The salt of the Earth by Jozef Wittlin

The Salt of the Earth by Jozef Wittlin

Polish Fiction

Original title – Sól ziem

Translator – Patrick John Corness

Source – review copy

Some publisher do a great job at rediscovering old works that have fallen out of print or haven’t been translated into English or maybe were due a new translation the latter is the case for this book they brought out another book from Wittlin which was a success so they got a new translation of this book. Which first came out in English in 1941 and had been out of print for a long time. Jozef Wittlin had an interesting life join the Polish army then initially when they were combined into the Austrian army. He then studied in Vienna and joined with Joseph Roth his friend. He got scarlet fever and end up a prisoner of war working on a translation of the Odyssey. He after the war traveled Europe and promoted Pacifism and then s[ent time in France collecting his materials together to write the Salt of the earth which has the tale of an ordinary man caught up in the madness of World war One.

Piotr’s entire life involved carrying things. As a child he had suffered from that infamous Hutsul affliction for which the human face had the French to thank, apparently. Its symptons were typicalnose and certain defects of vision, which however, did not devolp further with age, Independently of the french Influences, Pitor body was also subject toEnglish ones, the rickets. And so France and England, those two warring elements that had done battle in the historical arena over man centuries, settled their differences in the body of a Hutsul child, To the end of his life Piotr remained bandy-legged.

PIotr is described here as a sort of uncanilly youth.

The novel begins high up in the war as the war begins and Franz Josef signs the papers to start the war. This is in contrast to the book itself which is based around one man’s experience of the war. That man Piotr Niewiadomski is what one would call a peasant he is an illegitimate child and has grown up as a rather Gangly uncannily youth. He dreams of a simple life working on the railways he is a porter but sees the chance to become a linesman. But he is now faced with the chance of being thrust into the war. He ends up as an Infantryman. He has t I wait until he leaves and as they are all due to leave there is a Solar eclipse leading to the feeling of the end of the world, but he is still on rails as he catches the train to Hungary this is where the story shows the madness of war when Piotr is caught up and gets on the wrong side of the sergeant this shows the madness of rank and war as they draw closer to the frontline and battles. It shows a simple man caught in the wheels of a war machine!

Pitor duties were exceptionally onerous in those days,but he managed. He had acquired a fondness for the railway – thatis, for the section entrusted to him. Every day, he walked the four kilometers to signal box 87, beyond which his responsbilties ended. He left his post only when Magda visited. She stood in for him competently, just like a legitimate signalman’s wife. The sight of young girl standing at her post with the little red flag had already on several occasions brought smiles to the weary faces of those returning from death. As if life itselfhad placed her on watch.

The rail is all he dreams about at the sart of the book.

This was meant to be [art of a trilogy of novels he had planned to write but he had the case with the other two works taken and lost at a later date which only a small fragment remain which is at the end of the book. It shows how hard it was for a simple man like Piotr to avoid getting caught up in the madness of the war he is like a polish baldrick maybe a bit cleverer than but a man that has a lover and a simple dream of being a linesman that because of the action in the first chapter. He gets sent to join the army and caught up in the madness of the war machine this is very like The way Blackadder describes his superiors they pay little head for the man on the ground at the front in that trench facing death. Whether today tomorrow but always there rather than planning and not taking part. This follows his own view of the War and his Pacifist point of view. It a shame we never knew more of the trilogy but it sits next to the great books of world war one as for me I have not read a book that captures the build-up to war so well and tension and horror of what was to come so well. Sasson in Fox hunting man captures the upper-class view somewhat but this is the lower ranks view. Another great discovery from Pushkin.

Lives and Deaths essential stories by Leo Tolstoy

Lives and Deaths essential stories by Leo Tolstoy

Russian Fiction

Translator – Boris Dralyuk

Source – review copy

It has been 8 years since I read the new translation of War and Peace by Tolstoy so when I was offered the chance to review a collection of stories by the master that revolved around life and death. I couldn’t say no when I was offered the chance to read these for new translations from Boris Dralyuk. The stories are mainly from later in his writing life the earliest is from 1859 the latest is from 1905. The main story in the collection is the Death of Ivan Ilyich a novella the pother three stories in the collection are Three deaths, pace-setter, and Alyosha the pot. all center around death.

