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.

 

Shadow MBIP 2016 Jury

Well it has come round again . We have a new name no more Independent foreign fiction prize, no we have The new combined prize the Man booker international prize it is the same roughly as the IFFP was on March tenth we get a longlist of 12 or 13 book (we may do the same as last year and call in a book ourselves if we think a great book has missed the cut like the zone last year ) Then around the 14th April the day the actual shrotlist is announced we will announce a shadow shortlist then a winner in May .

Stu Allen is returning to chair the first Man Booker International Prize shadow jury after hosting four shadow IFFP juries.  He blogs out of Winstonsdad’s Blog, home to 500-plus translated books in review.  He can be found on twitter (@stujallen), where he also started the successful translated fiction hashtag #TranslationThurs over five years ago.

 

Tony Malone is an Anglo-Australian reviewer with a particular focus on German, Japanese and Korean fiction.  He blogs at Tony’s Reading List, and his reviews have also appeared at Words Without Borders, Necessary Fiction and Shiny New Books.  Based in Melbourne, he teaches ESL to prospective university students when he’s not reading and reviewing.  He can also be found on Twitter @tony_malone

 

Clare started blogging at A Little Blog of Books four years ago. When she’s not doing her day job in London, she blogs mostly about contemporary literary fiction and particularly enjoys reading books by French and Japanese authors. Twitter: @littleblogbooks

 

Tony Messenger is addicted to lists, and books – put the two together (especially translated works) and the bookshelves sigh under the weight of new purchases as the “to be read” piles grow and the voracious all-night reading continues. Another Tony from Melbourne Australia, @Messy_tony (his Twitter handle) may sometimes be mistaken for the more famous Malone Tony but rest assured they’re two different people. Messy Tony can be found at Messengers Booker (and more) and at Messenger’s Booker on Facebook – with a blog containing the word “booker” why wouldn’t he read this list?

 

Lori Feathers lives in Dallas, Texas, and is a freelance book critic and member of the National Book Critics Circle.  Her recent reviews can be found at Words Without Borders, Full Stop, World Literature Today, Three Percent, Rain Taxi and on Twitter @LoriFeathers

 

Bellezza is a blogger from Chicago, Illinois, who has been writing Dolce Bellezza for ten years. She has run the Japanese Literature Challenge for 9 years, and her reviews can be found on publisher sites such as Penguin Random House, Simon and Schuster, Peirene Press, and SoHo Press. It is her great joy to participate in the shadow jury for the Man Booker International Prize with fellow participants who are experts in translated literature.

 

David Hebblethwaite is a book blogger and reviewer from the north of England, now based in the south. He has written about translated fiction for Words Without Borders, Shiny New Books, Strange Horizons, and We Love This Book. He blogs at David’s Book World and tweets as @David_Heb.
Grant Rintoul is a Scottish reviewer who lives on the coast not far from the 39 steps said to have inspired Buchan’s novel. Luckily the weather is generally ideal for reading. He blogs at 1streading, so-called as he rarely has time to look at anything twice. He can sometimes be found on Twitter @GrantRintoul

Mend the living by Maylis De Kerangal

 

Mend the living by maylis De Kerangal

French Literature

Original title Réparer les vivants

Translator – Jessica Moore

Source – review copy

I said earlier this year I wanted to reach a 100 french novels this year, the main reason is there is so much great fiction coming from France in recent years and here is another writer I have found to add to the list . I know Maclehose have high hopes for this book and I as a reader can see why they have .This is Maylis De Kerangal fifth novel and the second one to be translated to English she has won a number of prizes in her native France. She lives in Paris.

Christopher Alba, John Rocher, and him, Simon Limbeau. The alarms were ringing when they pushed back the sheets and got out of bed for a session planned by text a little before midnight, a session at half-tide, only two or three like this a year – rough see, regular waves, low- wind and not a soul in sight. Jeans , shirt, they slipped outside without a bite, not even a glass of milk or handful of ceral, not evena crust of bread

Hungry and early in the morning simon and his mates head to the Surf on a day that will be like no other for him .His last !

