Moderato Cantabile by Marguerite Duras

Moderato Cantabile by Marguerite Duras

French fiction

Origin title – Moderato Cantabile

Translator – Richard Seaver

Source – personal copy

I picked this up earlier this year with Woman in translation month in mind and it is strange as the book I reviewed yesterday had slight echoes to Duras Lovers as it is set in Vietnam and had a man from Vietnam of Chinese descent at its heart.(I have reviewed lovers a long time ago and another from her a few years ago). So this is my third book from Duras and this is the earliest book from her. I have read the one that put her in the spotlight as a writer when it came out and sold half a million copies. Duras was born in Vietnam or as it was then French Indo-china she lived there most of her early life eventually studying in Paris and living in France during the war where her husband end up a t Buchenwald she nurse him back to life after the war she was part of the Nouveau Roman moment this book was made into a film.

The growing clamor of voices of both sexes rose from the dock. Everyone seemed to be saying the
same thing, but it was impossible to distinguish the words. The sonatina went innocently along, but this time, in the middle of it, the lady could take no more.
“Stop.”
The child stopped. The lady turned to Anne Des-baresdes. “I’m sure something serious has happened.” They all went to the window. To their left, some twenty yards from the building, a crowd had already gathered on the dock in front of the café door. From the neighbouring streets people were running up to join the crowd. Everyone was looking into the café.
“I’m afraid this part of town.” the lady said. She turned and took the boy’s arm.”Start again,one last time, where you left off.”
“What’s happened?”

The event happened during the Child’s lesson.

The book follows Anna she is the wife of a factory owner the book opens as she is at a piano lesson hence the title of the book when the piano teacher asks her child what Moderato Cantabile means`( he is referred to as just the child) as the lesson happens the attention is drawn outside the lesson to a cafe just by them it seems as they something is happening as they stare on the cafe the police come. It turns out there has a murder opposite a lover has killed the woman he was in love with. Well Anna is drawn in so next time she goes she visited the cafe where she saw the action last piano lesson what follows is her revisit the cafe where she meets a worker from her Husband’s business and pumps him for info of what had happened her imaging why it happened the day it happened as he Chauvin fills in the gaps of what happened. As the two are in the cafe on a Friday as the child has lessons. she starts to see this new man in her child at points saying he has similar eyes. This meeting is repeated this describes their lives this is a book where nothing but everything happens if that makes sense most of the book is about the same meeting at the cafe over a number of weeks.

The patronne picked up her red sweater, and didn’t answer. Another tugboat, loaded to the gunwales, entered the port. The child shouted something unintelligible. The man came over to Anne Desbaresdes. “Won’t you sit down?” he said. She followed him without a word. As she knitted,
the patronne followed the tugboat’s every manoeuvre. It was obvious that in her opinion things were taking an unfortunate turn.The patronne picked up her red sweater, and didn’t answer. Another tugboat, loaded to the gunwales, entered the port. The child shouted something unin-
telligible. The man came over to Anne Desbaresdes.
“Won’t you sit down?” he said.
She followed him without a word. As she knitted, the patronne followed the tugboat’s every manoeuvre. It was obvious that in her opinion things were taking
an unfortunate turn.

Red is a recurring motif in the book.

This is one pop those books that subtly hits you as a reader it is about the memory of a place in a way I can see this influence on other French writers including one of my favourites Modiano it is a book heavy on the sense of place. But with a lot of imagination to events by them both that for me in a way mirrors British books around this time I think the relationship between Anna and Chauvin is similar to those of certain books like Billy liar the relationship between Billy and Liz the way the real and imagined events blend or ike in a taste of honey where imagination and reality clash. It is a connection between class also that feeling of her as a repressed wife meeting this rougher man and making a connection. The book is as short as Peirene would call a movie book a book read in a couple of hours falls into that category. It was made into a film but it isn’t online to stream I hope to catch it one day as it is meant to be a French classic film. This is my favourite of the three I have read as it is one of those books that you think is easy but then days later are still making connections and going oh there was this and that there in this book. Have you read this or any books by her ? have you a favourite?

Chinatown by Thuan

Chinatown by Thuan

Vietnamese fiction

Original title – Chinatown

Translator – Nguyễn An Lý

Source – subscription edition

I now move to a book from Vietnam that in some ways seems to mirror part of the own writer’s life. She grew up in North Vietnam where she grew up with a love of Vietnamese literature and the greats of French literature like Balzac, Hugo and Flaubert. Then she got the chance to study in Russia which expand her reading more. Then lead to her moving to France to live Paris. This is the latest from my Tilted axis subscription and as they did so well last year in the booker international prize I decided this year `I would get to the books when they arrived and this was a perch choice for this month as it is from a female writer from Vietnam and also it is the first book from Vietnam I will have reviewed on the blog.

During my ten years at school, I came to understand that the pig brains for which my father queued from morning till afternoon were not a reward for my ten in literature, but to guarantee that I
would bring home another ten, in history or military exercises. That was why his pig brains needed no dill, pepper, or MSG, and no attempt to enliven their presentation. Even now I can still see
them, aluminum bowls in the steaming rice pot, and taste the metallic tang of blood which no amount of salt could mask, and which I always had to down in one gulp. I didn’t care for steamed
pig brains, I had no disease to be cured by them, but every other day I closed my eyes and my nostrils and downed them in one, because they were most nutritious, especially for the brain, and
most of all for a child’s. It was my duty to turn catjang soup and steamed pig brains into tens and praise

This is an evocative passage that caught me when I was reading.

The book has a framing device and that is the narrator is waiting on a platform on the metro for a train when a package is discovered and the police are coming to have a look at what it is. Our narrator is caught in her thoughts and this takes us through her life from her early years in Vietnam but then we see how she met the man she would marry Thuy a Chinese man from Vietnam this is set as there is a war between the two countries and she meets him in class this leads to trouble;e with her family the book isn’t linear more it is wonderfully evocative as it seems like how we would remember love or the way you look back on a past love that one Thuy reminds me of an earlier girlfriend I had for a number of years and lived with that first big love and that when I look back event aren’t in a linear narrative more it jumps at times and her it is similar we see how they meet then spend time apart. but then meet and married and it showed how hard this was at the time in Vietnam which it is the 80s there is a huge Chinese feeling in the country and this is one of the things that highlights the deep divide in the two cultures at the time as the two falls in love and the knock out effect on the tow na their families then we find her later in France and how she andThuy drifted apart and eventually she hadn’t seen him in years. Add to this is her studying in the Soviet Union at this time and then moving to France this is a globetrotting book.

 

my Sino-Vietnamese wedding that actually took place, they opted not to attend. Neither did Thuy’s parents. The day went by in a flurry. The only guests were my few friends from
Leningrad. They came with their children. Their children born in the USSR, who’d had just a taste of butter and milk before boarding the plane to the homeland. The wedding was their first time
meeting Thuy. They asked me in Russian, so this is your architect beau. He didn’t understand. He just smiled awkwardly. He stood there embarrassed. Then they asked him, in Vietnamese, where are
you working, which office, which department. This time he was even more embarrassed. His smile grew fixed.

Another about getting married.

Thuran is a translator and a huge fan of French literature and I can see part of some of my favourite writers for me it has a pick off Modiano (maybe cause been talking about him a bit recently ) there is a flip in the sex of the character usually it is a male character in his book looking back on memories here Madame Au is looking back on her love the bare bones of the story is similar to the writer’s life but she then said in an interview she hadn’t wanted to duo memoir this is deeper more mediative around love across a divide exile and looking back at times that love affair. I was reminded in a small way of the English patient the love affair in that novel se t against war and Ondaatje is another writer heavy on memory, love, war and division. The book is dense in it style but worth the effort and is a great book from a new writer. It has part of the new novel movement, Proust and a love story all in one. Have you a favourite book from Vietnam ?(I had a nam le on my shelves but want something translated as my first book from Vietnam ) . My third book of this month and the first new country for a while on the blog.

Winstons score – B is a solid book from a new voice her first book to be translated into English she has more so hopefully we will get more from her.

Thread ripper by Amalie Smith

Thread Ripper by Amalie Smith

Danish fiction

Original title – Thread ripper

Translator – Jennifer Russell

Source – personal copy

The last couple of years there has been books from the publisher Lolli editions on the Booker international longlist so I decided rather than wait I would get their latest and this is it. By Danish writer Amalie Smith, she is a graduate of the danish academy of creative writing. and has got a three-year grant to write. This is her second novel to be published in English. I have really enjoyed all the books in the last few years I have read from Denmark they always seem to take a fresh angle on writing styles. So when I read up on this apart from its eye-catching cover with a small picture of Ada Lovelace (someone who does feature in the book) it has a lot of narrative threads to the book. So will it be their book for Next year’s International Booker?

PART 1
THE WAVERING PENELOPE
While Odysseus is away on his long journey, Penelope weaves. Her loom, I imagine, stands by the window. On the road, outside stand her 108 suitors. Penelope leans out. ‘Suitors,’ she says, ‘let us make an agreement. I am weaving a burial shroud for my father-in-law, Laertes. Not until I have finished this shroud will I remarry.

The suitors accept and retreat from her window. Penelope continues her work at the loom. During the day, she stands by the window – weaving as agreed but at night she returns and unravels the days work.

The opening and we see Penelope waiting for her husband’s return and holding off suitors by needlework.

The book has a number of threads the main storyline follows a woman in the present that is working on a big commission to weave a tapestry. Then the narrative then rips apart as we get various threads of thought and as we go from Penelope wife of Odysseus as she is working on her tapestry waiting for the return of Odysseus we are never told what she was working on her loom. it also looks at computers using Ada Lovelace the mother of computing programming as a sort of thread to tie it to. Threads like the moth that originated the term Computer bug which in the late forties was an actual bug, not a programming bug like now but an actual moth. The term had been used earlier but this was the use that came to be used in modern-day stems. Then it threads around invasive plant species like a Japanese bamboo All these treads like the main character working her complex tapestry weave into a work that is unique work.

I select a combination of wool, silk and acrylic fibres in ten colours and, by programming a variety of
satin weaves on the loom, the colours are mixed to create 42 different shades that appear in a gradient at the bottom of each woven swatch. The fibres are dyed using plants and chemicals I’m not familiar with. We continuously adjust the colour scale, either by switching out the fibres or altering the weaves on the computer.

Neural networks see with the eyes of the paranoiac: there are faces concealed in flowers and flowers in faces. Everything is a sign. Space and scale collapse.
Details come flooding in the nuances, in the gradual
transitions.

The loom’s algorithms, on the other hand, are never in doubt: the weft goes either over or under the
warp, never through. How to transfer the images generated by the neural network to the loom?

In the present the complex nature of her commission is shown here.

As I have come to expect this is a complex and compelling work from Lolli edition the books that have made the booker prize the last couple of years have been the ones on the list that have challenged me most as a reader and this is a perfect example it hard not to compare it the tapestry that forms the main character in a way in the book as the threads from programming a complex tapestry in the present to Penelope working and weaving a. shroud as suitors await as she waited Odysseus return. Then the thread around computers Lovelace a female history of computing I love this as I knew about Lovelace but some of the other historic events like the origin of the term Computer bug I wasn’t aware of how the term had come about. This is a fragmented work that weaves a line through tapestry and computing the automation of weaving and how women have been involved over time. I hope this makes next year’s booker as it is a unique work one I won’t forget quickly and will be rereading as it grabbed me so much the first time around. Have you a favourite book from Lolli edtions? Have you a favourite book from Denmark?

Winston’s score – +A is an unusual book mixing the past and present and history.

Mona by Pola Oloixarao

Mona by Pola Oloixarac

Argentine fiction

Original title -Mona

Translator – Adam Morris

Source – Personal copy

So I start this year’s Woman in translation month with a talented Latin American writer. That I have also been featured on this blog before on the blog. when I reviewed Dark constellations by Pola Oloixarac a couple of years ago. She was one of the hugely talented writers that were picked in the Granta list of young Spanish writers in 2010 (is it that long ago, so many great writers have come from that list. This is the third novel she has also written for the New York Times and Rolling stone in the past. Last year she won a writers award at the Hay festival. This satire on being a writer but also an insight into the Lit world in its way as we follow Mona as she heads to Sweden to see if she has won a prize. She is also a female writer of colour so she is something of a novelty at times when she arrives in a small village in Sweden.

TWO hundred thousand euros, thirteen finalists, one winner. Hailing from all four corners of the earth, the finalists convened for the Great Meeting: Sweden’s most prestigious literary festival, held to commemorate the legacy of Edmond Virgil Basske-Wortz, Alfred Nobel’s best friend. And if she won? She’d ditch Stanford for good and make straight for the jungle, penetrating deep into
the forest until she lost herself in the wetlands of the Brazilian Pantanal. If you moved to the Pantanal, you could survive on a hundred dollars a year and then use the rest of the money
treating all the infections and diseases you’d contract. You could easily spend the remainder of your life in the jungle–because you wouldn’t last long! Great idea! Silenced on her phone, Antonio’s voice prattled on in her head. Airplane mode was ideal for guys like him, the ones who felt the need to comment incessantly on her life.

The prize as she heads on the plane to see if she wins.

I said this has a twin storyline(it is more looking back at why she has certain marks on her body) it has in the fact that along the way events in Mona’s life are mentioned, we meet her as she like me prepares for a flight (I am not a fan of flying I don’t drink of taking drugs but can connect with how you may want too) she sits by the window. But hey has she a newish Peruvian writer been put up for this prestigious writing prize in Sweden the most important writers prize? The Basske-worth prize is somewhere between the booker and Nobel and she is heading to see if she has won. Where when she arrives she mixes with the other writers that are up for the prize. I did wonder whom she had based these characters on, I think most successful writers go around the world meeting fellow writers and I imagine this has a little of some of the people she had met over time. They are mainly mentioned as where they come from. alongside this, we have Mona looking at herself and some off the marks we see on her body and the violence connected with them. Also, Mona is a woman that likes sex from masturbating on the plane to cam sex and other things that litter the book.

That night, Mona dreamed of a black body of water ascending from the lake, carrying with it a silent cargo of dead animals drowned by the tide. The dark liquid entered through the keyhole and took her by surprise in bed as it spread across the floor. The chair clattered against the desk,knocked into it by the current. The windows were open. Something was watching her from outside, panting. Better not to scream, she thought, or the hungry beast prowling around out there will come in and find me. She woke up shaking, drenched in sweat.

A wonderful description of a nightmare that Mona had

The book is an insight into the fickle world of books and how it is sometimes who you are more than what you write that makes the judges pick you. Mona is an example of this world. But as we follow here down the rabbit hole of being involved in a prize and the writers there. I love to know which writers she has based the cast of characters we meet in the book ( who are they in real life), I laughed as some who have been to a few prize ceremonies over the years weren’t like this was Wirth the backstabbing but it is interesting meeting writers in a more social setting like the old IFFP  were I could share a cigarette( shows you how long ago it was I haven’t smoked for a number of years) with a number of writers that were up for the prize it was great meeting writers like this in a relaxed event. But for a big prize like this one, it must be hard I look at the old booker videos and wonder if the writers are more competitive. Also the loneliness of being a writer. Also, the very go round of ego and prizes. This is a book that is different to the other book by her I had read by her which shows she is a writer that is developing I will be reading her next book for sure. Have you read her?

Winstons score – A – lifting the veil on literary prizes alongside sex and violence from the main character.

30 covers for #WITMONTH Simone Weil

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I pick an older book but an important one Simone Weil was a writer that sadly died too young the philosopher and mystic was one of the leading left-leaning thinkers of her day I have dipped into this collection she spent time as a worker in a factory to understand the working people. Camus called her the “the only great spirit of times”

Women in translation Month a sneak peek at what I’m doing

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Now here is the first pic of five books that have already been read ready for Women in translation month . This selection includes the much talked about The vegetarian bu HanKang , a trio of interlinking stories from Korea . Then we get two new to english writers from France Emilie de Turckheim book Heloise is bald , about a girl growing up in love with the doctor that was at her birth .Then there is  by Helle Helle book this should be written in the present tense follows a student falling of the rails in great detail .The we have the second book by Finnish writer Sofi Oksanen a story of two lives during world war two . Then there is Lenora a sort of bridge between my Spanish lit month and next months Women in translation by Meytal from Biblibio  as it is a spanish translation the story of Lenora Carrington the English surrealist painter that lived in Mexico by Elena Poniatowska . So they are in the pipeline read and ready to go next month . I now have a few possible books no firm plans yet but as I am in a purple patch of reading an blogging I can’t see why I cannot read another five books next month .

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A selection of woman writers from my shelves some of these and maybe a few others will be joining the first five books two writers I want to add are Faiza Guene one brightest french talents and also Maguerite Yourcenar one best women writers in French in the 20th century . I also have not pictured a second book by Clarice lispector that Amanda brought me . As I looked today through my shelves I was surprised how many books by woman in translation I had (There is at least another 20 plus books on my shelves ) .I felt I didn’t take the first women in translation to serious as for me it is a case of  subdividing a topic of more books in English in translation to a smaller topic of women in translation to my mind getting more books translated will lead to more female writers being translated as we only translate 4% of the total books published we maybe need get the figure up as a whole . But this year I want to join in more as they are all books in translation and that is all this blog is doing these days .I look forward to seeing what others review this month , what have you in mind ?

 

 

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