Swallowing Mercury by Wioletta Greg

 

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Swallowing Mercury by Wioletta Greg

Polish fiction

Original title – Guguly(unripe)

Translator – Eliza Marciniak

Source – review copy

I choose to jump this up my books to review I only finished it this morning it is another tale of childhood like the previous review and also like tha has a slightly Fable like stories in it . Wioletta Greg grew up in the Jurassic Highlands of Poland , where this novella is set she left in 2006 , she is a poet as well as a writer she won the Griffin poetry prize for her poetry this is her first novella to be translated to English .

Disobeying my mother , I started sleeping with Blacky, Blacky smelled of hay and milk and had a snow-white map of africa around his neck. He would come to me in the night, lie on my duvet and start purring, kneading the covers like dough under his paws .Ever since I found him up in the attic we lived in a strange state of symbois. I’d carry him inside my jumper like a baby, steal cream for him from the dresses and, on Sundays, feed him chicken wings from my soup .

THe cat she has Blacky which disappears as quickly as he appeared in the attic .

This as I said is the story of a childhood , one must assume it is some what from Wioletta’s own childhood . It follows Wiola a young girl , she has a cat that she likes to have slept on her bed even thou her mother has vowed this shouldn’t happen the cat Blacky mysteriously disappears one day , She also likes to collect Match labels this nearly gets her into trouble after she takes them into school for a show and tell. Then they have the excitement of Pope John Paul visiting his homeland and they are told he may go through their village in his popemobile .These are a glimpse of a childhood , in the background we see Lech Walsea  and then when the strikes keep happening through Wiola eyes we see a change of regime when Jaruzelski took control of the Government in 1981 when her favourite tv show isn’t shown more a speech by the General on what is happen Martial law see through a childs eyes not quite getting the full view of what is happening.

In the same year that a rumour spread through Hecktary that the pope would drive past ou village, my father took over the running of the farm and , to my grandmothers dismay, began to introduce reforms, gradually turning our homestead into an unruly and exuberant zoo. It wasn’t just beehives and cages with goldfinches, canaries and rabbits, or a dovecote in the attic, where clumsy nestlings hatched out of delicate eggs that looked like table-tennis balls. In the middle of February,right after my birthday, wanting to cheer me up after the loss of Blacky, Dad pulled out of his jacket a little soggy, squeaking ball of fluff, which by the warmth of the stove gradually began to turn into a several-weeks old Tarta sheepdog.We called him Bear

The year the pope may have come to the village they open a zoo, I remember the roundabout zoo on League of gentlemen .

This is a childhood of a child growing up in Poland , but I was remind how much of what Wiola said about the Poland of the time I remembered . It seems another world now where British tv showed news of what was happening in Poland at that time I still remember without even looking up the face of Lech Walsea and General Jaruzelski. This is full of a love of the place but also a sense of the darkness in the background . Wioletta style of writing is rich like that of Herta Muller full of colour and place the village life  and characters we meet jump of the page. I said I jumped this up the review list as it was similar in nature to The brothers where we see a world through a childs eyes a fable like world These are fragments of her past the style is rather like Laurain the french writer in a way the both evoke the 80’s which is why both grab me , as their memories are intertwined with my own of the times as they are from my own youth when here we took more notice of the outside world than we do now.The title was changed but I like the view of the original one Unripened fruit at the time of fruit picking rather like Wiola in her world not quite an adult in an adult world .

Nocilla dream by Agustín Fernández Mallo

 

Nocilla dream by Agustín Fernández Mallo

Spanish fiction

Original title -Nocilla Dream

Translator – Thomas Bunstead

Source – Review copy

Agustin Mallo is one of those rare writers that cross field he Physicist by training that became  a writer. Cp snow used to talk of science and literature as being two cultures  .He was part of a new generation of writers in Spain pushing the boundaries of what fiction is the so-called Nocilla generation named after this book which got a lot of praise and prizes when it came out.Mallo has also made films of two to nine minutes of length on his blog.

It’s logical that in a brothel there are all different kinds of women, and even more so here in Nevada Desert. Whose Monotony, the most barron in the whole of the american Midwest , makes necessary certain exotic pallatives. Sherry having make- up applied in the ad-hoc backstage out back.Besides the now dry well.she doesn’t trust the lightbulb-frame mirror they have provided her.

the desert has a brothel that is exotic for its clients .!!

