Kafka’s Prague by Jiří Kolář

Kafka’s Prague by Jiří Kolář

Czech art/literature non fiction

Original title – Kafka’s  Praha

Translator – Ryan Scott

Source – review copy

Jiří Kolář is one of those people that had many strings to his bow as a person, poet, writer visual artist, and political activist. He was a founder member of th Skupina 42 group of writers and artists that included the great Czech writer Bohumil Hrabal. He did many jobs over his life early on in the communist regime he was arrested and imprisoned for one of his manuscripts he later when the Prague spring happened was a member of a group of artists that meet regularly in the Cafe Slavia this included from Czech Leader Vaclav Havel but when the regime change he went to live in exile and this is where this work was originally published by the exile publishing house Index in Germany.  the book is in two sections the first called responses is a sort of interview about Kolar and his beliefs the second is a collection of Kafka quotes and visual art in the form of crumbled photos to go with each quote of famous views in Prague.

I wrote a musical score named for Baudelaire ` because the majority of sound poets, didn’t know how to express themselves other than as cabaret artists. Only a few of them managed to surpass the Dadaist, such that almost all of their magnetic tape has seemed to me merely a recording of their own recital, or more precisely, of a recital of their “products From the outset Mallarme in mind. Perhapsin him lay the starting oint and solution: to make poetry through music – to write a musical scroe for a recital – recitation of a single word ! obviously I canot deny the influnece of specific music, especially several americans and others in the age of contemporary musical experimentation, the image suddely wanted to be read anew and moreover, heard. Most musical compositions require esembles and a conductor to interpret them – I was working with this objective in mind.

He writer music poems art so talented her is one of his responses .

The first part of the book is a series of vignettes about art, writers, and the world. Then the world of art and science is questioned, with questions such as does art expand our knowledge, digressions like did einstein go to this exhibition. The view of Poets like Baudelaire with a piece about hypocrisy and a piece called the “Hypocrite reader- fellowman – my twin” Meditation and art. Too his own art how it used be surrealism and then changed after the war and over time his world view changed he became Avant garde. Baudelaire crops up he was disappointed with the sound poets so he chose to write music about the poet. Then the second part of the book he takes a number of images of Prague that he has used a technique called crumplage that he made new images out of the old buildings of Prague along the side of these new images he uses a quote from Kafka most of which are perfect companions to the images.

It is not that you are buried in a mine and the masses of stone separte you, a weak individual, from the world and its light, but instead you are outside and want to penetrate to the person who has been buried and are powerless against the stonesm and the world and its light make you even more powerless

Postumous writings and Fragments Kafka

14  crumplage from Kolar.

This is something leftfield for mand the blog. e but I love that Kolar was a figure at the heart of the group of writers in the early 40s and then in the Prague spring than was a strong voice of resistance in his years of Exile so this is a work from an important figure in modern Czech history as ever with twisted spoon it s wonderfully presented the crumplage prints tie so well with the bilingual Kafka quotes on each page symmetry to them in his choice of the pairing of quote and art. This is partly an insight into Kolar’s mind and the world around him the first part sees him looking at art and himself as a sort of interview without questions vignettes insightful and questioning without questions. Then we have his art the art that he pastes after destroying the images to create something new and this may be a way to provoke a feeling of unease and oddness in the images. A collection unable to be seen in Czechslovakia at the time it came out. A homage to the hometown and its best-known writer Kafka a man that they used in the letters at the time a figure that spurred them on when in Prison. A powerful insight into art and the artist view of the world

Winstons score – B thought-provoking and with insightful art and quotes.

 

 

Drilling Through Hard Boards by Alexander Kluge

Drilling Through Hard Boards by Alexander Kluge

German Political fiction

Original title – Das Bohren Harter Bretter

Translator – Wieland Hoban

Source – personal copy

This is the third book by the German writer Alexander Kluge I have read he is fast becoming one of my favorite writers this collection caught my eye as it is slightly different it was a collection of 133 political stories. This is including a couple stories from his fellow German writer Reinhard Jirgl as Kluge says telling stories is a very social activity. Kluge is one of those writers that isn’t easy to pigeonhole, he has so many talents he is both a member of the group 47 writers but is also a leading light of the New German cinema. Kluge has also written a lot of things for television. He is a truly unique talented individual and should be better known over here!

