Category: Women Page 1 of 29

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.

Irina Teodorescu: La Malédiction du bandit moustachu [The Curse of the Moustached Bandit]

The latest addition to my website is Irina Teodorescu‘s La Malédiction du bandit moustachu [The Curse of the Moustached Bandit]. At the beginning of the 20th century, a Robin Hood-type bandit is tricked by Gheorghe Marinescu who manages to steal the bandit’s ill-gotten gains and leaves him to die locked in a cellar. Before he dies he curses the whole family till 2000. We follow the family as mainly the first-born son dies prematurely and other misfortunes befall them. They call on priests and soothsayers to help to no avail. One woman walks to Jerusalem but somewhat spoils it by stealing some gold. She eventually dies like the bandit. But still the curse keeps on working…

Cecilia Stefanescu: Intrarea soarelui (Sun Alley)

The latest addition to my website is Cecilia Stefanescu‘s Intrarea soarelui (Sun Alley). Emi and Sal are twelve year olds. Neither has a sibling. They meet and fall for one another but are, of course, too young to do anything about it. We follow their growing love and passion. However his parents do not approve of her and plan to move away from the area. Sal suggests they run away together. Emi is initially reluctant but agrees. We do not learn till much later in the book how it went. We see them later in life and it would seem that they still love each other but there are still issues that prevent an entirely happy union. It is difficult to explain what a first-class novel this is without giving away too much of the fairly complex plot but Stefanescu really delves into the psychology of Emi and Sal, their relationship and those closest to them.

Ioana Pârvulescu: Viața începe vineri (Life Begins On Friday)

The latest addition to my website is Ioana Pârvulescu‘s Viața începe vineri (Life Begins On Friday). This is an unusual Romanian novel as it is not grim. A coachman in Bucharest in December 1897 finds, separately, two men in the snow. The first, Dan Kretzu/Crețu, is disorientated and, for the course of the book, does not seem to know why he is there and where he is from. The other man has been shot but is still alive, though will die not long afterwards. Chief of Public Security, Costache Boerescu investigates while we follow a host of other characters in Bucharest, some of whom become involved in the plot. Dan gets a job as a journalist, still looking and feeling out of place, Costache uncovers a murky plot, involving lots of people, Iulia Margulis writes her diary, starting on a Friday and worries about her love life and eight-year old Nicu struggles to make a living and look after his mentally ill mother. It is a very enjoyable story, with various plot twists and a vivid portrait of 1897 Bucharest.

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