One hundred twenty one day by Michele Audin

One Hundred twenty one days by Michele Audin

French fiction

Original title – Cent vingt et un jours

Translator – Christina Hills

Source – personal copy

Another book for Woman in translation month. This is a real gem as well as being the second book from a female member of the Oulipo group to be translated into English. Michele Audin is a French Mathematician and professor her special area was Symplectic Geometry. She joined the Oulipo group in 2009. Her father was a famous Mathematician as well that was killed in Algeria an event that led to her turning down the Legion of Honour. After the president refused to reply to a letter about her father her mother had written.

The murderer had his sense knocked out of him

(le petit Parisen, july 2 1917)

We have been informed that Robert Gorenstein(and not Roger Goldstien, as we printed in error), the polytechnician and officer on leave who arrested last week for the murder of his uncle, his aunt and his brother( three and not four crimes as was written in haste in the previous article) was a victim of an artilery shell last January. Almost all the men in his battery were killed, and he himself hit his head.

In a horrible development, according to informantion gathered from neighbors, the three Gorenstein children were orphans and had been raised by their aunt and her husband.

As th time, miltary doctors considere him recovered, and he was sent back to the front. He is presently undergoing psychiatric exams

One of the news paper reports about Robert G .

Now when you know a book has come from an Oulipo writer you know it is going be an unusual book. This one also doesn’t disappoint. it is a mixture of styles of writing about a group of various mathematicians from France and follows both wars. From an opening piece on a childhood, we follow with a diary set in the middle of world war one following the worst parts like Verdun from a French woman’s point of view. Then a collection of newspaper cuttings about various figures from world war one then on afterward about the case of Robert G a man that killed members of his family in a sort of what would now be called a PTSD attack. Then we see the announcement of Magurite the writer of the diary and a professor. Then a chapter involving Andre Silberberg as the led character. Later we see how his life led to the title of one hundred and twenty days as that was the happiness in his life he worked out in a later chapter in the book. The rest follows with people trying to find out more about various mathematician a chapter of just numbers and their meaning in relation to the book. The book also shows what part peoples notebooks can play in history as people in the present search for the notebooks of various mathematicians. Including Christian M one of those Mathimaticians he grew up in Senegal we follow his wart years.

The numbers, in order, starting with the negatives:

-25  the tempratur (in dgrees celsius) in Upper Silesia in January 1945 during the evacuattion of Auschwitz

0.577215…., Eulers constant

0.625  or 5/8 Jewish would have been each of Mireille’s and Andre’s children

1   single bullet managed to remove one of M’s eyes, his nose, and half his Jaw

1.414213…, the square root of 2, the length of the diagonal of a square with a side of 1

A selection of numbers from the chapter of numbers.

 

This is a clever book that use the various styles of writing to build layers of lives that we dip in and out of and those mathematicians. The thread that runs through the book is maths and the wars the knock-on effect of these seen in various documents. The families involved in the texts have the lives followed through the 20th century. I like this book it is one of those books that can be reread and reread like most of the Oulipo books it is complex and like the type of maths she studies about complex linear groups and patterns, this is a complex  piece of writing building on lives through the years and it shows  how the war affects them. From a brief fling of 120 days, that means more than anything to one man. To seeing others that collaborate during the war years.  This is a challenging read from a great small publisher Deep Vellum this is why we have a publisher like them those books that are edgy clever and relive history in a different way to others. Also to keep up with the number theme this is the 100th French book on the blog

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The neighborhood by Mario Vargas Llosa

 

The neighborhood by Mario Vargas Llosa

Peruvian Fiction

Original title – Cinco esquinas

Translator – Edith Grossman

Source – Library book

I returrn to anpther writer that has featured on the blog a few times. Mario Vargas Llosa has won just about every award out there including the Nobel. He has written about twenty novels with all being translated into English. He has written in a varitey of styles over his years writing. This is his latest book and is an interesting view of how writers write in their later life. He has in his life tried to be president of his homeland when in the early 1990’s he ran for president only to get defeated by Alberto Fujimori. This book is set in the years after that election.

