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.

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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.

The Radiance of the king by Camara Laye

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Radiance of the King by Camara Laye

Guinea Fiction

Original title – Le Regard du roi

Translator – James Kirkup

Source – personal copy

I said with the post the other day I had felt the variety of place I had blogged from had narrowed in recent years from the early years when I would have a number more African title in the mix. So I have had this on my shelf for a few years I like to keep a few titles from places I haven’t read from in reserve for the day I really struggle to find somewhere new. Camara Laye was born into a family caste that was traditionally Blacksmiths and Goldsmiths. He studied Mechanics and became an engineer via his studies. He like many Guinean males of the time was circumcised this form the story of his debut novel the African child. This was his second novel and unlike the debut is an allegorical novel.

“What right?” asked the beggar, as if the word had startled him.

“Wasn’t that mor or less what you told me? Wasn’t that  what you were hinting at, at least ?

Clarence was now speaking with great bitterness

“I spoke only of “Favour” “said the beggar “You are quite wrong to think I said anything about “rights” of any kind. As far as I’m concerned, I have nevered claimed any kind of “rights” I have always resticted myself to soliciting favours.I’ll say no more than that I expect these favours tobe granted.

They have just meet and the Beggar is a strange man .

This novel tell the strange tales of Clarence he is a penniless white man who has got stuck in an unnamed African country with no money and no one apart from the locals to help him.We see over the three parts of the book as Clarence tries to get to see the King get him to help to get home. A job with the king would help him get home. He has lost everything to a game shortly after he arrives. He has been helped initially by a beggar. This beggar is a strange character as he says he has a way for Clarence to get to the King. They do at one point see the King but then learn he has headed south for a while. Then we meet another strange pair a couple of Naoga and Noaga whom with the beggar set of to a village in the south. They get drunk on the arrival in the Village and the beggar has a strange look at Clarence then leaves the village on a donkey !! THen Clarence ends up in a cycle of drinking and getting stuck into village life feeling a lazy way of life coming over him and the king coming seeming more distant as he tries to get the answer to when the king is coming! while he escapes returning home? Will he meet the King?

They were made aware if its proximity by an odur which ought to be described, not merely because Clarence was especially sensitive to smells, and very curiously affected by them, but also, and above all, because this odur was particularly representative of the whole character of the south

The odour was a subtle combination of flower perfumes and the exhalations of vegetable moulds, It was certainly a strange and even suspect fragrance, not disagreeable, or not overwhelmingly so, but strange, and suspect, a little like the turbid odour of a hot-house full of decay blooms

The fragrence as they head south has a almost mad=gic realist description about it !

This is an unusual novel as it has a white man turning African and not an African becoming western. Clarence gets drawn into village life. He is also a man that has to face challenges this is like the temptations of the flesh and mind. From the off were he loses his money, then the temptations of the women of becoming lazy all challenge him in meeting the King as he sees others around him trying like the blacksmith does in the village to make the perfect axe for the King. Clarence also is like a Kafka character, the book starts with the Kafka quote and there is a sense to a similar dream world in Clarences being stuck in the village in the middle part of the book. This is another early work of Franco African literature coming out in 1954 for the first time. I hope to try African child at some point by Laye. My copy was a Fontana modern from the early seventies with as you see a rather old-fashioned cover

Soumchi by Amos Oz

Soumchi by Amos Oz

Israeli fiction

Original title – סומכי

Translator – Amos Oz and Penelope Farmer

Source – personal copy

I always fall back to short books when I’m feeling down so I had this from the library and it was only 80 pages long so one evening last week I decided to read it it is the fourth book by the Great Amos Oz I have reviewed on the blog. It is also the earliest book written by Oz I have read it first came out in 1978 and this translation came out in 1980 and this new vintage edition came out a couple of years ago.

“Sum it up, Soumchi, sum it up, Soumchi”. While Mr Shitrit sweeled like a frog, grew red in the face and roared as usual:

“Let all flesh be silent!”And then, besides:”Not a dog shall bark!”

