Her Father’s daughter by Marie Sizun

Her Father’s daughter by Marie Sizun

French Fiction

Original Title – Le Pere de la petite

Translator – Adriana Hunter

Source – review copy

Well I have another choice for woman in translation month and this is from one of my all time favourite publishers Peirene press ,  they also publish my favourite book by a female writer in Translation Stones in a landslide. So every book by them is usually a gem. Marie Sizun is an example to every one that it is never to late to start writing she taught literature for many years but it wasn’t till she turn 65 and this her first novel came ou in French. She has since written Seven novels and a Memoir.

It’s a winter afternoon in the kitchen of the apartment. They’re both there, the mother standing doing her ironing, a tall figure, and beside her the little girl, sitting in her special chair. They’re not talking at the moment. the child is thinking about what her mother has just said. On the radio a few minutes ago there was some news, news about the war , as usual. When the announcement ended, her mother switched off the radio and still ironing, said something like “your poor little daddy “… or perhaps ” When your poor little daddy comes home ” … offhand like that.

The later is the truth her world is about to change .

There is a memoir feel in my view to this book given that Marie her self was born in 1940 the story in Her father’s daughter which sees a little girl she her world shift after her father arrives home after the second world war. We see the pre father time when in their small apartmnet the child called France is the centre of the mother’s world as she is called My darling by the mother. Of course the world shifts once the father is back in the fold and the child feels as thou she has lost her position in the world to the father. To her the Father was a mythic being in a way having not seen her till she was four and this is what she wants him to become again. As sh opens up to the father a secret is revealed and this will yet again change the dynamics of this relationships.

The child may now have a father but, on the other hand, she might as well no longer have a mother. Because as if by magic her mother is reduced to being a docile wife to her husband, his sweetheart, his servant. Perhaps she no longer feels like it . Beside, indications have been made that she should limit her displays of affection towards her daughter, she should stop sitting her on her lap as she used to, and stop using any excuse to address her with that idiotic “my darling”

The world she knew is about to collapse around her when her father wants to change her relationship with Mum.

What Marie Sizun has done is taken a story that happened a hundred times in a hundred places around the world at this time and that is the return of the lost father figure to the family fold and the child France point of view is told and that is one many children would have had at the time the one of wanting to reject the father figure and for the house to return to normal. Marie Sizun has captured the world so well through a childs eye that innocent way of seeing the world before our thoughts get to grey where we see the world in black and white and in good and evil. Another gem from Peirene and another great book for Woman in translation month . Next time I will be in Argentina and another world war two touched tale.

Have you a favourite book about family returning home  ?

Abahn Sabana David by Marguerite Duras

Abahn Sabana David

Abahn Sabana David by Marguerite Duras

French fiction

original title –  Abahn Sabana David

Translator – Kazim Ali

Source – title

So a new translation into English from one of the best known French woman writers Marguerite Duras is of course  a good choice for Woman in translation month. Duras is best known for her novel The lover which I reviewed  six years ago . Duras early novels were quite plain and it was to mid way in her career she decide to become part of the french Noveau roman movement , a movement which the writer tries to write a new novel in a new style every time they write a novel.

She is small and slim, wearing a long black dress. Her companion is of medium build, wearing a coat lined with white fur. “I’m Sabana , “she says “this is David. We’re here, from Staadt .”

The man walks slowly towards them.He smiles

“take off your coats.” he says “Please sit.”

They do not answer. They remain near the door

They do not look at him

IThis first meeting between Sabana David and Abahn maybe is a warning for what is to come .

The book takes part over the course of one night and involves four characters . David and Sabana have come to Guard Abahn (A jew) but also under the orders of their boss the cringo. Then later in the evening a fourth man called also Abahn appears after this point the first Abahn is mainly called the Jews by Sabana who is talking about him as David is asleep and she is worried that The Jew will turn on them.Over the course of the night all the problems of the 20th century from Soviet to Nazis have been discussed by the group. Leading to what they are all doing there what  their positions where with in the group and why they have been sent a sort of questioning of meanings and values.Also what happens when Abahn become the Jew when the second Abahn appear the change sparks a change in how he is spoken about !

