Fernando Contreras Castro: Cierto azul (Blue Note)

The latest addition to my website is Fernando Contreras Castro‘s Cierto azul (Blue Note). This novel is narrated by a cat, but don’t let that put you off. Freddie Freeloader (named after a track on Miles DavisKind of Blue) has a jazz sextet in a San José-like. He finds a blind boy, lost and alone and the sextet adopt him, training him to be more cat-like. However, like Miles Davis, he takes up the trumpet and soon becomes a virtuoso, finding his way as a human, albeit with cat influences. It mixes humour with seriousness, particularly in its devotion to jazz,which comes from the music of slaves and is seen as both a liberating force and a force for love.

Ali Smith: Summer

The latest addition to my website is Ali Smith‘s Summer. This is the final novel in Ali Smith’s Four Seasons tetralogy and is bang up to date with not only references to Brexit but to the Boris Johnson administration, coronavirus, lockdown and the wearing of masks and also George Floyd and Black Lives Matter. We follow several stories, starting with Grace, a former actress who is bringing up two children, an environmentally-conscious sixteen year old girl and a malicious Dominic Cummings-inspired thirteen year old boy. Her ex lives next door with his girlfriend. We follow these and several other stories as Smith looks at the bad (Brexit, coronavirus, detention of immigrants, the breakdown of language, the failure of relationships and environmental irresponsibility) and the good (art, nature, environmental responsibility, community spirit and successful relationships) This is the conclusion of what must be the finest British set of novels of the 21st century.

Rafał Wojasiński: Olanda (Olanda)

The latest addition to my website is Rafał Wojasiński‘s Olanda (Olanda). We follow the stories of a group of mainly elderly people in a fairly remote Polish village. Most of them are fairly lost souls, detached from God and religion and, indeed, often from other people, including their spouse and children, drifting along. If they had a job, it was menial (gravedigger, sump emptier). They tend to be solitary more than lonely, aware of their situation but also more or less unconcerned about their poverty, isolation and impending death. Where they succeed is narrating the world to themselves and they succeed not just for themselves but for us. Each one is an individual and each one is an interesting person, even if not much has happened in their lives. Wojasiński brings out their individual narration to tell a superb story of people who do not. on the face of it, have much of a story to tell.

Filomena Embaló: Tiara

The latest addition to my website is Filomena Embaló‘s Tiara. This is apparently the first novel published by a Guinea-Bissau woman. It tells the story of Tiara, originally from the fictitious country of Porto Belo (presumably based on Guinea-Bissau). Because of a civil war, her family has to flee to Terra Branca (presumably based on Portugal). There she meets Gino and Kenum from Muriti, whose country is still fighting for independence. She will marry Kenum and join him in Muriti in the struggle. During an air raid she loses her baby and can no longer have children, but, after independence she works hard for the country, sometimes conflicting with local customs. e.g. when she opposes female genital mutilation. We follow her life with its many ups and downs, particularly the opposition of her parents-in-law. It is a well-told story of woman who stands up for herself but sadly it has not been translated into any other language. Thanks to Bookshy for bringing this to my attention.

Yun Ko-eun: 밤의 여행자들 (The Disaster Tourist)

The latest addition to my website is Yun Ko-eun‘s 밤의 여행자들 (The Disaster Tourist). Yona works for Jungle, a Korean disaster tourism company. When she has problems at work with her boss, she is sent to evaluate a project in Mui, Vietnam, which seems disappointing. However, on the return journey, she gets separated from her group and only returns to Mui with difficulty. She finds that a mysterious conglomerate is upgrading the project with real disasters and real dead bodies. Gradually, she finds that she is going to be more involved in this project that she expected or wants. Yun Ko-eun tells an excellent story, dealing with issues relevant to today about the needs of the community as a whole versus those who may be suffering.