Harraga by Boualem Sansal

 

 

Harraga by Boualem Sansal

Algerian Fiction

Original title – Harraga

Translator – Frank Wynne

Source – review copy

Out of my Algeria
they made the prisons taller
than the schools.
They sullied the nocturnal roots
of the People,
the serious Tree
of the remote Berbérie…
They denied the certainty of our Land,
they tore apart Islam, its color,
its fantastical tribes, even the shame
that makes them live.
They denied the Vital Fire, our Flag
They exiled the humble joys of our huts
slow at the return of corn…
Blind! Blind!

Well I had hope to get this book last week as it is one I feel we all need to read .Boualem Sansal  had a government job in the  early 2000’s til he start complaining about the government , his books since then have been critical of Algeria in particular how the vast money made from Oil is being spent and in this book womans rights .Boualem Sansal still lives in Algeria as he says the his country needs artists to pave the way to peace and democracy .He has won many awards and written six novels .He is one of the strongest critics of his country’s regime .

This is how a whirlwind sweeps into your life .Nothing absolutely nothing in my past led me to suppose that one day i would open my door , open my life to such mayhem .I opened the door because that’s hat you do when someone knocks , you answer .

Lamia just after Cherifka arrives at her door and the effect she has on her life .

Harraga is the story of two women , Lamia , who up to now had lived a quiet life behind the wall of her house , just living in her own world and Cherifika a 16-year-old unmarried pregnant girl arrives in the middle of the night at Lamia ‘s door , she was sent to her by Lamia brother Sofiane .Sofiane is also the inspiration  for the title the only member of Lamia family left alive he is a Hararaga , some one trying to escape Algeria for Spain across the sea .Meanwhile the two worlds of Lamia nad Cerifka start to clash , Sherifka is having to lay low but is struggling to do this in a way she is  a new woman wanting to be equal wanting to be heard but this is dangerous for a girl with child that is unmarried could be killed for Honour .This is what Lamia is trying to do ,whilst seeing the world anew through this young girls eyes making this meek woman who maybe is an example of what woman have been in Algeria she gets stronger .As the two woman adjust to each other and the world outside .

Cherifka is bored .I’ve noticed that she’s become less voluble , less frivolous , she is brooding , preoccupied serious .I scarcely recognised her .She is like a caged bird that has forgotten how to sing , to splash in its bath , to hop and skip for joy – a joy it can scarcely remember , one too distant and to fleeting to gladden the heart .

Lamia sees how being held up in the house is affecting Cherifka , these lines remind me of the lines of Maya Angelou in a way .

This is in some ways a classic odd couple story , the pair Lamia and Cherifka in some ways to me reflect the two faces of woman in the modern Arab world Lamia has hidden herself and in her own way is a romantic living behind a wall in her own world with ghost but not really living as she has settle for the life she has .Cherifka is the modern girl wanting to live , having a boy before being married , wanting to be seen and heard in a world where woman should really be meek like Lamia .Boualem Sansal has lifted the veil on being a woman in Algeria , but not just that through Sofiane and his trying to leave Algeria he has shown the problems in the country a country rich in its own world with oil money but only for the few .Then there is the house and the city t,the house has itself been part of Algeria and its history and through these two woman is seeing another turn in the country’s history .I know Frank the translator really hopes this book gets a wider readership because its writer has a voice that needs to be heard , silenced  in his own country even here this book hasn’t really got the coverage a work of its quality and insight needs .

 

Have you a favourite book from Algeria ?

iffp library books and a couple of new nordic gems Winstons books

Well as the year ends I always tend to try to look for any books that may have slip under my radar for next year IFFP , I decide to order two from the library that had caught my eye in recent months and had both been on the IFFP before David Grossman , his latest book a mix of poetry prose and a play like dialogue  .I do wonder if this will be entered for the IFFP , but Falling out of time sees  bereaved parents looking for there lost children starting in a small village and meeting the folk that live their .The other book is by Per Petterson I refuse  a story pf two boys one lost his mother that has gone the other with his own parents , sounds a bit like he is on his usual ground but I have enjoyed his other books .

image (1)

