Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Asleep by Banana Yoshimoto

"Asleep" by Banana Yoshimoto (translated from the Japanese by Michael Emmerich)

Asleep is a collection of three stories: Night and Night's Travellers, Love Songs, Asleep. 
All three deal with bereavement and the feelings of drifting in and out of consciousness it brings, finding oneself in a state of not quite being awake. 

All characters have lost a person very dear to them. They try to help each other to bear the pain in superbly gentle, silent & tender ways. Each character is in a state of trance or haze and their dreams are a means through which their consciousness tries to reach out beyond the pain, and to return to a sense of normality, wounded but at peace and in acceptance of the blows of fate.

Night and Night's travellers, Shibami has lost a brother, Mari has lost the love of her life. It is through a dream that Mari will sense a truth and perhaps a way beyond bereavement.

Love Songs, Fumi's friend comes to her in a dream, it will offer her a way toward peace.

Asleep, the narrator slowly falls into a state of unconsciousness after the death of her best friend. A warning & help come to her in a dream. Will she listen or is it too late?

As in Kitchen, Yoshimoto explores the aftermath of death, loss and the state of bereavement. Her exploration of the function of dreams, of being stuck in between​ two worlds are the themes I love so much in Haruki Murakami. .

Yoshimoto is a wonderful author. I wish I could read her in the original Japanese. Asleep is a 4/5 for me ūüėá

Saturday, 14 January 2017

England Made Me by Graham Greene

I've just finished England Made Me by Graham Greene and am so shaken by it.

It was a strange read, and reminded me of The Evenings by Gerard Reve in that it built a formidable tension in a seemingly static setting.

England made me is introspective, slow in action although I now know it was a false sense of slowness, Greene had caught me so intensely into the internal dialogues & tragedies of each character that I failed to hear the ticking of fate's clock. So when the clock did strike, I was caught totally unawares, and as in life, with hindsight I can see that Greene had given all the clues. Not one of this novel's character was flat or neglected, each was beautifully studied, particularly the relationship that binds twins, whether they like it or not. .

If you prefer action packed and fast-paced stories you might feel a little impatient with this story but if you can handle slow for 200 pages, then a deeply affecting novel awaits.

Warning: if like me the weather in novels really affects you, be warned that this story in set in Sweden under the rain, so prepare a hot water bottle & a blanket.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

The Curious Incident of the dog in the night-time by Mark Haddon

Thanks to a strike today, I read Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the dog in the night-time in one day, in strange & successive sittings (at home waiting for the tube, at the tube station, in the interrupted tube, in the bus, in the second bus because the first bus cancelled stations due to the strike, in the third bus and finally in front of a strong coffee!)

And what a fresh, surprising & serious read it was.

The story is told by 15 year-old Christopher who has Asperger's syndrome. After Christopher finds Wellington the dog murdered, he decides to find the killer. He writes a book of his investigation keeping a record of clues & events to solve the case as if it were a mathematical formulae. Christopher is so logical and truthful that he will find coping with the secrets & lies he will unearth a thorough challenge. .

This novel is a tribute to those who think differently but who are not different than anyone else.

I did find the maths style a little trying towards the end. But that maybe because I'm rubbish at maths & was getting frustrated with the commute situation. A wonderful, inspiring read.

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Black Water Lilies by Michel Bussi


Black Water Lilies by Michel Bussi translated from the French by Shaun Whiteside.

This #crimenovel is set in France in Giverny, the village in which Claude Monet painted until his last. The crime is linked to this part of the village's history & it was the main reason why I picked it up. 
But! O' the disappointment... I can't remember when I read a #detective fiction driven by what I'd qualify as the most idiotic and cowardly inspector there is in the history of my reading, and the novel is not even a comedy.
The story can be divided into 3 parts:
1- a very good, somewhat gripping first half if you excuse the caricatural charmer & thoroughly lazy main character, Inspector Sérénac.
2- an abysmally constructed and nonsensical turn into the events that will lead to the resolution of the mystery.
3- the truth revealed which is actually very good but has nothing to do with the first half.

It's not easy to play with time lines in a story, to go back & forth in time, and be there-and-not at the same time. This is why this novel ended up such a mess, this is a case of "Inception" gone wrong.

I am ranting but I did enjoy the first half, I wish someone would pick it & write the end, and that someone else would write the beginning of that very interesting last part. Two novels in one, none completed.

Monday, 12 December 2016

"Bled" by Tierno Monenembo

"Bled", le nouveau roman de l'écrivain Tierno Monénembo est paru en octobre aux éditions Seuil.
Tierno Monénembo, né en Guinée en 1947, a enseigné en Algérie de 1979 à 1983 et c'est au bled que son imaginaire le ramène, et nous invite dans cette nouvelle fiction située dans les années 80, narrée par une femme, Zoubida.
Le roman s'ouvre sur une jeune fille de A√Įn Guesma qui s'enfuit pour √©chapper √† une foule qui veut la lyncher. Son crime ? Etre tomb√©e enceinte hors mariage et avoir gard√© l'enfant. Un enfant ill√©gitime chez les Mesbahi, « le troisi√®me en mille ans. »
Zoubida sait ce qu'elle risque en partant seule, sans parents et sans argent. Peu importe le cout, elle veut garder son enfant.
Des ann√©es apr√®s les √©v√©nements qui vont suivre sa fuite faite d'auto-stops, de voyages clandestins en bus, √† dos d'√Ęne et en voiture vol√©e, et ses nombreux p√©riples, comme avoir √©t√© retenue prisonni√®re dans la maison close tenue par Mounir, c'est √† Alfred qu'elle adresse maintenant ses pens√©es.
Alfred Bamikil√©, futur enseignant d'√©ducation physique √† A√Įn Guesma, un homme doux et plein d'humour venu du Cameroun, devenu ami de son p√®re, √©tait loin de se douter qu'en √©chouant presque mourant en plein hiver sur les terres de papa Hassan et maman Asma, il allait mettre en marche les roues d'un destin que Zoubida √©tait loin d'envisager.
C'est par le biais d'Alfred que Zoubida va rencontrer Lo√Įc, son amant qu'elle d√©crit comme √©tant marqu√© par la poisse propre √† A√Įn Guesma.
Au fil des √©preuves, c'est la prison et un grand amour qui lib√©reront la narratrice car « l'univers est une chambre de prison, c'est le livre qui en d√©tient la cl√© ».
Bled n'est pas une tragédie, bien que les faits et le vécu de la narratrice et celui des nombreux personnages qu'elle va rencontrer, hommes et femmes confondus, aurait pu faire glisser une grande partie de ce roman dans cette catégorie.
Bled, raconté avec recul et sans amertume, est construit sur une conviction fondamentale, celle qu'un bout de vie est une forme d'espoir étincelante et dont on peut tous s'inspirer.
A travers ce Bled', Mon√©nembo explore des g√©ographies renvers√©es. Le corps est un lieu, les territoires ne sont que des espaces de transits. Quant √† l'Alg√©rie, elle est « un boubou d'√©pines. Tu le portes, il te pique, tu l'enl√®ves, tu es nu. »
"Bled" de Tierno Monénembo, éditions Seuil, octobre 2016, pp. 199.
NB: Mes remerciements aux éditions Seuil pour la copie presse de ce roman.
Article initially published on HuffPost Algerie