The book follows one day and a number of lives that follows one death and that is the death of the title character Simon a 19-year-old surfer full of life, he has woken very early  to catch the surf  as he usually does, what we see is the early morning race to the beach he has made many times before  and the group of surfers there on the beach the sights and scents of being a surfer  . Then this scene is blown open, when  we see the accident  that has happened to Simon and he is in an ambulance the action then follows to a nurse as he arrives at the hospital and his parents decide to donate his organs.We see how one man has touched so many over the space of one day from his friends and family to those he donates to and all those along the way in this rollercoaster last day of a French Surfer.

He’ll be a donor

Sean is one to make this statement and Thomas Remige gets up from his chair abruptly, shaky, red thorax expanding with an influx of heat as though his blood was speeding up , and walks straight towards them. Thank you. Marianne and Sean Lower their eyes, planted like stakes in the office doorway, wordless their shoes mark the floor leave sludge and black grass, they themselves are over whelmed by what they’ve just done, by what they’ve just announced – “Donor” “Donor” “don-ate” “Aban-don” the words clang together.

The minute his parents choose to let him go their Simon.

 

What we have here is an event that takes place every day and that is that  someone dies, but they choose  to  live on in the donations they make of their organs. What Maylis has done is taken the moment this happens. This is like the Hadron collider of a book Simon  on one side and the people he will help on the other side.  are like the two particles waiting for that one moment this two collide  and start a new life at the  moment of creation ! This book is about heart Simons heart which goes to the heart of France Paris to be reborn in an Old woman.So Young man gives an older woman life from his own death. The prose is written in a fast furious style  almost like the surf that Simon has ridden through his young life you are on the crest of a wave a vibrant writer and a vibrant translation by Jessica moore make this a ride that will leave the reader breathless.

Have you read this book ?

 

Conducting bodies by Claude Simon

conducting bodies Claude simon

Conducting bodies by Claude Simon

French fiction

Original title – Les Corps conducteurs

Translator – Helen R Lane

Source – Library book

I have reviewed a number of French writers of the last few years that have all been identified as Noveau Roman writers such as Sarraute or Duras  both of which I have reviewed on the blog. Where each book the writer  tackled was a new style of story and book to them as a writer. Although he was included by many in this group Claude Simon himself didn’t count himself in the group of writers. Simon won the Nobel Literature prize in 1985.So when I found this book on my library system late last year I was pleased to try him.

In the display a dozen identical female legs are lined up in a row, feet up, thighs lopped off at the hip joint resting on the floor, the knees slightly bent, as though the legs had been removed from some chorus of dancers at the precise moment that they are all kicking  in unison, and put there in the window just as the were, or perhaps snipped out, in monotonous multiplicity, from some advertisement showing a pretty girl in her slip pulling on a stocking, or sitting on a pouf, or on the edge of an unmade bed

The opening lines of the book show you are in for a ride as a reader.

Well Conducting bodies belongs in the field of hard modernist novels, for there is no real plot to speak of other than we are told a writer is on his way to a writers conference that well could be a big city in america but equally given the time the book was written (early 1970’s ) when France was in love with all things US at that time it could france. Anyway or writers body isn’t working he visitis a doctor. Now this is the part you get the other parts is an interconnected collection of prose about bodies the human body, prints on the wall of the doctors , the models in the shop windows which is where the book opens from there on it is a rollercoaster ride of images and ideas

The airplane appears to be suspended motionless above the immense, unchanging layer of clouds, since each time that one glances at the fleecy humps stretching as far as the eye can see, the only thing visible are minute, nearly imperceptible changes.The only evidence that hour after hour is passing is the fatigue that is thickening little by little on his face, like a crust, accompanied by a slight burning sensation, as though he were suffering from a mild fever. It forms a sort of invisible mask of mud tat sticks to his skin,

The plane trip that may have happened or maybe not one can never tell in this book.

In a way the prose style setting and  style of this book were similar in a way to the  Robbe-grillet novel I review ed last year strangely another novel that was detached from place and time   in the way it was told. This maybe is Simon Homage to the style of writing that America produced in the middle of the 20th century some of Faulkner the way we have no fixed point in the narrative is similar in style to As I lay dying were we are given no guide to who is narrating the story.  But there is also a feel of something like William Burroughs a cut up feel to the nature of the book. This isn’t any easy book to get through no in a way it is like a lot great book trying to tackle the north face of Everest but when you reach the peak you get a real sense of achievement also the work that Helen Lane put into translating this book which must have been hard as there is no real plot to follow as you do so.I will be trying his books again as I come across them Simon is very much a French modernist writer as a look of Amazon tells me he hasn’t any books in print at the moment it seems.

Have you read Simon ?

 

The Meursault Investigation by Kamel Daoud

themeursaultinvestigation

The Meursault investigation by kamel daoud

Algerian fiction

Original title – : Meursault, contre-enquête

Translator – John Cullen

Source – personnel copy (books for Syria from waterstones )

Every year there is a few books in translation that seem to break free of being just in the circle of fans of translated fiction well last year this was one of those books, it made a lot of the end of year lists.It is also the winner of three prize in France. All this from a book that is based in an older book by the French writer Albert Camus  for what kamel Daoud has done is taken part of the story from the novel the Outsider where Meursault the anti-hero of The outsider kills an Arab(that is all we are told even thou this killing is mention as the main character in the book say 26 times the person killed is never mentioned just refered to as the Arab) .Well this is the story of The Arab as told 70 years later by his brother .

I’ll tell you this up front: The other dead man, the murder victim, was my brother. there is nothing left of him only me, Left ti speak in his place, sitting in this bar, waiting for condolences no one’s ever going to offer. Laugh if you want, but this is more or less my mission: I peddle offstage silence , trying to sell my story while theater empties out. As a matter of fact, that’s the reason why I’ve learned to speak this language, and to write it too so I can speak in place or a dead man, ao I can finish his sentences for him.The murder got famous, and his story’s to well written for me to get any ideas about imitating him.

Harum in the bar talking about his brother the dead Arab from the Novel The outsider.

This is the story of Harum , who tries to describe what happened 70 years earlier in the events that lead to the death of his Brother Musa, that killing on a sunny beach in an act of random killing by a French man on a sunny day  in Algeria seventy years ago as the country tried to break free of France. But the story follows harun life after that event as he starts to tell the wider story of post colonialism and in some ways the rise of islam in his country all this is a strange mirror to events that happened in recent years with the Arab spring seen as a freeing of the Arab world, which maybe it is could Daoud have written this book twenty years ago ? But also the heart of this is what has happen in France in the last years with a number of the people involved in the attacks having connection to north africa . A timely story of what scars remain from France’s time in North africa , well any western nation it could easily be india or pakistan the story could have come from a kipling story say .

Oh what a joke! Do you understand now? Do you understand why I laughed the first time I read your hero’s book? there i was , expecting to find my brothers last words between those covers, the description of his breathing, his features, his face , his answers to his murderer: instead I read only two lines about an Arab. the word “Arab ” appears twenty-five times, but not a single name, not once

Camus book doesn’t mention Musa name just calls him an Arab in the novel The outisder .

What Daoud has brilliantly done is taken a small character in a well-known book and given him a real life and a name. I reviewed The secret history of Costaguana by Juan Gabriel Vasquez , which took a character from the great Latin american novel of Conrad Nostromo and told his story from a native point of view rather like this book flipping the story to tell it from the other angle almost like a reply to the first book . why was Musa just called the Arab was he just the same as those bit part actors in the original Star trek given a red tunic and expected to die with no real name or back story.Daoud highlights what Camus missed the real person. This is the first of a number of books from last year I will be reviewing in the coming weeks as I look forward to the first longlist in the new man booker international coming in March as I try to wrap up some books i missed from the last year.

Have you read any great books based on another novel to start with?

 

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