After five more minutes the class had quitened down again. But, almost to the eight grade I remained Soumchi. I’ve no ulterior motive in telling you all this. I simply want to steess one significant detail; a not sent to me  by Esthie at the endof that same lesson which read as follows:

You’re nuts. Why do you alway have to say things that get you in trouble? Stop it!

A note from the giurl he likes to stop being the class clown at tmes.

The book is narrated by Soumchi it’s the nickname of the narrator. The book is set in 1947 as Britain is still occupying Jerusalem. What we see is the day this young boy gets his first bicycle from his dodgy Uncle Zemach. The Uncle is known to dabble in Black Market. He also used to turn up with strange and exciting gifts for his nephew. So when he turns up with the bike for his nephew the parents aren’t too sure but Soumchi is happy. He is a boy that like many his age eleven is just discovering the other sex for him, in particular, it is one girl that has caught Soumchi eye. The Girl Esthi is one he is driven to try and impress and therefore get her attention. The book is filled with those daydream notions we have as a child the bike could take him to the heart of Africa or to the Himilayia’s. But the bike also causes problems for this bullied boy. His day gets worse when his best friend a richer boy who hasn’t a bike swaps the bike with him for a train set. We also see the Jerusalem under British control through a child’s eye.

This time, Uncle Zemach marked the feast of Shavout by riding all the way from the egged bus station in the Jaffa road to the courtyard of our house on a second hand raleigh bicycle, complete with every accssory: it had a bell, also a lamp, also a carrier, also a reflector at the back; all it lacked was the crossbar joining the saddle to the handlebar. But, in my first overwhelming joy, I overlooked just how grave a shortcoming that was.

Mother said: Really, this is excessive, Zemach, The boy is still only elven. What are you proposing to give him for his Bar Mitzva

Zemach had always turned up with strange and exciting gifts.

I have always been a fan of Oz’s books he is one of those writers that is on the edge of the Nobel prize. For me he is in the Pamuk and LLosa vein of writer his books are readable and compelling but maybe not great but always good if that makes sense. You can see on his Wiki page you can see a list of all the prizes that he has won from around the world. which include a couple of those prizes that other Nobel winners have won. This is a classic coming of age tale Soumchi is a typical boy he has to deal with blossoming teen hormones, Bullying, Love, and hate. He also is a great daydreamer and Imagination. Character-wise Soumchi has some similarities with the Narrator of Stand by me who also had a great imagination and also was starting to get interested in girls. reminded of the lines he said about never have friends and times like you do when you are twelve (or elven in this case). It is a view of a day in the life of a boy trying to get told in short chapters that keep the reader right there with Soumchi through his day the day he got a bike and what happened.

Document 1 by François Blais

Document 1 by François Blais

Candian Quebecian fiction

Original title – Document 1

Translator – JC Sutcliffe

Source – review copy

When someone from Book*hug contacted me to review two of there latest books in translation. I couldn’t say no, I have enjoyed all the books in the last couple of years I have read from Quebec. So I choose Document 1 first to read. As François Blais is considered something of an underground superhero of Quebec literature. This is his most successful book when it came out in French in 2013 he has written nine novels and a collection of short stories. This is his first book to be translated into English.

One amusing and instructive way of learning about America is exploring the Family Watchdog website (www.family-watchdog.us), a service that allows American citizens to learn whether anyone in their neighbourhood has been convicted of a sex crime. The home page asks for the name of a town. Let’s choose ne at random: Anchorage, Alaska. A map pops up with a constellation of little coloured squares corresponding t the houses and workplaces of criminals.

A site that shows the location of all sex offenders in America and we find the colours lead to type of criminals. Another rabbit hole for Tess and Jude.

This is the tale of two slackers in a way. Tess and Jude are daydreamers, they love nothing more than searching google maps for those odd named places in America like Chicken in Alaska and Boring Oregon two examples given in the book. But the one place they really like is a place in Bird in hand Pennslyvania. Which they discover it is nearly a ten-hour drive from there Quebec small town of Grand-Mere.That sets the two on planning how they could make the journey there. That makes them search and leads them to Sebastien Daoust a writer. They then make use of the one writer Sebastien locally. He is a small time writer. They fake an application from him “Hence the document one of the title the title of the document they wrote on Microsoft word”  for arts grant to write a book in the dying travelogue genre as they put it citing books like Sterne’s sentimental journey through France and Italy and Diderot’s journey to Holland. They end up buying a Monte Carlo car and have a dog to come with them on this road trip. But as they are maybe more dreamers than realist!! read the book to see what happens to Tess and Jude.

For a long time, Bird-in-Hand was basically little more than a market. The Amish came there to sell their products a couple of times a week, then went back to their farms. On non-market days, it was essentially a ghost town, with a population that barely made it to three figures. Things changed in1911, when Jonathan stoltzfus brought a sixty-acre farm in the area. Later on, his sons opened a hotel and started devolping tourism in the region.Today, his decendants (The Smuckers) own just about all the two’s businesses.You’re going to say, “If the guy was called Stoltzfus, why would his descendants be called Smucker?” Well, Smucker sounds more American, which is better for Buisnees.Simple as that

I liked the little pen history of the town they want to visit.

Earlier last month the Wodehouse prize was canceled this year for a lack of witty and comic novels. Well, this would have been up there it has a wry dry humor of the underdog world. Tess and Jude reminded me of those characters Magnus mills wrote in his early books those trapped in their own world without really knowing they are. Also, there is a nod in a way to fellow Canadian slacker writer Douglas Coupland the parts on the computer remind me of scenes from his books like Microserfs those endless rabbit holes of searches. I used to love the old zip code stories in National Geographic a patient I looked after used to buy them and we’d look at the different places they had chosen. Similar to Tess and Jude’s odd named towns searches. A tragic tale of two dreamers trapped in their own worlds. This made me smile when I hadn’t had a lot to smile in the last couple of weeks.

This too shall pass by Milena Busquets

Image result for milena busquets this too shall pass

This too shall pass by Milena Busquets

Spanish fiction

Original title – También esto pasará

Translator – Valerie Miles

Source – review copy

I was sent this last year but it wasn’t to this week when I was looking for a couple of short books to cover whilst reading a longer book as well to give me some books to review. Milena Busquets book had been a best seller around Europe and in many ways is a perfect summer book as it is set in the summer in Spain. Milena got a degree in archaeology from university college London then she worked for her family publishing house and has worked in PR and translations since then. This book was longlisted for the Impac award.

For some strange reason, I never considered what it would be like to be forty. When I was tweny, I could imagine myself at thirrty, living with the love of my life and a bunch of kids. Or at sixty, baking apple pies with my grandchildren – me who can’t boil an egg to save my soul, but I would learn. Even at eighty, as an old bag drinking whisky with my girlfriends,But I never imagined myself at forty, not at fifty either,And yet here I am

Blanca never saw herself as middleaged she went from youngest with kids to old age this is her main problem!!

The book starts with Blanca the main character in the book dealing with her own mother’s death and funeral. She then decides to visit her mother seaside holiday home with those she considers her closest friends, lovers, and family. Her two best friends, her two sons, her two ex-husbands and her lover. this is almost like a setting for a Spanish Woody Allen film. In fact the themes within the book. Are those that are most common within Woody  Allen’s films that is of oncoming Middle age. This In Blanca case is driven by the death of her mother.(As someone like Blanca that lost my mother early I know the effect on one’s life and view of life) . The next themes are sex this in Blanca case as we see through this book is almost used to plot out the pain of the loss of her mother. Then there is Death another come theme in Allen films death of family but also the death of relationships is another underlying theme. So over the summer, we see a woman coming to terms with what happened to her. So we see a woman trying to grip on to those younger years drinking and drugs are mentioned a lot and parties but then we see her own children on the edge of coming into the age where this will be their world. A heady mix of sun, sex, and sangria.

