His name is David by Jan Vantoortelboom

His Name Is David

His name is David by Jan Vantoortelboom

Dutch fiction (Flemish)

original title – Meester Milraillette

Translator  –  Vivien  D Glass

Source – review copy

I was sent this by the dutch based publisher World editions it is their latest novel in English  by Jan Vantoortelboom is a Flemish writer born in Zeeland he still lives in rural Zeeland . he wrote his debut novel in 2011 which won three regional book prizes . This is his  second book won a booksellers book of the month and also Zeeland book of the year and is his first to be translated to English. The book was also on a dutch talk show as one of there book club reads .

The closer we got to the village tof Elverdinge-the tram had just passed the stop of brielen, the village before elverdinge-the edgier I felt. Wheat country, meadows with Islets of daisies and buttercups.Field of maize. Everything slowly drifted past me. occasionally, some boys would leap on the footboard to chug along for a bit before being chased off by the ticket collector.my belly rumbled a mixture of excitement and fear.

David on the tram to his new job is full of joy and fear for what is ahead .

His name is David is the story of a teacher in a small rural school in Flanders which he had been sent to work at by his father. This rural village is a small village that has descend into back biting and hatred . David is a sensitive soul . He wants to try to teach the children that what they see in the elders is wrong he does this by getting them involved in a play about good and evil black and white as he splits the class and shows that life is more than black and white to his pupils . But in doing so he has made enemies but he also made a friend in one of his pupils and has feeling for the boy’s mother. This is all told in flashbacks since the at the start we see David is facing a firing squad and then we also see what made david the way he was his father a handy man pushed his son ti be better but also in a way pushed him away , but that past has one event that colours his life today .

You don’t want to get off on the wrong foot , eh? You’re new to Elverdinge. you need to make friends, not enemies. I hear things about you and they aren’t all good. Don’t look so surprised. You don’t believe me ? You’ve already stepped on the toes of a number of people here. And those fellows don’t forgive and forget. No, schoolmaster. men like them are quick to take offence, and settle their scores in their own time .

david is warned to calm things down in the school as he has upset some folks already in the village

This is a book about morals and good and bad and I think maybe a very Flemish book , I read a piece about this book that mention another Flemish writer who I aim to feature at some point. Stefan Hertmans that says the great problem with world war one is it left Belgiaans questioning their own moral values after the war. This book is a perfect example of those moral issues and also the small mind world they lived in pre war . David is a catalyst for change but he is interrupted by the war that will engulf them all and leave them all change. This is a wonderful insight into a village on the verge of collapse due to it being so wound up in its own world in the verge of the great war.

A dutch pair new arrivals

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This is the first of two Dutch novels to arrive in recent days , I have actually read this one finished it last night it is a tale of one mans story about the first world ar David is a teacher but he has an attraction to a shy pupil that needs a bright world that is what david tries to bring , but the war catches up and as he tries to teach then men un der him about the world and how to read and write he decides to try and escape the horror of the war. This was a big hit in Dutch speaking world it was pick for a dutch talk show as a book club read.

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Then we have a book by a writer I have featured before Otto de kat his man on the move was reviewed here seven years ago. This is story of Emma Verweij she is now 96 and waiting to die and looking back on her life and the war years when her home the house she is in now was stronghold for her friends during the war. As she tries to hide the first husband and the nazis past in Germany. Otto de kat is the pen name of the dutch publisher jan Geurt Gaarlandt he choose the name after a relative also called Otto de kat a successful Dutch painter in his day .

What books have you had arrive ?

Hah by Birgül Oğuz

Hah Birgul Oguz

Hah by Birgül Oğuz

Turkish Fiction

Translators –

Kenneth Dakan, Alexander Dawe, mark Wyers, Alev Ersan, Arzu Akbatur, Abigail Bowman, Feyza Howell, Amy Spangler and kate ferguson.

Original title Haha

Source – Review copy

When this dropped through the letterbox earlier this year, i noted on twitter that it was one of my favourite covers the lonely dog on the cover maybe lets you into more what is on the inside. that is one woman getting to grip with her own fathers death. This collection won the European union prize for literature in 2014 and meant this wonderfully short book could get a wider audience. Birgul lives in Istanbul and has written both fiction and non fiction in her time.

MY MOTHER DIDN’T GIVE BIRTH TO ME. On a whim she left me there under an acacia. And it came to be that I found myself at the foot of Acacia. It rustled and I held on, rustled and I held on. When I was still no larger than a bean I became the dark shadow of that looming tree.

Thank God my mother set me free too soon. I am cool and I am alone. I am the image and the shadow and the oasis to the spirit of the acacia, dripping from its heavy boughs. sentence is anguish to the soul and I never tasted of it. I am solitude. I am that which is distant to the world.

The opening lines of Hah which as I noted has Acacia trees in it as a motif

 

This is one of those books that falls between the lines of what it is a novella in stories, prose pieces or short stories. What we get is abstract poetic stories as one woman struggles to find the way to deal with her father’s death. His past as he grew up in the violent years of Turkish rule in the late 1960’s. There is recurring motifs like acacia trees which crop up in more than one story I feel the wider brim of the acacia is a metaphor for the lost father in a way . Metaphor as well water trickling is like her father’s life as it trickled away from him. A journey through the ways we mourn those closest  to us.We also see the old Turkish life and the modern Turkish world clashing.

She stepped outside. She felt the cold slap her across her face and – clack!- the tongue of the door snapped into place.She hurried down the fig-lined road and , as she turned into Long Meadow Street, shook off three word from the branches of her mind:time, paper, death

The acacia began to sway back and forth with rage of the wind, at its roots lay those three acrid words, fallen like unripe fruit. Then it bent down heavily, as if to unload its entire weight onto that of the morning in an aching march, delivering a clumsy sentence in a voice dark and deep yet vaporous.

Acacia again from one of the last stories but a bent broken tree now .

This is a short work 88 pages long and as I said is hard to pin down thew language is rich and given the fact it was worked on at a ten-day workshop for Turkish literature means you can see how many translators have tighten Birguls words to the beautiful piece we get here. Another triumph for world editions rarely do we see such short works as this translated into English. Birgul uses a variety of styles from poetic prose , to songs  and short stories as she put in her winning speech for the european union Literature prize  she wove these styles together like a cloth. She started writing the book after the loss of her own father. As her way to deal with the rage and loss of her father she also said this in her winning interview. A great new voice from Turkey to read.

Have you a favourite Turkish writer ?

You have me to love by Jaap Robben

Jaap robben

Well the first review of 2016 is one of the last books I read in 2015  Jaap robben first adult novel, he is well-known in Holland for his children’s poems and short stories. There is a video of Jaap talking in English about this book that his uk publishers World editions made, where he talks about what inspired the story. It was two events the first was a story of a father drowning after saving his son from drowning, the son come ashore they turn back only to find the father had now drowned after passing his son to help that appeared. The second is when Jaap was helping at an old people’s home and an old lady said what nice legs he had he said thank and again she said “you’ve lovely legs ” and have you a girlfriend. These two pieces made  the kernel that became the book  you have me to love .

I tried to shine the torch in the direction she was looking. Any second now, Dad would surface, coughing and choking, and here she was, ready to grab hold of him and haul him up onto the beach. Any second now. He would emerge from the water. He had to. Especially now that mum was here. We’d see his head above the waves, like a football floating towards us.” look ! look 0ver there ,” I’d shout, jumping onto mum’s back and catching him in the torch-light .

I was reminded in part with this passage of the Stevie smith poem drowning not waving .

Anyway into the book the book is set on a remote Scottish Island and follows the vents during and after a drowning of a man the man is father to Mikael, he is nine years old and watched his father just disappear in the sea as he tried to get hold of Mikael’s ball. Then there is the widow Dora that is left behind. Also on the island is Karl a fisherman unmarried and Augusta although dead plays a part in this story as Karl had a fling with her then there is the crew of the ship that takes everyone back to the mainland. The story is set in the weeks after the drowning happened when Dora and Mikael struggle with the guilt and also the added isolation this brings them. The second part of the book brings you back to the island a number of years later Karl has moved closer to Dora and Mikael has nearly grown into a man and looks very like his father at the same age.

It’s a little gull. Legs folded. Bones as thin as twigs, barely held together by a film of skin. Both his eyes are missing his skull is an empty walnut shell. His body creaks as I pick him up by the tips of his wings and spread them. Empty. A hollow cage of ribs. it’s as if he shrunk away to nothing so he can ft back into his egg.

It’s my fault. His mother has pecked him to death, and it’s my fault I should have never locked them up.

This one scene maybe echoes Dora’s and Mikael relationship after the father has gone in their isolation.

I leave it there it isn’t hard to put together what might happen later in the book, the video of  Jaap talking about the book reminded me of a scene in a film Smoke where one of the character recounts a story of a father lost in the artic who is found as he was in ice and seen by his son who is now the same age as the father when he died. Well the later part of this book is the mother looking at the son and seeing an echo of his late father. There is another horrific scene where is there is a mother and child Gull that Mikael has in his room were the mother gull kills the baby chick. The beauty of the book is setting it on a small isolated island means the grief and recovery from the grief is twist by the sheer isolation of the place. The book won the Dutch bookseller prize and is currently being made into a film. This was also my favourite cover of last year.

Dutch fiction

Original title – Birk

Translator – David Doherty

 

Winstonsdad’s Books of the year

Well it was a busy reading year if not reviewing year at winstonsdad I managed to read 128 books but as said yesterday managed to review a far fewer books so the ones I have chosen I have reviewed as well barring one .All the books this year are translations I have picked twelve in no particular order .

 

Farewell cowboy by Olja Savicevic – I met Olja this year her book follows a sister return to her home town in former Yugoslavia to find out what happened to him. We see how much the years she was away have effect her hometown and those she left behind.

Bridge over the Drina by Ivo Drina – Yugoslavia again and a vital crossing in the region is used as the cornerstone of a collection of stories through time. I found this was so forward-looking as the simmering undertensions that later erupted into the wars of the Balkans.

 

My documents by Alejandro Zambra – I had read his novels short books that lead me to think he would be a great short story writer. A collection that follows someones first days on a computer to footballing moments remembered from Chile’s past .

What became of the white savage by Francoise Garde – A lost gem of this year this prize winning french novel based on the real life tale of a french sailor who went native in the 18th century after his ship sank .What happens when you return to the world you left behind many years ago.

Street of thieves by Mathias Enard – A boys journey to manhood from Algeria to Europe as we see how he has to change to survive in the modern world .From the buds of the Arab spring to the wilting flowers of life on the streets of Barcelona .

Ventoux by Bert Wagendorp – Four friends go back to the great tour de France climb of Ventoux after twenty years and the loss of a friend on an earlier trip to the region. Funny and dark in places, I can’t wait to see the film of this one.

Fall of man in wimslow  by David Lagercrantz – The death of Alan Turing told by the detective investigating his death. The book before he took on the Milenium series .First of two books I connect with due to location in the top ten.

 

20150828_151617The illogic of Kassel by Enrique Vila- Matas – The story of when Enrique was asked to be an art piece sat in a chinese window in the city of Kassel for the Documenta. A city I spent time in years ago another connection to my own life .

 

The egghead republic by Arno Schimdt – I had long want to try Schimdt and strangely found an edition in my library system as a taster before his huge opus Zettels dreams is due out in English this year .This followed a reports trip to a strangely floating city of scientist .

Tram 83 FINAL FC

Tram 83 by Fiston Mwanza Mujilla – A city told through the eyes of two friends as civil war rages and diamonds, sex , people are sold nightly at the night club Tram 83 .A vibrant trip to Congo DR in a great debut novel .

 

Til kingdom comes by Andrej Nikoladis – I have met Andrej twice now this is the third book from him and also the one that features events of the first day I met him when we saw a man being photograph in Red lion square the home of Istros books. Part of the tale of a man uncovering the truth behind his parents .

 

Oh and the on I haven’t reviewed or finished –

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The epic Zibaldone by Gicamo Leopardi the notebooks of the Italian poet as he takes you through his thoughts of what he reads , thinks and every thing in his life from the origins of myths to Italian .I have been sipping this all year round. I will be reviewing this when I finish this masterpiece just say it is maybe the greatest book of its time.

 

So that is it ask me tomorrow it would be twelve  different books There have been some great  books this year .

 

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