The ice Palace by Tarjei Vesaas

The Ice Palace by Tarjei vesaas

Norwegian fiction

Original title – Is-slottet

Translator – Elizabeth Rokkan

Source – Personal copy

In my second book of the year we are back in Europe and in the north with one of Norway’s greatest writers. we marvel at knausgaard and fosse for their insight and vision into the human character these days. But Tarjei Vesaas was doing the same fifty years before them and in his time he wrote for more than fifty years his book was mainly based around his rural life his farmhouse is a place of pilgrimage for fans of his writing. He was known for his insights into everyday life he won the Nordic book council prize the biggest book prize in Scandinavia. He was nominated 30 times for the Nobel Literature prize and in strong contention on three occasions. This is one of a number of books that were brought out by Peter Owen a publisher I think has such a great list of writers. So here we have the forerunner to those great Norweigian writers of today.

Unn must have been standing at the window watching for Siss, for she came out before Siss reached the doorstep. She was wearing her school slacks

“It must have been dark?” she asked

“Dark?” yes, but that doesn’t matter; replied Siss, although she had been quite nervous of the darkness and the short cutr through the wood.

“It must have been cold too? It’s dreadfully cold her this evening”

“That doesn’t matter either,” said Sim

Unn said: It’s such fun that you wanted to come.

The night of the event that is at the heart of the book

The book is the story of two girls just on the cusp of being young adults they are the sort of girls that wouldn’t usually get on as one is quiet and the other is boisterous and a live wire. The quiet girl Unn is new to the village and has arrived to live with her Aunt and her friend is Siss. What follows is the outfall of an evening the two girls get close as they get to know each other at her aunts she shows Siss the pictures of her father as they relax in each other company the young girls undress and watch each other. But when they have done this it feels strange and not quite right to Unn after the event one of those things that happen at that age of just having feelings and thoughts that are awakening. So when next Day Unn decides to skip school and head to the Ice Palace of the title a place the girls are due to go to a frozen Ice palace but when she ends up in trouble it is Siss left as she viewed the event very differently. She later has to cope with the gap of her friend that has gone and what had happened haunts her as she struggles to move on with what happened.

Unn had not arrived when Siss hurried into the warm classroom. Several of the others were there. Some of them said casually, “Hi SIss.”

She did not say a word about yesterday’s meeting. They probably expected it, because of the exchange of notes, but they contained themselves. They were probably waiting to see what would happen when Unn turned up. Sdiss had it all worked out: as soon as Unn appeared in the doorway she would go to meet her so that eveyrone should see how things stood. The Idea made her so happy thart she tingled all over.

The next day Siss is awaitng Unn at schoolbut she never comes to school again !!

This is one of those books that takes a single event the one evening that the two girls had stripped and watched one another a strange act but given there age one that happens this one night is the hook for the book the death of Unnn and the aftermath for Siss. It shows how we can view things from different ag=ngles after the event. It is a story of the loss of a friendship broken but there is a third character in the book and that is the place rural Norway the ice palace and all the other places he describes jump off the page this is the second book I have reviewed by Vesaas I will over time review more as I get them. One of the things I love about the time I have been blogging is seeing how a writer like Vesaas has had a knock-on effect I can see his influence in fosse work and other Nordic writers. Sparse in his style this work is hard-hitting in it’s impact this is one of those books that pack a punch far more than its length and will hit the reader hard. It is also short enough to be read in a single sitting which I did. Have you read any books by him?

Winstons score – A, a gem of a book that should be better known.

Years like Brief days by Fabián Dobles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Years like brief days by Fabián Dobles

Costa Rican fiction

Original title – LOS AÑOS, PEQUEÑOS DÍAS

Translator – Joan Henry

Source – personal copy

I don’t often get to feature a new country on the blog and this is the 121 new country on the blog. This was for Spanish lit month but a bit late. Fabian Dobles was one of the leading voice in the generation 40 group of writers from Costa Rica. This was chosen by UNESCO as a representative work, Dobles was known for his social realism in his writing. He wrote Novela and short stories this Novel came out about twenty years ago. He grew up in a small town and his father was a village doctor like the father of the Old man in this book.

The seventy-year-old man closedhis eyes for a long time, and when he opened them at the entrance to the street, the Alajuela SportsLeague and Heredia Sports club were contending in a veteran match of five a side. It was already five goals to nine when a woman neighbour broke in to protest at the cloud of dust that the boys had raised, and his mother came out on the footpath, clapped her hands loudly and called for order, and the game stopped.( What a pity! When it was begingingto be first rate. Everybody quitened down, unlucky us )#

He arrives back in his home village.

We meet our unnamed narrator he is seventy and has decided to drive home in his old cars to his home village. He takes his wife this is the place where they meet. As he arrives in the village we see the events in his past as he relives his life. He was going to seminary school where he was sent to by his father. Until he was abused by a priest this event affects his relationship and his life especially with his parents. He held back what happened to him to this moment and in a letter to his dead mother. Then there is the father he is the village doctor like Dobles’s own father this man in his memories is a violent man lashing out at animals but he also remembers him standing up for the rights and being embraced in the African American community whilst working in New York as a young doctor. It sees a man looking back over his life and tries to forgive those who hurt him especially his father. Also, he remembers those first sexual awakenings with his wife. He also sees poverty more now than he did in things like the type of horse people have from the perfect Arab of the rich people to the half breed horse of the poor.

Dear mama,

Days became year, years piled up like brief days. One of those day you died. No you’re here, then you went away. I’ll never again be able to say. “How goes it Mama?” Ypu were so old and inoffensive when you went away from us saying farewell for ever, and theat letter,  the last oneyou wrote me, was bever answered

The letter to his mother about what happened all those years ago ..

The writer was seventy when he wrote this book so one imagines a number of events in this book are taken from his own life his father was a doctor and he was also like the character in this novel was sent to seminary school but like our narrator, he left it after a number of events as well. This is a book full of memories it reminds me of the later novel of other writers I have read over the years from Gunter Grass with his biographies or old man and the sea by Hemingway. Both of which share the feeling of looking back over one’s life and seeing the faults and maybe forgiving those who have made their life hard in the past and also the joyful moments like meeting his wife.

30 covers for #WITMONTH A Slovenian fonz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There have been three collections in the Peter Owen world series this is from the Balkan collection. Jela Krečič is the wife of the well known Slovenian thinker Slavoj Zizek. She is a philosopher and journalist best known for an in-depth interview with Julian Assange. I really liked the way she chooses a male character as the lead in this novel as I said in my review that Matzaj the main character was a Slovenian Finz a charismatic character as we follow his ins and out with various women. Her is my review

The Moon and The Bonfire by Cesare Pavese

 

Image result for moon and bonfire owen

The Moon and The Bonfire by Cesare Pavese

Italian fiction

Original title – La Luna e i Falò

Translator – Louise Sinclair

Source – personnel copy

I purchased this book, after reading Not to read. I was going to wait for the Pavese novella that Penguin is bringing out soon. But after seeing Zambra talk about going to Piedmont area of Italy to try and find the world Pavese had described in his books. I felt that as Zambra had connected so much to his work Pavese must be a writer I should try so when I found a bargain set of four books from Peter Owen who had published his book in English before I couldn’t resist. Pavese spent time in prison and most of his writing came in the last few years of his life and his books mainly set in the Piedmont area. He also translated a lot of books into Italian from English.

Thus it was that for a long time I thought this village where I had not been born was the whole world. Now that I have really seen the world and know that it is made up of a whole lot of little villages, I am not sure that I was far wrong when i was a boy. You wander over land and sea just as the lads who were young with me used to go to the festas in the village round about and dance and drink and fight and bring home flags and barked knuckles together.

Eel returning to his village a changed man but reviewing the village he left many years ago.

This book was written in 1949 and is set in that time. It is a first-person Narrative of a man who left Italy twenty-five years before just as The Fascist had taken control of Italy in the early 1920’s. The Narrator is never named over than his nickname Anguilla. Which means Eel. Now returning home after the war. We see a man trying to piece together the present of a war-torn Italy post-war with the Italy of his youth. So over the chapters, we see a man reconnecting with a slightly elder childhood friend Nuto. The man starts to reconnect the present and his past. From the place like his godfather house, whom has new owners but even they remind him of his past as their son is a similar age to the man when he spent time at the house. We see how over friends where lost in the years he was away from the village he grew up in. He was a foundling child so he never felt part of the place but on return starts to feel part of the place he left to make his fortune.  Nuto is a great friend but he struggles to understand why his friend views the world the way he does. Then there is the child with crippled legs the sister he knew Irene, Silvia, and Santa three noted beauties of their age. They each had troubles in the years he was away two of them died one to illness the over to the Blackshirts. This is also about the village he grew up in.

We seemed to be fated. I often wondered why there was no one left now but Nuto and me, just the two of us, out of so many people once alive. Once upon a time I’d had a longing within me ( one morning in a bar in San Diego I nearly went mad with it) to come out on the main road, to push open the iron gate between the pine and the lime trees at the corner, to hear the voices and the laughter and the hens and say, “Here I am, I’ve come back, ” watching their bewildered faces – the farm hands, the woman and the dog, the old man and the grey and the brown eyes of the girls would have recognised me from the terrace

Such lament in these words a feeling of ghosts in the last line and those dead beauties.

A man returns to his past is a classic theme and this is Pavese describing how the horrors of war had scared his homeland of Piedmont and the fact that the narrator has been away twenty years he can see the contrasting time has caused. He described the village and place so well in the book. I got why Zambra wants to discover Pavese world when he visited Italy. This is a book about losing one’s childhood and discovering what happened to it when the Eel left. This is also a look at the rural life of Italy. It is a book of worlds now gone I was reminded of books like A month in the country in English that feel of a nostalgic world but also the damage that wars can cause. Pavese translated many writers from English pre-war like James Joyce and John Dos Passos. He must have used these when describing the early parts of the book set in the US before the Eel comes home.

Winstons Dozen my favourite books of 2017

I read and reviewed more than in the last couple of years so have decided to pick 12 books of the year.

Brothers by David Clerson

 

QCFINF16 - CoverBrothers_v9

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two brothers go on a quest to find the father in a mythical coastal world. The older brother has an arm missing, the arm is his younger brother with his stumpy arms and legs. One of the first reads of this year and one of the funniest and strangest books I have read.

Havoc by Tom Kristensen

Danish modernist novel one mans downward spiral from journalist to drunkard. A lost gem of European modernist fiction coming out in 1930. Partly inspired by the writer’s own life.

Summer before the dark by Volker Weiderman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The fictional meeting of Stefan Zweig and Joesph Roth in Ostend in the summer of 1936 two men at the height of there fame. Both their lives will take different roots after this meeting.

Compass by Mathias Enard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A lament for a lost world of Syria and for a lost love as a man goes through a sleepless night as Franz dreams of Sarah and his romance alongside their travels.

The Major Refutation by Pierre Senges

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An imagined thesis that discredits the discovery of the new world another quirky book that has had a champion it like a lot of the books on this list.

Bricks and Mortar by Clemens Meyer

Post east german history told through the oldest profession and the characters involved in that industry as they go from simple german girls to digital and woman of all nations. Another Fitzcarradlo novel on the list.

Hair everywhere- Tea Tulic 

A family saga told from the daughter in fragments of stories as her mother is dying of cancer another wonderful choice from Istros books.

Belladonna  by Dasa Drndric

A novel for today a warning of ignoring the rise of right-wing rhetoric as a retirng academic looks back and forward on his life. from one of my favourite writers.

The ultimate Tragedy by Abdulai Sila

The Ultimate Tragedy

Ndani story in postcolonial Guinea Bissau is the testament to what many young women have to do in her position to get by working in a family homemade to join the church and avoid the advance of the male head of the householder.

That’s how whales are born by Anxos Sumai

THAT’S HOW WHALES ARE BORN

This follows a young woman who had escaped to study whales in Mexico but her mother ill health bring her home to her Galician home and the secrets of the past.

Three days by Thomas Bernhard

A film he made years ago has a companion book a wonderful insight into a great writers feeling. I still love the lines I am a story destroyer.

The house of remembering and forgetting by Filip David

A man remembers his survival of the death camp and recalls it all after visiting an exhibition. I have loved the six peter own istros titles this year but this was my favourite of them.

A common thread in these books is families, loss, past and remembering. In the year I lost my mum this list maybe reflects my journey and how books help us get over things. What have been your books of 2017?

 

 

Fear and his servant by Mirjana Novakovic

Fear and his servant by Mirjana Novakovic

Serbian fiction

original title -Strah I njegov sluga

Translator – Terence McEneny

Source – review copy

I reach the last of this stop on Peter Owen World series Serbian collection. The last book of the series has my favourite cover of the year and like the other books were on the Shortlist for the Nin prize. Mirjana first published a collection of short stories in 1996 since then she has written three novels this was her first novel the other two have been on the Nin shortlist. She has had her books translated into a number of languages this book came out from a Serbian publisher a number of years ago.

It had been years since my last visit to Belgrade. And I missing it. I was curious to see what twenty years of Austrian rule had dome for the place. The last time I’d seen it, it was an Oriental bazaar, the skyline bristling withcountless minatrets, the air filled with the stench of tallow and the wailing of Muezzins. In Pest I’d heard how the city was nearly destroyed in the siege or 1717 but that the fortifications had since been tripled, making it even more impregnable during its time under the Turks.

Otto arrives to see how the Austrians have changed the place .

Well, the setting is 18th century Serbia and the atmosphere of this novel is similar to that of Dracula or Kaspar Hauser a story told from Princess Marie Ausua is in town looking for love and the same time as she arrives Otto Van Hausberg arrives with his Serbian servant Novak a crafty man, I was reminded of the many servants we have seen that are devious in the past . They are seen by some as the devil and his man on earth. They are there checking out reports of Vampires and an Attack on an Austrian tax collector.Marie and otto who has taken to his role as being the devil set off to the hinterlands of Serbia to find if the vampire attacks are real.Marie looks forward to seeing more of the country her eyes are naive and childlike at a time. The chapters switch from character to character and there is a sense of the past reflecting the present at times as well.The famous Serbian Vampire Sava Savanovic a real-life character and the best know Vampire Myth in Serbia lurks in the background.

Mary, Maria. Maria Augusta. She lay there in all helplessness. How does tat Serb put in that poem They’re always quoting? she sleeps, perhaps / Her eyes outside all evil. But the vampire wouldn’t let her. And, outside evil was standing watch. The red count sat beside me, quite unconcerned. He was twirling one of the many curls of his red wig

Mary is innocent and Naive in a way and as it says helpless at times.

This is one of those stories that we read middle European books for where else do we see the devil turn up or Evil From Stantango A man arriving in a town unknown cause many troubles. Like others, Otto is a voice questioning the world the devil on earth what is evil does the past have evil does the present have evil. This is one of those reads that will take many a rereading to discover the many twists in the tales also the links from the 18th century Serbia setting through the modern day Serbia and politics of the recent past. The power struggle between the East and west is also shown her Between The Austrian side and the older Ottoman side of the country. This is a clever retelling of old tales from modern eyes.

The house of Remembering and Forgetting by Filip David

 

The House of remembering and Forgetting by Filip David

Serbian fiction

Original title – Kuća sećanja i zaborava

Translator – Christina Pribichevich Zoric

Source – review copy

I reach the second book of the Serbian stop in Peter world series. Filip David has been a big name in Balkan fiction for a number of years. Forming a circle of writers first in Sarajevo then later in Belgrade where he opposed the Serbian leader Milosevic at the time. He also worked on the radio dramas til getting sacked for starting a trade union. This book won the NIn Book prize (Like the Serbian Booker prize ) when it came out in 2014.

My father was distantly related to the famous Houdini, whose real name was Erik Weisz. He was one of Rabbi Mayer Weisz’s six children. The great illusionist became famous or his escape acts from locked spaces and chains, displaying skills that verged on the impossible. My father often joked, although later said quite seriously, that this was a legacy shared by all the weiszes.

One of my fathers close relatives was named erik after the celebrated escapologist. He was one of the few members of the Weisz familyto have survivied the Holocaust, although later he disappeared without a trace. According to unconfirmed rumours he finished up in a mental asylum.

THe family connection to the escapologist and Alberts own tale of escape.

This book is a fictional action of a Holocaust survivor Albert Weiss and his story. He is set on this path when in the present he visited an exhibition with a pair of rooms about the holocaust. He then recounts his life and his survival in how his parents died he was brought up by another couple. After he was thrown out of a train on its way to the death camp. The true story of the Serbian jews told in many tales of Albert Weiss and his life. Old man remembering in a world where news is so fast it is forgotten. This is told in the snippets of stories some forgotten some connected to the past like discovering the brains evil centre. A birth of a devil baby shows the horror and death still walk hand in hand as panic grabs people in Columbia. All this as Weiss lives his life in New York, but still hears the clatter of that train on the rails as he head as a six-year-old child to the Death camp but out of this came his rebirth.

Albert shuts his eyes. That is how you become invisible. That is the incredible trick his father used to talk abpout. One worthy of the celbrated relative hounini, the greatest escape artist of all time.

“This world of ours is not exactly the most perfect place to live in ” his father used to say “When you find yourself in trouble, just shut your eyes and wait ”

His famous relative and also the fathers words he remembers are touching and sad!

Susie from Istros compared this book to those of Dasa Drndric, They both share a sense of collective loss of the Jewish voice in the Balkans and also both serve as warnings. The David with its reflections of the current news and Dasa in her most recent book translated into English which shows a man looking back at how much the world had changed in recent years. We are forgetting more than remembering the past these days. Also, there is a feeling of the past become trivial like the news piece on the painter using Holocaust ashes to paint with. A point Topol touched on in his book The Devil’s Workshop about wanting to make a Disneyland like death camp experience. This is a testament to the Serbian jews that died and those who survived like David himself who was a survivor.

 

The tragic fate of Moritz Toth by Dana Todorovic

 

The tragic fate of Moritz Toth by Dana Todorovic

Serbian fiction

Original title – tragična sudbina Morica Tota

Translator – the writer herself

Source – reivew copy

I m so pleased to get to the third in Peter Owen series of world series of books. This time the stop on their journey around the world is Serbia. This written by the half Serbian, Half American writer Dana Todorovic was shortlisted for a number of prizes when it first came out in Serbian. Including the big prize the Nin pirze. Dana also works as a translator of mainly films and theatre. She has also worked as Interpreter at the UN.

This is when I discovered that the red priest, that is IL Prete Rosso, had been the nickname of the legendary Italian violinist and composer Antonio Vivaldion account of his flaming red hair and the fact he had briefly studied to become a priest. As a hardcore punk , I owed my flaming red hair not to genetics but to a tube of Koleston hair dye of the shade 77/44, and my wardrobe at the time consisted of scruffy wollen sweaters stretched down to the knees and black t-shirt dedicated to the funeral ,stairway to hell and filthy communion.

He is called the red priest at the opera he finds out why here .

The book is formed of two narratives. The first narrative finds The title character Moritz Toth narrating his life. He is a former punk who has suffered a recent number of setbacks including the loss of a close female friend. He has a turn of luck when he gets a job in the Opera as a prompter. The guy that sits in a wooden box on the front of the stage helping the singers if they forget lines. His first job is tackling the complex Puccini opera Turandot. As the story of his life unfolds he has a sense that like a character in a Greek myth his life is being controlled and who is that feeling or being he keeps sensing in the background behind him.He also has to cope with being stuck in a small wooden box all day  The second storyline in the book follows an official Tobias Keller.Who works for The moral issuses adviser with the office of the great oversee. We follow him through a number of meeting and as his job and reason for being in the book starts to unfold we see how he is connected to Moritz.

“Your name ”

These were the presiding officers first words to Tobias. His voice was rather thin for such a large man,and Tobias suspected that he was burdened with something of a orthodontic anomaly, as he spoke with a certain impediment, causing missiles of saliva to shoot across the room at random targets,

“Tobias Keller,” he answered.

“What is it that you do, Mr Keller?”

