Month: December 2018

Edward Upward: The Rotten Elements

The latest addition to my website is Edward Upward‘s The Rotten Elements, the second in his Spiral Ascent Trilogy, about communism in Britain in the middle of the last century. This one follows several years after the first one and starts some time after World War II. Alan and Elsie Sebrill are married with two children and committed members of the Communist Party. However, they feel that the British party is moving away from true Leninist doctrine – the need for a violent revolution to overthrow capitalism and imperialism and not compromising with social democrat parties (i.e. the governing Labour Party in Britain) – and they raise this quite vocally. Not surprisingly, they are met with considerable opposition and things do not go well for them in the Party. The book does get into what might seem to us areas of arcane doctrinal differences but it still remains a worthwhile novel and is an interesting read.

César Aira: El pequeño monje budista (The Little Buddhist Monk)

The latest addition to my website is César Aira‘s El pequeño monje budista (The Little Buddhist Monk). This, as is usual with Aira, starts off reasonably conventionally and then gradually gets stranger and stranger. The eponymous very little monk is Korean and longs to go abroad but, as a mendicant monk, cannot afford to do so. He meets a French tourist couple – he photographs culturally charged spaces – and, as he speaks fluent French, offers to take them to a temple off the beaten track. Things start getting peculiar on the train journey, with passengers continually pulling the communication cord. At the temple the sun disappears, the light plays tricks (as do the monks) and we learn that our monk may not be human and we may be in a parallel world. Or we may not. It is great fun, as usual but you really won’t be entirely clear about what is happening and why.

Dubravka Ugrešić: Muzej bezuvjetne predaje (The Museum of Unconditional Surrender)

The latest addition to my website is Dubravka Ugrešić‘s Muzej bezuvjetne predaje (The Museum of Unconditional Surrender). This is another first-class novel from Ugrešić about her favourite topics: exile, the break-up of Yugoslavia and its consequences, her mother, a sense of community with other Slavs, language and memories. We get a lot of stories, in particular about her mother, herself an exile (from Bulgaria) but also about friends, fellow exiles, artists and herself. As she tells us at the beginning of the novel, the novel might appear bitty but it all joins together if you stick with it. We follow her wanderings, her meetings with writers and artists and what it means to lose your country and getting lost in another one.

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