors of the war years as they are clinging to life through drink and getting by adding to that they both have other problems a wife leaving and losing ones home to also compete with this is a glimpse at people at there lowest point. The relationship reminds me of the one John Cusack described in the Film version of High fidelity (I hate the fact it was moved to the US ) but his relationship with Sarah is very like this relationship two souls clinging to each other when at their lowest ebbs. An interesting book it was made into a film in the early 60 and would still make a good film as the characters are universal in a way the way it deals with casual sex and people on the edge of life drifting through their nights out.

Winstons score – B+ a tale of two lost souls and a couple of brief erotic encounters.

Child of All Nation by Irmgard Keun

Child of All Nation by Irmgard Keun

German fiction

Original title – Kind aller Länder

Translator -Michael Hofmann

Source – Personal copy

We go back with my next read for German Lit Month and a  modern Classic a book that seem to be everywhere last year I hadn’t read anything by her I was vaguely aware of her connection to Roth not sure if I heard a review of one of her books or read it in another book. She had been married but left her husband in the early thirties when he got drawn in by the Nazi party. She then had a relationship with a Jewish doctor then spent time with the writer Joseph Roth and she traveled around Europe he was a huge influence on her writing. it is felt that the father figure in the book is a write like Joseph Roth. Like Roth, he also criticized the Nazis Keun herself had seen her books withdrawn by the Nazis. A gem of pre-war german Literature that signaled what was to come and the attempt to flee from the shadow of the Nazis.

Then my father suddenly walked into our hotel room where I was crying and my mother ewas groaning, and said to my mother. “Well a mircale has happened – it might yet save us. I’ve just had a call from Tulpe. You don’t know him; well, I don’t know him either, I crossed paths with him once in Berlin. He reads my books , heard I was in town, called me. He travels in Ladies underwear, I beleive; probably has a bank account- rock solid character. Two thousand francs will be enough to get us out of trouble. I can’t pay him back with the fights to the polish translations. The money for that is due in the next few weeks.

Her father tries to scrape together enough money for them to get by.

I am a fan of child narrators when done well and here in Kully the ten-year-old daughter of Peter a writer who is outspoken about the changes he has seen in the time since the Nazis seized power in Germany (much the same as Roth did at the time). This means that Kully her mother and her father are exiled from Germany what we see is the journey around Europe from hotel to hotel as they head from country to country as their visas, funds, and options dwindle a journey that many made at the time. But as this also happens her father is still talking and wanted. He is a chancer and liar to ht mother and her. He is trying to get as they are constantly on the run though he is constantly wanting the family to move on from hotel to hotel but as he heads out to settle them in a new hotel leaving her l=mother and her to sneak off. We see a girl that is a bit wild she smokes sees what is happening but has that childlike view of what is happening she is just caught up in the journey here there and everywhere. A path that many did in those pre-war years.

My mother says my father can’t settle the hotel bill from Warsaw anyway, because the Polish goverment dosen’t alow you to send mony out of Poland. My father often tells fibs to get a bit of peace and quiet. We’re happy about that sometimes, though he performs miracles and everything he says comes true.

My mother is crimping her hair in front of the mirror, she wants to have a round curl either side of her fac, to make her look beautiful.If she looks beautiful, she feels better abiout walking through the lobby, or talking to people to ask them for money: I don’t mind not looking beauitful.

I loved this image of her mother very thirties sounding

I said I like Child narrators when they are done well and Kully voice is so evocative a girl that is a little wild due to the lack of boundaries she is a brat but she is caught in this downward spiral of running from Place to Place. This is a book I am pleased I tried I tend to be put off when I see translations that seem overhyped or here there and everywhere. In  Peter, we have a writer that is like Roth a writer that stirred up the Nazis Roth himself like Peter went out of Germany when Hitler came to power. Roth never got fully away. This is like the Passenger I read earlier this year we see the journey of trying to escape the the Nazis. This is a path that many trod at the time and here we have an angle from the view of a child grasping at the facts seeing her father pushed out aware of what happens but in the black and white nature only children have. I must read her other books which would you recommend?

