Month: May 2021 Page 1 of 2

Ta-wei Chi: 膜 (Membranes)

The latest addition to my website is Ta-wei Chi‘s 膜 (Membranes). This novel is a queer transgender climate-change Taiwanese novel set in the twenty-second century. Everyone now lives under the sea because of climate change. We follow the story of Momo, the top skincare specialist in T City. Momo lives a solitary life, seeing only her clients and giving them a membrane which she can, with a scanner, determine what they have been doing. She had a serious operation when she was seven – she was in hospital for three years – as a result of which she lost both her friend Andy (who we know to have been a cyborg) and also her penis (all is later explained). Since then she has fallen out with her mother, a successful publisher, and they have had no contact for twenty years. Now as she approaches thirty, mother reappears and Momo is determined to find out what happened. She and we are in for a shock. This is an excellent novel, dealing with Momo’s mental state, new technology and Momo’s mental state as well as climate change and the major plot twist.

Lana Bastašić: Uhvati zeca (Catch the Rabbit)

The latest addition to my website is Lana Bastašić‘s Uhvati zeca (Catch the Rabbit). Sara is a Bosnian woman who has been living for some time in Dublin with her Irish boyfriend. One day, out of the blue, she gets a call from Lejla, her childhood friend, with whom she has had no contact for twelve years. Lejla wants her to drive her from Mostar (in Bosnia) to Vienna. Sara declines still she learns that Arnim is there. Arnim is Lejla’s brother who disappeared many years ago. The story revolves around both their drive but also their earlier life as friends. Lejla is a larger-than-life character, very much her own girl and then her own woman. Sara admires her, looks up to her but is afraid of her and feels threatened by her. Their relationship is very up and down and, indeed, when they reunite for the drive to Vienna, there is a lot of quarrelling. What makes this book is both the colourful relationship between the two but also the character of Lejla, a woman who carries her own story.

Sonallah Ibrahim: االلجن وردة (Warda)

The latest addition to my website is Sonallah Ibrahim‘s االلجن وردة (Warda). This tells the story of Rushdy, a left-wing Egyptian, who has spent time in prison for his political activities. When younger he had met and fallen for Shahla. She and her brother went off to Oman to fight in the Dhofar Rebellion, and Shahla, taking the name Warda (meaning Rose), leads a guerilla troop. Rushdy, visiting, some thirty years later, a cousin who is living in Oman, is determined to track down Warda who seems to have disappeared. He gradually gets hold of her diaries and we follow her troop and her views on the left-wing political events of the day, with Warda and her comrades convinced that the triumphant march forward will bring liberation for the Arab peoples. Meanwhile Rushdy is finding contemporary(i.e. 1992) politics are more complicated than he realised as he travels round Oman looking for Warda. Lost love meets politics in a fine novel.

Yassin Adnan: ت ماروك (Hot Maroc)

The latest addition to my website is assin Adnan‘s ت ماروك (Hot Maroc). Our hero is Rahhal Laâouina, a young Moroccan man, who is not very heroic. He is not very bright, devious, weak, cowardly but has a low cunning. His family has always had bad luck. He is thrown out of university for failing but manages to get back in by political means. He studies Arabic literature and for his thesis teams up with Hassaniya, a traditional Muslim, far brighter than Rahhul. She has a ready made job in a school when she graduates and simply needs a ready-made husband and Rahhul, to his and our surprise, gets the job. Hassaniya’s employer opens a cybercafé for him and soon he is in his element, particularly having multiple online identities when he comments on the Hot Maroc news website. He soon makes an (anonymous) name for himself, damns his various enemies but is coopted by the police to follow the party line. But despite his devious behaviour, as the narrator tells us, Rahhul’s life is elsewhere but he does not know where. We follow elections, a fatwa, public health, feminism, pornography, marital (in)fidelity, apostasy and a host of other issues as Morocco goes fully online and Rahhul struggles to keep up.

Mieko Kawakami: ヘヴン (Heaven)

The latest addition to my website is Mieko Kawakami‘s ヘヴン (Heaven). This story is about bullying but it is no Tom Brown’s School Days. Our unnamed narrator is a fourteen year old boy at the start of the novel. He has a lazy eye, is not particularly bright and not good at sports. He is frequently and viciously bullied by a group of boys, led by a boy who is taller, athletic, very bright and very popular. One day he starts receiving anonymous notes and, eventually, an invitation to meet. Fearing the worst, he goes but finds Kojima, a fellow pupil, who is bullied because she is often scruffy. The two become close, but not too close, allies in their victimhood. However, both Kojima and one of the bullies, whom our narrator challenges, give an unconventional view of he bullying. Kojima sees it primarily as a way to bring the two together and feels they are morally stronger than the bullies. However it is does not end well… Kawakami gives a first-class story with an unconventional look at bullying.

Faysal Khartash: دوار الموت ما بين حلب والرقة (Roundabout of Death)

The latest addition to my website is Faysal Khartash‘s دوار الموت ما بين حلب والرقة (Roundabout of Death). The novel is set in the worst part of the Battle of Aleppo in 2012. Our hero, Jumaa, an Arabic teacher, his family and frirneds are trying to survive the horrors of thew war, which include regular bombs and missiles from Russian planes, sniper fire, lack of food, water and electricity, arbitrary arrests and tortures and the inability to move easily around because of damage, roadblock, sniper fire and the Russian plane attacks. But Jumaa is not going to let it get him down. He is going to sit in his favourite café with his friends, in the main square, probably safe as it is under regime control and when it is no longer safe – it gets bombed – they just move to another café. His poor mother suffers – her house is bombed – and his wife is particularly upset when their son is arrested. While Jamma is very concerned for his mother, his wife and their son, he is determined not to let it get him down too much, even when he goes to Raqqa, under the control of the Islamic State.

Mitja Čander: Slepec (Blind Man)

The latest addition to my website is Mitja Čander‘s Slepec (Blind Man). Our hero is not blind but, because of a defect at birth, has very poor sight. He works as a book editor and sticks to the areas he knows but is suddenly asked to speak for a new political party and then offered a ministerial post which he accepts. It does not work out well as his poor sight is a hindrance and there is, as in many political systems, more bullshit than practical actions. He quits only to propose a programme called Slovenia 2100 about what Slovenia should look like in the future. He is made head of the project and the bullshit gets worse. Meanwhile his wife has just had their first baby and is feeling neglected. While a satire on political shenanigans, it is made more interesting by seeing it from the perspective of an almost bind man, whose actual and metaphorical vision cause him all sorts of problems.

Choi Jin-young : 해가 지는 곳으로 (To the Warm Horizon)

The latest addition to my website is Choi Jin-young‘s 해가 지는 곳으로 (To the Warm Horizon). This is the first full-blown pandemic novel I have read since covid but do not let that put you off as it is very good novel, first published in 2017. We follow a major pandemic – people often die within an hour of contracting it – and its effect on a few groups of people. In all cases the people flee Korea and end up in Russia, not entirely sure of where they are going but just going. It soon becomes apparent that the biggest problem is not the pandemic but the behaviour of people, men in particular, as brutal violence, rape and random killings are the norm, even by men who would have behaved responsibly pre-pandemic. Indeed, the only love that seems to work is romantic love, not involving men.

Lize Spit: Melting

I read and reviewed Lize Spit/‘s The Melting four years ago (in German). It has since been translated into various languages but will be appearing in English – finally! – this week. I can highly recommend it.

Raül Garrigasait: Els estranys (The Others)

The latest addition to my website is Raül Garrigasait‘s Els estranys (The Others). The narrator is to translate the memoirs of Felix Lichnowsky, a Prussian army officer who fought in the Carlist wars in the mid nineteenth century. In his research, he come across the papers of Rudolf von Wielemann who was also there. Von Wielemann is an indolent Prussian who is sent by his father to Spain to help the Carlists and prove himself but when he gets there,he finds there is no role for him. He is left in Solsona when the army retreats and we follow both his stay in the battered but more or less deserted city as well as the comments on the situation by the narrator and his friend. In particular we see the conflict between Prussian order and Catalan disorder. Garrigasait uses a judicious mix of ribald humour and serious discussion to produce a first-class story.

Page 1 of 2

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén