Last week saw the enthralling three day run of Gondolas, Thunderstorm and Late September read from Cees Nooteboom’s first collection of short stories, The Foxes Come At Night, on BBC Radio 4 Afternoon Reading. All three can still be heard however, Gondolas will only be available until the end of the day and the other two expire tomorrow and on Wednesday respectively.
“Nooteboom is not interested in the contented roundness of a plot, in the rehashing of commonplaces, in facile wordplay. Nooteboom’s stories have a particular brand of form and clarity, demanding our persistent attention, in the sense that Simone Weil meant when she spoke of culture as ‘the development of attention’. Nooteboom forces his readers to reflect on what is being said, and to take up their part in the work: for him, literature is a collaborative effort. The Foxes Come at Night is a full-bodied meditation on the end of things … All the pieces show the author as observer: of landscapes, of the weather, of uneasy human activity, of slow places such as Venice, Minorca and Sardinia, of slow Mediterranean coastlines where history itself is old, of remembered individuals in the flesh and in the insidious memory of photographs.”
“The title alone beguiles, never mind that the author is the Dutch original Cees Nooteboom … This philosophical book characteristically defies the rules and is concerned with variations on the theme of death and dying. But it is not depressing; Nooteboom possesses a wry sensitivity and looks at life with an instinctive jauntiness … A tone of gentle irony ebbs and flows through the work … Nooteboom is a writer who consistently bends fiction into a dense, fluid and innovative discourse. Even at his most profound he retains humour that moves between the deadpan and the discreetly outrageous.”
And Last week’s edition of the TLS featured three MacLehose Press titles, each one as brilliant as the next:
“Composed and connected with an emphasis on theme rather than plot – each one an eddy of memory revolving and rippling with thoughts of past loves and inexorable deaths. There is resistance here to the demands of the short story … little reliance on drama, compression or intensification. Ina Rilke’s translation is nimble and fluid throughout. ”
“The first sentence from Finn’s perspective, is characteristic of a narrative that smoothly blends the ominous and the mundane. Child Wonder is set in a cramped, impoverished, but vigorous working-class community – people on the brink of the big social journey that would turn the Norwegian population into the envied noveau riche of a solid social democratic welfare state … This is also very much a novel about the 1960s … Most of all Child Wonder is an exquisite exploration of childhood, a topic Jacobsen addresses with refreshing unsentimentality: it becomes at once a nightmare and intensely beautiful … What is most moving about Jacobsen’s novel in the end is the sense it gives us of the personal loss that follows in the wake of large-scale economic progress … The effect is a little like Finn’s newly discovered analogy of social injustice, hitting you with the force of a goods train; this is the kind of novel that never leaves you.”
“Purely for its historical coverage, the translation from Yiddish of a rare book-length account of the camp is welcome. But Rajchman’s minimalist stye is also highly effective. He does not adopt the spurious neutrality of pure description, but he does not proffer moral didactics either. Unadorned prose describes the colossal everyday brutality required for the effective running of the machinery of destruction. The relentlessness of murder is replicated in the telling, making this one of the very darkest Holocaust memoirs.”
“The ‘beauty’ in the title of Mr Saviano’s new book refers to everything that stands in opposition to the Camorra. Hence there are essays on the toe-to-toe bravery of boxing’s honorable code, the sacrifices made by soccer players and jazz musicians in the search for excellence and the humanity dredged up by favorite writers like Michael Herr and William T. Vollmann in the most unlikely places. The ‘inferno’ is many things for Mr Saviano, but most of all it is the cooped-up life he has been forced to live, while the members of the Camorra who hounded him into hiding continue to break the law with impunity. It is hard-hitting stuff … Under extreme circumstances writing has become more than just a livelihood for Mr. Saviano; it has become a way of existing.”
“Saviano’s appreciation of Singer suggests that he agrees with Elie Wiesel and Primo Levi, whom he lauds in another essay for being able to forgive humanity for their sufferings, even if they may not have forgiven their main persecutors.”
“The plot is only one aspect of the whole which is skillfully presented. The descriptions of the landscape where the action is placed are vivid and enlightening. The encountering of the animals in the story, especially the dogs, is hugely enjoyable. For those who have not read Larsson before, and indeed for those who may have already had the pleasure, this book is a treat not to be missed.”
“…a slender but powerful premise: it is the story of a son who has to tell his father that the older man is dying … Meanwhile, he is being stalked by a hypochondriac … Tyszka pulls these two strands together well, and tempers the emotionalism of his tale with philosophical contributions.”
The delightful Dizzy C has posted a review of Love Virtually on her blog Dizzy C’s Little Book Blog. She gives Love Virtually 4.5 out of 5 but what’s striking are the comments her review elicits. Looks like we have an extremely keen readership out there, which is immensely encouraging:
“I loved this story right from the outset. I was expecting some narrative but it was necessary and worked very well in email format. I loved the characters and cared about them. I was totally absorbed in their, often stormy, affair. Fantastic read!”
And we end today’s round-up with a look to the future as Front Row reviewer, Jeff Park, informs us that that he intends to include Ashes, the first book in a gritty new crime series set in Athens by Sergios Gakas, in his ‘first in a series’ crime round-up this coming Thursday. Best keep your peepers peeled and your ears tuned for more up-dates during the week.