Winstons score – B a child’s eye view of a horrific time

The little man from Archangel by Georges Simenon

The little man from Archangel by Georges Simenon

Belgian fiction

Original title – Le Petit Homme d’Arkhangelsk

Translator Sian Reynolds

Source – review copy

A quick break from all the booker longlist books and another of the series of books that Penguin over the last few years have been retranslating from the great Belgian writer Georges Simenon. This is the 11th book from these books I have reviewed.  Here is a novel that shows how diverse his style was a crime novel but more a commentary on those values that simmer under the surface in small french towns and how when a meek mild-mannered man can get s=caught up through one simple lie. This book has been a radio drama on radio four and with a change in the origins of the main character, it was made into a film in 2007. This among critics it is considered to be one of his best books!

He makes the mistake of telling a lie. He sensed this is the moment he opened his mouth to answer fernand Le Bouc, and it was really inly from timidity and lack of self confidence that he hailed to change the words that rose to his lips.

So he said

“She’s gone to Bourges.”

Le boue,as he rinsed a glass behind the counter, asked,”La Loute still there, is she?”

He replied without looking up

“I suppose so”

It wasten in the morning and a thursdad, so the markjet was in full swing. In Fernand’s narrow, glass-frontedcafe on the corner of Impasse des tois-Rois, five or six men were standing at the counter. At the precise moment, it was not important who was present, but it would became so, and Jonas Milk would try to indentiry every face

The book opens with a little white lie that will snowball out of control for the meek Jonas.

The book follows a couple Jonas Milk and his gina a good wife she keeps their flat above their bookshop clean the marriage was sorted from her family to give her a settled base but there is little love companionship and a 16 year age difference. but she has one small problem her mild-mannered meek husband of Russian descent. This meek man isn’t enough so she spends the night with other men but she always returns. So when one morning when she hadn’t returned to her home when asked by a neighbor where his wife was that day she disappeared he says she had visited the local town as the days turn voices start turning toward Jonas the Russian who came to the town with his parents he went to Paris but returned to this village settled down. A man that is simple with plain tastes soon finds him at the heart of gossip and also a changing feeling as the longer Gina is away the more the eyes turn to the husband about what has happened to her. Jonas starts to feel the pressure build around him as he is trapped by what he had said as people cut him off and rumors start around him!

The left him in peace until monday, too much in peace perhaps, since it made him think they were distrancing themselves from him. Perhaps he was becoming too sensitive and ascribing to people non-existent intentions?

Having asked for news of Gina over the last two days, as insistently as if they were calling him to account, they no longer mentioned her in his presence now, and he suspected Le Bouc, ancel and the others were deliberately avoiding reffering to his wife.

Why had they suddenly lost interest in her? And if they knew where she was, what reason did they have not to tell him ?

The suspicions of Jonas grows and he starts to see the signs of the Anti semitisim and the suspicions around him?

This is different from the other books I have read by Simenon as they are mainly from the Maigret series of books here we have him looking at the way a small town can turn itself also an underlying feeling of anti Semitism that follows under the town when it turns out Gina may have not gone to the next town and all eyes turn on Jonas the Russian although he has lived in France most of his life and is French. It is a story of the undercurrents that flow in small towns like this in the post-war years where the mistrust is never far away. What happened to Gina, what will happen to Jonas. It is a perfect evening to read a glimpse into a small french town that becomes fevered rather like in Agartha christie towns there is an undercurrent against the immigrant. There are two more coming in the series of non-Maigret books coming this year. Have you read this or any of the other non-Maigret Simenon books.

Winstons score  -A  This is a perfect book for an early summer evening.

 

All my cats by Bohumil Hrabal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All my cats by Bohumil Hrabal

Czech fiction

Original title – Autíčko

Translator -Paul Wilson

Source – review copy

I have a number of books from the Czech writer Bohumil Hrabal I read his books on the whole pre-blog he is the most translated Czech writer of the 20th century. I have so far on this blog reviewed his book once maybe his best-known work Closely observed trains which was made into one of the best known Czech films. Hrabal himself was born at the start of world war one he had a number of ordinary jobs a railway labourer, insurance agent, travelling salesman, labourer and paper packer as he was nearly forty when he became a full-time writer.  He around this time lived between Prague and his weekend cottage in Kersko which was known for the number of cats that he had living there. This is something that is paralleled in this story.

