Mourning Diary by Roland Barthes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mourning Diary by Roland Barthes

French Memoir

Original title –Journal de deuil

Translator – Richard Howard

Source – personnel copy

I said I got this after reading a piece about books written after losing a close family member. This was also a chance to add Barthes to the blog , I have his Mythologies on my shelf that i read many years ago. He was one of the best known french thinkers , literary theorist , semiotics and was of the school of structuralism and post structuralism  . This was published many years after Barthes own death which happened a couple of years after the diary when he was hit by laundry truck on the way home from a dinner given by the president Mitterand

Every morning  around 6:30 in the darkness outside , the metallic racket of the garbage cans.

She would say with relief: the night is finally over (she suffered during the night , alone , a cruel business)

His mum was Ill like my mum sometimes suffering is best gone .

 

Having lost his father at a very early age , so was very close to his mother , so when he lost her in october 1977 he started to writer these short passages about his live, his mourning , his mother and how he is coping over the space of two years. We see the emptiness of the world with out his mother , he worries about how long he should feel this and that . The way grief can overtake him all of a sound .

Reread for the first time this mourning diary, tears each time there was any question of her – of her person – not of me

So emotivity returns

fresh as on the first day of mourning

I know this feeling so well-looking back is sometimes to hard I am going head long into a new life!!

This is a tough book to describe it is like a collection of thought more than a straight diary . The form of it was notes of paper he collected over those two years that he hadn’t done much with, he did after this write a piece about the pictures of his mum and who he felt about them , almost as thou he had healed more than when  these piece were left. two years earlier. We sense this is the first real taste of death that made him Barthes question his own death in a way it is more following the journey of grief that we are meant to take , I will show examples of each from the diary its self.

  1. denial isolation -“In the sentence “she is no longer suffering “, to what , to whom does “she ” refer? what does that present tense mean ?”  He has a sense of deinal to the present of the no suffering .
  2. Anger -“.. That this death fails to destroy me altogether means that I want to live wildly madly and that therefore the fear of my own death is always  there, not displaced by a single inch.” I sense anger here driving him wildly and madly to danger !
  3. Bargaining -“My overcoat is so deary that I know Maman would never have tolerated the black or grey scarf I always wear with it , and I’m keep hearing her voice telling me to wear a little colour .For the first time , then , I decide to wear a coloured scarf (scotch plaid)” I sense him bargaining with his mother
  4. Depression -” autumn 1921 Proust nearly dies (overdose of veronal).- celeste “we’ll all meet in the valley of Jehosphat”-“Ah! do you really believe there’s a chance of that? If I were sure of meeting Maman again , I’d die right away ” A sense of depression in the way he said he would die to meet his maman again .
  5. Acception -“- I write my suffering less and less but in a sense it grows stronger, shifting to the realm of the eternal since I no longer write it ” Acceptance of a sort that the writing stage is over for him.

This is one mans touching journey a book of thoughts regrets and making his way through his personnel grief . I was so touched in so many ways this is a book that will linger with me for the rest of my life .

 

 

A book to help with Mum’s passing

I read a piece last week by Scott Esposito called On books we read (and write) to get by . The piece was about Naja Marie Aidt on her  struggle to get by with the death of her son . She was given a number of books by her fellow writers one of those was Mourning Diary by Roland Barthes , which hit me as it followed his life a year in little sections after his own mothers death, I have just had a numb hole in my heart and mind for the last few months as I put my Mum’s passing to the back of my mind as I struggle to process all that I have lost.This arrived yesterday and I already read half of it as a shared journey . This may not be the total but maybe like Naja reading her books which lead to her own book as she puts it her (translated ) Grief is giant fucking monster that destroys everything  , she wrote a book about her son Carl and how she dealt with the loss  .I’m not talented enough maybe to write a book about mum but I want her to be remembered so I may write something even if she gets a mention in a review.Have you ever find solace in a book ?

Fish have no feet by Jon Kalman Stefansson

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Fish have no feet by Jon Kalman Stefansson

Icelandic Fiction

Original title – Fiskarnir hafa enga fætur

Translator – Philip Roughton

Source – Review copy

So I reach the final post of this years Man Booker journey , with one of my favourite writers and a writer that has been on the longlist for the old iffp . Jon Kalman Stefansson is another of those talent Icelandic writers. This is also the first time he has tackled a more modern-day Iceland than before in his books the earlier two I reviewed were from his trilogy Heaven and Hell and The sorrow of angels . Like his earlier book it also involves family and  but in a more personnel way than before.

I mean no disrespect , but ari is the only person who could have dragged me back here , across  the expanse of black lava that ground to a painful halt hundreds of years ago, naked in places, but elsewhere moss has softened and soothed it, clothed it in silence and serenity; you drive out of Reykjavik past the long aluminium smelter and into the lava, which at first is an old scream , and then moss-covered silence .

Ari returns to a changed place with his friend !!

This is a journey into the heart of what is modern Iceland told through two generations of the same icelandic family . The first is Ari in the present but also his childhood years  on the seventies and eighties . He has arrived home from Copenhagen and  is remembering his childhood in the town of Keflavik , a town that is home to the huge Us airbase NASKEF that was in use til 2005 , this also had like many airbases there is a ripple effect this is seen through Ari memories of his childhood of trying to grow up in the Iceland of the day which wasn’t the one we know but on the way and being tinged by America .Then Nordfjordur is the setting for the second tale a small fishing village cling to the land and the story of Ari grandparents is a tragic love story . This is juxtaposed by the modern marriage of their grandson. This is a story of nation that has changed so much in two generations .

We walk past the january 1976 bar , from which two middle-aged woman emerge , lighting cigarettes before the door shuts behind them, shuts on Rod Stewart singing “Maggie May” inside, It’s evening and we’re tipsy from the red wine and whisky we drank at the hotel and we walk down Hafnargata street, which is far tidier now than in the past, when we first walked down it with Asmundur ; Mayor Sigurjon has done a good job cleaning things up.

I liked this passage as it was as thou past, present we’re one leading me to think the narrator wasn’t in the present just the past !

Now it is hard not to see Ari in some part as being a veiled version of the writer himself , there is points when he talks about the eighties and growing up the music he listen to you feel him looking at his own collection of music and life , Like Ari Jon Kalman spent time in Denmark and also grew up in Keflavik. He has managed to writer a semi biographical novel using Ari but not as ari but more as a friend of him that is the narrator of the story, I was reminded of tv shows of recent years that use a detached voice as the narrator for the series , especially the recent netflix series thirteen reason why  which like this recounts past events in the present. Also Desperate housewives   where the whole series was told by a woman who was dead at the beginning of the book.Is this unnamed narrator an actual person or a lost friend of Ari that is long gone. In some ways this is maybe his answer to the likes of Knausgaard writing less of rooting in ones own past and pouring it on the page for every one to read no this is a carefully picked version of his history and how it feels to return home and remember what you like because the black side is there but isn’t what we remember this is the sense of drawing what was best in someway in your childhood.This is more personnel than his  earlier books which means it is maybe a harder read but more accessable

The traitors Niche by Ismail Kadare

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The traitors Niche by Ismail Kadare

Albanian Fiction

Original title – Kamarja e turpit

Translator – John Hodgson

Source – Library copy

I near the end of the man boomer journey with last but one longlist book . I was surprised like Ellen Battersbye this  was on the list as the original book came pout in 1978, I do wonder why it took so long to translate , what isn’t such a bad novel. I have reviewed Ismail Kadare four times before on the blog , he has used history in the past to shine a light on his homelands present. I always view him like Pamuk or Llhosa as a future Nobel winner in that he writes good not great books but always good books to read.

It was not hard to imagine why this square had been chosen for the niche where the severed heads of rebels viziers or ill-starred senior officials were placed. Perhaps nowhere else could the eyes of passer-by so easily grasp the interdependency between the imposing solidity of the ancient square and the human heads that dared to show it disrespect. It was clear at once that the head’s lifeless eyes surveilled every corner of the square . In this way , even the feeblest and least imaginative passer-by could visualise, at least for a moment , his own head displayed at this unnatural Height.

The traitors niche is there to show the citizens who is who and keep them in line .

The Traitors niche is a tale about the backlash of the Ottoman Sultan to the area of his land that was Albania , he has sent his courier to this province to make sure that he gets the heads pf those the Sultan has ordered killed for standing up to the ottoman empire , he has also orders the end of the languages and customs of this place , as he is scared that history will repeat as they rebelled 400 years before that so as we follow Abdulla the courier sen to ge the heads as he gets slightly mad carrying the heads back home . The heads are destined to be put up on the Traitors niche which is guarded by Tundj and his two fellow guards. They have to follow a list of orders to make sure the heads are kept as long as possible by caring for them .

Albania had rebelled many times since the death of Scanderberg , may he never rest in peace, but never like this.This was an extended rebellion that came in waves like the shocks of an earthquake, sometimes overtly, sometimes in secret. It had been started long ago by the old Bushatli family in the north and continued by Ali Pasha Tepelena in the South, and was shaking the foundations of the historic empire .

There was always rebellion in Albania , but sometimes it needed stamping on like in the book .

This is classic Kadare his books are so set in the heart of his homeland this like most of historic novel are as much about the time they were set as the present . I was reminded in the way Tundj cared for the heads remind me of the way the soviets took care of the dead leader and I wondered if he imagined that Hoxha would want his body kept. Themn there is the way the Sultan wiped out an opposition to his ruler , much the way Hoxha did using his secret police to wipe pout any opposition . At this time Kadare was still writing and living in Albania and used the historic themes in his novels of the time like this and Three arched bridge and twilight of the eastern gods  both of which I have reviewed and both of which had been written around the same time as this book. KAdare used the past to highlight the violent repressive regime of his homeland .

 

The unseen by Roy jacobsen

The unseen by Roy Jacobsen

Norweigian fiction

Original title – De Usynlige

Translators – Don Bartlett and Don Shaw

Source – review copy

Well I’m a year late reviewing this one it was one of those that fell through the net of books , I get sent a number have my own and library books sometimes one misses some great books so when it was on the Man booker longlist , I was pleased I had a copy near at hand  and with the shadow shortlist due out tomorrow ,I’m reaching the final few books of this years list. Roy Jacobsen life is interesting he spent time in Prison as a youth as he was involved in gangs he has twice been up for the Nordic book prize , woth his earlier Novel seierherrene is considered a classic of the class journey people can take in Norway culture “the great class Journey ” . This book was a bestseller in Norway which considering Jacobsen is a writer with 13 earlier novels  and a number of short story collections is a writer that os seeming produce great books still.

They walk silently past the store , there will be no shopping today, continue down to the trading post and clamber on board the faering . Hans Barroy observes the wind has turned and picked up , it is now a south-westerly. He hauls up the sail and struggles to make a sharp tack homeward.Then the rain comes down. Harder and Harder the further they get ti the mouth of the Fjord. Barbo and Ingrid shelter under the sheepskin.

He captures the cold and danger of just sailing home .

The Unseen is  for me a perfect set up as a novel , I love villages and this is a village but even better a village on a small island . I love tales of people caught out of time the main family Barroy Ingrid and her father Hans he time is the start of the last century as world war looms .Hans wants to link the island to the mainland and the island can’t be seen from there but the island can see the main land . This is a tough place like many island communities they have to battle to survive scrapping out a living on fishing and farming of sorts , this is a place where people mark the seasons with the return of certain birds a place of isolation an island separate that is being pulled towards the modern world .

The hosed]s on Barroy stand at an oblique angle to each other. From above they look like four dice someone has thrown a random, plus a potato cellar that becomes an igloo in the winter. There are flagstones to walk on between the houses, clothes racks and grass paths radiating in all directions, but actually the building act as awedge against stormy weather so that they can’t be flattened, even if the whole sea were to pour over the island .

This remind me of the old huts and how they were built of Alisha craig

I was reminded of the Scottish islands where life is tough but communities thrive as they survive just because they had to but like Barroy a lot of these faced at the time the book is set the loss people as the distant Mainland via war and communication becoming quick shrank . I was  most remind of Alisha Craig the outcrop os an Island that until 1928 was the source of the granite for Curling stones a small island that like Barroy in the book had grown  into its own little microcosm . This is a beautiful insight into a world that is familiar but strange at the same time a place no gone with the modern age these islands are as connected as anywhere and in a way have lost their identity somewhat that is what Jacobsen gives us an insight into a lost world .

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