Nobel thoughts 2016


Well today is the day , we see who has won the nobel prize for literature. As ever I have been following the betting for the last week or so . Unlike other years the betting has been fairly stable and the names on the list the same as other years. The lead name this year is Ngugi Wa Thiong’o the Kenyan writer , he writes a lot about the colonial and post colonial times in his native land. I have reviewed him  . Then next on the list is Haruki Murakami , I still think it isn’t his time yet , I know others think it is but for me he needs to write that one defining book. Then we have Adonis the Syrian poet has been on the list for many years , I have once feature a poem by him about childhood. THen we Have Don Delillo has risen in recent days in the betting now for me he is maybe the best American to win ,he has written the book so to speak Underworld is a true epic , I have reviewed him once on the blog . The we have Jon Fosse I read him earlier this year and for me he maybe along side Thiong’o is the best place to be the nobel winner .his writing capture the feeling of modern Scandinavia . Well there we go , of course there is a number of outsiders as ever , now for me there is Javier Marias, Laszlo Krasznahorkai and Peter handke all writer that would be worthy winners but maybe not yet , but wouldn’t be shocked if they did win today.Then there would be the shock winner not translated into english yet , lets say Ulrich holbein for example.  So 11.45 today we find out have you thoughts ?

The tale of Aypi by Ak Welsapar

The Tale of Aypi

The tale of Aypi by Ak welsapar

Turkmenistan fiction

Translator – W M Coulson

source – review copy

It is rarer and rarer  these days I add new countries to the list of book I have read from list. So to add Turkmenistan is a nice addition especially as AK Welsapar is one of those rare writers that writes despite oppression from his own country where his writing has been banned since 1993 , he was also under house arrest for a year at this time . He was trained as a journalist in Moscow. It was in this capacity that he highlighted the environmental problems that where left in the central Asian area in the post Soviet era.

A few days later, when they next gathered on the same spot, the old men were finally compelled to discuss with each other what they had always avoided mentioning ; namely when they would relocate. Like it or not, this had to be resolved , before the problem forced its own resolution. Naturally, after quite a bit of beating around the bush, the council got underway . Hodja spoke his mind first .”Shipmates share their soul they say, and if we’ve gotta go , let’s not drift off one by one, but let’s pick a day and ship out together.”

THe men decide what to do when told to relocate .

This book follows a despite between the fishermen of a small village on the Caspian sea and the soviet regime that is wanting to oust them from their homes but also their way of life have been asked to relocate . One of this group the Araz , he use the myth of Aypi  of the title has decide he wants to fight for their way of life and to stand firm for their past and the myths they believe in. Like that Aypi a young woman who was killed unjustly and has haunted the men of the resion for many years . The book is a fight between small and large , good and evil , old and new . Will Araz save his way of life but also that of everyone in his village.

At the first premonition of dawn. Aypi’s ghost floated down from above and into the winding, dishevelled streets.As the sun rose in the sky to the height of a spear, the village , as it always did came to life. Like sturgeon in shallow water, people went back and forth leaving wakes behind them.

I loved the imagery of this short opening to a chapter about Aypi but also the village .

I loved the nature of this book of bygone times and also how people’s lives can change. for me it remind me of a story I heard many years ago I worked in a day centre over 25 years ago and one of the ladies their had worked many years earlier, on the herring boat fleet as what was called a herring girl where she followed the fleets of boats fishing Herring up and down the east coast of Britain , LIke Araz and his friend this community had its own way of life. I often reflect on how similar fisherman’s lives can be around the world as it ends up as man against nature most of the time . This is a life that had been for many years the way of life for many girls from the north-east. This like Araz is a life that is dying out, well in this case had died out. This story is also a bigger story of violent regime trying to push people of their land also  destroying the  land and sea around them.A K welsapar is one of those writers that use a small story to paint a wider picture of the world around him and what he sees .Another gem from the Glagoslav .

Moscow in the 1930’s by Natalia Gromova

Moscow in the 1930’s by Natalia Gromova

Russian fiction

original title – Последняя Москва.

Translator – Christopher Culver

Source – review copy

Well its a second visit to the Russia this woman in translation month , This time we have a historic novel about writers. Natalia Gromova is from a russian military family , she has lived in Moscow since an early agee and got a job at 16 working in the state historical library whilst finishing her studies , she has work for the Soviet encyclopedia in the past but since the mid 90s has been writing books that she use the historic archives to put together historic novels from original diaries , letters and articles of the time .

Alexander Fyodorovich served Russian literature like a priest: literature had completely replaced religion for his generation. But neither literature nor culture , as it became clear later, could save them from the chaos of revolution and then all ugly realities of Soviet life. many of these high-born gymnasium teachers and university professors looked at the complex issues of society and politics with disgust, and the consequences of this naturally fell on the heads of their children, who swept into the maelstrom of history.

I loved this passage about how literature took over religion in some in the 30’s

Moscow in the 1930’s is set during those pre war years of Stalin rule , we are drawn into a world of house and place that arent there anymore .This stitches together the diaries of writers like Olga Bessarabova, Vavara Grigiryena  are the two main sources for this work  well-known and now even forgotten to paint a picture of a world of writing at the time the friendships . People like Maria Belkina a well-known writer in her time but now forgotten to us in english. I loved the way Natalia brought us behind the doors of these writers as they discuss the works of the day and the writers Bulgakov who at the time was working on his own masterpiece that was set also in Moscow the Master and the Margarita during the 30’s .Daniil andreyev is another character who is in the story he was even in the book arrested by Stalin it turns out a lot of his great works were destroyed by The state secret police .

The more I read , the more colourful a picture I got of an old Moscow home . There were more than enough of these in the past. TO a degree, these Moscow homes were literary figures in themselves: fro the Rostovs happy home on Provarskaya street in War and Peace to the home of Gromeko family on the Arbat in Doctor Zhivago. Here the doors were always wide open, the house would teem with guests, a number of relatives would be resident, and holidays would be regularly celebrated, with Christmas festivities for children and adults

In her diary, Olga Bessarabova described the Dobrov home in the same way

An open door for the writer of the day to spend time with Olga and her family .

This is one of those books you need a notebook next to you as you read to note the names of the writers mention and their works . I did this and then looked to see what is available not much but I still have some to check out further Andreyev for example his later book roza mir , rose of the world came out in the late 90’s. Natalia Gromova brings a long gone Moscow to life , this is one of a number of books she has written using the same technique of real diaries and setting as a frame for her novels .I found this compelling if a slow read so much to absorb makes it a book that I will be rereading and discovering again.


Constellation by Adrien Bosc


Constellation  By Adrien Bosc

French fiction

Original title – Constellation

Translation – Willard wood

Source – review copy

I again go back to France as I seek to move the total of books reviewed on the blog from France towards the hundred mark with this the 80th french book reviewed , from a rising star of french fiction . He has set up the publisher edition Sous-sol a very succesful French publisher. This was his debut novel it made a number of longlist and shortlist of major french prizes when it came out and I also noted when it arrived that it was one I felt , I would love as it remind me somewhat of the fellow french novel windows on the world  that also followed  a group of people after a major event.

The passengers are strapped in , Marcel Cerdan jokes with Jo Longman, while Paul Genser stares fixedly out of the pothole. Ginette Neveu clasps the case containing her two violins , A stradivarius and Guadagnini – a week ago she only owned one. At the front of the aeroplane, their seat harnesses clinched, the cockpit crew prepare for landing

The violin in piece later turned up in pieces by the Azores


Constellation follows the 48 people who where on an Air France plane a Lockhead Constellation from Paris to New york one of those wonderful post war planes all silver and gleaming like the cover of the book . The plane has to stop at the Azores to refuel this is where the plane had crashed. What Bosc does here is tells the post war years through those 48 people in little pen pictures of them all. From five Basque shepherds that are trying to get to the new world to make a new life for themselves following a path that many Basques did at that time. Then there is a boxer on the way to a title fight in America, a former lover of Edith Piaf . Then the story that touch me most is that of a Ginette Niveau a child prodigy on the violin now an adult she is heading to america to perform as her career is on the p Piaf’s lover also on the flight Marcel Cerdan lover Piaf said afterwards she and him would have travelled a thousand miles to Her Neveu . Then we see the pilots story of the war years, then the man who brought Disney merchandising to europe that meant every child had chance for mickey mouse on their wrist.

Only world war II slowed Disney’s rising power. THe company built on its popularity by taking part in the war effort. On July 14, 1942, the studios – in collaborations with Lockhead aircraft (The company that would build the constellation) – released a cartoon on the techniques of riveting aeroplanes,, an instruction manual in the form of a short animated film, Four methods of flush riveting , aimed at the governments civilian contractors.

Disney’s war years through there war films is just a small hiccup in their eventual rise to a mega company they are today .

I loved the way Bosc sitch together fact and fiction from Niveau a well-known person so her life is fact to that of the lowly five Basques who have left their village in search of the new world. Then the modern world from Kay Kamen and the birth of merchandising to coming to America to box or perform . This is a collection of lives just as europe was getting on it feet caught in an air crash that end their lives but we see the paths they were taking and what France and the real world was like at that time a nice slice of historic fiction for those who like me aren’t always the keenest on historic fiction.

A temporary sojourn and other stories by Nasreen Jahan

A temporary sojourn by Nasreen Jahan

Bangladeshi Fiction

Original title –

Edited by Niaz Zaman

Translators – various

Source – review copy

I was sent this via a fellow blogger Chelsea McGill who blogs from the globally curious  and lives in India . The collection she sent me is from one of the best known Bangladeshi writers Nasreen Jahan , she joined the Chander hat a national organsation for children organisations in 1974 and was at this time also encouraged to writer short stories which eventually got published in a daily paper in Bangladesh. She has written novels and short stories and also a number of prizes including the Bangla prize.

Kader Ali had cleaved the boy in two with his axe and fled the village in a frenzy. By the time he reached the riverbank at the end of the river, it was past sundown. An unpredictable wind was blowing, sometimes motionless and dead, sometimes they lash at you so hard you’re startled. In this unruly state of nature the river waters are in a fix. Fortunately a pitch darkness has defended or else this behaviour of the wind on her anchal waves pulling in one way and baring the other would have caused the river to fail miserably in keeping herself decent.

A temporary sojourn opening passage

The stories in this collection all for me had an eerie feel to them a collection of tales of low lives and people on the edge of life.A husband in the title story kills his son because he feels his wife hasn’t really become a muslim after they married. Elsewhere a mother and daughter fall out over the daughters lover the mother has deformed legs this remind me some what of Maugham characters in of human bondage only with the roles shift in sexes. Other stories head into Marquez and magic realism with cattle thief clashing with the vultures and elsewhere animals turning up. These are stories of everyday Bangladesh where we she how hard life is for the woman there and how often they are let down by the males around them. A refreshing collection of stories from a new name for the blog and new country for the blog.

A vulture is perched between the outstretched legs of the dead cow that had been lying on Nayar Char for sometime. It is jumping about like a new-born calf.

Kutubuddi is watching from a distance. There is not a single soul in sight anywhere. The sky seems to have descended on the Char like the breast of a white cow. Today Kutubuddi is a skilled hunter. his feet are [added like a cat;s. Indifferent to the thorny bushes that are scratching him and drawing blood he creeps forward

Man and Vulture get to it over a dead cow in the story Vulture , I felt this had a large echo of Marquez in it.

When I started winstonsdad these are the books I wanted to review the rare gems those books that show how yes these stories are set in Bangladesh but also the stories could remind you so much of the people we see every day on Jeremy kyle being at the bottom is hard wherever you are but this also shows how strong the woman are in Bangladesh for me this is also a perfect books for woman in translation month. Yes some of the translations are maybe raw and the voice isn’t the same as it is when one translator does a short story collection but it is also refreshing to see so many translators that can translate Bangladeshi fiction into English eleven in all. Many thanks for Chelsea for sending it to me .Have you read any books from Bangladesh.

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