The last days of el Comandante by Alberto Barrera Tyszka

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The last day of el Comandante by Alberto Barrera Tsyzka

Venezuelan fiction

Original title –  Patria o muerte

Translators – Rosalind Harvey and Jessie Mendez Sayer

Source – review copy

Now back to Spanish lit month and here I have a second book from Alberto Barrera Tyszka. I reviewed the Sickness when it was on the IFFP list. That was eight years ago so this last book that follows the time running up to the death of Hugo Chavez from a main character and those around him, Tyszka wrote Chavez’s  biography he is influenced by writers such as Dostoyevski, Dumas, Stevenson, and Chekov as well as Salvador Garmendia and Jose Ignacio Cabrujus two of the greatest Venezuelan writers of recent years.

“I wouldn’t be surorised if it was all lies,” Beatriz muttered “Something the cubans made up to distract us.”

Sanabria wathced in silence.

Chavez looked thin and pale. He was on his feet behind the podium, and , oddly he was reading out a written text instead of improvising in front of the camera, It was unheard of for this man, so fond of speaking for hours in fromt of any audience, to restrict himself to a few word, suddenly held hostage by a small piece of paper.

I loved that last line of being held hosatge by a piece of paper this man that could talk for hours starting to look unwell !

The main character in the book is a retired Oncologist Miguela Sanabria he is sort of a middling figure neither anti or pro Chavez but given his previous profession, his opinion is sort by both sides. His wife is very anti-Chavez in her views. He is contacted by his brother a pro-Chavez then his Nephew Vladimir who is high up in the regime who has hold of a mobile that has the truth about how bad the president is a recording whilst Chavez had surgery. Outside all this Miguel is asked by a mysterious Cuban to become chairman of the condominium they live in. Their neighbor Fredy is writing about Chavez but is offered a fresh angle on this book. When he is given a chance to see some medical reports. that means he will have to leave alone without his family for the US. THen There is Young Maria being homeschooled by her mother  Cecilla who is stuck in the apartment as she is scared of the outside world. So Maria turns to Chat rooms after Cecilla has the internet installed to keep the little girl in touch with the outside world. She talks to Fedy son Rodrigo on these chat rooms they offer a different view on the world around . them. This is a snapshot of Middle-class lives in Venezuela as the life of Chavez hung in the Balance.

“The problem isn’t your neighbours. The problem is you” This was the brother’s response to his various sorrows. Miguel had gone to visit him and told him about everything that was going on in  his building. From Antonio’s point of view, letting the boy into his house had been his first mistake.

“What was I supposed to do? The husband’s awat, their family lives in Maturin, and she was standing ther, crying, totally overwheklmed.”

As Miguel lets a neighbour in his house afterthe husnband has left his brother thinks he is making a mistake ?

Tyszka has a sideline like a lot of Latin American writers have as a soap writer and this is like that a slice of everyday life capturing the effects of the end of Chavez when he was dying of characters using a group of characters connected by family or location. Middle class but all struggling Miguel walking a fine line between his family members but at a point knowing things are worse than they are being told. Fredy a journalist given a chance and his son chatting with a fellow youngster in the building a new face of Venezuela in the chat rooms. A powerful work on everyday lives of those caught up in the last days showing how entwined we all are.  As the death of the great leader looms on the horizon. Like a soap opera, it mixes News and Melodrama and some outrages bits. Hae you read Tyszka?

 

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30 covers for #WITMONTH a french modern classic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today I move to France on one of the great French female writers from post war France. Set in Russia in what is now Lativa a woman and the men that are trying to impress her. All that on the surface as Yourcenar puts a lot of things under the surface in her characters. Here is my review 

30 covers for #WITMONTH England through a German eyes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maybe not the most exciting cover Fitzcarraldo covers are all the same and are a homage to the original James Joyce Ulysses cover in their style. Here we have a recent favourite from them River by Ester Knsky saw her living in London and using the Thames as a launchpad for her memories of both London and the other cities and places as she was growing up by other rivers as the prose flow you are drawn into her world.