 A number of tourists arrive at the Federal chancellery steamboat jett. They do not want to visit the Federal chancellery but, rather, the HOUSE OF THE CULTURES OF THE WORLD. In front of this heritage protected building, two stalls offer Baked potatoes and Bratwurst respectively, accompanied by beerr. A band is rehearsing loudly for the evening on the roof of the building. They already knew how to use the loudspeakers before they start rehearsing. The rehersal serves to mark there territory in the culturual garden.

Maybe a sly look at how peoples nedds and views have changed in recent years

The book is divided into five rough categories of stories like in his other books he uses a style that is all his own he creates a sort of mosaic with his stories. They stretch from the mundane things like the description of the steamboat jetty near the Federal Chancellory one of the small vignettes that create bigger pictures through Il Duce intelligence. Obama this is Kluge he jumps from place to place each short piece. What he dies is mix the real and fake together. There is pieces from Jirgl which imagine the events around the  Keneady Krushchev meeting and what happened. Funny tales like the highest mountain taking a comment from Gorky and then explain that there was first Lenin peak then there had been a higher Stalin peak found. he moves from the mundane German politicians through Russian Politics and the events like Glasnost then minor observances like the Big wheel at Chernobyl set up at the time for the annual Mayday that stayed for years after. He also looks at how we view politics and those who serve us. The title comes from an observance from Max Weber described politics as ” a strong, slow drilling through hard boards with both passion and judgment “. this is what spurred Kluge to write this collection that makes the reader think like his other books.

The same organizational power that kept all sections of the USSr going was responsible for the annual preparations for LABOUR DAY, 1May, as well as the pouros planning (carelessness, techinical concentrates and disruption of responsibilties) that led to the ACCIDENT IN BLOCK 4 at Chernobyl on 26 pril 1986. The town had already been evacuated. But the leisure facilities for the 1 May celebrations, no longer noticed by anyone, were still set up. Towering above them was a striking big wheel that stayed there for another two years because no one dared take own this contaminated device. It stood there rigidly waiting for te rust in the coming winter. The mute witness to a memorieal day and the scenic ruin, covered by invisible lava, of the technological district: TWO POLTICALLY OPPOSING SIGNS OF HUMN LABOUR.

A nugget of information a small footnote in history the MAY day wheeel left after the disaster in Chernobyl

Kluge is a hummingbird of a writer he likes to fly from flower to flower he has a mind that seems to never rest. The book is one of those that like his fellow German writer Sebald that defies pigeonholes and like Sbebald he loves to mix fiction, non-fiction biography, and photos the images help build with the stories and vignettes. it becomes like a web of knowledge an interconnection tube map of stops that lead us one way and then back and then cross over. All in all,  It makes us all think about what is politics what does it serves and also lifts the lid on the post-war german years. Also the philosophy of politics and the history of politics. this is what I have come to expect from Kluge his books have left me as a reader feeling like I have been to a buffet or like a cosmos where there is a bit of everything you are full the food is rich and the here his ideas small large the vignettes from a few lines to a few pages each can lead you one a different tangent of thought. Have you ever read Kluge? if so which shall I try next.

Winston score – B thought-provoking work from a writer that needs to be better known in the UK

 

 

The Innocence of Memories by Orhan Pamuk

The Innocence of Memories by Orahn Pamuk

Turkish Non-Fiction

Original title -Hatıraların Masumiyeti

Translator – Ekin Oklap

Source – Personal copy

I take a move away from Spanish and Woman in translation. I brought this a week or two ago and just had to read it I have loved Pamuk’s book and was drawn into his love of his hometown Istanbul when he did an episode of the Imagine art series a couple of years ago. This book is about a film he made with the British director Grant Gee about his Musual which came about from the novel he wrote about a distant relative Kemal who married a poorer cousin that is the basis of the novel the Museum of Innocence which I reviewed a when it came out.

