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!

The other Name by Jon Fosse

The other name septology I-II  by Jon Fosse

Norweigan fiction

Original title – Det Andre Namnet 

Translator – Damion Searls

Source – review copy

I have twice before reviewed books from Jon Fosse I first reviewed him as he was a name that always is high on the list of Nobel Hopefuls. So when he made the Booker longlist I was happy.  He is a writer that is considered one of the best around the world at the moment and this is the first two-part of seven books. He has won the Nordic council prize and in Norway was given a Grotten one highest honors from the Norweigan royal families for his contribution to the arts. The translator learned Norweigan just to be able to translate his books. That is how good he is as a writer that said he isn’t the biggest on plot but there is more questioning within his writing on many levels.

The Art School, I think, and ever since my first show at The Beyer Gallery it was Beyer who’s sold my paintings, I think, and he always manages to sell almost allof them, but sometimes, in the first couple of years. I have to admit, they sold for a terrible price, to tell the truth, but most of the pictures sell for a good price now, and there are always a few that don’t sell for a good price now, and there are always a few that don’t sel, the best pictures too a lot of the time, and beyer doesn’t sell those ones cheap any more, he stopped doing that a loing time ago, He’d rather put them in what he calls the bank, the sideroom of the same gellery. Where he keeps and storees the lictures gthat aren’t in the show

He has brought his painting for years to help him make a living.

Here the question is one of what makes us who we are the two books tell the tales of an Asle and aging painter. They had a happy marriage but is now lonely with only his neighbor Aselik a fisherman and Beyer that runs a gallery that sells his work this is one story. But then in the same town is another painter Asle.  but this is where the paths split as one seeks salvation in people the other takes it in a bottle this leads to the usual questions of life why are we here. This is a slow work nothing really is quick it is a slow descent into the bottle and then the flip side of finding a different path out of grief this is about love but the aftermath of love those space in our world an artist can fill them with art but then as we have seen other time overs break and fall into the bottle. As they asses their lives they see that in the same place and same time things can be different. At times the prose cross and events in one life seem to be happening in the other lives.

You and this faith iof yours. Asleik says

I don’t always understand you, he says

But no one can think their way to god, I say

Because either they can feel that god is near or they can’t . I say

Because god is both a very faraway absence, yes well, being itself, yea and a very close presence I say

Maybe it’s like that for you. Asleik says

But it doesn.t really make sense, he says

God is there as well well faith and what it means at times .

I read an FT interview with Fosse in looking for info about this book he described his books as slow prose. He taught Knausgaard a long time ago. He is often compared to his pupil but I feel they are different this isn’t about his own life. In a way he is the anti-Knausgaard this is slow-moving works that explore the innermost thoughts and desires that drive us all but also those demons yes Knausgaard talks about demons in his life and his family but this is in a different way Asle’s show the flip side we all have like the dice man is life can sometimes just be broken down to a few decisions or events. so yes even a turn of dice can decide a life as death and loss of a loved one can lead to many different paths. I wonder where he will take us in the next five books this is the quiet man’s Knausgaard this is a work from a quiet man that loves to challenge his readers and himself as a writer. What are your thoughts of his writing I am a fan I like Karl Ove but this guy is next level to me he is one of the most human writers you can read?

Vlad by Carlos Fuentes

Vlad, a novel by Carlos Fuentes

Mexican fiction

Original title – Vlad

Translators – E.Shashkan Bumas and Alejandro Branger

Source – personal copy

I move to Mexico for the second stop on this year’s Spanish and Portuguese lit months. I am reviewing the writer that until the last ten years was the best-known writer from Mexico Carlos Fuentes. One of the great figures of the Latin American boom this was the last book he published while alive. He is best known for the death of Artemio Cruz he wrote over twenty novels in various styles and was often considered as a possible Nobel winner although he didn’t win that prize he won all the major prizes for Spanish language fiction.

“I wouldn’t trouble you, Navarro, if Davila and Uriate were available. I’m not going to call them your inferiors- subordinates sounds better – but neither will I forget that you are a senior partner, primus inter pares, and so are higher ranked in the firm. I am entrusting this task to you because first and foremost, I consider this a matter of utmost urgency ….”

