You have me to love by Jaap Robben

Jaap robben

Well the first review of 2016 is one of the last books I read in 2015  Jaap robben first adult novel, he is well-known in Holland for his children’s poems and short stories. There is a video of Jaap talking in English about this book that his uk publishers World editions made, where he talks about what inspired the story. It was two events the first was a story of a father drowning after saving his son from drowning, the son come ashore they turn back only to find the father had now drowned after passing his son to help that appeared. The second is when Jaap was helping at an old people’s home and an old lady said what nice legs he had he said thank and again she said “you’ve lovely legs ” and have you a girlfriend. These two pieces made  the kernel that became the book  you have me to love .

I tried to shine the torch in the direction she was looking. Any second now, Dad would surface, coughing and choking, and here she was, ready to grab hold of him and haul him up onto the beach. Any second now. He would emerge from the water. He had to. Especially now that mum was here. We’d see his head above the waves, like a football floating towards us.” look ! look 0ver there ,” I’d shout, jumping onto mum’s back and catching him in the torch-light .

I was reminded in part with this passage of the Stevie smith poem drowning not waving .

Anyway into the book the book is set on a remote Scottish Island and follows the vents during and after a drowning of a man the man is father to Mikael, he is nine years old and watched his father just disappear in the sea as he tried to get hold of Mikael’s ball. Then there is the widow Dora that is left behind. Also on the island is Karl a fisherman unmarried and Augusta although dead plays a part in this story as Karl had a fling with her then there is the crew of the ship that takes everyone back to the mainland. The story is set in the weeks after the drowning happened when Dora and Mikael struggle with the guilt and also the added isolation this brings them. The second part of the book brings you back to the island a number of years later Karl has moved closer to Dora and Mikael has nearly grown into a man and looks very like his father at the same age.

It’s a little gull. Legs folded. Bones as thin as twigs, barely held together by a film of skin. Both his eyes are missing his skull is an empty walnut shell. His body creaks as I pick him up by the tips of his wings and spread them. Empty. A hollow cage of ribs. it’s as if he shrunk away to nothing so he can ft back into his egg.

It’s my fault. His mother has pecked him to death, and it’s my fault I should have never locked them up.

This one scene maybe echoes Dora’s and Mikael relationship after the father has gone in their isolation.

I leave it there it isn’t hard to put together what might happen later in the book, the video of  Jaap talking about the book reminded me of a scene in a film Smoke where one of the character recounts a story of a father lost in the artic who is found as he was in ice and seen by his son who is now the same age as the father when he died. Well the later part of this book is the mother looking at the son and seeing an echo of his late father. There is another horrific scene where is there is a mother and child Gull that Mikael has in his room were the mother gull kills the baby chick. The beauty of the book is setting it on a small isolated island means the grief and recovery from the grief is twist by the sheer isolation of the place. The book won the Dutch bookseller prize and is currently being made into a film. This was also my favourite cover of last year.

Dutch fiction

Original title – Birk

Translator – David Doherty

 

Tram 83 by Fiston Mwanza Mujila

Tram 83 FINAL FC

I featured this in my cover shot post a couple of weeks ago of Tram 83  and said then I had this on my wish list since the US publisher Deep Vellum had brought this book out in the US> I was contact by Jazz the publicist for the uk publisher Jacaranda books a great new UK publisher doing a great selection of African books. Anyway what first caught my eye about this book was the quote this is a masterpiece by Alain Mabanckou, usually I don’t take much notice of quotes on cover but Alain Mabanckou has long been a favourite of  this blogger.

