Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction and Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel and post Colonial Asian Fiction, Yiddish Literature, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality historical novels are some of my Literary Interests





Monday, July 31, 2017

Journey to the End of the Night by Louis-Fredinand Celine (1932, in translation 1952, by Ralph Manneheim)


"An Immense hatred keeps me alive... i would live for a thousand years if i were certain of seeing the whole world croak" - Louis Ferdinand Céline






So far as my participation in Paris In July Year Ten I have read 


1.  Colette- Two Early Short Stories
2. The Black Notebook by Patrick Modiano 
3. "A Duel" by Guy de Maupassant ( A Franco-Prussian War Story)
4. Life, Death, and Betrayal at The Hotel Ritz in Paris by Tilar Mazzeo (non fiction)
5. How the French Invented Love by Marilyn Yolem (literary history)
6. "The Lost Child" by Francois Coppée 
7. "The Juggler of Norte Dame" by Anatole France- no post
8. A Very French Christmas- A Collection of the Greatest Holiday Stories of France
9. "The Illustrious Gaudissart" by Honore de Balzac
10. After the Circus by Patrick Modiano
11. "Gaudissart II" by Honore de Balzac
12. 6:41 to Paris by Jean-Phillipe Blondel
13. "Noel" by Irene Nemirovsky 
14. Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin
15. The Madeleine Project by Clara Beaudoux
16. Nais Micoulin by Emile Zola
17. The Occupation Trilogy by Patrick Modiano 
18. Journey to the End of the Night by Louis-Ferdinand Celine

Journey to the End of the Night is an amazing, very influential, perhaps more in translation than in French, by a great writer whose legacy has been greatly damaged by his support during the German occupation of Paris of vicious anti-Semitic policies including the removal of all Jews to concentration camps.  Celine (1894 to 1861, born just outside of Paris) wrote shameful  hate-filled pamphlets for collaborationist organizations.  He was part of an organization that rounded up Jews for deportation.  After Germany's defeat he fled to Norway.  He was convicted in absentia as a collaborator but was given amnesty in 1950 and returned to France.  This being said, Journey to the End of the Night is a powerful precursor to rough traveling on the road styles of writing focusing on the darkest underside of society and the most venal side of society that became and is still very popular throughout the world.  

The narrator begins his story in the trenches in WW One, in the French Army.  He went into the army because, as he tells it, he was suckered in by patriotic rhetoric designed to make millions of poor men in Germany and France kill each other for the ends of their rulers, the hyper rich who care nothing for them.  Celine's account of the trenches in WW One is brilliant.  After the war, he moves from one adventure to another by happenstance encounters, he goes French Colonial Africa to work for a company involved in brutal capriciously cruel exploitation of their workers, rubber tappers.  There is a scene where a rubber tapper seeking his meager pay is totally humiliated that is masterful.  Our narrator seems to regard the Africans as near subhuman.  He does not like it there, in fact he hates pretty much everything, and makes it to New York City which he depicts as an incredibly awful place.  From there he travels to Detroit and works for a while in an automobile manufacturing plant.  He sees the workers as totally dehumanized, little more than just another machine to the factory owners.  He finds one decent person, a woman and of course she works in a brothel.  She falls in love with him and he exploits and then abandons her to go back to Paris.  Once there he goes to medical school (as did Celine), becomes a doctor, works in the slums and fails miserably, making very little money and helping almost no one.  He likes sex, women only, but mostly as a distraction, he forms almost no real bonds. Physically he finds his patients disgusting. He finds little worthwhile in the human condition, the poor are exploited, the middle class idiots and the rich are no more than sanctified criminals.

This is a work full of bitterness and pain. I think part of the influence is in the way Celine sees through the multifarious shams of society.  There is nothing he is afraid to say. 

I am glad I read this book.   It caused a huge stir when it was first published in Paris. I might read more of his work.

Mel u







Sunday, July 30, 2017

Dancing on a Powder Keg: The Intimate Voice of a Young Mother and Author, Her Letters Composed in The Lengthening Shadow of Hitler's Third Reich, Her Poems from the Theresienstadt Ghett


Poems and Letters by Ilse Weber, translated by Michael Swartz, with an afterword by Vlaike Migdal, and an essay by Ruth Brady.  Letters and poems composed 1933 to 1944

First published in 2008, translated in English 2016

Bunim and Bannigan, Ltd, Publisher









Ilse Weber's letters and poems were found in an attic in London in 2000.  She wrote some sixty poems while an inmate at the Theresienstadt Concentration Camp in Czechoslovakia, where she, her husband and their young son were sent in 1942.  In 1944 she, her husband and their son were transferred to Auschwitz.  After she died her husband hid the poems, it was a punishable offense to write anything about your experiences, in a garden shed, he was a camp gardener.  After the war he retrieved the poems and took them to London.  They remained in an attic until 2000 and were first published in 2008.

Weber belongs in the grand tradition of Holocaust poets including Paul Celan, Nelly Sachs and Dan Pagis.

Dancing on the Powder Keg also included a very moving collection of letters Ilse Weber wrote starting in 1933 revealing the growing cancerous corruption in Nazi dominated Czechoslovakia.  She continued to write letters once confined to the camp  but censors required they be very upbeat.

Dancing on the Powder Keg has been endorsed by Yad Vashem, The World Holocaust Memorial Center as a valuable contribution to Holocaust Literature.



Dancing on the Powder Keg is a very important book, deeply moving.  Ilse Weber was a successful writer of children's books and radio scripts.

The production values on this book are very high.  I commend the publisher Bunim and Bannigan, Ltd for making this translation, including very illuminating essays by experts, available in English.



About the Author:

Ilse Weber (January 11, 1903 – October 6, 1944) née Herlinger, was born in Witkowitz near Mährisch-Ostrau in northern Czechoslovakia. A Jewish poet, she wrote in German, most notably songs and theater pieces for Jewish children. She married Willi Weber in 1930, and from 1933 onward she and her family were persecuted by the Nazis. In 1942, Ilse and her family were deported to the Theresienstadt Ghetto, where Ilse worked with sick children. In 1944, refusing to abandon the children, she voluntarily registered to the transport to Auschwitz with the children of Theresienstadt, where she was killed in the gas chambers, along with her son, Tommy. Her most popular book was Mendel Rosenbusch: Tales for Jewish Children (1929), and her songs – most notably Wiegala – continue to be performed by musicians around the world today. 

