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?

 

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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 .

Hah by Birgül Oğuz

Hah Birgul Oguz

Hah by Birgül Oğuz

Turkish Fiction

Translators –

Kenneth Dakan, Alexander Dawe, mark Wyers, Alev Ersan, Arzu Akbatur, Abigail Bowman, Feyza Howell, Amy Spangler and kate ferguson.

Original title Haha

Source – Review copy

When this dropped through the letterbox earlier this year, i noted on twitter that it was one of my favourite covers the lonely dog on the cover maybe lets you into more what is on the inside. that is one woman getting to grip with her own fathers death. This collection won the European union prize for literature in 2014 and meant this wonderfully short book could get a wider audience. Birgul lives in Istanbul and has written both fiction and non fiction in her time.

MY MOTHER DIDN’T GIVE BIRTH TO ME. On a whim she left me there under an acacia. And it came to be that I found myself at the foot of Acacia. It rustled and I held on, rustled and I held on. When I was still no larger than a bean I became the dark shadow of that looming tree.

Thank God my mother set me free too soon. I am cool and I am alone. I am the image and the shadow and the oasis to the spirit of the acacia, dripping from its heavy boughs. sentence is anguish to the soul and I never tasted of it. I am solitude. I am that which is distant to the world.

The opening lines of Hah which as I noted has Acacia trees in it as a motif

 

This is one of those books that falls between the lines of what it is a novella in stories, prose pieces or short stories. What we get is abstract poetic stories as one woman struggles to find the way to deal with her father’s death. His past as he grew up in the violent years of Turkish rule in the late 1960’s. There is recurring motifs like acacia trees which crop up in more than one story I feel the wider brim of the acacia is a metaphor for the lost father in a way . Metaphor as well water trickling is like her father’s life as it trickled away from him. A journey through the ways we mourn those closest  to us.We also see the old Turkish life and the modern Turkish world clashing.

She stepped outside. She felt the cold slap her across her face and – clack!- the tongue of the door snapped into place.She hurried down the fig-lined road and , as she turned into Long Meadow Street, shook off three word from the branches of her mind:time, paper, death

The acacia began to sway back and forth with rage of the wind, at its roots lay those three acrid words, fallen like unripe fruit. Then it bent down heavily, as if to unload its entire weight onto that of the morning in an aching march, delivering a clumsy sentence in a voice dark and deep yet vaporous.

Acacia again from one of the last stories but a bent broken tree now .

This is a short work 88 pages long and as I said is hard to pin down thew language is rich and given the fact it was worked on at a ten-day workshop for Turkish literature means you can see how many translators have tighten Birguls words to the beautiful piece we get here. Another triumph for world editions rarely do we see such short works as this translated into English. Birgul uses a variety of styles from poetic prose , to songs  and short stories as she put in her winning speech for the european union Literature prize  she wove these styles together like a cloth. She started writing the book after the loss of her own father. As her way to deal with the rage and loss of her father she also said this in her winning interview. A great new voice from Turkey to read.

Have you a favourite Turkish writer ?

Winstons Post Down the Una

Two books that I received this week .The first is a Novel that follows one man’s journey through the past through the Bosnian war , but also the world around him the river Una and also the flights of fancy every child and young man has. The book has the original cover and illustrations that were in the Bosnian edition of the book. This book won the European union prize for literature. Another gem from Istros books who as ever is bringing us the best of Balkan Lit .

Another arrival is a book I was told about a couple of years ago. I was lucky with a couple of other blogger to have an afternoon tea with the great Christopher Maclehose. Whilst having tea we were told that this book had just been signed to be translated and that Kurkov considered it his best book The book follows characters through the soviet years from the end of world war to to the edge of the crumbling communist world . The title comes from the inventor of the fuse for Dynamite. The book has a lot of what is best in kurkov it say I have reviewed two of his books before The milkman at night and his famous death and the penguin  and love the way he shows the madness and satirical side of the communist years.

 

The great swindle by Pierre Lemaitre

The Great Swindle

The great swindle by Pierre Lemaitre

French fiction

Original title – Au revoir là-haut

Translator – Frank wynne

I am carrying on my journey through books from last year that may make the MBIP2016 and next up is The Prix Goncourt historic novel from Pierre Lemaitre. and a book from one of my favourite translators Frank Wynne  He is better known for his Crime Novels Alex and Irene, I reviewed Irene and enjoyed it , but I was looking forward to this given it’s post world war one setting and the fact it won the Prix goncourt.

This later position was one espoused by Lieutenant d’aulnay-Pradelle. When talking of him, everyone dropped the first name the nobility particle, the “Aulnay” and the hyphen, referring to him simply as “Pradelle” since they knew very well how much this riled him, They could afford to do so, since Pradelle made it a point of honour never to express personal aimus.

The three of them at the start of the book in the same army unit and they have little respect for Pradelle the officer.

The book follows three French soldiers as they start to make their way post war in war-torn France. Now these three are trying to get their own back for the horrors of the war by running a couple of clever confidence tricks. The first two Albert and Edouard met just as the war is about to end in an incident that leaves one of them disfigured and the other with what is know called post traumatic stress disorder after the events that brought the two of them together out of the army they head to Paris and find the streets aren’t paved with gold , but find a clever way to make some money by conning French towns and villages as they go round selling fake war memorials . Then there is Lieutenant Henry D’Aulnay Pradelle is trying to get the hand of a wealthy heiress, but has to find a way to make money so gets a job burying the dead he was the man who sent the first two out on the job that caused them to end up the way they did on a fruitless mission, he is a real cad.What we see is how each man falls down their respective holes post war.

It was these workshops that had produced the magnificent sample coffin that had been sent to the war graves commission, a superb oak casket worth every centime of its sixty francs. Now that it had served its purpose in persuading the adjudicating committee, they could move on to more serious matters, to the coffins that would actually be delivered.

Pradelle sends a great coffin to bury the dead to the graves commission then actually makes some substandard ones in the place.

I loved this it was a slow burner to start as the war burns out,  as he starts to place the characters in their places for what is to follow post war  but as the book gets on the pace picks up some what as we see the three men each start to run their swindles. I think it is a shame the title was changed from Goodbye there , which as Lemaitre explains were the last words of Jean Blanchard a man shot in 1921 after he had done something similar to the title characters. For me one reason is to link this in the English mind to the great pieces of  lost generation literature The great swindle maybe brings to mind the Great Gatsby and as Gatsby in the book in one line of thought is meant to be a swindler that made his money in a very dark way it may be a connection not sure that is just my idea. in the afterword Lemaitre gives a list of world war one books that inspired him Barbusse and Jules Romains (I have Romains Verdun in my TBR pile ). He also notes a number of 19th century French realist writers for inspiring the style of writing in the book, I can see Pradelle is one character that could come from Dickens as Dickens was inspired by a number of the writers on Lemaitre list. The great swindle is a dark look at the underbelly of the post war lost generation and what happens when the dreams of peace don’t go as planned.

 

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