To the best of my knowledge.the only thing that momentarily alleviates the sting of death – and lfe – without leaving a hangover is sex. It only lasts a few seconds, though; maybe a little linger if you fall asllep afterwards. But then the fuinture , the clothes, the memories, the lamps, the panic, the grief, everything that had been shooshed up into the The wizard of Oz tornado comes right back down and falls into its place in the room, in the head, in the belly. I open my eyes and it’s not garlands of flowers and singing dwarfs that I see, no ; I’m lying in bed next to my ex,

I loved this description of how she fell into bed with an ex, this remind me some what of something Woody Alllen would say.

This maybe isn’t the first book I would have chosen to read it isn’t my usual read. But I enjoyed the style it has a follow as we follow the stream of consciousness narrative of Blanca’s world as she spends her summer in Cadaques. This brings to mind classic modernist piece like Mrs  Dalloway where a woman confronts here world over a night here we see a woman wrestling with the modern female problems which is much different Mrs Dalloways problems. Blanca is very much a self-centred woman but we see her struggling and trying to get on with her life. But for me, this had a lot in common with Woody Allen films the feeling of a female instead of a male facing what their life is and maybe falling into the arms of a number of people over the course of the book.

The little Virtues by Natalia Ginzburg

The Little Virtues by Natalia Ginzburg  | Daunt Books Publishing

The Little Virtues by Natalia Ginzburg

Italian Memoir

Original title – Le piccole virtù

Translator – Dick Davis

Source – Personal copy

One of the writers I saw mentioned in the book Not to read by Alejandro Zambra was Natalia Ginzburg. Ginzburg was a writer when Zambra discovered he couldn’t decide whether to shout out about or keep just for themselves.But he let it slip very soon about him. Natalia Ginzburg. He first novel was published under a pseudonym in 1942 as she was Jewish.After that, she worked for the Italian publisher Einaudi that published books by the likes of Primo Levi, Cesare Pavese and Italo Calvino.Then in the fifties, this is the most productive period for Ginzburg as a writer she wrote most of the pieces in that period of time.

My shoes are worn out , and the friend I live with at the moment also has worn out shoes. When we are together we often talk about shoes. When we are together we often talk about shoes. If I talk about the time when I shall be an old, famous  writers, she immediately ask me” What shoes will you wear ?” Then I say i shall have shoes made or green sude with a big gold buckle on one side.

Worn out shoes is about her war time experiences using her shoes as a metaphor about the war and its experinces on the public.

There is twelve piece in Little Virtues. From the first piece about the winters in her home region of  Abruzzi where she says they only really have Winter and Summer with her saying the spring is like winter, she describes how the region deals with the conditions and how many of the workers come home from the summer work for Christmas. Then a wonderful piece written about her war experiences called worn out shoes about how she managed to cope with just a  single pair of Shoes and how her friends also have to. It ends with lines about having to learn to walk in worn out shoes. Then my favorite piece is called England a Eulogy and lament. is a witty piece about how she found England when she visited not the most flattering view of our country but funny and I was reminded of the Black and white films of the late forties with the grey smog filled country she describes the English stations as the place where England is most openly gloomy. Then she talks in the later piece about types of silence and her relationships

England also expresses its sense of fantasy in its cafes and restaurants. They often give them tfoerign names to make them more attractive- “Pustaza”, “Chez Nous”,”Rome”,”Le Alpi”. When you look through the windows you see wispy climbing plants, Chinese lanterns, shap oeaks of rock, the blue of glaciers. Or you see skulls and crossbones black walls , black carpets, funeral candles – and because these place are oftendeserted a mournful silences reigns.

Enland through her eyes is a strange and and odd place.

Natalia Ginzburg is due to have a revival with this recent reissue of this book and a couple of others in recent years like me a new generation of readers can discover this great female Italian voice. The pieces in this collection started in the world war two Italy to post-war England and glimpse into her personal life. Her style is conversational at times you are drawn into her essays and feel as she is describing her world as thou you are next to her. There is subtle wit at times behind her writing especially her times in England, which has a wonderful dry view of drab post-war Britain. I want to try one of her novels next. It is great to see more non-fiction in translation.

