Archive for August, 2011

Book 805 Jo Jung-rae – The Taebek Mountains

August 28, 2011

Unfortunately this ten volume work has not been translated into English- A pity. Sometimes I wish that the compilers  would be a bit more careful when listing books.

Book 806 Victor Paskov – A Ballad for Georg Henig

August 28, 2011

 

First of all, I read the English translation of this novel but I couldn’t find a decent pic of it. Secondly Paskov is my first Bulgarian author and a good introduction it is too!

The narrator is a small boy who lives in a flat , where the Czech emigrant Georg Henig lives, tutoring people on how to play the violin. He also makes them.

The narrator’s family live in poverty and so do all the other tenants, However his mother wants the narrator’s father to build a sideboard for her. This was considered a status symbol in 50’s Bulgaria. Grudgingly the father builds one and the only workplace he can find is at Georg Henig’s  so they move there and a friendship begins.

Throughout this brief novel we get a lot of humorous anecdotes about Bulgarian society and all through the eyes of a child. By the end of the novel Henig is too old and is shipped to an old age home. However he has one last project and that is to build a violin for God.

The book itself is a critical look at human behaviour but it also works as a criticism of how time passes. It’s a sweet little novel and despite the so so translation, it is definitely worth seeking out as it is (undeservingly) out of print

Book 807 V.S. Naipaul – The Enigma of Arrival

August 26, 2011

 

Back in the early 00’s I had read two V.S. Naipaul books ; A House for Mr. Biswas – which is brilliant and A Bend in the River – which I enjoyed. It is a pity that I didn’t really like ‘The Enigma of Arrival’

The book itself is a semi autobiographical account of the author’s experiences in England, in both the city and country. As Naipaul is a fine writer, there are tons of evocative descriptions.

However what was needed was humour.

Now Naipaul can be funny – … Biswas is a fine comedy of manners so if there’s a right person to talk about people’s quirks it’s definitely Naipaul but he just dedicates pages to descriptions and barely anything else. now and then there are parts dedicated to eccentric characters but he renders these specimens to dull descriptions. By the end of the book I was a little tired of being bombarded by lengthy passages on how to mow a lawn.

A disappointing read!

 

 

 

Book 808 T.C. Boyle – World’s End

August 23, 2011

The first T.C. Boyle I read was The Tortilla Curtain and that was back in 2001. I enjoyed it and was looking forward to this one.

After a slow start I began to get into the groove of the novel and I just finished reading the last hundred pages this evening.

Basically the story is about ancestors and their modern-day counterparts and how things do not change. Also here history repeats itself.

‘World’s End’ opens up with Walter Van Brunt losing his foot. Later on we find out that his ancestors settled in The Hudson Valley in the 17th century and were cursed. As Walter starts to discover that his family (including himself) were a bunch of  dishonest cheaters, he does nothing but resign to his fate. Also the ruling family in the 17th century were the Van Warts, who also dominate Walter and his family. By the end of the novel past, present and future are all entwined and each character succumbs to the same destiny that befell them three hundred years ago.

 

At times the novel reminded me of a more intelligent version of  ‘The Crow’s Road’ However Boyle’s writing style, at least in this book, reminded me of a more digestible Pynchon. But on the whole I liked but you do need a bit of time to get used to it.

 

 

Book 809 Patrick Suskind – The Pigeon

August 10, 2011

 

I read ‘The Pigeon’ back in 1999 . The sole reason why I picked up the book is because I detest the said bird of the title. It turns out that it’s a book I related to ( I immediately read Perfume after but that’s another blog post).

Jonathan Noel is a very routinely person. Every morning he gets up and then heads of to his job as a security guard for a bank. However one day he sees a pigeon in his appartement corridor and his life turns upside down.

Noel starts to question his existence, job, surroundings and his sordid past, where his wife left him. Although he is depicted as a simpleton he does get quite philosophical , the high point being a tramp defecating in front of him. As Noel finishes his shift and plans his future the pigeon disappears and life goes back to normal.

‘The Pigeon’ is a very witty look at the human psyche and how inner chaos can be caused by one chance event. The character of Jonathan Noel is excellent as his worldview is warped and humourous.  When I read this novella, I was working a very dull 9 to 5 job and  so I could definitely agree with Noel’s philosophies.

It’s funny that The Pigeon is overshadowed by Perfume as I think it’s equally great. Anyone out there agree with this?

Book 810 Isabel Allende – Of Love and Shadows

August 10, 2011

 

 

The first Allende that I read was The House of Spirits, which I disliked. Mainly because I thought that there were way too many allusions to Garcia Marquez. In fact I didn’t even managed to finish the book as I got bored halfway ( I’ll be re-reading it as it’s on the 1001 list) Luckily enough ‘Of Love and Shadows’ was a different reading experience.

The novel has got two major themes ; Love and Politics and both are entwined. It’s about a blossoming romance between a photographer from a middle class background (Francisco) and a bohemian rich girl (Irene). In between this love there’s the disappearance of a girl and both are lead characters think that she is a victim of political/military brutality so they go on a quest to find her.

For some weird reason the adventure part reminded me of a more sadistic Famous Five adventure. I couldn’t help rooting for both Francisco and Irene eventually their discoveries force the lovers to evacuate their homeland.

Under this adventurous/romantic core lies a very shocking depiction of Pinochet’s government (Allende’s family was a victim of political crimes as well). One that is highly corrupt and will stop at nothing in order to achieve results. It’s also an immensely enjoyable read and very well translated.

Hopefully I’ll feel the same way about The House of Spirits!

Book 811 Toni Morrison – Beloved

August 2, 2011

 

Toni Morrison is an author that I’ve always wanted to read, although a lot of people have told me that her books are tough slogs. To be honest Beloved was frustrating in places but I definitely will not call it difficult reading. I can now see why she is so revered and studied.

Beloved takes place in the mid 18oo’s ,  and the novel opens up with Seethe and her daughter, Denver alone in house 124, which haunted by Seethe’s dead child.  After a bit Paul D comes over to visit. We sort of find out that both Seethe and Paul were on the same plantation, called Sweet Home. Together they share memories of their slave ridden past. In order to wipe out bad memories, Paul takes Seethe and Denver to a carnival.

When they all return, they find a girl (called Beloved) Denver’s age on a stump and Seethe adopts her, thinking that she’s the ghost of her dead daughter. Again more memories of the past start cropping up and the two start to form a bond. Eventually we find out that Beloved’s intentions get out of hand, which leads to an almighty climax.

‘Beloved’ is about suffering and the after effects of slavery. It also questions the notion of freedom, as although none of the characters in the book are slaves, they are enslaved by the past. Morrison is not a straightforward author. She likes to be vague about certain aspects of the book so she leaves some double ended questions and nothing is chronological. True a lot of authors do this but she will just chuck in a paragraph out of the blue, which ties up some loose ends but is a bit disconcerting at first. When I got used to her technique reading ‘Beloved’ was completely satisfying and I guess a unique experience.