Bottom’s dream or Nightmare or is it Jam and Jerusalem Epic reading options

I saw earlier today a post on conversational reads That Scott Esposito had posted a picture of this year maybe most awaited amoung die hard translated fans and that is the epic Bottom’s dream by Arno Schmidt , whom I reviewed earlier this year one of his shorter books The egghead republic. But Bottom’s dream is a whole different kettle of fish a book that in the german editon a folio size 1348 page book. To give you a glue of how huge this book is here is a video of the german edition being flicked through

The book follows the struggle of  a german translator in translating the works of Edgar Allen Poe into english and is also influenced by the wordplay James Joyce used in Fnnegans wake.Well Dalkey Archive and John E Woods the  translator , who has spent years working on it. Welll 2,250,000 words is a lot as Scott point out 4 times theat of War and Peace. Add to that is the cost at 50 pound it will be an investment, but also a talking point for many years to come. Then if that isn’t enough I have also an eye on this book Jerusalem by Alan Moore

A book that follows 6000years of history in his home town of Northampton . He said in an interview there was chapter influenced by Jame Joyce , Samuel Beckett and Noir as the tale of this town is told by 12 characters .This is also a 1,000,000 word novel and has a three vol editon coming out also in sept . So I have a battle of epic reads to try and read . Which of these two epic novels grabs you ?

Wakolda by Lucia Puenzo


Wakolda by Lucia Puenzo

Argentinean fiction

Original title – Wakolda

Translator – David William Foster

Source – Library book

Well I said the next stop of my woman in translation journey would be Argentina. Lucia Puenzo was part of the Granta best young Spanish writers edition a few years ago. She has won number of awards for her film work, she is a film maker as well as a writer. This novel is also a film she made with the english title the German Doctor, which was a feature at Cannes film festival when it came out . This strangely is also the second novel I have read this year about germans in Latin american after the second world war.  the other being Affections by Rodrigo Hasbun.

That day, mixture of sodium cholride and magnesium nitrate, injected with infinite patience into each eyeball, would change forever the course of science. The mass sterilization, the vivisections, the frustated attempts to change skin and hair colour using subcutaneous injection and even the night on which he thought he had finally succeeded in joining the veins of two twins to create a Siamese twins, only to find them a few hours later gasping like fish out of water – all his failures would be forgotten if he could manage to change the colour of the eyes of this child

The opening lines a chilling look at the man and what he did in the past !

As I said in the first paragraph the book revolves around an escape German from the second world war in this case it is a more famous German than in Rodrigo Hasbun book the escaped german in this story is Josef Mengele himself the man known as the angel  of death during his time as a doctor at the Auschwitz death camp . This is 1960 and Jose has settled in Bariloche a place that a number of Nazis have lived since the war in relative quiet from the rest of the world . Jose wants to carry on his work , that of trying to find the perfect human being. This leads him to a family that have all the qualities he is looking for except their daughter Lilith who has a growth defect . Add to that her mother is now expecting twins and the doctor had previously worked with twins in Auschwitz where he sewed two together like siamese twins to see what happen, but in this case he is fighting to keep them alive as the net is closing around him. We see most of the action through the eyes of the young girl who has a doll called Wakolda that Jose gave here.

Her father occupied the following pages , alongside her brothers , alongside her brothers, also surrounded by numbers and measurements.

she read Homo siriacus

she came last

Her illustration had more details than the others: measurements of almost all her bones, the circumference of her head notations in German, number and more numbers, calculations along with results, a list 0f illnesses … feeling a lump in the pit of her stomach, she gathered up the arms and legs of her doll. She left the dagger , the ring and the notebook where she’d found them. she climbed out the window after making sure that everything was exactly as she’d found it .

Jose notes about lilith  she finds in his office

This book is a clever take on fact and fiction Josef Mengele did spend time in Argentina after the war. This is imaging what would have happened had he decide to hide and carry on what he did it is a story of what is right and wrong in Ethics and how far people will go in the pursuit of perfection. Again as I have found in a number of latin american novel in recent years is the use of the child narrator from Andres Neuman to Marcelo Figueras .Lilith would have died in Auschwitz but here she has grabbed Jose by why she is here as part of what is otherwise a perfect aryan family what is the cause of her in this perfect family.

Have you a favourite novel about nazis on the run ?

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


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 ?


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.


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.


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.


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