African Returns and Exits

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A new arrival this morning tied up nicely with another book from earlier this year . The arrival was The lights of Pointe-Noire the memoir of Alain Mabanckou return to his home town in Congo after nearly twenty years away .I have reviewed three of his novels and have another on my kindle to read so it is fair to say this is one I will be reading soon .But as Alain returns to his homeland I was reminded by another arrival yesterday .Of a journey to europe from Africa in Swedish

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The latest edition of Swedish book review reminded me of the great books from Sweden I have been sent this year already but not review Johannes Anyuru book follows a father a son as the father left Uganda to seek a new life in europe and his son now in Sweden is living in Europe and ,making his way .The wandering pine is Per Olov enquist fictional account of his writing life and the pitfalls and dramas he has had along the way . The Hellios disater is a story from the Swedish wife of Karl Ove Knausgaard Linda Bostrom Knausgaard .Then there is the story of Alan Turing told in the novel the fall of man in Wimslow by David lagercrantz whom has been chosen to continue the Millenium series of Steig Larsson by writing book four which is due out later this summer .

The salmon who dared to leap higher by Ahn Do-Hyun

The Salmon Who Dared to Leap Higher

The salmon who dared to leap higher by Ahn Do-Hyun

Korean Fiction

Original title – 연어 이야기 (연어 그 두 번째 이야기)

Translator – Deborah Smith

Source – Review copy

 

 

“War Of Man”

The little creatures
run in from the cold
Back to the nest
just like the days of old
There in the safety
of a mother’s arms
The warmth of ages,
far away from harm again.

Ears ringin’
from the battle fire
The tired warrior
aims a little higher
The black falcon
or the little sparrow
The healing light
or the flash of the barrel.

I choose a song from Neil young his war of man ,which has an eco message behind it .

When this book dropped through the letter box the other week , I nearly put it too one side till I saw it was translated by Deborah , whom I have spoken with on twitter and had a brief chat with at LBF and did talk about this book as i finished it a few days before  .Although the cover was appealing as well . Ahn Do-Hyn has won numerous prizes in Korea including the so-wol poetry prize which is one of the best known poetry prizes in Korea .He studied Korean literature and this is his first book to be translated into English .

Silver salmon had managed to avoid becoming a meal for the fierce eagle .

And yet , something strange – rather than the giddy relief of having cheated death , he feels a pang of sadness at having escaped unharmed . Because the salmon who had been caught – the one who’d swum by his side ever since they left their home river ,

Silver salmon escapes the clutches of a fish eagle .

This book is part of a series of novels that are marketed in Korea as Adult fables (thanks to Deborah for that ) .The salmon who dared to leap higher is the story of one salmon’s journey  the silver salmon  as we follow them from the sea up the river he came from .The journey is a perilous one that sees many of the salmon’s swimming along side . We are told little stories of the companions along side  . The fish have to avoid eagles and bears as they try to get to the river head . Of course the book is more a fable of modern life in Korea and the river maybe is the everyday journey in life of Koreans they are maybe the salmon’s trying to reach the river head and mate have children etc .But also the world around them and the human world .

Bag-of-bones salmon was also in possessions of exceptional memory . His mind was like an enormous storehouse where all manner of facts are filed and preserved .Circling over the riverbed ,he mutters to himself , “Yes , the rapids have increased in height by 35 centimetres since we leapt down over them ”

The salmon remember the world through a sort of collective passing of tales almost their own fables .

I read this in one sitting , which for me is the sign of a book of  120 pages I have actually really enjoyed . This is a fun fable , I initially compared it in my head to Jonathan Livingstone seagull and yes the salmon of the story journey through its life is similar too Jonathan’s journey . But for me this is maybe more based in Korean culture , I was reminded of one of the other books I read from Korea on the Blog please look after mother and maybe this is the same story in a fable manner the salmon as a whole are trying to reach a point but some get eaten and some just can’t make the journey and this is maybe mirroring modern Korea where the country has jumped so quickly in the last fifty years since the end of the korean war .But also serves as a remind of the natural world around them .I feel Deborah did a great job of what must be a poetic book in the original Korean a lyrical feel to the story in english .I must admit I do love the cover art as well and the book has some great illustrations through the book capture the novella well .

Have you a favourite fable ?