I was fortunate enough to read some of Fiston Mwanza Mujila’s poetry a few years back. I didn’t know at the time he was busy writing a novel, or for that matter the degree to which I would be moved by his new work and how each page would bring me so much joy. When I turned the last page I exclaimed: “This is a mastepiece”

From the forward by Alain Mabanckou

Tram 83 is maybe to me the book that seems to be what must be the chaos of post war DR Congo, well I say post war actually DR Congo or Zaire as it used to be called has been at war for most of the last half century and has had various names. What Fiston Mwanza Mujilla has captured here is what are the people who stay with in this chaos, why would you stay ? Well with the two main characters of this book Luicen the honest writer observing the world he lives in and his friend the darker survivor Requiem  who has had to learn to steal and trick to get by in this world. I was so remind in this two of the classic dickens pairing of Oliver twist and the Artful dodger, there is no Fagin in this story unless we see Tram 83 and all its sins as a metaphoric Fagin.

Tram 83 was one of the most popular restaurants and hooker bars, its renown stretching beyond the city-states borders.”see tram 83 and die,” was the refrain of the tourist who blew into town from the four corners of the globe to conduct their business during the day they wandered zombie-like through the mining concessions they owned by the dozen, and at night ended up in Tram 83 to refresh their memory. This gave the place every appearence of true theater, if not a massive circus. Here’s the kind of thing you might hear as background noise:

“I want ti massage you by way of foreplay, then slowly suck you off,suck your whole body,suckyou till my mouth runs dry”

I feel this paints a great picture of Tram 83 and the people who use and work there.

Tram 83 the heart of this book is one of those ramshackle clubs, I was reminded of the club Michael Palin visit a club in pole to pole a ramshackle place full of the city, like this club The club reflects the needs of the men in a way of this world loose women, easy drink and drugs. Also the way these people are trying to tear apart the world outside their door that is the sheer wealth of minerals that are available we often hear the terms Conflict or blood diamonds but now we see the real cost of ripping the heart of Africa out. What fills the vacuum of a lawless world where Police and state have failed well the characters in this book and who else well are two lead characters.

There are cities which don’t need literature: they are literature. They files past, chest thrust out, head on their shoulders. They are proud and full of confidence despite the garbage bags they cart around. The city-state, an example among so many others – she pulsated with literature.

“I love you, baby”

“I don’t like foreplay, it kills the pleasure ”

“Do you have the time ?”

The city-state was written by her gigolos,her baby chicks, her diggers, her four star whore house, her dissident rebels ready to imprison you,her prospectors,her semi-tourist.Lucien rushwed into the nnight, his imitation-leather bag slung across his body.

I loved this chapter opening about the city of Lubumbashi the city state setting of the book .

The book has a poetic tone, I search for info about Fiston and found out he was a poet before he wrote this his first novel. The style of writing reminds me of how you may rift on styles there is many mentions of Jazz on the cover and in reviews, but for me this is more what great hip hop does and that is rift on everything the heart of Congo music is Soukous, those string lead rifts of singers like Pape Wemba, I picture the kids of Fiston generations drawing on this to make it the heart of their hip hop and maybe Fiston is drawing on this himself the soulful voice of Soukos through modern artist like Werrason has become a voice of modern DR Congo. I also have never fully got Jazz.

DR congo fiction

Translator – Roland Glasser

Source – Review copy

Have you a favourite African book set during a civil war ?

 

The other woman by Therese Bohman

The Other Woman by Therese Bohman

As I said in yesterdays covers post, I have read a couple of great books from Sweden by female writers this year, this being one of them the other being Wilful disregard by Lena Anderson which I reviewed earlier in the year. It was because I enjoyed wilful diregaerd so much I choose to review this from Other press.Also two great books from world editions from sweden as well it has been a great year for Swedish fiction on the blog .

The other woman is a take on being the other woman like it says on the cover. This is story of the affair told from the female perspective , we see this affair start and how it slowly grows through her eyes. The two main characters work in a hospital , she is a general dogsbody in the kitchen and he is a doctor , she finds out his name  Carl Malmberg and also that he is married  . He captures her eye one day and then they begin to spiral near each eventually coming together in a bang. The affair begins as they meet in secret, but is it all she hoped are dreams and reality the same

Occasionally I have wondered what it would be like to have an affair with one of them. particularly the tall handsome consultant who comes in for lunch all too rarely. I have thought about where we would meet, imagined him at home with me, even if the idea of him in my tiny apartment among my things is an unlikely scenario.I picture him sitting on my sofa, we are drinking a glass of wine , chatting. Perhaps we are discussing literature, which turns out to be a shared passion.

