Friday, 28 August 2009

Thanks to Cvetka Bevc - head of the office, Slovene Writers' Association

Following an enquiry to the Slovene Writers' Association recently, a package arrived on my desk today, containing a book (Fuzine Blues), by contemporary Slovene writer Andrej Skubic.

This was sent to me free of charge and I am very grateful for the generostiy shown by Cvetka in taking the time to send this. Thank you and I look forward to reviewing it when I 'arrive' in Slovenia!

Monday, 24 August 2009

Still in Italy. An update and some thanks...

As I thought, "The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana" is a fantastic read. Umberto Eco is a wonderful author, capable of combining complex characters with fascinating storylines that defy the categorisation of genres... I have just finished part one and am hooked! Also, some nice descriptions of Milan which remind me of time spend there...If he is true to his word and does not write another novel, we shall all be the poorer for it.

I also am looking ahead to future countries (as some do not have an established literary canon I thought it prudent to plan ahead...). In my current searches I wish to thank, for their generosity of time and advice (and, in some cases ,donating books!), the following:

Charlotte Knight (David Godwin Associates) - re: Montenegro
Pascal Seil - Conservateur-stagiaire, Centre national de littérature, Luxembourg
Cvetka Bevc - head of the office, Slovene Writers' Association
Gordana Zivkovic - re: Macedonia
Vesko - webmaster,

Again, thanks to all of the above.
However, I must restate my concern that I have no viable books for San Marino (which is not far away now!) or Montenegro... any suggestions welcome!!

Thursday, 20 August 2009

...and on to Italy

Well, I have finished with Monaco.
I have to say, I won't miss the place - all seemed a bit phony and lightweight; and I must admit my guide - Robert Westgate - was not the most sympathetic of characters. Still, provided light relief after Portugal!

Am now in Italy, in the company of Umberto Eco's latest protagonist: a Milanese antiquarian bookseller who has suffered an obscure medical condition resulting in a coma - having come out of this he has lost all personal memories except the books that he has read over his lifetime. He therefore sets about trying to reconstruct his life through his literary memories.

I have to say, I am only a few pages in but am really enjoying this book - I find this a really fascinating premise and, coupled with one of my favourite authors, I am really looking forward to my Italian trip!

A sad rumour is that Eco has stated this will be his last ever novel! A shame, as I rate 'The Name of the Rose' and 'Foucault's Pendulem' as among my favourite novels... still , I am pleased that this work has come along at just the right time to represent Italy in my travels...!

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Thank you to the National Library of Serbia

Within 24 hours of an email query regarding a suitable entry for Serbia on my list, I received a very comprehensive list of potential books from Mrs Vesna Injac-Malbasa,
Deputy Director of the National Library of Serbia.

So:- due thanks to Mrs Vesna Injac-Malbasa for taking the time to respond with a really useful and well-considered set of suggestions

Monday, 17 August 2009

Sipping tequilas in Monaco...

Well, it's 17th August and I have finally left Portugal after a rather long and (I have to say) intense stay! The Portuguese book 'What Can I Do When Everything Is On Fire?' is undoubtedly a triumph of the stream-of-consciousness format (and of translation!) - but it was hard going at times due to that format and also due to the nature of its subject matter (death, suicide, mental illness, drug addiction etc).
I would recomend it but you should be in the right frame of mind - and with time set aside to plough through its 600+ pages - before starting.
I won't spoil the ending but suffice to say after that I was hoping for a spot of light relief in the sunny climes of swanky Monaco...

....and I got it! Robert Westgate's account of his year's sojourn in Monaco is a pleasant, undemanding snapshot of the place and its (mostly ex-pat) inhabitants. His views of Monaco, and the neighbouring European countries he takes trips over to, are a little overly cynical sometimes. One gets the sense that he is aiming for the American-abroad aloofness of Hemingway (an obvious hero of his) but he ends up sounding a bit crabby and petty at times..

Still, pleasant enough company for a short book to represent this small country. In fact it could have done with a bit of fleshing out, as some interesting characters are introduced but then dropped with alarming brevity. The cover notes state that Westgate is working on a onvel about Monaco, and this book reads like the hastily published manuscript notes for that - but as I say, the book is entertaining and undemanding, if a little overpriced:- a bit like Monaco itself!!

I have another 50 pages and then its over the Ligurian Sea to Italy in the company of Umberto Eco (first stop Milan)! See you there!