Shadow IFFP shortlist

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Well the proper IFFP shortrlist came out today from Booktrust  .Their choices are –

By night the mountain burns by Juan Tomas Avila Laurel

Translator Jethro Soutar

Colorless Tazaki and his years of pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

Translator Philip Gabriel

F by Daniel Kehlmann

Translator – Carol Brown Janeway

The end of days by Jenny Erpenbeck

Translator Susan Bernofsky

In the beginning was the sea by Tomas Gonzalez

Translator – Frank Wynne

While the gods where sleeping by Ervin Mortier

Translator – Paul vincent .

Now it has become tradition for the shadow jury to decide there own shortlist from the longlist and this year it is the longlist plus one .I’ve fallen behind in reviews have read all but two of the longlist and was fairly happy with our shortlist .

Shadow shortlist 

The End of Days by jenny Erpenbeck 
Translator – Susan Bernofsky
Zone by Mathias Enard 
Translator – Charlotte Mandell
The Ravens by Tomas Bannerhed 
Translator Sarah Death
The Dead Lake by Hamid Ismailov 
Translator – Andrew Broomfield
Bloodlines by Marcelo Fois 
Translator – Silvester Mazzarella
Translator – Philip Gabriel
I’ve manage to review five of our shortlist , we share two books with the actual shortlist we will announce the winner the day before the actual winner .

 

Death in the Museum of modern art by Alma Lazarevska

 

Death in the Museum of modern art by Alma Lazarevska

Bosnian short stories

Original title – Smrt u Muzeju moderne umjetnosti

Translator – Celia Hawkesworth

Source review copy

 

Easter, 1916

I HAVE met them at close of day
Coming with vivid faces
From counter or desk among grey
Eighteenth-century houses.
I have passed with a nod of the head
Or polite meaningless words,
Or have lingered awhile and said
Polite meaningless words,
And thought before I had done
Of a mocking tale or a gibe
To please a companion
Around the fire at the club,

A view from another besieged city with WB Yeats Easter 1916 when the easter uprising happened in Dublin .

Well its a bit late as I’ve been slow on my bloggging this year but now we have another edition to the East european reading month . Later this month I am of to see a couple of other writers from Istros books at London book fair .Anyway Alma Lazarevska is a Bosnian writer who lives in Sarajevo , this city formed part of her first collection Sarajevo Solitaire .She is also a teacher of writing and happened to teach Andrej Nikoladis another Istros writer before his family left Bosnia .This book won the best book in Bosnia when it came out .

At last the crossing was agreed . The young man who brought the good news did not bang roughly on the door . Nor did he shove her small thin person arrogantly aside , as all the others before him had done , barging into the flat without taking off their boots ,He had timid eyes , which she recognised , and bowed before she confirmed that she had understood when and how the crossing wold take place .

The opening of Dafne Pehfogl crosses the bridge between there and here .

Death in the Museum of modern art is a collection of short stories that capture both life the alma Lazarevska saw in the time Bosnia was at war . This is caught so well in the first story , which to me partly in its title harks back to Ivo andric the great Balkan writer Dafna Pehfogl crosses the bridge between here and there .Covers the war but also in its title maybe the here and there is then and now in a way as we follow someone in the middle of the war trying to get from  point a to point b .Then there is also a dry wit ,like in the story greetings from a besieged city a pun on the postcard greeting , but the story also looks at books translation and being in a besieged city .Another story touches on the myth of the area a tale of the real Kasper Hauser who of course is the subject of the Werner Herzog film starring Bruno S .

“Who was Kaspar Hauser ?”

“Hauser turned up in Nuremberg in 1828 , saying hardly more than a few words , unable to write anything apart from his name , and eating nothing but bread , drinking nothing but water . At first it was assumed he was a tramp , and then he was thrown into the gaol and became an attraction for scholars …

The secret of Kaspaer Hauser looks at his story again from another angle .