“Which forest ?” ask Abahn

Tears fall from Sabina’s eyes. She thinks on it

“the forest”

“You don’t know what’s beyond here,” says Abahn. “Where is the forest ?”

she searches her thoughts.

“Where I don’t know. We have to talk about it.”

“The wild forest,” says the Jew.

“Yes” she says, pausing.”Where is it ?”

“Deep within Staadt” says the Jew.

She isn’t crying anymore. She looks at the Jews once more.Her gaze has become somber again, somber and blue.

The forest is in Davids mind as well ” Says the Jew

This talk of a forest for the Jews made me think of the words the Nazis used to disappear Jews inWW2

This is a classic bit of Noveau roman. Duras has drawn on Theatre of the absurd for this piece I was reminded so much of the works of Pinter in particular the birthday party where two characters turn up at a characters house and through the night discuss the power and use of power. This is one of those piece that show power and the abuse of it like in this case the fact Sabana and David have been sent for a dual purpose from the Cringo to Abahn in the Staadt these terms can be interchange with a number of places and political parties within the 20th century. This is what we are drawn to think by  the way  Duras has apart from the dialogue drawn the bare bones of a story over this work leaving us the reader to fill in the parts unspoken or unsaid ourselves. A powerful Novella from one of the best French writers of the 20th century.

Have you read any more books by Marguerite Duras ?

 

Some recent arrivals at Winston’s towers

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The first of four books to arrive in the last few days is the latest by one of the best known writers in translation in recent years Herman Koch whose The Dinner is one of those books that was a runaway success. He did an interview at the time of the dinner . This latest is a about a writer whom is being watched by the narrator of the book but why is he being watched by him ?

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Tom Lanoye is a well-known Belgium writer Tells the story of his own mother Josee an actress and flamboyent character after she has a stroke which meant she lost her voice . A mother coping with the loss of one of her  sons and the other being Gay is a modern tale.

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Next up a purchase from Amazon Mati Unt was a writer I reviewed in the first year if this blog so felt it was time to revisit him with this modern gothic telling of the vampire story mixing fiction and actual Estonian history.

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Last up is the latest by Norwegian writer Roy Jacobson about a small Norwegian Island but this is just as Norway is opening its doors to the wider world .I like the cover art of this one something Art deco about it in a way.

 

On the edge by Rafael Chirbes

On the edge by Rafael Chirbes

Spanish fiction

Original title – En la orilla

Translator – Margaret Jull Costa

Source – review copy

Another later Spanish lit month book here. Rafael Chribes is a writer I had been aware of for a few years he is often mention on list of writers that had to be translated or list of great modern spanish writers .This is his first to be translated into english. He was considered one of the greatest modern writers in spain he died last year he had written nine novels received the National lit prize for Spain. This one of his last novels captures the moment after the collapse of the spanish economy.

On this sunny morning, everything seems quiet and deserted, not a single crane punctuates the horizon, no metallic noises trouble the air, no buzzing or hammering assails the ears. The first time they made the journey after Ahmed lost his job, his friend Rachid laughed at him when he said he was going there to look for work on the building sites,. Work? Only if you want a job digging graves for suicides, Rachid said mockingly

This captures the collapse so well the silence and the despair in one passage .

Olba is a small town on the sea really as the title of the book says on the edge and the people we meet around this town are all on the edge of life or being driven to the edge of life by the down turn that Spain saw like the one in the UK. First we meet two young Muslims that have grasped on to the edge of europe but as Ahmed sees he is a busboy or was  and just lets down due to the wealth he sees around him from |rich Muslims and how he since recent events is under the microscope now A rotting corpse found on the edge of town  adds a sense of mystery to the story .Then we meet Esteban a man who had a factory one of those rich guys that had a partner that left them holding the can when he left with the money. We see latin american eastern Europeans workers trying to cling to life as the bubble has burst and like a small rockpool when the sea has gone out left them all strand in this small town.A modern classic in every sense

We must cling to the few principles we have left. Paella rice must have that golden caramelised crust at the bottom we call socarrat ; foie gras and truffles must come from perigord; and vinegar from modena . He’s joking now. The new principles, the last thing we have to hold on to, serve to help us choose good wine, wooden masts for our yachts and ammunition for our hunting trips.

Chribes has a dry humour at times as he with what matters very tongue in cheek .

This captures the despair of the bubble when it burst. The one who had it and lost it those who never where going to have it like lifting a rock we see all that has gathered under it for shade for the fierce sun and world. This book is deep in narrative and description he was frequently compared to William Faulkner in his writing there is a shared richness in his prose style like Faulkner Chirbbes world seems to be small town spain and the underclass some what.This is the best book I have read about the collapse of the financial markets around the world but what that meant to people on the ground level which is sometimes behind the news headlines what we don’t see the Ahmed or Esteban’s on the ground level.

Have you a favourite read about the financial crash ?

 

The winterlings by Cristina Sanchez- Andrade

The Winterlings by Cristina Sanchez-Andrade

Spanish fiction

Original title – Las Inviernas

Translator – Samuel Ritter

Source – review copy

I was grabbed by this when it had a quote on the back cover by Manuel Rivas calling her writing Original and Unusual was a plus point for me having enjoyed his books, I knew this would be one for me. Cristina Sanchez-Andrade has a degree in law and mass media, she has written for numerous papers in Spain and has published seven novels.In 2013 she was shortlisted for the Herralde prize one of the top prizes in Spain. She has also written a novel about Coco Channel.

Don Manuel , the priest in Tierra de Cha, used to sit between the two winterlings, who were only little girls back then. He was short and fat, an absolute glutton. He was always somewhere between dinner and Mass. As soon as he finished the sermon, he’d be out and into the street. With great strides, pulling up his cassock to keep the manure off it, he would cross the square to eat his lunch. While the maid was tying a napkin around his neck and serving him, he positively burbled with pleasure.His mouth watered  at the sight of what lay before him : a hearty broth

I loved the imagery this passage evoked in me

The book follows the return of two sisters to a small village in Galicia Tierra De Cha, the two sisters have return after many years away. They have come back to their grandfather’s house. They have grown since they left but the place it self is just the same as the place they fled many years earlier. In a dark past that the village has hidden Delores and Saladina have their own secrets as well they are on course for disaster when a glimpse of light happens the sisters love the glamour of the film world and hear that the American actress Ava Gardener is to come to their part of Spain to make a film and they need some stand ins the sisters feel they could fill this roles. What will happen will they get the part or will everyone have to face their own pasts at last ?They are also drawn to the sea , why !

Throughout the following days, Dolores heard it while she went about her daily chores – immense and powerful and even nearer, turning her actual world into a narrow and boring place – an ocean pulling at her , calling her :”Did you hear that Ava Gardner is coming to Spain ?

To Spain ?

Ava Gardner coming to Spaaaaain ?

Sometimes , the sea was like a cornfield, with waves that ebbed and flowed. Dolores was in the middle of it, it smelt of salt, and that smell impregnated her clothes and hair .

The sea is a large draw to the sisters

I loved this it remind me what I love about fiction set in small villages where everyone knows everyone no matter how far you go from the village they will always remember your past when you return . What Cristina Snachez does so well here is build up the feeling of the dark past the sisters where part of . Also the feel of returning to a village the way they are still part of the place but looked at as thou they aren’t they’ve grown out of the place the sister have had their eyes open to the world by the world they have seen and the films they have watch , hence their wanting to be part of the Ava Gardener production. This also has the feel of an oral tradition of storytelling that Galicia is well-known for. This book is also a perfect choice for the forthcoming Woman in translation month .

what is your favourite Village based novel ?

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