The announcement was bordered in  black ” It is with deepest sorrow that Praskoyva FyodofovnaGolovina informs relatives and friends of the demise of her beloved spouse, Member of the appellate court Ivan Ilyich Golovin, which occured on 4TH Febuary 1882. The funeral will be held on friday at one o’clock in the afternoon”

Ivan Ilyich had been a collgue of the assembled gentlemen, well liked by all of them. He had been ill for several weeks; they had heard the illness was incurable.His position had been kept open, but itwas assumed that, in the event of his death, Alekseyev would be appointed to replace him.

The opening of Ivan Ilyich that sees him=s death notice and we then see what haopened in the weeks before.

Well,  the main part of this collection is the Death of Ivan Ilyich. Ivan is a Judge and has a settled life the story opens with people reading a notice of his death but then we see the events that lead to his death. He has just moved into a new house when he has a fall and gets pain on his left side, Then he starts to have a bad taste in his mouth as he gets worse one of his friends Peter sees his friend is getting worse. His wife Praskovya is well to put it one way more of a lady who lunches and has her own life and is only trouble when Ivan’s illness affects their activities together. Ivan questions after he gets the word from the doctor that he is going to die why it is happening to him. We have the three deaths of a noblewoman a lady is traveling on a coach and at the posting station is seen by a doctor who says she won’t make it home but she wants to be home to die. Uncle Hvedor an old coachman is dying in the common room of the posting station. we have a tree dying as the third death. The Pacesetter is set in a stable and told from the point of view of the horses in the yard. Then the last story Alyosha the pot about a quiet young man called the pot after he broke a pot when he was a youth and is a meek soul.

Alyosha was the younger brother. They nicknamed him Pot because one day his mother sent him to the deacon’s wife with a pot of milk, but he stumbled and fell, and the pot broke. His mother gave him a whipping and the boys teased hom, called him “Pot” .The nickname stuck – Alyosha the Pot

Alyosha was a thin little felow, with lop-ears (His ears were like wings), with a big nose. The boys used to teasehim, shouting “Alyosha’s nose is like a dog on a hill” There was a school in the village, but Alyosha didn’t have much time for it

THe youg mannamed pot is a meek young man in his lfe.

I hadn’t read Ivan Ilyich before so was pleased to have read this new translation from a Judge that in many ways his life with a wife that is caught up in her own world and a man that has maybe been to up himself that hadn’t seen his impending death coming it brings up the question of what our lives are valued for and even we think we may be entitled to live longer that is not always the collection the other stories show three different deaths from the highest and lowest of society to that of a tree. Then we have the goings-on of a  stable told from the horse point of view his imagining of their social world is interesting then the quiet Alyosha life is summed up in a mere ten -pages. The stories show how he viewed death change from the earliest story three deaths which were written nearly thirty years earlier than the other works the later maybe shows how when we get to view death differently the older we get.

The Marquise of O by Heinrich Von Kleist

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Marquise of O by Heinrich Kleist

German Literature

Original title – Die Marquise von O

Translator – Nicholas Jacobs

Source – review copy

Well I have only one before reviewed a book where it has two translations that was the double translations of Cre Na Cille that came out a few years ago well I have an updated translation of one of the greatest German writers works that of Heinrich Von Kleist a writer that influenced writers in particular Kafka he was describer in the encyclopedia Britannica as Kleist’s whole life was filled by a restless striving after ideal and illusory happiness, and this is largely reflected in his work. He was by far the most important North German dramatist of the Romantic movement, and no other of the Romanticists approaches him in the energy with which he expresses patriotic indignation. I have reviewed this a part of a collection a number of years ago but didn’t focus on this story.

