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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog MICHEL: FALLEN ANGEL OF PARIS by Hans M Hirschi (@Hans_Hirschi) A coming of age story, a love story, and a story of another pandemic that changed everything #LGTBI

Hi all:

Today I review a novel by an author who never fails to impress me (and to make me cry as well), one linked to the first of his novels I ever read.

Michel: Fallen Angel of Paris by Hans M Hirschi

Michel: Fallen Angel of Paris by Hans M Hirschi

Preparing to evacuate from an approaching hurricane, Haakon Chitragar stumbles upon the diary of his first love, Michel, who died from AIDS in his arms in November of 1986. Diary in hands, Haakon embarks on a journey back in time, to learn about Michel’s life, his difficult and painful path to accepting his true self, despite pressure from family, church, and society.

Michel – Fallen Angel of Paris is the story of one young man, one of countless victims of a pandemic still claiming lives every day, almost forty years after his death on a park bench in Paris. It’s also a story about the most unlikely of friendships, connections across time and space, acceptance, redemption, and learning to love and to be loved for who you are.

Michel – Fallen Angel of Paris is based on a character from The Fallen Angels of Karnataka. While both stories are intertwined, Michel can be read as a stand-alone novel.


Michel – Fallen Angel of Paris is a masterpiece. Brilliantly written, it tells a riveting, heartfelt story that shows that, in spite of all the crises (present and pre-existing) there is still reason for hope. Michel is an awe-inspiring and memorable read, impossible to put down.”

– Alina Oswald, Arts Editor, A&U Magazine

https://www.amazon.com/Michel-Fallen-Angel-Hans-Hirschi-ebook/dp/B09VCJ1GLY/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Michel-Fallen-Angel-of-Paris/dp/B09VCJ1GLY/

https://www.amazon.es/Michel-Fallen-Angel-Paris-English-ebook/dp/B09VCJ1GLY/

Author Hans M Hirschi

About the author:

Hans M Hirschi has been writing stories ever since he was a child. Adulthood and the demands of corporate life put an end to his fictional writing for over twenty years. A global executive in training and channel development, Hans has traveled the world extensively and published a couple of non-fictional titles on learning and management.

The birth of his son and the subsequent parental leave provided him with the opportunity to once again unleash his creative writing, writing feel-good stories you’ll remember.

Having little influence over his brain’s creative workings, he simply indulges it and goes with the flow. However, the deep passion for a better world, for love and tolerance are a read thread throughout both his creative and non-fictional work.

Hans lives with his husband, son, and pets on a small island off the west coast of Sweden. English isn’t his first or even second language. It’s his seventh!

Contact Hans through his website at http://www.hirschi.se.

https://www.amazon.com/Hans-M-Hirschi/e/B00E0DP0EE/

My review:

I was provided with an ARC copy of this novel, which I freely chose to review.

I have been following Hans M Hirschi’s career for a few years now, and he is one of a group of authors whose books I immediately add to my list (and as close to the top as I can), as soon as I know they’ve published something new. I don’t hesitate. I know I’m going to get a book that will touch my heart, make me think, and will often deal with uncomfortable and/or controversial subjects (his adult books are never “light and easy” reads, but they are well worth the emotional challenge), whose characters I’ll get to know and love (or hate, sometimes), and a story that I will not forget. And, although the author explains that he had a pretty tough time of writing this book, and the whole process took him longer than usual, the results are up to his usual standards, if not better.

This book held another hook for me, as the main character had appeared in one of the author’s previous novels, The Fallen Angels of Karnataka, the first I had read by him, and one where I had been left hoping to know more about the background and the previous story of some of the characters. I agree with the author, though, that this book could be read and enjoyed without having read the previous novel, as the story told here is complete and fairly independent, and there is sufficient information provided to understand the few references to that book. And those who have read it, even if it was a long time ago, will enjoy catching up with some of the characters and getting a fuller understanding of the build-up to the events of that book.

This is a coming-of-age story. Perhaps because the future looks uncertain and dangerous and he is facing a crisis; when Haakon comes across his first love’s diary, he decides to read it. He had only read the bits related to their relationship, but they hadn’t known each other long, and there was much he didn’t know. We hear about Michel, a young boy of 12 when he gets his diary, living in Rennes. We learn about his family, his very religious (Roman Catholic) mother, and his father, very concerned about appearances. They used to live in St. Malo but when his father couldn’t carry on being a fisherman, they had to move somewhere with more opportunities. The family is never well off, and they struggle to make ends meet, although they don’t have any serious problems. As an only child, his mother in particular is always concerned about him and insists that he help at mass and that he meet the Monseigneur, for spiritual guidance. If you suspect the worst… Well, you’d be right. Michel doesn’t realise until many years later what had really happened, but he discovers he is gay, at a time when that was not easily accepted, thanks to some unlikely friends. He is lucky and finds support in an ersatz family (his real parents are not so understanding), although he is also a victim of hate crimes, and abuse, and has to live through pretty traumatic experiences. When things seem to be looking up, an illness that changed everything and took the lives of so many, strikes him down, allowing him only the briefest of glimpses at happiness. Haakon realises that there are many unanswered questions and important people in Michel’s life who deserve closure as much as he does. And he decides to put things to rights.

The novel explores issues like sexual identity, growing up in a small town and being “different”, religious faith and religious intolerance, traditional families and intergenerational conflict, LGTBI culture in the 1970s and 80s, AIDS, guilt, grief, acceptance, second chances, happiness, charity, sex abuse, intolerance and hate crimes, and friendship and love…

We get some of the story directly from Michel’s pen, but most of it is mediated through Haakon, and that adds a layer of interpretation and also his emotional reaction to what he reads. He learns many things he didn’t know about Michel, and there is also his own life and the present time to be taken care of. Michel’s story covers from 1976 (well, from 1964 when he was born) until 1986; there are also some small sections of present-day narration at the beginning and in the middle of the book, and once Haakon has finished reading the diary, the final section follows him and his husband in their trip to France, in the present.

I’ve particularly liked the way the story is told, as it allows us to see what it must have been like for Michel at the time, and also provides us with the perspective of somebody who is familiar with some of the issues and with bits of the story, but not all. There are heart-wrenching moments, moments that will horrify and upset many readers (be warned), but Haakon is exactly as Michel describes him: non-judgmental, kind, and understanding. Michel is harsher on himself and his behaviour than Haakon could ever be, and despite the hard and painful moments, the love story between the two is very moving. This novel also reflects a recent historical period, one that perhaps the younger readers will not be familiar with, but many of us remember what happened when the AIDS epidemic first appeared, and the panic, paranoia, and terrible consequences it had. There was a before and an after AIDS, and it is important to remember that it hasn’t gone away.

The author’s writing reflects perfectly the events, with the right amount of description to make the places, the people, and the era come alive before our eyes, and despite how difficult some parts of the story are, there are also extremely beautiful passages and scenes that will make a strong impression in all readers.

There is nothing I didn’t like about the story. The ending is not surprising, but that is not what the book is about. Hirschi has been called “the queen of unconventional happy endings” and he lives up to that title here as well. Yes, the story’s ending is not “happy, happy” but it is a good ending, everything considered. And it is a hopeful ending as well.

As usual, I recommend readers to check a sample of the book to make sure that the writing style will suit their taste, and, I have already warned of the type of content people can find here. As you will imagine, there is also sex in the novel. Although this is neither erotica nor pornography, and there are very few explicit scenes, readers take that into account when choosing to read this story.

If you enjoy good writing, are interested in the historical period, are partial to first-love stories, and are unlikely to be disturbed by an open and honest look at the coming of age story of a young gay man growing up in a small French town in the 1980s, you should read this book. If you’ve never read one of Hans M Hirschi’s novels, you’ll discover a new author to add to your favourites, and if you’ve read The Fallen Angels of Karnataka, you are in for a special treat.

Thanks to the author for his novel, thanks to all of you for reading, liking, sharing, commenting, and don’t forget to keep safe and keep smiling. 

 

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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog Picasso’s Revenge by Ray and Caroline Foulk (@picassonovel). For lovers of Cubism eager to experience the 1920s and 30s Paris art scene.

Hi all:

I bring you another review on behalf of Rosie’s group. This is a labour of love, and I hope you find it as interesting as I did.

Picasso’s Revenge by Ray and Caroline Foulk

Picasso’s Revenge by Ray and Caroline Foulk.

In the early 1920 s, immaculate gentleman, Jacques Doucet descends into the world of anarchist art, the occult and the dark turmoil of his past involving the death of his beloved Madame R. A disastrous journey leads the couturier and patron of the arts to confront the celebrated bohemians of the city, including Max Jacob, André Breton and Picasso. When troubled Doucet acquires the world’s most dangerous painting, it causes him to hack at the root of Picasso s darkest secrets, unveiling modern art’s incredible genesis.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Picassos-Revenge-Ray-Foulk-Caroline/dp/1911487345/

https://www.amazon.com/Picassos-Revenge-Ray-Foulk-Caroline/dp/1911487345/

https://www.amazon.es/Picassos-Revenge-Ray-Foulk-Caroline/dp/1911487345/

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/43975881-picasso-s-revenge

Author Ray Foulk

About the author:

Ray Foulk, now based in Oxford, has fostered many passions since his early days as a promoter. After the dizzy heights of the Isle of Wight Festivals and stadium events in London, the Foulk brothers were head-hunted by the Milton Keynes Development Corporation to help plan the leisure content of their new city. Through this Ray brought the inventor/scientist/designer Buckminster Fuller, to the project, embraced his environmentalism, and eventually trained as an architect himself at the University of Cambridge. Combining design, education and promotion he spent much of the nineties and noughties as an environmental campaigner, and led the ambitious in-schools project, Blue Planet Day, rekindling the satisfaction, and more, that the festivals had brought to his youth. Recent years have been dominated by environmental architecture and writing.

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/13982553.Ray_Foulk

My review:

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (authors, if you are looking for reviews, check here), and I freely chose to review an ARC copy of this novel.

The author describes this book as ‘historical fiction’ and that is correct, but this novel leans more heavily towards the research side of things than towards the fictionalisation, and when we read the author’s explanation and the epilogue, it’s easy to understand why. Ray Foulk’s PhD dissertation focused on an element that appears in the novel (I’m not sure talking about it would be a spoiler, but just in case, I’ll be discreet), and it is evident that he felt the topic was too fascinating to be confined to academia. So much so that he first worked on a movie treatment of the same, and now it has become a novel. Therefore, it is not surprising that the book is packed with factual details, with quotes from historical characters, from novels, art critics, newspapers and magazines. But, although the character at the centre of the book, Jacques Doucet (yes, Picasso is central as well, but not the main character) existed in real life, and most of the information the book shares about him is true, we do not have access to his personal notes and papers (these were destroyed shortly after his death at his request), and therefore we can only speculate as to his thoughts and his reasons behind some of his projects, which seemed extravagant at the time, and would likely raise a few eyebrows even now.

Although I’ve read about the period (particularly in regards to Paris as a cultural centre and a meeting place where artists, writers, patrons of the arts, philosophers, musicians… met and exchanged influences and ideas) and studied a course called ‘The Exotic and the Primitive in American Literature’, and I’m therefore somewhat familiar with some of the concepts and ideas discussed in the book, I didn’t know much about Doucet before reading this novel. He was a famous couturier as a young man, and later became a collector of books and art, moving on from XVIII c. art to the Impressionists and eventually to what became known as Modern Art, becoming a patron of some of the best-known artists of the time. In the novel, we meet him when he is advanced in years and has lost interest in dressmaking  (dressmaking has also lost interest in him), and has become focused on his collecting. The book is narrated in third person omniscient person, interspersed with parts when we hear directly from a variety of characters in the first-person, most of all from Doucet himself. Although the main events in the book follow a chronological order, in his search for the truth (or for understanding, or… well, I’ll leave it to your judgement), Doucet talks to many people, and they sometimes recall events from the past, as does he, so there are moments we keep coming back to, again and again, and see them from different perspectives, and we get to slowly build up a picture of what might have actually happened. But some of the witnesses and the narrations/confessions, are far from straight-forward and reliable, so this is far from a standard mystery, where we follow the clues and get to a clear answer.

This is a book about an obsession, or several, that seem to mirror each other. It is a book about Doucet’s obsession with a painting, Les Mademoiselles d’Avignon, by Picasso, a painting he purchased due to its connection with a lady he knew and was obsessed with as well. The painting, which supposed a break with the previous art movements and gave birth to modern art, was controversial at the time (1906-1907, and was not fully appreciated until much later. Doucet feels that if he can get to understand the painting and why Picasso painted it, it will help him come to terms with what happened to the lady he was infatuated with. I couldn’t help but wonder if such obsession is not mirrored by the author’s obsession with the story and the reasons behind Doucet’s final project, but this is only speculation on my part.

The book is full of wonderful descriptions of art objects, of buildings, locations, and as I mentioned, includes plenty of factual information about events and people of that period, from a variety of sources, all identified at the end of the book by the authors. Each chapter opens with a quote that always bears a relation to the content, even though the connection is not always direct and straight-forward. This is a long book that seems to meander and swirl, slowing down to contemplate a particular moment or artwork and then moving on again; there is plenty of telling (although as I’ve said there are also many detailed descriptions that will delight art lovers and connoisseurs, and will make them feel as if they were there); there are events we go back to again and again, to study them from all possible angles (imitating, in a way, what the cubist art movement tried to do, deconstructing and putting the pieces together to gain a new understanding of what happened and why); there are plenty of secrets and mysteries, but none that fit in the standard mystery genre; and although the main character is complex and engaging at an intellectual level, I am not sure he is easy  to empathise with. Personally, I found him fascinating, and I was intrigued by his struggle for meaning and his moments of insight (sometimes he resists accepting what might be evident to others and is horrified when he realises how others might see him), but I am not sure he’s the kind of hero most readers will appreciate or feel at ease with.