The Harafish by Naguib Mahfouz

Image result for harafish naguib mahfouz

The Harafish by Naguib Mahfouz

Egyptian fiction

Original title –  ملحمة الحرافيش

Translator – Catherine Cobham

Source – personal copy

I was looking for a number of books to do for the 1977 club and this was another that cropped up as coming out in Arabic that year. Mahfouz was a Nobel winner. He was regarded as the first truly modern writer in Egypt and his books have been described as Existentialist in their style. He is maybe best known for his Cario Trilogy. A man that spoke out for what he believed in most of his books were banned in the Arab world to his Nobel win. It also gives me a chance to fill a gap in the writers that should be on this blog.

Nothing like this had ever happened in the alley. The police only came near it in extreme emergencies. The clan chief’s numerous crimes were usually unattributed, thanks to the testimony of false witness. was inspector Faud Abd al-Tawwab going to do what nobody had done before him of Mohammed Anwar’s body was discovered on the path or under the archway? How had Muhammad had the insolence to go to the police for help, and why had the inspector been ready to challenge Nuh in this underhand way?

The police were rare visitors to the Alley here because someone went outside the alley world.

The harafish is a family saga told over ten chapters as we follow the family living in an alley from Ashur Al Nagi whom is the chief of the family in the first tale through the years and generations til the last story Ashur crops up again the chapters are told in small vignettes. I liked the style it was almost like reading or listening to gossip on the street among the Harafish as the people of the alley are called. Exist is hard at times I remember a line on page 301 where someone says “you’d preserve your youth forever ” this shows the toughness of this world. The cycles of the alley violence trying to get to the top is repeated over the chapters the characters are different sons or daughters of earlier characters. I loved the part in one chapter, when the police appeared which was considered an outrage as they liked to run there own little world.

The emotions of the Nagi family and the harafish were set in turmoil by the unexpected return and sudden disappearence of Samah. His sons were probably the least affected of anybody because he came and went while they were asleep and anyway, as far as they were concerned, he was no longer much more than a faint memory, like their mother in Bulaq. His story was told far and wide, and became a legend and a cautionary tale.

The opening of the fifth chapter and already past battles become like a myth or legend.

This is a clever book as you think it is cardio and feel as though you know the timeframe of the novel. But nothing is ever said about the timeframe of the novel or the location of the book all we know is that the families live in an alley where the characters all live. A true family saga covering the years of a place. Mahfouz was a fan of Zola and Balzacs works and there is a feeling of their worlds here a tough look at life realist but also at the same time without time and place it could be another place even if you change the names and in that regard for me it is a true work of Existentialism of the question why are we here why are they there what makes their world. A great second choice for 1977club and for me another piece in the canon of books and writers I have covered on the blog. I hope at some point to bring the Cario trilogy to the blog.

 

Maigret’s Secret by Georges Simenon

 

Maigret’s secret by Georges Simenon

Belgian fiction

Original title –  Une confidence de Maigret

Translator – David watson

Source – personal copy

It has been ten months since I reviewed a Maigret on the blog so when a search for a holiday read, I choose the latest of the series of books that Penguin has been bringing out over the last few years. This is one of the later books. This is slightly different to the other books I have read as Maigret himself is retelling the events of the case many years after the event. There is still a number of Maigret books to come I will be dipping in over the years to come I am sure not in order unfortunately but as they appeal to me.

A longer silence. He emptied his pipe and took another one from his pocket, which he slowly filled, seeming to caress the briar.

I remember one case, not so long ago .. Did you follow the josset affair ?

“The name rings a bell”

“There was a lot in the papers about it, but the true story insofar as there is a true story was never told”

It was very unnusual for him to talk about a case he had been involved in. Occasionally, at Quai des Orfevres, among colleagues, some famous case or some difficult investigation might be mentioned, but it was always a passing allusion.

Magriet starts talking about Josset and his case with him a rare event.