I’ve mentioned three of three of the six stories I will keep the other three for you to discover .I love the way Susan the boss of Istros is bringing us such vibrant voices like Alma Lazarevska , yes she has won prizes but in other ways if it wasn’t for Istros we wouldn’t be getting these insights into Balkan life .Think how few books we got before they start publishing a few every year .This collection captures the feeling of being caught in the besieged city the first story Dafna Pehfogl crosses the bridge remind me of the short film I had seen a while ago Torzija which follows a choir trying to exit the besieged city via a tunnel whilst a cow also gives birth  after being spooked by the war , whilst they wait .Such is life in this book yes war is there but also life continues .Have you a favourite book from the Balkans ?

Horcynus Orca Stefano D’arrigo what are we missing

Another in the occasional series of post about books I’ve discovered from around the world that have yet to hit us in English published in 1975 Horcynus Orca was twenty years in the writing by Stefano D’arrigo and is one of the longest novels in the world it has been compared with Ulysses and Moby dick .The book covers four days in 1943 and tells the story of a sailor returning home after the collapse of the Italian navy . i found out about this via a german friend that point me in the direction of the German translation by Moshe Khan which has recently been a hit in Germany .

Here is him reading and talking from the German edition ,I can understand a little of this so found the prose interesting . Then I also found an interview with Andrea Camilleri translator had said in an interview he was translating the book ,which is good given one problems with translating the books would see to be it has a Scillian element too it in the dialect used in the Italian .So not sure which publisher this is for if it is not just a personnel journey by Stepeh Sartarelli himself

Any ideas which publisher has this lined up ?

Which over modernist masterpieces are we missing in English ?

Bloodlines by Marcello Fois

Bloodlines

Bloodlines by Marcello Fois

Italian Fiction

Original title -Stirpe

Translator – Silvester Mazzarella

Source – Review Copy

 

He was a blacksmith by trade; he used to live on his own.
She was a little old maid; she was all gristle and bone,
Just a crone that you might not have fancied yourself;
She was not born to attract. She was lined up for the shelf
If it were not for the fact the blacksmith loved her well,
He loved her like hell. He used to grunt and sigh, fit to die.
But from afar; for he was shy, as blacksmiths often are.

I went for an obvious choice here The blacksmith and The toffeemaker by Jake thackray  and love the comparison he was shy like blacksmiths often are , given we have a shy Sardinan Blacksmith .

When the IFFP longlist was announced I was a bit annoyed with myself I hadn’t read this one as I had loved the first book by him that Maclehose had published Memory of the abyss . It was one of those books I started and just put to one side after 30 pages last year and never got back too , not because I hadn’t like what I read, no there was shiny new ones to read .Marcello Fois is part of what in Italy is called the New Sardinian literature a group of writers that have given a new voice to the island .He has published over 20 books in Italy .

Luggi Ippolito was the first Chironi to know the history and origins of the family .He had read enough to know we all come from somewhere and he was articulate enough to be able to tell the story . His firm and steady , if not yet fully mature , voice echoed calmly through the short November days as everyone grew sleepy round the log fire .

The family origins also told in a side story to the main one .

So Bloodlines as the title maybe suggest is a story of family .But rather cleverly the English title using the term bloodlines instead of lineage .Because this is the story of a family that in a way isn’t connected by blood the Chironi family is started when Giuseppe the father a blacksmith is at the local orphanage and he sees a boy Michele and see in him what could be his son .So he adopts him and he grows up and falls in love with a woman called Michele hat he had met when younger  , but meet when older and start the family that we see through the 20th century through their eyes and there kids eyes .The story of the family that  follows Sardinia through the first and second world war .A family struggling , both with themselves and with the world around them changing  . In a world that has changed is the still a place for them in it .

Michele Angelo is solid and stout , plum as a well-fed animal . His clothes are basically light brown but see against the light , his substance almost blond  , like living expression of something as transient as fruit-growing from honeyed seed , in sharp contrast to the crow-like blackness that surrounds him .

A great example of Fois Prose and the great job of Silverstre the translator .