She didn’t say anything, but closing her eyes, she leaned to one side and found her mouth that had started to kiss and  gently nibble her neck, ears, and her hair. She raised her hands, held the braidm and ran her fingers through her friend’s hair, whispering “WIll you let ,me undo you braid? I want to see you with your hair undone and to kiss it, darling” Arms entwined, serios now, they left the terrace and , crossing the living room, dining room, and a hallway, came to Chabela’s bedroom

The Miami weekend and this is just not very convincing to me is it just me ?

The book follows a scandal but not the one you at first thing the books open when two female friends awaken after a party in the same bed and discover a sudden attreaction to one another Mariesa and Chabela become attract this culminates in a weekend away in Miami. Now the book then diverts to the offices and the editor of the scandal paper Exposed a man called Rolando Garro. Now this man is maybe worst than all we have seen in the UK muckrakers no this is a paper that just sets out to cause trouble. So when he comes to Enrique the husband of one of the two woman a welalthy industralist. This is the point you think it maybe be the girls no it is pictures of the man himself at an Orgy that Garro has shown him. So when Garro turns up dead havuing been beaten to death suspicion falls on Enrique as it does all the people featured in the rag over the last while. He is arrested now the other husband the rwo are best friends come to help his friend and avoid him falling into the hands of “the doctor” a character based on one of Fujimori’s henchman of the time that ran the intellegance service now these two men dislike him for the way he looks more than the fact he is a violent tortuture. Will the girls secret be found out , will the husband get free will the mruderer be found ?

When Enrique saw Rolando Garro walk into his office, he felt the same distance as the first time. Garro was dressed in the same clothing he has worn two weeks earlier, and he walked swinging his arms and coming down hard on his heels of his high platform shoes, as if wanting to come up in the world. he reached his desk – Enrique hadn’t stood to receive him – and extended the flaccid wet hand that Enriqye remembered with revulsion. It was ten in the morning: He was right on time for their appointment.

Garro a slimy man with no redeeming features like the worst of Fleet street rolled into one .

This isn’t his best book it hasn’ t the feel of earlier books like Aunt Julia which I read years ago. Or even somethung like Bad girl which he wrote ten years before this.. No this is partly a look back at those years when he could have been president. Would he have allowed eposed to carry on ? The doctor a henchman for his opponent and winner of the election is the bad next to Garro a man with no redemming features.. These character all work for me the Lesbian relationship just seemed a bit well like a man writing about what he may have loike to have seen two women he may have known at the time do. The blonde and the woman in Biegee is the way they are described. I have always put Llosa in the Pamuk and Saramago group of winners those that constantly write good but not great books each may have one or even two great books. This isn’t one of thos thou it is a late book of a great writer and in that it is a writer looking back at the time he could have made a difference in his country. In those parts it works and as ever Grossman makes the book flow. In others it is a bit weaker than his earlier books.

Zero by Gine Cornelia Pedersen

Zero

Zero by Gine Cornelia Pedersen

Norweigan fiction

Original title – Null

Translator –  Rosie Hedger

Source – review copy

Today sees the start of Woman in translation month a month that has taken off over the years I haven’t much planned but will try and fit a few books in among my Spanish and Portuguese lit month books. So to Kick off I have a powerful debut novel from Norway from Gine Cornelia Pedersen is both a writer and Actress this her debut novel won the Tarjei Vesaas award for a first book. She has also starred in the tv series Young and promising also Valkyrien both of  which are  on Walter in the Uk.

I’m 10 years old

I absorb everything unfiltered

I think that gos is listening whien I pray

I’ve seen three dead bodies, two old and one young

I cry at night and feel as if I’m all alone and no one can save me

I feel sorry for mum and dad

I realise that the concept of home has never truly existed.

I think about the fact that when I grow up and I’m allowed to decide things for myself, my joy will be complete.

I feel certain I’m going to live forever, but I think about death almost every day

The opening lines even at ten there is something in what she says that seem more than a normal ten year old would say.