I wrote the novel while thinking of the museum, and created the mesum while thinking of the novel, The museum was not just some idea i chanced upon after the succes of the book, nor was it a case of the succes of the Meseum begetting the novel, like the boook  ersion of some blockbuster film, In fact, I conceiived the book and the museum simultanesouly, and explained their intricate connection in the novel; a young man from a wealthy, weesternised Istanbul family falls in love with a poor distant relative, and when hus love goes unrequitted, he finds solace in collecting everything his beloved has ever touched, finally as we learn at the end of the novel hje takes all these everyday objects he has accumlated- post cards, photographsm matchsticks, saltshakers, keys,dress, film clips, and toys, mementos of his doomed love affair and of the Istanbul of the 1970’s and 1980s whose streets he wandered with his lover 0 and puts them on display in Istanbuls Museum of Innocence

The opening paragraph sums up what happened and how it all came about!

The book is formed from the audio tour of the Museum which won the best European Museum in 2014. The idea had been in Pamuk’s mind since the 1990s when he started to collect things as he says in the book the city had started to change at such a pace he needs to keep some of the past there. o when he found the 2000 cigarettes Kemal had kept smoked by Fusun with the touches of her lipstick that he, as he said, wrote a novel that became a real museum. HE brought there home and the floors above and he has made a place that captures what it was like to be Kemal and Fussun at that point. The guide has Orhan talking, Kemal, and people they knew. Then Orhan saw a film by the English Director Grant Gee the one he made about Sebald’s book the rings of Saturn, I myself have watched this film a number of times myself. So he asked if Grant could do a film on this and they met this is a later section in the book where he tells of him and Grant wandering the city for eight hours talking and Gee talks of his lover of Maker’s work especially Sans Soleil another work I like what they came about with is a film that is the title of the book is also the title of the work that Grant Gee and Orhan Pamuk made together I have yet to see this but will love it.

AYLA: There is no daylight in the Museum of Innocence. It feels like night and dreaming. Perhaps this is why it was so easy for me to feel at home there. Once I found myself starting with a powerful sense of Deja vu at a photograph of a salep vendor on the Galata Bridge at night. It took me a while to realise that, like many of the other photographs in the meseum, it is by Ara Giuler. Like all Istanbullus of my generation, I have seen some of his photographs o many times that I confuse them with my own memories of the city

I lived this reaction and the theme of the night and the city is here

I think this is a book that most people that read this blog will love. It has a lot of traits that I like a book around memories I love books that talk about the past about what has been lost and her it is the Istanbul of his youth and at its heart the love story. of Kemal and Fusun even thou it is doomed. This has inspired a novel, a film, and a Museum. The book is interspersed with pictures of the museum and exhibits. What leaps out of the book is his love of Istanbul especially at night and the way it used to be the lost place the streets have gone things like the wild dogs wandering the streets. He talked about this on the Imagine show and how he wandered at night. Have you read any Non-fiction by Pamuk?

Winstons score – A A ode to a book and city

 

That was the month that was July 2021

  1. Ramifications by Daniel Saldaña París
  2. Working Woman by Elvira Navarro
  3. Death at Intervals by Jose Saramago
  4. None so Blind by J A Gonzalez Sainz

This month I wasn’t on form a real reading slump so I only managed four reviews all month we started in Mexico with a young man looking back at the loss of his mother as he is sick in the same bed as his parents slept in. Then a flatshare happens or is it two women or one woman imaging a flatmate as her editing job shrinks down. Then Death takes a break from her job and all through everyone is happy at first the consequences of no deaths soon sinks in and a cellist then avoids the call of death Then a man moves to the basque region and sees his family drawn into the Basque problems in the 80s a quiet man’s life turns. So I managed three countries not any new publisher.

Book of the month

I hadn’t read Saramago for a decade and this reminded me what a talented writer he was and how he had lots of recurrent themes in his works such as religion, the Salazar regime, and dystopian worlds. It won’t be this long next time too I  read him.

