Zero by Gine Cornelia Pedersen

Zero

Zero by Gine Cornelia Pedersen

Norweigan fiction

Original title – Null

Translator –  Rosie Hedger

Source – review copy

Today sees the start of Woman in translation month a month that has taken off over the years I haven’t much planned but will try and fit a few books in among my Spanish and Portuguese lit month books. So to Kick off I have a powerful debut novel from Norway from Gine Cornelia Pedersen is both a writer and Actress this her debut novel won the Tarjei Vesaas award for a first book. She has also starred in the tv series Young and promising also Valkyrien both of  which are  on Walter in the Uk.

I’m 10 years old

I absorb everything unfiltered

I think that gos is listening whien I pray

I’ve seen three dead bodies, two old and one young

I cry at night and feel as if I’m all alone and no one can save me

I feel sorry for mum and dad

I realise that the concept of home has never truly existed.

I think about the fact that when I grow up and I’m allowed to decide things for myself, my joy will be complete.

I feel certain I’m going to live forever, but I think about death almost every day

The opening lines even at ten there is something in what she says that seem more than a normal ten year old would say.

This is a story told in Burst the narrator is a yoiung woman growing up. We follow her from teenager till she is in her early twenties. We find her life told in single sentences. like tweets where when they first started this is a novel in pieces.  This is a tale of a woman on a downward spiral of her life. We are let into her troubles bit by bit from the early feeling of being trap. Also not wanting to be too visible as her body changes in her puberty. Her wanting to go to Oslo. She has  a spilit with her boyfriend  of two years before she goes to the city. When she finally gets her mother to let her go. Then a spiral of self abuse, drugs and violence she ends upo for the first time in a ward then has a support worker. Then Peru and getting their becomes a dream that she finally does susing her benfit money to get there but then ends up on a holidat from hell with Men and drugs that leads her down a disaterious hole.

People on the stret stare at me

Everywhere I go they stare

I scream at one woman on the tram

Tell her she’s a bad person, that it’s people like her who are destroying the planet

She loooks away

I tell her she can look the other way for what it is worth she can turn away, but that only makes things worse

I ask if there’s something odd about me

She shakes her head

I tell her that she’s one who’s odd, with her ugly clothes and her wrinkles

Money can’t save her, I tell her

She can’t take her fur coat to hell

Later you she her parnoia when she verbally attacks a woman on the tram thinking it is her that is in the wrong for starring at her.

This was described a being like a Punk rock single by a revieew in Norway. The style is like a punk song short repeative sentences thart are like snapshot and captured insights into a life falling apart and how Mental helath can affect someones life so completely. The narrator is always claiming to be better as she hates her meds and said she doesn’t want them on more than one occasion but as the book goes on youn can see how a life can fall apart and that the drastic nature of someone offf their meds for a serious mental health issue can lead her as in the book to a far away country and into the arms of preditary men. Which leads to her downfall as she heads towards Zero. An interesting debut novel about a subject that isn’t touched enough in fiction. That of Mental Health but also what it is like being inside that downward spiral that to the narrator doesn’t seem a downward spiral.  read it in a day the pace is so fast with these choppy sentences you get drawn through the world she lives in as she describes some horrific events in snatches. This is the latest book from Nordisk books there third book 

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They won’t take me alive by Claribel Alegria

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They won’t take me alive by Claribel Alegria

El Salvadorean biography

Original title – No Me Agarran Viva

Translator – Amanda Hopkinson

Source – personal copy

I move from Brazil and into Spanish lit from Central America. Claribel was born in Nicaragua but considered herself Salvadorean and was a driving force in central America woman’s literature she wrote ion many styles Poetry and Novels. She also wrote non-fiction and this book follows one of the female rebel leaders of the Guerilla war in El Salvador. Claribel also translated a lot of Poetry into Spanish particularly Rupert Graves. She also compiled one of the earliest collection of Latin American boom works  “New Voices of Hispanic America”.She also won the Neustadt prize.

It was 4 january. Only thirteen days ago. she had barely three and a half years to spend with Javier. They conversed intently while Ana Patrica played with her rag doll.

They had reviewed their seven years together, four of them spent in hiding. They remembered the threantened miscarriage and congratulated themsleves on the happy outcome, there in person and tugging at Eugenia’s hand that she come and take a look at a caged bird. Was it going to be the last goodbye?

From the opening chapter one fo the last meeting of husband and wife the caged bird mademe think of Maya Angelo poem.

I was pleased to have found this old woman’s press copy of this book. The book follows the life of a Female Guerilla leader one Commander Eugenia a female leader that inspired her fellow female freedom fighters. Claribel follows her life from her early years her father died when she was and looking after her sister as the eldest of the three. One of her sisters recalls her taking her to see the slums. Her parents were Christians and had fled from Nicaragua when Ana (Eugenia real name). We see her being drawn to the parties that oppose the government and then into the guerilla movement. She meets her partner Javier. They also had children we see as she crosses the countryside in just her sandals. Even working whilst she was pregnant. We follow her life on the run through her comrade’s eyes and reportage of what she did. A story of a woman who fought for her cause and gave her life for it.

My mother has a very strong character, and Eugenia inherited this from her. My mother never became overwhelmed in the face of difficulties.There is a inherent contradiction in this. People would say to us :”Your mother is a widow and you have to help her out”, but the the truth of the matter is that she would never be helped. She ran the buisness all on her own. Previousluy, during the daytime, Eugenia used help her, and at nught she completed the shores and studied. Later ion she abandoned the income producing work and carried on with the housework and attending University.

I spent several months with my mum but from then on we were committed to the revolutionary struggle. Ondina was still at school. I left home, I really wasn’t capable of maintaining the buisness, and we had skills more relevant to the people.

Marthe Eugenia sister saying her mother had the same grit as her sister did that drove them all forward.

I am a pack rat when it comes to books. I am a devil for second-hand bookshops as I am always wanting to find books like this lost gems. The conflict in El Salvador is a conflict I remember from my youth. I find it strange how much our news coverage has shrunk over the last few decades we used her a lot more about conflicts like this one. This is a well-drawn account of one woman but in her account is a reflection of a hundred or thousand other women that took arms in the Guerilla wars that swept across Central America through the later part of the 20th century. It shows the journey of many people from events in the childhood that made her poltical. The cause that drew her further in the man she met that shared her cause. I was touched by her story.

Sergeant Getulio by Joao Ubaldo Ribeiro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sergeant Getulio by Joao Ubaldo Ribeiro

Brazilian fiction

Original title – Sargento Getulio

Translator – Curt Meyer-Clason

Source – personal copy

I again am in Brazil and another tale involving Police this time it is a tale of a military policeman. The writer like Rubem Fonseca is one of the best known Brazilian writers. Joao Ubaldo Ribeiro was first a journalist whilst he studied law. But in the mid-sixties had to leave Brazil for a year Then on his return to Brazil he at first lectured in Political science. Then he chooses to become a writer. This book was his second book and he went on to write many more before his death in 2014 at which time he was considered one of the greatest Brazilian writers. This book was made into a film.

Even now that I’ve lost some authority I still have my influence. I habe good backing back in the capital city of Aracaju and my name isn’t Getulio if I’m to give it up all of a sudden. Espeacially after delivering you. There is some good feeling for you in Aravaju, people in you favour. One of tjose things. I don’t liike this assignment, I don’t like to escot prisoners. It puts you out of face. After I take tyou there I’ll set up my quarters somewhere and give up this footloose life.

He hartews this last job and it shows how fragile his postion is as the man has friends in the City as well.

The book takes the form of a monologue. The main monologue is that of Sergeant Getulio as he heads to the backwaters of Brazil for what is his last job and that is to fetch a prisoner a local political leader a conservative politician that has been ordered to be brought to the city of Aracaju. The man is accused of a bombing. What we see over the course of the book is the volatile politics of the time as the man situations changes halfway through the journey when the government is overthrown. But the Sergeant decides to carry on regardless and ignore those order that tells him to release the prisoner. Getulio is a man of his word and will take the prisoner he is also a violent man that has killed and has committed much violence in his career as we see in flashbacks over his life in the stream of consciousness. He also dreams of his children and what they will do a world full of people with a similar resolve to him.

