Solo Dance by Li Kokomi

Solo Dance by Li Kotomi

Taiwanese/Japanese lit

Original title – 独り舞, Hitorimai

Translator – Arthur Reiji Morris

Source – Review copy

Over the years World editions have sent me some wonderful books and this is the latest from them and it is a gem it is written by Li Kotomi a Taiwanese writer that lives in Japan she has written in both her native Mandarin and Japanese which she started to study when she was 15 and went to university in Japan to study and has lived there since this was her debut novel in Japanese . She is known for addressing LGBT issues in her fiction and has won a number of prize last year she was the first writer to win the Akutagawa prize(aOne of the largest Japanese book prizes previous winners include most of the best writers from Japan like Endo and Oe and more recently Sayaka Murata. The main Character in this book is also a Taiwanese woman living in Tokyo.

She was drawn to Danchen the moment she saw those eyes. Though she was to young to understand the meaning of eve in even its most basic sense, she knew that squirming, rolling wave of emotion in her chest was the same one felt between those fairy tale princes and princesses.

She spent her days watching Danchen but never managed to exchange a word with her.

To Young to see what this meant it haunts her still in her twenties this and other events in here years in Taiwan.

Cho has end up living in Japan and working in an Office but this Taiwanese woman has a number of events in her past that we find out as the book unfolds.She is just at them moment trying to blend in as she tries to hide her sexuality at work where the talk is all of marriage and kids, She is a woman that is walking a tightrope and is always looking into the abyss of death as we she what in her previous life made her leave her life in Tawian. To set up a new life in Japan a loss in her past of a girl she loved a girl she never told how she felt. which we see the after math of this event  in the middle of the book where the book shifts from the observance of her life to her inner most thoughts and diary of the time and the event that lead to her going to Japan the loss of a close friend that she was in love with. this and another event which locks her off just as she should bloom as she goes to university This is a book that has many threads office life trying to be yourself in a world where people are expected to conform. A look at grief , mental health and how death can lie round every corner.  It is about trying to escape but do we every really escape what has happened in our Past ?

Her solitary nature made a lot of the fellow students on her course uncomfortable around her. Unlike most of her classmates, she had been studying Japanese since Junior high school and had already progressed to reading a lot of Japanese literature in the original, making her top of the class. This only served to worsen her solitude. Tachung Girl’s Senior High School was prestigious, and so a lot of its students went on to study at National Taiwan University, which meant that news of the assault a few months ago had spread among the students in her degree course.

We what has happened  to Cho sets her apart that event just before University

The turning point as Javier Cercas put in his essay collection The blind spot he says a lot of great books have that point from has with the whale for ahab our waiting for Godot there is that event never seen that is the turning point here it is the death of a girl Danchen the aftermath of which with another even more horrific event  is the whole kernel of the book and how Cho ended up as the Cho we meet. But it is a look at grief unspoken grief. The pressure of hiding ones sexuality and also a novel about growing up it packs a punch in its 250 pages as we wind up this year booker international maybe I have read the first book from next years list ? I was also remind of the main event in this book the loss of the girl she was in love with at a young age is a similar story to that we find in Tarjei Vesaas The ice palace where we see a girl coping with the loss of a friend she was in love with. For me the book is like the Art piece Shedboatshed (where a shed was made into a boat then back to a shed ) The image of a person taken apart as this even has done and then like in the piece sailed across the water and then rebuilt on the other side not quite the shed to was !! this is about how we can never quite come back to what we were when that event happens like the death in this book it is always there ! Have you read this book or any other book set in Japan by a writer not from Japan ?

Winstons score – -A a book that sees how grief and hiding our true selves can eat us up !

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The land of short sentences by Stine Pilgaard

The land of short sentences by Stine Pilgaard

Danish Fiction

Original title – Meter i sekundet

Translator – Hunter Simpson

Source – review copy

I move to Denmark today I’ve had a short break ready to blog a bit more with the booker coming in the next week I will be reading a few more books in the next few weeks. I don’t know about you but Whenever I get sent a book from Denmark I am keen to read it as they always seem to surprise me and this one with its theme of a  couple moving to a small town and not quite fitting in has universal themes add to this the town is like being in wales in a way as they like to sing a lot. This is the third novel from the Danish writer academy graduate Stine Pilgaard, but the first to be translated into English. She is from Aarhus but like the character in this book she has moved to a small rural community in Jutland in Denmark.

