Women as lovers by Elfriede Jelinek

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Women as lovers by Elfriede Jelinek

Austrian fiction

Original title – Die Liebhaberinnen

Translator – Martin Chalmer

Source – Library book

I carry on with my second german lit month book and another big hitter of German lit .When Elfriede jelinek won the Nobel prize her writing was described as difficult and hard. I at the time didn’t read her books so now eleven years after her winning the Nobel prize I decide to try her but not with the best known of her book the piano teacher I choose this an earlier book by her and I am pleased I choose this book as it wasn’t challenging or hard to read in fact if anything it was very entertaining.

The example of Paula is from the country. Until now country life has held her in check – just like her sisters erika and renate, who are married. One can already write both off, it is as if they were not in the world at all. It’s different with Paula, she is the youngest and still properly in the world .she is 15 years old.

Paula is now ready to find the world and a man her family seems

Women as lover is the story of two factory girls and their lives. The two Brigitte and Paula are of an age where they are wanting to find that last lover the one to be married to and the story follows both of them in this action with each chapter in turn telling the story of each girls progression. There paths go two ways one meets a businessman a man on the upward path of life but he also motivates Brigitte to become a better women herself even thou they aren’t initially attracted he isn’t really her type. Then Paula she meets and falls head over heels for a man of similar standing as her self a forest worker Erich ,he is handsome compared to Heinz so Paula goes feet first into married. But as the story evolves it has twist initially you feel for Brigitte struggling to meet her new mans standards but getting there and what initially seems a perfect match turns very sour as Erich isn’t all he seems.

The wedding of Heinz and Brigitte is very moving and solemn

The wedding of Erich and Paula is very moving and solemn

Brigitte is very happy

paula is very happy

Brigitte has made it

Paula has made it

Brigitte is pregnant and will soon be able to hold her child in her arms.

Paula already has a baby. She has already been holding it in her arms for a while.But today the baby must stay at home.

Heinz is now master in the house, as he says good humouredly

Erich is now master in the house, as he cannot formulate, but as others whisper to him

This Call and Response style of writing as the pair marry and their paths split off in different directions.

 

I loved the style of Jelinek writing at points she use almost a call and response style of writing as shown above when the two girls lives are told in parallel . This book also made me wonder if Anita Raja the women who is now thought to be Elena ferrante , her self a translator of German Lit into Italian had worked on this book as it seems although totally different in many ways the initial idea of two female friends and the life beginning is may the same core idea as the Naples  quartet? also the way the two characters lives drift in two directions is also similar to the ferrante books characters. The book also shows how fragile some female lives can be and how married can sometimes be like a prison sentence for some and on the flipside of the coin for other can be the chance to blossom and grow.

 

 

Constellation by Adrien Bosc

Constellation

Constellation  By Adrien Bosc

French fiction

Original title – Constellation

Translation – Willard wood

Source – review copy

I again go back to France as I seek to move the total of books reviewed on the blog from France towards the hundred mark with this the 80th french book reviewed , from a rising star of french fiction . He has set up the publisher edition Sous-sol a very succesful French publisher. This was his debut novel it made a number of longlist and shortlist of major french prizes when it came out and I also noted when it arrived that it was one I felt , I would love as it remind me somewhat of the fellow french novel windows on the world  that also followed  a group of people after a major event.

The passengers are strapped in , Marcel Cerdan jokes with Jo Longman, while Paul Genser stares fixedly out of the pothole. Ginette Neveu clasps the case containing her two violins , A stradivarius and Guadagnini – a week ago she only owned one. At the front of the aeroplane, their seat harnesses clinched, the cockpit crew prepare for landing

The violin in piece later turned up in pieces by the Azores

 

Constellation follows the 48 people who where on an Air France plane a Lockhead Constellation from Paris to New york one of those wonderful post war planes all silver and gleaming like the cover of the book . The plane has to stop at the Azores to refuel this is where the plane had crashed. What Bosc does here is tells the post war years through those 48 people in little pen pictures of them all. From five Basque shepherds that are trying to get to the new world to make a new life for themselves following a path that many Basques did at that time. Then there is a boxer on the way to a title fight in America, a former lover of Edith Piaf . Then the story that touch me most is that of a Ginette Niveau a child prodigy on the violin now an adult she is heading to america to perform as her career is on the p Piaf’s lover also on the flight Marcel Cerdan lover Piaf said afterwards she and him would have travelled a thousand miles to Her Neveu . Then we see the pilots story of the war years, then the man who brought Disney merchandising to europe that meant every child had chance for mickey mouse on their wrist.

Only world war II slowed Disney’s rising power. THe company built on its popularity by taking part in the war effort. On July 14, 1942, the studios – in collaborations with Lockhead aircraft (The company that would build the constellation) – released a cartoon on the techniques of riveting aeroplanes,, an instruction manual in the form of a short animated film, Four methods of flush riveting , aimed at the governments civilian contractors.

Disney’s war years through there war films is just a small hiccup in their eventual rise to a mega company they are today .

I loved the way Bosc sitch together fact and fiction from Niveau a well-known person so her life is fact to that of the lowly five Basques who have left their village in search of the new world. Then the modern world from Kay Kamen and the birth of merchandising to coming to America to box or perform . This is a collection of lives just as europe was getting on it feet caught in an air crash that end their lives but we see the paths they were taking and what France and the real world was like at that time a nice slice of historic fiction for those who like me aren’t always the keenest on historic fiction.

The Little Communist who never smiled by Lola Lafon euro 2016 book 1

 

The Little Communist Who Never SmiledThe little Communist who never smiled by Lola Lafon

Original title – La petite communiste qui ne souriait jamais

Translator – Nick Caistor

Source – review copy

Well today sees the Euro 2016 championship kick off and there is a strange symmetry to this book and the first game which is a novel by a French writer about a famous Romanian which mirrors the opening game of the Euro 2o16 championship which sees France take on Romania. Lola Lafon has written three novels this is her third novel, she is also a well-known feminist in France and also a singer. This book won a number of book prize in France ten in all.

They are waiting for her. This first press conference is packed out, all five hundred seats and more on the ground, there is no room anywhere. The walls are covered in embrodieries of flowers. When she finally arrives, dressed in the romanian team’s tracksuit with blue , yellow and red bands and the hammer and sickle on her chest, her coach lifts her and carries her at arms length to her place; the doll she is clutching is wearing the same tracksuit and their hair is done the same way, with two bunches tied up with red ribbons. Above her head, a portrait of President Ceauseacu.

I love the doll in her hands and the way she is carried like a doll into this first conference after the perfect ten.

Now the book is a imagine work on the life before during and after the Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci, shock the world when in the 1976 olympics , when she got a perfect ten for her routine on the uneven bars the first time this had even happen. What we see is how she is discovered trained then wins the gold medal . This point is where her life really changes she becomes firstly a figurehead for woman around the world but also a pawn in the cold war . Used by the Romanian regime of Ceauusecu as a figure-head for the country ,  but this weighs heavy on this fidgety young girl that is yes a great gymnast but propelled into a world of craziness that was the propaganda of the cold war. Thing like Romanian eat better than West German the bountiful land displayed by fake food in photos she is involved with.

In 1984 or 1985, I can’t remember which, a woman died after an abortion. The securitate forced her family to organize the funeral outside the factory, her body was exhibited as an example. An example.. they exhibited living womans bodies as well, like Nadia with those postcards of her everywhere, and her triumphs; dead or alive, we could be used.

The dark side of the regime no abrotions and woman either held up or put down .

I enjoyed this book I knew Very little of Her life other than the grainy footage of her 1976 win and that perfect ten moment that she got . Which has been part of an advert here in the Uk in recent years. Her life is an example of what was so wrong with the cold war the myths lies and untruths that both sides made. But in particular regimes like the one in Romanian where the face of the nation on the press wasn’t the actual face of the world and we see this through Nadia’s eye a young girl growing and seeing the world from both sides the huge palace of Ceausecu to the home she lived in and her training. Lafon has captured the cold war through one womans story and also captured the sad life of a heroine and a true great in her field .A great book about sport to read on opening day of euro 2016 and France and romania which is just about to kick off….

Have you a favourite Novel  about a famous person ?

The prone gunman by Jean-Patrick Machette

I was sent this a couple of years ago by the lovely jacqui after I mentioned I hadn’t read manchette and she had two copies of this book. I wonder why it took so long for me to get to Manchette, I have read so many french writers over the years it was only a matter of time before mine and Manchette’s paths crossed. I’m not sure if his last book was best place to start but it left me wanting to work back through his canon in English.

He was tall but not massive, with a calm face, blue eyes, and brown hair that just covered the top of his ears. He wore a reefer, a black sweater, and blue jeans; he had fake Clarks on his feet. He kept his upper body erect, leaning against the right door of the cab, his legs on the bench seat, the soles touching the left door. One would have taken him for thirty or a little more; he was not quite that old. His name was martin Terrier. an ortiges automatic pistol with a redfield silencer rested on his lap .

Martin described on the first page anyone till that last line and the gun with the silencer on it .

Well this what I love about french fiction when it takes a well-known genre here the hard-boiled crime novel ,  the anti-hero , the chase and oh a a rekindled childhood romance, all thrown in a french blended and given that french Je-ne-sa-quoi . I imagined the french films of the era Diva for example which was made in the same year as the book came out. So we have Martin Terrier are hero/anti-hero is a man at the top of his game as an assassin, but he has just done his latest job and returned home to Paris. He has decide to move back to the South of France and settle down with his childhood sweetheart. He tells his employers this is his plan and they want him to do one last job and Martin refuse and has to escape the clutches and shots of the people sent to bring him back in the fold so to speak.So we see him try to get back to the girl and to a past he once had.

“Well it was only dislocated” said the doctor on duty, whose address Terrier had found on a list in the window of a closed pharmacy. “You straightened it out yourself? seriously? ”

“Yes”

“Bravo. You’re a stoic fellow”

According to the doctor, there was no call to put in a cast.He showed terrier how to use an elastic bandage so that the swollen finger would stay completely immobilized.

“I know,”  said Terrier

Terrier is used to repairing himself like this example where he relocates his own finger.

This is a sparse book  all action no real filler , we see how Martin is trying to escape this world. But he is caught in a world he entered ten years earlier as a very young man and grew to the top of his chosen job Killer   and hasn’t fully grasped the game, he is good at the killing but hasn’t grasped that this means he can’t be let go. Terrier is a man who has seen horrors and now want to turn the clock back but you can’t turn that clock back! I was thought back to the books I read as a Teen  My dads thrillers books like  Solo Jack Higgins for example another cat and mouse crime novel involving a hitman and of course day of the jackal both characters have a detachment I felt from Terrier , why go back to a woman he left ten years earlier , she would be gone. This is good Noir a little far-fetched , fun and fast paced if you look over the fact he seems to have struggled with an ending (but that is more than made up for with the first two/thirds of the book. The book was made into a film by Sean Penn, although it seems to have changed the story some what as Martin Terrier is a lot younger than Penn in the book but I may watch it just see how it turned out.

French fiction

La Position du Tireur Couché original title 

Translator – James Brook

Source – personnel copy (gift)

The lights of Point-Noire by Alain Mabanckou

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The lights of Pointe-Noire by Alain Mabanckou

Congolese memoir

Original title – Lumieres de Pointe-Noire

Translator – Helen Stevenson

Source review copy

 

“Back To The Old House”

I would rather not go
back to the old house
I would rather not go
back to the old house
there’s too many
bad memories
too many memories

When you cycled by
here began all my dreams
the saddest thing I’ve ever seen
and you never knew
how much I really liked you
because I never even told you
oh, but I meant to

I choose “The smiths ” as back to the old house is about return to your youth as well .

Well the second stop ion a few days I am spending on the blog in Africa .I am now in Congo , with one of my favourite writers Alain Mabanckou has featured on the blog three times before with his fiction with the books Black Bazaar ,Memoirs of a porcupine and broken glass . This is his latest to be translated to English and is a memoir of his return to Congo and his home town .Since he last featured here on the blog Alain Mabanckou has been on the Man international prize list and was on  this years Priz Goncourt longlist for his latest novel in French .He is also one of my favourite writers ever !!

For a long ttime , then , I let people think my mother was still alive .In a way I had no choice but to lie , having picked up the habit way back in primary school when I brought my two older sisters back to life in an attempt to eacape teasing of my classmate , who were all very proud of their large familes , and offered to  “lend” my mother their offspring

He remembers his mother and being at school , the school now named  after a leader once hated by the locals .

The lights of Pointe-Noire follows Alain Mabanckou as he returns to his home .He left in 1989 , he didn’t return when his m other died but many year later in 2012 . What faces him is his home town Pointe-Noire a busy port town that he left and he has written about in his novels , was no more the sights he remember have changed vastly in the time he was away .The cinema he loved is now a church , the faces he knew have aged .WE see him in the two weeks he spends there in a flat from the French goverment pieces together past and present the brutal nature of what was his bringing up (brutal maybe to us , but he doesn’t turn this into a misery story , no it is littered with that wit , I so love in his fiction ) Mabanckou is able to mix humour with the deepest darkest sides of the human soul .As characters from his past reappear not only do you see them as they are now but as they were and also the sense of how he used them in his books .

Now I notice various details that I haven’t seen before .For example , my mother’s right shoulder seems to be crushing me , while my father ‘s trying to keep us propped up .that’s why his head is pressed up against mine .I can see , too , my t=father’s finger on my mother’s left shoulder .I think it must be his left arm holding us up and without it we wouldn’t have managed to hold the pose . Lastly , the marks left by the bottles on the surface of the table suggest the waiters didn’t wipe them very often

Looking at an old photo , don’t we all notixce how odd we can seem , I remember one of dad , mill , my brother duncan and I that seems so posed now .

It’s often said the past is a foreign country and this is shown to be so true in this book although the places look familar to Alain as he revisited where he grew up after nearly a quarter of a century away .The sense of the place has moved on and he is returning but more like a figure captured on a sepia toned photograph of the place he want tpo escape did escape , but has used so much in his fiction he never real escaped the people that surrounded him , do we ever really escape our past just put it in a different box in our memory .

Have you a favourite book from Alain Mabanckou , if not you should read him ?

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