The woman who fed the dogs by Kristien Hemmerechts

The Woman Who Fed The Dogs

The woman who fed the dogs by Kristien Hemmerechts

Belgium Fiction

Original title – De vrouw die de honden eten gaf

Translator – Paul Vincent

A woman said: “I know my son is dead
I’ll never rest my hands on his sacred head”

Hindley wakes and Hindley says:
Hindley wakes, Hindley wakes, Hindley wakes, and says:
“Oh, wherever he has gone, I have gone”

But fresh lilaced moorland fields
Cannot hide the stolid stench of death
Fresh lilaced moorland fields
Cannot hide the stolid stench of death

I choose Smiths song Suffer little children a song about the moord Murders a similar case to this one .

I am back with another of the books from the first year of World editions which is the English arm of the big Dutch publisher De Geus .Kristien Hemmerechts has written over twenty novels in her time and numerous short story collections .She has won the Flemish state prize and Frans Kellendonk prize .Given that wonderful writing life this appears to be her first translation into English

“Odette , show us how well you can clean ” He kicked the waste bin over . “Sorry .Acident “. Or he would pour milk on the ground , step into the puddle and leave a trail of milk all over the house , .

” Thank you , M “. And then I mustn’t forget to pull my mouth into a smile .

“Odette wasn’t made to sit on her arse ” , he said

He made he do thing like this to gain his control of her , where many folk would said no at some point she didn’t !

This book is a fiction account of The story of Michelle Martin she was the ex-wife and accomplice of the Marc Dutroux ,He killed and sexually assault six girls in the mid 90’s .The case is one of the most notorious in Belgium history that lead to a change in the French justice system as what was seen as a bungled investigation .Also a third of people who shared the surname changed their name after he was caught . As you see this book is about  a powerful true story . For the book Marc becomes M and Michelle Martin is Odette , the story that unfolds shows the way she was drawn into this violent man’s world from his early petty crimes to the end of kidnapping , assaulting and killing of the young girls . We see all the events unfold through her eyes as she tells us of her and M’s lives .There is a lot about M’s past and how he was abused and this lead him to this path .We also see why she followed as the past they have unfolds bit by bit .

M wanted m because he wanted a daughter ,That was one of the first things he said to me in that caravan  of his that he had stationed in the car park by the skating rink .And asked me if I wanted to know how many women he had fucked in that caravan .And how many girls .”I didn’t need to know that ” I said calmly .That was lucky , he said , because he didn’t know approximately .

Sex played a big part in their relationship , as power games between them .

This is a book I wouldn’t picked up to read myself , I don’t drift towards books of this nature , but I felt I had to read it after being sent so many books from World edition .I ‘m pleased I did what is written is an even hand untainted view of this womans life . We see how she is drawn into M’s life and the crimes he and then they did together .You are left to decide whether she was an innocent that felt unable to speak or a willing partner in the crime for me this is one of those case that is a bit of both , Female killers are so rare they tend to be more well-known than male killer Myra Hindley for example is maybe the nearest comparison to this case I could think of in the UK were both Husband and Wife took part in the killing .I felt for Odette , but I at my core have a very strong moral heart and the things she did you have to know on a level are wrong .But that aside a journey into a world of killers and what drives people or gets people caught up with a psychopath on his killing .

Til kingdom come by Andrej Nikolaidis

Til Kingdom come by Andrej Nikolaidis

Montenegrin fiction

Translator – Will Firth

Source – review copy


You better run You better run and run and run
You better run You better run
You better run to the City of Refuge
You better run You better run
You better run to the City of Refuge

You stand before your maker
In a state of shame
Because your robes are covered in mud
While you kneel at the feet
Of a woman of the street
The gutters will run with blood
They will run with blood!

You better run, you better run
You better run to the City of Refuge
You better run, you better run
You better run to the City of Refuge

No other reason to feature this song other than I know Andrej is a Nick Cave fan and we meet in a huge city of refugee for so many .

I have featured the first two books from Andrej Nikolaidis ,what is a loose trilogy that this book forms the third part of set . The book take part around the city of Ulcinj .Andrej also did a piece for the blog about his love of Thomas Bernahrd .I have also meet and had lunch with him a couple of years ago (more about that later ) .Any way this is the latest title from him and his publisher Istros books .

I wrote for the newspaper and that’s how I made ends meet .For a while , I used the money my grandmother has leftnto me , but soon learned to save , and what I earned from six articles would last until the end of the month

I wrote quickly and with ease , and what I wrote had an audience ,They were commentary piece at first , fiery and provocative .People liked to read them, especially those who didn’t agree with me –

I laughed at this as Andrej writes a lot of articles and is known for speaking his mind !!

The story starts here Ulcinj ,as a report writes a story that leads to him finding out his own history isn’t true the person who brought him up wasn’t a relative and who was his mother ? This leads him into a world of women trained as killers and trained to kill opponents of the Yugoslavian government of the time .The journey goes to london and back but also to the present and the past as one man tries to find out the truth of his own heritage .Add to this a dose of Jewish mysticism , philosophy and being cynical you have a story that never lets up from start to finish .

That’s how I remembered you – it’s not every day that someone listens to the story about the hidden grave as if it was the greatest secret in the universe  .More tea ? He asked as he shook my hand and apologized for having to leave me . “Work calls ”

Felling poisoned by all the nicotine .I walked to the other end of the square , passing a Korean who must have been a singer and was posing in a white shirt for a photographer and his numerous assistants .I jumped the fence and headed to the left ,I strolled into the Conway hall ..

I loved the scenes in London Conway hall is home of Istors books Andrej’s uk publisher .

I included this long quote above about being sat in red lion square , as I sat in red lion square and drank mint tea and smoked cigarettes with Andrej ,Susan from Istros  books the day we had lunch , whilst we did this a man who did look rather like a pop star was having a number of pictures taken by a professional photographer .I am amazed that an event I was at creeped into a book as a very small scene , that just shows the writer’s mind at work , Andrej said he was working on this book at the time we meet , but little did I expect the place and events i had also witnessed that day to make it into this book . As ever Andrej has used his books to examine the past of his homeland ,but also ask questions about that past about how we remember the past and what importance that past has now . For me this is what makes him a significant writer as he leaves us the reader with many questions long after we put the book down and for me that is one of the great things literature should make us do and that is question and wonder about our own existence and the world around us .

Our Musseque by Jose Luandino Viera

Our Musseque by Jose Luandino

Angolan fiction

original title – Nosso musseque

Translator – Robin Patterson

It’s in a person, it’s in a person
I’m warning you, I’m warning you
It’s the truth

Africa land for preachers gold
Land for everybody young and old
The place that holds for some bright future,
But for others the future tend to torture
Ma’ Africa.

What went wrong with your brains?
You kill each other you destroy human dignity
People of Africa lets stand together
And make it the land of hope!

I want to tell everybody about myself.

Todays lyric is Ma africa from the one giant leap album ( a collection of singers and songs from around the world )

I often think there isn’t enough fiction of Lusophile origin from Africa , so every time one cross my path it is a welcomed with open arms by me . Jose Luandino Viera is a writer who grew up in Luanda in Angola , the setting of the book in the 1940’s .He grew to be a political activist who had a trail in 1959 that start the uprising in his country .He spent a lot of time after that in prison until the collapse of the Salazar regime .He wrote this book in the 60’s whilst in prison although it didn’t see the light of day until 2003 .

And so the nickname was born . When people who lived further away from the Musseque heard the story , they chuckled to themselves , made fun of it and said our group of boys had even stooped to messing around with goats ,From then on they started referring to our dead companion as Xoxombo the goat shagger .

The book opens with talking of getting a nickname and how everyone had a nickname in the Musseque .