The lesson is over abd there’s an awkward silence in the car. Since I passed the written test I’ve been taking so-called experience hours, I go to driving lessons the way other people go golfing. Last week my bank called with concerns about all of the transferrs I’ve been making, referring to them as suspicious. Fifty-eight payments, said the banks repreesentiativem and I could tell that she was wondering if I was the victim of balckmail. Nice, nice says my driving instructorm a friendly man from Sondervig who likes giving high fives. Maybe he’s just jovial by nature, but I have a theory that he was once a professional athlete and now he can’t hsake that habit.

Passages like this made me laugh out loud especially as some that probably had as many lessons when I passed a few years ago my test !!

The book follows a young couple where the husband has got a job to teach adults at a sort of adult school where the students live on the campus so to speak. The headmaster seems to keen to draw her into the school life but she has just given birth and just isn’t clicking with the locals. There is a number of threads going on first is her trying to settle into this new smaller town. One feels this maybe is from the writer’s own experience I know whenever I moved to small towns which are a few times over the years it is hard to get the feel of a place sometimes even in the same country people can be very different !!  Then we see her husband a teacher and how he settles which is much easier than his wife. There is a local tradition of making songs a number of which are in the books a sort of Danish sea shanties. add to this she gets a job as the local agony aunt on the paper but as the letters are sent to her she tends to relate the letters with her own life rather than the actual problems but as the stories cross and her husband and a student grow close is there a hint in the letters she is reading is there maybe a few clues dropped then there is another thread this is one of those books about how human we all are and also how funny the world can be at times.

Dear letterbox

I am a thirty-seven-year-old man who is in treatment to deal with my long battle with alcohol abuse. I grew up in a troubled family. but I’ve finally broken free of the destructive patterns I learned in my childhood. My wife has supported me all the way. and I’m deeply grateful to her, but she can’t understanf the demons that I’m struggling with. My mentor at AA is a middle aged woman who knows exactly what I’m living through. My feelings for her have grown during the process, as have hers for me. I feel like she is my true soulmate tather than my wife, even though my wife has always stood by me.I’m confused and I feel so guilty.

Sincerely

The pattern Breaker

Then we have parts when you want to cry like this early letter to her heartbreaking in a way

As I said in my intro I have enjoyed a lot of the Danish books I have read in recent years. It is a comic work in a number of ways a comedy of manners of being new in a place it has a number of different writing styles from dreamlike chapters realistic, songs and epistolary chunks what is woven is a modern relationship where one partner has taken the other out of there comfort zone and in this case at that hardest of times just after a child so this adds to the distance in the relationship here as both settle in at different paces. then there is the juggling of being a new mother and having a new job on top of being in a strange place where she is struggling to connect with those around her. I felt how real this was at times I remember trying to fit in in my late teens moving from Cheshire to the Northeast and feeling like it was a different world for a time I felt this as for me it was a similar jolt to the narrator as Jutland like the Northeast seems somewhere that has a strong identity that is different to the rest of Denmark. Add to that the struggling to cope with being a new mother we have a novel that has a mix of love falling apart, settling in and trying to fit in all at the same time. This is like one of the couples from friends or something like this life had had a child and settle down it is a sort of spin-off from what was maybe a happy city life for the couple its a next step what happens if the Danish Ross and Rachel had a child and he went to teach in Alaska!  ave you a favourite Danish book or writer ?

 

The High Rise DIver by Julia Von Lucadou

The High Rise DIver by Julia Von Lucadou

German fiction

Original title – Die Hochausasspringerin

Translator – Sharmilaa Cohen

Source – review copy

I take another turn in this year’s German literature month. This time I have a new novel from a debut Novelist Julia Von Lucadou. She was nominated for the swiss book prize for this book. She had been working as an assistant director and editor before writing this novel. There is a sense as I read this that the person who wrote it had an eye for tv or film in the way it read as it paints a very visual world of a horrific near-future dystopic world. The book follows the decision of a HIgh rise diver to stop training.