Back then, in wintertime, the cats would grow despondent, fearful of what would happen if I failed to show up. They’d sleep on the balcony or in the hay under the gazebo, and from that vantage point on the second floor they’d keep amd eye on the lane through the woods that  led in from the main road. When I’d arrived from Prague by bus and trudge in through the snow and reach a certain point on the lane. I culd see little cats’ ears poking up on the balcony.

Early on and the cats are then in force in his country cottage in the winter time .

The book follows an unnamed narrator and his wife and like Hrabal himself, his time is divided between {rague and the weekend cottage they have in Kresko. Whilst he is back in the city he worries about the five cats he leaves there all the time how are they feeding themselves but the biggest worry is they start breeding this happens and as he returns far from the five cats he and the wife like to be snuggled up in the bed in the nights in the country. They have all had a number of kittens and the cottage and there lives is starting to get overrun. Now if you are a deep cat lover stop here !! As our narrator decides the only course pf action is to kill the kittens and he decides to but them in a sack and smash them to death against a tree. This brutal act then comes back to haunt are narrator as he is unsettled and unease of his actions trying to justify this one act of barbaric against the cats.

And so the kittens grew and got their first view of the world in the woodshed, and the old ugly cat continued to come in from the  soldats attic to our place to eat, and when the two mother cats met they would give each other kisses and lick each other necks, and a month after they’d given birththey had more time to themselves and they’d lie together for hours washing each other under the neck and they loved each other as they had before.

The kittens start arriving and the problems start for our narrator

This work shows maybe events that affect his own mind and life he was known for the large group of feral cats he helped and look after on his weekends in the countryside. It shows what happens when you leave these cats unchecked it is a warning to neuter the cats in the future rather than let them breed and breed. It shows how the kindness of the writer towards his cats but he is drawn towards madness as he sees more and more cats turning up and is drawn to that one horrific act in the present will continue to haunt and worry him at his own actions that the madness of all these cats drew him too. This is a personal work by the writer with one horrific at it heart but also maybe the worry of what to do with feral cats which all over Europe in some places is still very common I remember lots of kittens and cats at the apartments we stayed in at the Algarve many years ago. Have you read Hrabal?

The Last Summer by Boris Pasternak

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Last Summer by Boris Pasternak

Russian fiction

original title – Povest

Translator – George Reavey

Source – Personal copy

I love the lesser works of better-known writers, especially if like Pasternak they have won the Nobel prize. and this is a perfect example of that book Pasternak is known mainly known for Doctor Zhivago. His poetry is available. but this book and other novels by him are less available The last summer hasn’t had a new edition since 1990. Written in 1944 it seems a personal book as Pasternak was also based in the Ura in Perm l in a chemical factory like the main character in this book. He also taught a family in Moscow like Serezha the main character in the book.

At the beginging of 1916, Serezha came to stay with his sister, Natasha, in Solikmsk. For the [ast ten years the scattered fragments of this tale have kept coming into my mind, and in the early days of the revoloution some portions f it found their way into print.

But the reader had better forget about these earliest versions of he will become confused as to what the fate ultimately befell each character. I have changed the names of a number of these charactes; as to the fates themselves, I shall leave them as I had found them in those years in the snow under the trees; and there will be no difference of opnion between my novel in verso, spetrsky which I wrote at a later date, and this prose offering; the life in both of them is the same.

The opening shows how the main character is remember the times earlier !

The book was written in 1934 which may be meant the events he recounts in the book have been tinge by the years between the setting of the book. The book is set in 1916 in the middle of the Great War. We meet a tired man is on his way back to his family well his sister. On a long journey from the Urals homeward bound, he drifts into memories of the last summer he had before the war when the world around him seemed a different world the last summer before the war. He was working as a tutor to a rich Moscow family and the world seemed at his feet as he meets many writers and fell in love with the companion of his employer Mrs. Arid and discovered woman at night as he visited  Saskia a prostitute and other ladies of the night as he discovers his sexual side and a world that he seemed to be going forward. This isn’t a war novel there isn’t much mention of the war but it may be also is like holding a breath as it is just before the  Soviet regime took other which at the time Serezha is meant to be isn’t in foreground although there had been failed coups before that are mention the growing strikes that peppered Russian life in pre-revolution Russia.