She daydreams of meeting Carl after seeing him where she works .

It is easy to see this as a standard love affair, which has been covered many times in fiction from The end of affair one my favourite Greene novels , through books like Lady Chatterley’s lover, which for me is like this book accept the roles are flipped the male is the one in the role of authority and the narrator is the lowest of the low in this world they live in. Also wilful diregard saw a may to december romance which this novel  is as well.What makes this stand up is the narrator’s voice and the overall world we are drawn into where even in a modern setting Class and social standing still there like in Lawrence’s day.

We get out of the car, he locks it, and we dash through the rain to the apartment block and , inside, over to my door. He stands behind me as I open up, I can feel his eyes on my back. I have rarely felt more present in the moment, I register everything – the grain of the wooden door frames, his scent, the key sticking slightly in the lock before it turns – while at the same time I am acting entirely on instinct .

The dream now is real he does come to her apartment .

For me the main character the unnamed narrator of the book is more than we first see , yes she works in the kitchen .But this woman is one that reads important books ,  she talks about the books she readsones like, notes from underground , Death in Venice and even the huge Magic Mountain she describes how on a course she sees everyone around her reading what she call banal books compared to her. She is a woman wanting to be more than a partner in bed, which it turns out is what she has become.We see a ugly duckling  wanting to be a swan in the world can see do it ?

He is a perfectly ordinary lover too. After I have asked him if he wants to come back to my place, and we have stood outside my door drunkenly searching for topics of conversation to fill the time between both of us thinking that we want to kiss each other and actually doing so, and we have kissed our way through the hallway and into bed, he makes love to me in a way that is kind of functional .

No books to discuss and no fireworks with Carl really .

Add to this a confident of the narrator called Alex , whom she starts to tell about the affair but is this Alex all they seem ? Then there is also the senses that Bohman does so well to ignite through her prose which in Marlaine Delargy translation come through so well. Also the sense of a detached style I have found a lot the last few years in Nordic fiction we almost look into this world of class, love, social standings like a voyeur feeling part of it but not able to touch it .Carl maybe see her as an object in a way even in the way he picks something for her to wear at one point. But for the narrator there is a whole other story and this affair is maybe just the start of her real life .This is Therese Bohman second novel to be translated to English I will be seeking out her first Drowned to read.

Have you a favourite female writer from Sweden ?

Swedish fiction

Translator – Marlaine Delargy

Source – review copy .

 

Winston’s books A nobel and a night film some new books

I had a few appealing books arrive this last couple of days from some well known writers and also a bargain find. I collected a number of parcels from post office and found –

death by water by kenzaburo Oe

A new book from a Nobel Laurate is always a welcome book to read and I have only reviewed on other book by Kenzaboro Oe on the blog A personnel matter a story inspired by his son. This seems inspired by his father and a case of writers block it follows Kogito Choko a nobel winning writer struggling to write about his late father with whom he had a trouble relationship that was never resolved before he drown. So a red chest from his sister full of his fathers possessions maybe hold the secrets from the past.

for two thousands years by Mihail Sebastian

The second arrival is a classic from Romania Mihail Sebastian was a prominent figure in literary circles in the Romania in the early 1930’s. This autobiographical novel follows him as Facist takeover and deep rooted Anti semitism starts to take hold. The quote on the cover is Arthur Miller who compares his writing to Chekov.

same old story by Ivan Goncharov

I read Goncharov masterpiece Oblomov years and years ago so when Alma said they had a translation of his first novel The same old story a tale of alexander a poet who moves from the country to the city. He sees his ideal of life in the city changed as he struggles with the ruthless world of the city.

night film by Marisha Pessel

Now last is one of those bargain books we all find. I am a cfan of pound shops we always visit the one in town mainly for some lotus biscuits, but there is always something to find that is a bargain and I can’t help shifting through books most time I know it is going be a lot of books I don’t want but once in a blue moon a gem turns up and this is one such book it came out two years ago and is a novel about a horror director that hasn’t been seen in public for ear then his daughter dies and this gives a chance to a Journalist McGarth that has want to expose the director Cordova for a number of years but has lost a lot in this journey. The book also has an app to unlock interactive feature although I need use my old iphone to use it.