This is a story told in Burst the narrator is a yoiung woman growing up. We follow her from teenager till she is in her early twenties. We find her life told in single sentences. like tweets where when they first started this is a novel in pieces.  This is a tale of a woman on a downward spiral of her life. We are let into her troubles bit by bit from the early feeling of being trap. Also not wanting to be too visible as her body changes in her puberty. Her wanting to go to Oslo. She has  a spilit with her boyfriend  of two years before she goes to the city. When she finally gets her mother to let her go. Then a spiral of self abuse, drugs and violence she ends upo for the first time in a ward then has a support worker. Then Peru and getting their becomes a dream that she finally does susing her benfit money to get there but then ends up on a holidat from hell with Men and drugs that leads her down a disaterious hole.

People on the stret stare at me

Everywhere I go they stare

I scream at one woman on the tram

Tell her she’s a bad person, that it’s people like her who are destroying the planet

She loooks away

I tell her she can look the other way for what it is worth she can turn away, but that only makes things worse

I ask if there’s something odd about me

She shakes her head

I tell her that she’s one who’s odd, with her ugly clothes and her wrinkles

Money can’t save her, I tell her

She can’t take her fur coat to hell

Later you she her parnoia when she verbally attacks a woman on the tram thinking it is her that is in the wrong for starring at her.

This was described a being like a Punk rock single by a revieew in Norway. The style is like a punk song short repeative sentences thart are like snapshot and captured insights into a life falling apart and how Mental helath can affect someones life so completely. The narrator is always claiming to be better as she hates her meds and said she doesn’t want them on more than one occasion but as the book goes on youn can see how a life can fall apart and that the drastic nature of someone offf their meds for a serious mental health issue can lead her as in the book to a far away country and into the arms of preditary men. Which leads to her downfall as she heads towards Zero. An interesting debut novel about a subject that isn’t touched enough in fiction. That of Mental Health but also what it is like being inside that downward spiral that to the narrator doesn’t seem a downward spiral.  read it in a day the pace is so fast with these choppy sentences you get drawn through the world she lives in as she describes some horrific events in snatches. This is the latest book from Nordisk books there third book 

That was the month that was july 2018

  1. Skylight by José Saramago
  2. The shape of the ruins by Juan Gabriel Vásquez
  3. The Tunnel by Ernesto Sabato
  4. Op Oloop by Juan Filloy
  5. The Taker by Rubem Fonseca
  6. Sergeant Getulio by Joao Ubaldo Ribeiro
  7. They won’t take me alive by Claribel Alegria
  8. A map drawn by a spy Guillermo Cabrera Infante

I Managed eight books last month all for Spanish and Portuguese lit months. Which I have been running with Richard for a number of years . My month took me around Latin america mainly with two books from Argentina and Brazil. No new countries. One new piublisher Womans press published the Alegria book and it is the first from this press I have read. It means I have read 57 books this year well down on recent years.

Book of the month

Op Olloop by Juan Filloy An older novel from Argentina about a man obsessed with time and routines who’s engagement day goes horribly wrong when his schedules go awry. A witty and unusual book and a perfect example of why I read translated fiction.

Non book discovery

I not featured a film for a while and this Amanda and I watched the other day is about a man that haunts a house till it goes then tries to  end it only to get before the house was built and live it all again little dialogue clever use of music and lingering shots add to an air of a lost soul.

 

Map drawn by a spy by Guillermo Cabrera Infante

Map drawn by a spy by Guillermo Cabrera Infante

Cuban memoir

Original title – Mapa dibujado por un espía

Translator – Mark Fried

Source – Personal copy

I have long been a fan of Infante’s work it started when I read three trapped tigers fairly early on in the blog.I also review a view of dawn in the tropics both of these books showed different sides to the man as a writer and this shows another side. This follows a time after Infante had spent time in Brussels as a cultural attache  for three years from 1962 as he had fallen out of favor in the year before his posting with the Castro Regime, a piece about Cuban nightlife his brother had written (Three trapped tigers strikes me as a lament to the scene that died in the early Castro years). This starts when he returns to Havana for his mothers funeral.

He climbed the stairs and in the vestibule a sign suprised him:

Chapel C

Zoila Infante

Seeing her name in black and white, the reality of this mothers death hit home. Another flight of steps took him to chapel C and soon he was in the anteroom, which was filled with friends and acquaintances. He saw his father, smaller, shrunken astonshingly aged, emerging from the sweltering chapel and walking toward him.

“Come, so you can see her , the poor woman.”

“No, no.”

“come on you must. She’s laid out in there”

“No, no. I don’t want to, I don’t wamt to see her”

He returns and I think of the description of his father and the changes over three years is also for the country he has returned too.

‘The book follows the time he returns for his mothers funeral he intends to stay a week. He should known it might have been trouble when he had booked his flight there and back via Prague.  But then is told he can’t board his return flight and has to spend time in a Cuba that has much change in the three years he has been gone. His going was brought on by the early indications of what he found on his return and that is the cutting down of voices that only in little bits query the Castro regime. This is shown when he finds some of his editor friends have lost jobs and the way people are following new rules. As he sees the changes in the world around him as he meets a lot of his old friends this is the style of the book meeting events everyday life but this is what he sees changing the way his friends that remained or there almost Kafka worries of the world around them and what the regime is doing. This is a glimpse of Cuba in those early post-Castro years.

Titon spoke in a low voice, but freely nd frankly, without apparent concern for the waiters coming and goings. He described the situation the perscution of Homosexuals, the cultural coulcil’s imposed orthodxy, problems at the university. About the university he went on atsome length and recounted his personal experience : he  and two others from the film isitute attended one of the trials the student federation was holding of supposed counterrevolutionaries on campus. At the “trial” there were two accused, a boy and a girl. The jury was the audience.

This remind me of Kafka the way the world of his friends had changed in the three years he had been gone.

This is a flipside for me to three trapped tigers the atmosphere of three trapped tigers I said when I read it had a feel of jazz and the night. This has a different feel there is real tension in the world he sees his friends are changed it is as though he as returned and they have all been replaced with Kafka characters. The world he sees is one of rules and freedoms being cut and the uncertainty that brings to everyday life especially in his creative circle where simple things can be taken the wrong way. What was a brief week for his mother funeral turns into a Kafkaesque nightmare as he has to spend four months more in the New Cuba? I have two more books by Infante on my shelves and can’t wait to add them to the blog.

They won’t take me alive by Claribel Alegria

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They won’t take me alive by Claribel Alegria

El Salvadorean biography

Original title – No Me Agarran Viva

Translator – Amanda Hopkinson

Source – personal copy

I move from Brazil and into Spanish lit from Central America. Claribel was born in Nicaragua but considered herself Salvadorean and was a driving force in central America woman’s literature she wrote ion many styles Poetry and Novels. She also wrote non-fiction and this book follows one of the female rebel leaders of the Guerilla war in El Salvador. Claribel also translated a lot of Poetry into Spanish particularly Rupert Graves. She also compiled one of the earliest collection of Latin American boom works  “New Voices of Hispanic America”.She also won the Neustadt prize.

It was 4 january. Only thirteen days ago. she had barely three and a half years to spend with Javier. They conversed intently while Ana Patrica played with her rag doll.

They had reviewed their seven years together, four of them spent in hiding. They remembered the threantened miscarriage and congratulated themsleves on the happy outcome, there in person and tugging at Eugenia’s hand that she come and take a look at a caged bird. Was it going to be the last goodbye?

From the opening chapter one fo the last meeting of husband and wife the caged bird mademe think of Maya Angelo poem.

I was pleased to have found this old woman’s press copy of this book. The book follows the life of a Female Guerilla leader one Commander Eugenia a female leader that inspired her fellow female freedom fighters. Claribel follows her life from her early years her father died when she was and looking after her sister as the eldest of the three. One of her sisters recalls her taking her to see the slums. Her parents were Christians and had fled from Nicaragua when Ana (Eugenia real name). We see her being drawn to the parties that oppose the government and then into the guerilla movement. She meets her partner Javier. They also had children we see as she crosses the countryside in just her sandals. Even working whilst she was pregnant. We follow her life on the run through her comrade’s eyes and reportage of what she did. A story of a woman who fought for her cause and gave her life for it.

My mother has a very strong character, and Eugenia inherited this from her. My mother never became overwhelmed in the face of difficulties.There is a inherent contradiction in this. People would say to us :”Your mother is a widow and you have to help her out”, but the the truth of the matter is that she would never be helped. She ran the buisness all on her own. Previousluy, during the daytime, Eugenia used help her, and at nught she completed the shores and studied. Later ion she abandoned the income producing work and carried on with the housework and attending University.

I spent several months with my mum but from then on we were committed to the revolutionary struggle. Ondina was still at school. I left home, I really wasn’t capable of maintaining the buisness, and we had skills more relevant to the people.

Marthe Eugenia sister saying her mother had the same grit as her sister did that drove them all forward.

I am a pack rat when it comes to books. I am a devil for second-hand bookshops as I am always wanting to find books like this lost gems. The conflict in El Salvador is a conflict I remember from my youth. I find it strange how much our news coverage has shrunk over the last few decades we used her a lot more about conflicts like this one. This is a well-drawn account of one woman but in her account is a reflection of a hundred or thousand other women that took arms in the Guerilla wars that swept across Central America through the later part of the 20th century. It shows the journey of many people from events in the childhood that made her poltical. The cause that drew her further in the man she met that shared her cause. I was touched by her story.

The shape of the ruins by Juan Gabriel Vásquez

 

The shape of the ruins by Juan Gabriel Vásquez

Columbian fiction

Original title – La forma de las ruinas

Translator – Anne McLean

Source – review copy

I read this a while ago but as the world cup unfold in the last week and it being Spanish Portuguese lit month I waited to review it. I have long been a fan of Vasquez books having reviewed three of his books. He uses the history of his country and has said he tries to avoid the Rhetoric of the Magic and marvelous Latin America. He has been on the IFFP shortlist in the past and his last novel in English the sound of things falling won the Impac award.

April 9 is a void in Colombian history, yes, but it is other things beside; a solitary act that sent a whole nation into a bloody war; a collectibe neurosis that has taught us to distrust each other for more than half a century. In the time that has passed since the crime we colombians have tried, without sucess, to comprehend what happened that friday in 1948, and many have turned it into a more or less serious entertainment and their time and energy have been consumedby it.There are also Americans – I know several – who spend their whole lives talking about the Kennedy asassination, its details and most recondite particulars

The parallels explained at the dr party early on in the book.

This book is in many ways the most personal book from Vásquez as the writer himself is at the center of the book. He is at a party held by Dr. Benavides a family friend when he meets another man Carlos Carballo over this evening they discuss a couple of events in the past of Columbian history an event the Carballo compares with the Kennedy assassinations of JFK and Robert. The first killing is that in 1948 of Jorge Gaitan a progressive liberal politician that was shot to death by Juan Sierra. This man was later killed by a mob. This assassination does echo the JFK and the killing of  Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby. Then an earlier killing of another liberal Leader and Senator who was hacked to death by two men in Bogota. We see Vasquez and the two other men look into their countries past. Carlos is a man that sees conspiracies and a long dark arm going through Columbia history. There are pieces of each story they discover have gone missing over the coming years. But we do see the spine of Gaitian in a Jar an eerie look at the death like those relics of the JFK Killing that leads those like Carballo to those wild theories of what happened. Along side this we see the everyday life of Vasquez the writer, his marriage, his wife giving birth. A man looking at his own countries dark past.