About the Translator:

Michal Schwartz studied literature and philosophy in Frankfurt and Jerusalem, and received her PhD in German-Jewish philosophy from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. After receiving a Max-Planck scholarship and spending two years of research and teaching in Germany, she moved with her family to Canada, where she completed a Masters in Studies of Law and taught philosophy of law at the University of Toronto. Her book, Metapher und Offenbarung. Zur Sprache von Franz Rosenzweigs Stern der Erlösung, was published in Berlin in 2003. Along academic articles and translations, she has enjoyed exploring and writing on Kabbalah and contemporary culture.n

Mel u

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Friday, July 28, 2017

"Clara" by Roberto Bolano (August 4, 2008, in The New Yorker, translated by Chris Andrews)



Roberto Bolano on The Reading Life


Roberto Bolano (1953 to 2003, born in Chile) is a very powerful greatly influential writer.  Shortly before I began The Reading Life in July, 2009 I read his two major, and large, novels, 2666 centering around murders in Mexico and The Savage Detectives focusing on young poets mostly from Mexico City.  Both these works were translated after his death from liver cancer.  I hope to one day read them through slowly and post upon my experiences.  Some books you post about the work, others you post about your experiences reading them.

Since beginning my blog I posted on two shorter novels.  By Night in Chile is a monologue by a priest during the worst political times in Chile.  I really liked Nazi Literature in the Americas, his delightful pseudo encyclopedia of extreme right wing writers.  I read this twice.  Occasionally The New Yorker will make available for public reading one of the several of the short stories they have published posthumously.  I have posted on a few of these, mostly as largely reading journal entries and to let my interested readers know of the availability of these works.

Death and decay hang over Bolano's work.  As "Clara" begins, the narrator tells us he fell in love with her when she was 18 and had a sexually exquisite body.  The narrator described her as kind of a confused, not terribly bright young woman, she pursues a series of interests.  She goes back to her home city, in Spain.  In a while the man goes to spend a month with her.  They have sex everyday and go to the movies.  Life requires he go back to his home town.  He invites her to move in with him but she declines.  They lose touch with each other as the years go by.   Both marry.  We learn of Clara's decline in appearance, gaining weight.  She against her real wishes to have a baby because her husband wants one.  Bolano takes us nearly twenty years into Clara's life.  The story ends with her
imminent death from cancer.

Bolano fans will enjoy this story for sure.



You can read the story here

Mel u


















Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Occupation Trilogy by Patrick Modiano


Paris in July Year - Year Ten - Hosted by Thyme for Tea







So far as my participation in Paris In July Year Ten I have read


1.  Colette- Two Early Short Stories
2. The Black Notebook by Patrick Modiano
3. "A Duel" by Guy de Maupassant ( A Franco-Prussian War Story)
4. Life, Death, and Betrayal at The Hotel Ritz in Paris by Tilar Mazzeo (non fiction)
5. How the French Invented Love by Marilyn Yolem (literary history)
6. "The Lost Child" by Francois Coppée
7. "The Juggler of Norte Dame" by Anatole France- no post
8. A Very French Christmas- A Collection of the Greatest Holiday Stories of France
9. "The Illustrious Gaudissart" by Honore de Balzac
10. After the Circus by Patrick Modiano
11. "Gaudissart II" by Honore de Balzac
12. 6:41 to Paris by Jean-Phillipe Blondel
13. "Noel" by Irene Nemirovsky
14. Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin


15. The Madeleine Project by Clara Beaudoux
16. Nais Micoulin by Emile Zola
17. The Occupation Trilogy by Patrick Modiano

La Place de l'Ėtiole 1968

The Night Watch 1969

Ring Roads 1972

I have now read five novels by Patrick Modiano (born Boulangne-Billancourt, France, 1945).  He is a prolific writer and I hope to read more of his work.  His The Black Notebook and After the Circus are very good novels focusing on the search for hidden history and for identity.  The Occupation Trilogy is a work of a much higher order, a sublimely brilliant almost surreal recreation of what it was like to be a French Jew during the occupation of Paris by the Nazis.  I am currently reading a very well done history, Paris at War-1939 to 1944 by Donald Drake, which helps me understand what it was like in Paris during the war years.  Many Parisians were convinced the Germans would win, there was a strong element of anti-Jewish feeling, underlying this was a growing resistance as the war went on and the German Occupation began harsher and the prevailing mood was shifting to the idea that the allies could win.

Modiano was 22 when La Place de l'Ėtiole was published.  I found it an incredibly powerful work, deeply evocative of French literature, Proust is clearly a great influence on this work and he is attacked by the Germans and French collaborators as the epitome of "degenerate literature".  This work has a strongly hallucinatory quality.  Paris became a kind of play pen for the worst of German officers.  The French were drawn between self preservation and patriotism.  There is strong sexual content in La Place de l'Ėtiole.  I read this work last year intending to post on it for Paris in July in 2016 but I was too overwhelmed by the power of this book.

The Night Watch focuses on a young man working for the French Gestapo and simultaneously informing on the French police to the resistance.  We see him torn apart by the forces working on him

Ring Road focuses on a young man looking in war time Paris for his father, a French Jew missing for ten years.  He finds him amidst spies, anti-Semites, and prostitutes.

Prostitutes play a big part in the Occupation Trilogy, a metaphor for how Paris survived.  There are lots of wonderful literary references.

The Occupation Trilogy is, to me, must Reading.  Modiano carries on the great tradition of French literature.

Mel u



Tuesday, July 25, 2017

"Poached Eggs" - A Short Story by Farah Ahamed (short listed for the London Short Story Prize, 2016, Winner Gerald Karak Award)






"Poached Egg" is included in the 2016 London Short Story Prize, purchasable here

Farah Ahamed on The Reading Life - Includes Links to Four of Her Stories





The London Short Story Prize 2016 Highly Commended stories includes
Poached Eggs  by Farah Ahamed


AL Kennedy says:  “Poached Eggs by Farah Ahamed is a gently funny, delicately disturbing and utterly subversive piece which deftly links the domestic, the personal and the political.”


Irenosen Okojie says: “Poached Eggs is an absorbing, nuanced piece. A sneaky, humorous examination on the battle of the sexes. Sharp, intimate… This is well orchestrated storytelling that’s delightful and evocative.”

"Poached Eggs" is the fifth wonderful acutely knowing short story by Farah Ahamed I have so far had the pleasure of reading and posting upon.  Her stories concern, either directly or obliquely, the lives of women in a society which values female submissiveness, which treats wives as servants and for the affluent trophies.  Richer older men are expected to have mistresses as we saw in her delightful set in Nairobi "Dr Patel", her only included story without a central onstage female character.

"Poached Eggs" is contained in a just published anthology of works Short listed for the London Short Story Prize, it cannot as of today be read online.  (Happily her other four stories are available online.)
it focuses on a young recently married woman who met her husband while working as support staff in a government office in Nairobi.  They marry a few months after meeting.  Gradually her husband begins to subject her to more and more rigid rules on running the household.  When she tells him her old boss wants her back at work, he tells her if she returns to work, as she wishes, it will make it look like he cannot afford to take care of her.  She has two full time live in helpers.  Her husband gives her a list of duties, including strict rules about how he likes his eggs Poached.  He provides her with a calendar on which he has the days she will have her period marked.  He tells her he does not wish to sleep with her when she is "unclean".  Soon he gives her another calendar on which he marks the days he will "do his duty" with her in order to produce a child.  He tells her to contact his mother to find out how he likes his meals fixed.