The most popular internet conspiracy theory about Riva’s resignation is that it has to do with relationship dramam tht Riva left Aaston for someone else and that he’s now forcing her sto stay with him against her will A well-known gossip blog regularly posts drone videos of them in their apartment,alleging violent situations. Analysis has shown that the images are current, but were manipularted after the fact. Fans post comments daily on Riva’s offical website, encouraging her to be brave ad urging the police to arrest Aston. Building security has been reporting break-in attempts by fans trying to “Free” Riva.

A world of twisted videos and threoies of what is happening.

The book follows what happens when Riva who is the High rise diver of the title a superstar of her time in a world where her every move is followed by her fans. This is a world where people don’t always have a birth family that they live with or as it is called here Bio parents. But they are bred from Breeders !  and then raised within organizations. So when Riva goes off the rails stops training and resigns. She needs to be brought back in line we meet Hitomi who has to try and bring Riva back to the High rise diving and training and for the investors to continue to make money from Riva. So the world we enter everyone sees everything as the world is now full of camera that follows people like Riva’s every move as we see Hitomi trying hard to push her back into the high rise dive programme all part of a new culture of celebs that the peripheral as they called follow those born and working for these huge companies. What we see is a woman trying to break free in a world where everyone now has a place in this new disturbing world of children growing up in companies without families in a new horrific world. A world not far moved from our own culture these days of celebs and increasingly intrusive media. will they get Riva Back will Hitomi survive if she doesn’t !!

“The smell of the peripheries always made me nausesous as a child. I would already start to feel sick days before a compulsory casting. During the casting, I had to take medication to avoid vomitinf on stage. The heatm the smog. My skin grayinsh, sickly after just a few hours, I showered several times a day. Andorra made fun of me. She didn’t mind the dirt and the bad air. She was ecited when the next casting approached. She believed in being chosen, in making early breakthrough. I reminded her of the statsitics abd thet we weren’t dependent on being chosen. That our education at the institute separeted us from the unpredictability of a casting jury. But Andorra lost any semblance of being a rational person when it came to our future. When I had long since given on the dream of high rise diving.

The world is set the divides are there from the start in this world !

I don’t read a lot of sci-fi but when I do it would be dystopic works I would pick. Here is a book that has a world that isn’t that far from our own. In Riva her character isn’t far from the character of Syliva in the recent Polish film “Sweat that follows her Online world and the consequences of her growing stardom which saw her have a stalker.  The struggle of having to appear on cam all the time !!. In the other parts of this world, the mega-companies as iot seems is another thing that is with us from Google, Meta, Amazon etc. Then if we look at the work culture of Japan where there is a sense of work for a company singing for them etc. Here is a world where Riva isn’t a person more a product to be marketed and sold as a package to her fans so when this product goes off the rails we see how Hitomi tries various increasingly more pressure on Riva to push her back into place. So if you have like books like Handmaiden tale or Orwellian universes this is a book for you. it follows the modern world of a new sports star and the dark turns and corners of a celeb world. Have you a favourite dystopic world? do you think the worlds media is too intrusive these days?

Winstons score – B A clever take on the world of Celeb and its increasing intrusion and commodifying nature

New Year By Juli Zeh

New Year by Juli Zeh

German Fiction

Original title – Neujahr

Translator – Alta L. Price

Source – Review copy

November is German Lit month and I start with a book I feel a few people will review as it is the latest from bestselling German writer Juli Zeh.A writer that won the German lit prize (the German booker) with her debut novel. She has published a number of novels since then with a number being translated into English. This is the second I  have reviewed Decompression by her in German lit month in 2015. I liked her writing so when this arrived I knew I’d like it and like the earlier book it used a holiday as the catalyst for the story. Juli Zeh is a lawyer and judge. You can see in her writing that she has seen a lot of Human Nature. This book follows a man on holiday over Christmas and New year.

His legs hurt. In back, where there arer muscles one rarely uses with names he’s forgotten, With each piush of the pedal his toes come up against the linings of his shoes – sneakers meant for jogging, not cycling. Henning’s cheap cycling shorts don’t fully protect him from chafing, he has no water and the bike is far to heavy.

But the temperature is almost perfect. The sun hangs white in the sky, but doesn’t burn. If henning were on a lounger sheltered from the wind , he’d be warm. If he were walkingalong the seashore, he’d need a jacket

The opening and he is a typical new years day cyclist ill prepared and unfit !!

Henning is a young man on the cusp of middle age man that has what every man in his position should have a wife two children young 2 and 4 . He and his wife Theresa as they have gone to Lanzarote. But as we see things aren’t that rosy when his wife flirts with another man  The book opens as we see the Christmas period as they celebrate it and Henning looking back we see he has it all but recently has been having panic attacks. These panic attacks have started to affect his job but also his home life as he starts to lash out at those around him more and more and like when we see his wife flirt maybe it could be too late. He can’t quite work out why but as it is now New years day he has decided like most of us do that is to get fitter so as he sets out to cycle up a hill as he does the past comes into his head and this is the second part of the book which sees us going into Hennings his Childhood which has an event that until now was buried this event is maybe what has been causing his stress as dark secrets from his childhood resurfaces, It shows how we can bury the past no matter how dark but then they do rise to the surface in other forms like Panic attacks.

Henning likes making his parent laugh, they like it when he says clever things. Once he saic “the time we have on earth is as tiny as a pebble”. Mama hugged and kissed him and Papa wrote the sentence down and put it on the first page of a photo alim. The bit about the pebble came to Henning because he thinks so much about time, He can’t read a clock yet but often looks at the arrows. Yopu cant see them more, unless you look away and then after a while look back at them, The thing he finds most disturbing about time it that is always goes too fast or too slow. It never seems just right. Henning doesn’t believe time is his friend

I lived this poasage as it seems so true time isn;’t always our friend and especially in Hennings case as time doen’t forget !!

I liked the way she set this book up the first part is Henning in the present but the sense that all isn’t quite right creeps in as we see them on the holiday with their two young children but these panic attacks he has started to lose control of than when he takes that ride we have Henning looking at the past as a child so the narrative has two voice the old Henning and his world now and then him as a young boy as we find what has hidden in the past a sense that is there in the first part of the book then as he cycles he has a Proust like a moment of remembrance and then is in the past. It shows how the past can be hidden and how the darkest moments can’t always be hidden away or forgotten. A journey into a dark past that deals with how the mind works and human nature as I said you can see she has worked with people there is a sense of how the effects of our past are presents which is at the heart of all our lives but when they are dark like these no matter how much we try to avoid it there is always an elephant in the room !! Have you read any books by Juli Zeh

Winstons score – B+ is a solid book about one man’s dark childhood and its effects on the man that was a boy.

Game of the Gods by Paolo Maurensig

Game of the Gods by Paolo Maurensig

Italian fiction

Original title – Il gioco degli dèi

Translator Anne Milano Appel

Source – review copy

Paolo Maurensig first published a book in the sixties but it wasn’t till his second novel the Luneberg Variation that I had reviewed very early on in this blog in fact just over ten years ago. That book came out in 1993 and since then he has written a string of successful novels. That this book like this book revolved around Chess and the world of chess. Because if in fact if there is a master of the novels that involves chess it would be Paolo Maurensig as it says on the front cover he had written four books that had chess involved when he felt drawn to writing this book. The novel is partly based on the real chess player Mir Sultan Khan.

In past years, I had already collected quite a bit of material about Sultan Khan; photos and articles from newspapers dating back to the thirties when he had arrived in Europe in the service of Maharaja Sir Malik Umar Hayat Khan. After four years of successful matches, howeer his career was suddenly interrupted, and once he’d left the circuit of the great international tounaents, he’d been quickly forgotten, No one knew what he might have done in the meantime, and had it not been for the “scandal” related to the legacy of Cecilla Abott, one of the wealthiest women in America.

How did he come to America wjat happened over those years?

The book finds Norman La Motta a writer from the Washington Post that had been sent to cover the growing trouble between India and Pakistan in the mid 1960s. He comes across the old man as he was then Mir Sultan Khan a chess master that had come from Punjab this is the opening into us finding out the life story of Mir Sultan Khan from his humble background as he described how fragile that life was at the edge such as when the Elephants got spooked. He is taught at a very early age the Indian form of Chess Chaturanga from being 9 he eventually comes to the attention of the local Landlord a Maharaja who decides he wants to see if the young boy now becoming a man can play western chess just as well as its Indian counterpart. He is just as good at the other version and this leads the village boy to the heart of Western chess and is brought by the Maharaja to England to beat the best of the western players. but as this is just in the pre-war years he is drawn onto the dark side of world war two where they want to use his mind to build strategies for the war how does he get on how did he end up in the US and how far can he get in the chess world.

That was how I came to move to Delhi, to enter the maharaja’s court as a servant. Going from the humble clay and bamboo hut, where I had lived until then, to the magnificence of his residence seemed like a dream to me. All my miserable clothes were replaced with silks and fabrics ablaze with bright colours. I no longer moved amid the dust and dung of the poor village in which I was born, but in the midst of unimaginable luxury. Sir Umar Khans attendant – genrallyyoung boys from age fifteen up – did not have soecific duties, but had to be able to anticipate his every need and desire: to bring him a thrist-quenching beverage at the right time, arrange a pillow behind his back was comfortable, or cool him with a fan when he appeared to be suffering from the heat

He is let into the Sultans world but with a cost !!

This book like his earlier book is set in the time around the war the earlier book used a game of chess between a younger and older chess master here we see the culture clash of east and west as the situation. It is also a classic tale of someone getting to the top from nothing and also the outsider what Maurensig does is weave those stories together through La Motta meeting and wanting to know the turban-wearing chess master end up in New York but also the journey he had taken from Punjab a lowly stable boy to chess master. The real character was a great player of his time in fact the Elo ranking of him meant he would have beaten most players easily. He was never a master or grandmaster maybe another nod towards the clash of culture and how he was viewed as a lesser player when he came with his Maharaja to play the best of the west but then shock people with his talent. Have you read any of his books ? he had now had a couple of books come out from World editions.

The Last days of Ellis Island by Gaëlle Josse

The Last days of Ellis Island by Gaëlle Josse

French Fiction

Original title – Le dernier gardien d’Ellis Island

Translator – Natasha Leher

Source – review copy

I said I would have a second European literature prize this time we are in France with the French poet  Gaëlle Josse she started as a poet after studying Law, journalism, and psychology. She now works as a website editor. She has set a prize for young writers as well. Then about ten years ago started writing novels she won prizes with her first three novels. Then got this here fourth novel on the European literature prize list. This book started with the writer visiting the museum of immigration which is on the site of Ellis Island where she saw the history and came up with using some of the people’s stories she read whilst at the Museum.

Liz was my guiding light. Nothing triumphant or blinding like the light that is brandished for all eternity by Lady Liberty. My poor Liz, the very idea would have made me smile. No, she was mellow, constant, serene. We were married only a few years. Too little time, but is the intensity of an experience measured by its duration? The interminable pace of my life today has no significance for me anymore. I get up, work, go to bed and wrangle with the memories I have tried to build walls to keep out. I barely manage, and anyway it will all come to an endone day or another ?

Liz haunts him through out the book.

The book has John Mitchell as the main character in the novel. He has worked over 45 years as an officer of the Bureau of Immigration as the last gatekeeper of Ellis Island he has stayed on the island doing his job as in 1954 the Island is due to close he has carried on working there til the end even thou his colleagues had moved on and the stream of people was a trickle now. Whilst he works we get to look into the mind of John as he recalls the events and people that had passed through Ellis Island over his time there from when it was used a lot when there was a number of Steerage Passengers the sort of lower-class citizens in search of a better life or those needing to escape Europe. This sees us learn of his short marriage to Liz who passed away of Typhus from someone that arrived in the US. but he had a short foray with a Sardina girl Nella and even though it was thirty years earlier it seems to have affected him all the way through it. Memories of those he met during his time are told in brief from A couple from Hungary with communist sympathies elsewhere there is Italian anarchist maybe a warning of the future when McCarthy and even in the 20s the red scare and the tightening of the immigration laws in the late 1920’s which slowed the people through Ellis Island. A look into the last days of somewhere that was the start for so many dreams and Nightmares of what could be the American dream.

From my vantage point on Ellis Island, I observed the continuing existence pof America. The city so neqar, so far way. For me, the island had become an outpost, a watchtower or rampart, with me standing sentinl against invasion.

The activity of the station was in inexorable decline. Today I am the captain of a phantom ship that has been abandoned to its ghosts. Like the ghost of Nella, who arrived on board the cursed Cincinati on April 23, 1923, and still clamors for justice today.

His other ghost Nella arrived in the hieght of the arrivals on the Island.

 

I enjoyed this it is a book of memories but also felt as thou it caught the mood in some ways Ellis Island saw so many lives come through it over the years and we get a lot of brief glimpses here and there is a touch of melancholy over the tales and John himself the one event whilst he was married haunted him a ghost of a woman from Sardina he fell for and a wife that died too early. As we see him over the last eight days of the Island as we read his personal journal. Those years after Liz’s death John was there his job was his life and although we only see a few lives here it is the ones that touched him the most during his time on the island. As the Pogues said in there song pogues thousand are sailing” The island is silent now and but the ghost still haunt the waves and the torch lights up a famished man ” A tale of one man life as the gatekeeper of the US during the first half of the 20th century caught here.

The Bitch by Pilar Quintana

The Bitch by Pilar Quintana

Colombian Fiction

Original tile – La Perra

Translator – Lisa Dillman

Source – review copy

Here I have a crossover of Spanish lit month and women in translation month by another of those that were selected a few years ago for the Bogota 39 list of writers at the hay festival. Which for me has always been a list that has produced some of the best books I have read over the period of this blog. She has published four novels this is her latest and won a big prize in Columbia where it was described as “above all, the great economy and literary quality of the prose; its ability to display extraordinary oppression amid great openness and geographic immensity. by fellow writer Alonso Cueto who’s a Blue hour, I loved so this is praise indeed. 

The syringe didn’t work, Damaris’s arm was strong, but clumsy, and her fingers as fat as the rest of her. Every time she pressed the plunger, it wnet all the way down and the little squirt of milk shot out the dog’s mouth and dribbled everywhere. Since the puppy didn’t yet know how to lick, she couldn’t put milk in a bowl for her, and the only baby bottles they sold in town were for humans- to big, Don Jaim suggest an eyedropper and Damaris gave it a go, but of she had to feed her drop by drop, the dog would never fill her belly. Then Damaris thought of soaking bread in milk and letting the puppy suck at it. That turned out to be the solution: she devoured the whole thing.

Mothering this small pup from milk to solid food in the end Damaris did it all with the pup.

The bitch is set in a small village on the very edge of the village and follows Damaris and her husband Rogelio he is a fisherman. We open with a description of the dogs they had own which has a brutal scene of a tail infected with maggots being cut with a machete this is a brutal intro to a hard world of fishermen and there within a remote village on the edge of the Jungle, we are told early on that Mobiles hadn’t quite reached them there in this small corner of Columbia. So when Damaris has the chance to have a female pup as a new dog after another dog had been poisoned something that has been happening a lot locally. She mothers this pup moving to another room at night so she can tend to her pups needs. Even carrying the small puppy in her bra keeping her close. But the pup grows into a semi-wild dog and ends up wandering into the jungle and comes back wound and is nursed back to health in a mother like way by Damaris but then she has pups and is a bad mother to her pups what is Damaris to do with this dog she doted on but has changed so much her biological is ticking down the pup was her child as her family observes she is all dried up at her age.

When she got home, Damaris was as happy to see the dog as the dog was her. and she petted her for a long time and only stopped after looking down at her hands and seeing they were covered with filth. She decided to give her a bath. The sun was till beating down and Damaris need to rinse the heat and sweat od her walk she bathed the pup in the washtub using the blue laundry soap and brush, much to the displeasure of the little dog, who hated water and lowered her head and hid her tail.

Another  bit of mothering but you see the dog reaction isn’t one of a dog settled as we later see!!

This is an interesting study of a wife and husband that have reached that point in their relationship. where they haven’t had children but Damaris seems to have a maternal gap that is filled when she has the pup at varu=ious times it is pointed out to her husband how she is mothering this pup and not spending time with him. Then there is the dog a bad mother and a wild spirit tempt to the jungle but not wanting to be tied down cared for but not broken to being a pet dog no this has a feral spirit. Never named but there is a vision of a standard street dog you see on many films in Latin America other dogs they had have been described as a lab bulldog style cross so a real old fashion Heinz 57 dogs. This is a fast-paced book that I read in one sitting. A  read with just  150 pages it has ups and downs and opens a small village up and the hard people that live with not much other than there dogs that others in the village will poison for various reasons. A good choice for both lit months.

Welcome to America by Linda Boström Knausgård

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome to America by Linda Boström Knausgård

Swedish fiction

Original title – Välkommen til Amerika

Translator – Martin Aitken

Source – review copy

I featured this on my woman in translation month covers post it is the second novel by the Swedish novelist Linda Bostrom Knaugard is the ex-wife of the Norwegian writer Karl Ove and her mother was a well known Swedish actress. She has written three novels her first glimpse of fame was a dark collection of short stories called Grand Mal.  She has bipolar which was part of a Swedish documentary about her life living with it. She has also written a daily column for a regional Swedish newspaper.

He was dead. All at once, great spaces opened inside me. Spaces the silence filed, An immense calm came over me in the beginning, and the sense that this what had always been missing.

I never let on to anyone about me, god, and my dad. That knowledge was something I had to bear myself

What else did my thought say? They lurked and pounced on me. The were noisy, and I batted the air with my hab=nds, the way you do to swat a fly

This shows how she reacted to her fathers death and the thoughts about him.

Welcome top America has a young narrator called Ellen. Her family is a strange collection her brother is barricaded in his room and is using bottles to urinate in. Her mother is an actress she is also the rock of the family and is acting as thou every in the family is normal. She struggles with her daughters silence and what she says. Ellen is under the belief she has killed her father. The father is mentally ill and he has been institutionalized and has terrorized the family for. years but he has died and the past is shown in Ellen remember how he was with them,. Ellen has stopped talking what we have is her internal monologue on those around her family of light as she says about her family this comes from her mother. Our narrator often wished her father died for the way he had made the family feel so when she prayed for him to die in a fire and that happens it sends her into a mute spiral of guilt.

Before, I would often go with my mum to the theatre. I don’t do that anymore, I hear her go lout and come back The last time I saw her perform she was a fallen statu of liberty wishing the immigrants welcome to America. She was bald, with a shard of mirror stuck on her brow. She’d lost her torch. I loved it. The way they’d made her up. The way she shone and shone on the stage. Welcome to america, Welcom to America

I felt the urge to write those exact words in my notebook. But I stopped myself. You’ve got to be strict. You can’t just follow the impulses that criss-cross the mind in their little tunnels of light.I could see my thoughts.They were everywhere

The lines she quotes are mixed up later with an image of her father saying them as well.

This is a short dark powerful book the paperback is 122 pages but or huge text and well-spaced out so is more of a novella than a novel. It shows the exploding from the child’s view when one has an abusive parent from isolation to silence in the two children and in a way with the in denial it has effect everyone. Ellen is a stark narrator she has captured that child-like view of the world very black and white and how the guilt of prayer for what would be a new life without her father there has cost her the voice and made her withdraw. The mother keeps them together but is also in denial about what happened the title is a reference to the fact she is in a play about the Statue of Liberty and this is maybe a nod to what it says on the statue “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” Tis is just what this family need the light of liberty and the healing of liberty ! A powerful work this is like a mini-series taken down to a great trailer it seems more than it parts.

 

30 covers for #WITMONTH Linda Karl Ove’s ex

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I enter the last part of this year women in translation month. I have chosen a different cover than I had this dropped through my door the other day is the second novel from Linda Boström Knausgård, she is the former wife of Karl Ove. I had picked the first novel by her for today a my cover as I have enjoyed a number of books from world edition over the last few years they are the English arm of the Dutch publisher De Geus. This book follows a family in America told from the child’s point of view as the family falls apart.

The Storyteller by Pierre Jarawan

The storyteller by Pierre Jarawan

German/Lebanese fiction

Original title – Am Ende bleiben die Zedern

Translators – Sinead Crowe & Rachel McNicholl

Source – review copy

I have joined the Blog tour for this Novel as I loved the sound of it and I have reviewed a lot of books from World editions and am pleased to have another title from them to review. This book from the German Lebanese writer Pierre Jarawan who’s parents like his characters fled Lebanon when he was three years old and settled in German His father was Lebanese and his mother is German. He started out doing poetry slams and this was a play that later he expands out into a novel. It has since been translated into Dutch where it was also a big seller.

Meanwhile, history was being made in Lebanon. Beirut, once a dazzling beauty, rubbed its disfigured face and staggered out of the ruins. A city felt for its pulse. In neighbourhoods, people thumped the dust out of their clothes and wearily raised theirheads. Thge war was over, militiamen became citzens again, laying down their guns and taking uop shovels instead. Bullet holes were filled in. Facades painted, burned-out-cars removed from the pavements. Rubbkle cleareed away, the smoke disperser. The huge sheets hanging in the streets were takendown, as there were no longer any snipers whose view needed to be blocked. woman and children swept debrisoff balconies and removed borads from windows, while fathers carried mattresses back up to bedrooms from cellars thatr had served as bunkers.In short, the lebanon did what they’ve always dfone: they carried on

The country awakes from the turmoil of the civil war that tore it apart and ripped the heart out of the land.

This is a classic story that of a son going in search of a lost father. Samir decides he wants to find his long-lost father. He leaves the safety of his life in German. He has an old photo of his dad and the stories he remembered his father told him when he was a little boy that painted a vivid picture of Lebanon his father lived in. He tries to find out what happens to his father as he tries to find out what happens the characters from his father’s stories become real people as he finds out what happened when his father returns after twenty years he slowly builds a picture of his family and what happened to them. The father Brahim disappeared when he was eight and he told one last story and left. He returned to his homeland. The son has held his lost father close for all those years as he retraces his father’s steps after all those years you see in the past and the events in war-torn Beirut when his father had when he returned. The past and present grow close but will they ever meet again?

Father was quick to realise how important it was to learn German. After fleeing burning Berut in spring of 1983, the first refuge myu parents found in Germany was the secondary school’s sports hall in our town. The school hall in our town, The school had been shut down the previous year when routine inspections during the summer holidays had revealed excessive levels of asbestos in the air. But there were no other options, so the sports hall ended up asa refugee reception centre. Fathersoon managed to get hold of books so that he could teach himself this foreign language. At night, while others around him slept wrapped in blankets on the floor, he clickedon a ;ocket torch and studied German

His father got to German and quickly learned german as the slept in a codemened school hall.

This is a tale that has been told a number of times of over then years. A son on the hunt for a lost father or even parent for me the recent film Lion is a similar story top this a young boy loses his family and goes home all he has like Samir is the slimmest of memories about his father the old photo and his stories for Samir and in the film Lion it is the lie of the land around his home and the fact it was a train ride away from where Saroo end up in the book and film. This builds a picture of their parent’s bit by bit and this is the case here we see that Brahim stories had those friends and families around him as he told his baby son those bedtime stories but also planting a love for his homeland and also maybe like a magician weave a magical past and also leave a trail of breadcrumbs that his son follows twenty years later. Here are the other blogs on the tour

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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