This is a book for art lovers, especially lovers of the Paris art scene of the 1920s and 30s (a fascinating era and the place to be, for sure), who appreciate lengthy descriptions and are not looking for a straight-forward narrative, full of adventures and action, where all becomes clear and all secrets are eventually revealed. This is a novel about enjoying the intellectual journey and the process of research and the beauty is of the findings along the way, and although there is an ending (one that reminded me of Henry James’s The Beast in the Jungle, my favourite story by James), for me, this is by the by.  I recommend readers to keep reading after the ending, because the epilogue and the author’s notes and acknowledgements add plenty of value to the text, explaining the background to the project and providing also a bibliography for those who want to track back the information and keep on researching. The ARC version I had access to (in e-book format) contained a couple of images, but I do wonder if the paperback version will contain more images, or if the final version in e-book will perhaps contain links to the many artworks mentioned, as I think having access to images would enhance greatly the understanding and the enjoyment of the book. (I was familiar with many of the artists and some of their works, but not always with the ones mentioned. Not an easy read, not a book for everybody, but a festival for the senses and the minds of those interested in the topic and not afraid of going on a journey through a man’s obsession with art and love). If you love Picasso, Paris circa 1920s and 1920s, and enjoy rich descriptions and digging beyond the surfaces of human behaviour, you must read this novel.

Oh, and after reading the review, one of the authors sent me a link with some background into the novel and also a link where readers can find some of the artworks that play such an important part in the novel. Here it is:

https://www.picassosrevenge.com/

Thanks to Rosie and the members of her great group, thanks to the author, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and always keep smiling!

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Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview THE ART LOVER’S GUIDE TO PARIS (CITY GUIDES) by Boukabou Ruby (@penswordbooks) A must-have for lovers of art and Paris.

Hi all:

I bring you a book that I think will be of interest to many (and I thoroughly enjoyed):

The Art Lover's Guide to Paris by Ruby Boukabou
The Art Lover’s Guide to Paris by Ruby Boukabou

The Art Lover’s Guide to Paris (City Guides) by Boukabou Ruby

There’s no doubt that Paris is brimming with some of the world’s best art. But on a trip to the City of Light, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the options, get caught up in the queues and miss the back street gems. Fear not- armed with this companion you’ll easily navigate your way through the rich art history to the vibrant present scene, and have a ball doing so. Along with listings of the unmissable museums and galleries (where you’ll appreciate the ancients through to the contemporaries), the guide includes more off beat places to find public and private art all over town (from design hotels to auction houses, beautiful brasseries to artist studios). You’ll pick up insider tips from local and international professionals and find out where to take a sketch class, see live street art, buy an artwork, attend intriguing art events and meet the artists.

https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/The-Art-Lovers-Guide-to-Paris-Paperback/p/16122

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lovers-Guide-Paris-City-Guides/dp/152673365X/

https://www.amazon.com/Lovers-Guide-Paris-City-Guides/dp/152673365X/

https://www.amazon.es/Lovers-Guide-Paris-City-Guides/dp/152673365X/

Author Ruby Boukabou
Author Ruby Boukabou

About Ruby Boukabou

Ruby Boukabou is a reporter specialising in culture and travel. For over a decade Ruby has written cultural stories about Paris for dozens of magazines, papers and sites with clients including the French Travel Board, Qantas in-flight magazine and the ABC. She is co-author of 48 Paris, a National Geographic guide to Paris. www.rubytv.net & www.rubybouabou.com

My review:

I freely chose to review an ARC paperback copy of this book provided by the publishers. This in no way affected its content.

There’s something exciting and reassuring about guide books. Exciting, because we feel submerged in a place we don’t know (or we don’t know well) and we vibrate with the adventures its pages offer us, and that happens even when we’re just checking to get some ideas rather than committing to a visit or a definite plan. And reassuring, because having information about a place that might be unknown (and sometimes pretty different to our everyday experience) and holding onto facts, advice, and suggestions, we feel less alone and more in control.

There are many guidebooks, and as many different approaches and styles as readers and travellers. Some people have their favourites and stick to them (we all know that some guides are parts of series and come with a seal of approval from trusted organisations and/or publishers), others shop and change, and there are people who might have a true collection of guides for locations they love, and are always in the lookout for a new approach, or one that covers in more detail some aspect of a place that they are particularly interested in. If you love travelling and books, for instance, there are literary guides that will offer you information about different authors, where they lived and what they did in a particular place (it would be difficult to visit Dublin and not think of James Joyce and Oscar Wilde, visit Bath and not see in your mind’s eye the characters of Jane Austen’s novels, or walk around Barcelona and not keep coming across places mentioned in The Shadow of the Wind). I love reading and books, so I’ve always paid particular attention when visiting places to information about writers and authors, but I’m also enamoured with art (I am no aficionado, as I don’t know much, but I’m in awe of artists and love to learn about them and their works of art), so I could not resist when I saw this book.

I’ve visited Paris quite a few times (I’m lucky that one of my best friends lives in Paris, and I can visit one of my goddaughters when I go there), and I do love it. The idea of an art lover’s guide to Paris, one of the cities considered the cradle of art, fundamental to many art movements and to the career of so many world famous artists, was just perfect. And the book is a delight.

Considering this is a small-sized book, it is packed with information, and fairly up-to-date. (It does talk about Notre-Dame before the terrible fire, but the rest of the information is timely and there are reminders to check all the information for updates throughout the book). After a foreword by the author and a brief introduction talking about art history, the book (which includes an arrondissements map to allow people to get their bearings as to the location of the places), the book is divided into chapters including: the museums, foundations and institutions (organised by location), the galleries, it has a chapter on photography (including some photography tips), architecture, art in public places, then come two chapters talking about two neighbourhoods of Paris that are more “arty”, Montmartre (this one is divided into several parts and can be followed as a walking guide), and one on Belleville (a delight for those interested in modern art and new, up and coming artists),one on street art (I loved this one), a chapter containing advice on how to attend and art auction, one on arty cafés, restaurants and hotels, a chapter inviting people to explore greater Paris (that I found particularly inspiring, as it includes places easily accessible from Paris, just about an hour’s journey from the centre of Paris), a chapter called “art close and personal” with suggestions on where to go to meet artist and to learn more about art (and even practise your own!), arty day trips (these are longer visits, and include a lengthier segment on Giverny), another chapter offering tips, this one on buying art, by art experts, and an art diary, highlighting the different art fairs and events that art lovers might want to attend. The book also includes an index and a bibliography, although many of the entries contain relevant information and links that can be further explored.

The book is full of wonderful colour photographs, which make it a delight to leaf through, even if you’re not planning a trip straight away, and it contains nuggets of invaluable information about places and people, without becoming overwhelming or excessive. It is light-hearted, conversational in style (you feel as if you were strolling with the author at times), the language used is easy to read (and family-friendly), and it also includes references to other arts (for example, it highlights the real-life settings of movies).

This book will make a great present for anybody thinking about visiting Paris, art lovers in general, and anybody who likes specialised guide-books that remain accessible and user-friendly. Many of the tips and suggestions are useful in any setting and for any journey, and, personally, it will become a trusted companion in my future visits to Paris.

Thanks to the publisher (and Rosie Croft, of course), to the author, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, keep smiling, and enjoy the art all around us!

Oh, and I must thank Miriam Hurdle for her wonderful review of the audiobook of the first novel I ever published, The Man Who Never Was. You can check it here. And don’t forget to check her books!

 

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Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview THE WHITE CRUCIFIXION: A NOVEL ABOUT MARC CHAGALL by Michael Dean (@HollandParkPres) An inside look into the early life and creative process of Marc Chagall that goes well beyond a standard biography #arthistory

Hi all:

Those of you who’ve been following my blog for a while, know that I am a bit of a disaster with visuals and even taking digital pictures is a challenge. Despite that, or perhaps, because of it, I love the visual arts: painting, sculpture, photography, and I’m fascinated by the lives of the artists, the classics as well as more recent ones. I remember reading with fascination The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein where she talks about the writers and artists that visited her and the fascinating conversations and exchange of ideas that took place. (Although her writing style is peculiar, I love that book and I recommend it).