This is the story of a Musseque , a township , a shanty town .This is a portrait of te shanty town of Luanda told through the eyes of our child narrator .A world of people with nicknames , a close-knit but rough community of prostitutes labourers and those that provide for them .A tough life for Zeca , Buenu and Xoxombo are a group of boys growing on these streets , watching life on the tough side of the streets as they find girls and fighting .But at the same time there is rumblings in the background of their world that are pieced in glimpses .The book is a collection of glimpses into this world and the lives around it vibrant , colourful but most of all a world on the cusp of something that in the end took more than forty years to get there .

As evening slowly fell , children made their way back home , some of them heading up to Ingombota , others going down towards Mutamaba .They were laughing and teasing ,showing off their toys .ZEca and Xoxombo walked with their arms around each other , not speaking to anyone .They walked very slowly through the alleyways and up the sandy tracks , Xoxombo crying sometimes and Zeca heaping insults on the man in the white suit , the teachers ,the school kids , everyone , nobody escaped his fury

The boys heading through the night one the way home angry at the world but friends together .

I read this book last december then as is the case with me I put it to one side so sad ,I am at times a bad reviewer as this is one that had stuck with me .Not so much for the characters in the book The narrator and his friends are well drawn child characters . For me what last is the sense of place the vibrant shanty town the place that was their home but also a place that at the time was dangerous for them , but they didn’t see that we do as the reader to them this is their everyday life .I feel Viera who wrote this whilst in prison is looking back with fond memories of his youth seeing the tough side of his life but also the comrades friends and characters he grew up with .this book is considered an important book in the cannon of fiction from Angola as Viera is one of the most decorated writers and acknowledge .I’m so pleased Dedalus took a chance and published this book as it is a gem .

Have you read any Lusophile fiction from Africa  ?

Voices from Chernobyl by Svetlana Alexievich


voice from

Voices from Chernobyl (The oral history of a nuclear disaster ) by Svetlana Alexievich

Ukrainian Non-Fiction

Original title – Чернобыльская молитва

Translator – Keith Gessen

Source – Library book

Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son?
And where have you been my darling young one?
I’ve stumbled on the side of twelve misty mountains
I’ve walked and I’ve crawled on six crooked highways
I’ve stepped in the middle of seven sad forests
I’ve been out in front of a dozen dead oceans
I’ve been ten thousand miles in the mouth of a graveyard
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall.

I choose Bob Dylan’s a hard rain is going to fall a song wrote years before Chernobyl but about the effect of a nuclear fallout .

Now this is always the time of year I try to squeeze in one or two names from the list of Nobel hopefuls .For the last couple of years Svetlan Alexievich name has been one that has risen in the betting .Svetlana born in Ukraine grew up in Belarus , became a journalist and wrote a few novels then she developed first via Zinky boys her account of the fighters in Afghan wars a technique of gathering first hands accounts from people and crafting them into monologues .This book won the National book critics circle award for its English translation .

The smoke was from the burning bitumen , which had covered the roof .He said later it was walking on tar .they tried to beat down the flames ,They kicked at the burning graphite with their feet … they weren’t wearing their canvas gear .They went off just as they were , in their shirt sleeves .No one told them .they had been called for a fire , that was it

Lyudmilla on how Vasily her husband a fireman attend the disaster , he later died .

Voices from Chernobyl blends the voice of those directly connected to the disaster .The books opens with the account of the wife of one of the fireman that first attend the explosion at Chernobyl . Her’s is a very touching account of how her husband died after he had been there that day , but also little things like how the doctors that helped that day were all destined to die .Then about how the disaster effect the land nearest the blast .As the monologues build we see , how the disaster effect the land , moved people made some act one way and others act another day . How the children born at that time are sick .So the events of that day in 1986 and the years after how the government tried to cover up how bad it was in the reality .

My little daughter – she’s different .She’s not like the others .She’s going to grow up and ask me :” why aren’t I like the others ?”