Epic is one word that can sum this up . An epic family saga , that remind me of Marquez in a way , but without any real magic realism .A family and how they face the world , also like Marquez this is a world disconnect from elsewhere round it Sardinia is an island so is both in Italy and not in Italy . In a way it remind me of the world my Father and Grandparents described .When they described the Irish republic they used to visit for weekend’s growing up in the 30 , 40 and 50s and the difference in the world just a few miles from their door .I feel Donegal at this time and Sardinia probably were quite similar worlds . Again I feel in love with Fois wonderfully rich prose style , in a way he is maybe a rich meal full of flavour . In regards the IFFP for me this is a shortlist book so I’ll be scoring it high in the shadow jury .

Have you read Fois ?

Soldiers of Salamis by Javier Cercas

javier Cercas

javier Cercas

Soldier of Salamis by Javier Cercas

Spanish fiction

Original title – Soldados de Salamina 

Translator – Anne McLean

Source – Personnel copy .

 

you say you’ve got to go home ‘cos he’s sitting on his own again this evening.
I know you’re gonna let him bore your pants off again.
Oh God, it’s half past eight you’ll be late.
You say you’ve never been sure tho’ it makes good sense for you to be together.
Still you bought a toy that can reach
the places he never goes & now it’s getting late.
He’s so straight. Do you remember the first time?
I can’t remember a worse time
but you know that we’ve changed so much since then
Oh yeah, we’ve grown.
Now I don’t care what you’re doing

Do you remember the first time is a bit oike war stories our first time is often misremembered .source

 

I have read this book roughly around the time it came out and won the IFFP prize Lisa and I choose it as one of our books to celebrate 25 years od the IFFp running .With the clock running down to thursdays announcement I decide to start today with this tomorrow I have our shadow jury announcement and then thrursday will see what I have read of the longlist and what needs to be read by myself .Anyway back to Javier Cercas he is one of a number of great spanish writers that have in the last decade or two started looking at what happened during the Spanish civil war . I love this book as it in some ways captures what I enjoy most in recent Spanish language writing , even down to having the great Roberto Bolano as a character name  . Cercas has won numerous prize for his books this one in particular he has written 8 novels including two on here Outlaws and Anatomy of a moment  .

It was the summer of 1994 , more than six years ago now , when I first heard about Rafeal Sanchez Mazas facing the firing squad . Three things had just happened ; first my father had died ; then my wife had left me ; and finally , I’d given up my literary career .

Opening lines , the value of a story to a writer in the opening lines here .

The soldiers of Salamis , is really a study of how we view the past told in three parts . The connection between the three parts is the history of Rafeal Sanchez Mazas . The book revolves around an incident that happened during the civil war .Who in one day escapes a firing squad and then also nearly getting caught by a a soldier sent to search for him .The first is what he thought happened then in the following two parts more about the man that nearly caught him appear so was the original history the truth ? A writer in the present struggles with what is truth in historic fact and is all historic fact fiction in some way ? Was the man that spared Mazas Miralles the real hero of the story . A real look at hpw the events of the civil war still linked with the present and more so effected those involved .

Exhaling loudly , Bolano reminded me that he hadn’t seen Miralles for more than twenty years , and that he wasn’t friends with anyone from back then , anyone who could  – he stopped short and , offering no explanation , asked me to hang on a moment . I hung on . The moment got so long that I thought Bolano must have forgotten I was waiting on the phone .

I loved he called a character bolano .Like real Bolano he knows the other side of the story .

Well again like in the two other books I have reviewed by javier Cercas there is a thin line walked by him between truth and lies in fact between fact and fiction .This book could sit on the middle .the earlier books are Outlaws his childhood reimagined a fictional growing up story . Then in Anatomy  of a moment the attempt coup of the Spanish parliment in the 80’s is recounted more of a fact based non-fiction novel . So What do we learn , that the history of what happened in the spai=nish civil war was in some ways rewritten by those that won .There was good and bad on both sides . What we see is how history gets written or even invented or misrememebered . For me this is as near perfect novel and a fine example of what the IFFP should be there for promoting the best voices from around the world .

Have you read Javier Cercas

Closely Observed trains by Bohumil Hrabal

 

 

Closely Observed trains by Bohumil Hrabil

Czech fiction

Original title –  Ostře sledované vlaky

Translator – Edith Pargeter

Source personnel copy

Upon the sand, upon the bay
“There is a quick and easy way” you say
Before you illustrate
I’d rather state:
“I’m not the man you think I am
I’m not the man you think I am”

And Sorrow’s native son
He will not smile for anyone

And Pretty Girls Make Graves
Oh…

It had to be the Smiths , Milos could have maybe been the first smiths fan if he wanted ! source 

Well I read this years ago , then a few years later thanks to Guardian managed to get hold of the dvd of the film .This slim novella is a classic of Czech fiction .Bohumil Hrabal at the time he was writing was maybe along side writer like Harval , Skvorecky and a few others made Czech lit the lit to read in the cold war . Hrabal himself  studied law postman , clerk and bailer of wastepaper . Before he finally became a writer and spent most of his writing life in Prague . He has a number of his books translated into English .

Dispatcher Hubicka welcomed me back , and told me at once that we were to be on duty together , for after three months of sick I should have to start learning all over again . And then he asked me what the time was , and pulled up my sleeve from my wrist , but instead of looking at my watch he was staring straight t the scar over my healed wound .

Milos is given help but maybe not the best he will learn .

The setting for the book is 1945 , at a small station , but important hub for germans we meet Milos . He Milos is the main character of the book this young man . He  has a girlfriend , whom he is having trouble getting really close to . At work there is the boss a dispatcher called Hubicka . His problem he is more taken with the telegraphist at the station and trying to stamp her on the behind with , than his job . The job is as the title says closely observing trains , thus making sure the trains full of German solders and arms don’t have any hold ups .Milos is stressed doing this letting down his girlfriend and then because of that tries to take his life this is where were we first meet him  . Only to return and get caught in the same cycle again .

But dispatcher Hubicka was gazing unto the blue sky , and now as I followed his gaze , I , too , could see what he was seeing there : our telegraphist Virginia  stretched out across the entire heaven , and my Hubicka gently turning up her skirt , and then taking one stamp after another and with along movements printing those stamps on our telegraphist;s behind ..

this is why he ends up hubicka has his eyes elsewhere .

Now how do you cover this one . It’s hard it is only 90 pages long .But in some ways it covers . Much more than you feel can be covered in 90 pages .Love ,sex and romance through Milos and his boss we see the good and the bad and failure and success in a way . The war this is 1945 and there is an undercurrent of why the German needs this to be so smooth and that is the war is being lost . Satire there is part of this reminds me of Catch 22 at times Milos has similar problems as Yossarian . They are both caught up in a mad world seeing the madness but not able to escape it  .Yossarian being the piloting of the plane . Milos is the inability to perform with his girlfriend . I think the is a real beauty is the way Hrabal evokes this world of a small  bohemian station , subtle details like the trains coming and going remind of us where we are but also add as a commentary on maybe what was happening at the time ,maybe also the Germans could be changed for the Soviets ?  Hrabal wrote the book  in 1965 .I must watch the film again which in its own way brought the dimension of the Prague spring to screen more in a way .

Have you read this book or any by him ?

Welcome to Eastern European Lit month

 

 

Well I’m a day late but earlier in the year I said I waned to do an Eastern European month .Thus reading books from what made up the soviet bloc behind the iron curtain before it fell . I have long enjoyed the literature from this region . From Ismail Kadare , Witold Gombrowicz to new voices like Andrej Nikoladis .The region also has three of my favourite publishers .

Istros books – publishing the best in Balkan fiction . I have reviewed a number of their books and every one has been a gem . Suggest book – The son by Andrej Nikoladis

the son Andrej Nikolaidis

Twisted spoon – They mainly do Czech fiction modern and classic but have done a few from elsewhere in Eastern Europe . Suggested book Of kids and parents by Emil Hakl .

of kids and parents

of kids and parents

Stork press – bring great voice from poland but also a great look at the uk through Polish eyes . Suggested book Madame Mephisto by A M Bakalar .

So a few suggestions .This just a small try out year , obviously with recent events I fell behind in planning but have a few books read for the month and look forward to every ones choices this month ,

The 3 arched bridge by Ismail Kadare

 

 

The 3 arched bridge by Ismail Kadare

Albanian fiction

Original title Ura Me Tri Harqe 

Translator – John Hodgson

Source – Library book

On the way to your brother’s house in the valley deep
By the river bridge, a cradle floating beside me
In the whitest water on the bank against the stone
You will lift his body from the shore and bring him home

Oliver James washed in the rain
No longer
Oliver James washed in the rain
No longer

Oliver James by fleet foxes is a nice match to this traditonal fable story .

Well yesterday saw me review  a book by Roberto Bolano today I’m reviewing Ismail  Kadare another writer whom has featured a number of times on this blog , I have reviewed three of his book before now .Kadare is one of the names often mentioned as a potenial Nobel prize winner .

As expected , the news of the bridge to be built over the Ujana e Kepe spread rapidly ,Bridges had been built now and then in all sorts of places , but nobody remembered any of them causing such commotion .They had been built with virtually not a word of comment , to the muffled sounds of hammers on wood

The bridge is built but keeps falling down why !

This rather like an earlier novel I reviewed by Kadare the pyramid  which is also  set in a past , although  this book is not as far back as the pyramid .The book  is set in  the 14th century .The book is based on a legend /myth of the region about a castle being built , for this book  thou Kadare has changed the castle to a bridge that connects the then split up into tiny regions Albania to the rest of Europe via this bridge .Which keeps being destroyed  , also the men working on the bridge keep falling ill , is it by the ferry men or is it something else happening , the people start sing songs about the bridge and the ferry men also a tale of a castle like the original tale that Kadare based this book on  and it is decided that a sacrifice  is needed to save the bridge but whom ? Who will be willing to let them selves be killed to have a bridge built , the victim face is remembered in plaster on the bridge .All this is narrated to us by a monk Gjon .

A few days before the final work on the bridge , one of the foreman’s two assistants  , the fat one , fell ill with a rare and frightening disease : all the hairs on his body fell out . They shut him in a hut and tried in every possible way to keep his sickness secret , but there was no way it could be concealed .

Another worker falls sick , as they try to get the bridge built .

Rather like the book the pyramid which I have also reviewed  , I felt this maybe more than it seems on the surface  which is an Albanian folktale retold with a few changes in the story  a bridge instead of a castle .No to me this is more a book of its time  which is the mid seventies  , than a story of something that happened over five hundred years before that .I feel the book , which was written in 1976 , maybe shows the events in Albania at the time using the myth and legend to maybe show the isolation of the Hoxha regime of the time , maybe the bridge falling is the way he kept Albania separate from Europe .I feel the sacrifice maybe eludes to what he felt at that time , what people had to do to get the bridge built (or the links and more open regime in Albania ) .I do prefer these books that have been translated directly from Albanian and like in places that John Hodgson has manage to keep a traditional feel to the piece of old songs and words used by Gjon

have you read any books by Ismail kadare ?

By night in Chile by Roberto Bolano

 

 

By night in Chile by Robert Bolano

Chilean fiction

Original title – Nocturno de Chile

Translator – Chris Andrews

Source – Library book

 

I dreamed I saw St. Augustine
Alive as you or me
Tearing through these quarters
In the utmost misery
With a blanket underneath his arm
And a coat of solid gold
Searching for the very souls
Whom already have been sold.

I choose  a Dylan lyric I dreamed of St .Augustine a song that is about Augustine of Hippo who wrote about Guilt and evil !

Well another year another Bolano  novel on the blog .I intend at some point to get all the books by Roberto Bolano  on this blog, for now  this is the seventh book by him I have reviewed on this blog .I’ve mentioned lots about Bolano before so , lets just say its twelve years since he dies and we are nearing the end of his books being published with just two more to come out in English one of those still to come out in  Spanish , that being  the  mysterious Diorama to come out .But the last on the list out in spanish is Little Lumpen novelita which came out in US late last year , no UK date I can see at the moment  .

I am dying now  , but still have many things to say .I used to be at peace with myself .Quiet and at peace. But it all blew up unexpectedly ,That wizened youth is to blame .I was at peace .I am no longer at peace .There are a couple of points that have to be cleared up .

The opening lines as he decides to write his own story on this one evening .

By night in chile could maybe called his stab at a modernist novel in a way it is a single piece told in one long paragraph by a priest  whom writes this all in the course of one night .who is also a poet Father Sebastian Urrutia lacroix , who is under the impression this is going to be his last night on earth so is writing the tale of his life down .A life of a poet and a priest , but of a nearly man  , a man who touched greatness in his life he knew Pablo Neruda , the great poet of Chile .But what we see is how his life also got caught up in the politics of Chile at the time the shift from the Allende regime to the stricter and ruthless reign of  Augusto Pinochet .The latter of which he ends up teaching , about communism .Added to this he is a member of Opus Dei what comes across is an embittered man who is so twisted by who he is inside it all comes pouring out on to the page over the course of this  one night as he thinks he is dying  .

Then I took a train to Turin , where I visited Fr Angelo , curate of St Paul of Succour , who was also versed in the falconers art .His falcon , called Othello  , had struck terror into the heart of every pigeon in Turin  , although as Fr Angelo confided in me , Othello was not the only falcon in the city ,

I choose this on a whim to quote just because H is for Hawk won the Costa just as I was finishing this book the other night !

Now I’ve been a bit vague as this is only a short novella and I’m not wanting to give too much away as ever the main character is a poet ,which I have found is the case in most of the novels by Bolano .The book is far more political than the other books I have read by Bolano , it is a lot more about , his homeland and the events that happened in the country in his youth .It is worth noting at this point , Bolano himself spent time in prison , which he describe in a story , but was it a story it seems as thou he may have been at Mexico at that time according to other reports .I love the mystery around his own life at the time .But what comes across in the book is that in some ways Lacroix is the juxtaposed of Bolano , some that stayed , some that worked with the regime , some one that was a poet as well .But by this time I feel Bolano viewed himself more as a Novelist than a poet , so unlike Lacroix , he had started to see success .Add to this Falconery as a hobby , years spent in Europe and an Opus Dei  side story in a way .At the start of this review I called this a Modernist Novel for me this was an attempt by Bolano to maybe do a Woolf or Joyce so to speak  an homage to their style in some ways I was most reminded of Mrs Dallowway in a way as it isn’t just one evening but also the course of a life in one book .

Have you read this or any shorter Bolano books ?

Winston’s books hello again

Well this week has seen arrival of two book by writers I have written about before but also from different sides of the middle east .

Hilltop by Assaf Gavron

First to arrive this week was this Novel from Israeli , the fourth book to be translated to english from this writer whom I first reviewed here on the blog with his book Almost dead , this seems to a more mature work from a writer whom , I like first time round .this book has been called the Great Israeli novel and follows the goings , comings and politics of one hilltop in modern Israeli .

The broken mirror / sinalcol by Elias Khoury

Then today dropped through from Elias Khoury ,another writer I have reviewed before on the blog two books by him  Yalo  and As though she were sleeping .Considered by many to be one of the finest voice from Arabic literature this is his latest offering and follows one man’s journey back to Beirut from the safety of France to find the mythical ghost of a man the hero of the civil war Sinalcol .

So two writers from different sides of the middle east both at the height of the career be interesting to see which I enjoy most this time round .

Have you had anything interesting arrive this week ?

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