This is one of those books that proves the novel can live on I often here about books challenging the genre and get disappoint when they don’t so when I read this the first in the Nocilla trilogy I was blown away so much I want to wait to do two Mallo books together. this is one of this books that hasn’t a linear story just the fact that the action in places takes part along the line of Route 50 a road that goes across the desert to the glitter of Las Vegas so from a shoe tree where someone one threw up a sho and other follows this is the original tree one of many that form a back bone of small roadside attractions in  the us . Elsewhere we find a woman fall in love with a collector of found images .Mallo’s physics side is an event with small piece on the 113 chapters that form this book and then we have  bits on the birth of the personal computer and  even further afield is the story of a man staying in the airport in Singapore rather like Tom Hanks character in The terminal .An exciting mix of piece by Mallo and other writers mixed to one Oh and one piece is from Bernhard so a double thumbs up from me .

In 1971, a group of hippies took over an abandoned military base in Copenhagen, Denmark proclaiming it the free state of Christiania: a micronation. After grappling with the Danish Government for a period of time, in 1987 it was finally recognized as an independent micronation.Among the eighteen students who occupied the base that night was Hans still a teenager then and as he lay on the floor in a greenish half-light that like a military effluvium seemed to float between the paving and the skylights high above.He made the decision to never wear shoes again : his bare feet a symbol of peace and nonviolence.Christiania present-day population comprises 760 adults, 250 children, 1500 dogs and 14 horse

The no wearing of  shoes here and shoe tree connect the two pieces in a way

 

I often wonder would fiction ever be like hip hop music or like the films of recent years I love like Amelia . Hip hop uses the music  which  is around the people making the music and this is what Mallo does in a way layering written piece , non fiction and fiction in a collage almost  a mix tape of Mallo’s mind. This is like going through a radio stopping for seconds in  some places then a longer time this is a book that A shows what fiction and the novel can be it isn’t a dying art it is a form that can be reinvented. There has been a number of German writers that have used similar techniques using other writers work to mix with their most notably Ulrich Holbein (not translated into english ) and Helene Hegeman whose first novel cause a storm as it used parts of another book. So Mallo is obviously a fan of Borges and Borges was always trying to push the fields of what stories do but in a novel form. Like AMelie this is a novel that darts from place to place and connects unconnected events even down to the finding of photios a main storyline in Amelie This is the first part of a trilogy I have the second part read ready to review soon. I am thankful for Fitzcarraldo as they show why small publishers are so valuable as with the two Enard novels they publish books for the love of words not to make money.

 

The Boy by Wytske Versteeg

 

 

 

The boy by Wystke Versteeg

Dutch fiction

Original title  – Boy

Translator – Sarah Welling

Source – review copy

Well after a few days in Slovenia I  ove near home to The Netherlands and a prize-winning Dutch book. This is the second novel by Wystke versteeg  a rising star of dutch literature  .She came  to the notice of dutch readers with a non fiction book about her time working with homeless people called This is not a homeless person .. Her books have been said  to deal with the human condition like many of her fellow young dutch writers dutch writers. THis book won bng book prize in Holland.

When Kito was older, in primary school, I’d wait for him at the gate when my schedule allowed it, listening to the mothers.They all seemed to know each other very well, and they seemed born for there maternal role.Standing among them made me feel like an imposter. I tried to join in with conversation, but my voice sounded artificial even to myself.I told them how he jumped on the bed in the mornings and put his arms around me, how soft he was and how open. How he reminded me of something I’d forgotten a long time ago , how innocent he smelled

The Mum struggles with being a mother having not given birth to Kito

Well this book deals with every parents worst nightmare and that is the loss of their child . Kito an adopted Chinese child is drowned on a beach during a school trip.The son had been the glue of the family the father and mother have struggled to cope with the loss and drifted apart. The mother wants more answers so heads off after finding that the teacher whom was in charge of the trip Hannah, she has left here job and gone to leave in the back and beyond in Bulgaria so the mother sets out to meet the teacher and try to find out why Kito Killed himself. What she finds out is a side to her son she didn’t really know ? He was adopted after she her self a psychiatrist discovered she was infertile had to travel to china to find a son but she and her husband missed that Kito was a real troubled child one of those kids that is a square peg in the round hole of being at school that culminated in the tragic events as this is seen by the mother talking to Hannah her need to be their for some sort of revenge or just an answer  from  the teacher changes.As Hannah had tried to help Kito by using drama to help him

I don’t understand; I said . “What happened , what could have hurt someone your age so badly ?”