When she was born ,she wasn’t a baby , she was a little sack , sewed up everywhere , not a single opening , just the eyes .The medical card says :”Girl born with multiple complex pathologies :aplasia of the anus , aplasia of the vagina , aplasia of the left kidney .” That’s how it sounds in medical talk , but more simply : no pee-pee ,no butt , one kidney on the second day I watched her get operated on , on the second day of her life .She opened her eyes and smiled , and I thought that she was about to start crying .But , God, she smiled !

Larisa talking about the birth of her daughter effected by the Chernobyl disaster .

I loved the style of this book Alexievich has a great way of mixing the voices she has recorded  . She really pulls together whatwas told to her the first account in this book was so powerful Lyudmilla telling the story of her late husband Vasily Ignatenko .The style is like one of those collages made up of smaller photos that when you step back and look forms that iconic image of the blown reactor at chernobyl .For the second time in a few weeks I rediscover the strength of non fiction writing from the former soviet bloc , like Dubravka Urgesic Svetlana Alexievich shows the power of good non fiction writing for hitting home with the reader , what you get from these accounts is a sense of the  sheer despair at how the government failed , lives fell apart and people were rip away from their homes and left without anywhere to really be .I can see why here named is mentioned as a potential Nobel Literature winner .I know need to find a copy of Zinky boys to read by her .

Have you read her books ? Do you have a favourite Non fiction writer in Translation ?




That was August on winstonsdad

innocence by Heda Margolius Kovaly

I can’t remember the last time I felt I had blogged enough to be worthy of doing a round-up of my months blogging .Last month was Woman in translation month and through this blog we took a journey around the world . We started in Mexico with The story of my teeth by Valeria Luiselli , the tale of a man selling his teeth as thou they were famous teeth .We then head north to Sweden and a woman falling in love with an artist in a story about how we view love Wilful disregard by Lean Andresson .Then we head to France and a dead bar owner and his customers tell the story of his life and his death in Bar Balto by Faiza Guene .Then a u turn and back up north to Finland and The second book by Sofi Oksanen , when doves disappeared the story of two men during and after the war in Estonia .Then I did a post about my lack of Ferrante fever , I d try to read book one again but be honest still not getting it !!But this next one was a small victory in the type of books I read the exchange of princesses by Chantal Thomas was a great historic novel about a young princesses in France and Spain .Then onto Crime in post war Czechoslovakia and Innocence or murder on the steep street by Heda Margolius Kovaly best known for her memoir she took a slip of American hardboiled crime style and made it her own in Czech style crime in this novel .I then pulled five old reviews from Winstonsdads 500 plus books in translation reviewed .Then we head back on our Journey and to Brazil The passion according to GH by Clarice Lispector is one woman story of how she killed a cockroach the day before in a white room , stunning and the final push I need for the complete  stories which I got this weekend by her .Then I lament the lack of female nobel winners . The I was Asia bound with one of the books of the year The vegetarian by Han Kang the story of one woman after she turned vegetarian in Korea told from three views .The back to France for a third book and Heloise is bald by Emile De Turckheim the story of one girl growing with an older man the apple of her eye .Then back to Korea and another fable tale with the Hen who dreamed she could fly by Sun – Mi Hwang a hen escapes her home and discovers the wider world .Then a non fiction book by a Croatian writer Thank you for not reading By Dubravka Ugresic , a witty and serious look at the world of books from the trivia of western publishing and the reverence of the soviet years of being a writer .Then a slice of great Danish fiction with this should be written in the present tense by Helle Helle , one girls waste years of being at university and not going there but elsewhere .Not bad 12 reviews from woman in Translation .The find of the month was Innocence or murder on a steep street a real gem a slice of american in europe that thankfully missed the censors shredder .

I look forward to this month tomorrow I intend to review a nobel hopeful from Ukraine , then I am doing a classic book from Nigeria , that will start a number of reviews of African based or related books . How is your month looking ?

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