Things keep getting worse and worse but Naru never rebels.  She even writes a hilarious guide for wives for the main newspaper.

I want to leave most of this story unspoiled.  I loved the very subtle ending.

"Poached Eggs" is a really lot of fun as well as a biting satire of life in contemporary Kenya, dissecting sexual roles imposed by society.  It will make you laugh and think and as a married man I pondered how long I would survive if I attempted to impose such rules on my wife!

Hopefully I will post upon another of Ahamed's stories in August.


Farah Ahamed is a short fiction writer. Her stories have been published in The Massachusetts Review, Thresholds, Kwani?, The Missing Slate and Out of Print among others. She was highly commended in the 2016 London Short Story Prize and has been nominated for The Caine and The Pushcart prizes. She was shortlisted for the SI Leeds Literary Prize, DNA/Out of Print Award, Sunderland Waterstones Award, Asian Writer Short Story Prize, Gerald Kraak Award and Strands International Short Story.

Mel u

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Nais Micoulin - A Novella by Emile Zola (1884)





Paris in July - Year Ten - hosted by Thyme for Tea


So far as my participation in Paris In July Year Ten I have read 


1.  Colette- Two Early Short Stories
2. The Black Notebook by Patrick Modiano 
3. "A Duel" by Guy de Maupassant ( A Franco-Prussian War Story)
4. Life, Death, and Betrayal at The Hotel Ritz in Paris by Tilar Mazzeo (non fiction)
5. How the French Invented Love by Marilyn Yolem (literary history)
6. "The Lost Child" by Francois Coppée 
7. "The Juggler of Norte Dame" by Anatole France- no post
8. A Very French Christmas- A Collection of the Greatest Holiday Stories of France
9. "The Illustrious Gaudissart" by Honore de Balzac
10. After the Circus by Patrick Modiano
11. "Gaudissart II" by Honore de Balzac
12. 6:41 to Paris by Jean-Phillipe Blondel
13. "Noel" by Irene Nemirovsky 
14. Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin
15. The Madeleine Project by Clara Beaudoux
16. Nais Micoulin by Emile Zola

Along with Honore de Balzac, Emile Zola (1840 to 1904) is one of the two greatest chroniclers of French life.  His cycle of twenty novels, Les Rougan-Macquarie chronicles the lives of two fictional interrelated families during The Second Empire (1852 to 1870).  The works take us into brothels, drinking dens of the very poor of Paris, high end brothels, coal mines, a department store, the city food market and lets us see the intricacies of the financial dealings at the top of Paris Life.  We meet washerwomen and countesses, rouges, virgins (though not for too long), ministers of finance and farmers.  Reading through this cycle was a great reading life experience for me.  I read this in The Delphi Edition of the works of Zola.  It would be difficult to read this other than in a digital collection.

I wanted to include Zola in my readings for Paris in July Year Ten.  Looking through the collection there is a novel called Paris but it is part three of a trilogy, the other segments are London and Lourdes.  I see this as a hopefully July in Paris 2018 Project.  There are a number of short stories in the collection, last year I posted for the event upon "The Boot Licking Virgin", as salacious a story as Zola probably felt comfortable with in 1880.

This year's Zola work, Nais Micoulin, a novella, also has a strong for the time sexual theme.  There are seven characters in this story of rich Parisians at their country home on the Atlantic coast in Provence.  We have an attorney, his wife, their only child Ferderic,  a caretaker of their estate, who also fishes, and his daughter Nais, his wife and a mentally challenged hunchback with a dog like devotion to Nais.  The two children, meeting at age 12, become very close even though the boy's doting mother does not approve the relationship.  Time goes by and Fredefic grows into a spoiled playboy.  Then as then one year he notices Nais has developed into a beautiful woman.  They begin a secret affair, love under the moonlight.  Nais is deeply in love with Frederic.  I don't want to give away to much plot but the father discovers them asleep together and determines to murder Frederic.  He knows he has to be careful as he will automatically be considered in the wrong. His attempt to shot him from ambush is thwarted by Nais.  To complicate the plot, he often beats her to establish his status as father, as was accepted.  The story takes an intriguing turn I did not see coming.  If the story has a theme it is that money wins out over Love and birth is destiny.

I'm glad I read this work.  It is a very good mini-Zola.



Mel u












Saturday, July 22, 2017

"Whenever I Sit at a Bar Drinking Like This, I Always Think What a Sacred Profession Bartending Is". - A Short Story by Ryu Murakami (Ausust, 2004)


You Can Read the Story here

The Japanese Literature Challenge - Year 11 - Hosted by Dolce Bellezza




Works I have So Far Read for Japanese Literature Challenge 11

1. "The Children" by Junichiro Tanizaki
2. Beasts on the Way Home by Kobe Abe

"Quitting my job to become a writer brought about three big changes in my life. I got famous. I got rich. And I got fat." Ryu Murakami

For  The July Literature Challenge in 2010 I read my first work by Ryu Murakami, Coin Locker Babies.  Here are my opening thoughts on this very entertaining novel. (If made into a movie, it would be near X-rated.)

Ryu Murakami (1952-not related to Haruki Murakami) has played in a rock band and had his own talk show on Japanese TV.    He is best known for several novels that depict alienated people in their teens and twenties from the darker side of life in Tokyo.    He is a tremendous commercial success.  

Many have the image of the Japanese novel as depicting a world of extreme refinement and high culture in which hours are spent talking about the color patterns in a favorite kimono, the old days before WWII, the nuances of puppet theater and family ties that go back a thousand years.   There are a lot of beautiful wonderful novels that do just that in a masterful way.    If a man in one of these books has an extra-marital encounter it is with a geisha of the highest standing.   In Coin Locker Babies it is with an unknown woman, man, or ? in an alley with no names exchanged while they are observed by the denizens of Toxic Town who yell out their comments on the looks of the woman.   A lot of people have read some of the novels of Natsuo Kirino such as Real World, Out or Grotesque that depict live among those left out by the prosperity of contemporary Japan.   Many say they find the world depicted in her novels almost too hard to take at times.   Well, life in her works is High Tea at the Peninsula Hotel Tokyo in comparison to life in the world of Coin Locker Babies.     Coin Locker Babies is a 21th Century continuation of the tradition of literature devoted to the Japanese water world of tea shops, geishas, and brothels.  (Prostitution is illegal in Japan but it is defined only as banning the preforming of intercourse for money, either as seller or customer.  This has left open a huge market for other forms of sex for sale.). Ryu Murakami is a chronicler of sex among alienated youth, of stories of school girls searching for uncles to pay for gadgets.  In a way, this world can be seen as part of the consequence of Japan's defeat in WWII.