That was the month that was July 2019

  1. The house of Ulysses by Julian Rios
  2. Vlad by Carlos Fuentes
  3. Quiet creature on the corner by Joao Gilberto Noll
  4. the posthumous memoirs of Bras Cubas by Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis
  5. The Hedge by Miguel Delibes
  6. Atlantic hotel by Joao Gilberto Noll
  7. The fish child by Lucia Puenzo
  8. The Iliac crest by Cristina Riera Garz

I managed eight books all for Spanish and Portuguese lit month. I start with a book about a book Julian RIos House of Ulysess. Then a Mexican take on the Vampire story a poet winds up in a prison writing poems after raping a girl in Brazil. A man whose life is a failure writes about his life from the afterlife. A man gets sent to the country to recover and gets hemmed in by an ever-increasing hedge and sees those around him as animals another trip to Brazil and a man falling apart in front of his eyes from a hotel with the murder happened he then went on a bizarre road trip. A pair of young girls from different sides of the tracks fall in love as one is the maid for the other.and lastly two women turned up at a mans ouse but is he a man and is all as it seems a wonderful selection of books from four countries, no new publishers but an interesting selection. It has taken the total of books reviewed this year to 53 lower than other years but still hoping to pass 100 by the end of the year.

Book of the month

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am a huge fan of James Joyce so this book was a great choice it follows a group of readers following their wat through the book.

Next month-

We’ll have more Spanish and Portuguese lit month offerings. Two writers, I have reviewed before one from Venezuela writes a book about the last year of Chavez from the point of view of one of his doctors then another book around a leader Tyrant Memory by Horacio Castellanos Moya about a 1930’s leader of El Salvador. Both spins on the classic Dictator novel a staple of Latin American literature. A Dutch classic set in China. I am working three of the next four days and on Saturday we will be visiting our local Food festival and celebrating our wedding anniversary. So I will be back on Tuesday unless I get time to review a book. I will add a few titles for Women in translation month.

Other none book events last month

I always like mention something new I’ve found well this month it is a great rediscovery and that is Gerry Anderson’s Space 1999 a seventies sci-fi series I had missed the great guest roles in the past from the likes of Christopher Lee and Leo McKern. It has a similar political undertone.  about it that we found in Start trek when it was shown. I have also been a huge fan of the return of Lloyd Cole his new album is rather good as he uses more Keyboards than he has in the past but still has that Cole feel.

What are your plans?

The Iliac Crest by Cristina Rivera Garza

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Iliac Crest by Cristina Rivera Garza

Mexican fiction

Original title – La cresta de Ilión

Translator – Sarah Booker

Source – personal copy

Well, another crossover for women in translation and Spanish lit month and another great Mexican writer. Cristina Rivera Garza is a well-known writer and professor, she grew up near the US border in Mexico. She has won many of the lit prizes in Mexico. Garza style has been described by her as “disturbing pleasure ” She aims to darken things and make the reader suspicious. Believing that there is too much light and clarity in the world. She uses concepts such as sex and identity this is very much the case here. Another great novel from Mexico.

Three days after her arrival, Amparo had already devolped a routine that we shared and respected equally. So placid, so natrual, that anyone not familar with us might have belived we werehappily married. At first glance, no one would have suspected that I was just playing along, that my fear hadn’t subsided in the least quite the opposite: it kept growing.

Amparo would wake up early, batrhe and, with her hair still wet, go downstairs to the kitchen to make coffee for me and tea for the betrayed.

The two settle in the mans house and make it like a home before they start twisting the screw on the narrator.

this is a strange book an unnamed narrator is visited on a dark night by two women. He is a doctor in a small coastal town between the north and the south. The women seem to know the narrator they invite themselves into the house. The two of them seem to know some dark secret about the narrator He tries to defend himself from their constant question and accusations of who he was before. The women one a Mexican woman called Amparo Davila a writer the other another unnamed character is just called the betrayed. The two start talking in a gibberish to one another as they start to unsettle the narrator meanwhile he is caught by the hip of one of the women which he sees as he tries to remember what it is called well that is the Iliac crest of the title and part of the pelvis which is part of this gothic tale about peoples gender identity.