What books have you had arrive recently ?

Gone to ground by Marie Jalowicz Simon

Gone to Ground

Gone to ground by Marie Jalowicz Simon

German Memoir

Original title – Untergetaucht

Translator – Anthea Bell

Source – Library book

In Berlin, by the wall
you were five foot ten inches tall
It was very nice
candlelight and Dubonnet on ice

We were in a small cafe
you could hear the guitars play
It was very nice
it was paradise

You’re right and I’m wrong
hey babe, I’m gonna miss you now that you’re gone
One sweet day

Oh, you’re right and I’m wrong
you know I’m gonna miss you now that you’re gone
One sweet day
One sweet day

I choose Berlin by Lou Reed as in this book it is the character in the background

I want to add a few non fiction works for this German lit month and this is one I found in my library system. Marie Jalowicz Simon lived in Berlin all through the second world war even thou she was a Jews, she hid and change  her identity to escape capture. Shortly before her death her son Hermann got her to tell her story and this book was put together from the tapes Hermann her son recorded and the writer Irene Stratenwerth to make this book of her war years.

A few months later, on 18 march 1941, my father died. He must have guessed that it was coming. A few day before his death the notes in his diary that he kept, finally, in five-pfennig octavo notebooks, were headed, “like being on the high seas”. He must have been feeling as if he were seasick. He had lain down for a moment , he wrote, he had felt so dizzy, and then it had passed over. But he had realised this was a case of life or death

Her father’s death after he has to stay unable to get out of Germany .

Gone to ground follows Marie’s story from telling of her youth a Berlin with a lively Jewish population to the first signs of the future when the Nazi’s take power. Her father attempts to get them to safety fail when he can’t a permit to travel in 1941 to Palestine as he is unable to be a lawyer under the Nazi rule. At this point the family is in forced Labour and everyday she is seeing those around her disappear at this point with a little help Marie disappears into the city where she will spend the next few years traveling from cellar to flats  staying in hiding. Going deeper as what she called a Uboat after she was nearly caught  she is helped by a collection of characters some with good intentions others with bad wanting a young woman in their home. But Marie manages to get through just to study after the war and make her living translating .

Little girl

All alone

to the Heller’s house has gone

what a fuss, who’s to blame?

I must bear it all the same.

As so often, I was singing to myself in my mind as I carried my suitcase from Schierker Strasse to Schinleinstrasse. It was a day late in february 1943. I wondered whether it was wicked to sing when Heller was possibly being tortured to death at this very minute. then I adapted a little more of the” Hanschen Klein” nursery rhyme to suit my own situation.

Never fear

be of good cheer

Things may yet be better here

The first winter Marie is in Berlin on the fun going from place to place .

This is one of those stories that needs to be told , we all have to be thankful to her son for recording his mother’s story one of the few Jews to make it through the war in the heart of the Nazi war machine Berlin. The story has been well put together by the writer and what is Marie’s voice shines through a strong young woman, her luck in find a block of flats whom tenants help her for most of the war, thus making one feel the strength of the human spirit in the darkest times. I said when I got this book it had reminded me of the great German Film Europa Europa another true story of a young Jewish boy who decide to become an Aryan and get through the war that way.Both show how the drive to survive can drag people through the darkness either trying to fit in or trying to hide. This is a powerful book to sit alongside the like of Primo Levi and Anne frank as a testament to how people escaped some got through and others didn’t .

Have you read this book ?

Previous Older Entries

February 2016
M T W T F S S
« Jan    
1234567
891011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
29  
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,885 other followers

%d bloggers like this: