The Czar’s Madman by Jaan Kross

 

spotted on Nancy’s update

Translated by Anselm Hollo from the Finish edition by Ivo Iliste: so this is a translation of a translation uh-oh!

Estonia under Imperial Russia 1850

Opening: First, let me recall the occasion that impelled me to begin this journal.

Alexander I of Russia

Schlusselburg Fortress

The ‘Mad’ Tsar, Paul I

The translation is a bit ropey, however one becomes so engrossed in the story, that doesn’t seem to matter. Started to get well and truly fed up with the journal-keeping bro’ by page 100 or so.

Toyed between 3 and 4* and went for the lower because of the translation and that annoying brother. That said, I am pleased to have read another perspective on the era that leads up to the revolution.

The Noble Outlaw (Crowner John Mystery #11) by Bernard Knight

 

Paul Matthews narrates

Description: When Matthew Morcok, a former master saddler, is found mummified above a renovated school, the authorities call on Sir John de Wolfe and coroner’s clerk Thomas de Peyne to stop what is fast becoming a campaign of terror. Later victims include a master glazier, who’s strangled, and a candle maker impaled through the eye. John’s work is complicated by the conflict between his shady brother-in-law, Richard de Revelle, and Nick of the Moor, an outlaw who returned from the Crusades to find his estates expropriated by de Revelle and de Revelle’s cronies. John makes an arduous wintertime journey into Dartmoor to meet Nick, who’s actually a knight, Nicholas de Arundell. Nick’s plight so moves John that he takes the outlaw’s case to England’s Chief Justiciar for resolution.

A good, solid series so long as the episodes are not encountered back-to-back. Knight’s style is rather old-fashioned and brutish, however he does give us an interesting over-arching personal story with Nesta and Matilda.

3* The Tinner’s Corpse (Crowner John Mystery #5)
3* The Grim Reaper (Crowner John Mystery #6)
3* Fear in the Forest (Crowner John Mystery #7)
3* The Witch Hunter (Crowner John Mystery #8)
3* Figure of Hate (Crowner John Mystery #9)
3* The Noble Outlaw (Crowner John Mystery #11)
TR Crowner Royal (Crowner John Mystery, #13)
3* A Plague of Heretics (Crowner John Mystery #14)

Moment Of Freedom by Jens Bjørneboe

bookshelves: spring-2014, published-1966, norway, under-500-ratings, summer-2014, picaresque, noir, author-in-the-mirror, germany, jewish, nazi-related, wwii

Recommended for: Don
Read from May 02 to August 21, 2014

 

Cover image: Frans Wideberg: Selvportrett (1976) 91.5 x 76 cms oil on canvas. Property of the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Oslo. Photograph Morten Thorkildsen

Original title:Frihetens øyeblikk: Heiligenberg-manuskriptet

Translated from the Norwegian by Esther Greenleaf Mürer

Opening: During the several years that I’ve now been a Servant of Justice, I haven’t been able to avoid acquiring a certain perspective on life.

Re-booted twice due to travelling.

Our depressed and oppressed Servant of Justice has a very prominent nickname that we are not privy too. He has teeth missing behind his beard and no-one knows he wears glasses because he only uses them for reading, and that he never does in public.

Hilarious, that is the only way to describe this, yet it is not really meant to be so as we are looking inside the author’s mind, and he commited suicide. The episodic narrative becomes more dire with each new adventure. Page 92 for instance:

In the town wall I found a narrow gate down at the end of one of the back streets, and outside was a road which was more than usually filthy. I hadn’t discovered this road before; the earth was black and moist, slippery, polluted. There was a placard nailed up on a dead tree trunk at the road’s edge: “This area is infested with…” Then followed a word I don’t understand, a monstrously long word containing something with “…ixo…”

Doesn’t that read like an old text adventure?

Have marked up the other two book as wishlist, however, unless they leap out at me and at a reasonable price, that is where they will stay. Four blackest of the black skulls.

The Magic Shop by H.G. Wells

bookshelves: published-1903, fraudio, under-500-ratings, shortstory-shortstories-novellas, magicians, summer-2014

Read on July 19, 2014

 

Description: This is a charming tale from H.G. Wells about a young boy named Gip who visits a magic shop for his birthday with his father. But this is not just any magic shop – the shopkeeper insists that this is a genuine magic shop. The story is an entertaining adventure as Gip, like any young boy of his age, experiences the pure enjoyment of true magic while his skeptical father grapples with having to draw the line between slight of hand and genuine magic.

Listen for free here NARRATED BY: Michael Scott

Herbert George Wells was a British writer best known for his science fiction novels such as The War of the Worlds, The Invisible Man, The Island of Doctor Moreau and The Time Machine. However, he was arguably one of the most prolific writers in the history of literature, and wrote works in nearly every genre, including short stories and nonfiction. He was an outspoken socialist, and most of his works contain some notable political or social commentary.

Life in the Tomb by Stratis Myrivilis, Peter A. Bien

bookshelves: summer-2014, balkan, greece, wwi, epistolatory-diary-blog, under-500-ratings, published-1924, translation, war, radio-3

Recommended to ☯Bettie☯ by: Laura
Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from July 04 to 11, 2014

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b048bh41

Description: Life in the Tomb: A masterwork of Greek fiction, Life in the Tomb provides a different perspective on the anniversary of the Great War. This new dramatisation from leading playwright April De Angelis in her first radio dramatisation features an original score by award winning composer Errollyn Wallen.

Originally published as extracts in a national Greek newspaper, the book takes the form of a series of letters from a young soldier back to his girlfriend in Lesvos, as his platoon moves deeper into trench warfare. Myrivilis based the book on his own experience of fighting on the Macedonian front. The book is so honest about how appalling conditions were and how badly the army was managed that it was banned on publication.