“My Father believed there’d been a second shooter” said Benavides,” At least for a time”

He was referring to one of the many conspiracy theories surrounding Gaitián’s assassinatin. According to this one, Juan Roa Sierra did not act alone on April 9: He was accompanied by another man, responsible for the other shots and one of the lethal bullets. During the 1950’s , the theroy of the second shooter was gaining groundm in large oart due to an uncntrovertible fact: one of the bullets that killed Gaitian had not appeared in the course of the autopsy”And of course, peoples imaginations does what it does said Benavides

Missing Bullets and other missing parts to the case lead to questions of what really happened.

I loved finding out about these two deaths this is what Vásquez does well as a writer and that draws you as a reader into his homeland’s history. This shows that everywhere has it conspiracies There is many Carlos and also many people like the Dr and Juan that are drawn into uncovering these stories of their own countries dark past. The feeling of him diving down the rabbit-hole of these deaths does remind me of the interviews and claims Oliver Stone made around the time he made JFK the parallels of these stories with the US killing is easy to see there are gaps in each story that can draw people into making their own stories of what happened. The character of Uribe in a twist back to Marquez was the person he based Aurelio Buenida in 100 years of solitude. So as England face Columbia tonight maybe you could try a great novel from there.

King Stakh’s Wild hunt by Uladzimir Karatkevich

King Stakh's Wild Hunt

King Stakh’s Wild hunt by Uladzimir Karatkevich

Belarusian fiction

Original title – Дзікае паляванне караля Стаха

Translator – Mary Mintz

Source – review copy

I move further east and to another new country for the blog a second, this month with the first book from Belarus Uladzimir Karatkevich was one of the leading figures in Belarusian literature. He learned to read at an early age and was always interested in Belarusian history and folklore. He went on to study literature but always had the history in his homelands past. He started this book whilst at university but then spent a number of years working at it. This was considered his greatest novel. It was also made into a film although it seems the film only used part of the plot.

“What family is this?” I asked imprudently.”Where am I ?”

The old woman’s eyes blazed with anger.

“You are in the castle of March firs. And you ought to be ashamed of yourself no to know the owners. They are the Yanovskys. You understand the Yanovskys! You must have heard of them!”

I answered that I had, of course, heard of them. This statment of mine must have reassured the old woman.

With a gestiure worthy of a queen, she pointed to the armchair, approximately as queens do in thetheatre when they point to the executioner’s block ready for their unlucky lover. “There’s your place, you ill fated ine”. Then left me alone.

The creepy nature of the place is clear when Andrey ask where he is on arrival at the Marsh Firs.

This uses a classic myth of the Wild Hunt which is a myth about a group of riders on a Black horse and black dogs that hunt. The story starts when a young man that is a folklorist ends up at the castle of Marsh firs. Andrey Belaretsky is stuck there in a storm. He meets a young woman there Hope Yanovsky she is from an old aristocratic. He father has died due to the hunt and she has struggled after this and is sleepwalking. So stays in the castle. The young man falls for this young woman and tries to find out what has happened to her and her family. Why have they fallen foul of the wild hunt? A relative Gregory isn’t all he seems he has more to do with her father’s death than Andrey first knows. Another claimant on the title employed the midget to scare Hope. Then there is the midget an oddly shaped man like a character from a Herzog film that has strange features. He is there to maybe aid the mistress of the house descends into Madness Can Andrey help her find out what is really happening and work out why the hunt has targeted this castle.

“I saw him theree times and each time from afar. Once it was just before the death of my father. The other two, not long ago. I’ve also heard hom perhaps a hundred times. Nor was I ever frightened, except perhaps the last time ..just a litle, a very little.I went up to him, but he disappeared. It is really a very little man, he reaches up to my chest, skinny, and reminds one of a starved child. his eyes are sad, his hands are very long, and his head is unnaturally long. He dresssed as people used to dress 200 years ago, only in a westen manner. His clothes are green

The Midget brought in by another heir to scare Hope decribed by Hope.

 

This is a classic piece of folklore it has echoes of many myths from Dracula with a woman going mad and a man getting stuck in a castle. The wild hunt is a myth that is common in Belarus and Germany. The piece to first mention of this myth was written by the Grimm’s in the folk tales. I see why the film version of this book which I watched briefly on youtube as it had no subtitles but had a real feel of Hammer horro about this and I kept picturing those eerie castles in the hammer films and strangers end up in them like Andrey does. There is a romance as the young man tries to help Hope a cursed woman as she sees it but he starts to unravel it. He was called the master of historical detective novels and this is in a way a detective novel he tries to find out what the truth is behind what has happened to the Yanovsky family. I was also reminded of the moor scenes in Hound of the Baskervilles sometimes the places in this book at to the scary feeling of Hope the marshes near the castle reminded me of the Grimpen mire of Hound of the Baskervilles. I love that Glagoslav can publish writers like Karatkevich to us in English.His wiki page in Belarusia a long one says when roughly translated said he had a twenty-five vol collection of his works published he was a major writer.

Fleeting Snow by Pavel Vilikovsky

Fleeting Snow by Pavel Vilikovsky

Slovakian fiction

Original title – Letmý sneh

Translators – Julie and Peter Sherwood

Source – review copy

I now move over from France to Slovakia and the second book from there I have reviewed. Also, the first to be published by Istros press from there as they move a little further afield. They have chosen a writer considered the greatest living Slovak writer. He only wrote two books whilst communism was in control of the country. but since the regime change, he has written over a dozen books. This was his latest Novel to come out in Slovakian. He is also a leading translator of books from English into Slovak including great writers like Faulkner, Conrad, and Woolf. It is great to see more Slovakian fiction coming out.

1.B If, as the saying goes, every person is unique, their name ought to be unique too. Except that it doesn’t work like that. What is unique about say, Stefan Kovac, whose name is about as common as Stephen Smith is in english? In this country, no first name can ever be truly unique – the church and the clerks at the register office have seen to that – and if your surname happened to be Kovac the to boot, you’ve had it: you’ll end up being known as Kovac up the valley, or Kovac the shepherd. Slovak is a garrulous language, we don’t mind throwngin an extra word here and there, but even with additional piece of information, does a name convey anythingunique about a person?

the second part of the first story about how come the name is but also how they use extra wrds to identify a stefan Kovac who is ours ?

This is a book that has five interweaving stories at its heart. This is a fragmented book almost like a snowflake with the five points coming out. The first story is the tale of a man at the end of a long marriage that seems to be losing his mind early on we hear he is called Stefan Kovac but has now taken the name Cimborazka and is a self-declared Cimborazka. The second story tells us about a pair of step twins and talks about the soul. The third starts with an avalanche and the fourth story strand a scholar called Stefan, that has recently had a book about North American Indian languages in the US. This fourth links to the first story and where we have a talk about certain US place names that may have Native American origins. The fifth strand finds someone looking through old photos. The strands of the stories cross and the link they are about life, language particular Slovakian and old age. The loss of memory in old age. The snow is the metaphor in a way for so much in this book memories fade like snow old age leads to dementia which is like an avalanche that clears that top layer of one’s memories leaving what was under.  There is a sense of the fleeting nature of life art tines and what makes us as people who is Stefan Kovac a name we are told early on is as common in Slovakia as Stephen Smith is here.

1.J My real name is Cimborazka but I haven’t told ayone. What would be the point ? It would be the same changing your phone number: your friends will remember your new number but the will still use it to ring the same person as before, the same idea of a person. But I don’t want to receive letters addressed toDear Mr Cimborazka, which would be like addresssing a different person each time. Cimborazka is a clean blank sheeet; a reminder that I am a person – not an entity, just a being, albeit a human one. And that every human possibility is therefore still open to me each and everytime. It is a silent, secret challenge to honour my name

What is a name like the first quote another on identity as Kovacs becomes Cimborazka or does he .

This is a meandering book about the nature of life in a way questioned in many ways. Language and how it is used the short passages that make this book up reminded me of the little snippets in books like The book of Disquiet or Zibaldone thou this has more narrative and a central figure that of Stefan Kovac is he the same person, or a step twin or just another character. As in the end all the strands end in one final passage as a couple talk about how many words are in Slovakian and then as they wander on to find a disk on the ground showing distance to place and maybe placing them back in their world with a thrown word over the fact that Vienna is only 57 kilometers away. This is a writer in his old age trying to write a series of themes that must have been important to him in his life like Slovakian for a translator which is a language he mentions for how many more words there are in it. What we are what he has written about what lies after the writer’s life is gone or like the snow what remains when it has melted just the memory of it.

