So You don’t get lost in the Neighbourhood by Patrick modiano


So you don’t get lost in the Neighbourhood by Patrick Modiano

French fiction

Original title –  Pour que tu ne te perdes pas dans le quartier

Translator – Euan Cameron

Source – review copy

I so enjoyed the last Modiano I decided to carry on reading another of the few by him I have on my TBR pile.This was the last of his books to be translated into English and the came out in French the same year as he won the Nobel prize. He has written one more book since but that hasn’t been translated into English. I said last time he has written the similar books and this is another twist on those themes.

“I should like to speak to Monsieur jean Daragane,”

A deary and threatening voice.That was his first impression.

“Monsieur Daragane? Can you hear me ?”

Daragame wanter to hang up. But what was the point? The ringing would start agan. withpu ever stopping, and short of cutting the telephone cord permanetly ..

“This is he.”

“It’s abput your address book, monsieur”

Giles rings up but is slightly threatening at first to jean

Again like in the last book the main character in this novel is a writer. Like in the last review he is called Jean but we get his full name in this book Jean Dragane. The story in this book is like the last review set of by the discovery of something old. This time a man has got hold of the old telephone book of Jean. The book has the name of Guy Torstel someone Jean had once been acquainted with many years ago. At the time he knew this person there was a murder.At the time he lived with a showgirl Anne in the seedy part of town. He is helped by the girlfriend of the man who has phoned him when he meets the man, to discuss his old telephone book. That man is  Giles Ottolini and his girlfriend, Chantal. A man that since then has drawn away from the world and lived as a recluse writing books one that may have a clue into what happened in the past. The past is a lost country in this book and Jean has to revisit it.

And so would the name Torstel which had once used in a novel.Simply because of its resonace. That is what Torstel  conjured up for him. There was no need to look any further. It was all he had to say. Gilles Ottolini would no doubt be disappointed. Too bad. After all, he was not obliged to give him any explanation. It was none of his buisness

The name from the past inspired a character in a novel but what about the real Torstel ?

As I said there are themes in his books. Jean is almost a mirror image of the writer having grown up in the dark post-war days. He also lives near Paris and spent time with a showgirl in the seedy part of Paris where there are twist streets and never quite sure what is around the corner the same Paris as Maigret walked in books like Maigret sets a trap. Then there is what I would be called missing memories another recurring theme of a misty past that the main characters seem to want to forget their Past. I feel Modiano is working his own past and his love may of a good mystery into books. I enjoyed this as I have all his books the Nobel win was such a treat for us the English reader as pre-Nobel I had struggled to find a book to read in the weeks before the prize and so many have come out since.


The Black notebook by Patrick Modiano


The Black notebook by Patrick Modiano

French fiction

Original title – L’Herbe des nuits

Translator – Mark Polizzotti

Source – review copy

I’ve been having a slump in reading and reviewing the book this last couple of weeks. I have started, maybe half a dozen books and just not been settling in them and had finished a couple of these books. Then not felt like reviewing them. So then I decide yesterday to have a good look through my pile of books and decided on something to try and click my mind back into the groove and I decided , I had three of the Maclehose Modiano books to read and as I have only reviewed one since his Nobel win, two in total, as I had reviewed him before the prize, came out.

No it wasn’t a dream. The proof is that I still have this black notebook full of my jottings. I need precise words in this haze, so I look in the dictionary. “Note: a short piece of writing that is used to help someone remember something.” The pages of my notebook contain a succession of names, telephone numbers, appointments and also short texts that might have something to do with literature.But what catergory should they be listed under? private journal ? fragments of a memoir?

Jean discovers his old Black notebook and the time with Dannie


The Black notebook is the story of a writer called Jean, who is sorting through some old items when he comes across the black notebook of the title. What follows is him reading through the notebook. As he does he is remembering a time in 1960 and reliving and retracing his footsteps at the time. When he started dating a woman he knew as Dannie, she had some involvement with Morrocan security. He ends up meeting her mostly at night in the Montparnasse region of Paris. He gets involved with the characters around a certain hotel in that part of Paris. The Unic Hotel were he spent time with Dannie, Paul Chastagnier, Aghamouri, Duwelz, Gerard Marciano and “Georges”. All seem shady characters, Dannie, as Jean discovers over the course of reading back through the notebook had a number of Alias. Now the past seems shady, but at the time he said he was of the age when being in seedy places at night seemed ok. Weekends in a mysterious country house. As he retraces his steps,. early on in the book.  He remembers this is also the Paris area that Gerard De Nerval, a man famous for walking a lobster. But also one of his most famous books is about a man dealing with the loss of three ladies. He wonders what happened and what was real and what he added to the notes as a writer.

On the day we met, I’d written “Dany” in my notebook, she had corrected the spelling, using my pen: ” Dannie”. Later, I discovered that the name. Dannie was the title of a poem ny a writer I admired at the time, whiom I occasionally saw leaving the Hotel Taranne on Boulevard Saint Germam, strange coincidences do happen

Jean is remembering but is he also inventing Dannie as he does .

Modiano is a writer I fell in love with his style the first time I had read him. He is a writer that use familiar themes in his books. The first is a missing person or people, in this case, Dannie is the main person that is missing even though we found out he knew little about here Jean. He tells s her name isn’t even Dannie. The second is place Paris is like London for Dickens or Dublin for Joyce you sense Modiano can relive his own past as he writes about the streets in Paris. He uses Jean as an avatar for revisiting the Paris he has grown up in living a different life similar a writer of crime fiction, who may have been involved on the very edge of a crime.Modiano maybe writes books that seem similar all three I have read have similar topics a missing person, Paris and a sort of detective story as someone piece thinks together as a fragmented nature to his stories. This, as I read in his book pedigree, as he writes about his mother than he barely knew.




This is a call anyone want be a shadow Man booker international 2018 juror member ? update



I have with Tony of Tony’s reading list have run for the past six years a shadow jury for the old IFFP prize and the last two Man Booker international prizes over this time we have reviewed every book on the longlist. I’m not sure how many reviews we have produced over this time but with every longlist having at least three reviews it has to be in the hundreds by now. Well this year after a number of years some Jurors are taking a year off or have other plans,.So I m asking if anyone wants to join in we don’t get sent any books so it is a commitment to buy borrow or beg the books on the list. The longlist comes out on the 12 and we have a month to read and choose our shortlist from the books on the longlist. please contact my self or tony via comments or email or twitter etc if you are interested in joining ?

A quick update, I have stood down as I have decided it is my time to move on so I will ask everyone to  contact Tony about the shadow panel.

Jan 2018 Winston’s month

  1. To the back of beyond by Peter Stamm
  2. Secret passages in a hillside town by Pasi Ilmari Jaaskelainen
  3. Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag
  4. A poison Apple by Michel Laub
  5. The red-haired woman by Orhan Pamuk
  6. So the path does not die by Pede Hollist
  7. Confession of a murderer by Joseph Roth
  8. The book of Tbilisi by Comma press
  9. Fireflies by Luis Sagasti

I managed to review 9 books over the month, which given the fact I had six-night shifts in January wasn’t bad.I had one new Press to the blog Charco Press.I read books from nine countries including the first books from Sierra Leone and Georgia. Also books from nine languages.

Book of the month

Image result for fireflies luis

Fireflies is such a unique book style and the way it has stuck with me since I have read it. Another example of why we nee the small presses for those gems like this book that defy genre and pigeonholing. That maybe wouldn’t see the light of day with a Larger publisher. Also, remind me of how much I loved Joesph Beuys artworks .

None book discovery

We don’t often go to the cinema, but Amanda had won employee of the month at work and had two free tickets. So we have different taste be agreed on the new Speilberg Film The Post a film about the leaking of Pentagon papers about the Vietnam war. It is also the first time Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep have been in a film and was wonderfully done with a real feel of early seventies US also left a glint for a follow up in the Watergate affair(Very much apt in Trumps time).

How was your month?

Confession of a murderer by Joseph Roth









Confession of a Murderer by Joesph Roth

Austrian Fiction

Original title – Beichte eines Mörder

Translator – Desmond L Vesey

Source – Personal copy

I was out the other day and called into Chesterfield Oxfam as I do most weeks just see what had come in and saw this on the shelf it caught my eye as it wasn’t a Roth Novella that I wasn’t overly aware off. I got home and looked it up and seen it was last in print in 2002. It was published first in Holland in 1936 at the time he was living in Paris and the drink had started to pay the toll on him. This is also the time covered in the novel about Roth summer before the dark .

“Well goodbye,” Said the prince to me .”Work hard.” He held out his hand . But then he drew it back and said “wait!” and walked over to the writing desk .He pulled open a drawer and took out of it a heavy gold snuffbox. “Here ,” he said, ” Take this as a memento.God be with you !” He forgot to give me his hand.I never even thanked him. I simply took the box, bowed and left the house.

The giving of the Snuff box , he also meets his half brother in this encounter as a young man.

The novella follows a man telling his life story over the course of one evening in a Paris restaurant. Golubchik the man telling his life is a Russian emigre. He tells of his early life as the son of a forester, but there was an open family secret that he was actually the son of the local Prince a man who crosses his path a few times during his life. This leads to one of the main moments in the book where as a young adult he returns to his home and visits the Prince to confront him, the prince now an old man doesn’t remember his father initially but then admits he was his illegitimate son and gives him a gold snuff box. At this point, we meet the other main character in the book Jeno Lakatos a clever devilish young man that help Golubchik sell his snuff-box but in doing so they gather the prince has a drawer full of these snuff boxes to give to people!! The two then spend war years around Europe Golubchik a writer and spy working for his half-brother the young prince Golubchik also becomes involved with women with extravagant taste whom he later sees with his now nemesis Lakatos leading to an act when he captures a man in her room.

So I arrived in Paris. I need not tell you what Paris meant to me , to Golubchik, the spy who despised himself, to the false Krapotkin, the lover of Luteta.It cost me an immense effort not  to believe that my passport was false and to forget that my vile task of watching refugees, who were a so-called menace to the state, was my own.

The end of the book sees him spying in Paris

This is an interesting story that is set all around Europe and in a way follows the fall of the Austro Hungarian empire through the narrator’s eyes. Then there is his story of the bastard son of land gentry, I loved the revelation of the drawer full of snuff boxes to give as gifts, I wondered how many Golubchiks were out there. The book has a lovely pacing as we slowly watch his story unfold over the course of the evening in this Left bank restaurant. A man trying to prove his worth and place in the world in Golubchik. Then another man he is very manipulative and them being involved with the same woman cannot be anything other than trouble.

A Poison Apple by Michel Laub



A Poison Apple by Michel Laub

Brazilian fiction

Original title –  A maçã envenenada

Translator – Daniel Hahn

Source – Library copy

I’m looking back at some of the books I have missed in translation over the last year and this was one of them. I read Michel Laub first book translated into English the Diary of the fall when it came out a couple of years ago. He has written books since the late nineties has published five novels so far. He won the Brasilia book prize for the diary of the fall. I also won the Wingate prize for translation.

I haven’t had many relationships between 1993 and today, at least not the long ones that end up serving as a point of comparison for the others. It’s as though the night I met Valeria was the starting benchmark, and from the chance ocurrence of my arriving at her house and seeing the Kurt Cobain poster and ger commenting that her biggest dream ever was tp see a nirvana show, a wave of premonition arose that contaminated all the conversations and fights and getting-back togethers and break ups I would have over two decades.

One moment he sees to blame for the future and the past of his relationships.