Non-book events

I watched the Shane Meadows film Dead man’s shoes which I have watched a few times as a revenge thriller mostly set in Matlock as a brother returns to take revenge on the druggy gang that killed his disabled brother killing them one by one. It has him talking with his brother reliving what happened to him I like Meadows’s work as they are mostly set in place I know around Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. In the opposite to that was watching Terry Gillian’s dystopic film Brazil with Jonathan Pryce as a man caught up in a kafkaesque world of things going wrong after a mistake means the wrong man is arrested. But on the whole, It has been a quiet month otherwise really fairly hot for most of it.  we tidied our garden but have a bit more to do but now have a few days off to do some more work in it. This also saw the seventh anniversary of losing Winston, not a week goes by that I don’t miss him.

The month ahead well with the lack of reviews for the last month I have extended Spanish lit month and intend to review a few more books for there I have two already read ready for review and then I will also try a couple for Woman in translation month a couple will cross with Spanish lit month then I have review copies piling up. that I need to get to. So a busy month I hope. What plans have you for the next month?

Life and Spanish lit month

A quick post just extending Spanish lit month into August. I’ve struggled to write and a lot of the time read a book this last month or so. I feel a group of nights at work which I finished yesterday morning was on my mind for various reasons and had distracted me with a shoulder injury last month and not having a holiday for two years we had a weekend away last month but the whole Covoid situation with working through it and having Amanda at home as she was told to stay in due to her health issues for most the last year of it has all taken its toll. Now as we enter more freedom with the figures still high and I’m just worn down so instead of panicking and stressing I’m extending  Spanish lit month to August which we have done before and it will match up well with Women in translation month as there is so many great female Spanish writer and translators out there at the moment. Thanks to everyone that has taken part so far I hope to go and comment some soon. I am now back at work tomorrow for two long days. So  I will be posting a review Friday Hopefully .A great Arrival has popped through my letterbox it is the first book that Charco Press has published by Argentinean writer Claudia Piñeiro she is the third most translated writer from Argentina and has had her other books published her a lot of her books have been made into films. The book has just come out and is a great choice for this month’s or next month’s Women in Translation Month. Hope all of you are doing well and don’t let Covoid worry you too much.

Blind man by Mitja Čander

Blind man by  Mitja Čander

Slovenian fiction

Original title – Slepec

Translator – Rawley Grau

Source –  review copy

In a podcast, Mitja described himself as a man with three titles the first and his main one for most of his life was as an essayist and literary critic which he did to his 40s then he decides to start helping organize large cultural events such as the city of culture in Maribor and various book events. Then in his last role, he became a director of the publishing house Beletrina. He himself like the main character in his book has always had a problem with his own sight the book came out of his memoir then he decided to make it into a novel. After he got feedback from a well-known Slovenian playwright.

I handed the grocery bags to my wife, sat down at the kitchen table , and pcked up the newspaper. I glanced through the headlines.

“could you bring me something to eat, please? I’m starving, I said without looking up.

She stopped putting the foodaway in the fridge

“They gave you rotten lemos again!

“It happens”I answered calmly. “I doubt it was intentional.”

“This is the second time now. Not long ago iot was the bannas. Those ladies have good eyesight, you know.”

“I’m sorry, but I’m hungry ”

I trusted people on princilpe. I trusted them to always give me back the correct change.

The rotten lemons again this is another passaged that made me laugh

Like tMitja himself the main character is a successful book editor and critic and has been severely impaired vision since his childhood. Thou he has never been part of that blind community so when his vision starts to get worse. He is married and his wife is an editor and translator they live their lives we get some insights like when he shops for the house and returns with fruit and veg she says the people in the shop that gave him the worst produce. This is how he has lived to try to avoid his blindness but after trying to give a talk to a blind group and then is told to apply for funds for his blindness. Then when he doesn’t he appeals but this process ends up being invited into politics and to join and talk to a  party called the front this then grows and becomes the main party in Slovenia and our narrator is invited to join the government and start to organize a large event rather like the city of culture project but this is a huge concept of what will happen in future but the project is underfunded and is maybe a view of the country its self in the 30 years that followed the setting up of Slovenia as an independent country

“You get more beautiful every time I see you!”

“you say that, but you’re half-blind, you know – you don’t see wrinkles, the circles under my eyes, or the other blemishes…but thanks anyway, dear”

In my eye women with truly long hair automatically had an advantage. When we were stdying world literature at university, and even later, when we would bumpo into each other now and thenn, she had always kept her hair short, or medium length at most, Our most important lectures had been in the evening, and they were often the prelude to a long night, she had been one of the most avid oartiers I knew, and no jealous boyfriend could ever comvience her it was time to go to bed, Her boyfriends in fact, had always been somewhere far way,either studying in foreign lands or foreigners themselves, guys she had met travelling or on student exchanges.

I loved the opening of this chapter a compliment or was it !

 

The first part of the book seems to be based on Mitja own life he is blind but he has never been in the government but has been involved in the fact he had organized these large cultural events he has seen how politicians are at first hand. So this is a thinly veiled look at how Slovenia has been since they began so our narrator is impaired in his vision and many in the government has been short-sighted or impaired. There is a great use of language and humor in the book he says in the podcast he used to tell anecdotes you can see some of them grow out into the text a sense of humor and satire of his own life and the world he lives in. He also said he used short sentences in this novel. The descriptive way is described is well caught as that of a man with impaired vision ( having worked and often chatted with a man that lost his vision slowly like Mitja the veg story remind me of a story he told me of making breakfast when his wife had mistakenly put peaches in the place of tomatoes so when he ate his breakfast it was hot peaches, not tomatoes!, also the mapmaking we spent many months walking into the village where I worked till he eventually walked himself remind me of our narrator talking about his blindness in the office )so the world is seen through his prism it is a man trying to work out his place in the world the kafkaesque quest for a grant shows what makes us blind in the eyes of government what happens when you are blind but can see! What happens when those running a country get blinded by their own shining lights rather than what is in front of them a brilliant insight into Slovenia a man that strides both sighted and impaired world but also is blind running a project that is too large and underfunded from a shortsighted government !! What happens like the many chess references in the book that a country plays out and ends up in a stalemate you go back to what point did it happen! a sort of satire of Slovenia!

Winstons score -A an insight into one man’s life that is a wider commentary on the world he lives in

Spanish Lit Month 2021 plus Portuguese lit

Since 2012 the has been a Spanish lit month in July every year a couple of years ago Richard and I expand it to include Portuguese lit which for me was a way to try and read a few more Portuguese works which is an area I feel is weak on the blog. SO I announce this year’s Spanish lit month and I will be doing two reads this month.

The first week this year I would love people to try some modern Latin American lit there has been so much that has come out in recent years. The writers from Andres Neuman to Mariana Enriquez have shown how diverse Latin American Literature has been. I have chosen a book from a publisher that has brought us some great books from Latin America Charco Press there backlist is a good place to start with the best of the new writers from Latin America. The book from them I have chosen for a read-along in week one of July is A collection of short stories from the write Federico Falco A perfect cemetery the study obsessive love, romantic love, and how we deal with death and grief as a mayor tries to build the perfect cemetery for a dying wish.

Week two Spain no read-along just a book or two from Spain there been so much from Latin America in recent years. But maybe not as many from Spain. but it is great to read some Spanish fiction or even some nonfiction work. any suggestions welcome.

Week three classic lit. Well, modern classics really I have chosen a book by Peruvian Nobel winner Mario Vargas Llosa his best-known book which is Aunt Julia and the scriptwriter which describes Mario a thinly veiled version of Mario himself working in Peruvian radio doing the highly popular daily soap operas we follow his writing and personal life. I read this years ago and wonder if it has dated any in the time since I last read it. There was a Hollywood version of the book which I had hoped would be online or available for watching but tune in tomorrow isn’t available shame as it is a great film.

Week four is Portuguese week a mix of lit from Portugal and its ex-colonies I hope to read the madwoman of Serrano by Dina Salustio the first female writer from Cape Verde to be translated which Dedalus books brought out a while ago there has been a number of great African titles translated from Portuguese in recent years. I also hope to read a book from Portugal this week.

Will you be joining in? what books will you choose?

I Live in the Slums by Can Xue

I Live in the Slums by Can Xue

Chinese fiction

Original title – the stories were published in various publications and collected here.

Translators Karen Gernant and Chen Zeping

Source – personal copy

Well, this is the second book from Can Xue or as she is known Deng Xiaohua. I have read the first was the longlisted love in the new millennium which was longlisted for the Booker I read it but wasn’t a huge fan of it I have struggled with Chinese fiction over the years but was willing to try as this was a collection of short stories and  I remember reading at the time I read her novel that it was her medium as she had written over a 120 short stories over the years. Known for her Avant-garde and abstract style of writing. She had worked as a metal worker and then with her husband started a tailoring business before she wrote more she took the pen name Can Xue early on in her career.

The Old man sat up in bed, about to bandage his heel with a rag. He had prepared the rags earlier for this purpose. He made a lot of noise tearing up the cloth. He seemed top be strong, He kept wrapping his foot until it was encased in one large package. The pig squealed more and mpore incositently. they were on the verge of leaping out of the pen. He got out of bed and stepped on the floor without putting a shoe on his injured foot. He went outside to feed the pigs. What was this all about? Whu did he let the house mouse bite his heel ? Was therre a tumor there and he was letting the house mouse perform surgery? What admirable willpower ?

The foot getting nibble and the old man then wakes

I Live in the slums is a collection of 15 stories with the longer story the story of the slums being more of a novella than a short story. As with the story of the slums, the main story is a dark tale of the Chinese underclass our narrator opens with a bone of an old man being eaten a dead man I thought but no he then wakes this is the view of the underclass and later the story goes full circle as the same thing happens to the narrator with his foot being eaten and nibbled by a mouse. The stories view the poor lost voices of Modern China from the urban sprawl to the countryside. It captures that journey of many young chinese from the country to the town.  Almost what I felt is this is the reverse of the American dream as the characters are poor in the country but also those left behind those elders struggling. Then the nightmare of the city is captured catfish pool which shws the urban sprawl destroying the places. The stories are all avant garde and sometimes make the reader struggle but also make the stories hard to describe they are more absorb by the reader.

THe slums were my home, and also the hardest place for me to understand. Genrally speaking, I didn’t make a deliberate effort to understand it. Destiny drove me from one place to anpther. I’d been underground, I’d been to the city, and \i’d lived in all kinds of homes in the slums. There was often crises in my life; the threat of death was ongoing, but I was still alive. Could this be because my ancestors were living in the depths of memory and protecting me? Oh – that boundless pasture, that eagle disappearing into the vast qi, those kin who lay on their stomachsin the underbrush! Thinking of them, I felt I knew everything and was capable of anything. But this was in my memory. The reality was absolutely different. In reality, I knew almost noting, through I had experienced so much.

Near the end of the novella the story of the slums the narrator talks of his life in the slums.

I enjoyed this collection more than I had her Novel I was reminded at times of Herta Mullers writing there is a similar richness to her writing style. also a similar abstract sty;le that takes tiome to absorb as a read this is rich in images and is more about atomspehre setting and events than narrative. The stories have lots of little nods to what is wrong in china the underclasses Building come and go the sort of chaos that follows the unending urban sprawl that has eaten the countryside and spilt people from where they were. The main novella is very dark and has a feel of Kafka an unnamed narrator a downward spiral of life. I will be trying more books from Can Xue whch is a change as before this collection I wouldn’t have picked her up. But I know feel her style is more suit to the short form. Have you read Can Xue ? where next ?

WInstons Score = B  It grew on me.

That was the month that was March 2021 and Booker reaction

  1. Dog Island by Philippe claudel
  2. London Under Snow by Jordi llavina
  3. Wretchedness by Andrzej Tichy
  4. Beowulf a new translation
  5. Summer night , and then comes the night by Jon Kalman Stefansson
  6. Portrait of artist as a young man by James Joyce
  7. The Frightened one by Dima Wannous
  8. Earthlings by Sayaka Murata

Now I have just reviewed 8 books this month I have slowed but have reviewed 32 books this year and am on course to get over the 100 review total I set myself for this year. This month’s Journey started in France with a tale of a dog-shaped island in the Med with a dark secret at its heart with the immigrants that are trying to get there.. Then to a collection of short stories from a Catalan writer that has a London connection.THen of to a Swedish novel by a writer with Mittel European heritage and a tale of a cellist seeing his past in a druggy he comes across.  This also made the booker list. Then a new version of the epic poem Beowulf with a feminist twist and brought life with modern slang. Then a village in Iceland that has con mad in the daylight of midsummer, Then it was a nod to St Patrick’s day with James Joyce’s portrait of the artist as a young man that was about his own youth and had one of the characters that were also in Ulysses. Then two friends from Syria on remained the other left to German and then wrote a book about his ex’s life.Then a small toy is really an alien in a tale that has dark undertones from japan, NO new publishers or countries this monthj.

Book of the month

I have picked Beowulf as it brought this book to life for me a text that is hard to get into in older translations this with it clever use of street slang and a modern slant on the book’s events brought the action to life for me.

Non-book events

Edited in Prisma app with Surf

This month saw the first few rules relaxing around lockdown this tied up with a couple of warm days so we could go a little further so on yesterday we had a trip in the peak a walk around Bakewell where we found a couple of Geocaches a new sort of treasure hunt on the phone which we have found this month we get a GPS sight then have to fin either box, bottle or something hidden at that location then log it a fun way to have a walk around we found two in Bakewell we had planned to walk some of the Monsal trails the old railway in the peaks that are now an 8-mile path for walkers or cyclist but everyone I think had same idea hence a walk around Bakewell instead but we had a picnic at Monsall Head later the same day in which I took the above picture. What have you been up to ?

Booker reaction

Can Xue (China), Karen Gernant & Chen Zeping
– I Live in the Slums (Yale University Press)

David Diop (France) & Anna Moschovakis
 At Night All Blood is Black (Pushkin Press)

Nana Ekvtimishvili (Georgia) & Elizabeth Heighway
– The Pear Field (Peirene Press)

Mariana Enriquez (Argentina) & Megan McDowell
– The Dangers of Smoking in Bed (Granta Books)

Benjamin Labatut (Chile) & Adrian Nathan West
– When We Cease to Understand the World (Pushkin Press)

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o (Kenya)
– The Perfect Nine (Vintage Books)

Olga Ravn (Denmark) & Martin Aitken
– The Employees (Lolli Editions)

Jaap Robben (Netherlands) & David Doherty
– Summer Brother (World Editions)

Judith Schalansky (Germany) & Jackie Smith
– An Inventory of Losses (MacLehose Press)

Adania Shibli (Palestine) & Elizabeth Jacquette
– Minor Detail (Fitzcarraldo Editions)

Maria Stepanova (Russia) & Sasha Dugdale
– In Memory of Memory (Fitzcarraldo Editions)

Andrzej Tichý (Sweden) & Nicola Smalley
– Wretchedness (And Other Stories)

Éric Vuillard (France) & Mark Polizzotti
– The War of the Poor (Picador

Well, I had reviewed 5 of the 13 books leaving me 8 to read one of which I had started Summer brother by Japp Robben which I read his first book I really enjoyed a few years ago. of the others, I have read books by Can Xue, Mariana Enriquez, and Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o the other writer are new to me and Lolli Editions is a press I hadn’t read a book from yet. I had three in my prediction post right. I had expected an African novel but I had been read Alain Mabackou which I had brought instead of the Thiong’o so I wish I had brought them both I hope to review the Jaap tomorrow of the books left to read the Enriquez appeals I liked her previous book. In Memory of memory is my type of book I feel. Of the others, I will have to see as most of them I had heard of but hadn’t caught my eye enough to try and the Can Xue was a writer I struggled with last time. It is interesting as most shadow jury has read very little of this list which goes to show how many more books there are out there to be read I look forward to reading them and seeing if this list is better than most of our lists !. What had you read and what do you think of the list.

The Imagined Land by Eduardo Berti

The Imagined land by Eduardo Berti

Argentinean fiction

Original title – El país imaginado

Translator – Charlotte Coombe

Source – personal copy

I have had this on my shelves a couple of years and when I was looking for something that maybe had a love story or romance at its heart this struck me as a contender. It is written by the French-based Argentinean writer Eduardo Berti A cultural Journalist based in France he was elected to the Oulipo group of writers being the first writer from Argentina to be elected to the group. He also works as a transxlator he=aving translated works from Alberto Manguel and Romesh Gunesekera. He has published 15 books of novels and short stories over the last thirty years.

ON the first day of the new year, my father was in such a good mood that he was hardly recognisable; he was usually so moderate, so restrained. He saw that there sun, that the air was fresh, and there wa no threat of clouds on the horizion, of the “corner of the sky” as my grandmother used to call it. This all seemed to be a good omen, since nothing was more desirable for the chu-yi than a crystal clear dawn, Shortly after, at midday, he reminded ius enthusiastically that in the evening we would be joined for dinner bt tje family of his friend Gu Xiangong, who lived about a two hour drive away by car from our city. This was a dangerous ambigous distance

Thy had three daughters the visits why are they coming to visit the family.

This book is set in CHina pre reveloution in a small city we view the life there through the eyes of Ling she is 14 and nurses her grandmother as she says her parents don’t trust him to nurse her. The Grandmother is old and has a great collection of old books that she  has read to her grandchildren especially her granddaughter. The book are to be taken out to stp insects eating them she is told by her father this is something that Ling does herself as her brother isn’t bother this isall part of some old ideas and pratices that her father has that make them seem out of time to those around them. But when pone day they are visited by a local family as there daughter Xiaomei as her brother future bride but the young 14 year old ling is dumbstruck by the beauty of this girl and then decides to befriend her as the two meet in the park over time. This is also intersped with Ling talking with her grandmother who has now passed about what she is feeling and her grandmpther spirit is a guide for her. The two girls discuss going ona run , her brother admits he is in love with a different girl will she be found a husband were will the love take them all and what do the do to follow there parents wishes.

Give me your hand, said Xiaomeri, and I did

Interlacing her fingers with mine, she formed one hand using both out hands and guided it  into the basket. We clumsily grabbed the first piece of paper within our reach.

Xiaomei unfolded the paper to reveal a melon

We will have lots of children,Ling ! she said, laughing.

We laughed even more, however, when before we saiud goodbye, she unfoilded all the pieces of paper to tecveal the drawings melons, melons, nothing but melons.

The two girls grow close as they meet in a park !

If you have followed this blog for any time you know I am a huige fan of fiction set in villages or small city that have a real sense of place  as they have that air of being caught in amber in at times and here is a village that is looking far back to tradition in the values like buying a blackbird the book starts with a blackbird and ends with the vchaning as the bird seller isn’t in the ,market anymore the book is set in the twenties and follows ling to the edge of the reveloutin through the Japanese ocupation. It is obvious as I read in an interview with Berti this China in the book is a mix of real and inmagined China the china of the west the way we like to view it but I was remind fo the documentry channel four showed years ago Beyond the clouds which showed small villages that like this city had got lost in time. That had like this place missed the call of time touched by the modern world like when Ling talks about watchiong films especially of the silent film star Ruan lingyu who died young but was called the Greta garbo of China for the emotions she showed in her film. Ling says Xiaomei is even more beautiful this is a tale of the first love not sexual but of attraction and the blossoming of a young girl struggling with who she is !! Then there is her and her brother struggles to conform with their parents and try and keep the family traditions and values alive. If yoiu like books like Reef where coming of age is mixed with the scenery of a place and spirt this mixes the spirit of the small village. Ann interesting book of a place long gone from a new writer to the bog Have you read anything by Him? Happy Valentine’s day all !!

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