Amaparo pproached me sureptitiously one night. She brought a bottle of anisette and, after serving the liquor in two small glasses, reclined in front of the lit fireplace. We chatted idly until, pausing, she looked up at me.

“You know?” she said offhandedlu. “I kniow your secret”

As had become cusomary in our few conversations, her comment made me let out a short burst of laughtter. I laughed not only because the woman claimed to know my secret but because she shockingly assumed there was only one.

I loved the last poart of this about his many secrets and them thing he has this one large one !!

Another one of those great short novels that have come from Mexico in recent years this also features a real person well it isn’t here in the end by Amparo Davila is an actual writer her first translation came out in English last year. She writes a lot about gender and there is a lot in this book about that the IIliac crest for example is part of the pelvis and high and more evident in women then in her intro to this book The translator tells us that the use of gender is hard to translate the narrator refers to themselves as a male but when the two women question them it is as thou they are a female. as they play out positions the betrayed the person from Amparo and the narrator who isn’t what we think he or she, their position is questioned. Like a lot of Mexican fiction, this has levels to the narrative and is mainly about females roles within Mexico. As for the simple story two women turning up and questioning someone well for me I was reminded of the Pinter play The birthday party which sees two men turn up and question a man. A great translation from Sarah booker as she says we lose something as we have no gender in English.

The posthumous memoirs of Bras Cubas by Joaquim Maria Machado De Assis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The posthumous memoirs of Bras Cubas by Joaquim Maria Machado De Assis

Brazilian fiction

Original title – Memorias Posthumas de Braz Cubas

Translator – Gregory Rabassa

Source – personal copy

I always like adding depth to the blog some older writers from around the world.So here I review the second book on the blog from the Brazilain writer Machado De Assis He managed a successful career as a Bureaucrat as well as become a successful writer first with poetry then a series of novels it was when this book came out that he became a really well known in Lit circles in Brazil. The book followed the death of a friend that left him melancholic and thinking about death.

For some time I debated over whether I should start these memoirs at the beginning or at the end, that is, whether I shuld put my birth of my death in first place. Since common usage would call for beginning with birth, two considerations led me to adopt a different method: the first is that i am not exactly a write who is dead but a dead man who is a writer, for whom the grave was a second cradle, the second is that the writing be more distinctive and novel in that way. Moses, who also wrote about his death,didn’t place it at the opening but at the close: a radical differecne between this book and the Pentateuch.

The opening lines explain the choice of style for the book

 

This is a strange book as it is the memoirs of a dead man that he wrote after he died he tells us this early on in the book. As we follow Bra Cubas life as he tells us in a quirky style of short chapters that vignettes of his life from his childhood onwards. but he was a spoilt rich child maybe this explains why his life is never quite right. He also abused the slaves his family had at the time. He then goes on to study law. His wilder years before he settles   Sleeping and falling in love with a prostitute that all the boys loved at the time. He also deals with his mother’s death and ends up in Rio. This is where he starts to meet Virgilia a woman that is the love of his life they never quite get it there she marries someone else he decides to become involved in politics. But he is a man that always sees his world as half empty and his relationships and life all reflect this so when he re-meets Virgilia and they see each other things still don’t go his way. His political career grows but he then is out of favor and starts a pape as a  member of the opposition.

Virgilia ? But, then, was it the same lady who some year later ….? The very same. It was precisely the lady who was to be present during my last days in 1869 and who before, long before, had played a ample part in my most intimate sensations. At that time she was only fifteen or sixteen years old. She was possibly the most daring creatureof our race and, certainly, the most wilful.I shan’t say that she was already first in beauty, ahead of the other girls of the time, because this isn’t a novel, where the author gilds reality and close his eyes to feckles and pimles.

I liove this description of the love of his life .

This is an amazing book for the time it mixes the absurd style of a book like Lawrence Sterne’s Tristam Shandy another fictional biography. De Assis said he was influenced by this book and also the French masterpiece journey around my room by Zavier De Maistre which is another unusual and unique book in style.  But he also mixes realist lit of the day from the likes of Zola and Dickens which showed the world warts and all. We are given this view of the world  Bra Cubas gives of Brazil he grew up in. It captures the wide range of people in Brazil from those nameless slaves to Bra Cubas and those he sees go above him in his life in the upper reaches of Brazilian life. Bra Cubas is  a man that is a normal man, not a hero never really successful in fact in a lot of ways he is a man that things never quite pan out failed romances the sense that he is maybe marked for his younger days in later life. I liked this much more than the other book by De Assis I read a few years ago I see in this how well read he was it is said he read in five languages and you can see what an influence he was for the Latin American writers that followed him. Borges for example in the short choppy chapters that could each be like the small gems  of short stories  that Borges did so well. Have you read De Assis ?

10 years of winstonsdad

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, I am still in shock I managed to get to ten years of blogging. The years have flown I do miss those early years and those early bloggers that lead me to Blog. The first year of trying to get 52 books from around the world read has to lead to a total of 120 countries and 917 reviews about 92 reviews a year the last couple of years I have lost a bit of momentum in my blogging but I’ve managed 41 books this year and I’ve had so much happen in the last two years in my real life that I am surprised I got so many reviews done in the last two years. Highlights have been the visits to the IFFP prize which meant I had a chance to meet so many writers and translators. My numerous visit to London to meet Susie from Istros books that have made me meet her writers for more than a few minutes spending the day with them and really talking books. Meeting other bloggers is always a fun thing to do from Rob one of the bloggers I most admired at the start and still, Lizzy, Gran, Mark and Simon who much missed inside books was one of my inspiration for the blog.I am not as active on twitter as I was once something I am trying to spend more time with and I am still amazed how #translationthurs runs by itself every week. Regrets One,  I still miss not seeing Lisa from Anzlitlovers but sure we will meet one day!   So looking forward I have a French book for review this week by one of my favourite French writers I have another Spanish and Portuguese lit month. I will again be involved in the Man Booker international as I have for the last nine years from the IFFP days.

Termin by Henrik Nor-Hansen

Termin front cover.png

Termin by Henrik Nor-Hansen

Norwegian fiction

Original title – Termin

Translator – Matt Bagguley

Source – Review copy

I said last night when the winner was announced for this year’s Man Booker that small publishers like the winner Sandstone press and the publisher of this title Nordisk small presses are the lifeblood of fiction in Translation. They bring us those gems that the big boy publishers can’t so here is a book that was nominated for the Nordic council literature prize. Henrik Nor-Hansen has written four novels and poetry and short story collections this book was his latest novel. There is an interesting interview with the translator Matt Bagguley He describes the trouble find terms in English and the uniqueness of the voice

Kjetil Tuestad reportedly moved to his own place in late august. It was a basement flat in Bjergsted. It is known that he called his parents and wife. He had apparently said that he needed time alome. They showed understanding. In hindsight, this approach has been questioned. the immediate family were perhaps not good enough at recognising changes in Kjetil’s personality.He remembers very little from this period. In many respectshe still required help .The flat never quite came together.

The first signs he isn’t quite the man he was when he tried to set up hime alone.

The full title of the book is Termin An inquiry into violence on Norway. The book is only 80 pages but what we see is the aftermath of a violent attack on one mans life. Kjetil Tuestad was a normal man working in the Stravanger shipyard as an electrician. He had married his wife Ann and they had decided to settle down in the small village of Hommersak a place that was growing as the oil boom was in full swing at the time. that was all in 1998 and in Midsummer night he was found beaten on the outskirts of the town. The actual injuries are listed three fractures to the jaw his teeth completely bent the wrong way. Blood coming from his ear what follows is an account of his life for the next twenty years from his slow recovery with first his parents than trying to rebuild his relationship with the wife they try and have a normal life and have kids. But he is a changed man and there is a detached nature to the way his life is described and the world around him. But his world is changed and he is on the path to be a loner as he has lost that ability to connect with people. This is one man’s life falling apart after a vicious attack but also a changing world around him and a village that has changed after his attack.