I was very happy to find his 2004 short story, "When I Sit in a Bar Drinking Like This, I Always Think What a Sacred Profession Bartending Is" online.  As the story opens we are in a bar at a nicer hotel, one that includes foreigners among the clients.  The story is being narrated by a man who often frequents this bar, looking for female sex partners, free if available otherwise business women.  He sizes up the nine people in the bar, it is late, he says they are all "looking for sin". Professionally the man is a producer of TV documentaries, focusing on the slums of the world's mega cities. He uses his experiences to talk to women in bars. The man has a legal problem, a former mistress is suing him for damages, claiming he lead her to believe he would provide permanent support only to drop her.  The man's attorney has told him if he can establish he has rendezvous with other women in the hotel he could claim his relationship was just casual sex.  He asks a another woman, now in the bar, also a former mistress, to testify he had sex with her in the hotel and this will get him out of trouble.  The woman agrees but she wants something in exchange, after castigating him for his philandering, his refusal to leave his wife and marry her.  She wants him to use his TV contacts to introduce her to a very famous Japanese baseball player.  Now a daisy chain begins when his TV contact says OK we can do that but he wants a cartoon of super expensive cigarettes.  The cigarette contact in turn wants something and so on.  This is pretty much a PG rated story, fun to read.


Mel u








Friday, July 21, 2017

The Madeleine Project by Clara Beaudoux (2017, translated by Alison Anderson, published by New Vessal Press)





Paris in July - Year Ten. - Hosted by Thyme for Tea


So far as my participation in Paris In July Year Ten I have read 


1.  Colette- Two Early Short Stories
2. The Black Notebook by Patrick Modiano 
3. "A Duel" by Guy de Maupassant ( A Franco-Prussian War Story)
4. Life, Death, and Betrayal at The Hotel Ritz in Paris by Tilar Mazzeo (non fiction)
5. How the French Invented Love by Marilyn Yolem (literary history)
6. "The Lost Child" by Francois Coppée 
7. "The Juggler of Norte Dame" by Anatole France- no post
8. A Very French Christmas- A Collection of the Greatest Holiday Stories of France
9. "The Illustrious Gaudissart" by Honore de Balzac
10. After the Circus by Patrick Modiano
11. "Gaudissart II" by Honore de Balzac
12. 6:41 to Paris by Jean-Phillipe Blondel
13. "Noel" by Irene Nemirovsky 
14. Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin
15. The Madeleine Project by Clara Beaudoux

I am starting to get behind in my posting for Paris in July.  The Madeleine Project by Clara Beaudoux is a perfect pick for Paris in July, translated by Alison Anderson, to be published September, 2017 by New Vessal Press).  Given that I will make use of The publisher's description and just conclude with a thought or two of my own.


"A young woman moves into a Paris apartment and discovers a storage room filled with the belongings of the previous owner, a certain Madeleine who died in her late nineties, and whose treasured possessions nobody seems to want. In an audacious act of journalism driven by personal curiosity and humane tenderness, Clara Beaudoux embarks on The Madeleine Project, documenting what she finds on Twitter with text and photographs, introducing the world to an unsung twentieth-century figure. Along the way, she uncovers a Parisian life indelibly marked by European history. This is a graphic novel for the Twitter age, a true story that encapsulates one woman's attempt to live a life of love and meaning together with a contemporary quest to prevent that existence from slipping into oblivion. Through it all, The Madeleine Project movingly chronicles, and allows us to reconstruct, intimate memories of a bygone era."

As I read this book it took a little while but I soon became captivated by Madeline as we gradually began to find her life unravel in a series of Twitter posts.  I wondered if she had a lover, did he survive WW Two.  We learned what she liked to read.  I saw the narrator become closer to Madeline as her uncovering of the items she left behind unraveled.  This is a different kind of work than all the others I have read for Paris in July.  I enjoyed it and think most would.

Alison Anderson spent many years in California; she now lives in a Swiss village and works as a literary translator. Her translations include Europa Editions’ The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, and works by Nobel laureate J. M. G. Le Clézio. She has also written two previous novels and is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Literary Translation Fellowship. She has lived in Greece and Croatia, and speaks several European languages, including Russian.

Quick personal note, Anderson's translation of The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery was the very first book I posted upon eight years ago.  I love that bookand thank Anderson for her lovely translation 

Mel u




Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin (1956)


Paris in July - Year Ten. -- Hosted by Thyme for Tea











So far as my participation in Paris In July Year Ten I have read


1.  Colette- Two Early Short Stories
2. The Black Notebook by Patrick Modiano
3. "A Duel" by Guy de Maupassant ( A Franco-Prussian War Story)
4. Life, Death, and Betrayal at The Hotel Ritz in Paris by Tilar Mazzeo (non fiction)
5. How the French Invented Love by Marilyn Yolem (literary history)
6. "The Lost Child" by Francois Coppée
7. "The Juggler of Norte Dame" by Anatole France- no post
8. A Very French Christmas- A Collection of the Greatest Holiday Stories of France
9. "The Illustrious Gaudissart" by Honore de Balzac
10. After the Circus by Patrick Modiano
11. "Gaudissart Ii" by Honore de Balzac
12. 6:41 to Paris by Jean-Phillipe Blondel
13. "Noel" by Irene Nemirovsky
14. Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin

James Baldwin was

Born August 2, 1924 in New York City

Died December 1, 1987 in Saint Paul - Vence, France.

He moved to Paris, age 24, in 1948 to escape the pervasive prejudice against African Americans and Gays in America.  It was a time of racial hatred and homophobia. He would return to American occasionally, active in the Civil Rights Movement, but he would always consider Paris his home.  (Wikipedia has a decent article on him.). Baldwin emerged himself in the cultural Life of Paris, finally feeling free to be and express himself.

The last time I read a novel by James Baldwin he was still alive to receive the small royalties from my purchase of his paperbacks.  I read several of his books but missed his now highest regarded novel, the set in Paris Giovanni's Room.  I am very glad Paris in July motivated me to at last read this wonderful work.

Back in 1956 books dealing openly about Gay life were controversial and I suspect those by an African American much more so.  His publisher advised him his African American readers might be turned off to him by this book.

David is a young American man living in Paris.  He had a Gay encounter back in Brooklyn and has moved to Paris to find himself and get away from the domination of his wealthy father, who feared he was homosexual, I think the term "gay" was not in currency then.  His girlfriend has gone to Spain for a while to decide if she wants to marry David or not.  Through an older gay man he knows David ends up at the bar where Giovanni works as a bartender. They end the evening having sex in Giovanni's room, David moves into the room three days later.  We learn about
Parisian Gay bars.  Life in this world was much different pre-aids.

The narration is structured as David recalling his experiences with David and his fiancé, on the night before Giovanni is to be guillotined for murdering the owner of the bar in which he had worked, having been fired.

There is a lot more in this work.  David has sex with his fiancé but it as almost as if his gay identity is spectating on himself.  It is also very much about class, about being an American in Paris.

Giovanni's Room is a GLBT classic.  I am so glad I at last have read this book.  I should note Baldwin was brought at an early age to love reading to escape from an oppressive step-father.

I really like the image above of Baldwin at the tomb of Honore de Balzac.  Balzac wrote brilliantly about gay characters and the homosexual subculture of Paris in the 1830s.

Mel u
The Reading Life

















Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Frederick the Great: King of Prussia by Tim Blanning (2015, 688 pages, biography)







Born 1712, died 1786
King of Prussia 1740 to 1786

Frederick the Great: King of Prussia by Tim Blanning is a comprehensive biography of the king  who transformed Prussia from one of many small German minor states into a dominant power of Europe.  Frederick created the notion of The all powerful German state that would bring misery on the world long after he was gone.  Frederick came to dominate Europe not just politically and militarily but culturally as well through his extensive patronage of the arts.

If this book has a central aim, it seems to be to establish that Frederick was a life time closeted homosexual who adopted an extreme aggressive military stance, spending much of his time in wars, to prove his father was wrong in thinking him to effeminate to effectively rule.  There is no conclusive proof concerning his sexuality but there is such a wealth of supporting circumstances as to make this credible.  Frederick did of course marry but he was never really interested in his wife beyond that required. We see how Frederick really came into his own when his father died.

Much of the book is devoted to detailing his military campaigns.  There is a very chapter interesting on his devotion to promoting music and the arts, activities his father scorned as unmanly.

Those interested in German history will really enjoy this book.

In a way there is a cruel irony in this narrative.  Frederick the Great's father abused him for being effeminate so he created a model of military domination by a strong leader as the proper role for German leaders that culminates in Nazi Germany, where Frederick was worshiped in a state culture stressing hyperbolic masculinity.

I was given a review copy of this book.


Tim Blanning is the author of a number of major works on eighteenth century Europe, including The Pursuit of Glory : Europe 1648-1815, The Culture of Power and the Power of Culture and Joseph II. He is Emeritus Professor of Modern European History at the University of Cambridge, a Fellow of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge and a Fellow of the British Academy. His latest book, Frederick the Great, won the British Academy Medal 2016-  from Random House 

Mel u
The Reading Life





Sunday, July 16, 2017

"Noel" by Irene Nemirovsky (1932, newly translated 2017 by Sandra Smith)










Paris in July - Year Ten -- Hosted by Thyme for Tea


So far as my participation in Paris In July Year Ten I have read


1.  Colette- Two Early Short Stories
2. The Black Notebook by Patrick Modiano
3. "A Duel" by Guy de Maupassant ( A Franco-Prussian War Story)
4. Life, Death, and Betrayal at The Hotel Ritz in Paris by Tilar Mazzeo (non fiction)
5. How the French Invented Love by Marilyn Yolem (literary history)
6. "The Lost Child" by Francois Coppée
7. "The Juggler of Norte Dame" by Anatole France- no post
8. A Very French Christmas- A Collection of the Greatest Holiday Stories of France
9. "The Illustrious Gaudissart" by Honore de Balzac
10. After the Circus by Patrick Modiano
11. "Gaudissart Ii" by Honore de Balzac
12. 6:41 to Paris by Jean-Phillipe Blondel
13. "Noel" by Irene Nemirovsky

Irene Nemirovsky was born in the Ukraine in 1903, with her family, after a stop,in Finland, she immigrated to France to avoid anti-Semitic pograms.  On July 26, 1942 she was deported to Auschwitz where she died August 17, 1942.  She was a fast writer, producing about a novel a year so as I see it the Germans deprived the world of maybe 30 masterworks. It is very hard for me to read her work without a feeling of sadness, even bitterness.  As I saw the recent boorish behavior of trump

in Paris I wished for world leaders who can appreciate the work of the great writers of Paris.

I first encountered Irene Nemirovsky during Paris in July in 2015 when I read her acknowledged by all master work, Suite Francais.

The back story of the publication of Suite Francaise is very interesting.  Her daughters  kept the manuscript secret for 56 years.  It was published for the first time in 2004 and in translation by Sandra Smith in 2006.  The work we have is the first two parts of a planned five part work.  After the death of the author one of her daughters  found the manuscript and thought it would be diary to painful to read.  When she was preparing her mother's papers for donation, 55 years later, she looked at what is now Suite Francaise and submitted it for publication.

As the novel opens we see Paris in a state of panic brought on by the approaching German army.  The narrative is very intense.   Némirovsky lets us she how a few different households are dealing with the crisis.  Anyone who can plans to flee the city.  The author in just a few paragraphs illuminates decades of family and social history in her portraits of Parisians.  There is just so much to admire in Suite Francaise, so many moments of beauty, truth and brilliance.

As the novel progresses we are in a small town in the country.  There are hilarious biting scenes of social satire as the local aristocrats desperately want to hold on to their status even though many have Germans billeted in their homes.   The residents of the town reluctantly begin to see humanity in the Germans even though they feel they should hate them.  There are exciting dramatic events and the characters are perfectly drawn.

Suite Francaise is a brilliant panorama of French society in 1940.  It is also a world class literary treasure.

After reading Suite Francais I went on to read all of her novels available as in digital format, a few of her short stories, three books about her and numerous webpage posting.



I was really happy to see a never before published in English short story by Nemirovsky in A Very French Christmas- A Collection of the Greatest Holiday Stories of France recently published by New Vessel Press.  The translation is by the Award Winning Sandra Smith.

As "Noel" opens it is a snowy Christmas season day on the affluent streets of Paris, two young girls are being taken for a stroll by their nanny.  We over hear the conversations of passerbys, we look in the lovely shop windows.  When we arrive at the girls home their two older sisters, 20 and 22, are preparing for a ball.  Their father is a successful businessman.  Both he and his wife, mother of the girls, have lovers.  We sit in on the preparations for the party.  Ramon, a wealth young man from Argentina spending the season in Paris will be there.  The older girl is in love with him.

The party is just brilliantly depicted.  The couples are all dancing close together in a Tango, all the rage, until a parent comes in the room and then it is all innocence.

I really don't want to spoil the exciting developments in the story as it would not be fair to other first time readers.  "Noel" is very much classic Nemirovsky, down to the unpleasant mother!  It is a great work of art.


I am very grateful to New Vessal Press for including this wonderful story in their collection of French holiday stories.  New Vessel Press is an independent publisher focusing on literature in translation and quality narrative non-fiction.  (Newvesselpress.com).  Their website is very well done and the books are very interesting and fairly priced.

Mel u
The Reading Life

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Beasts Head for Home by Kobo Abe (1957, translated to English, 2017)








Works Read So Far for Japanese Literature Challenge 11

1.  "The Children" by Junichiro Tanazaki
2. Beasts on the Way Home by Kobe Abe


Most people into the Japanese novel read Kobe Abe's (1924 to 1993) towering classic, Woman of the Dunes, and never read anymore of his work. Woman of the Dunes is for sure must reading for anyone into post WWII Japanese novels.  I would say most all  list makers would put it in the top ten

The Japanese Literature Challenge - Year -- Hosted by Dolce Bellezza

Japanese novels. Kenzaburo Oe said Abe should have been given a Nobel Prize instead of him.  In addition to this I have read and greatly enjoyed in past Japanese Literature Challenges reading his

The Ark Sakura and The Face of Another.  All these novels have elements of surrealism whereas the written earlier Beasts on the Way Home is a realistic work, drawing on his childhood in Manchuria.  (There is some biographical data on Abe in my prior posts and the Wikipedia article is decent.) Abe enrolled in medical school to avoid being drafted into the Japanese Army.  He received an M.D. but never practiced.  He did say all his friends with liberal arts degrees died in the war.

Beasts on the Way Home is set in Manchuria, right after the defeat of Japan.  All Japanese have to leave the place they viciously ruled for over a decade.  A young   Japanese man is trying desperately to cross Manchuria to make it to a port from which he can catch a ship for Japan.  He is crossing a war ravaged territory, where the Chinese hate the Japanese.  He teams up with another Japanese youth and they begin a nightmare journey.  They face robbers, wild bands of homeless dogs, Chinese soldiers and near starvation.  The narration is very suspenseful and totally believable.

Those new to Japanese literature for sure should first read Woman of the Dunes.  Then study his other works to see if you wish to proceed on.  Those into Japanese WWII literature should add Beasts on the Way Home to their list.

I was kindly given a review copy of this book.

Mel u
The Reading Life




Friday, July 14, 2017

The 6:41 to Paris by Jean-Phillipe Blondel (2013, New Vessal Press)








So far as my participation in Paris In July Year Ten I have read 


1.  Colette- Two Early Short Stories
2. The Black Notebook by Patrick Modiano 
3. "A Duel" by Guy de Maupassant ( A Franco-Prussian War Story)
4. Life, Death, and Betrayal at The Hotel Ritz in Paris by Tilar Mazzeo (non fiction)
5. How the French Invented Love by Marilyn Yolem (literary history)
6. "The Lost Child" by Francois Coppée 
7. "The Juggler of Norte Dame" by Anatole France- no post
8. A Very French Christmas- A Collection of the Greatest Holiday Stories of France
9. "The Illustrious Gaudissart" by Honore de Balzac
10. After the Circus by Patrick Modiano
11. "Gaudissart Ii" by Honore de Balzac
12. 6:41 to Paris by Jean-Phillipe Blondel


6:41 to Paris by Jean-Philippe Blondel (translated elegantly by Alison Anderson) is entirely set in a second class compartment on the 6:21 train to Paris.  At first Cecile Duffant, a forty seven year old owner of an organic beauty supply firm, is alone in the cabinet.  Then she is joined by Phillipe Leduc, a man with whom she had a four month long affair 27 years ago.  Both recognize exact other and decide not to speak or acknowledge the past.  The woman is married with a teenage daughter.  The man, he once had great promise, for many years has sold TVs.  He is divorced.  She looks elegant, the years have made him a bit shabby.  

In alternative chapters each one begins to recollect the stormy affair.  Long ago Cecile was happy for any attention, lacking much self esteem.  Now she is a strong self-confident businesswoman in a good marriage.  By contrast Phillipe is stuck in a dull job and his own kids prefer to stay at the house of his wife's new husband.

6:41to Paris skillfully presents the alternative memories, showing us we are never free from out past and how our present shapes our understanding of our past.

I very much enjoyed this book.  

6:41 to Paris is published by New Vessel Press (newvessalpress.com), a small independent publisher.  They have recently published several books that would be perfect for Paris in July.  Here is their mission statement 

"New Vessel Press, founded in New York City in 2012, is an independent publishing house specializing in the translation of foreign literature into English. Our books are available in quality paperback and ebook formats.
By bringing readers foreign literature and narrative nonfiction, we offer captivating, thought-provoking works with beautifully-designed covers and high production values. We scour the globe looking for the best stories, knowing that only about three percent of the books published in the United States each year are translations. That leaves a lot of great literature still to be discovered.
At New Vessel Press, we believe that knowledge of foreign cultures and literatures enriches our lives by offering passageways to understand and embrace the world. We also regard literary translation as both craft and art, enabling us to traverse borders and open minds. We are committed to books that offer erudition and enjoyment, that stimulate and scintillate, that transform and transport.
And of course, what matters most is not where the authors hail from, or what language they write in. The most important thing is the quality of the work itself. And hence our name. We publish great books, just in a new vessel."

Author data

Jean-Philippe Blondel was born in 1964 in Troyes, France where he lives as an author and English teacher. His novel The 6:41 to Paris has been a bestseller in both France and Germany.

Mel u
The Reading Life







Paris in July - Year Ten. - Hosted by Thyme for Tea


Thursday, July 13, 2017

"Gaudissart II" by Honore de Balzac - A Short Story Component of La Comedie Humaine - 1844



Paris in July - Year Ten - Hosted by Thyme for Tea






"To know how to sell, to be able to sell, and to sell. People generally do not suspect how much of the stateliness of Paris is due to these three aspects of the same problem. The brilliant display of shops as rich as the salons of the noblesse before 1789; the splendors of cafes which eclipse, and easily eclipse, the Versailles of our day; the shop-window illusions, new every morning, nightly destroyed; the grace and elegance of the young men that come in contact with fair customers; the piquant faces and costumes of young damsels, who cannot fail to attract the masculine customer; and (and this especially of late) the length, the vast spaces, the Babylonish luxury of galleries where shopkeepers acquire a monopoly of the trade in various articles by bringing them all together, —all this is as nothing." From "Gaudissart II" by Honore de Balzac

There are 91 components to Balzac's La Comedie Humaine.  I have seen numerous
 Statements by academics concerning the make up of the cycle saying it is 91 full volumes.  Here is the breakdown

45 Novels
25 short stories
21 Novellas.

Many book bloggers could finish this in under three months.  I have been reading on and off for a while now.

I have now read 81 of 91.



Honore de Balzac is the greatest chronicler of Paris, a towering figure in world literature.  His literary output, fired by a legendary fifty cups of coffee a day, is gargantuan.  He wrote five or six works considered among the world's greatest novels, some wonderful short works and some only one determined to read through his grand cycle of France, The Comedie Humaine, would wish to read.  I am currently nearing completion of this project and I urge it on all serious literary autodidacts as well as those into French history and culture.

A Gaudissart was, I think based on my google research, a term referring to a salesman.  I recently posted on a very good short story about a Parisian traveling salesman making a tour of the provinces.  Balzac focuses greatly on issues related to business, to the importance of money.  One thing you must respect is the tremendous range of practical knowledge of Balzac.  "Gaudissart II" written in 1844 but not published until 1846 is in the Poor Relations section of La Comedie Humaine.  It can be read in five minutes.  It is set in a millinery shop for rich women, they specialize in shawls, many imported from India.  As soon as a lady enters the shop she is at once sized up.  If she is an older matron a handsome young man is assigned to wait upon her.  If the young demimonde mistress of a wealthy old man, to give her a feeling of power, an elegant older man bows and scraps.  The primary customer today is an English lady.  The shop owner himself waits on her but he is having difficulty closing a sale as he cannot sense what she wants.  The close is a lot of fun, of course the French triumph over the English woman    Who ends being skillfully manipulated into buying a shawl for 100 times the normal prize.

This is a really entertaining story, pure Balzac.

Mel u
































Wednesday, July 12, 2017

After the Circus by Patrick Modiano (2015 in translation)




So far as my participation in Paris In July Year Ten I have read


1.  Colette- Two Early Short Stories
2. The Black Notebook by Patrick Modiano
3. "A Duel" by Guy de Maupassant ( A Franco-Prussian War Story)
4. Life, Death, and Betrayal at The Hotel Ritz in Paris by Tilar Mazzeo (non fiction)
5. How the French Invented Love by Marilyn Yolem (literary history)
6. "The Lost Child" by Francois Coppée
7. "The Juggler of Norte Dame" by Anatole France- no post
8. A Very French Christmas- A Collection of the Greatest Holiday Stories of France
9. "The Illustrious Gaudissart" by Honore de Balzac
10. After the Circus by Patrick Modiano

From Yale University Press Website

One of the hallmarks of French author Patrick Modiano’s writing is a singular ability to revisit particular motifs and episodes, infusing each telling with new detail and emotional nuance. In this evocative novel the internationally acclaimed author takes up one of his most compelling themes: a love affair with a woman who disappears, and a narrator grappling with the mystery of a relationship stopped short.

Set in mid-sixties Paris, After the Circus traces the relationship between the narrator, a young man not quite of legal age, and the slightly older, enigmatic woman he first glimpses at a police interrogation. The two lovers make their uncertain way into each other’s hearts, but the narrator soon finds himself in the unsettling, ominous presence of others. Who are these people? Are they real, or simply evoked? Part romance, part detective story, this mesmerizing book fully demonstrates Modiano’s signature use of atmosphere and suggestion as he investigates the perils and the exhilaration of young love.

Patrick Modiano, winner of the 2014 Nobel Prize for literature and an internationally beloved novelist, has been honored with an array of prizes, including the 2010 Prix mondial Cino Del Duca by the Institut de France for lifetime achievement and the 2012 Austrian State Prize for European Literature. He lives in Paris. Mark Polizzotti has translated more than forty books from the French and is director of the publications program at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

I am slightly under the weather so I will just make use of Yale University Press data.  Of this book and The Black Notebook, I prefer The Black Notebook.

I was given this book by the publisher.

It is for sale as a digital book on Amazon for $16.00, way in excess of a fair prize.









Tuesday, July 11, 2017

"The Illustrious Gaudissart" -by Honore de Balzac - A Short Story Compotent of The Comedie Humaine (1833,)


Honore de Balzac on The Reading Life

Paris in July - Year Ten - Hosted by Thyme for Tea




So far as my participation in Paris In July Year Ten I have read 


1.  Colette- Two Early Short Stories
2. The Black Notebook by Patrick Modiano 
3. "A Duel" by Guy de Maupassant ( A Franco-Prussian War Story)
4. Life, Death, and Betrayal at The Hotel Ritz in Paris by Tilar Mazzeo (non fiction)
5. How the French Invented Love by Marilyn Yolem (literary history)
6. "The Lost Child" by Francois Coppée 
7. "The Juggler of Norte Dame" by Anatole France- no post
8. A Very French Christmas- A Collection of the Greatest Holiday Stories of France
9. "The Illustrious Gaudissart" by Honore de Balzac 

There are 91 components to Balzac's La Comedie Humaine.  I have seen numerous 
 Statements by academics concerning the make up of the cycle saying it is 91 full volumes.  Here is the breakdown 

45 Novels
25 short stories
21 Novellas.

Many book bloggers could finish this in under three months.  I have been reading on and off for a while now.

I have now read 80 of 91 works 

I think the errors come from not looking at the full work, available and as practical matter, only really readable in an E book. I am employing the Delphi Edition, it is not perfect but it is ok.  It is only $2.51.  My biggest complaint is that it does not have a chronological index.  The translations are older public domain works.  



Honore de Balzac is the greatest chronicler of Paris, a towering figure in world literature.  His literary output, fired by a legendary fifty cups of coffee a day, is gargantuan.  He wrote five or six works considered among the world's greatest novels, some wonderful short works and some only one determined to read through his grand cycle of France, The Comedie Humaine, would wish to read.  I am currently nearing completion of this project and I urge it on all serious literary autodidacts as well as those into French history and culture.

"The Illustrious Gaudissart"  is a competent of La Comedie Humaine, part of the Parisians in Paris section.  It really is a delightful work, pure top of his form Balzac.  The story begins with a description of the importance of the traveling salesman in France in the 1830s.  It was through these men that the products of Paris spread throughout the provinces.  Balzac is the master of description and Gaudissart perfectly fits the role of the glib talking can size up anyone from a back country farmer to a wealthy businessman at one look salesman who knows how to sell them anything.  This is just done perfectly.  Balzac always has small touches to bring humanity to his characters.  It was so much fun to read about him and his mistress who totally has him under her lovely Parisian thumb.  

Because of his extreme success he comes to the attention of wealthy owners of insurance companies and newspapers who want him to sell subscriptions.  His girl friend knows how many subscriptions he has to sell to keep her happy.  Of course he is married. 

We follow him to a rural town.  Something really funny, I mean hilarious happens.  I loved it and I think you will also.  I really want to leave it unspoiled.  I think you can find this online.

Mel u
The Reading Life
Rereadinglives.blogspot.com




Monday, July 10, 2017

In Observation of The Eight Years of The Reading Life







The Reading Life is now eight years old.  

Since inception on July 7, 2009 there has been 4,661,832 pages views.

There are now 3086 active posts. 
The five most viewed viewed posts are all on short stories by authors from the Philippines.  

R. K. Narayan followed by Katherine Mansfield are authors whose individual posts are most viewed.  

The top visitor home countries are the USA, the Philippines, India, the U.K., and Germany.  

There are now 100 author Q and A sessions, mostly from Irish writers.  If anything is of lasting value on my blog it is these interviews.  I have learned a great deal from them.

I am very gratified to see numerous writers I blogged about when they were just getting started becoming successful. 
My Review Policy.

 I love free books. I look at every book I receive, sometimes 100 a month.  I have no rigid policies, I have posted upon everything from very serious academic work to X-rated rewrites of Jane Austin.  

I never would have dreamed eight years ago I would keep my blog going for eight years.  I know for sure if I am able to look back in eight more years, numerous of these writers will be world famous.  Many will also continue just as occasional authors.  I hope a year from now I will be avidly posting upon great writers I have not yet heard about as of today.  


I offer my great thanks to those who take the trouble to leave comments.  You help keep me going.

To my fellow members of the international book blog community, the greatest readers in the world today, keep blogging.  In these dark times your voice is needed.

Mel u
The Reading Life
Rereadinglives.blogspot.com



Sunday, July 9, 2017

A Very French Christmas: The Greatest French Holiday Stories of All Time (2017, published by New Vessel Press)



New Vessel Press is offering an A R C to all Paris in July Participants.  Just contact them on the website at the close of this post if you are interested











So far as my participation in Paris In July Year Ten I have read 


1.  Colette- Two Early Short Stories
2. The Black Notebook by Patrick Modiano 
3. "A Duel" by Guy de Maupassant ( A Franco-Prussian War Story)
4. Life, Death, and Betrayal at The Hotel Ritz in Paris by Tilar Mazzeo (non fiction)
5. How the French Invented Love by Marilyn Yolem (literary history)
6. "The Lost Child" by Francois Coppée 
7. "The Juggler of Norte Dame" by Anatole France- no post

Today I want to let my readers and event participants know of an outstanding collection of French Short Stories with Christmas themes.  It includes stories by classic writers such as Francois Coppée (two stories), I have already posted upon his very moving story included in the anthology "The Lost Child".  Guy de Maupassant, one of the masters of the form is included , as is the early 20th century Alphonse Drudet and the Nobel Prize Winning Anatole France.  I was delighted to see the collection close with a story by one of my favorite writers, the great Irene Nemirovsky.
There are also stories by contemporary writers new to me.  

I think anyone who likes moving short stories will enjoy this wonderful collection.

This book was published by New Vessel Press (newvessalpress.com).  They offer a very interesting and diverse collection of fiction and non-fiction.  There are several French authored set in a Paris works perfect for July in Paris.

Mel u
The Reading Life
Rereadinglives.blogspot.com



Katalin Street by Mazda Szabo










Katalin Street is the third novel by the great Hungarian writer, Magda Szabo (1917 to 2007) I have so far had the very real pleasure of reading.  I read her The Door in May of 2015, last year I read Iza's Ballad. All three works were translated by Len Rix and published by The New York Review of Books. 

Katalin Street begins a bit before the World War Two.  It is a gracious place where Jews and Christians have long peacefully lived in close proximity.  The novel shows us how the Nazi take over impact the lives of three intertwined Katalin Street families, one Jewish and extends up to Soviet style Budapest in 1968.  During the war the Jewish family, the father is a dentist, are deported to a concentration camp.  What happens to them is never spelled out and we see the other two families try to deal with the guilt of this.  The central plot action focused on the son of one of the families, he goes on to become a doctor, and his relationship to the daughter of another family.  They enter into a troubled marriage, damaged by the serial infidelity of the husband, preying on his female patients.

Katalin Street is very much worth reading.  For sure The Door, her most powerful work, should be your first Szabo but I suspect it will leave you wanting more, as it certainly did me.

I read in the very well done Guardian obituary that she died, age 90, in a comfortable chair with a favorite book in her lap.

In the interest of full disclosure I was given this book, and many others, by The New York Review of Books.  

Mel u







Saturday, July 8, 2017

"The Lost Child" by Francois Coppée - A Very Moving Parisian Christmas Story (1908)













Posts  So Far for Paris in July 10

1.  Colette- Two Early Short Stories
2. The Black Notebook by Patrick Modiano 
3. "A Duel" by Guy de Maupassant ( A Franco-Prussian War Story)
4. Life, Death, and Betrayal at The Hotel Ritz in Paris by Tilar Mazzeo (non fiction)
5. How the French Invented Love by Marilyn Yolem (literary history)
6. "The Lost Child" by Francois Coppée 



During Paris in July Year Eight in 2015 I read and posted upon one of the short stories of Francois Coppée, "A Piece of Bread".  In this story an affluent young Parisian Born to wealth joins the French Army during the Franco-Prussian War (1870. - 1871).  He learns a very valuable lesson from a poor soldier with whom he unexpectedly becomes friends which makes him a better man, more sensitive to the sufferings of others.  

Coppeé has fallen out of fashion due to his participation in anti-Semitic societies and his anti-Dreyfus views.  I admit this does somewhat turn me against him but still he is a good, if kind of sentimental writer.  I have read now two of his stories and enjoyed them both.  Both have a common theme, a wealthy self-absorbed man comes into very close contact with a very good hearted poor person, the common man, and is transformed into a better more emphatic man through this contact.  

As I read Coppée very enjoyable but maybe a bit cliched story, "The Lost Boy", set in Paris, my first reaction was, "aha, The French answer to Dickens' A Christmas Carol". The main character is a very 

rich French businessman, he deals in the stock market, he produces nothing and his only goal is to become richer.  His associates are all of the same mind, his latest project is a public sale of stock in a company he knows will soon be out of business, leaving no value for those who bought the stock.  Maybe ten years ago he married a very nice younger woman, he paid of her father's substantial debts.  She soon has a son and dies when the boy is six month old.  The man totally loves the boy but he can find only 15 minutes a day to spend with him.  Of course he has servants to care for the boy, including a dedicated to him German woman (hint Germans were not popular in France in 1909).  When he goes to work on Christmas Eve he tells his servants to buy the boy a lot of presents, giving them money.

I don't want to spoil the plot too much as this is a good fun to read story.  The man's valet, and the boy's yaya burst into his office, the maid is hysterical.  The valet tells his boss that the son, now ten or so, is missing.  They have reported it to the police.  The man in a wild panic runs to the police station nearest his mansion.  Leaving more untold but to say it ends well and the man is forever changed by his contact with a near saintly working man, a widower just like him.

Yes this is very sentimental but I think you will enjoy it, I know I did. You can find it online.  

I read this in a brand new anthology, A Very French Christmas:  The Greatest French Holiday Stories of All times, published last month by New Vessel Press.  I will post in detail on this book soon. I will read this month at least three more stories from this collection, which the publisher kindly gave me, including one by Irene Nemirovsky.  


There is another story by Coppée in this collection and I hope to read it for Paris in July 11 in 2018.

Mel u