Weeks laterm when the awful adventure had ended, I recalled that, at its beginning, I had chalked up the absence of Davila dn Uriate to luck. Davila was off on honeymoon in Europe and Uriate was tied up in a Judical embargo …

He is given the case it seems great as he is just getting back to work after his recent loss Yves.

This is a short book and is a clever take on the Vampire story. It imagines that Vlad the Impaler has decided he needs to leave Europe and has chosen Mexico city as his new home. The book opens as an estate agent is Yves Navarro a lawyer and he estate agent wife is tasked with finding a fort like home which will be easy to defend, against intruders,  have an escape tunnel and Blacked out windows. The two of them and their daughter are just getting over the death of their son. This is all for the strange  European Vladimir Radu. but maybe is he really Stokers  Vlad the Impaler. Vlad is putting himself into the couples live as he tells the narrator he loves his wife’s smell. Slowly, as he starts to get his way into the lives of this grieving family as he has viewed Mexico city and the way it is as his chance to feast on the city starting with Yves and his family. Could he bring their son back for them?

“Yes, boss” I said almost seetly, sensing his need for consolation. While feeeling myself vunerable because of my affection, memories, and even gratitude.

“You have to hurry. It’s urgent. Have a look at these papers”

He let go of my hand I took the papers he proffered and then walked toward the door. He said, as though from a great distance;

“From Vlad, you can expect nothing but evil.”

and in a lower voice

“Do you think I don’t have scruples or even a conscience I don’t have a fever burnong in my soul?”

I turned my back on him I knew that I would never see him again.

Yves starts to find out the real truth about his client !!

This is a very short book more of a novella than a novel it has echos of the great story by Stoker Yves and Harker in the original book both have wives or finances that Vlad seems to connect the two stories. Then him moving westward as well first to London at the turn of the century a sprawling city and the comparison is apt with Modern Mexico city the city is huge and perfect for Vlad. Then he has the grief of the family and the family story Yves and his wife Asuncion mourning the loss and trying too move forward. this is subtle take there isn’t the violence as in the Stoker book it is more about the menace and characters also about loss blinkering the main character as he heads with his wife into unkn=own waters with this odd European man who is he really with his black outfit just making him seem dark. An interesting last book from one of the great Latin American writers. Have you read Fuentes?

 

A long night in Paris by Dov Alfon

A Long Night in Paris

A long night in Paris by Dov Alfon

Israeli fiction

Original title –  לילה ארוך בפריז

Translator – Daniella Zamir

Source – review copy

I was sent this and usually maybe not into thrillers. As a youngster, I read more thrillers my father is a huge fan of the genre so growing up there was always a thriller around to read if I want. In recent years the only thriller writer I have read in English is Le Carre being a huge fan of the BBC versions of his smiley works in the 80s  I have read his books from time to time so when Dov Alfon work was compared to that of Le Carre it made me want to read it then when I saw Alfon himself had served in the 8200 unit on top of that had been editor of Ha’aretz the leading Paper in Israeli I knew this book would be one that was relevant and true to life.

Nine people witnessed the abduction iof Yaniv Meidan from Charles de Gaulle airport, not including the hundreds of thousands who watched the security camera footage once it had been posted online.

The intial report of the French police described him as ” an Israeli passenger, approximately twenty years old”, although a week earlier he had celebrated his twenty fifth birthday. His colleagues described him as “Mischievous”, some calling him “Childish”. They all agreed he was “Fun-loving”.

The opening chapter and the sense of how far info goes is caubght in the line about the camera footage !

A night in Paris opens when a young man a marketing man for a software company disappears with a woman in a sexy red dress after arriving at harle de Gaulle. Then another passenger from the same flight happens to disappear from his hotel room. The French police assign Commissaire Leger to sort the case. But also on the same flight, the two arrived on is the new head of 8200 unit Colonel Zeec Abadi Like Alfon that wrote the book is from Tunisia and had family in Paris he is on the way to visit his mother so he contacts his deputy in Tel-Aviv  lt Oriana Talmor to try and get info on the victims and what is happening to lead to the third side of the story a bunch of Chinese commandos sent and using the woman in red to get hold of certain people in the hold of certain facts. As the night goes on the bodies pile up and even in Tel-Aviv the deputy has trouble after falling out at a meeting and then she is subject to an attempt to be rape only saved by the fact she is very good a Krav mag. A long day will Zeev get to the kidnap victims back.