Kjetil Tuestad stresses that he is only occasionally able to picture his wife in the home. He says it is also difficult to visualise the infant as he would have  looked in the summer of 2001. Kjetil reacts to the fact that he did not participate more often in this. Other memories well up quite clearly. During the holidays what would become a string of severe animal welfare cases began. Cats in particular were made to suffer.

His behaviour years later is very different and his brain injury becomes much clearer.

I choose The years as my Man Booker winner. as it broke the boundaries of what fiction is here and for me, this is what Nor-Hansen has done here it is the sort of anti-Knausgaard as whereas Karl Ove tells us everything. this book is a sort of bare minimum of a man’s life over the same period from 3000 pages to 80 pages.  I remember the scene in the film a river runs through it where the writer Norman Maclean is given a task to write by his pastor father but as he says the less we say the more we say. In fact, there is another connection as the book follows the vicious attack and in a river runs through it the end is like the beginning of this book when Normans brother is attacked. So this has a blunt style a detached nature as Kjetil life is told post attack. The only thing I have read that repeats the style of the narrator is the character in curious incident of the night there is a similar way of view the world I found that it is now just black and white but also there is no real emotion in it  that is what he lost more than the outside injuries it is the loss of empathy this maybe is one of the best views of a man with brain injuries trying to live his life as best he can when what is us is gone and maybe the shell is left to carry on and rebuild. In what is a harsh world than it was. This book comes out this week from Nordisk books.

The Years by Annie Ernaux

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Years by Annie Ernaux

French Fiction

Original title – Les Années

Translator – Alison L Strayer

Source – personal copy (kindly sent by Batpoet from twitter the US edition thanks)

I will put my own Shortlist out tomorrow the day the actual shortlist is out I have about hundred pages of the last book to finish and I will have read this year’s longlist I am behind on reviews so this is the ninth book from the long list I have to review three more books to review. Anyway back to this which in a way is maybe the most unusual books on this years list as it is one of those borderline books that I really love. I should know it UK publisher is Fitzcarraldo. It is neither fiction or non-fiction a memoir in a way. Annie Ernaux her books have long chronicled her life over the years over books have dealt with her relationship with her father, the death of her mother and having breast cancer this is considered her masterpiece by French critics.

Memory was transmitted not only through the stories but through the ways of walking, sitting, talking, laughing, eating, hailing someone, grabbing hold of objects. It passed body to body, over the years, from the remotest countryside of France and other parts of Europe: a heirtage unseen in the photos, lying beyond individual difference and the the gaps between the goodness of some and the wickedness of others. It united family members, neighbors, and all these of whom one said “They’re people like us” a repertory of habits and gestures shaped by childhoods in the fields and teen years in wiorkshops, preceeded by other childhoods, all the way back to oblivion

I loved this passage early on in the book.

This is an interesting work as Annie speaks of her life from the early 1940s to the 20th century in a third person narrative of a womans life in France over those years and the generation she is part of the post-war generation of French intellectuals that we all know so well over here it is ashamed Annie herself maybe isn’t better know. She is a French literature teacher she has kids and lives in the Paris suburbs. This book isn’t just about her life but is a work that shows us the culture of those years and the events of those years from the music she listens to from Piaf chevalier and even pre-war acts like Josephine Baker. The books films and general culture.I love she laments how TV is taking over the world at the end of the book. This is maybe a lament to a world that has now gone that of proper discovery that of reading one book then finding another books films because of paper reviews or word of mouth of friends a smaller world a world where things need to be discovered no good reads, no IMDB, etc. The second line is France itself through these years in a way a build up to the pivotal events of 1968 that saw France on the verge of crashing into oblivion and then to here and now where they are part of a greater Europe but events still happen.

Beneath the surface of the things that never changed, last year’s circus posters with the photo of Roger Lanzac, First communion photos handed out to schoolmates, the club des chansonniers on Radio Luxembourg, our days swelled with new desire. On a sunday afternoons, we crowded around the window of the genral electrics shop to watch television.Cafes invested in TV sets to lure clientele.

A world now gone when people would stand and watch tv in a shop window .