Now the strange thing is as I order one Nordic novel and collect the Petterson than on the next two days I have two more nordic novels arrive in the post the following two days  ,it must be winter calling !

image (2)

Now the fist is The wandering Pine by Per Olov Enquist , a third person account of his own life and the strange events that have happened to him ,events such as lost days and partying .The mention of this being as elliptical as Karl Ove Knausgaard is exhaustive another remarkable sounding book from Sweden .

imageThen today this dropped through the letterbox .The winter war by Philip Teir a Finnish writer that writes in Swedish .The book follows the Paul Family the husband Max is about to turn 60 and what on the top seems a great live when under the surface is actually just about to crack open a wife he doesn’t love and kids with problems , what caught my eye on this is comparisons to Yates and Updike but with a cooler Nordic temperament mmm sounds good .Any way that some recent arrivals I’ve been offline over a week just spending time with family my mum visited , Amanda and I had a couple of days off together and just spent time together , I shall catch up on comments etc this week  .I’ll be back tomorrow with a new review of a great French translation from Algeria . Have you had any gems through your doors recently !

 

Classics in translation anyone want join in ?

Well this is a sort of feeler post to see if any one would be interested in reading a few classics in translation , I’m 300 pages into Giacomo Leopardi’s Zibaldone and already have a  list of writers mentioned by him with in these first few hundred pages plato , Virgil, Montesquieu Plutarch to name a few , I read a bit of Homer years ago and maybe three or four other books but that is about it and reading leopardi has made me want to fill this gap and learn more about these writers that so inspired him in thoughts about history and language .So maybe a small club reading three or four of these books a year  maybe starting in the middle of next year .I’ve not look fully into availability translations etc yet . I’m hoping a number of these writers  will be easily available as Oxford classics or Penguin classics .Maybe by the end of Zibaldone I’ll do a reading list of books I want to try if any one want to come along for the ride .

Have you a favourite classic in translation ?

 

The tower by Uwe Tellkamp

 

The tower  tales from a lost country  by Uwe Tellkamp

Original title – Der turm Geschichte aus einem versunkenen land

German fiction

Translator Mike Mitchell

Source – review copy

Daniel: When the child was a child, it was the time of these questions. Why am I me, and why not you? Why am I here, and why not there? When did time begin, and where does space end? Isn’t life under the sun just a dream? Isn’t what I see, hear, and smell just the mirage of a world before the world? Does evil actually exist, and are there people who are really evil? How can it be that I, who am I, wasn’t before I was, and that sometime I, the one I am, no longer will be the one I am?

Daniel the angel from Wings of desire seems  to be fitting as it is set just at same time as this book from the other side of the wall .

Well its a nice long book for German lit month today , The tower is an epic novel that won the German book prize in 2008 .The son of the a doctor he grew up in Dresden ,was studying medicine , but he then had to spend time in the East Germany army as a tank commander just before the wall fell in East Germany , he was draft into the army after he was considered political unreliability by the east german authorities .He published his first novel in 2000 , but it wasn’t til the tower came out he found real success .The book was made into a two-part tv series in Germany that was one of the most watched show of recent years when it was on German TV .

Anne took Meno and Christian to one side “.I think we should give it to him afterwards  , when there’s just family . I don’t know a lot of guests very well ; I don’t want it made public .Agreed ?”

Richard made a short speech of thanks .His final words brought a grin from Christian and Ezzo .”gut now , colleagues and friends , eat your fill .”

At the birthday party they are careful when giving gifts that maybe be considered wrong in the eyes of the east german authorities .

The tower follows the years before the wall fell in East Germany , we shown this through one families story .The Hoffman family in the tower region of Dresden ,  the parents like the writers own work in medicine .The son Christian , wants to follow in his fathers footsteps and become a doctor , but to do that he has to do his military service in the NPA (National People’s army ) .Whilst doing this he struggles to adjust to military life , sees a comrade die , he ends up getting the blame for this and spending more time in the army and in prison .Whilst at the start we see his father turning 50 and coping with the system in east Germany and practicing medicine .Then there is Uncle Meno Christians uncle , considered a member of the elite intellectual as he had studied in Moscow , he was to become a scientist , but in the end became a writer ,he is part of the literary elite and tries to put forward the truth in the way that is allowed .As he and his fellow writers struggle to write and get published .

Meno went to Leipzig book fair every year .Philipp put him up for those days and continued to do so after Hanna and Meno had separated , for the two men felt a liking , a quiet respect , for each other , what Hanna had once called ” a kind of awkward friendship ”

Meno staying with a writer friend Phillp londoner , thought to be Thomas Kuczynski according to the German  press .

Now its hard to sum up a thousand page novel .The tower had been on my radar to read since it won the German book  prize  and in English since Frisch brought it out in e-book  , but then it was also brought by Penguin which is lucky I like my ebooks but struggle to read long books on my kindle , been trying to read another thousand page german novel on it for a while , but never got that far .Anyway when this dropped through the door at the beginning of the month I was determined to read and finish it in time for German lit month .Epic is a word for this Tellkamp has tried to catch the fall of East Germany , through a thinly veiled story of his own life , From the father and working in East Germany , to Christians own story in the army ,.The uncles story of trying to be a writer in east germany .We get all this in a number of styles of writings diaries , first person narrative ,third person narrative and a lot of stream of consciousness  writing .What we get is like a collection of little piece snippets of their lives  of these family members stories brought and tied together to get the story of a country falling apart and also the inner tension of East Germany a country built on mistrust .He also used uncle Meno to discuss writing in east germany  a number of the people in his circle have since been worked out by German Journalist to be specific writers of the time .Well for me this is the best book about life in East Germany just before the wall fell , that said I not read much wolf but for the whole picture I can’t see a better book  to celebrate 25 years since the wall and east germany Fell .

Have you a favourite Epic book in translation ?

The Chef by Martin Suter

 

The Chef by Martin Suter

Swiss fiction

Original title – Der Koch

Translator – Jaime Bulloch

Source – Review copy

 

I can change the world
With my own two hands
Make it a better place
With my own two hands
Make it a kinder place
With my own two hands
With my own
With my own two hands
I can make peace on earth
With my own two hands
I can clean up the earth
With my own two hands
I can reach out to you
With my own two hands

with my own two hands a love song by Jack Johnson , reminds me of what Maravan made with his own two hands source 

Well its been a quiet German lit month here on winstonsdad , I’ve chosen a bestseller from Switzerland .Martin Suter started out as a copywriter , working for one of the best known ad agencies in Basel for twenty years ,before setting up his own company .He also has a well-known coloumn in a monthly magazine in Switzerland .He got his breakthrough novel in 1997 , small world which was made into a film .The cook is his seventh novel .he spends his time between Spain and Guatemala now .

By the time  Andrea left that evening she had been initiated into the aphrodisiac secrets of milk and urad lentils , saffron and palm sugar ,almonds and sesame oil ,saffron Ghee and long peppers , cardamom and cinnamon , asparagus and liquorice ghee .

The food describe at times makes you mouth water and you Andrea discover the power food can have .

The chef  is the story of two former restaurant employees , their former restuarant was one of the best known in Zurich to the fact its chef was a well-known , but after the financial crash lead to job cuts . So  Maravan the Tamil who was the dishwasher and Andrea the beautiful waitress find themselves without a job .The pair discover that Maravan , is actually a wonder in the kitchen , he learnt to cook back in his native Sri Lanka .But the food he cooks is more than food it has almost magical powers in the love department , as the people who eat it seem to be given added sexual powers they discover this after Maravan cooks one of his meals for Andrea and she falls for him after eating the food he cooks .This leads to the idea of starting a company cooking for couples and becoming partners in the buisness  .As the business grows we start to find out a little more about Maravan’s life before he came to switzerland ,where he shouldn’t be .They also grow and some of the people he is dealing with are shady seling arms this leads them into a underworld .

“The dirty stuff ”

Andrea understood immediately what he was saying , but asked “what dirty stuff ”

Maravan paused .

“If someone rings and wants ,you know , sex dinners .As far as I’m concerned you can say yes ”

“Oh that .All right , I’ll take that on board , anything else ?”

“Nothing.”

As soon as Maravan had hung up ,she looked for the number of the caller who had asked about the sex dinners ,she had noted it down , just in case .

They decide to move their business in a new direction using the special qualities in Maravan’s food .

Now I don’t usually read blockbuster novels in English , the books you may call airport books , but as I read just translation these days we come across these books from time to time Suter is a big star in Europe ,his books have been made into films .His novels from what I read tend to have like this one a social justice message behind them from Maravan’s own story to that of his friend from Ethiopia  , a bit of love and a bit of crime .I can’t really match it to an English writer as I say I don’t really read blockbuster novels .but that said I was reminded of the thing Stephen king does in his books and that is the sense ,Suter seems to have  an eye for this book ,possibly becoming a film .In fact the film version of this book is out in the next few weeks in German-speaking world .Entertaining quick read , that has a little bit of everything thrown into the mix , culture clash , cooking , love ,sex ,crime and murder , also a detailed description of the financial events around the world as the crash starts to happen .We also get the recipes that Maravan cooks .

Have you read a bestseller from around the world that has been translated into English ?

1000 posts not out

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I love milestones on the blog ,but also worry getting  near to them. But today sees a big one a 1000 posts have been  featured on the blog it has only taken Five years and five months to reach this point I remeber being blown away years ago when my friend Rob or robaround the books reached this point .well  for me what has changed in those fiver years well a lot really I’d struggle to get a couple of hundred words written on a book five years ago now I tend to write seven to eight hundred words on a book .I have also started the wonderful #translationthurs meme via the blog that happens every week on twitter  and has even made a cover of a book .I also started a shadow jury for the IFFP orize , which has seen me attend the prize for a number of year ,something that which out the blog I wouldn’t have done .people I have meet many wonderful people bloggers , writers ,translators and even publishers .I have in my way discovered the writer in me as I find it easier to write about things now than I  used to year ago , still not great on grammar and maybe find it hard to find the right word sometimes but it is a lot easier than it was .Confidence is another thing I have gained in myself , I feel that is the main thing that I have gained in speaking about books in translation I have been able to gain a voice in other parts of my life .I can’t wait to reach another milestone probably a thousand reviews only 499 more to go !!

Raw material by Jörg Fauser

 

Raw Material by Jörg Fauser

German literature

Original title – Rohstoff

Translator – Jamie Bulloch

Source – review copy

 

 

In Berlin, by the wall
you were five foot ten inches tall
It was very nice
candlelight and Dubonnet on ice

We were in a small cafe
you could hear the guitars play
It was very nice
it was paradise

You’re right and I’m wrong
hey babe, I’m gonna miss you now that you’re gone
One sweet day

Lou reeds Berlin maybe one best sound track songs to this book source

Jörg Fauser was a huge name in the underground literature culture of Germany when he was writing , Grew up in Frankfurt , but then he lived in squats around Europe Istanbul , Berlin and even North Africa as he tried to live life ,like the  Beat writers that he so admired .He was greatly drawn to the Beat writers of America admiring the cut up style of Willam Burroughs and also the hard-boiled crime of the likes of Hammett and Chandler , he wrote a number of crime novels that were well received at time and a have been published in English .He also tried his hand as a song writer .But this book isn’t a crime novel , no it’s the full on vision of a man as a writer at the time Fauser was a writer .His lead character is indeed an alter ego of him .

As they didn’t rake enough with their five storeys , the hotel owners had put another structure on the roof ,The view was overwhelming , as were the heat in the summer and cold in the winter .But for two marks a day we could enjoy the same panorama for which tourists would have shell out twenty or fifty times as much .And we could get ours on credit

Living cheap seeing the blue mosque from a makeshft home on a roof in a hotel in Istanbul .

As I said Raw material is the story of a writer Harry Gelb , he happens to follow the same path as fauser did in his life , living in Istanbul and then Berlin .what we see is a man who loves the beat writers and the lifestyle in the books trying to live out this lifestyle in europe living on rooftops in Istanbul writing in oilskin notebooks about his life their , then a return to Germany to the bohemian Berlin and trying to get noticed publishing Magazines .All the time ,  meeting girls drinking taking drugs .All the time writing and trying to find someone to publish his masterpiece Stamboul blues .Harry tries to get noticed but is thwarted at every turn it seems , his book is great every one says so but it is maybe to modern for the time .He also falls for many women along the way .Bur does get to meet one of his hero’s Burroughs as he tries to make it .

I was on my way – and how! I tried to explain to Burroughs that I’d been a junkie myself for four years , and in my report I also wanted to write about how one could get off the gear .Burroughs had managed it with apomorphine .Apomorphine was unknown in Germany .That’s why i was here .He lit another cigarette .He smoked filterless senior service chain-smoked them ,

“What sort of stuff did you take ?”

“Oh , opium mainly .”

“What raw opium ? You didn’t take it intravenously did you ?”

“Yes I did .”

“Young man ,” Burroughs said , with the hint of a smile , “you must have been out of your mind .”

Harry gets to interview both his and Fauser’s  own hero William Burroughs .

What we see in this book is a side of German life that isn’t always been shown in LIterature in translation , I was luckily enough to catch on to the very tail end of this life when I lived in Germany twenty years ago , a life of small pubs , people meeting and doing arty thing seeing small bands going to make shift clubs .This is the same world that gave us the great film directors like Wim Wender and Rainer Fassbinder ,we see the Berlin that also had the likes of Nick Cave and David Bowie making some of their greatest records at the time .In Harry Gelb , we see what life was like for Fauser the ups and the downs the dreams and disappointments of the world he lived in .Fauser story is sad he died under strange circumstances aged only 43 having a life similar to Harry his character doing meaningless jobs and writing underground magazines and trying to break through to be a big writer like his Hero’s .Fauser also wrote songs I found this on you tube by Achim Reichel who he wrote songs for .

 

Have you a favourite writer from the Counter Culture side of German life ?

Portrait of a man by Georges Perec

 

 

Portrait of a Man

Portrait of a man by Georges Perec

French fiction

Original title – Le Condottière

Translator – David Belios

Source – Review Copy

 

“Pay In Blood”

Well I’m grinding my life out, steady and sure
Nothing more wretched than what I must endure
I’m drenched in the light that shines from the sun
I could stone you to death for the wrongs that you done
Sooner or later you make a mistake,
I’ll put you in a chain that you never will break
Legs and arms and body and bone
I pay in blood, but not my own.
This lyric by Bob Dylan from his Tempest album Has Gaspard paid in blood ?

Well this is an important book , as it was only recently published in France after David Belios , Perec’s English translator had rediscovered this book as a carbon copy Perec had kept , the book was mentioned in one of his other books and thought lost .it was Perec’s debut n0vel which at the time he wrote it he couldn’t find a publisher for ,and had been thought lost till it was found again .It is also an important book for this blog as it marks the 500th book I have reviewed here and the 50th novel from French to be review , as I got near to 500 books review I decide this was the one that deserved the honour of being that book .Georges Perec , was brought up by his paternal aunt and uncle after his parents died in world war two .He studied history and sociology at the Sorbonne , whilst at the same time starting to write .This is also the time he started to write this book .

Madera was heavy .I grabbed him by the armpits and went backwards down the stairs to the laboratory .His feet bounced from tread to tread in a staccato rhythm that matched my own unsteady descent , thumping and banging around the narrow stairwell .Our shadows danced on the walls Blood was still flowing all sticky , seeping from the soaking wet towel

The opening lines grip you , what has happened ?

portrait of a man takes as its inspiration the painting that is on the front cover of the book portrait of a man / the condottiere (the French title of the novel ) by Antonelo da Mesina .he use a man who is forging painting by this guy as his character in this book Gaspard Winckler is a master forger , he is working for Madera , who has asked him to copy this one picture  whilst Gaspard has stuck in the background just painting .the book opens as we see Gaspard moving the dead body of Madera , which he has just killed .We follow what happened in two parts the first is formed of an internal monologue as Gaspard is waiting for the police to find him , the events that lead up to the murder .How he became a forger and met Madera  .the second half of the book follows Gaspard after he is arrest and is being interviewed by the police .Gaspard struggled to get the painting on the canvas in the same way as Mesina had , is this why he killed Madera .

“Yes …more or less obvious .Forging isn’t a trade .It’s more like a rut .You get stuck in it .You get drowned .You think things are still possible … But you get tripped up by your own rope-trick .things don’t exist anymore … It’s difficult to explain .. How can I say .. You always do the same thing , you explore the same paths over and over ,you hit the same blocks again and again .

Gaspard explaining to the police what it is like being a forger .

Now I for one am very wary of lost books , the has been a number of them in recent years and they often seem to be the scrapings of a writers life .So I was pleased when this book wasn’t that no this is a book , that maybe at the time it was written was to new for the French readers .Perec is of course known for being an experimental writer and a member of the oulipo group , is this book like those books ,yes and no .It is a different way to tell a story in the two parts that form the book with the internal and the external descriptions of what happen  .It is actually the most accessible book by Perec I have read .The big theme of the book is maybe being False , what are we ,how are we if we just copy , what is the truth behind the murder ? As with some of his later books he has twisted the crime thriller genre to make an interesting study on the human condition . A fitting choice for the 500th review by this blogger a rediscovered book that actually deserved to be published ironically his first book becomes his last book as well , a very Perec thing in a way (maybe that is what he had in mind keeping the carbon copy ?)

have you a favourite rediscovered book ?

uncertain Glory by joan sales

 

 

Uncertain Glory by Joan Sales

Catalan fiction

original title – Incerta glòria

Translator – Peter Bush

Source – review copy

‘The Cemetery Is Near’

(VI: From ‘Cancionero Y Romancero De Ausencias’)

 

The cemetery is near

where you and I are sleeping,

between blue prickly-pears,

blue agaves and children,

who scream excitedly

if the dead darken the road.

From here to the cemetery, all

is blue, golden, clear.

Four paces, and the dead.

Four paces, and the living.

Clear, blue and golden,

my son there grows remote.

The cemetery is near a poem by Miguel Hernandez ,which Pablo Neruda called the face of spain .Source 

Well this is the first of two book from catalan I’ll be reviewing  you in the next few weeks , this first is considered a classic in Catalan and also one of the definitive works on the Spanish civil war .Joan Sales was born in Barcelona and studied law just before the outbreak of the Civil war , he fought in the civil war and afterwards he lived in Exile .He first published the book in 1956 ,but revised it over the years until the definitive version of the book came out in 1971 , as the earlier version had been subject to Franco censorship of them .

8 july

We are still doing , nothing , just waiting for the recruits to arrive .We have already alloted officer to the future companies :I’ve got the 4th and my captain will be lieutenant gallart , the ex-waiter .

The village couldn’t be more dismal :It’s boxed in and you can’t see until you’re inside .It’s boundaries are extensive ,it’s mostly barren waste with the large olive trees that account for its name .

The arrival at the village with the woman of the Castilo de Olivo .

The book follows Lieutenant lluis Ruscalleda he is assigned to Aragonese front in 1937 he is a lawyer (in some ways you could say this is in some  part  Joan sales ), he arrives but start away doesn’t fir in his comrades seem to like a drink and he isn’t a drinker , but along the way he meets a woman the women of the Castilo de OLivo , she is an intriguing woman , that intrigues the lieutenant she became the lady of the house after she was a servant in the house  .Meanwhile Lluis is writing back to Trini his former lover that is a new woman and that is struggling with the war to bring up their son .The winter sees the brigade is sent to a quiet part of the line this brings even more problems , Lluis also writes to his brother and we also see Trini write to her old friend about her struggles with life .Add to this the war isn’t going their way and a strong streak of Catholic guilt and the church in the war , in the story we see the spanish civil war from a Catalan point of view from the losing side .A picture of the chaos that civil war is .

29 june

Dear juli , I received a letter from Lluis the day before yesterday after weeks without one .I was so pleased to hear you are both in the same brigade .I hadn’t heard from him so long ! The only news I had was the monthly postal order he dent me without fail .

Trini on the home front so to speak worries about Lluis at the front .

I have read a number of novels about the civil war those written in recent years ,by the likes of  Manual Rivas , that look back at the aftermath and Chaos of the war once the dust had settled so to speak  his book carpenters pencil looked at being a prisoner and returning after the war .I have also read a couple of books by English languages writers written that were involved with the Spanish civil war  one by Hemingway which isn’t like this book as his writing is full of bravado  .The other is  the novella by George Orwell Homage to Catalonia ,which is the nearest to this book as it follows Orwell’s time at the front .But this book adds more dimension to the fighting given its form , which is an epistolary novel what we are given is the full picture of the fighting , life on the front line not just the fighting but the sitting on the front line .We also see from Trini the life on the home front what is it like raising a kid in the war .The characters in the book , give a full picture of the world around them ,Sales brings lots of details to the story that make the war leap of the page .as we see how the war effects each character changing the relationships but also the view of the world around them .

Have you a favourite book about the spanish civil war ?

The false Apocalypse by Fatos Lubonja

The False Apocalypse by Fatos Lubonja

Albanian Non-fiction

Original title – Nëntëdhjeteshtata – Apokalipsi i rremë

Translator – John Hodgson

Source – review copy

When one voice rules the nation
Just because they’re top of the pile
Doesn’t mean their vision is the clearest
The voices of the people
Are falling on deaf ears
Our politicians all become careerists

They must declare their interests
But not their company cars
Is there more to a seat in parliament
Than sitting on your arse
And the best of all this bad bunch
Is shouting to be heard
Above the sound of ideologies clashing

I ve gone for Billy Bragg song ideologies as this is a story of ideas falling apart

I love the fact that Susan at Istros books is publishing books like this one for I feel no one else would publish a book about Albania internal politics .Fatos Lubonja is the son of Todi Lubonja who was one of the closet aids to Hoxha , until the early 1970’s when he was arrested and Fatos , where Fatos then spent the next 17 years in Jail  , he is considered an outspoken critic on the post communist world of Albanian politics and also the writer Ismail Kadare .In the introduction he is called the closest thing tp an intellectual conscience in Albania .

The arrival of a boatload of sugar , whose sale would pay off all his debts , was the last deception used by the mastermind of the pyramid scheme to palm off the daily demands of his creditors .Qorri has made this boat the focal point of the novel , a symbol of people’s hope and trust in the victory of capitalism over reality of socialism ,The arrival of the sugar boat would solve everything .

The premise of the Novel Fatos Qorri called Sugar boat about one pyramid scheme .

The False Apocalypse is a story of the years after the fall of communism within Albania .The book has two narratives one that follows the greater picture of Albania at the time  the government of Sali Bershia that was the leader of the country at the time .The problem with the regime was the fact they let to many fraudsters take over the country , in particular a number of Pyramid schemes (the schemes used new investors to pay old investors whilst appearing to make money , the only ones that made money where the leaders of the scheme ) , these schemes had grown since the fall of Hoxha and the fall of communism in 1991 , the schemes had grown and grown so in 1997 the collapse of them was going to take the whole country down with it .As the public start to protest and riots begin as scheme after scheme collapses .The second narrative thread in the book is the personnel story of Fatos Qorri ( akter ego of fatos lubonja ) describes the events of 1997 through his own eyes through diary entries . He is in the process of writing a novel in fact about the pyramid schemes and as he is doing so the events take over him .

The victory of the guns in Vlora created a nightmare for thee Tirana government .Could Berisha weather these events ? The Government was on the brink of resignation , with dozens of deaths laid at it’s door State institutions had collapsed , Vlora was in rebellion with fighting in the streets , and the nation faced bankruptcy .moreover , after what had happened , Albania was split in two and Berisha’s people didn’t dare set foot in the south .

The first real crack appeared at Vlora the first of many .

Now I remember the aftermath of this when the west rode in to save the government of Berisha .What I enjoyed about lubonja book is the way he used his own personnel experience at the time and mixed it in with the wider picture of what was going on in Albania at the time .what we see is a country trying to run before they have learnt to walk .A government that has really lost control over the schemes and the country as a whole , this is what happened when the prisons were opened , the gangs are allowed to take control . The former secret service has also  become a force to be watched after it was not taken apart from the fall of communism .What we get is the chaos explained , what happens on the wider scale when a country starts to fall apart but also on the personnel scale to the man on the street .This book appeals to anyone that has an interest in the fall of communism and maybe wants to learn more about Albania .

Have you a favourite non fiction book in translation ?

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