Maigret is at a dinner party one evening when he starts telling his fellow guests a story of an old case that since it happened had troubled him.The case is that of one Adrien Josset. He is a man that came from a modest background. But thanks to his wives wealth gets a position which gives him a good standard of living. He is also having an affair with his secretary Annette a much younger woman than his wife. So when after a night out with his mistress where he bumps into Annette’s father and somehow says he will marry her. So when he returns and later his wife turns up dead he is, of course, the number one suspect. But over the interviews with Josset  Maigret feels this man is innocent and believes his story. But the problem is the case is quickly seized upon by the press and when events outside the case lead to a backlash against Josset and puts him in the frame in the publics Eye what is Maigret to do, this is what he expains over the course of two evening to his friends at a dinner party.

Certain details of the case were etched more sharply than others in Maigret’s memory. Even years later he could recall the particular taste and smell of the rain shower in the Rue Caulaincourt as keenly as a childhood memory.

It was six thirty in the evening, and when the rain started it did not obscure the sun, already red above the rooftops. The sky remained ablaze, the window shimmering with the reflected light, and only a siingle pearl grey clud, slightly darker at the centre and glowing at its edges, floated over the streets, as light as a ballon.

Maigret recalls visitng a scene involved in the crime and remembers it years later.

This is different to the over  Maigret as it shows the foibles of the man. But it maybe is quite a modern story as it shows the power of the press in forming public opinion. This happens more so now than it used to I can think of a number of cases over the last few years where the press has driven public opinon in the case. This is shown to great effect in the book. Maigret is shown as a fair man like he is in the other books but one that can also dwell on events that have happened. This is also a classic what might have ben in a way one of those case that seems open and shut when it starts.

Death in Spring by Mercè Rodoreda

Death in Spring by  Mercè Rodoreda

Spanish Catalan fiction

Original title –  La mort i la primavera

Translator – Martha Tennet

Source – personnel copy

Well, I read the first of my post-holiday reads in a day. This book came out a few years ago in the US and earlier this year here as part of a new penguin series into European voices. Merce Rodoreda was considered one of the leading novelist of her time. her novel The time of the doves has been considered the greatest Catalan novel. She lived most of her life in Exile in France and Switzerland away from the Franco regime only returning later on in her life to Spain towards the end of the Franco years.

I craned my head out of the water. The light was stronger now, and I swam slowly, wanting to take my time before leaving the river. The water embraced me. It would have seized ,e if I had let it , and – pushed forward and sucked under- I would have ended up in the place where nothing is comprehended.Reeds grew in the river; the current bent them, and they let themselves be rocked by the water that was carrying the force of the sky, earth and smow.

The opening lines have that feel of nature cling to the people of the village .

Now I said this was a novella I wanted to read as I saw it as a male version of the book Stones in a landslide.Which was one of my favourite novels of all time. But this is a very different coming of age novel. This is a visceral novel of a boy becoming a man in a remote village that still clings to the past. There is like the scenery around the book vines and forest of death as it is called there is a sense of a world. Being caught out of time and maybe for our narrator, there is no way out of it. Nature captures people, like the dead body in the river. returned to the river.The bridges that never seem to be used a dense forest give the Narrators world a closed in feel. The other characters his father dying, his stepmother the Blacksmith and his odd son all give this a sense of the beauty and horror of nature. A boy becomes a man in a strange world a wonderful narrated world of mountain villages.

When they pulled the boy from the river, he was dead, the returned him to the river. Those who died in the water were returned to the water. The river carried them away and nothing was ever known of them again.But at night, at the spot where the bodies were thrown into the water, a shadow could be seen.Not every night. Not today or tomorrow, but on certain nights a shadow trembled,They said the shadow of the dead returned to the place where the man was born.They said that to die was to merge with the shadow.

I was so remind of Marquez with this lines and the river which in his books is a powerful prescense as well.

This is a novella that like many great shorter books seems much more than its parts. It is full of descriptions of the world around them at times this is maybe a metaphor for how Franco strangled the country. There is also for me an echo of the works of Marquez the village her is a Spanish cousin of Marquez’s Macondo village. The same sense of a place cling to its customs and superstitions of the outside world this is a world the character is trapped in like those vines and even if he escapes there is moss to slip on, bridges to cross and rivers to survive. Hope is always there but like a dim light in the valley below the village.

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