She doesn’t answer my question.When she starts talking again she sounds deep in thought like she’s forgotten I’m sitting next to her

“I was young then, I mean not like I am now but softer, stupider. I didn’t understand how things worked. I didn’t want to teach but it was what I was doing.Children need someone they can beleive in, i didn’t even beleive in myself

A glimpse at what Kito death had on Hannah seen through the mothers eyes .

this is one of those stories that seems popular at the moment a book mainly about a character and his life that is dead through out the book. A sort of autopsy of what happened rather than seeing what happened.This is a story about two things in a way adopting kids and how hard it can be for those kids , especially in Kito  case coming from another place sets him out to be a target and that is the second thread in this book how hard it is to stop kids being bullied and Kito is an extreme example , no I’m wrong there no I read about many kid like this that have taken their life due to bullies . Hannah and the mother both tried to help but neither had the full picture this is shown when the two meet and finally the piece of this sad 15 year olds life come together.I could see this making a great film at some point

 

 

Panorama by Dušan Šarotar

Panorama by Dušan Šarotar

Slovenian Fiction ? or non fiction > or just great prose

Original title – panorama

Translator – Rawley Grau

Source – review copy

Well I reviewed the first in the series yesterday and today I move on to the second of the three books from Slovenia istros books have published in partnership. This was the one I read first because of one passage on the back of the book describing it as reminiscent of W G Sebald , who else couldn’t pick it up the day it dropped through the door. Dusan is also a poet he has written four novels and collections of poetry and Short stories. This book is one of those books that really blends the line of what literature is and draws you into a personnel journey.

Like a mirage at the end of the road, without reflection or gleam,dark and grey, a geometric plane shadowed in pencil on a yellowed sheet of drawing paper – that’s what the sea looked like – shallow, motionless, monastery beer spilled into eternity on to a black stone floor, but mainly trapped in a wide, ever wider, nearly limitless landscape; the nearer I was to the shore, the greater, the more impressive was the bay, in the middle of which stood a black lighthouse on sharp rocks, no bigger than a wizard’s ring, hovering on the motionless surface, while the master’s pale hand, still wearing it proudly, had long ago sunk beneath the sea. Without braking, I went down off the asphalt road on to a wide, neatly mowed grassy area in front of the boathouse and rode up to the sea. I leaned the bicycle against a low breakwater that was protecting the lawn from the high tide and slowly made my way over the grey sand, between the slippery rocks, the black pebbles and the rotting seaweed, into the oneness, the residue and abandonment, the world that remained when that sunken, dead arm last unclenched its hand and released the silt on which I now stepped, I thought as the smell washed over me, as if I was standing in an old, abandoned, invisible maritime cemetery, eerily beautiful none the less, like the romantic landscapes of the Old Masters.

I’ve used one long quote today as it sums up so much I mention here and also the line a wizard ring matches up to line of Galway bay about returning to the claddagh ring

The book has 80 pictures that Dusan took on a trip from Ireland where he had been studying , we see him in Galway bay , I imagined the old irish folk song Galway bay which talked about coming into the town of Galway from the sea , a thing which a large number of people didn’t do more head the other way to the new world but this is the old world and a writer is seeing the storms drift in as he travels around Ireland  .He does this in the company of a driver his driver is like the writer is also from the Balkans an Albanian Gijini  who end up in Ireland and as a driver the two share many a conversation about place and times. there is also a strange sense of a switch of past and present he sees evidence of those that escaped galway back in the dark days as i said in a review last week I am always haunted by the pogues lyrics to the song thousands are sailing “on a coffin ship I came here and I never even got so far I could change my name ” a coffin in a boat is also an image we see in the book . We also see the writer heading back first in Belgium the old cities of the lowland country , I felt these place I visited on a school trip as a kid and drove through one night many year later on my own homeward journey to England from working alongside refugees and migrants in 1992 in Germany from the break down of Yugoslavia. Then back t the heart of the Balkans and Bosnia a sort of rebirth in Sarajevo  I remember the watching the film Torjiza about an orchestra escaping Sarajevo as the do a cow gives birth as they sing to calm the cow and this like the return is a rebirth of the writer.

