Aviaries by Zuzana Brabcova

 

Aviaries by Zuzana Brabcova

Czech fiction

Original title – Voliéry

Translator – Tereza Novika

Source – review copy

I have long been a fan of the books that Twisted spoon press bring out not only as works of literature charting the world of Czech lit but also they have always made their books eye-catching and desirable to own. So this their last is no different it is the last novel by the Czech writer Zuzana Brabcova a writer who had worked as a cleaner, librarian and hospital attendant before the regime fell in 1989 she worked briefly in the government set up b Vaclav Havel who death is actually a starting point in this book. She also worked as an editor she publishes five novels this was her last novel and the book won the Skvorceky prize for it.

The hairs of the moment bristled

and it crouched and barked. In the chambers of Deputies, four communist MPS refused to honor the memory of the first Czech president, spearhheaded by the leader of the Prague communists, Marta Semelova, who instead congratulated tje nationon ridding itself of a pest

Marta Semelova used to be Alice’s first grade teacher.”Your daughter is extremely gifted, she’ll make something of herself one day”she said and covered Alice’s head with her palm like a fortune-teller.

Can the prophetic gesture of a communist even mean anything ? A bark, bristled hair , a pointed sneer ? no it meant absolutely nothing

What might have been for Alice when her teacher was Marta ?

The book is one of those which I love as it has a real fragment nature to it we follow a female Beta as she wanders around the modern and different Prague it opens with a diary entry that states that Havel has died the day before as the fragment build we see a woman on the edge of this city in so many ways as she has no life and is one of those trying to find work and kill time and this is what is her world the vision of the city her life but also the life of her other female relations are touched on her daughter a dreamlike a child that may be in a way is her hope at times and despair at others a sister also on the edge reduce to scavenging to get by and a mother that has maybe gone the way her two daughters will eventually to the pits of despair in depression and  trying to find a way out her life. Another female that recurs is Semelova she was Alice teacher and now a politician to me this is a clever mirroring of the two people Beta and Marta Semelova lives in this post-communist Prague one has risen the other has fallen but also we see the darker side of the city the outskirts the tourist never see she captures in the bums homeless and chav like kids of the city.

January 27, 2015

Seventy years ago, the red army liberated the Auschwitz concentration camp where Nazis had murdered over one million people : 960,000 Jews, 75,00 Poles, 21,000 Roma, 15,000 Soviets pows, 15,000 Czechs, Slovaks, Germans, Austrians,Ukrainians,French,Yugoslavians.In April 1947, Rudolf Hoss, the commandant of the liberated camp, was sentenced to death amd hanged symbolically in front of the crematorium of Auschwitz 1.

Don’t miss out! A tour of Auschwitz, a two day trip for two, 46% off

The book has facts like these scattered through this one got me with the last line so apt for the modern world !!

This is one of those books that is like a jigsaw we need to be patient as the piece are all mixed up but as you get into the work it starts to build up and the picture is built  that of a city where dreams have been broken and made were the communist ideals have been replaced even Havel dream of post-communist Czech has fallen apart. The brilliance is in the prose that captures both the everyday working of Beta life but also the dream or nightmare way she envisions the world around her as surreal and hyper-real at over time maybe even both at the same time. I was reminded of the grotesque films of Jiri Barta his strange stop motion films like the club of the laid off although set much earlier has the same impending doom as this book has. A fitting tribute a book that deals with both the plight of females and the mental health issues that can cause in modern Czech society from a writer that always addressed feminist issues in her works.

A gothic soul by Jiří Karásek ze Lvovic

 

 

 

A gothic soul by Jiří Karásek ze Lvovic

Czech fiction

Original title – Gotická duše

Translator – Kristen Lodge

Source – review copy

 

I’m your only friend I’m not your only friend But I’m a little glowing friend But really I’m not actually your friend But I am

Blue canary in the outlet by the light switch Who watches over you Make a little birdhouse in your soul Not to put too fine a point on it: Say I’m the only bee in your bonnet Make a little birdhouse in your soul

I have a secret to tell From my electrical well It’s a simple message and I’m leaving out the whistles and bells So the room must listen to me Filibuster vigilantly My name is blue canary One note, spelled L-I-T-E My story’s infinite Like the Longines Symphonette It doesn’t rest

I choose birdhouses in your soul as I used a lightbulb in my review as a metaphor for the narrator .source 

I love it when Twisted spoon bring a new book out as they seem to choose books that firstly would never see light of day in the uk , secondly are important in the context of where they are from . Here again they have published a book from the Czech decadence movement .A counterpart of the French books at the time this book has a much darker feel than the French decandence movement books I have read .Jiří Karásek ze Lvovic was a novelist and critic .He found the modern review a well-known magazine of the time that published the best French and Czech decadent movement writers  .

But he didn’t die

He arose from bed even paler than before . The sound of his voice was more somber . He looked even more terrifying . His eyes now disturbed anyone who looked into them .They lacked luster .They harboured a secret that seemed accusatory , though it could never be expressed in words .