What book in translation would I give away ? Thomas Bernhard welcome to second Thomas bernhard reading week in July

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Well I’ve been struggling finding time to blog or even get in a routine for my blogging of late .But I feel a project and a goal of trying to get my revie pile in order or less by then ,will help this and what better than on World book day to launch a second Thomas Bernhard reading week for the first week august this year it is two years since I did the first Thomas Bernhard reading week and with the books still available in paperback and Kindle both faber Finds and Vintage reissues . Of course there is the much lauded Bernhard letters with his publisher Siegfrieed Unseld to be published in English . I am tempt to improve my german just for the 22 voll collection of his works from his German publisher . I have a number of post here about him  including five books under review and a piece from Andrej Nikoladis about his love of Bernhard .I will sort a new badge for the reading week as I’m trying to do a similar one , but for today I will use the warhol inspired one of two years ago .Which book in translation would you hive away inspired to run a second Thomas Bernhard week for me it would be his Woodcutters .I feel this one would be the best introduction to his work .

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My day at London Book Fair

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Now this is London book fair , well part of it . I was lucky to get an invite to come and spend the day from Susan at Istros books at The Croatian writers stand .I got there just in time for the opening of the stand by the Croatian ambassador .

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Where he mention the events over the next few days and the wonderful list that Peter Elborn and the British Croatian society which featured all the books from Croatia translated to English although a few more have appeared since it is a wonderful list one I will be using to find a few books to read .Now the first event at the stand was a reading from the Bulgarian writer Alek Popov , who’s first book Istros published Mission London my review of this book.

20150414_120755He was reading from his second novel to be translated into English Black Box a dual story of one man in New york a Bulgarian abroad and a man returning to Bulgaria to find a man named Kurtz (Yes a connection to Heart of darkness /Apocalypse now ) . His new book is to be published by Peter Owen  , I will have a review soonish as I managed to get a copy from them  .At this point I decide to wander the fair although having made the unwose decison on new shoes for the day hop round the fair would be a better . I took chance to say hello to some people I know via twitter .Catherine Taylor from English Pen , Victor from Haus publishing , he told me about a great book they are due to publish this year about Thomas Mann and the decision he made in 1936 to writer a letter about the Nazi Regime and send it to a paper in Germany .I also had a nice long chat with Alan the blogger from Words of mercury . I also finally meet Malcolm from Oxygen books that publish the city lit series of books but is also doing a project for the arts council in the south-east promoting books in translation .I eventually got back to the Croatian writer stand before the next event .

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The next event was the launch of Farewell cowboy by Olja Savičević , this was the first of two launchs of the book here and in the evening at the embassy .Olja read from here book in Croatian then the passages she had read were read in English by the translator Celia Hawkesworth .The book follows a sister returning to find out more about her brother’s death . I have read the book twice and will be reviewing soon. I managed later in the day to grab Olja and have a short chat with her about the book .

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Then after the reading we had two types of traditional Croat Spirits Rakija one is made from Honey Medica and the other from Mistletoe Biska .Then we all departed to the evening reception and launch for the book at the Croatian embassy , so as I said to my wife I was in Croatia ,which did worry her that I had run off til I explained i was still in London .

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So The ambassador Dr Ivan Grdešić, introduced Olja and Celia again and we had another reading and then some wine and Fig cake to celebrate the books launch .Then Olja, Celia and Susan from istros books were all filmed by the Croatian News team as they were going to be on last nights news in Croatia . I was amazed that writers still make the news and arts is still held in such high regards to be newsworthy in Croatia . It was a double celebration for the ambassador his son-in-law had won this years European union literature prize that day 

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Thanks to Susan from Istros for the day and all the lovely Croatian writer union and publishers I meet on tuesday

Voice Over by Céline Curio

Voice over by Céline Curio

French fiction

Original title –  Voix sans issue

Translator – Sam Richard

source – Library

 

“Secret Meeting”

I think this is full of spies
I think they’re onto me
Didn’t anybody, didn’t anybody tell you?
Didn’t anybody tell you how to gracefully disappear in a room?

I know you put in the hours to keep me in sunglasses, I know
And so and now I’m sorry I missed you
I had a secret meeting in the basement of my brain

It went the dull and wicked ordinary way
It went the dull and wicked ordinary way
And now I’m sorry I missed you
I had a secret meeting in the basement of my brain

I think this place is full of spies
I think I’m ruined
Didn’t anybody, didn’t anybody tell you?
Didn’t anybody tell you this river’s full of lost sharks?

i ‘m sorry longer than usual lyrics but The national are a band I love and the line at the end a river of lost sharks maybe encaptures this book and the world described this book is a secret meeting in her mind !

Well we reach the second book in the project Lisa and I have to look back at some of the past books from the Independent foreign fiction prize as it turn 25 years this year.This book was shortlist in 2009 and was the debut novel of french writer Céline Curio. Who at the time she wrote this book was living in new york and working for the bbc .She has since written three other novels and a few non fiction book .

There isn’t a sound in the apartment . She is on the couch , the apathetic man has gone , it’s early afternoon . Around her are littered empty glasses and gorged ashtrays . In the toilet , she fins a Heinken bottle standing in the corner . The mess is even worse in the kitchen :

Detatched lives lead to no one helping to clean up and messy lives and homes !

Voice over isn’t the exact translation of the title the title is voice without issue which makes no real sense but to me it does in a way when you’ve read the book . The book is named by an unnamed narrator that actually does a job where you need no name .She is one of the voice of the main train station in Paris as an announcer . The story is the story of her life the love she has for a man she has seen . But he has another lover . She is then approach by another man a friend of the man she is in love with that likes her .

She’s done . The actress has covered her mouth with her hand .She doesn’t feel anything in particular , only satisfaction of having said exactly what she wanted to say at the moment when she wanted to say it . She stands up ,There is nothing to add . To continue would be superfluous . Their two hands shake .They won’t see each other again .

She watches the film and almost falls into it as she watches it ,connecting with the star .

I liked this book , but I can see where people wouldn’t as it light on details like names these are just voices we are listening too . There has been much mention even in the american BTBA 2008 about the comment on the back of the book by Paul Auster . Know I initially ignored it as he is on the same uk publisher as Celine Curiol . But when I finished the book part me thought does she know him ? As this book has although very french a tinge of the new york fiction of a writer like Auster . I was reminded of his work on the film Smoke .which rather like this is a collection of stories about love loss and modern life without much commentary about the people just glimpse . This book looks at modern life and the detachment that can bring people do we need to know the narrators name ,well no do we know the name of the people we see every day these days often no we know them just by sight in the years since this book was written just six I wonder if the world of this book has become more so than when it was written ?

Have you read this book ?

 

Arab Jazz by Karim Miské

Arab Jazz

Arab Jazz by Karim Miské

French fiction

Original Title – Arab jazz

Translator – Sam Gordon

Source – Review copy

 

it was back in ’32 when times were hard
He had a Colt .45 and a deck of cards
Stagger Lee

He wore rat-drawn shoes and an old stetson hat
Had a ’28 Ford, had payments on that
Stagger Lee

His woman threw him out in the ice and snow
And told him, “Never ever come back no more”
Stagger Lee

So he walked through the rain and he walked through the mud
Till he came to a place called The Bucket Of Blood
Stagger Lee

I choose Stagger lee a traditional Lyric based on an actual murder by Lee Shelton in 1895 .

Well I’m a bit late in reviewing this as I finished it earlier in the year but I need to clear my backlog of books I’ve read and this one is a book that is so timely .karim Miske is not just a writer but he also makes Documentaries in France .On subjects such as Deafness and one about the common root of Jewish and Islamic religion which given the setting and subject of this book shows he has interest in the interaction between people and religions .This is his first book to be translated into English .

She is upright , tied fast to the other side of the railing  with white electrical cable . He moves towards her big blue eyes staring into the abyss . It is though he is seeing her for the very first time , as if death alone could show him her face in all its soft benevolent beauty .

The body is found , I found this so well written and translated by Sam Gordon .

Now I ask you to take a close look at the cover of this book it wasn’t till I read the first few pages of this book I went back and had a look at the cover again and saw a number of parts I had missed . well the story starts when aa young woman is found dead .But not just that she is tied to a railing when , she is found dead in and also heavily mutilated . Now this body happens to be above a pork joint in the middle of the 19th arrondissement which is a mix pot of Modern Paris with a cosmopolitan mix of people living there . We get two detectives that have to throw aside the views when they initially are assigned the case and delve into this powder keg that wouldn’t take a lot to explode to find the killer .But not just that find the killer and hope it doesn’t set of a chain reaction because of who they find .The case takes them to the two sides of modern life The ultra modern hip hop a band that was once made up of various people from the are and then the darker side of Islamic extremism .

A local rap group . If I remember rightly , the four members were Moktar and Reuben – the guys the girl mentioned – as well as Alpha and Mourad .. I’d put good money on them being Bintou and Aicha elder brothers . Nowadays they’re fully paid up regulars at the Salafist prayer room along with Moktar .

The lives of this group went various ways in the modern Paris where Rappers and extremist maybe grew up in the same room .

Now given the events of earlier this year .Is it this book maybe not the Houellebecq we should all be reading ( I know if you don’t read french like myself we are having to wait for the Houllebecq )  .I have said before I am not the biggest crime fan but when crime novels are well written and use the world around them . They can be wonderful bits of social commentary from Steig Larsson with the abuse of woman .The modern crime novel can tell us a lot more about the world around the crime and this is the case in this book which in a way captures the world in Paris just before the Charlie Hebdo , as the two brothers who commit the attack had lived in the 19th arrondissement  and had been radicalized by a preacher in that district . So the world that the Detectives  Rachel and Jean are investigating isn’t so far torn from the real world .

Can you think of any Crime novels that capture a place and social situation well ?

 

Shadow IFFP shortlist

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Well the proper IFFP shortrlist came out today from Booktrust  .Their choices are –

By night the mountain burns by Juan Tomas Avila Laurel

Translator Jethro Soutar

Colorless Tazaki and his years of pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

Translator Philip Gabriel

F by Daniel Kehlmann

Translator – Carol Brown Janeway

The end of days by Jenny Erpenbeck

Translator Susan Bernofsky

In the beginning was the sea by Tomas Gonzalez

Translator – Frank Wynne

While the gods where sleeping by Ervin Mortier

Translator – Paul vincent .

Now it has become tradition for the shadow jury to decide there own shortlist from the longlist and this year it is the longlist plus one .I’ve fallen behind in reviews have read all but two of the longlist and was fairly happy with our shortlist .

Shadow shortlist 

The End of Days by jenny Erpenbeck 
Translator – Susan Bernofsky
Zone by Mathias Enard 
Translator – Charlotte Mandell
The Ravens by Tomas Bannerhed 
Translator Sarah Death
The Dead Lake by Hamid Ismailov 
Translator – Andrew Broomfield
Bloodlines by Marcelo Fois 
Translator – Silvester Mazzarella
Translator – Philip Gabriel
I’ve manage to review five of our shortlist , we share two books with the actual shortlist we will announce the winner the day before the actual winner .

 

Death in the Museum of modern art by Alma Lazarevska

 

Death in the Museum of modern art by Alma Lazarevska

Bosnian short stories

Original title – Smrt u Muzeju moderne umjetnosti

Translator – Celia Hawkesworth

Source review copy

 

Easter, 1916

I HAVE met them at close of day
Coming with vivid faces
From counter or desk among grey
Eighteenth-century houses.
I have passed with a nod of the head
Or polite meaningless words,
Or have lingered awhile and said
Polite meaningless words,
And thought before I had done
Of a mocking tale or a gibe
To please a companion
Around the fire at the club,

A view from another besieged city with WB Yeats Easter 1916 when the easter uprising happened in Dublin .

Well its a bit late as I’ve been slow on my bloggging this year but now we have another edition to the East european reading month . Later this month I am of to see a couple of other writers from Istros books at London book fair .Anyway Alma Lazarevska is a Bosnian writer who lives in Sarajevo , this city formed part of her first collection Sarajevo Solitaire .She is also a teacher of writing and happened to teach Andrej Nikoladis another Istros writer before his family left Bosnia .This book won the best book in Bosnia when it came out .

At last the crossing was agreed . The young man who brought the good news did not bang roughly on the door . Nor did he shove her small thin person arrogantly aside , as all the others before him had done , barging into the flat without taking off their boots ,He had timid eyes , which she recognised , and bowed before she confirmed that she had understood when and how the crossing wold take place .

The opening of Dafne Pehfogl crosses the bridge between there and here .

Death in the Museum of modern art is a collection of short stories that capture both life the alma Lazarevska saw in the time Bosnia was at war . This is caught so well in the first story , which to me partly in its title harks back to Ivo andric the great Balkan writer Dafna Pehfogl crosses the bridge between here and there .Covers the war but also in its title maybe the here and there is then and now in a way as we follow someone in the middle of the war trying to get from  point a to point b .Then there is also a dry wit ,like in the story greetings from a besieged city a pun on the postcard greeting , but the story also looks at books translation and being in a besieged city .Another story touches on the myth of the area a tale of the real Kasper Hauser who of course is the subject of the Werner Herzog film starring Bruno S .

“Who was Kaspar Hauser ?”

“Hauser turned up in Nuremberg in 1828 , saying hardly more than a few words , unable to write anything apart from his name , and eating nothing but bread , drinking nothing but water . At first it was assumed he was a tramp , and then he was thrown into the gaol and became an attraction for scholars …

The secret of Kaspaer Hauser looks at his story again from another angle .

I’ve mentioned three of three of the six stories I will keep the other three for you to discover .I love the way Susan the boss of Istros is bringing us such vibrant voices like Alma Lazarevska , yes she has won prizes but in other ways if it wasn’t for Istros we wouldn’t be getting these insights into Balkan life .Think how few books we got before they start publishing a few every year .This collection captures the feeling of being caught in the besieged city the first story Dafna Pehfogl crosses the bridge remind me of the short film I had seen a while ago Torzija which follows a choir trying to exit the besieged city via a tunnel whilst a cow also gives birth  after being spooked by the war , whilst they wait .Such is life in this book yes war is there but also life continues .Have you a favourite book from the Balkans ?

Horcynus Orca Stefano D’arrigo what are we missing

Another in the occasional series of post about books I’ve discovered from around the world that have yet to hit us in English published in 1975 Horcynus Orca was twenty years in the writing by Stefano D’arrigo and is one of the longest novels in the world it has been compared with Ulysses and Moby dick .The book covers four days in 1943 and tells the story of a sailor returning home after the collapse of the Italian navy . i found out about this via a german friend that point me in the direction of the German translation by Moshe Khan which has recently been a hit in Germany .

Here is him reading and talking from the German edition ,I can understand a little of this so found the prose interesting . Then I also found an interview with Andrea Camilleri translator had said in an interview he was translating the book ,which is good given one problems with translating the books would see to be it has a Scillian element too it in the dialect used in the Italian .So not sure which publisher this is for if it is not just a personnel journey by Stepeh Sartarelli himself

Any ideas which publisher has this lined up ?

Which over modernist masterpieces are we missing in English ?

Bloodlines by Marcello Fois

Bloodlines

Bloodlines by Marcello Fois

Italian Fiction

Original title -Stirpe

Translator – Silvester Mazzarella

Source – Review Copy

 

He was a blacksmith by trade; he used to live on his own.
She was a little old maid; she was all gristle and bone,
Just a crone that you might not have fancied yourself;
She was not born to attract. She was lined up for the shelf
If it were not for the fact the blacksmith loved her well,
He loved her like hell. He used to grunt and sigh, fit to die.
But from afar; for he was shy, as blacksmiths often are.

I went for an obvious choice here The blacksmith and The toffeemaker by Jake thackray  and love the comparison he was shy like blacksmiths often are , given we have a shy Sardinan Blacksmith .

When the IFFP longlist was announced I was a bit annoyed with myself I hadn’t read this one as I had loved the first book by him that Maclehose had published Memory of the abyss . It was one of those books I started and just put to one side after 30 pages last year and never got back too , not because I hadn’t like what I read, no there was shiny new ones to read .Marcello Fois is part of what in Italy is called the New Sardinian literature a group of writers that have given a new voice to the island .He has published over 20 books in Italy .

Luggi Ippolito was the first Chironi to know the history and origins of the family .He had read enough to know we all come from somewhere and he was articulate enough to be able to tell the story . His firm and steady , if not yet fully mature , voice echoed calmly through the short November days as everyone grew sleepy round the log fire .

The family origins also told in a side story to the main one .

So Bloodlines as the title maybe suggest is a story of family .But rather cleverly the English title using the term bloodlines instead of lineage .Because this is the story of a family that in a way isn’t connected by blood the Chironi family is started when Giuseppe the father a blacksmith is at the local orphanage and he sees a boy Michele and see in him what could be his son .So he adopts him and he grows up and falls in love with a woman called Michele hat he had met when younger  , but meet when older and start the family that we see through the 20th century through their eyes and there kids eyes .The story of the family that  follows Sardinia through the first and second world war .A family struggling , both with themselves and with the world around them changing  . In a world that has changed is the still a place for them in it .

Michele Angelo is solid and stout , plum as a well-fed animal . His clothes are basically light brown but see against the light , his substance almost blond  , like living expression of something as transient as fruit-growing from honeyed seed , in sharp contrast to the crow-like blackness that surrounds him .

A great example of Fois Prose and the great job of Silverstre the translator .

Epic is one word that can sum this up . An epic family saga , that remind me of Marquez in a way , but without any real magic realism .A family and how they face the world , also like Marquez this is a world disconnect from elsewhere round it Sardinia is an island so is both in Italy and not in Italy . In a way it remind me of the world my Father and Grandparents described .When they described the Irish republic they used to visit for weekend’s growing up in the 30 , 40 and 50s and the difference in the world just a few miles from their door .I feel Donegal at this time and Sardinia probably were quite similar worlds . Again I feel in love with Fois wonderfully rich prose style , in a way he is maybe a rich meal full of flavour . In regards the IFFP for me this is a shortlist book so I’ll be scoring it high in the shadow jury .

Have you read Fois ?

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