I remember the Butthole surfers lyric it is better to regret something you have done than regret something you haven’t done. well, Gibby Haynes wrote those lines on their Locust abortion technician album. He could have meant the guy of this story our Narrator is looking back to a point twenty years earlier. He was in his first serious relationship with a girl called Valeria.She is a singer and the woman that he lost his cherry with!!  He was in the middle of his compulsory military service. This was 1993 He had got them tickets to what would turn out to be the only show by Nirvana in Brazil.So our narrator got held up so let his best friend take his beloved Valeria to the concert. Not knowing that they would fall for each other at the concert. He is now recalling the events. He blames this one moment for not being able to get to the concert for his problems but also looks back at what happened to Kurt after this gig. As within in 18 months he had himself died and left us with the words of another great singer Neil youngs words Its better to burn out than fade away. Has one missed concert been the downfall or had he made the concert would his life had run different, had he been more Gibby and runoff from the CPOR training in Porto Alegre and gone to the concert. He also now a journalist in the present is interviewing a woman that hid in a bathroom with several other women during the Massacres in Rwanda. Her story is marked in his memory as well as his time with Valerie.

One explanation for why I was in London in the week Immaculee went into the bathroomand Kurt Cobain killed himself: a car accident I had had the year before. I crossed protasio Alves, at a traffic light opposite the bus lane, and a fire engineinto the door by my seat. I spent the night in the emergency clinc. They did tests and put a catheter in urethra.All theough the early hours I heard the groans from the other beds, and I was forbidden from drinking any water because they were considering surgery for first thing in the morning.

I like this as it had an echo to Kurt coming out in a hospital gown on reading where he sound like he was groaning in pain  at times during that performance.


This is an interesting book that has a sentimental look at a band that the writer must be a fan of to go into the depth he has with the history of the band and what happened after the Brazil gig. even the title is a quote both of a biblical nature it was Eve eating the apple that got Adam and Eve expelled after a snake told them too. It is also a Kurt Cobain line from the song Drain you about an unrequited love someone, Kurt, like but didn’t like him. Then add to it the side story of massacres and loss in Rwanda almost showing how a missed concert in the big scheme of things maybe isn’t important but maybe is !!I enjoyed this I too am a fan of Nirvana and also often wonder if certain moments in one’s life are those turning points we don’t know are turning points.


Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag

Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag

Indian fiction

Translated by Srinath Perur

Source – library book

I miss the old Man Asian prize because this is the sort of book I would have found via there longlist when it was running. I have always enjoyed the other books from around India I have read that have been translated. I know this one made a few end of year longlists. Vivek Shanbhag has written eight novels and a few plays, He is currently a writer in residence at the University of Iowa in America this is his first book to be translated into English.

Vincent is a waiter at coffee house, It’s just called that – coffeee house, The name hasn’t changed in a hundred years, even if the buisness has, You can still get a good cup of coffee here, but now it’s a bar and restaurant. Not one of those low-lit bar with people crammed around tables, where you come to suspect drinking may not be such a wholesome activiity after all.No this place is airy, soacious, high-ceilinged, Drinking here makes you feel cultured and sophisticated. The walls are paneled in wood to shoulder hieght. Old photographs hang on sturdy squarre pilars in the center of the room.

The coffee house is old but still hasn’t missed the changes in Modern India.

This book is narrated by an unnamed person talking about his family. we meet him initially in one of his favourite haunts a coffee shop, where he is a regular by the way he talks to the Waiter. The place is oak panelled and has a feel of the old India with old pictures of Bangalore where the book is set.The narrator is trying to untie what has happened to his family as he drinks his coffee Then we discover his father there spice business which has suddenly become the one everyone uses that has brought in wealth to him and the family. Then there is his wife Anita.She is the one that comes up with the title of the book a made up phrase her and her brother used when the Kite string got tangled up. That she uses when her new husband struggles to untie her clothes on their wedding night. This is a family sag in the piece the relation between wife, sister in law, father all have little tales in this lovely novella.

My impatient hands couldn’t get anywhere with the stuck knot. She tried, too, but to no avil.”Tchah”she said,” This string has become all ghachar ghochar.Wait” I stood there as she sat up, bent over the knot, and carefully teased it apart.

It came back to me later when we were lying there catching our breaths,”What was that you called the underskirt string?” I asked her.

She giggled” Ghachar Ghocahr” she said

The made up words of the title she used to uses with here brother .

Sometimes the best books come in around hundred pages.  The Great Gatsby, Heart of darkness. This is one of those vbooks that capture the Zeitgeist of there times and that is what happens when people move between classes in Modern India. This is a classic novella about people moving up the class ladder. Like Gatsby people feeling out of place, but I also feel at times Dickens is more apt there is something more in line with his work moving into the middle classes. What Vivek captures is a world that has changed it isn’t the male-centric world on the coffee shop walls no this is a new India was woman speak more than they use to and this is showing the waves that happen from a male point of view. He has constructed a number of strong female characters in this book. I pleased I read this one shame there is no man Asian prize to bring it to a bigger audience still

Winstons Dozen my favourite books of 2017

I read and reviewed more than in the last couple of years so have decided to pick 12 books of the year.

Brothers by David Clerson


QCFINF16 - CoverBrothers_v9













Two brothers go on a quest to find the father in a mythical coastal world. The older brother has an arm missing, the arm is his younger brother with his stumpy arms and legs. One of the first reads of this year and one of the funniest and strangest books I have read.

Havoc by Tom Kristensen

Danish modernist novel one mans downward spiral from journalist to drunkard. A lost gem of European modernist fiction coming out in 1930. Partly inspired by the writer’s own life.

Summer before the dark by Volker Weiderman









The fictional meeting of Stefan Zweig and Joesph Roth in Ostend in the summer of 1936 two men at the height of there fame. Both their lives will take different roots after this meeting.

Compass by Mathias Enard









A lament for a lost world of Syria and for a lost love as a man goes through a sleepless night as Franz dreams of Sarah and his romance alongside their travels.

The Major Refutation by Pierre Senges









An imagined thesis that discredits the discovery of the new world another quirky book that has had a champion it like a lot of the books on this list.

Bricks and Mortar by Clemens Meyer

Post east german history told through the oldest profession and the characters involved in that industry as they go from simple german girls to digital and woman of all nations. Another Fitzcarradlo novel on the list.

Hair everywhere- Tea Tulic 

A family saga told from the daughter in fragments of stories as her mother is dying of cancer another wonderful choice from Istros books.

Belladonna  by Dasa Drndric

A novel for today a warning of ignoring the rise of right-wing rhetoric as a retirng academic looks back and forward on his life. from one of my favourite writers.

The ultimate Tragedy by Abdulai Sila

The Ultimate Tragedy

Ndani story in postcolonial Guinea Bissau is the testament to what many young women have to do in her position to get by working in a family homemade to join the church and avoid the advance of the male head of the householder.

That’s how whales are born by Anxos Sumai


This follows a young woman who had escaped to study whales in Mexico but her mother ill health bring her home to her Galician home and the secrets of the past.

Three days by Thomas Bernhard

A film he made years ago has a companion book a wonderful insight into a great writers feeling. I still love the lines I am a story destroyer.

The house of remembering and forgetting by Filip David

A man remembers his survival of the death camp and recalls it all after visiting an exhibition. I have loved the six peter own istros titles this year but this was my favourite of them.

A common thread in these books is families, loss, past and remembering. In the year I lost my mum this list maybe reflects my journey and how books help us get over things. What have been your books of 2017?



the 1500th post here are some books !













Today’s post sees the blog reach the landmark of 1500 posts after 8 and half years of blogging. SO I added some recent arrivals from publishers and libraries. The first book is from Comma press is the latest addition to there collection of short stories from a particular country or city.  This time it is the Georgian capital Tbilisi where we are reading from. A new country for this blog. So I’m looking forward to reading ten voices from this former Soviet republic.









The next book is from one of my favourite publishers Fitzcarraldo. This book is a perfect example of why I like Fitzcarraldo there book choice are so in my own taste of Lit. This book follows a German woman who has arrived in London and is finding it hard to fit in.So she spends time wandering along the river Lea. Observing the characters places and photos of the place linking to her own earlier life near the river Oder in Germany. esther Kinsky is also a translator into German from English. She has worked on books by Thoreau and Iain Sinclair! I feel this may already be one of the books of 2018 for me if I can wait till then.









Now four books from the Library. This is always the time of year,  when I start trying to fill in a few gaps from the previous year’s translation from those publishers I don’t get sent books from or ones I’ve missed. So from the top right clockwise. In every moment we are still alive by Tom Malmquist follows Tom’s girlfriend Karin is rushed into hospital whilst being pregnant the worst happens she dies and Tom is left to raise his daughter Livia and cope with his Grief. Anna by Niccolo Ammaniti is a novel set in a world where most of the people have died after a virus has killed most of the people and even basic services are starting to fail. Anna is trying to look after herself and her brother. Then the second book from Michel Laub to be translated into English. Poison Apple follows a man’s journey after he misses the only Nirvana gig in Brazil due to military services his friend take his then girlfriend and the become an item is this one moment to blame! Ghachar Ghochar is a novel from Vivek Shanbhag that deals with families sudden climb up the class tree in India and struggling to get by. Many thanks for sticking with me through 1500 posts here is to the next 1500!!

Fear and his servant by Mirjana Novakovic

Fear and his servant by Mirjana Novakovic

Serbian fiction

original title -Strah I njegov sluga

Translator – Terence McEneny

Source – review copy

I reach the last of this stop on Peter Owen World series Serbian collection. The last book of the series has my favourite cover of the year and like the other books were on the Shortlist for the Nin prize. Mirjana first published a collection of short stories in 1996 since then she has written three novels this was her first novel the other two have been on the Nin shortlist. She has had her books translated into a number of languages this book came out from a Serbian publisher a number of years ago.

It had been years since my last visit to Belgrade. And I missing it. I was curious to see what twenty years of Austrian rule had dome for the place. The last time I’d seen it, it was an Oriental bazaar, the skyline bristling withcountless minatrets, the air filled with the stench of tallow and the wailing of Muezzins. In Pest I’d heard how the city was nearly destroyed in the siege or 1717 but that the fortifications had since been tripled, making it even more impregnable during its time under the Turks.

Otto arrives to see how the Austrians have changed the place .

Well, the setting is 18th century Serbia and the atmosphere of this novel is similar to that of Dracula or Kaspar Hauser a story told from Princess Marie Ausua is in town looking for love and the same time as she arrives Otto Van Hausberg arrives with his Serbian servant Novak a crafty man, I was reminded of the many servants we have seen that are devious in the past . They are seen by some as the devil and his man on earth. They are there checking out reports of Vampires and an Attack on an Austrian tax collector.Marie and otto who has taken to his role as being the devil set off to the hinterlands of Serbia to find if the vampire attacks are real.Marie looks forward to seeing more of the country her eyes are naive and childlike at a time. The chapters switch from character to character and there is a sense of the past reflecting the present at times as well.The famous Serbian Vampire Sava Savanovic a real-life character and the best know Vampire Myth in Serbia lurks in the background.

Mary, Maria. Maria Augusta. She lay there in all helplessness. How does tat Serb put in that poem They’re always quoting? she sleeps, perhaps / Her eyes outside all evil. But the vampire wouldn’t let her. And, outside evil was standing watch. The red count sat beside me, quite unconcerned. He was twirling one of the many curls of his red wig

Mary is innocent and Naive in a way and as it says helpless at times.

This is one of those stories that we read middle European books for where else do we see the devil turn up or Evil From Stantango A man arriving in a town unknown cause many troubles. Like others, Otto is a voice questioning the world the devil on earth what is evil does the past have evil does the present have evil. This is one of those reads that will take many a rereading to discover the many twists in the tales also the links from the 18th century Serbia setting through the modern day Serbia and politics of the recent past. The power struggle between the East and west is also shown her Between The Austrian side and the older Ottoman side of the country. This is a clever retelling of old tales from modern eyes.

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