In M -, An important town in Northern Italy, the widowed Marquise of O – A women of impeccable reputation and mother of well-brought up children, made it known through the newspapers that she had inexplicably found herself in a certain condition, that the father of the child she would bear should make himself known, and that out of regard for her family she was resolved to marry him. The woman who under the pressure ofirremeediable circumstances took such a strange step, risking universal derison with such fortitudewas the daughter of Colonel G

A sort of whose the father Jeremy Kyle style forthe time

The Marquis of O is a novella set during the Napoleonic wars. it starts with a startling piece from a newspaper THat in M a town in Northern Italy has found herself in a certain condition and she wants the father of the child to make himself known. She is the daughter of Colonel G and has arrived at his home in this state after her husband died some years earlier. The early part of the book follows the events leading to the Marquise ending up this way. which saw her home overrun by Russian soldiers and at the risk of being used by them she is saved by Count F who then saves her but later appears to have died and then return and he tries to gain the hand of the Marquise but in the meantime she has been cast out and is returning to her dead husbands estate.

THe Marquise came with her two children to the forecourt of the castle where shooting, now at its heaviest, was already lighting up the night, forcing her, out of her mind where she sould turn next, back into the burning building. Her she was unfortunate enough to meet a band of hostile riflemen just as she was intending to slip out by the back door. At the sightof her they suddenly fell silent and slung their weapons over their shoulders and took her with them whilst making abominable gestures.Tugged and pulled this way and that by hte terrifying pack fighting among themselves

Her fate seems doomed her when she ran into the gun men by her old house

This has many twists in the tale and like the best of Kafka there is a little of not knowing who is who here with no full names just Colonel G , count F and Marquise of O remind me of the way Kafka never used characters full names them there is the hint that the Marquise may have been raped not clearly in the book but there is a feeling that something is wrong with how the baby was conceived.. Will the count ever be able to make the Marquise his Countess ? The book leans on the lines that see the Count take the MArquise when she is very tired from the group of Russian soldier is this when they had relations? it isn’t said but implied. It is also a studied into how people react under stress Her father the Marquise, the Count each act differently.  I enjoyed this new translation I remember the story didn’t grab me much in the collection as I choose two other stories to describe in the collection I hope that Pushkin get some of the other Von Kleist works to translate especially An Earthquake in Chile and Michael Kohlhaas which where the two stories I liked in the other collection.

A nail, A rose by Madeleine Bourdouxhe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A nail, A rose by Madeleine Bourdouxhe

Belgian fiction

Original title – Sept Nouvelles

Translator – Faith Evans

Source – review copy

I featured a picture of this for my women in translation covers piece earlier in the week. I had read this a while ago as it came out in May but felt it was a great choice for women in translation month as it shows what Pushkin do so well and that is rediscovered writers that have disappeared here we have the Belgian writer Madeliene Bourdouxhe although she moved with her family at a young age to Paris  during world war one returning to Brussels to attend university, She married a maths teacher  and began writing during the war she was in the resistance . After the war, she frequently went to Paris meeting writers like Simone de Beauvoir and Raymond Queneau. This collection was published firstly in the late eighties and it great it is back in print in a Pushkin edition.

Come on, “he said, “get some change..”

She went in and returned with the notes. She watched Nicholas as he hung the hose back on the petrol pump and handed over the change; she watched the cas as it pulled out , re-entered the right lane, and disappeared in the direction of Masions-Alfort. At the garage over the way anpther car pulled in. The women who worked there was tall, gaunt and older that Anna, and she wore an old fashion chignon on the crown of her head , fastened not with hairpin but with four or five criss-crossing nails, which formed a rosette around the chignon, a real curiosity

I loved anna description of the woman over the road her hair sounds so unusual and destinctive with its nails holding it in place!!

This is a collection of stories all but one is told from a female point of view. The woman, on the whole, seem to maybe be a general vision of women in the pre and war years this book came out in 1944 the last story touches on this story Sous le point Mirabeau follows a Belgian woman, just become a mother and with many others trying to get into France. I liked another story Blanche it starts with a husband asking if his shirt is ironed but his wife is wistful dreamy Blanche doesn’t see her life as a housewife so doesn’t iron her short this is a woman that maybe is one the edge at one point when she heads into the woods with her son its dark he says but we are looking for squirrels to reassure him this scene makes you wonder what was going to happen . In other stories, we have one  Rene is the flip of the other stories a man looking at ordinary women lives this is a subtle collection of ordinary lives brought to life from Heartbreak to Trauma.

