Category: Women Page 1 of 29

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.

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.

Maria Stepanova: Памяти памяти (In Memory of Memory)

The latest addition to my website is Maria Stepanova‘s Памяти памяти (In Memory of Memory). This is a superb documentary novel, narrated by the author but written, in some respects, like a novel. She deals with the many aspects of memory, the past and history as well as delving into her own past and the past of her family, a family which, she admits, is not terribly interesting. Indeed, she quotes Anna Akhmatova who says that the histories of other peoples families, like others people’s dreams and fornication, are boring. However, as she is a good story-teller, her stories are interesting though what makes this book so worthwhile is the examination of the many aspects of memory, history and the past, quoting numerous authors, both the obvious and less obvious ones. For her it has been a life work – she started work on the book when she was still a child – and it has taken many years of research and detailed thought to produce what is clearly a first-class work.

Ivana Bodrožić: Rupa (We Trade Our Night for Someone Else’s Day)

The latest addition to my website is Ivana Bodrožić‘s Rupa (We Trade Our Night for Someone Else’s Day). It is set in an unnamed city but clearly the Croatian town of Vukovar, Bodrožić’s home town. Nora is a journalist who really wants to investigate the local corruption but that story goes to a man while she has to interview a teacher whose schoolboy lover killed her husband. She is also interested in what happened to her father, apparently murdered in the Balkan War. We follow her as she investigates all three stories, including the corruption in high places, while we also follow a host of crimes – corruption, blackmail, violence and murder. No-one comes out well from this story and quite a few people die violent deaths as Bodrožić shows us that Vukovar has a huge and unpleasant legacy from the Balkan War.

Eva Baltasar: Permagel (Permafrost)

The latest addition to my website is Eva Baltasar‘s Permagel (Permafrost). This novel is based on Baltasar being told by her therapist to write about her life, which she did, while adding quite a bit of colour to her real life. Our narrator is a lesbian, passionate about sex (but less so about life), suicidal, obsessed with reading, though ultimately quite lazy about her non-reading and non-sex life, concerned about her body and bodily functions and a good sister and aunt. We follow her excesses both in her waking and sleeping hours and her struggles to determine who she is and where she is going when she is not reading or having mad passionate sex. There no easy answers and that is what makes this book a fascinating read, as we we follow her struggles with life.

Danielle Mémoire: Lecture publique suivie d’un débat (Public Reading Followed by Discussion)

The latest addition to my website is Danielle Mémoire‘s Lecture publique suivie d’un débat (Public Reading Followed by Discussion). Last year John O’Brien, visionary founder of the Dalkey Archive Press sadly died after an illness. The Press was taken over by Deep vellum, with Will Evans as CEO and Chad Post of Open Letter Books as editorial consultant. This book shows that Dalkey Archive, one of the most essential publishers of translated literature, is back with a bang.

This book is very much in the Dalkey experimental literature mode. As the title tells us an author is to give a public reading of a work-in-progress, followed by a discussion with an audience. It is not as simple as that. The author does not have a work-in-progress so he improvises. The improvisation is going to involve a story about an author giving a public reading to an audience. Gradually, we see that the boundaries between author, characters and reader are breaking down as the audience become, in part, both characters and author. Other aspects change as we see the author has a dog. Or two dogs. Or three dogs. His name changes. His cat, which may or may not be lost, changes name and colour. He may be the author but there may be multiple authors, the author may be his brother or it may be a woman. The text changes. The story changes. As one audience member comments, it may be bullshit but it may also be a changing perception of reality. I am going for the latter interpretation as I found the book both very funny but also a serious and fascinating account of literary boundaries.

Sahar Khalifeh : الأول : رواية (My First and Only Love)

The latest addition to my website is Sahar Khalifeh ‘s الأول : رواية (My First and Only Love). Our heroine is Nidal. The novel starts during the 1936–1939 Arab revolt in Palestine when the Jews are taking Palestinian land with the aid of the British who had the mandate over Palestine. Some of Nidal’s relatives are part of the armed resistance. She meets Rabie, barely older than her, and falls in love with him. They meet a few times but Rabie is involved in the fighting. After the Nakba, many Palestinians move abroad. Nidal becomes a successful artist and has various relationships and marriages but has now (2000) moved back to the abandoned family home in Nablus on her own. One day she receives a visit from an elderly man whom she fails to recognise. It is Rabie who had emigrated to Canada and become a successful businessman but is now a widower. While spending a few nights in her house because of an Israeli blockade, he discovers Nidal’s Uncle Amin’s journal and learns a lot about her family, including her mother. But will the couple get back together? Khalifeh tells a superb story about love gained and lost during a period of war and oppression.

Pola Oloixarac: Mona (Mona)

The latest addition to my website is Pola Oloixarac‘s Mona (Mona). Our heroine/narrator is Mona Tarrile-Byrne, a Peruvian writer. Her first novel was well received and helped get her onto a doctoral programme at Stanford. Her second novel and, indeed,her personal life are not going so well. She has been nominated to receive the prestigious Basske-Wortz Prize, a Swedish prize. All fourteen nominees are invited to Sweden for a conference, with the prize presented at the end. The conference involves sex, food and saunas but also discussions on a host of topics, giving Oloixarac opportunity to mock various literary ideas (the stereotypical Latin American, the pathetic pervert Frenchman) as well as various serious topics (the multinational viewpoint, death, computers to write novels in the future) and ending with an important topic – violence to women. It is another superb and original novel from Oloixarac.

Omaima Al-Khamis: رواية مسرى الغرانيق في مدن العقيق (The Book Smuggler)

The latest addition to my website is Omaima Al-Khamis:‘s رواية مسرى الغرانيق في مدن العقيق (The Book Smuggler). This is a superb book set in the Islamic world of the early eleventh century. Our hero/narrator is Mazid al-Hanafi, and he is very keen on book learning. He comes from the desert region of Al-Yamama and moves to Baghdad, where there are religious and political disputes. He just wants to study but gets involved with a group called the Voyagers, who try to disseminate worthy books throughout the Islamic world. These books are often considered heretical and include translations of Greek books as as well as Islamic works. We follow Mazid travels through the Islamic world – Jerusalem, Cairo and ending up in Cordoba – and the many problems he has, including religious, political and even romantic as he tries to get the books to the right people without being caught by the wrong people. It is a wonderful tale, full of colour, adventures and religious and political ideas, and the first book on my site by Saudi woman.

Isabel Bogdan: Der Pfau (The Peacock)

The latest addition to my website is Isabel Bogdan‘s Der Pfau (The Peacock). This novel gives the impression of being written by a Scottish or English writer, being set entirely in the Highlands of Scotland and featuring primarily Scottish and English characters. Lord and Lady McIntosh rent out holiday cottages on their estate and are planning, for the first time, to rent out the West Wing to a group of bankers (with their own cook and psychologist) who are coming for a team-building exercise. They are worried about their peacock which attacks anything blue and has attacked the car of a guest, causing damage. When the laird sees that the banker boss’s car has been attacked, he shoots the peacock and conceals it under leaves. However, the bankers’ boss’s dog discovers it and the boss thinks her dog has killed it. She instructs one of her staff to get rid of it. The cook volunteers to cook it, pretending it is pheasant and then, later a goose. She finds gunshot in it so now everybody has different ideas on the fate of the peacock. Throw in the bankers’ not entirely successful team-building exercise and a snowstorm and things get messy. It is a very enjoyable book but also a serious discussion of how we can have different perceptions of the same event.

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