The weather was stifling. Serezha, with the aid of a grammar, was refreshing his scant and neglected study of english. At dinner time, he and Harry used go upstairs to the ballroom where they kicked their heels while waiting for Mrs Frsteln to appear. Then they would follow her into the dining-room. Mrs Arild would arrive in the ballroom five to ten minutes before Mrs Fresteln; and Serezha would talk loudly with the Danish woman until the ladt of the house emerged znd then part from her with obvious regret.

His budding romance to the Lady’s companion is in fleeting momnets as these things where at the time.

This is a strange novel it has a certain dream-like feel throughput as the memories have sepia tones at times but there is also a strong feel of Pasternak look back from post-revolution times the book was written in 1934 which is just the time Pasternak and his friends really fell foul under Stalin regime. A close friend Mandelstam was arrested,  this lead to Pasternak getting a call from Stalin about his friend. But later laid the path for Pasternak troubles in his future writing. The is a touch of \bildungsroman about the summer in Moscow Serezha had spent. But also a feeling of Lost love which is something Pasternak was dealing with at the time as he had a romance with the daughter of the family he was brought in to teach Ida. A lost novella that needs reading it is short but feels like most great Novellas do as much more.

Have you a favorite lesser work of a great writer?

The Tunnel by Ernesto Sabato

The Tunnel by Ernesto Sabato

Argentian fiction

Original title –El túnel

Translator – Margaret Sayers Peden

Source – personal copy

I was kindly sent this a few years ago by Annabelle of the blog Annabookbel here review is here . I had left this on my shelves to long Sabato is a writer I had wanted to try for a while, I ‘m always wanting to find older writers from the countries I have a lot of reviews for to add depth to the reviews so everything isn’t shiny and new and I could add depth. Sabato is a little like the well known English novelist as he was both a scientist and a writer the two cultures as Snow called them. He had a PHd in physics but at the same time he was talking in the evening to Surrealist writers and starting his own writing life. This was his debut novel and was considered a fine example of Existentialism at the time it was written has got good reviews from Camus.

In the annual spring art show I had exhibited a painting entitled Motherhood. It was painted in the style typical of many of my earlier works: as the critics say in their unbearable jargon, it was solid, soundly architectural. In short, it has all the qualties those charlatans always saw in my canvases, including a “profoundly cerbal je ne sais quoi.” In the upper left-hand corner of the canvas  was a remote cene framed in a tiny window : an empty beach and a solitary woman staring at the sea. She was starring into the distance as if expecting something, perhaps some faintand faraway summons. In my mind that scene suggested the most wistful and absolute loneliness.

The detail Maria saw in his painting Motherhood that lead him to follow her.

 

The book is the story of a Painter Juan Pablo Castel he is now writing his account of what lead him to Murder. The woman he killed Maria Irbane he became obsessed with. The story starts when he has an Exhibition and finds a woman looking closely at what is one of his favorite paintings “Motherhood” it’s not the fact she is looking at the picture but at one detail he put in the painting that he felt no one would notice but she had. So when she leaves the exhibition he decides on impulse to follow her. This leads him to meet her as he finds where she works and then engineers a meeting. But there is more to Maria than first meets his eye, he figured here for a single woman, in fact, he discovers her husband but also the fact she has kept her own surname and this sends Juan in a paranoid downward cycle. As the ideal image he had of this woman and the real person fall further apart he gets stuck in a tunnel that leads to the events that meant he had to kill her.

Again she stared at me as if studying me, but said nothing.She fixed her eyes on a distant tree

In Profile, she did not remind me of anything. Her face was beautiful, but there was something hard in her expression,Her hair was long and chestnut coloured. Physically, she seemed not much more than twenty-six, but there was something about her that suggest age, something reminicant of a person who had lived a long tim. Not a gray heir or any physical indication but something underfined, surely spiritual.It may have been her expression, but how physical can an expression be ?

Early on in the relationship he spots something not sure what but something in Maria.

This is a classic story of obsession one mans dream view of a woman is shattered. Juan Pablo Castel reminded me of a lot of character I have read in other books that seem stuck on a slippery slope. Blaugast the character fro the Leppin Novel that falls into a world of sex and depravity like Castel is on the path to disaster. Both the main characters in this book are people you wouldn’t like in real life Maria is never fully honest with Juan and is maybe in a perverse marriage. I also wonder if there is more to Catel story we may have clues like the detail in the picture of Motherhood. Had he mother issues and the detail was there to find someone like his mother as they would only notice that detail? There is a real sense of the clinical world Sabato was used to there is a clipped nature to the prose an observant feel to the prose more non-fiction at times than fiction.

The Kites by Romain Gary

The Kites by Romain Gary

French fiction

Original title – Les Cerfs-volants

Translator – Miranda Richmond Mouillot

Source – Review copy

I looked back and it has taken a good while to get from book 90 to 99 from France. I have slowed down blogging wise this last year.I remember thinking after the eighth year anniversary it would be that year I would hit a 100 books from France and I hadn’t so I looked at the last two spots and this is the first my 99th book and the first from Romain Gary on the blog. I think I so=hould have featured him earlier I have had a couple of his books other than this one sat around for a couple of years. His life reads like a novel he was a Diplomat, resistance fighter, filmmaker and also the only writer to have won the Prix Goncourt twice when his non de plume won as well. This was his last work before he committed suicide.

“I don’t have any parents. I live with my uncle”

“What does he do?”

I sensed vaguely that “rural postman” wasn’t quite the right thing

“He’s a kite master.”

She seemed favourably impressed.

“What does that mean?”

“It’s like a great captain, but in the sky.”

She thought for a little while longer then got up.”Maybe I’ll come back tomorrow”, she said. “I don’t know. I’m very unpredictable.How old are you?”

“I’m almost ten.”

“Oh, you’re far to young for me. I’m almosrt eleven and a half. But i like wild strawberries, Wait for me here tomorrow at the same time,. I’ll be back if there’s nothing better to do.

The first meeting in the field of the young couple that starts a love that last for years

 

 

The story starts in the early 1930’s when a young boy Ludo, he is the nephew of a man famous for his unusual and daring Kites Ambrose Fleury. The story starts when this young boy meets by chance one day a Polish aristocrat in a field. Lila a woman that grabs the young boys attention for the rest of his life. This sets forth his life from this point in a whole new direction as he falls in love with this slightly older girl. But also as he loses her in the war and sees what happened. His uncle has already got in trouble flying a kit based around Jewish star of David the Jews had to wear. This sees the war through a young man’s eyes as his village and those he grew up with try to resist the Germans. The activity in the village centers around the Cafe Clos Joli as they cycle around the Germans passing messages and he tries to find out what has happened to Lila. Locals like a Jewish prostitute who changes her self from that to an exiled Lady within the village, A wonderful insight into the way everyday French people tried to resist the Germans. As we see Ludo move from a boy to a man and His love for Lila change.

THE CLOS JOLI CONTINUED TO PROSPER< BUT MARCELLIEN DUPART’S reputation in the area began to suffer; he was accused of serving the ocupier to well; as for comrades, they hated him cordially. I knew him better than that and defended him when my friends called him a bootlicker or a collaborator.Truth be told as soon as the ocupation began with German superior officers and the entire Parisian elite already flocking to his “galleries” and his “rotunda”. Duprat made his choice.

The Clos Joli serves great food so has many imortant customers that come through it.

This is one of those books that cuts across genres. War story in part, the story of a village in the war. A heartsong to the France of those years one Gary would remember as he served in the resistance. The similar feeling I remember hearing from some of the old people I looked after thirty years ago that were involved in the war about the spirit that brought people together in those time seen. A romance where the love is maybe one-sided as Lila is very much above the young boy that has fallen for her. A coming of age novel. Yes, this has it all in also I often felt the relationship between Ludo and Lila was similar to that of pip and Estelle in great expectations the aloof nature of Lila is similar to that of Lila. The Clos Juli remind me of the cafe at the center of Allo Allo which like the one in the Kites was the center of village life like most cafes of that time and was also the main center of the resistance whilst still operating as a cafe. The last book of his lifetime and here nearly forty years later in English for the first time. The 99th book for this blog from France not long til I get 100 up.

Berlin Alexanderplatz by Alfred Döblin new translation

Berlin Alexanderplatz by Alfred Döblin

German fiction

Original title – Berlin Alexanderplatz

Translator – Michael Hofmann

Source – review copy

This is the first time in the seven years I have been blogging I am reviewing a book for the second time. I reviewed Berlin Alexanderplatz. But that was the first translation by Eugene Jolas, which had cut some of the original out and was inspired by Jolas fondness for Joyce. So when I heard Hofmann a translator, I admire was doing a new translation I was looking forward to it so to get sent a review copy was a treat. Alfred Doblin studied medicine in the years before world war one which meant he got to avoid the war. But the war had an impact on his views he wrote from 1915, but this book was the one that raised him to a national and international standing when it came out and is considered a masterpiece of German modernism.