Oriana hoovered above Paris. She knew it was Paris because she could see the Eiffel tower below, and Abadi was waving to her. She landed softly beside him, like tinker bell. She wore a short, peach-coloured dress but she was not cold; it was a beautiful day with as blue a sky as only a dream might conjure. She asked Abadi weren’t supposed to be in uniform. Abadi said no. He was wearing a three piece suit but had fins on his feet; he told her they were going diving into the seine to find Rav Turai Yerminshi’s body and that she was dressed prefectly for the mission

THe two in aParis search for the second kidnap victim as they aim to search the river!

I like this it has a wonderful flow t the tale it is told in 120  short chapters each a little tale in itself as we wind our way around Paris and find out what is really happening it has some great thriller touches Zeev the main man has a touch of Bond and Smiley maybe more of the Smiley side the 8200 unit collects data and codes and is the leading technical unit of its sort in the world. That is what Alfon has caught this is maybe a new line in the thriller with China as the enemy. We also see technology and information as the new currency in the spy world. The place is something that is covered well here Paris is a great backdrop to the night of action here as we move around the city’s arrondissements. Every main character in a thriller needs his back team and in Oriana, he has a modern woman that has sharp wits and is his only ally at this moment.So all the box are tick for a great thriller add to that black suit Chinese commandos with heat seeking bullets you have great thriller it has been sold to make both a film and Tv series in Israeli. This is what Steve Jobs would have written as a thriller or Bill gates this is the modern thriller for the tech age where what we think and the information is paramount.

Vic City Express by Yannis Tsirbas

Vin city Express by Yannis Tsirbas

Greek fiction

Original title – Η Βικτώρια δεν υπάρχει

Translator – Fred A Reed

Source – review copy

It has been five years since I have featured a book from Greece, in fact, there are only three books on the blog. A quick look at Complete review shows there aren’t many modern greek novels out there. So I was pleased to get sent this slim novella by a young Greek writer Yannis Tsirbas. This book was shortlisted for the Greek national literature award. This book was part of the idea behind the well regarded greek Film Amerika square. The book has been published by Montreal based publisher Baraka books a few months ago.

I look him over and can’t resist the impulse to egg him on. I keep listening to his voice over the monotonous clicking of the train.

“And does it ever stink, pal! Hash and piss. They toke up, if you get my meaning, all along Heyden in old buildings just before Fillis street you get high just walking by . They kae a drag and then cut a slash right there on the sidewalk. Snort; then piss it off. Moroccans, Algerians, people like that. They’re the ones with dope; grows wild down there. And  the exact spot the Algerian was pissing the night before the Pakistani lays out his bed sheet and sells underwear the next day; see what I meean?”

The train passenger listens to him rant early on here.

This book is set on a train ride in the north part of Athens as we follow two passengers on the train one a loud mouth talking to the other about what he sees has happened to the Vic city as he starts talking about the place he knew and how it has changed in recent years with all the people that have come to Athens via Turkey. The shops they have opened and what they have changed about the Vic city. His fellow passenger keeps interrupting as we see him clearing the emails from his spam box these little glimpses of capitalism and the usual emails we all get for such things as HIV test and restaurants still being sent even thou there is an economic downturn. The book is formed as outburst each chapter is a separate monologue from one about kids at the school another start with having not eaten for a few days only a discarded sandwich and each of these tales are drawn back to the angry man’s bile about those immigrants he sees everywhere. The man tries to defend his position but as his words get harsh describing the immigrants as a cockroach. A stark view of modern Athens and how the economic crisis has brought the city to its knees but also drawn deep lines of hatred in some peoples hearts that see the city another way.

Three days. Since I ate. Three days. A cheese sandwich missing a bite. Some kid dropped it. Bang, a slap from his mom. And into the garbage. I fished it out. Ate it. Three days. A cheese sandwich. Head spinning. One step forward. Stop two steps; stop again. I’m at the square. Hungry. Thristy. Fountain. Water. I ask for money, Stretch out my hand. Ten Drachmas. Twenty. Nobody gives if you’re young. Dizzy. I remember what food was like. Hunger is like a dream. Taste of food.

Another voice describes there hunger in the chapter Happiness is a sandwich

 

Fred Reed says this book was inspired in some ways by the rise of the Golden Dawn movement in Greece a far-right party that had grabbed the populist view. The book is Greek but the beauty f the narrative that Tsirbas has used with no names and even the places are not fully seen as Athens landmarks. Means this could be anywhere in Europe where the right-wing Populist that have been taking power or gaining power. The way the Angry man talks about people you have heard many times before around Europe and here from UKIP to the national front in France. The man’s bile is so well caught as he describes the way these folk views the world full of hatred and the fact they see the world as one way, not another. They Blame immigrants for the countries woes. The book is only 90 pages and backs a punch I read it in an evening. A fresh take on the economic problems in Greece as they ride on a train.

River by Esther Kinsky

River by Esther Kinsky

German fiction

Original title –  Am Fluss

Translator – Iain Galbraith

Source – review copy

I have reread this for German lit month as I read it late last year and never reviewed it and had wanted to but as time flew this year I picked it up last week. Esther Kinsky is a German writer and translator she had lived in London for a number of years with her late husband the German to English translator Martin Chalmers. In her work as a translator of English books into German she had worked on books by John Clare his journey from Esse. That follows Clare walk in the countryside of 1841.  she also translated Iain Sinclair’s book which he followed in Clare’s footsteps and she has also done works by Henry David Thoreau of the books she has translated this three jumped out at me as they seem to connect to this wonderful novel.

The king stretched out his hands and the ravens gather around him. Several settled on his arms, shoulders and hands, briefly flapping their wings, lifting again and flying a short distance, then returning. Perhaps each bird wanted to touch him art least once, or perhaps they had no choice. Thus encirclircled by birds, he began to make gentle swinging and circling movements with his arms, as if they were haunted by a memory of wings

The King in the opening chapter see saw one evening a strange figure .

This is one of thos novels that have no real plot it is a meandering work just like the rivers our narrator tells us about. She is a German that has ended in our capital. She has then drift to Hackney and spends her time wandering the marsh-river area around the river Lea the book and many strands all come from these meandering walks the memories of her past and time in her childhood on the Oder and the single visit of her father but then the other people she meets eccentric character like the King a Man in a headdress that  I was never sure was just an imaged person a sort of modern take on the Crow King especially when she said he opened his arms and the ravens drifted around him. Or was this just an eccentric dress like a beefeater that wanders the river paths of the Lea? Then she meets orthodox Jews and other people that have ended up in this multicultural area like people from Former Yugoslavia leads to another digression to the rivers there many views of the rivers both in Europe and America she had seen over the years form a sort of memory of her life and also flow like a river as you read it.

What were my memories of rivers, now that I lived on an island whose thoughts were turned seawards, where rivers looked shallow and pretty, noticable only when they frayed into flats, or cut deep channels as they flowed out to sea ? Sometimes I dreamed of rivers I had known, rivers that cleaved their wat through plains and towns, rivers kept at bay by flood defences, or which rippled through the bright countryside. I remembered ferries and bridges and endless searching in unfamilar terrain for ways to cross a foreign river . I spent my younger years by a river that appeared to me in dreams when I ran a fever.

The river of my childhood was the Rhine. The chugging of barges

I remeber a few evening by the Rhine in my early twenties a much broader and buiser river than ours in the Uk in a way.

Now anyone that follows this blog knows that this is the sort of book I am a fan of those that can not be put in a pigeonhole. I pointed out that she had translated John Clare the peasant  poet and his walk of 1841 which was redone by Iain Sinclair another great writer around London and this is another grea\t view of that city from an outsiders eyes like Sebald she views the places she sees differently and drifts through time and place this is another book that would be great to map out the places mentioned on a google map guide like someone did with Sebald’s rings of Saturn if I ever have a spare week or two I may even try this myself as it made me think of the times I used to walk along the river Dane in Congleton growing up then past Alnwick castle with my first dog as I meet a whole host of people as Alnwick was always full of tourists and finally to the still canal waters of here my home and those cold mornings with my old pal Winston this is what great fictions do when a reader connects and that draws you into the tale.

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