The Kites by Romain Gary

The Kites by Romain Gary

French fiction

Original title – Les Cerfs-volants

Translator – Miranda Richmond Mouillot

Source – Review copy

I looked back and it has taken a good while to get from book 90 to 99 from France. I have slowed down blogging wise this last year.I remember thinking after the eighth year anniversary it would be that year I would hit a 100 books from France and I hadn’t so I looked at the last two spots and this is the first my 99th book and the first from Romain Gary on the blog. I think I so=hould have featured him earlier I have had a couple of his books other than this one sat around for a couple of years. His life reads like a novel he was a Diplomat, resistance fighter, filmmaker and also the only writer to have won the Prix Goncourt twice when his non de plume won as well. This was his last work before he committed suicide.

“I don’t have any parents. I live with my uncle”

“What does he do?”

I sensed vaguely that “rural postman” wasn’t quite the right thing

“He’s a kite master.”

She seemed favourably impressed.

“What does that mean?”

“It’s like a great captain, but in the sky.”

She thought for a little while longer then got up.”Maybe I’ll come back tomorrow”, she said. “I don’t know. I’m very unpredictable.How old are you?”

“I’m almost ten.”

“Oh, you’re far to young for me. I’m almosrt eleven and a half. But i like wild strawberries, Wait for me here tomorrow at the same time,. I’ll be back if there’s nothing better to do.

The first meeting in the field of the young couple that starts a love that last for years

 

 

The story starts in the early 1930’s when a young boy Ludo, he is the nephew of a man famous for his unusual and daring Kites Ambrose Fleury. The story starts when this young boy meets by chance one day a Polish aristocrat in a field. Lila a woman that grabs the young boys attention for the rest of his life. This sets forth his life from this point in a whole new direction as he falls in love with this slightly older girl. But also as he loses her in the war and sees what happened. His uncle has already got in trouble flying a kit based around Jewish star of David the Jews had to wear. This sees the war through a young man’s eyes as his village and those he grew up with try to resist the Germans. The activity in the village centers around the Cafe Clos Joli as they cycle around the Germans passing messages and he tries to find out what has happened to Lila. Locals like a Jewish prostitute who changes her self from that to an exiled Lady within the village, A wonderful insight into the way everyday French people tried to resist the Germans. As we see Ludo move from a boy to a man and His love for Lila change.

THE CLOS JOLI CONTINUED TO PROSPER< BUT MARCELLIEN DUPART’S reputation in the area began to suffer; he was accused of serving the ocupier to well; as for comrades, they hated him cordially. I knew him better than that and defended him when my friends called him a bootlicker or a collaborator.Truth be told as soon as the ocupation began with German superior officers and the entire Parisian elite already flocking to his “galleries” and his “rotunda”. Duprat made his choice.

The Clos Joli serves great food so has many imortant customers that come through it.

This is one of those books that cuts across genres. War story in part, the story of a village in the war. A heartsong to the France of those years one Gary would remember as he served in the resistance. The similar feeling I remember hearing from some of the old people I looked after thirty years ago that were involved in the war about the spirit that brought people together in those time seen. A romance where the love is maybe one-sided as Lila is very much above the young boy that has fallen for her. A coming of age novel. Yes, this has it all in also I often felt the relationship between Ludo and Lila was similar to that of pip and Estelle in great expectations the aloof nature of Lila is similar to that of Lila. The Clos Juli remind me of the cafe at the center of Allo Allo which like the one in the Kites was the center of village life like most cafes of that time and was also the main center of the resistance whilst still operating as a cafe. The last book of his lifetime and here nearly forty years later in English for the first time. The 99th book for this blog from France not long til I get 100 up.

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