Our hero has been successfully brought to Berlin. He has sworn to mend his ways, ad we wonder wheter we shouldn’t simply stop here.An ending her would be optimistic and straightforward, an ending seems to be at hand, and the whole thing wouuld have the advantage of brevity.

But Franz Biberkopf is not just abyone, I have not summned him for my own amusment, but for his heavy, true and iluminating fate to be experienced.

Franz Biberkopf has been burnt, now he stands there in berlin, feet apart and merry, and when he says he wants to be respectable, we believe this to be the case.

You willsee how for several weeks he succeeds. But that’s just a period of respite

The opening of chater two captures well his life cycle of Franz Biberkopf

 

So the approach Hofmann took was to make the book seem more like its German version where it is a wonderful mix of the world around the main character in the book. Franz Biberkopf. We meet Biberkopf as he is released after surviving a sentence for manslaughter. He has determined to try and go on the straight and narrow. He initially is drawn into a story told by a Jewish man who takes him to a rabbis house. But he manages to get out of what is a strange situation and ends up selling things we see him going through a number of different trades. Alongside this, we see the city around him as each small chapter is made up of a what happens to Franz but also the city around him.As he meets woman after woman. He also has a scene in a slaughterhouse where he sees how the meats that are sold are made. He tries to stay on the straight and narrow but he is a man drawn to the darker side of the town, But when he meets a man called Rheinhold a friend at first but later attacks Franz he has to head down the path of crime and gangs.As he gets involved more with the Pums gang.Franz is a man drawn by fate and maybe a liking for the darker easier side of life as he sees it.

Since Christmas is icumen in, Franz makes a switch into seasonal products, for a few mornings and afternoons it is shoelaces, first on his own, then with one Otto Luders, luders been out of work for two years, his wife takes in washing. Fat lina brought him along one day, he’s her uncle. For a few eeks in summer he was the Rudersdorf peppermint man with swizzle sticj and uniform. He and Franz wandered through the strets together, go inside the houses, ring doorbells and meet up afterwards

Franz is slipping down and getting in with the wrong sorts as the book goes on .

This manages to capture the world of Doblin book so much clearer than the Jolas did. we see a world this is different to Joyce’s modernism of an internal voice. No this is the world without filters Doblin tries to capture every detail to give the reader a full picture of the Berlin of the time the smells sounds and feeling of the place jump of the page. Franz Bibeerkopf is the dark side of the Isherwood World of Berlin, this is a man that has been to prison and tries to go straight but is drawn in by the wrong people as he spends his nights in Bierkellers and with women of a certain type. If John Dos Passos, Tom Waits and Charles Bukowski had a bastard child it would be Doblin this is like Dos Passos modernism a way of capturing the wider world and the personal struggle at the same time. Franz is like a character from A Waits song or a Bukowski novel a loser but trying to be more than he wants to be. I still say watching the Fassbinder series is worth it I watch it after reading the book the first time and am midway through a rewatching of it. As my next review is the 800th on the blog I pleased to meet a new version of a book I loved first time around.

Have you read either translation of the Book?

 

pick up a penguin for a pound !

 

Penguin has done another series of small books for a pound each. This time they ask a number of the editors to pick small titles that reflected the 20th century and came up with a list of 50 titles which has a number of Translations in the list Penguin Modern. Or as penguin says here –  fifty new books celebrating the pioneering spirit of the iconic Penguin Modern Classics series, with each one offering a concentrated hit of its contemporary, international flavour. Here are authors ranging from Kathy Acker to James Baldwin, Truman Capote to Stanislaw Lem and George Orwell to Shirley Jackson; essays radical and inspiring; poems moving and disturbing; stories surreal and fabulous; taking us from the deep South to modern Japan, New York’s underground scene to the farthest reaches of outer space.There is in the list two new translations in English for the first time. The Dialogue of Two Snails by Fereico García Lorca and Of Dogs and Walls by Yuko Tsushima  are both in english for the first time .

May 2022
M T W T F S S
 1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
3031  

Archives

%d bloggers like this: