Elena Knows by Claudia Piñeiro

Elena Knows by Claudia  Piñeiro

Argentinean crime fiction

Original title – Elena sabe

Translator – Francis Riddle

Source – Review copy

I have often looked at books by the Argentina writer Claudia Piñeiro her books were previously brought out by Bitter Lemon press I have one on my shelves All yours which I have had on my shelves for a couple of years but when this arrived from Charco Press a publisher whose books over recent years.  I have really enjoyed it. The new book also mentions she is one of the most translated writers from Argentina and also has won awards for crime and lit fiction.  I decided it was time to read a book by her and with the mention of Thomas Bernhard on the back of the cover and a quote from his book Gargoyles at the start I knew this was the right book to start. The book is set over the course of one day as a mother tries to find out what happened to her daughter.

The trick is to lift up the right foot, just a few centimetres off the floor, move it forward through the air, just enough to get oast the left, and when it gets as far as it can go, lower it. That’s all it is Elena thinks. But she think this, and even though her brain orders the movement, her right foor dosen’t move forward through the air. It does not lower back down. It’s so simple. Nut it doesn’t do it So Elena wits and waits. In her kitchen. She has to take the train into the city at ten O’clock; the one after that , the eleeven O’clock, won’t do because she took the pill at nine.

She captures Elena’s struggle to move through her Parkinson’s

Elena is in her sixties and has Parkinson’s the book follows the day. The book follows her medication regime so we see how the symptoms of the disease mean this day will be a real ordeal for her so as the tablets help ease the pain she has she heads out across the city.As Elena does this she fills in the parts of Elena’s life. She has set out to find out what happened to her daughter Rita a devout churchgoer that was found hanging in the church she used to go to but it had been stormy and raining that day and she never went in storms as she had a phobia of lightening These and other things around her daughters’ death that aren’t just right. And she feels the police who opened and closed the case quickly saying it was suicide. She found out that her daughter had a connection to a woman Isobel a friend of the two of them whom she hadn’t seen in 20 years and this is what the day is about to find out what she had to do with Isobel and can she find some more out about Rita. Will it answer the questions she had? will she learn more and why did Rita end up at the church?

From the start Father juan was one of the least willing to talk about it, repeatedly deflecting Inspector Avellenda’s attempts to meet with him. Either you’re not insistent enough on Father Juan takes you for an Idiot, Inspector You’re not saying I should add him to the list of suspects are you Elena ? i already told you, you have the obligation to investigate all possible theroies Elena waited for the right time,, not too close to the daily masses, or the hours reserved for confessions, or to siesta.

Such a tight window to talk with dfather Juan what had the church to do with Rita’s death ?

This is the afterword is an attempt to relaunch Piñeiro as a more lit writer which this book is at its heart is a question that are larger than Rita death of the Church and the country the book was written just as the laws around Abortion changed in Argentina when the book came out in 2007  maybe that was something to do with it but you need to read the bok=ok. Know the question of Bernhard it is mention there is a style of writing like his and there is Elena journey has pacing like a Bernhard novel I think of something like his book which also takes place over a period of time and there is also a bitterness driving Elena to discover the truth of what happened. As her books from what I read have a crime element but also a large dollop of woman and Issues and social Issues. I will be reading her other book for next year’s Spanish lit month as her is a perfect crossover for both the second month of Spanish lit month and Woman in Translation month. Have you read her other books ?

Winstons score – B+ A great intro to a new writer to the blog

 

The Liquid land by Raphaela Edelbauer

The Liquid Land by Raphaela Edelbauer

Austrian fiction

Original title – Das flüssige Land

Translator – Jen Calleja

Source – review copy

My second woman in translation month book takes me to Austria and a book that was on both the German and Austrian book prize lists make the German book prize shortlist in 2019. Raphaela Edlebauer studied philosophy and has published in numerous publications since 2009 and has had three books published two of them novels and this her first novel was written with a grant she got to write it. She grew up in Hinterbruhl which has a location near it that was the inspiration for the village of Gross-einland in the novel Liquid land a satellite camp, that was making plane parts in the second world war in an area surrounded by former mining sites. Which is similar to the village in the novel.

It was the fourth day of my journey in the Alpine foothills, and I sat down with the nearly split bread rolls in order to plan my trip for the day. As id this inconsqnential rhythm of stopping off at inns, contemplation, dinner, sleep and breakfast buffets were leading me to utter lethargy. I decided every morning  to uphold it. I hadn’t yet been able to let go of the hope of finding Greater Einland I loved simplicity of the conditions.

A village that has disappeared into the ether !

The book follows Ruth Schwarz as she has to deal with the death of her parents in a car crash. She is in the middle of her final thesis at university about the fluid nature of time and is struggling to finish this when the death arrives. This means she has to go back to her parent home village the lost vilage it seems of Greater Einland a village that her parents was form but seems to have diappeared in the time since they left eventually she arrives and start to dort out arrangments of her parents funeral. She is only thinking this may take her a few days but as she starts to speend time in the village she finds the village is caught out of time as the countess the head in a way of the village has tried to stop the effects of time on the village so it is a place oiut of time and also siting in the middle of lots of former mines as this is causing holes to appear around the area and the village seems to be oblivous to this and she evens finds that they already have the answer to why these things are happening with the details held with in the town Library ? What has happent ot make thew Countees act like this what has happen to the village and as time seems to stretch and days become weeks will Rith ever leave Greater Einland as those days she had intend to spend become weeks as she is drawn into find out why all this has happened.

It wasn’t until a few days after the strange encounter with the Countess that it occurred to me that I’d had missed my appointment for the funeral arrangements. I hurriedly called the company’s office from the reception and invented a tall tale about a psychological breakdown, The lady in the secretary’s office gave me a new appointment for the following day without complaint, and asked whether I happened to already know when my parents be transferred.

I said that I didn’t, and [romised to be in touch again soon, Too restless to work, I listened, lying on the floor back in my room, to a coulle of  Chet Baker albums I’d brought in a second hand shop, which fused with the autumn weather.

She meets the Countess and then time slips through her hands

The book has echos of things like the village in Whicker man an island but the way this village is hdden it could be a island itself also with a population that seems to oblivous to the outside world and the start of this is from the Countess that has something of the Miss Havishaim about her, in the way she has wanted time to stand still around here. Time is a large theme in this book a scientist that is sudying time, a village where time seems to move different to the world outside the village and the holes like black holes add ruth surname and the holes you have black holes and this is what is happening her a village caught in darkness as time is slowing down as it falls back but in Ruth’s eyes time is speeding past there. This has nods to a world of Kafkaesque twists and turns if Franz Kafka Dickens and Bernhard co written a book this would have been it a mix of great expectations , a kafka nightmare about to happen and a austrian sense to it all is an interesting mix I felt. Have you a favourite German language woman writer ?

Winstons score – A a new talent a clever tale of time and turniong a blind eye.

Winstonsdad Booker international longlist guess

It is that time again when I choose the books I think will be on the longlist when it comes out in two days I have left it late but is was just to try and read a few more books as the list this year is just books I have read.

Fracture – Andres Neuman

Two Huge events in Japan the end of the war and the dropping of the bomb and then the nuclear disaster following the tsunami a few years ago viewed from one man’s perspective he had been at both events. I’ve long been a fan of Neuman so lets hope we see him on the longlist again.

The Art of Losing by Alice Zeniter

Three generations of an Algerian family show the post-liberation years leaving Algeria and settling in France and the feeling of never fitting in and then fitting in and loss of identity a true epic.

A Musical Offering by Luuis Sagasti

Another writer from Argentina another writer I am a fan of her we have a collection of stories the Goldberg variations are a theme in them at times.

Tower by Bae Myung-Hoon

Another interlink story collection here we have a super skyscraper in the near future that is its own starte and the madness of the mega city in these stories.

Hunter School by Sakinu Ahronglong

A son tells of his father but also his heirtage a dying culture in a series of stories about learning to hunt and growing uo in a world that is slowly disappearing.

Earthling by Sayaka murata

I feel that breast and eggs may be the Japanese book on the longlist.  but I did like this one and haven’t read the other yet as it is on my to buy list which seems to never quite shrink lol.

The Pear field by Nana Ekvtimishvilli

I always have a book from Peirene on my list and this story of an older pupil at a special needs school where abuse is happening has taken a younger pupil under her wings. As the poverty following the collapse of communism is being felt. will he make his way to America?

Catherine the great by Olja knezevic

We follow Katarina as she goes from a teen to adulthood as Yugoslavia falls apart. I haven’t read the Fig tree I only brought it a few weeks ago so will have to get to it soon but here is another title from Istros books. A publisher woefully missing from the longlist over the last few years

The Bitch by Pilar Quintana

A book that really touched me a story of a dog heartbreaking at times as it is an untamable feral dog. World editions have published some great books the last few years lets hope they get one on the list this time

Journey through a tragicomic century by Francis Nenik

A strange the fiction real life is told in this great novel about Hasso Grabner from new publisher V&Q books Large than life view of German and the East German through a man that had lived life through it all . they had three books out this year all could make the longlist.

When we cease to understand the world by Benjamin Labatut

A collection of stories from how Prussian blue got its name to the drug Goring ti end his life, then trying to find the hermit-like French mathematician Grothendieck my favourite in the collection

We’ll call you by Jacob Sundberg

Foot in the mouth bad job interviews this fun collection of stories would be a change for the Booker list a book that shows human nature at its best and worst with a large slice of humour !!

At night all blood is Black by David Diop

Vengeance from an African soldier during world war one when his best friend is killed he takes the lives of those that killed him. A corner of the war that hasn’t been written about much.

There is my Baker’s dozen as ever I think I may only have a few right but let’s see what makes the cut. As there have been some great books again over the last twelve months. Have you any highlights for you

The Frightened Ones by Dima Wannous

The Frightened Ones by Dima Wannous

Syrian Fiction

Original title – Kha’ifoun

Translator – Elisabeth Jaquette

Source – personal copy

Over the last few years, I haven’t reviewed enough books translated from Arabic I have felt so when looking for potential booker international longlist books there were two titles that had been shortlisted for the Arabic international prize this and another book which won the prize. So I reviewed this first the other is in my tbr and if it makes the list will be read quickly if not in a month or two. Dima is a writer I had read a few years ago as part of the Beirut 39 collection of writers she had studied French literature at Damascus University and the Sorbonne. She then became a Journalist and worked on TV. She caught the eye of many literary critics for her 2007 short story collection Details. This is her second novel.

A few weeks later, it did all happen again. I left Kamil’s office and found the main sitting on the front steps. smoking. “Coffee?£ he asked. I thought about how he’d invited me for a cup of coffee and then ordered a beer. He’d abridged hir invitation this time, an enquiry with a question mak suspended in the air. I copuld see it flying around his head , attatched ti a string of letters jumbled on top of each other, obscuring one another. I nodded, agreeing reluctantly, and started walking; he followed me. Almost immediately I stopped.

The Frightened ones are based on two friends and former lovers when Suleima and Naseem meet at the therapist in pre-war Syria in Damascus in the waiting room and started an affair. They are from different backgrounds Suleiman is an anorexic woman with a number of anxieties and worries around men. She falls for the charming Naseem a doctor that has his own horrors he constantly smacks his face this is a broken pair in a broken country so when He leaves and then sometime later send to his former lover his first book as she reads on what she finds he has written the story of a woman with Anxieties and issues with her family as she loses her male relatives to the war that is tearing her homeland apart. she slowly starts to gather she is reading her own story that he has written into a novel. As he has taken her life as his own. Suliema hasn’t painted in a number of years since the death of a close family member. This lifts the lid on the horrors of living in fear and under constant terror.

I remember our living room well. i remember our carpet, green with dark dreen embroidery, and how I often rolled it out to play. The only thing that cut out the silence was the creek and chirp of the wooden shutters, I lived my childhood in silence, so much so that when I summon the few scenes I do recall to memory, they appear with out soundl They’re silent. No commotion. No voices. No ,music, Just windows chirping.

The electricty ofent wentin ur building for days at a time, those across the way would still be lit, while we alone were drowning in Darkness. Our power lines were connected to the close-knit neighbourhoodof Esh al-Warwar, some distance away, where most residents were from Alawite officers famlies.

The opening if Naseems manuscript does she Suliema see paraells in her own past !!

The book shows where reality and fiction can blur over time as the two lovers were separated over the war as she stayed and saw her family die and he left but he used her sorrows anxieties to build his novel. It shows the horrors that can be caused by the war on the mentality of the public and the busy therapist waiting room and those left in the country as it descends into madness.  As the constant threat of both death but living under a dictatorship with the fear of getting caught or worse. This isn’t a fast-paced book more a book that opens the reader’s eyes with it wonderfully insightful prose looking into the horrors of everyday life with a poetic mix of metaphoric insights into everyday life. Also, the anxiety of that also of love under those conditions and that is followed by betrayal has a powerful message about the horrors in Syria. As the book in the later part divides between Suleima story and her reading Naseem’s work as the two unfi=old and at times cross each other the lines of fact and fiction blur. Now if this was the Old IFFP prize I would have this higher up the list as it a book Boyd the old head judge would like. Have you read this book? or have any favourite recent reads translated from Arabic into English?

Winstons score – B great but in parts, it wanders

Shadow Booker International 2021

I will be doing my longlist guessing post but here we have another year of the booker shadowing jury here the tenth time a shadow jury for the Boker and earlier the IFFP.

The announcement of this year’s International Booker Prize longlist isn’t too far away, and I’m sure many of my readers are looking forward to the announcement (on the 30th of March) and making plans to read any interesting-sounding nominees. However, while we’re all grateful to the judges for the time and effort they put into the task of deciding the cream of the year’s fiction-in-translation crop, putting blind faith in their decisions is another matter entirely (some years more than others…), and that’s where our Shadow Panel comes in. I recently added a permanent page to my site with details of all the judges and winners since 2012, and given that start date, you may have worked out that 2021 marks an important milestone for us – namely the tenth Shadow Panel!

 

So on this momentous occasion, whose breath (metaphorical, of course – stalking and housebreaking is firmly frowned upon around these parts) will the official judges be feeling down their necks this year? In the words of Brett Anderson, introducing the band 😊

 

*****

Tony Malone (@tony_malone) is an occasional ESL teacher and full-time reader who has been publishing his half-baked thoughts on literature in translation at the Tony’s Reading List blog for just over twelve years now. One unexpected consequence of all this reading in translation has been the crafting of a few translations of his own, with English versions of works by classic German writers such as Eduard von Keyserling and Ricarda Huch appearing at his site. After a well-earned sabbatical year from all things shadowy, he’s returned with fresh energy in 2021, ready to discuss this year’s longlist and keep the ‘real’ judges honest.

 

Stu Allen (@stujallen), the everyman of translated fiction, has been blogging for twelve years and has reviewed over a thousand books from more than one hundred countries at his site, Winstonsdad’s Blog. He founded the original Shadow IFFP Jury back in 2012, as well as the Twitter hashtag #translationthurs. By day, he works for the NHS as a care support worker, helping people with learning disabilities on a ward in a learning disabilities hospital in sunny Derbyshire. He’s married to Amanda, loves indie music, foreign films and real ale, and is pleased to be shadowing the prize for another year.

 

Meredith Smith (@bellezzamjs) has been writing about books at her site, Dolce Bellezza, since 2006. Now that she has retired from teaching, she has much more time to devote to her passion of reading translated literature. She has hosted the Japanese Literature Challenge for fourteen years and been a member of the Shadow Jury for seven. It is her great joy to read and discuss books from around the world with both the panel and fellow readers.

 

David Hebblethwaite (@David_Heb) is a reader and reviewer originally from Yorkshire, UK. He started reading translated fiction seriously a few years ago, and now couldn’t imagine a bookish life without it. He writes about books at David’s Book World and on Instagram @davidsworldofbooks. This is his eighth year on the Shadow Jury, and it has become a highlight of his reading year. There are always interesting books to read, and illuminating discussions to be had.

Oisin Harris (@literaryty), based in Canterbury in the UK, reviews books at the Literaryty blog. He earned an English degree from Sussex University and an MA in Publishing from Kingston University. He is a librarian at the University of Kent and a co-editor and contributor for The Publishing Post’s Books in Translation Team, as well as the creator of the Translator Spotlight series where prominent translators are interviewed to demystify the craft of translation. His work on Women in Translation was published in the 2020 research eBook of the Institute for Translation and Interpreting, entitled Translating Women: Activism in Action (edited by Olga Castro and Helen Vassallo).

 

Frances Evangelista (@nonsuchbook) works as an educator in Washington DC. She elected a career in teaching because she assumed it would provide her with lots of reading time. This was an incorrect assumption. However, she loves her work and still manages to read widely, remember the years she blogged about books fondly, chat up books on Twitter, and participate in lots of great shared reading experiences. This is her fourth year as a shadow panelist for the International Booker Prize.

Barbara Halla (@behalla63) is an Assistant Editor for Asymptote, where she has covered Albanian and French literature and the International Booker Prize. She works as a translator and independent researcher, focusing in particular on discovering and promoting the works of contemporary and classic Albanian women writers. She has lived in Cambridge (Massachusetts, USA), Paris, and Tirana.

 

Vivek Tejuja (@vivekisms) is a book blogger and reviewer from India, based in Mumbai. He loves to read books in Indian languages and translated editions of languages around the world (well, essentially world fiction, if that’s a thing). He is Culture Editor at Verve Magazine and blogs at The Hungry Reader. He is also the author of So Now You Know, a memoir of growing up gay in Mumbai in the 90s, published by Harper Collins India.

 

Areeb Ahmad (@Broke_Bookworm) recently finished an undergrad in English from the University of Delhi and is now pursuing a Master’s in the same subject from the University of Hyderabad. Although he is quite an eclectic bookworm, he swears by all things SFF. You can find him either desperately hunting for book deals to supplement his overflowing TBR pile or trying to figure out the best angle for his next #bookstagram picture while he scrambles to write a review. He impulsively decided to begin book blogging in 2019 and hasn’t looked back since.

*****
Now that this year’s judges have been introduced, it’s time for us to fade back into the shadows but never fear – you’ll be hearing from us again very soon. Once the longlist has been announced, we’ll be convening to consider the baker’s dozen of selected titles, and soon after that, you can expect a group response. Will it be a positive or negative one? Well, that all depends on what is chosen, of course. Official judges – over to you…

London Under Snow by Jordi Llavina

London Under Snow by Jordi Llavina

Spanish Fiction

original title – Londres nevat

Translator – Douglas Suttle

Source – review copy

I am late to this it was sent last year but I tried to read it during the first long down but I wasn’t in the mood for a subtle work like this is. The writer Jordi Llavina is a Catalan writer and cultural journalist He has hosted a tv show on books and radio shows as well. He has written novels, poems, and short stories and it is with a short story collection we get to read him for the first time in English. He won the Josep Pla prize one of the big book prizes in Spain. This is the second book from the new press Fum d’estampa press that brings a mix of the best in contemporary and classic Catalan literature. Another possibility for the Booker international prize maybe ?

I first arrived London on a Feburary day in 2009. I was thirty years old. Among my persopnal effects I had a black leather notebook like those that Le Corbusier once used to sketch out architectural ideas or to note down some of his theoretical or techincal thoughts . On the second blank page, I wrote a title “London Under Snow (and other reflections) ” in pencil

Five day before I was to set off for the English capita, a colossal snowstorm had set alarm bells ringing and I was worried that the tick blanket of snow shown on the newspapers front pages would turn into s terrible layer of ice- I didn’t realise that the sefvices in London actually work reasonably well snowploughs, workers with reflective jackets and armed with spades and salt all work together to remove the settled snow.

Just as he is to go to Londo it is turned white and the lakes around get frozen up.

The book has six short stories that all have a theme of memory and loss involved in them they blur the line between the writer’s real life and a fictional world. The collection starts with the title story a look back at the first time the writer visited London. A wintery London he describes it being shown that it is snowing in London before he arrives it see him try and get a hat for a friend that is from a costly shop ending up with a fake but then trying to get the original only to try and return years later and the shop is gone. This last part of the story reminds me of when Helene Hanff went to the carcass of 84 Charing ross road. The next story is about a family one a message of a cousin the Andalusian had stopped at his parent’s house many years ago he had shared a room he remembers unpacking his stuff and that he went to live in a small village in Mexico he laments the loss of contact with other family members as his life has moved on. The other stories also see him have a couple that is coping with the grief of losing a baby. Loss of a home with a homeless man. There was another about a man who reminds him of his old drama teacher.

My Andlausian cousin is dead, A few days ago. I received a telegram sent from a post offive in the Mexican village where he had lived since the ninties. It had been sent by a woman with a name that was almost as pretty as that of the village where she had most likely spent the last few years of her life with him. I hadn’t heard anything from him for around a decade and a half but, while we having had little to do with each other’s life, we were quite fond of each other. Three had been a period when he was still living in Andalusia, before the rude interruption of electronic mail, that we would write long letters to one another on a monthly basis.He was eighteen months younger than me and had died [rematurely at the age of Forty-five.

I was remind in this of the end lines of the film standf by me where the narrator of the film talks of his friend chris he hadn’t seen in manyu year but would never forget!

There is a theme of memory and loss around these stories. I am reminded in this collection themes are in that Portuguese word Saudade that is a feeling of loss and longing is hanging here. From a tale of a hat , the notice of the loss of a family member. The style is subtle gentle writing of his life those he has known as I said I struggled to get the voice of him in my head as I read but this time I did. Proust came to mind in the first story the hat was a similar device to that of Proust’s Madeline that unlocks the memory of trying to get the hat for his friend. It blurs the lines of fiction and biography so you not sure it if is the writer’s actual life or just a mere work of fiction. A wonderful intro to a new voice lets hope we get to read some more from this thoughtful writer. Have you read any of the books the Fum d’Estampa has brought out in the last year or so?

Winstons score A-

Tower by Bae Myung-Hoon

Tower by Bae Myung-Hoon

Korean fiction

Original title – 타워

Translator – Sung Ryu

Source – review copy

I move to Asia today and a novel that is maybe a bit different to the usual ones I read as it is a sci-fi work well more a dystopia novel. Bae Myung- Hoon studied internatrional relations befroe winning a sci-fi short story competion in 2005 he blurs the lines between liteary fiction and genre fiction in his works. This book is his breakthrough work and won both prize for liteary works and sci fi as well. It has been described Social science fiction for the way it uses satire and a futurstic setting to comment on the problems in the present. He has said it is easier to tackle social issues usiong a sci fi setting.

Some liquors serve as currency. In life, there are times when one must give something to someone with no guarntee of getting anything in return. This is different from giving bribes, kickbacks and payoffs, or sweetners, in which case what to give is fairly straight forward and what to get in exchange is crystal clear. But in payment for service relationship that involved far more delicate and sensitive mechanisms like offerning a “token of gratutude” or a “little something,” what that subtle gift might be and what is expected in return afre not specified explicitly. this is how power usually works, eexcept in emergencies.

The curency of the tower whiskey swapping hands not a bribe as such but.

The tower is set in a 624 skyscraper called the beanstalk in the interconnectiong stories  of the world that is the Beanstalk. Firstly, we meet Professor Jung Of the beanstalk power research. He is looking into the pratice of giving expensive whiskey.So he looks into the circulation of the expensive whiskey around the Beanstalk to dear to buy and drink. It is  more used as gifts  almost a currency in itself for future deeds from folks as the tracks down the circulation of the bottles he ends up finding the heart of this situation is a dog in a room.  that is getting lots of gifts sent too. Then we meet Writer K (an obvious nod to Kafka) who has terraphobia a fear of being on the ground and has lived in the beanstalk for years after events in his younger years. But folks start to wonder when he starts writing about nature due to some  as he previous works had been based around the beanstalk. coming up with titles like the dog and the elevator a nod to the first story. Then we have an elephant being used as crowd control by a man that has just come to the Beanstalk. A pilot is saved as he is shot sown and being on the run. Thre is also an appendix which links into events in the stories like an extract of writer K work another work or a woman that had written a work just on one floor and the comings and going.

excerpt from ” The Bear God’s Afternoon by Writer K

once it rose, the sun was in no hurry to set. One day lasted one year in the Bear God’s realm, which remained buried in snow all year long, “The Bear Godwas the evil ruler of night. As the long, long night wore on for half a year, the Bear God’ would show the,self fleetingly admist the infinte emptiness and darkness pouring in from the far side of the univers. The Bear god brought a cold blizzasd with them wnerever they went. When bitter winds, rasping like the futile breath of the grim reaper, those the eatrs and reached the heart, all good bears had to retreat into their caves for a seemingly eternal slumber.

From the appendix an excerpt fro writer K work

I really got into the world of the beanstalk althogh not a sci fi reader I do like some dystopic ficion and some great sci films. This is in the vein of writers like Orwell , kafka and maybe a chunk of sci fi writers like China Mieville anpther modern writer that seems to blur genre lines in his works. The beanstalk itself could be an ancestor of the great sci fi story universe from Robert Heinlein set on a huge abandon ship that has become the inhabitations universe like the world of the beanstalk it has its divides. The book is a commmentary on issues with sounth korea things like corrupition , social issues and the state itself the divide nation. He creates a world of the tower the floors the half a million people living there therte is also a hunour like in the first story that remind me of something Douglas adams would come up with the dog at the heart opf it all remind me of the deep thought and the answer 42. The second story of writer K is an obvious nod to Franz Kafka characters. This is a clever collection of interconnection stories bits from other stories crop up in other stories. As I said at the start it wouldn’t be a book I would pick myself but it is one I would now recomend.this has just come out from Honford star. Also this is one ofmy favourite covers this year so far

 

Robinson by Aram Pachyan

Robinson by Aram Pachyan

Armenian fiction

Original title – Ռոբինզոն 

Translator – Nazareth Seferian, Nairi Hakhverdi, Arevik Askharayan, Nyree Abrahamian

Source – review copy

I have reviewed the debut novel by Aram Pachyan a couple of years ago. This was meant to be part of a collection of books from Armenia that Glasgoslav had brought out and Aram was to give a speech about writing here is that speech.  which I really enjoyed so I am pleased to review this short story collection from one of the leading writers in Armenia. This book won the presidential prize in Armenia. His books have topped the chart in his home country. His works have been adapted into Musicals and experimental play of his book goodbye bird which I reviewed here.

He opened the box with his eyes closed, his breayth held. The colourful ornaments were quietly asleep on the cream-couloured paper. On the surface of those decorations, he saw the sad reflection of his face and the curvy shadows od his pointy hair. In the box, there were layers upon layers of ornaments and streamers hich adorned their christmas tree every year. The small plastic Christmas tree that his parents had brought in the city of Vandzor a long time ago, even before he was born. It’s skelton had grown weak over the years, its green leaves had melted here and there from the heat of the lights. Every year, when he placed the tree, his father would use a copper wire to fasten the tree’s thin trunk to the four legged base, so that it would not fall over.

A proustian moment of a christmas tree remember a close moment with his father.

This is a collection of 16 stories that seem to capture what it is like growing up in Armenia and also the loneliness of modern life. The title story is a nod to the ultimate tale of being alone that of Robinson Crusoe. A series of letters between   Robinson and Friday that then leads to children and their teacher. This gives the tale of being alone a modern twist. Elsewhere there are street chess players. A young boy falls for the local girl of his dreams of her in a sexual way then later on he takes a local girl he has fallen for out she gets drunk he has to go back to the same aunt for some money to bail him out. There are dreams of escape where a young boy reads of Toronto and dreams of escaping there. Mothers trying to sort out their drunk husband by drugging the father to keep him from drinking is observed by a child. In places, the tales feel personal as a number of the characters are called Aram. The most touching was a son whose father is dying remembering the closeness the putting of up of the tree brought him and his father. Who is dying in the hospital he wonders if his father sees a tree there in the hospital and is remembering those moments as well !!

I was embarrassed: how could I ask those boys for more money when they had worked all day like slaves? No, I couldn’t ask them .. What should I do …What should I do ? The thought was born in my head scared me , but the fear felt very pleasent, for the first time I wished to properly feel fear, it was like being run over by a car, when you somehow avoid the blow and manage to calm down afterwards …How I went, I don’t know.. Did I go, did my childhood go? I don’t know. I knocked on the apartment door of number 19 and Lia opened it

Having been made broke by the drunk local beauty he goes to his aunt for some money.

On the back cover, it says the stories contain the inescapable loneliness of people in the modern world. It is a hard world at times he describes tough times tough people also a world where drink and violence can just bubble below the surface. These are great observational pieces the little everyday things are captured here. The despair of a story like John Cheever swimmer can be seen in this collection the despair in the modern world but also the dreams of past and future at times. This lifts the lid on a hard life and a world that we can be thankful we aren’t in.

An Inventory of Losses by Judith Schalansky

An Inventory of Losses by Judith Schalansky

German fiction

original title – Verzeichnis einiger Verluste

Translator – Jackie Smith

Source – Review Copy

This will be the first book by Judith Schalansky I did read Giraffes neck a few years ago when it was on the Booker longlist but never got round to reviewing it. Her books are work in art themselves having twice won the prize for the most attractive book in German with earlier books she studied Art History and Communication design this is her fifth novel four have been translated into English. The book is a collection of twelve stories that we had lost overtime in her intro she says things like the last Male white rhino meaning they will die out,  an animal from the barrier reef that had disappeared. A lost jet a crashed spacecraft so many things while she wrote this book. We are always losing or seing or world change.

The reprts describing this improbable patch of land were just detailed enough to plausibly prove that it did inded once exist, even if the chronometer never determined its exact postition, for neither Tasman nor Wallis, neither Bougainvile nor even a captain of some wayward whaling ship ever sighted its gentle shores. Again and Again I studied the routes of the south sea expeditions, followed the dashed and dotted lines accross the graticule and through the paper ocean, and compared them with the presumed postition of that island which, in a rash pf imperial setiment, i had mafrked in the bottom most empty square.

Tuanki a lost island of the south seas reported but since lost

We start with an Atholl that disappeared in 1842 or 43 that was there and disappeared in what was an earhtquake the story deals with the fact it was barely known then wasn’t ther as so few westerners had see it in the middle of the Paciffic.  Then the Caspian tiger that walked tfrom Northen turkey through Iran and Afghanstan to the ver west of china when it was there this sepecies died out twenty years ago. we follow the last of them Schalansky starts to beath life in those lost piece she has gagther he box of delights her cabinet of loss. A lost piece of Sappho a lost painting the great Casper David Friedrich. Lost Villa from a famlous groundbreaking architect. A former huge East german Palace this is a lament of what is so eay to lose but these are all things that hadn’t they been collect we may haven’t of fully heard off.

Designed by a collective of architects led by Heinz Graffunder at the East German Building academy, the symbolic goverment building was errected on the derelict land known as Marx-Engels-Platz, on the former site if Berlin’s city palace, which had been demolished in 1950 it took thirty-two months to construct, and was inaugurated on April 23, 1976 as the poeple’s Palace

Palace of the repbulic the lost former Palace of East Germany like the country nearly a figment of imagination.

This isa a collection fo ghost not ghost stories but the sense of what was in each case a n island in the middle of the sea there then gone this has often happened with  earhtquakes and change in ccurrents etc there are place we know now that that won’t be there one day or even the suprise lose like Monserat a coup,e of decade agos. I love the show Abandon engineerong as we see the carcas of what was her is another literary Elephant graveyard , we could all make are own in a way things we know ior we knew. I rememeber the thearte in atockport the Davenport I went at least four or five years to see the pantomine but now there is car park. this is a collection of things she has found over time like a collector a stamp album of loss. Her prose brings each of these stories to life. As with her earlier books this is also a stunningly beautiful work. We all have loss from the personal to the loss of animals, lost building a sort of nod to her East german past with the lose of the grand palace but also the loss of all that it was to be East German good and bad there is an Ost culture from the tv shows to the food and drink they had.Have you read any of her Books ?

 

The end and Again by Dino Bauk

The end and Again by Dino Bauk

Slovenian fiction

Original title -Konec. Znova

Translator – Timothy Pogacar

Source – review copy

I move to another small press and one of my favourite over recent years Istros has been brought us all wonderful titles from the Balkans and here we have a Debut novel from a former lawyer and civil servant Dino Bauk.  He was a columnist and began writing short stories. Before this came out it was his debut novel it won the Best debut novel at the Slovene book fair in 2015. It was also longlisted for another book prize in his homeland. This book is set in the years of the break up in the former Yugoslavia and focus on the members of a band.

“So you must be sister something!”

“I’m Mary ”

“Of course, the virgin Mary, who else?”

He felt that his child like didn’t anger, but amused her. She rewarded him with a changed teasing smile, which fuelled his courage. He rose from his seat to take an equal place amoung the small group and push closer to her as she stood behinf her two brothers and sister. One of the two slich=k assholes tried to guide the conversation, but Denis was communicating with her onl, turning the other three Mormons into uslessappendages, which they themselves understood afters severak stops, and gradually retreated into their own cnersation

Denis meeting Mary with her fellow Mormon when he was younger.

The book has a fragmented nature is made of vignettes of memories and a stream of consciousness style. The story is around the break up of Yugoslavia and the effect on the four members of a band Peter, Goran, Denis, and Mary. The band is rather like the famous Serbian band EKV which at this time huge. Denis is the main character in a way he was one of those that lost his identity in the middle of this story he has no place to live being expelled from his homeland due to a problem with his paperwork. whilst his bandmates remain Slovenian and they get caught up in post band activities and make money and corruption as one becomes a manager and the other works in local government whilst their bandmate is near via the books he read whilst on the front reading books in a roofless library and finding out what is going on in the world via his books. Mary is the one that connects them all a Mormon and friend of them then they were sixteen and in the band. Then in the future she tries to find out what happened to Denis and she had seen the world. It is a story of growing and forming one’s identity and what had been lost to some in that and overs that disappeared at the time.

Recording 4

Denis, peter and Goran laugh out loud, at first genuinely, then as theu og on, it’s more and more forced, like teenagers who wanted to show as many passers by as possible what a good time they;’re having, Peter and Goran walk ahead, handing off a bittle of wine, which they alsooffer Denis. She doesn’t drink at all, and Denis declines a swig as well, probably because of her. They had emptied one in the park, before the evening fell and peter and Goran will clearly finish the second on the to the condcert hall.

They drink but Denis is influneced a bit by Mary into not drinking .

This is a layered book as we see all the four-character go from the starting point of a band at 16 and the way post-war in Slovene. The path of each character reflects on things that happened. From the quick wealth post-war that was available and corruption in the two men that remain Peter and Goran. Denis’s tale is a fragmented one as he has disappeared from the people’s lives but also his lies pf place and identity than being in a library of books and discovering a wider world as he read through from one ward. Then Mary is an outsider looking in one the three boys and their lives it is about what haunts them in that boast the loss of a friend but also they in some cases have lost themselves to the future. It is a small window into the war years and aftermath one four people in Slovenia without giving us a solution to there actions or an end or as the tile say the end and again!  Remember to support or small presses through this madness!

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