Blanche hurried along the path, holding her hand. Some drops of rain were still falling but the heat of the day lingering and the air was warm.

“Shall we walk through the wooods? Blanche said.

“Its all black in therem I’de be frightened” said Jean-Louis

“You mustn’t be afraid of the wood. We might see some squirrels in there …”

“Squirrels? All right then,” Said Jean-Louis

Blanche takes her son into the dark woods one night …

I held this back as it was so perfect for this month from the great cover art of a factory girl of the time a strong woman, an ordinary woman which is what Bourdouxhe captures so well in this book. she captures the voice and internal feeling of the women she writes about okay they are all very similar in character but they also show maybe the changing thoughts of the writer at the time this collection came out in 1944 a time when the writer her self had seen action in the resistance but women’s roles  in the home and workplace had changed during those war years. I feel this is an undercurrent in these characters from Blanche feeling unlike a housewife to trying to get to France in a crowd. There is a number of other books that the translator had translated inn the eighties lets hope they also get reissued. Have you read her books?

 

Thirty covers for #WITMONTH

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The second cover will be one I am reviewing this month as ever {ushkin press has turned up another lost gem this collection of short stories from the Belgian writer Madeleine Bourduxhe her stories of everyday life are full of color and depth.

Red Dog by Willem Anker

Red Dog by Willem Anker

Red Dog by Willem Anker

South African fiction

Original title – Buys

Translator – Michiel Heyns

source – review copy

This is the first title to be translated into English by the prize-winning Afrikaans writer Willem Anker. This book won four prizes. He studied Lit at the University of Stellenbosch his final dissertation sounds very interesting and also in a way links to this book. The nomadic self: schisoanalytical views on character subjectivity in the prose work of Alexander Strachan and Breyten Breytenbach. He is also now a teacher of creative writing at the same university. This book has been re-title in English its original title was Buys a border novel. 

With my father’s inheritance, I buy two cows and a dozen sheep. David Dimwit lets them graze on his part of the farm and they multiply. At eleven I am taller than my brother-in-law; at thirteen I’ll be more than six feet tall. During the day I herd cattle with Saterdog a bushman child, perhaps a year or so older than I, but younger of body, named, for no particular reason, for the sixth day of the week.

The early years of Buys life.

The book is the retelling of the life of Coenraad de Buys a real-life character that was an advisor to Xhosa chief and also friends to the missionary Johannes Theodorus van der Kemp. This is a story of a man that saw his father die when he was eight years old leaving him very little. He sets forth and the boy grows into a man. He is a trekker and man of the veldt. He spends time with his wives and various mix of children from his three wives over the years. There are little passaged that shows his world growing. He is a man of the wild veldts this is the late 18th and early 19th century and his home is under winds of change. This man married three times but over the years his farm grows and his power swells. He is one of these untamable wilds as they years go we see his life swing one way to another then in the later 1790 the English take over the land he lives on and declare him an outlaw he then spends time wandering the borders between English and  the colonies he grew up in that are shrinking the forty years covered in this book saw five small wars break out all this told in a brutal world that shows the harshness of the new world as it still was then. He pays the price with wives and time with his kids but this man is happiest in the middle of nowhere with the wild dogs at his feet hence the English title.

A man vomits and his friends laugh and gob. Somebody bumps into me and I look around into the beggars face and looks away.

The Baboon grabs the nearest dog and brings the animal’s faceup to its own, Bo they know how much they look like each other? With the revishing jaws that decorate many a farmhouse, it tears off the face of the fighting dog, who until recently resembled the protp wolf from hich all dogs are descended.

I rub my thumbs and index fingers together until I can feel a static crackling. The remaining dog keeps tugging at the guts.The baboon curls up against the carcase next to him and there is a tremor in one hand and something like a yawn and I see something in his eyes and then he is dead

The brutal world is wonderfully summed up in these few passages of the book.

This is one of those books that draws the reader into a world gone the veldt of the late 1790s and early 1800s. this shows the world and borders for one man shrinking a man that is one of those larger than life figures a raconteur, swindler, and ladies man he is a mix of robin hood and Kevin Costner’s character in dances with wolves. A wild man of the veldt large than life in a world that is violent from his early days and the death of his father violence is always just below the surface as is the harsh world he lives in. He is compared the great American writer Cormac McCarthy and yes I have read a coup,e of his books decades ago it has that same sense of wild untamed lives and worlds. But for me, the writer I was most reminded of was Patrick White the way he described the outback and a harsh world that mix indigenous and colonial worlds especially his book the tree of man I reviewed a few years ago. As I said the main title character is like one of the characters he must have written about in his dissertation a nomadic self!!

The wicked go to Hell by Frédéric Dard

 

The Wicked Go to Hell by Frédéric Dard

The wicked go to hell by Frédéric Dard

French Noir fiction

Original title – Les salauds vont en enfe

Translator David Coward

Source – Library book

I reviewed another novel by Dard a couple of years ago Bird in the cage. Which I enjoyed so when I saw this in the library I decided it was time to try another by this prolific French writer. this was indeed the first of four books he wrote in 1956. This was also made into a film the year before the book came out although the book seems slightly different to the film details when I read them on Wikipedia.this is a tight two-handed tale of two cellmates.

“Our man has got to escape and escape he will … with you!” He looked at me to see my reaction but I’d long been used to letting the sky fall on me without battling an eyelid.

“We’ll lock you both up in the same jail cell … a tough one.. the sort of place that gives kindly old ladies the shivers. The pair of you escape!

“You’ll hole up somewhere and you’ll wait. The breakout will be big news. The head of the organization, knowng thatnhis man has escaped, will want to get him back..At some point or other he’ll break cover..Then , when you’ve got your hands on him”

He made a chopping motion with the dside of his hand.The gesture meant death.

Merin’s boss the old man a scary old chief that sets clear whathe has to do.

The book is set firstly in one of France toughest prison and on cellmates. What we are told about Frank and Hal is that one of them is a policeman called Merins was called in by his boss the old man to trap this spy. So he was sent into the prison to uncover. a spy ring and the overman is an enemy spy and leader of a spy ring that is centered on the prison the two initially don’t get on and fight. Thou in the fighting we see thou the two men Frank and Hal are on different sides of the fence in terms of what side they are on they in personality are similarly tough men as reach accuses the other of being a spy or the stool pigeon. The prison splits them up after a number of fights and sends both men to solitary but they get together in the cell and over time a collective loathing of prison life draws the two together as the plan an escape as they do they get closer. The plan works but leaves Frank worse for wear they land on an isolated island in the southern part of France Carmargue that wetland where there are many small islands. The two hide there till another person from a shipwreck ends up with them drawing the two to a final end. But who was who!

When the bull had gone, the two new men remained standing side by side for a moment, without looking at each other. Then there was a kind of click of release. Time, which had been flowing over them without intruding on the consciousness, suddenly jolted them out of the prisoner’s stupor and swept them up on its aimless way. They looked at each other up with fierce intrest. Like two animals who come face to face. Eventually, one of them – the one with the eye half-closed eye- give a shrug.He looked round the cell. There were three hinged cots, each with a straw mattress and a blanket.The prisoner who couldn’t speak occupid the fatherst one.

The first time they are alone in the cell Frank and Hall weight each other up.

The clever device in this book is Dard not telling you who is Merins the opening chapter sees him get the job and then we are thrown into the cell with Frank and Hal and questioning who is the cop and who is the spy. The story is also a classic take on the buddy film the two initially hate each other but other the courst=e of the book they form an uneasy alliance due to the conditions they find themselves in. Dard lets us know that no one at the prison knows Merins is there as they are not sure how far the spy ring goes in the prison. Dard builds the tension as the strained relationship and violent nature of both men maybe sees them seeing a bit of themselves in the other man. Leading to the escape and the friendship becoming closer as one saves the other from the water to drag him onto the island. As human nature not what side each one is on takes over. A simple story but with a clever few twists. I do hope Pushkin carry on bring Dard’s out he did write nearly 200 books in his time.

Secret passages in a Hillside town by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen

Secret Passages in a Hillside Town, Paperback Book

 

 

Secret passages in a Hillside town by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen

Finnish fiction

Original title – Harjukaupungin salakäytävät

Translator – Lola M Rogers

Source – review copy

I read Pasi first book to be translated into English The Rabbit Back Literature Society but never got round to reviewing it so when I got the chance to review his latest book into English, I was excited. Pasi is a Finnish language teacher and has a degree in Philosophy. He has published five books in Finnish and has won numerous prize in Finland for his books. This is his second book to be translated into English.

Greta Kara, The Author, answered his message two days later:

Well, hello yourself, Oll! How delightful that you decided to write to me! And you remembered the pear print dress, too! I’m flattered. I didn’t know if you would remember it, or even me, any more. I’m sure you’ve met thousands of interesting people since you knew me, and it’s been almost thirty year since we last saw each other 

The opening of her reply to his request of friendship on Facebook.

This is the story of Olli Suominen, Now middle-aged and settled with a family and son. He is busy trying to light a passion for films by joining a weekly film club and also using Facebook he is trying to reach out.When he gets a film guide written by an old flame.  He then requests a friendship from the woman  Greta an old school friend and flame. This also follows a number of his friends from that time reappearing. They as a group used to spend time exploring the secret passages that are hidden under the town he spent his childhood holidays. They were like a group of Blyton children in the day a sort of Finnish Famous Five discovering these secret places. But also in the present his wife and son are kidnapped, this is connected to the past so as we see him watching weekly films losing his umbrella and an act of the past is affecting his present. What happened why were Greta and he involved and why did they split? The beauty of this book is it has two possible endings written up.

He did have a faint memory of the secret passages games the Tourla five used to play , which must have put the idea of secret passages in Greta’s head. He and Karri and the Blomroose had pretended to find entrances to secret passages fittingly hidden spots around town and then spent days wandering in them. They had encouraged each other to invent everything a child’s imagination could think up and had been so caught up in their games that hey saw and heard non-existent things, The secret passages haf been enchanted and sometimes terrifying places.

The five in their youh looking under ground this also hides something about them all!

I really like this book it has a real quirky feel to it and in the times we are in with things like Brexit, we maybe need to be reminded how our ripple effect from writers in English have affected the world Enid Blyton and her world of kids on holiday having gripping adventures is one part of this book and shows her effect even now 40 days after her death. I loved the use of old films via his weekly film club. Films like in the mood for love wild one and much more make any film fan think of those films and work links to the story. Another gem from Pushkin press, this could be a man booker book but who knows. I like the dual ending how often have you felt well what if that happened !!

 

Winstons Dozen my favourite books of 2017

I read and reviewed more than in the last couple of years so have decided to pick 12 books of the year.

Brothers by David Clerson

 

QCFINF16 - CoverBrothers_v9

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two brothers go on a quest to find the father in a mythical coastal world. The older brother has an arm missing, the arm is his younger brother with his stumpy arms and legs. One of the first reads of this year and one of the funniest and strangest books I have read.

Havoc by Tom Kristensen

Danish modernist novel one mans downward spiral from journalist to drunkard. A lost gem of European modernist fiction coming out in 1930. Partly inspired by the writer’s own life.

Summer before the dark by Volker Weiderman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The fictional meeting of Stefan Zweig and Joesph Roth in Ostend in the summer of 1936 two men at the height of there fame. Both their lives will take different roots after this meeting.

Compass by Mathias Enard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A lament for a lost world of Syria and for a lost love as a man goes through a sleepless night as Franz dreams of Sarah and his romance alongside their travels.

The Major Refutation by Pierre Senges

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An imagined thesis that discredits the discovery of the new world another quirky book that has had a champion it like a lot of the books on this list.

Bricks and Mortar by Clemens Meyer

Post east german history told through the oldest profession and the characters involved in that industry as they go from simple german girls to digital and woman of all nations. Another Fitzcarradlo novel on the list.

Hair everywhere- Tea Tulic 

A family saga told from the daughter in fragments of stories as her mother is dying of cancer another wonderful choice from Istros books.

Belladonna  by Dasa Drndric

A novel for today a warning of ignoring the rise of right-wing rhetoric as a retirng academic looks back and forward on his life. from one of my favourite writers.

The ultimate Tragedy by Abdulai Sila

The Ultimate Tragedy

Ndani story in postcolonial Guinea Bissau is the testament to what many young women have to do in her position to get by working in a family homemade to join the church and avoid the advance of the male head of the householder.

That’s how whales are born by Anxos Sumai

THAT’S HOW WHALES ARE BORN

This follows a young woman who had escaped to study whales in Mexico but her mother ill health bring her home to her Galician home and the secrets of the past.

Three days by Thomas Bernhard

A film he made years ago has a companion book a wonderful insight into a great writers feeling. I still love the lines I am a story destroyer.

The house of remembering and forgetting by Filip David

A man remembers his survival of the death camp and recalls it all after visiting an exhibition. I have loved the six peter own istros titles this year but this was my favourite of them.

A common thread in these books is families, loss, past and remembering. In the year I lost my mum this list maybe reflects my journey and how books help us get over things. What have been your books of 2017?

 

 

Mirror , Shoulder , Signal by Dorthe Nors

Mirror, Shoulder , signal by Dorthe Nors

Danish fiction

Original title – Spejl, skulder, blink

Translator – Misha Hoekstra

Source – personnel copy

This was the second book I read after the longlist was announced on th train home from london book fair is where I read this book although only a few weeks ago it seems an age . I was in two minds about this one first I had read some great Scandinavian female writers in recent years . But Dorthe Nors first books was rather hyped when it came out and I am always wary of hype . So this short novel was one of two books I brought in london yes even after two pushkin press weeks i rarely get books sent by them shame . So this is hype or not hype

He pointed to the spot on her throat where they were supposed to imagine her breathing had gotten blocked. He did the Hemlich on her , his fingers up in her face, inside her collar up and down her arms.At one point he put her into a stranglehold, but that wasn’t the worst of it . The worst was when they had to do the exercises themselves. It was humiliating to be placed in the recovery position by a boy of eighteen,It also made her dizzy .

At the driving school Of folkie she has to do first aid and a nod to her balance problem

the story follows Sonja , I must admit now I have been thinking about the book today I actually connect a bit with Sonja more than I did when I read the book she is like me in her mid forties . But unlike me her relationship she is a translator (another odd connection !! lol ) and her partner a fellow translator has left her he is translating a big star of Swedish crime fiction !thou she finds this crime fiction overly bloody at times  so she tries meditation and she is now trying to reconnect to her sister and also like me I have just decided to start driving . She has two instructors thou they won’t even let her change gears yet , she is their oldest pupil . Then add to this she is drifting in her m ind ot her past maybe in a way retracing those steps she took that lead her to where she is now . This is a woman in a sot of modern mid-life crisis that isn’t a crisis she has lost her connection to the world with no partner and no family tie she is drifting .

Sonja’s come to a standstill in front of her mirror .A  short while before, she was on her way through the bedroom , sandal in hand, when she caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror on the inside of her wardrobe. It looked as if kate were standing in the wardrobe . That’s weird , she thought. Kate and I never resembled each other, So She stepped over to the mirror to have a proper look.

Kate’s got two sons and her husband Frank.When they’re in Copenhagen , they make a beeline for Tivoli, but other wise they go around  trying to disguise the facts that they’re from Jutland.

Sonja thinking on the sister she has no contact with now .

I initially really didn’t get this book , but since I read it .I have grown to like to Sonja is hapless in a way more of a character that is in a classic comic works by the likes of Wodehouse . The way she is hapless in her various quests to reconnect to her sister  no joy , driving her instructors holding her back and even her job she get pain typing and hates what she works on at times . This is bare of lot more a link series of adventures rather like the cuisine that has swept Denmark in recent year where everything is local but is the also cut back so everything in the meal is just enough to give ut taste and not to many tastes . Like the other Danish novels I have read by Pia Juul and Helle Helle plot is twisted this is a midlife crisis stripped to the bare a woman struggling to get balance , even she has an inner ear problem meaning that this is both actual and literal balance she is struggling for in her own life .A quirky fun novel about struggling to be middle aged and with no one !

 

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