I never thought I was going to behead the Lieutenant, at least I never thought about it clearly , I mean , I never said “Getulio, lets cut off this nuisance of a lieutnants head.” I hadn’t even noticed he was a lieutenant until he came near, but I also saw that he was more of a bastard than anything else.

A short thought about when he killed the lieutenant I loved the line of him being a bastard and him not seeing the rank at first.

Another violent book the man character of this at one point cuts a superior officers head off for trying to stop him doing his job. That is the sort of man he is below the violent he is one that when given his order must do it. In a way, I was reminded of an interview with a German army officer in world war two that tried to take Berlin when ordered to do so the same blind action is here but unlike that soldier, this one won’t finish his job so he delivers the prisoner to the city he has been ordered too. There is a strange feeling as at times in the narrative as thou they are stuck in their own world away from the outer world. It seems like these two men locked in the journey to nowhere really. It is a view of the everchanging world that was Brazilain politics at the time which lead to Ribeiro himself spend time outside Brazil. The book shows how one man can be both violent and honorable to his own beliefs at the same time. Getulio is a man struggling to be a hero. this is a wonderful Modernist novel from Brazil from a writer considered one of the best writers of his time.

 

Scenes from a childhood by Jon Fosse

Scenes from a childhood by Jon Fosse

Norwegian short stories

Original title (part of ) – kortare Prosa

Translator and selector of the collection – Damion Searls

Source – review copy

It is strange I choose this book today. As it was just a couple of days ago we found out that the Nobel prize for this year is due to be announced in a years time alongside the 2019 Nobel. Well, today’s writer Jon Fosse is a writer that has been slowly climbing the ladder of Nobel betting. He has written a number of Novels and plays. He has won various awards Including the Nordic lit prize and the French order of merit. I have featured him in his novel Aliss at the fire . So I was pleased to see a collection of his stories, coming out from Fitzcarraldo.

THE AXE

One day Father yells at him and he goes out to the woodshed, he gets the biggest axe, he carries it into the living room and puts it down next to his father’s chair and asks his father to kill him. As one might expect, this only makes his father angrier

One of the vignettes from the first piece.

 

This is a number of stories collected together the first part of the collection is a collection of Vignettes about a childhood , there is a child like sense to the prose from Father holding an axe, through those points in childhood when things start to be notice like the time someone has a pink handbag, girls, the first smoke, the odd youth Asle we see through the young boys eyes drunk at first on some community steps and then later the older lads father grabs the youth as some pallets come crashin down on the dock near where he just was. Then we have a longer novella which in some ways had a similar theme to the curious incident of the dog in the night as a dog is killed. This death involves a dispute between neighbors. It is told from a young boys perspective so we see his view of the world. Then the last part is an older brother still a young voice talking about his young sister in another collection as his sister is born and the times they have together like falling asleep in the same bed his sister’s hands in his hair.

I think the man by the bend has shot your dog.She says

I hear her say that she thinks the man by the bend has shot my dog. What ? what is she saying? shot the dog? What can she mean someone’s shot my dog.

I saw the go and I heard a bang.

What the fuck is she saying ? shot the dog ? What the fuck does she want ?

Just now, she says

Shot the dog? I say

Yeah. I saw the dog, she says. I saw the dog run up to his house and then I heard a bang, it had to be a gun.

I looked at her and I know that if someone’s killed my dog i’m going ti kill whoever did it

THe novella “And then my dog will come back to me ” about a dog dying and who did it

This has a real sense of a writer at the height of his powers. That as a writer Fosse likes to use the bare minimum view of the world. These stories show what a subtle touch can do, these stories are like the diamond that is seen by the diamond cutter as they see it in the rough diamond each story has been cut and polished til they sparkle. The vignettes are like a captured glimpses of a life almost like the snatches of dreams those glimpse we each remember in the morning maybe not even place or time just what happened. Fosse has been compared to the greats and as this is the second book by him I have read and I am still left wanting to try more. Have you read Fosse?

 

After the winter by Guadalupe Nettel

After the winter by Guadalupe Nettel

Mexican fiction

Original title – Después del invierno

Translator – Rosalind Harvey

Source – personnel copy

I move on to Mexico today and a rising star of Mexican fiction. I had reviewed an earlier novel by Guadalupe Nettel The body where I was born a couple of years ago.This book won the Preimo Herralde one of the leading prizes for Spanish language fiction. Her books have been translated into ten languages. She also featured in the group of writers picked for Bogota 39 for the best Latin American writers under 39 in 2007.

I became Ruth’s lover convinced that in terms of love I was handicapped. At first, my attraction to her was minimal. I was seduced in large part to her elegance, her expensize shoes and perfume. I met her one evening at my friends Beatriz’s house, a swedish woman who had emigrated to New York at the same timeas I had, and who shows in a couple of SoHo galeries. Betriz has a loft decorated with funiture from the 70’s she has collectedfrom garage sales she often goes to.

Claudio on how he meet his older woman Ruth.

The story focus on two people first we have Claudio a young Cuban living in New York. Her has a rather small flat that opens out in to a wall. But it is the location of the flat that is the bonus Manhatten then he is in a relationship with an older woman Ruth. He has a strange relationship with her where he is in control of there relationship. He is a man of rigid habits he is a book editor, A man above overs in his ways sometimes. We meet Cecilla a young Mexican woman who has come to Paris to study literature. This young woman is drawn to the great graveyard of Pere-Lachaise. He flat overlooks this graveyard. she spends time wandering looking at the famous grave Chopin being one of them. I am always amazed how often Chopin crops up in books. he leads such an interesting life thou and such a young death as it is noted in the book. Now Cecilla notices her neighbor is also drawn to the graveyard they chat. But this is a short relationship. The book follows these two each t=chapter told by one of the other as we see how Claudio by chance ends up in Paris.

“Is there something wrong?” I said defensively as I opened the door. I was wearing my own annoyed expression.

“The radio” He replied, like someone giving a password.

I was silent for a few seconds, trying to understand what he was refereing to, but it was useless.

“It’s been on in your room for more than five days and you haven’t eveb got the decency to turn the volume down at night.”

His reply surprised me. By that point, the presence of the radio had become a background noise I never thought about.

“If it annoys you that much I can turn it off” I said, to put an end to the matter.

Cecilla meets her neighbour Tom for the first time after this the two are drawn closer for a time.

The other novel I reviewed by Nettel saw a woman growing up.  Here we see a shy woman experiences Paris and has a small chance when she meets her neighbour but he isn’t so well and just as things seems to be going one way he has to leave to the country. Then we see Claudio a man living his in his world that he has drawn so many lines he is a man tied by not want to let himself free. His vanity at times is huge. So we have two people each with there own quirks and on different continents but like Chaos theory there is that one chance like a butterfly wing flapping causing something larger this is a book that follows two characters ripples in the world and wonders what happens when they collide. I love Cecilla as she wanders this graveyard looking at the names of those there.

 

This is a call anyone want be a shadow Man booker international 2018 juror member ? update

 

 

I have with Tony of Tony’s reading list have run for the past six years a shadow jury for the old IFFP prize and the last two Man Booker international prizes over this time we have reviewed every book on the longlist. I’m not sure how many reviews we have produced over this time but with every longlist having at least three reviews it has to be in the hundreds by now. Well this year after a number of years some Jurors are taking a year off or have other plans,.So I m asking if anyone wants to join in we don’t get sent any books so it is a commitment to buy borrow or beg the books on the list. The longlist comes out on the 12 and we have a month to read and choose our shortlist from the books on the longlist. please contact my self or tony via comments or email or twitter etc if you are interested in joining ?

A quick update, I have stood down as I have decided it is my time to move on so I will ask everyone to  contact Tony about the shadow panel.

Warwick prize for woman in translation Longlist

One of the things that has come about due to things like the woman in translation month is this new prize. The longlist has announced a mix of Adult fiction, Children’s fiction and Poetry. It is great to see a mix of lit in a prize. My personal favourite is the book from Istros life begins on Friday as Susan has been so supportive of this blog over the years.

  • The Art of being a Tiger by Ana Luísa Amaral, translated from Portuguese by Margaret Jull Costa (Liverpool University Press, 2016)
  • The Song of Seven by Tonke Dragt, translated from Dutch by Laura Watkinson (Pushkin Children’s Books, 2016)
  • Clementine Loves Red by Krystyna Boglar, translated from Polish by Antonia Lloyd-Jones and Zosia Krasodomska-Jones (Pushkin Children’s Books, 2016)
  • Second-hand Time by Svetlana Alexievich, translated from Russian by Bela Sheyavich (Fitzcarraldo Editions, 2016)
  • Life Begins on Friday by Iona Pârvulescu, translated from Romanian by Alistair Ian Blyth (Istros Books, 2016)
  • Memoirs of a Polar Bear by Yoko Tawada, translated from German by Susan Bernofsky (Portobello Books, 2016)
  • The Fox was ever the Hunter by Herta Müller, translated from German by Philip Boehm (Portobello Books, 2016)
  • Eva Sleeps by Francesca Melandri, translated from Italian by Katherine Gregor (Europa Editions, 2016)
  • Mirror, Shoulder, Signal by Dorthe Nors, translated from Danish by Misha Hoekstra (Pushkin Press, 2017)
  • Swallowing Mercury by Wioletta Greg, translated from Polish by Eliza Marciniak (Portobello Books, 2017)
  • Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin, translated from Spanish by Megan McDowell (Oneworld Publications, 2017)
  • Swallow Summer by Larissa Boehning, translated from German by Lyn Marven (Comma Press, 2016)
  • The Dutch Maiden by Marente de Moor, translated from Dutch by David Doherty (World Editions, 2016)
  • Record of a Night Too Brief by Hiromi Kawakami, translated from Japanese by Lucy North (Pushkin Press, 2017)
  • Mårbacka by Selma Lagerlöf, translated from Swedish by Sarah Death (Norvik Press, 2016)
  • The Coast Road by Ailbhe Ní Ghearbhuigh, translated from Irish by Michael Coady, Peter Fallon, Tom French, Alan Gillis, Vona Groarke, John McAuliffe, Medbh McGuckian, Paul Muldoon, Michelle O’Sullivan, Justin Quinn, Billy Ramsell, Peter Sirr and David Wheatley (The Galley Press, 2016)

I have read four of the books from the longlist and have also reviewed other books by a couple of the writers. Nice to see the first longlist of this new prize more details about the prize. Have you read any books on the list?

Two Japanese classics

I hadn’t been to the local Oxfam (sorry anyone locally it has very little in translation on its shelves as I have them!) for ten day which for me is a long time due to training last week and other things I hadn’t got to town. But I was pleased to find two Japanese classics one had been on my radar a while and the other is by a writer I have tried before and want to try again as my first encounter wasn’t the best but everyone rates him as a writer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First up is Kobo Abe’s Woman in the Dunes, a modern classic that is also a well-known film. It follows seven years in a man’s life as he is trapped by the woman in the dunes. A cat and mouse tale as the two try to escape and the woman uses here female sensuality to keep him there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then we have another backlist book from Peter Owen (i do wish they’d make more of the backlist it is one of the best around) this is by Yukio Mishima whose sailor who fell from grace with the sea, I really didn’t get along with since then I have brought a couple of his books to read . Looking back it reminds me it is a year and half since I reviewed a book from Japan so I need to address that missing Tonys Japan in January which is when I would save my Japanese books to read.

What gems have you found recently ?

Bodies of summer by martin Felipe Castagnet

Bodies of Summer by Martin Felipe Castagnet

Argentinean literature

Original title – Los Cuerpos del Verano

Translator – Frances Riddle

Source – personnel copy

I just had another new talent from Argentina latest book arrive today Rodrigo Fresan The invented part an epic new novel to go along sidfe this slim yet thoughtful novella by Martin Felipe Castagnet shows that they are still producing great writers , this was Castagnet’s debut novel it won for young latin american literature when it came out. He is also the editor of The Buenos Aires review his books have also been translated into french and Hebrew.

When I went through the process of entering into flotation, my body was destroyed. At that time they hadn’t yet figured out how to conserve bodies and burn people into new ones.The technological advances we’ve seen since then have been astonishing. First mothers began to put their children on the waiting lists for new bodies . Just in case they were to die in an accident .Bodies came to be seen as a valuable natural resource .

One can just imagine what happens when this could become a reality not a novella !!

This is set in a distant future , in Argentina where they have managed to perfect capturing in computers the soul of the dying . this is story of Ramiro who has got his family to bring him back to life from the net  and floatation as they call it  , to sort out something from his past. Now the only body his family could find to upload the mind of one of the first souls to be saved on the net is that of a fat over weight middle-aged woman , which leads to a strange feeling in Ramiro as he feels the shape of his new body for the first time  and finds parts missing from it . But also he has n’t seen from the net world how much quicker and darker the world has gone. We also see even thou he has a different body and time has flown Ramiro still has a number of axes to grind. This is a future where the world isn’t limited by bodies anymore.

I still haven’t found my former best friend . I still haven’t discovered what happened to my wife. I can find any of her descendants. Teo doesn’t recognize me. I feel useless in my own home. My desire drives me forward , but I get frustrated when my desire can’t be fulfilled. To think that for decades I missed pain, and now that I’m back I’m incapable of feeling it .

Ramiro struggle to get use to the world he has missed and his new body !!

I am not a huge sci-fi fan but this isn’t Heavy sci-fi it use the future more as a way to question important questions about what our souls are , the body or the mind can the mind leave the body and return. I was reminded in some ways of Cronenberg films this is a dark view of the future where souls drift on the net and sometimes it is hard to tell who is in the body that is facing you .As it is hard to decide where you are as we see in the family his daughter was on the net with him and her brother and his son still lives in the real world.Even when brought back he finds it hard to escape the net Ramiro . This is like a dark side of the old kids tv series where joe of Joe 90 could take the mind of many people to save the day  and be an avatar like the bodies in this book can be used for revenge and death and so much more !!!

 

 

The Principle by Jerome ferrari

The Principle by Jerome Ferrari

French fiction

Original title – Le Principe

Translator – Howard Curtis

Source – review copy

Well from a new French writer to me yesterday with Pierre Senges to an old favourite of this blog Jerome Ferrari has had his two earlier books translated into English The sermon on the fall of Rome and Where I left my soul.  He won the Prix Goncourt with his last novel and lived in Abu Dhabi where he teaches Philosophy. but now lives in Casablanca , like his other novels I have read this is a look back at recent history this time he has looked back at those fever years of the war when scientists where trying to build the Bomb.

You were twenty-three years old , and it was there, on that desolate island where no flowers grow, that you were first granted the opportunity to look over god’s shoulder,There was no miracle, of course, or eve to be honest , anything resembling God;s shoulder, but to give an account of what happened that night, our only choice, as you know better than anyone, is between metaphor and silence . For you , there was first silence, then the blinding light of an exhilaration more precious than happiness

This the time he made his famous uncertain principle

we are drawn into the world of Germany in the  early 1930’s  and onwards when the country falls under a dark shadow of the Nazis,  we follow the life of Werner Heisenberg , a man best known know for his uncertain principle .We glimpse into his world one of knowledge , but he was best known for something he worked out many years earlier his principle . we see his life unfold drawn into the Nazis world of the hunt for the Bomb as he was the one that made classic science become the atomic age of science he is at the forefront. What we see is how a man of science and his own principles has to walk a tight line of the age he is trying but not trying if you know what I mean ! Faced with a world he didn’t expect to be in from those early days  of discovery .

They’re all bored to death

Something in them becomes gradually worn pout over the  endless weeks

Professor Heisenberg plays Mozart sonatas, by heart on the piano. Nobody listens to him anymore. Every day, Professor Hahn walks for hours in the garden, never tiring .He calculates the distance he’s covered. If he’d walked straight ahead , he would have crossed the sea. By know he would have been ages in Germany

They struggle to get the Bomb made .

This was a clever novel that is a good autobiography in a novel form of a figure , that was at the heart of the burning atomic age a man who provide the turning point in the way people thought of Physics. Like his earlier books lament and sorrow under lie the main character in a way also like his earlier books he deals with how people deal with those situation where we have no chance to turn and the world seems in utter chaos. In Where I left my soul it was the Algerian war and the sermon which was an angrier look back at his childhood homeland  as ever using his poetic writing style to look at one person struggle in this world . Here it is the madness of the Nazis and Hitler wanting the Bomb before the allies. There is similarities in style too In search of Klingsor by Jorge Volpi which was also a look at the same group of people in this novel from a different angle where they try to find the top man in the programme. An interesting look at the times .

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