 

I loved this I will be rereading this one for years I love books that make me think and books that make you want to discover the world around us. This was a life’s work for the writer she had kept notes for years in preparation for writing this book a look at her generation and what happened during those years and what influenced everyone. Those pivotal moments of Algeria, 1968, September 11, The coming of the digital age. The use of everything from High to low culture is great Adverts for examples those tunes and slogans that we all remember more than even the tv we may have watched this is a book about what is remember later rather than then in the moment it is where it differs from Karl Ove work it has a feeling of being worked over time it is more what has been remembered that what I remembered or what was happening a sort underpinning of the times. Yes this should be on the list it isn’t in maybe straight fiction but is a book that deserves a wider audience.

 

The death of Murat Idrissi by Tommy Wieringa

Image result for the death of murat idrissi

The death of Murat Idrissi by Tommy Wieringa

Dutch fiction

Original title De dood van Murat Idrissi

Translator – Sam Garrett

Source – personal copy

Now the last visit to a writer I have read before on this year’s Man Booker Longlist. I read Tommy Wieringa novel a few years ago but never reviewed it he has had a number of his books translated to English. He studied history and journalism at university. He had a number of jobs as a light seller and on the railways before he became a full-time writer. His breakthrough came when his third novel Joe speedboat won a big ditch book prize he has since then 18 more works. This is the short book on this year’s longlist at just a hundred pages but as you can tell by the cover and title it is a powerful little novella and maybe one of those books that should notice more than it was.

It’s her uncle’s fault that she was born in Holland. In 1975, her father arrived in France from Targuist – that was all fairly easy back then, hos brpther convinced him to travel on to holland. They worked in shifts at the Hoogoven mills, and shared a room in Beverwijk. They married and were laid off during the steel crisis in the early eighties . Life beat them down. Her uncle rose to his feet again , her father remained lying, he was the weaker of the rwo.But her uncle was dead and her father was still alive.

The iuncles death is part of the reason for the trip and shows how they started out in Holland by chance.

The book is the tale of Two Dutch women whose families are originally from North Africa who has decided to take a trip back to their parent homeland Morrocco. The two Thouraya she is as you would say is the pretty on the beautician and driving force of the two girls the other Ilham is the larger girl and worries she will have to settle down as her parents want her to as a usual Morrocan wife. The two arrive and immediately when having to hire a bigger car an Audi car. The two even as tourist feel that they are second class citizens due to there cultural heritage. They end up in a tight squeeze when a charming young man Saleh he takes it on himself to help and guide them around Morocco where to they meet in a seedy part of the town Murat and his mother and realize their savior has a price to his help them and that is to take Murat back to Europe he was once in France but was then set back. So these two unlikely traffickers have to bring this boy/man back to Europe in their car. But a cruel twist in the tale leaves them scarred for life about what happened to the young man in the time he was with them.

The two custom men don’t eave you past, they simply ignore you. Two cars in front of them, a mercedes is pulled out of line .

“Okay baby”, Thouraya says “Here we go ” sheputs on her film star face, and in a soundless dream they cruise past the customs officals , left and right. Before them them suddenly , there are twice as many lanes of asphalt . “Was that it ?” Ilham hears her own strange , high voice.

The two get through with Murat so easily at first little to lnow what will happen later on !

The shortest of the books on this Man Booker international list may actually have the most inside it as it tackles so many issues. Personal identity the two girls show the two sides of peoples cultural heritage Thouraya shows those that try hard and blend and move in and her friend likes to still keep her heritage but both initially view themselves as Dutch it isn’t to they get to the cultural homeland they then see how they may be western but will forever be Morrocan at heart. the four character incapsulate the vicious cycle of trafficking the two girls drawn into bring Murat to Europe to fulfill the immigrant dream of riches and a better world and life escaping the poverty of his home and then there is Saleh those who make a life of getting people in whatever way to Europe with little care for how it is done. For a book under a hundred pages it touches the soul of the reader and shows them the dark side of trafficking in a personal light in the story of four people that maybe are the voice of the thousands trying to get to Europe from North Africa.

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