So, when I got offered this book, I had to read it. And here it is:

Book review of The White Crucifixion: A novel about Marc Chagall by Michael Dean
The White Crucifixion: A novel about Marc Chagall by Michael Dean

The White Crucifixion: A novel about Marc Chagall by Michael Dean

The White Crucifixion starts with Chagall’s difficult birth in Vitebsk 1887, in the present-day Belarus, and tells the surprising story of how the eldest son of a herring schlepper became enrolled in art school where he quickly gained a reputation as ‘Moyshe, the painting wonder’.

The novel paints a vivid picture of a Russian town divided by belief and wealth, rumours of pogroms never far away, yet bustling with talented young artists.

In 1913 Chagall relished the opportunity to move to Paris to take up residence in the artist colony ‘The Hive’ (La Ruche). The Yiddish-speaking artists (École Juive) living there were all poor. The Hive had no electric light or running water and yet many of its artists were to become famous, among them Amedeo Modigliani, Chaim Soutine, and Osip Zadkine.

The novel vividly portrays the dynamics of an artist colony, its pettiness, friendships and the constant battle to find the peace and quiet to work.

In 1914 Chagall and his wife Bella made what was supposed to be a fleeting visit to his beloved Vitebsk, only to be trapped there by the outbreak of the First World War, the subsequent Russian revolution and the establishment of the communist regime, which was increasingly hostile towards artists like Chagall.

Yet Chagall kept on painting, and the novel provides a fascinating account of what inspired some of his greatest work. He eventually managed to return to France, only to be thwarted by another world war, which proved disastrous for the people he knew in Vitebsk, the people in his paintings, including his uncle Neuch, the original ‘Fiddler on the roof’.

The White Crucifixion is a fictionalised account of the rollercoaster life in terrible times of one of the most enigmatic artists of the twentieth century.

Links:

https://www.amazon.com/White-Crucifixion-novel-about-Chagall-ebook/dp/B079YX4JQM/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/White-Crucifixion-novel-about-Chagall-ebook/dp/B079YX4JQM/

Author Michael Dean
Author Michael Dean

About the author:

Michael Dean has a history degree from Worcester College, Oxford, an MSc in Applied Linguistics from Edinburgh University and a translator’s qualification (AIL) in German.

His novels are The Crooked Cross (Endeavour Press, new edition 2018) about Hitler and art; Thorn, (Bluemoose Books, 2011) about Spinoza and Rembrandt; Magic City, (Odyssey Press new edition 2017) a Bildungsroman; and I, Hogarth (Duckworth-Overlook, 2012), which set out to unify Hogarth’s life with his art.

He has also written three e-book novels for Endeavour Press: The Enemy Within (2013), about Jewish resistance in the Netherlands in World War II; Hour Zero (2014), about Germany in 1946; and Before the Darkness (2015), about Walther Rathenau and the Weimar Republic.

His non-fiction includes a book about Chomsky and many educational publications.

His latest novel The White Crucifixion, a novel about Marc Chagall, will be published by Holland Park Press on February 2018.

Michael says: ‘The White Crucifixion intends to unify Marc Chagall’s life, painting and the Jewish experience in the twentieth century. In some ways, I see it as a follow-up to my previous novel, I, Hogarth. The two novels are, however, very different because the two artists painted very differently and I try to reflect that (‘Dean writes as Hogarth paints,’ Andrea Wulf, New York Times). Nevertheless, you could see this as a kind of Jewish I, Hogarth.’

Enjoy Artist’s White Crucifixion Made a Marc on Novelist a profile of Michael Dean which was published in the Jewish Telegraph on 19 January 2018.

‘The priority for me is always to write a novel but at the same time stay true to real life.’ – From an interview with Michael Dean in The Gazette

https://www.amazon.com/default/e/B003CGUP9A/

https://www.hollandparkpress.co.uk//dean

My review:

I received an ARC copy of this novel from the publisher, and I freely chose to review it.

Although I am not sure I would say I’m a big fan of Chagall’s paintings, I’ve always been intrigued by them and drawn to them, even when I didn’t know much about the author or what was behind them. I’ve seen several exhibitions of his work and have also visited the wonderful Chagall National Museum in Nice, France (I recommend it to anybody wishing to learn more about the painter and his works, particularly those with a religious focus). When I was offered the opportunity to read this novel, written by an author with a particular affinity for the art-world, it was an opportunity too good to miss.

The book is not a full biography. It follows Marc Chagall (born Moyshe Shagal) from his birth in the pre-revolutionary Russian town of Vitebsk (now in Belarus) until he paints the White Crucifixion of the title. We accompany Chagall through his childhood (hard and difficult conditions, but not for lack of affection or care), his early studies and his interactions with his peers (many of whom became well-known artists in their own right), his love story with Bella (fraught as it was at times), his first stay in Paris, in the Hive (a fabulous-sounding place, and a glorious and chaotic Petri dish where many great artists, especially from Jewish origin, lived and created), his return to Russia and his encounter with the Russian revolution (full of hopes and ideals for a better future at first, hopes and ideals that are soon trashed by the brutality of the new regime), and finally his escape and return to France.

Throughout it all, we learn about his passion for painting, his creative self-assurance and fascination for Jewish life and traditions,  his peculiar creative methods and routine (he wears makeup to paint and prefers to paint at night), his visitations by the prophet Elijah and how that is reflected in his paintings, his pettiness and jealousy (he is forever suspicious of other pupils and fellow painters, of his wife and her friends), and how he can be truly oblivious to practical matters and always depends on others to manage the everyday details of life (like food, money, etc.). He is surrounded by tragedy and disaster (from the death of his young sister to the many deaths caused by the destruction of Vitebsk at the hands of the revolutionaries) although he is lucky in comparison to many of his contemporaries, and lived to a very ripe old age.

The book is a fictionalization of the early years of Marc Chagall’s life (with a very brief mention of his end), but it is backed up by a good deal of research that is seamlessly threaded into the story. We read about the art movements of the time and Chagall’s opinion of them, about other famous painters (I love the portrayal of Modigliani, a favourite among all his peers), about the historical events of the time, all from a unique perspective, that of the self-absorbed Chagall. He is not a particularly sympathetic character. Despite his protestations of love, he is more interested in painting than in his wife and daughter, although he states that he feels guilty for some of the tragedies that happen to those around him, he pays little heed to them all and does not change his selfish behaviour, and he is far from modest (he feels he has nothing to learn from anybody, is clearly superior to most, if not all, his colleagues and he often talks about how attractive he is). He is unashamed and unapologetic, as he would have to be to succeed in the circumstances he had to live through. But, no matter what we might feel about the man, the book excels at explaining the genesis of some of his best-known early paintings, and all readers will leave with a better understanding of the man and his art.

The writing combines the first person narrative with the historical detail and loving descriptions of places and people, giving Chagall a unique and distinctive voice and turning him into a real person, with defects and qualities, with his pettiness and his peculiar sense of humour. Although we might not like him or fully understand him, we get to walk in his shoes and to share in his sense of wonder and in his urgency to create.