THe pictures are real of the journey the words are what Dusan added after a way to show how the mind works and how images can make the mind fluid and words can mean more than pictures which is what Dusan wanted the images are there but maybe like those native americans photographed against there will as they felt it took their soul one wonders what they would make of todays Selfie obsessed culture ? Have the value of the photographic image is less than it use to be ? the title of the book is a homage to the artist Gerhard Richter photos and his photo realism in his paintings this is a book that shows that we still need a narrative to our photos . This is a book about language swimming in it like the cover art about what words mean how we use language  oplaces memories can all become a flurry of words more than a single image but a connection  like Sebald place leads to connection and like a fine line of a spider’s web from its centre in the Balkans Dusan works spins a thread around the old world meeting those like himself who have travelled from the home  a book about migration written before the migrant crisis hit but at its heart a story of the endless sense of migration man has been on the move  from those poor Irish souls drive by the poatoe famine to escape from Galway and many other place along that atlantic coast we see in those photos to the migrants that came from the polace that where run by countries to those displaced by war and persecution this is like  a sea of people and sometimes we see a tsunami and in other case a simple wave on settling like in Dusan book but another under the book and after the book that wipes out and redraws the lines that follows it like the simple plague to those lost irish souls , even in Belgium he is near the killing fields of Ypres another line changing event . So this book isn’t a novel or memoir . I discussed it with Susan and she told me about Dusan view it is just what is called in Slovenia Good prose , the idea of fiction non fiction is mainly an English language way of dividing books and then we have books like these that sail the line another watery line. Well I have written more than I have in a long time about a book such is this book it is one of those rare gems that hopefully will get the wider readership it truly deserves .

None like her by Jela Krečič

 

 

None like her by Jela Krečič

Slovenian fiction

Original title –  Ni Druge

Translator – Oliva Hellewell

Source – review copy

I am as many of you know A huge fan of Istros books , this is the first in a series of books they are doing in a new partnership with Peter Owen , where they will release three books  from one country and the first series is books from Slovenia. This is the first of the three books in the series is a novel for Jela Krečič , she is known for being the wife of Slavoj Zizek, she is a journalist her most famous piece is an interview with the Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.

As he focused on her face, he saw that he liked it. It was pale distinguished by her severe, uneasy expression and stern feature but softened by her lip.And ,if he was not mistaken, by her big blue eyes too, although with the enormous amount of black eyeshadow all over them he couldn’t be quite sure of the colour.Her lower lip punctured with a piercing, a decoration repeated once more on her eyebrow. A red-head version of Larsson’s girl with a dragon tattoo

How ofter do we see this type of girl about whether in Ljubljana or London .

Well this book is an odyssey in a way the title refers to Sara the former partner of Matjaz. He is obsessed about her but to get over her or get her back he has decided to go on a quest to find other woman.What follows is a series of relationships as we see what the women as like in Modern Ljubljana , Each chapter is a different relationship Matjaz is a strong macho man he is a photographer , he is one of this men that uses at times his power over women making them feel less , although at one point this is turned on him when he meets a red head that reminds him of the lead character in the dragon tattoo who doesn’t fall for his patter. For me it is an interesting look at modern balkan relationship. The types you can meet anywhere a TV for example her runs into in a gay club and what one would call a cougar an older woman who husband left her for a younger woman so she now finds younger men. This is a journey of one man to becoming a real man a modern man.

checkmate by the very fact of being born. That’s why she always liked names where she could see the beginnings of a ‘mate’: Matej, Matjaž, Matko, Matic, Matija, Matilda, Mateja, Matahari and so on. But Grandma is dead, he said to himself, he was convinced of it – she had a headstone at Žale cemetery, along with dried flowers, burned-out candles and all of that. Then maybe he was just imagining it; maybe the heat was messing with his head. Finally he looked up – and he saw her. Sara.

She was coming towards him with a crumpled newspaper and her distinctive smile, which struck him right in the stomach. ‘Your newspaper’s crumpled,’ he said upon greeting her, slightly embarrassed. He hadn’t seen her for more than a year.

Late in in the book we meet the woman who started it all  Sara .

This is a clever juxtapose tale with a female writing a male main character, whom she said in an interview she based on those french film stars of the fifties. . But what really works in those women that matzaj meets they are more than just a type Jela manages to make these types see real in the dialogue between the characters. This is a story of Love lost and a hunting of love obsessive love. This is how one man lost in life and obsession through this group of women he finds himself. I love how easily people fall for this guy he is like the Fonz of ljubjana but also like the Fonz character at his heart is a broken soul yes a strong man behind leather jacket but like Fonz , Matzaj is that tragic comic hero in a way the Fonz is yes girls fall at his feet but at his heart he is sad , but there is also a pinch of classic bad boy as well the way he treats his woman as Jela says like a fifties male with that feeling of position of male over female being held.

 

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