His struggle is beyond words in the world around him .

The book is the story of a nameless narrator and his struggle in the world he is living a world that is caught under an empire that has changed from the world he knew. He wanders the town seeing these changes around him  .As much as it is his story it is also the story of the city he lives in which is Prague the city at night jumps of the pages .He seems to be struggling with life and death as the book goes on the world around him seems to dissolve to the struggle with in him .He is the last of his line losing faith in the world around him .He even goes to churches to try to find solace but struggles too .

He left the church .

Where he wandered after that , he could no longer remember .

Today everything that had occupied his soul back then was revived .He knew he would not be able to escape the dank tomb of the past into which he had descended , to free himself from the enchanted circle of overwrought blood and nerves in which he had unexpectedly become entrapped from this atmosphere could not be approached without incurring punishment .

A torture soul which even the church can’t save .

This is one dark book a man’s soul is on the line and we see how he struggles with it .A way to look at the book is the context of when it was written in 1905 the world has just entered a new century . The Habsburg empire is harked back to a lot the book  this of course in hindsight is showing the first ripples of the start of world war one . The narrators worry about his own world and the city of Prague maybe show the greater picture a world that has grown a modern age the is fast approaching them . This shows how one man gets caught in the world in flux  and like those early lightbulb he is trying to light his night , his dark places  but maybe is about to burn out! .

Have you a favourite book from the decadent movement  ?

 

 

Winstons books some more arrivals at winston towers

Been  while since I did a post of new books coming in so I grabbed a few that have arrived the last week or two .Some new some old friends in the post .

in the night of time

Now this is one I remember coming out in the US over a year ago  Antonio Munoz Molina is one of Spain’s best known writers and In the night of time is his epic . A dark novel that follow one man as he leaves his family and escapes a Spain on the brink of Civil war .It was called a Spanish war and peace in one US review .

My documents by Alejandro Zambra

I have reviewed his novel ways of going home a couple of years ago . Alejandro Zambra is one of the leading voice of Chilean fiction .This is a collection of his short stories from writers trying to stop smoking or call centre worker . All featuring his ironic style .

when the doves disappeared by Sofi oksanen

Another returing writer .Her first novel in English Purge was one of those books in translation that seemed to break out and be read by the more general reading public .Lets hope this tale of Estonia in the world war two and then year after as two relatives try to discover the truth .When the doves disappeared(keep wanting to call it when doves cry lol ) sound even more interesting than Purge to me .

A gothic Soul by Jiri Karasek Ze Lvovic

A gothic soul by Jiri Karasek Ze Lvovic , is the latest and another wonderful little hardback from Twisted spoon press . A gothic soul is the story of one man one city a man struggling with god and his soul as he sees the city through time considered one of the best Czech novels from the decadent movement .A great new read for East European lit month

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 ,

Miruna , a tale by Bogdan Suceavă

Miruna ,a tale

Miruna a tale by Bogdan Suceavă

Romanian fiction

Orginal title Miruna, o poveste,

Translator – Alistair Ian Blyth

Source – review copy

Well I have review a number from the Czech based publisher both review and personnel copy they always choose gems so when this book by Bogdan Suceavă a Romanian writer ,that I had vaguely heard of I thought I give it a whirl especially when it was mention to have a fairy tale element to the story .Bogdan Suceavă is a mathematician he studied at both Bucharest and the Michigan state in the US ,he currently teaches at CSU in California ,he has written number of novels and books of poetry .This book won the Bucharest writers prize when it came out there .

But Grandfather was different from the others .The evening after our parents departed and for the first time we were left in our Grandmother’s care ,I heard him telling Miruna that this was the only place where you could see time passing ,where it was never entirely frozen .

The first meeting with their Grandfather they see how different he is .

Miruna , a tale is the story of a family the two grandchildren and their grandfather ,he tells the two children many stories one of the Miruna absorbs a lot of these stories but also that ability to see things  via her dreams .The grandfather weaves a world around them with the stories he tells them where real and surreal mix ,the stories try to tell the story of the last century in Romania  their great grandfather that went to Greece on a ship ,mainly in the place where they live which is the Carpathian mountains .He shows them how what happened changed the world and also how they can keep themselves tied to their past .So we see the Germans come but also werewolves and giants a sort of folk tales to tell the kids what happened but without letting them see the full horrors by making them seem like fairy tales .It also showed how their village and valley had seen so many changes but also tried it hardest to stay the same .

During the summer hoildays when we were told the story of the journey to Hellas ,Miruna had a fever and her first nightmare ,Our parents were not in Evil Vale at the time when something happened that frightened her .It was that summer we learned that the encrusted face of christ can be seen on a grain of wheat .

Miruna starts seeing things in her dreams .

 

I loved this short book it captured a world that is fast dying and that is the one where kids listen to the grandparents tell them the oral history but also mix in fairy and folk tales .Bogdan in his after word on this book mentions in the first line how much as a youngster he loved the works of Tolkien  ,I could see this as I know the main inspiration for the lord of the rings was the horrors that he had seen during the world war and use it for a cautionary tale .This book shows Romania which when you look at its history over the last hundred years has been at the centre of a lot of turbulent times  so he used similar tools by mix fact and fantasy .Also it showed how some places and people don’t always want the modern world as it is and love to cling to what has been great .If you loved the books of Sjon this is one I’m sure you will love .

Have you  favourite book with fairy tales ?

 

Glorious Nemesis by Ladislav Klima

Glorious Nemesis by Ladislav Klima

Translator Marek Tomin

Czech Fiction

Ladislav Klima grew up in Bohemia in the late part of 1800’s and early part of 1900’s expelled for his views on church and state from his school he lived hand to mouth in the later part of his life making money doing short-term jobssuch as a shoe shiner or in hotels .In fact  most of his work was published after his death at the age of  50 in 1928 from tuberculosis .This is the latest to be brought to english by The czech based publisher Twisted spoon .

When I read the pitch for this book from the publisher ,I knew it would be a book I loved ,as I have  a great fondness for pre world war two central European fiction from likes of Kafka ,Leppin ,Zweig and so on this book falls firmly into this group of writers  where they question life and social standing and what it is to be human .saying that this  is a short novella of a 123 pages and also includes a number of special commissioned Illustrations for the book by the Czech artist Pavel Rut ,the whole book is wonderfully package with a striking cover that uses the virgin mary /two sister motif    .The book is the story of a young man Sider, he is 28 ,and whilst on a holiday in the Tyrol. He comes across two women on a black cliff these are sisters Errata and Orea .The are dressed in red and blue which happens to be the colours of the Virgin Mary ,he falls in love with these women and this sets the scene for the  story ,as he is  always returning to the place where  he saw them  first and he sees echoes of them even after the women have gone and even died .I m remind of other books of the time and think this fits in as we watch Sider descend into madness as he treads a line between the real and unreal ,this book touches many things over its short length philosophy , religion ,love and longing also the Czech tradition of the ordinary turning into the surreal and  absurd as Sider see thinks that aren’t there and meets various people .

Finally ,the older women ‘s eyes regarded him .She said something to her companion .Now their conversation became livelier …. and then the younger of the two looked intently at Sider for a long time ,for an almost indecent length of time .He was the first to avert his eyes .

Sider gets a close look at the women as they descend towards him .

I love the quote from the recently departed Vaclav Havel” Klima almost always shocked ” I can see how Klima has influence figures like Havel and Haki also quote it’s that czech thing of walking the line between the everyday and the unusual  motifs in both writers work ,and how easy it is too become obsessed and then mad because of obsession. As ever another triumph from Twisted spoon as they continue to unearth the hidden gems of central European fiction for us to read in English .This book can easily sit next to a Zweig or Kafka .Here is Complete reviews take on it 

What is your favourite Czech novel ?

 

The New Moscow Philosophy by Vyacheslav Pyetsukh

Source- Review copy

Translator – Krystyna Anna Steiger

Vyacheslav Pyetsuka is a Russian writer ,he is a trained historian ,he taught  russian and world history until the avant grade nature of his fiction lead to him losing his job ,he has since published numerous books in Russia ,and has had a number of his short stories translated ,notably in the new russian writing collection from Penguin .This book came out in Russia in 1989 and is new from Twisted spoon the czech based publisher .

The novel is set over course of a weekend and we follow it from friday to monday as the members of a collective household in Moscow gather and discuss what happened to the old women that had a flat in the building and who will get the space that is now free she isn’t there any more this book has echo’s of crime and punishment by Dostoyevsky ,like that book there is a large cast of people involved in the story telling process fourteen in all .The book is like a russian doll it becomes more and more as we move along we find out that the disappearance of  Alexandra Sergeyevena Pumpianskaya (don’t you just love that name ) may have more too it than first thought ,hence the echo to C&P was this a murder ,well we never know this isn’t a crime book it is a book about russian life ,art and philosophy as the tenants talk we see the previous hundred year of russian life and art mention in snippets .

Though it may seem speculative at first if not futile, investigating the relationship between life and what we call literature would be useful at this point .The relationship in question is extremely abtrusive undertaking, but is tempting  to try nonetheless .First it’s tempting to ascertain to what degree literature is a game and to what a book of fates , a textbook of life .

The opening of the second part “saturday”

Now this book is a must for any Russian lit fan ,as follows of this blog know I m russian lit light my self  but slowly working on this ,so I found this a book that sent me rushing to google at times to find out about this and that as I went a long ,so it gave me more of a passion to discover more russian Literature old and new and any book that makes you do that is always worth picking up .I think the other echo with C&P is the time when C&P was written Russia was a land of uncertain futures and this book in 1989 is the same this is just the time the new age of russia was happening .We also see how important space and station can be in a large city as the people in the building argue over this vacant space .all this and a lengthy discourse between two of them on the nature of what is evil .I must say the translator Krystyna Anna Steiger ,has manage to keep together what is a complex and mutlilayered book ,still hugely readable in English .

Have you a favourite new russian writer ?

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