I wanted to share some quotations from the book, so you can get some sense of the style and decide if it suits your taste:

When I work, I feel as if my father and my mother are peering over my shoulder — and behind them Jews, millions of vanished Jews of yesterday and a thousand years ago. They are all in my paintings.

Here he talks about Modigliani and one of his lovers, Beatrice Hastings:

They had some of the most erudite fights in Paris. They used to fight in verse. He would yell Dante at her. She would scream back Dante Gabriel Rossetti or Milton, who Modi especially detested.

Modi once said ‘The human face is the supreme creation of nature. Paint it and you paint life.’

All my life I have blamed myself for whatever it was I was doing, but all my life I have gone on doing it.

So much for the revolution freeing the Jews from oppression. They had ended the ghettos, the Pales of Settlement, but the ghettos had at least afforded us a protective fence, of sorts, to huddle behind. Now we were like clucking chickens out in the open, waiting to be picked off one by one for counter-revolutionary activity.

As other reviewers have noted, the book will be enjoyed more fully if readers can access images of Chagall’s paintings and be able to check them as they are discussed. I only had access to the e-book version and I don’t know if the paper copies contain illustrations, but it would enhance the experience.

I recommend the book to art lovers, fans of Marc Chagall and painters of the period, people interested in that historical period, studious of the Russian Revolution interested in a different perspective, and people intrigued by Jewish life in pre- and early-revolutionary Russia. I have read great reviews about the author’s book on another painter, Hogarth, and I’ll be keeping track of his new books.

Thanks to the author and the publisher for the book, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and to keep smiling! ♥

Categories
Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview 4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster. Four stories of the man as a young artist. For lovers of experimental literary fiction and New York.

Hi, all.

If you have been following my blog for a while you’ll know I’ve been trying to keep up with the Man-Booker Prize this year. Here is a review of another one of the books that made it into the shortlist.

4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster
4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster

4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster

LONGLISTED (AND NOW SHORTLISTED) FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE 2017

On March 3, 1947, in the maternity ward of Beth Israel Hospital in Newark, New Jersey, Archibald Isaac Ferguson, the one and only child of Rose and Stanley Ferguson, is born. From that single beginning, Ferguson’s life will take four simultaneous and independent fictional paths. Four Fergusons made of the same genetic material, four boys who are the same boy, will go on to lead four parallel and entirely different lives. Family fortunes diverge. Loves and friendships and intellectual passions contrast. Chapter by chapter, the rotating narratives evolve into an elaborate dance of inner worlds enfolded within the outer forces of history as, one by one, the intimate plot of each Ferguson’s story rushes on across the tumultuous and fractured terrain of mid twentieth-century America. A boy grows up-again and again and again.

As inventive and dexterously constructed as anything Paul Auster has ever written 4 3 2 1 is an unforgettable tour de force, the crowning work of this masterful writer’s extraordinary career.

 

https://www.amazon.com/4-3-2-Paul-Auster-ebook/dp/B01LZPLGUS/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/4-3-2-Paul-Auster-ebook/dp/B01LZPLGUS/

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

An Amazon Best Book of February 2017: Paul Auster’s 4321 is his first novel in seven years, and it feels extra personal. Details of a life spent growing up in Brooklyn—of loving the Brooklyn Dodgers, Laurel and Hardy, summer camp—are laid out with the earnest intensity of a writer looking back on his life. Plot points arise—for instance, a person is killed by lightning—which mimic more unique moments from Auster’s own life experience. At nearly 900 pages, it is also a long novel—but a reason for that is 4321 tells the story of its protagonist, Archie Ferguson, four different times. What remains consistent throughout Archie’s life (or lives) is that his father starts out with the same career, Archie falls in love with the same girl, and his personality seems more nature than nurture. But those are starting off points, and if our lives are the sum of our choices, they are the sum of other people’s choices as well. Circumstances matter, and what will keep you thinking about this book is the convergence of time and circumstance within each of Archie’s different lives. His past propels him, his circumstances form him, and regardless of which life we are reading, time will ultimately take him. –Chris Schluep, The Amazon Book Review

Editorial Reviews

“[Paul] Auster’s deep understanding of his characters, soothing baritone, and skillful pacing…deliver an immensely satisfying experience overall for listeners”
-AudioFile Magazine

“An epic bildungsroman . . . . Original and complex . . . . It’s impossible not to be impressed – and even a little awed – by what Auster has accomplished. . . . A work of outsize ambition and remarkable craft, a monumental assemblage of competing and complementary fictions, a novel that contains multitudes.”―Tom PerrottaThe New York Times Book Review

“A stunningly ambitious novel, and a pleasure to read. Auster’s writing is joyful even in the book’s darkest moments, and never ponderous or showy. . . . An incredibly moving, true journey.”―NPR

Ingenious . . . . Structurally inventive and surprisingly moving. . . . 4 3 2 1 reads like [a] big social drama . . . while also offering the philosophical exploration of one man’s fate.”―Esquire

Mesmerizing . . . Continues to push the narrative envelope. . . . Four distinct characters whose lives diverge and intersect in devious, rollicking ways, reminiscent of Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life. . . . Prismatic and rich in period detail4 3 2 1 reflects the high spirits of postwar America as well as the despair coiled, asplike, in its shadows.”―O, the Oprah Magazine

Sharply observed . . . . Reads like a sprawling, 19th-century novel.”―The Wall Street Journal

Ambitious and sprawling . . . . Immersive . . . . Auster has a startling ability to report the world in novel ways.”―USA Today

“The power of [Auster’s] best work is . . . his faithful pursuit of the mission proposed in The Invention of Solitude, to explore the ‘infinite possibilities of a limited space’ . . . . The effect [of 4 3 2 1] is almost cubist in its multidimensionality―that of a single, exceptionally variegated life displayed in the round. . . . [An] impressively ambitious novel.”―Harper’s Magazine

“Auster’s magnificent new novel is reminiscent ofInvisible in that it deals with the impossibility of containing a life in a single story . . . . Undeniably intriguing . . . . A mesmerizing chronicle of one character’s four lives . . . The finest―though one hopes, far from final―act in one of the mightiest writing careers of the last half-century.”―Paste Magazine

Wonderfully clever . . . . 4 3 2 1 is much more than a piece of literary gamesmanship . . . . It is a heartfelt and engaging piece of storytelling that unflinchingly explores the 20thcentury American experience in all its honor and ignominy. This is, without doubt, Auster’s magnum opus. . . . A true revelation . . . One can’t help but admit they are in the presence of a genius.”―Toronto Star

“A multitiered examination of the implications of fate . . . in which the structure of the book reminds us of its own conditionality. . . . A signifier of both possibility and its limitations.”―The Washington Post

“At the heart of this novel is a provocative question: What would have happened if your life had taken a different turn at a critical moment? . Ingenious.”―Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“Auster presents four lovingly detailed portrayals of the intensity of youth – of awkwardness and frustration, but also of passion for books, films, sport, politics, and sex. . . . [Trying] to think of comparisons [to the novel] . . . [nothing] is exactly right . . . . What he is driving at is not only the role of contingency and the unexpected but the ‘what-ifs’ that haunt us, the imaginary lives we hold in our minds that run parallel to our actual existence.”―The Guardian

“Draws the reader in from the very first sentence and does not let go until the very end. . . . An absorbing, detailed account – four accounts! – of growing up in the decades following World War II. . . . Auster’sprose is never less than arresting … In addition to being a bildungsroman, “4321” is a “künstlerroman,” a portrait of the artist as a young man whose literary ambition is evident even in childhood. . . . I emerged from . . . this prodigious book eager for more.”―San Francisco Chronicle

“Leaves readers feeling they know every minute detail of [Ferguson’s] inner life as if they were lifelong companions and daily confidants. . . . It’s like an epic game of MASH: Will Ferguson grow up in Montclair or Manhattan? Excel in baseball or basketball? Date girls or love boys too? Live or die? . . A detailed landscape . . . for readers who like taking the scenic route.”―TIME Magazine

“Auster pays tribute to what Rose Ferguson thinks of as a ‘dear, dirty, devouring New York, the capital of human faces, the horizontal Babel of human tongues.’. . . Sprawling . . . occasionally splendid.”―The New Yorker

“A bona fide epic . . . both accessible and formally daring.”―Minneapolis Star Tribune

Inventive, engrossing.”―St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Arresting .. . A hugely accomplished work, a novel unlike any other.”―The National (UAE)

“Brilliantly rendered, intricately plotted . . . a magnum opus.”―Columbia Magazine

“Auster’s first novel in seven years is . . . . an ingenious move . . . . Auster’s sense of possibility, his understanding of what all his Fergusons have in common, with us and one another, is a kind of quiet intensity, a striving to discover who they are. . . . [He] reminds us that not just life, but also narrative is always conditional, that it only appears inevitable after the fact.”―Kirkus (starred review)

“Auster has been turning readers’ heads for three decades, bending the conventions of storytelling . . . . He now presents his most capacious, demanding, eventful, suspenseful, erotic, structurally audacious, funny, and soulful novel to date . . . [a] ravishing opus.”―Booklist (starred review)

Rich and detailed. It’s about accidents of fate, and the people and works of art and experiences that shape our lives even before our birth―what reader doesn’t vibrate at that frequency?”―Lydia Kiesling, Slate

“Auster illuminates how the discrete moments in one’s life form the plot points of a sprawling narrative, rife with possibility.”―Library Journal (starred review)

Mesmerizing . . . . A wonderful work of realist fiction and well worth the time.”―Read it Forward

Frisky and sinuous . . . energetic. . . . A portrait of a cultural era coming into being . . . the era that is our own.”―Tablet magazine

“Almost everything about Auster’s new novel is big. . . Satisfyingly rich in detail . . . . A significant and immersive entry to a genre that stretches back centuries and includes Augie March and Tristram Shandy.”―Publishers Weekly

Author Paul Auster
Author Paul Auster

About the author:

Paul Auster is the bestselling author of Travels in the Scriptorium, The Brooklyn Follies, and Oracle Night. I Thought My Father Was God, the NPR National Story Project anthology, which he edited, was also a national bestseller. His work has been translated into thirty languages. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

https://www.amazon.com/Paul-Auster/e/B000APVFU4/

My review:

Thanks to NetGalley and to Faber & Faber for providing me with an ARC copy of this novel that I freely chose to review.

I’ve been following with interest the Man-Booker Prize this year and realised I had quite a few of the books on my list to be read and decided to try and read in a timely manner and see how my opinion compared to that of the judges. When the shortlist was announced, only one of the books I had read so far had made it, Exit West by Mohsin Hamid, a book I really enjoyed. And then I got the chance to read 4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster, another one of the novels shortlisted, and I could not resist.

I had read a novel by Paul Auster years back, The Book of Illusions and although I remember I enjoyed it, I had never read another one of his books until now. It wasn’t a conscious decision, and I had always kept in mind that at some point I should pick up another one of his books but that day hadn’t arrived.

I hadn’t read anything about this novel before I started reading it, other than it had been shortlisted for the Man-Booker, and therefore I was a bit surprised and confused, to begin with.

First, as happens with e-books, I had no idea how long it was. It’s around the 900 pages mark. Second, I didn’t realise it was a fairly experimental novel, or, at least its structure was not standard. The novel starts as if it was going to be a family saga, with the story of a Jewish immigrant arriving in New York, and we follow his story and that of his family for a couple of generations until we get to the birth of a boy, Archibald Ferguson. He doesn’t like his first name that much and for the rest of the novel, he is referred to as Ferguson. When things start getting weird is when at some point you become aware that you are reading four different versions of his life. These are narrated in the third person, although always from the point of view of the character, and yes, they are numbered.  So the first chapter (or part), you would have 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4 and then, the next part would be 2.1… and so on. The story (stories) are told chronologically but chopped up into bits. Some of the reviewers have commented that you need to be a member of MENSA to remember and differentiate the various stories, because yes, there are differences (fate seems to play a big part, as sometimes due to incidents that happen to his family, financial difficulties, relationship issues… the story takes a different turn and deviates from the other versions), but these are not huge, and it is difficult to keep in your mind which one of the versions is which one (at times I would have been reading for a while before I could remember how this version was different to the one I had just been reading). Because the differences are not major (yes, in one version he ends up going to a university and in another to a different one, in one he works at a newspaper and in another starts writing books, in one he goes out with a girl and in another they are only friends…), and the characters are pretty much the same in all versions (although sometimes their behaviour is quite different) it makes the stories very similar. Added to that, all versions of the character are also very similar as if the different circumstances were not earth-shattering and had not affected that much the development of his boy (in the debate of nature, nurture, it’s safe to say Auster supports nature). The devil seems to be in the detail, or perhaps the point is that we might strongly believe that there are moments when our decisions could have sent us down one path or a completely different one (Sliding Doors anyone?), but the truth is that of all the infinite possibilities (and that makes me think of a book I read very recently, Do You Realize?) only one is conducive to life as we know it (the Goldilocks theory of life. Neither too hot nor too cold, just right) and our life was meant to be as it if.

Ferguson loves films and is a bit of a film buff (there are lengthy digressions about Laurel & Hardy, the French New Wave, American Films…), he also loves books and writing, and some versions of the story include his translations of French poets, or his own stories (that sometimes end up being exactly the same as the story we are reading, and others are either full stories or fragments of the books he is writing), and sports, mostly baseball, although also basketball.

Towards the end of the book (well, it’s a long book, so let’s say from the time the characters goes to college), we get much more detailed information about politics and historical events in America. There are lengthy descriptions of reactions to the murders of J.F.K, Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy, race riots, the Black Power Movement, the Vietnam War and the anti-war movement, the Columbia University demonstrations, and student political organisations, and also about New York and Paris (more New York than Paris) in the 1960s and early 70s. Although in one of the versions Ferguson is attending Columbia, he is a reporter and even when he is physically there, he narrates the events as an observer rather than as if he was personally involved. His engagement seems to be intellectual above all, no matter what version of Ferguson we read, although the reasons for his attitude might be different.

I don’t want to end up with a review as long as the book itself, and after checking other reviews of the book, I thought I’d share a couple I particularly liked, so you can have a look.

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1909935118?book_show_action=true&from_review_page=1

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/01/30/paul-austers-novel-of-chance

What I thought the book did very well, in all its versions, was to capture the feelings and the thoughts of a teenager and young man (although, as I’m a woman, I might be completely wrong). Although the emphasis is slightly different in each version, that is fairly consistent and rings true. As a writer and film lover, I enjoyed the comments about books and movies, although these could be frustrating to some readers. I also enjoyed the works in progress of the various Fergusons (some more than others) but this could again be annoying to readers who prefer to follow a story and not wander and float in flights of fancy. I agree with some of the comments I’ve read that the latter part of the book is slowed down even more by the endless description of incidents at Columbia that, no matter the version of the story we read, are analytically reported rather than brought to life.

My main problem with the book is that I did not connect that much with the main character. Considering the amount of time readers get to spend with the different versions of Ferguson, we get to know him, but I did not feel for him. Strangely enough, sometimes I felt more connected to some of the other characters in the story (his mother in some versions, some of his friends, a teacher…) than I did to him. I’m not sure if it was because it all felt very artificial, or because none of the versions completely gelled for me. I admired his intellect but did not connect at an emotional level and I did not care for him. I’m aware that readers who know Auster’s oeuvre better have commented on the biographical similarities with his own life, and I’m aware that he has denied it is (or are) his story. There are, for sure, many points of contact. Some readers have compared it to books that have used a somewhat similar format to tell their stories, but as I haven’t read any, I will not comment on that. The ending, metafictional as was to be expected, will probably satisfy more those who enjoy formal literary experiments than those looking for a good story. I do not think many people will find it surprising, but I don’t think that was the author’s goal. The writing is good, sometimes deep and challenging, others more perfunctory. And yes, I still intend to read other Auster’s books in the future.

In sum, a fascinating exercise in writing, that will be of interest primarily to followers of Auster’s career, to those who love experimental literary fiction, particularly those interested also in films, literature, the writing process, sports, and New York. Not a book I’d recommend to those who love dynamic stories with exciting plots, or those who prefer to emotionally engage with characters. Ah, and it requires a reasonable memory and a serious investment of time.

Thanks to NetGalley and to the publishers for the book, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, and of course, REVIEW!

[amazon_link asins=’0143039830,0140154078,0140115854,0312429010,0143112228,0811214982,0571210708′ template=’ProductCarousel’ store=’wwwauthortran-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’beb47d20-ac2b-11e7-94f5-ad9ca3322f04′]

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Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview The Black Notebook by Patrick Modiano. Memory, fiction, writing and we’ll always have Paris

Hi all:

Here I bring you another review, today one by a very well known author.

Review of the Black Notebook by Patrick Modiano
The Black Notebook by Patrick Modiano

The Black Notebook by Patrick Modiano

A writer’s notebook becomes the key that unlocks memories of a love formed and lost in 1960s Paris.

In the aftermath of Algeria’s war of independence, Paris was a city rife with suspicion and barely suppressed violence. Amid this tension, Jean, a young writer adrift, met and fell for Dannie, an enigmatic woman fleeing a troubled past. A half century later, with his old black notebook as a guide, he retraces this fateful period in his life, recounting how, through Dannie, he became mixed up with a group of unsavory characters connected by a shadowy crime. Soon Jean, too, was a person of interest to the detective pursuing their case–a detective who would prove instrumental in revealing Dannie’s darkest secret.  The Black Notebook bears all the hallmarks of this Nobel Prize–winning literary master’s unsettling and intensely atmospheric style, rendered in English by acclaimed translator Mark Polizzotti (Suspended Sentences). Once again, Modiano invites us into his unique world, a Paris infused with melancholy, uncertain danger, and the fading echoes of lost love.

Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

“1960s Paris, a mysterious girl, a group of shady characters, danger . . . Modiano’s folklore is set out from the beginning . . . and sheer magic follows once more.” — Vogue

“The prose — elliptical, muted, eloquent — falls on the reader like an enchantment . . . No one is currently writing such beautiful tales of loss, melancholy, and remembrance.” —Independent

“Sublime . . . [A] magnificent novel that reawakens days long past, illuminating them with a dazzling light.” — Elle (France)

In the aftermath of Algeria’s war of independence, Paris was a city rife with suspicion and barely suppressed violence. Amid this tension, Jean, a young writer adrift, met and fell for Dannie, an enigmatic woman fleeing a troubled past. A half century later, with his old black notebook as a guide, he retraces this fateful period in his life, recounting how, through Dannie, he became mixed up with a group of unsavory characters connected by a shadowy crime. Soon Jean, too, was a person of interest to the detective pursuing their case — a detective who would prove instrumental in revealing Dannie’s darkest secret.

The Black Notebook bears all the hallmarks of this Nobel Prize–winning literary master’s unsettling and intensely atmospheric style. Once again, Patrick Modiano invites us into his unique world, a Paris infused with melancholy, uncertain danger, and the fading echoes of lost love.

“Never before has Modiano written a novel as lyrical as this . . . Both carefully wrought and superbly fluid, sustained by pure poetry.” — Le Monde

Patrick Modiano is the author of more than twenty novels, including several bestsellers. He has won the Prix Goncourt, the Grand Prix National des Lettres, and many other honors. In 2014 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature. He lives in Paris.

Mark Polizzotti has translated more than forty books from the French, including Modiano’s Suspended Sentences. He is director of the publications program at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
About the Author

PATRICK MODIANO was born in 1945 in a suburb of Paris and grew up in various locations throughout France. In 1967, he published his first novel, La Place de l’étoile, to great acclaim. Since then, he has published over twenty novels—including the Goncourt Prize−winning Rue des boutiques obscures (translated as Missing Person), Dora Bruder, and Les Boulevards des ceintures(translated as Ring Roads)—as well as the memoir Un Pedigree and a children’s book, Catherine Certitude. He collaborated with Louis Malle on the screenplay for the film Lacombe Lucien. In 2014, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. The Swedish Academy cited “the art of memory with which he has evoked the most ungraspable human destinies and uncovered the life-world of the Occupation,” calling him “a Marcel Proust of our time.”

 

MARK POLIZZOTTI has translated more than forty books from the French, including Patrick Modiano’s Suspended Sentences, and is director of the publications program at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Cover of The Black Notebook by Patrick Modiano
The Black Notebook by Patrick Modiano

My review:

Thanks to Net Galley and to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Mariner Books for providing me a free ARC copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

This is the first of Patrick Modiano’s novels I read, so I can’t comment on its similarities or differences with the rest of his oeuvre or how well it fits in with his usual concerns.

The novel, translated into English by Mark Polizzotti, is a wander through his memories and the city of Paris by Jean, a writer who fifty years ago, when he was very young, kept a black notebook where he wrote all kinds of things: streets and people’s names, references to writers he admired and events he experienced, sentences people said, rumours, he recorded information about buildings that were about to disappear, dates, visits to places, locations…

The story can be read as a mystery novel, as there are clues referring to false identities, strange men who meet in underground hotels, breaking and entering, robberies and even a serious crime is hinted at. There’s a police interrogation and suggestions of political conspiracy/terrorism, as the original events take place shortly after Algeria’s War of Independence, and a few of the characters are Moroccan and have a reputation for being secretive and dangerous. There is also Dannie, a woman a few years older than Jean, who has a central role in all the intrigues, or at least that’s how it seemed to him at the time. What did he really feel for her? Is he revisiting a love story? Although it is possible to try a conventional reading of the novel, the joy of what French theorist Roland Barthes would call a readerly approach to it, is in making up your own meaning, in accompanying Jean in his walks not only around the real Paris, but also the Paris of his memory, those moments when he feels that he can almost recapture the past, through reading his notes, and relive the moment when he was knocking at a door, or observing outside of a café. Sometimes, more than recapturing the past he feels as if he could bridge the gap of time and go back: to recover a manuscript he forgot years ago, turn off a light that could give them away, or ask questions and clarifications about events he wasn’t aware of at the time.

The narration, in first person, puts the reader firmly inside of Jean’s head, observing and trying to make sense of the same clues he has access to, although in our case without the possible benefit of having lived the real events (if there is such a thing) at the time. But he insists he did not pay enough attention to things as they were happening, and acknowledges that often we can only evaluate the importance of events and people we come across in hindsight when we can revisit them with a different perspective.

The writing is beautiful, fluid, nostalgic, understated and intriguing at times. The book is also very short and it provides a good introduction to Modiano’s writing. But this is not a novel for readers who love the conventions and familiarity provided by specific genres and who want to know what to expect when they start reading, or those who like to have a clear plot and story, and need solid characters to connect with. Here, even the protagonist, Jean, remains a cypher or a stand-in for both, the reader and the writer.

I enjoyed the experience of reading this book, although as mentioned it is not a book for everyone. But, if you love Paris, enjoy a walk down memory lane, like books that make you work and think, have an open mind and are curious about Modiano’s work, I recommend it.

Thanks to NetGalley, to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Mariner Books and the author for the book, thanks to all of you for reading, and please, like, share, comment and CLICK!

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Novedades literarias

#Novedadliteraria ‘Sinfonía en París’ de Carmen Torrico (@torrico_1). Música y pasión.

Hola a todos:

Como sabéis, los viernes os traigo novedades literarias y/o nuevos autores. La novela de hoy me llamó la atención porque vi varios comentarios sobre ella, no hechos por la escritora, sino por otros autores y lectores, y me entró la curiosidad. Además la historia se desarrolla en un mundo que a mí siempre me ha fascinado, el de la música clásica y sinfónica, las orquestas… Os comentaré algo más sobre eso después, pero primero, la novela:

Sinfonía en París I de Carmen Torrico
Sinfonía en París I de Carmen Torrico

Sinfonía en París I de Carmen Torrico

¡Un desafortunado matrimonio! ¡Una inquietante infidelidad! ¡Un amor largamente esperado! Jean Pierre Fontaine, famoso director de orquesta, se encuentra inmerso en un peligroso y resbaladizo terreno que podría acabar destruyendo tan brillante carrera en la élite del mundo musical; marcando negativamente su futuro, aun con peligro de su propia vida.
El amor, el odio, la venganza, la pasión…, son algunos de los sentimientos que mueven los hilos de la enmarañada existencia de los personajes de esta apasionante historia. Hombres y mujeres dominados por los errores del pasado, la inseguridad del presente y el continuo miedo al futuro. Sumergidos cada uno de ellos en una personal lucha contra su propio yo.
Todo ello envuelto en la mágica belleza que envuelve a la hermosa ciudad de París, donde cualquier cosa parece tener cabida, pudiendo llegar a hacerse realidad. “La cité de l’amour”, bien podría convertirse en “La cité de la mort”.
¿No existe apenas un paso del amor al odio?

SINFONÍA EN PARÍS
“…Te aseguro que no permitiré que nadie te arrebate de mi lado…”
Tres mujeres… un hombre…
¡YA DISPONIBLE EN AMAZÓN!
rxe.me/LZEYG8   #Romance #amor #kindle #amazon

Aquí, una reseña de una defensora infatigable de los escritores indies y que ha sido una de mis invitadas (con sus propias obras) en mi otro blog:

5 estrellas

By Marlene Moleon on February 13, 2016

Una esposa hipocondríaca, rica y malcriada; una amante fogosa, ambiciosa y vulgar; una mujer perfecta: sensible, concertista y con un amor incondicional son los personajes que se mueven alrededor de Jean Pierre, un afamado director de orquesta.
A partir de estos estereotipos Carmen Torrico ha logrado crear una novela que se levanta por encima de las mezquindades humanas porque el otro protagonista presente es la música clásica, que toma vida propia, nos envuelve en un mundo sonoro y llegamos a oír los compases de Beethoven, Mozart, Chopin y Mahler junto al desarrollo de la trama.
Jean Pierre, al igual que Fausto vendió su alma “no por la juventud ni el amor, sino por la música”. ¿Podrá Jean Pierre sacrificar su gran pasión y ambición, la música, por un nuevo amor que le llega tardíamente en la vida? Ese es el planteamiento que nos hace la autora, hay que leerla para enterarse… y esperar la próxima.

Como supongo que os habréis quedado con muchas ganas de echarle un vistazo, aquí os dejo una muestra:

Si queréis estar en contacto con la autora, aquí os dejo su página en Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/CarmenTorricoEscritora/

Y cuando os comentaba que siempre me ha interesado el tema de las orquestas, la música clásica, etc, se me ocurrió que si os va el inglés, estáis en Amazon Prime, y os interesan el tema también, os recomiendo Mozart in the Jungle. No me he leído la novela en la que está basada, pero es la historia de una orquesta de música clásica en Nueva York, adonde llega un nuevo director (Gabriel García Bernal) a revolucionarlo todo. Hay música, hay enredos, la vida de los músicos, de los de publicidad, los que se encargan de conseguir fondos…

La descripción oficial (con traducción)

Love, money, ambition and music intertwine in Mozart in the Jungle, a half hour comedic drama that looks at finding yourself and finding love while conquering New York City. A brash new maestro Rodrigo (Gael Garcia Bernal) stirs up the New York Symphony as young oboist Hailey (Lola Kirke) hopes for her big chance.

Amor, dinero, ambición y música se mezclan en Mozart en la Jungla, una comedia-drama de media hora que trata sobre cómo encontrarte a ti mismo y el amor mientras conquistas la ciudad de Nueva York. Un impetuoso nuevo maestro, Rodrigo (Gabriel García Bernal) alborota la Sinfonía de Nueva York mientras la joven oboista Hailey (Lola Kirke) espera conseguir su gran oportunidad.

Creadores: Alex Timbers, Roman Coppola, Jason Schwartzman |

Estrellas: Gael García Bernal, Lola Kirke, Saffron Burrows, Bernadette Peters, Malcolm McDowell…

http://amzn.to/1VUUIBb

Es una producción de Amazon, y seguramente sabréis que la segunda serie ha ganado Globos de Oro a la mejor serie musical o de comedia y Gabriel García Bernal al mejor actor en la misma categoría. Los episodios son cortitos, de una media hora. Después de ver el primer episodio y olvidarme de ella, la retomé y me encantó, y la segunda serie me la vi en unos días (ventajas del direct streaming). Estuve buscando a ver si encontraba un video con los títulos iniciales, ya que son fabulosos desde el punto de vista del diseño, pero no los he encontrado.

Aun así, os dejo un par de videos presentación de las dos series, aunque como dicen muchos comentarios, no le hacen justicia.

Segunda:

Muchas gracias a Carmen Torrico por su libro, gracias a vosotros por leer, y si os ha interesado, dadle al me gusta, comentad, compartid y haced clic!

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