“I am the adviser for the moral issues with the office of the great oversee”

Tobias face a panel and gives his ambiguous job title to the committee

 

This is a short novel about one man struggling with his life. Then how the other person actions have affected those it shows how a chance and events. Can change people s lives. Both men are effects as Tobias influence of Mortiz life is considered by those he worked for as maybe wrong. I got a sense of Tobias’s  world is rather like that of the world within the film  Brazil and in fact in the way he deals with Moritz is like the angel visions of Jonathan Pryce in that film. but maybe it also harks back to the old nature of the Yugoslavia of the past with its inner working and committees like those Tobias gets caught up in. I managed to get through this review without mention Kafka, but yes there is a sense of his world in Tobias narrative.

1977 club and a true bargain

I had missed most of their previous year clubs when Simon and Karen have run them so when they announced the next in April after managing to do 1968 last month. They have chosen 1977 as the next year as with my 68 entries I have chosen the published year of the book in the original language I found three and have two already and will keep the other as a surprise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first is The end of the family story By Hungarian writer Peter Nadas, I reviewed his masterpiece Parallel stories an epic in every sense. This is his debut novel and set in the stern Stalinist period of the 1950’s. One man’s story Simon has a dead mother and a father locked up !

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The second choice Takes me to Latin America and Jorge Amado the Brazilian writer that had been nominated a number of times for the Nobel prize. I have read Dona Flors by him and have another book by him on the shelves, but haven’t reviewed him yet and be nice to add more Brazilian writers to the blog.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not for 1977 but a bargain find today was the first edition of Anna Kavan Ice which is considered a masterpiece of genre-defying lit.

 

The boat in the evening by Tarjei Vesaas

 

The Boat in the Evening

 

The boat in the evening by Tarjei Vesaas

Norwegian fiction

Original title – Båten om Kvelden

Translator – Elizabeth Rokkan

Source – personal copy

Well when Karen and Simon announce the last year club this time around it is  1968 , I decide I would get at least one book for it so I set to the internet and find a  book published in 1968. I found two books published in their original language in 1968. This is the first and is by Norwegian writer Tarjei Vesaas, he has long been on a list of writers I have been wanting to feature on the blog. He grew up in the remote Telemark region of Norway. Where he had the chance to take over the family farm but didn’t do it. This one event influenced his later life and writing he is considered the best Norwegian writer since the second world war.

There he stands in sifting snow. In my thoughts in sifting snow. A father – and his winter-shaggy, brown horse, in snow

His brown horse and his face. Sharp words. His blue eyes and his beard. The beard with reddish tinge against the white. Sifting snow. Blind, boundless snow.

Far away, deep in the forest. Sunken roads in the drift, gullies dug out of the drifts, logging roads walled in by snow

The opening lines give a sense of the wintery nature of the world Vesaas lived in

This book is a series of pieces that are all set in the wild north of Norway. They all draw on the nature of the land around that region. From watching the cranes arrive from the south and later glimpse the magical dance they do as a child.A man is drifting done a flooded river with just a log clinging to his life.This is a man looking at his homeland in an abstract nature the land and weather and creatures of the land drift off the page in his faint sketches. This is a world of tough nature and land.From the family caught in their home by a snowstorm view the white world around them. The stories are hard to capture as they are more meditations on the world and draw you emotionally into the world, rather than narratively.

The cranes intensify this feeling. One can always find out more. As long as the mirrored head or the upsight head is above the surface. As long as one manages to travel accross floating, shivering tussocks one can find out more.

From these bewitched birds one can find out more.

If only one could give them a message about this, telling them to dance ore and to dance differently, very differently. They look as if they can do it

The cranes mating being watch by father and son

 

This is a complex book that is more like a skeleton leaf caught in the ice the very fragile nature of what it once was is there and this is the same here in Vesass prose have a  sense of what might have been. The fragile nature of the world he lived in, there is no names to his character. But people living on the edge of nature. A man gripping a log, a family in the white out of a snowstorm. A father and son glimpsing the cranes the child’s wonder at the dance. But at the heart of this is the world he grew up in this is a novella that will make you want to wear a jumper as you read it. As you view human life as just a flake in a snowstorm of nature its self and how powerful nature is and what memories it can lay on a man’s mind. I see why he was actually nominated eight times for the Nobel prize this is a work of a thoughtful and deep writer more the sort of writer we want winning the Nobel. Also a testament to the catalogue of Peter Owen books

 

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