Stratis Myrivilis’ book brilliantly captures a complex Southern European view of World War I. Our narrator meets a wide range of nationalities on his journey to the trenches. The incidents he describes are rich and often unexpected – the Macedonian family who care for him when wounded, the enemy soldier with the voice of an angel and the Chinese cart driver who helps him when lost. The narrator is moving, unwittingly, towards his own death, a tragic accident in the last days of the conflict.

Stratis Myrivilis was a prolific author, nominated by the Greek society of authors for the Nobel Prize in 1960.
April De Angelis is a leading playwright. She has been produced by the Royal Court, the National Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company and Hampstead Theatre. Recent productions include Playhouse Creatures at Chichester and Jumpy at The Duke of Yorks.
Errollyn Wallen is an award-winning composer and singer, whose work has been commissioned by the BBC, Brodksy Quartet and Royal Opera House amongst many others.
Overflow and notes:
Cast and crew:
Bouzouki and guitar player, Grant McFarlane Dowse
Violinist, Chris Elcombe
With thanks to Miranda Hinkley
Sound design, Eloise Whitmore
BA, Lucy Duffield
Executive producer, Joby Waldman
A Somethin’ Else production for BBC Radio 3.

A big thanks to Brazilliant for pointing me in this direction, I would have missed it.

For anyone following WWI centennial timeline, this is an important and gruelling inclusion.

Eve by James Hadley Chase

bookshelves: film-only, noir, published-1945, under-500-ratings, italy, venice, rome

Recommended to ☯Bettie☯ by: Andrey Kurkov
Recommended for: Laura, Wanda et al
Read on June 24, 2014


Watch the full film here

Description: Clive Thurston was a hard, ruthless Hollywood writer. But his fame and reputation rested on the work of another man – a brilliant playwright who had conveniently died. Clive thought his secret was safe – but then he met Eve. Eve was on the game. To Clive she was an enigma – bold, shy, wanton, and childlike by turn. Clive was a pushover, from the moment he saw her he was a man possessed – possessed by a woman who was beautiful to look at but lethal to love..

How quiet is was at night in Rome in 1948.

From the Venice bath scene: Billie Holiday & Her Orchestra – Willow Weep For Me

A Matter of Life and Death

bookshelves: summer-2014, translation, ukraine, published-1996, under-500-ratings, noir, one-penny-wonder, paper-read, satire, shortstory-shortstories-novellas, amusing, lifestyles-deathstyles

Recommended to ☯Bettie☯ by: Fionnuala
Read from April 17 to June 24, 2014


Translated from the Russian by George Bird

Description:

Marital troubles?
Sick of life?
Suicide the answer?
Why not get yourself a contract killer?

Nothing easier, provided you communicate only by phone and box number. You give him your photograph, specify when and where to find you, then sit back and prepare to die.
Murdered, you will be of greater interest than ever you were in life. More to him than met the eye will be the judgment. A mysterious killing lives long in the popular memory.

Our hero meticulously plans his own demise, except for one detail: what if he suddenly decides he wants to live?

Opening: If I had smoked it might have been easier. Then each matrimonial sulk could have been followed by a cigarette or two, smoke and nicotine becoming for a while more a distraction than the sense and savour of life – like incense burnt for its own sake – and maybe even helping me discern some glimmer of joy in continued existence.

Here I am again in Kurkovian Kiev where the Dnieper waters run noir and rumour has it that there may be an assassination.

Grigory Skovoroda – first Ukranian Buddhist (page 12)

Chuckled at the James Hadley Chase reference, and if you are looking for a quick peek try the full film of Eve

Not much further to say for a 111 page short story where the book description has dealt with the salient issues, except of course, I enjoy Kurkov and am now hunting one of his concerning a thumb. have you read it?

3.5* Death and the Penguin
4* Penguin Lost
3.5* A Matter of Life and Death

The Temporary Gentleman by Sebastian Barry

bookshelves: summer-2014, published-2014, radio-4, gambling, britain-ireland, afr-ghana, under-500-ratings, mental-health, wwii

Recommended to ☯Bettie☯ by: Laura
Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from June 07 to 22, 2014

 

BABT R4

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b045z7sg

Description: Jack McNulty is a ‘temporary gentleman’, an Irishman whose commission in the British army in the Second World War was never permanent. In 1957, sitting in his lodgings in Accra, he urgently sets out to write his story recounting his strange and tumultuous marriage to the elusive great beauty of Sligo, Mai Kirwan, and the inevitable fate that he now feels compelled to reconcile himself with. He feels he cannot take one step further, or even hardly a breath, without looking back at all that has befallen him. He is an ordinary man, both petty and heroic, but he has seen extraordinary things.

The Temporary Gentleman is, ultimately, a story about a man’s last bid for freedom, from the savage realities of the past and from himself.

Ciarán Hinds is one of Ireland’s most prolific and esteemed actors. His many television and film credits include: Game of Thrones, Munich, The Sea, Road to Perdition, There Will Be Blood, Frozen, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, The Woman in Black and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

Read by Ciarán Hinds
Abridged by Neville Teller
Producer Gemma McMullan.

1/10: Jack McNulty recounts his past hoping he can at last find the freedom he desperately needs

2/10: Mai invites Jack home to Grattan House to meet her father.

3/10: In Accra, Jack receives a surprising visit from the Ghana Police Force.

4/10: Is Jack and Mai’s wedding day a sign of things to come?

5/10: Mai’s happiness at returning to Grattan House is short-lived.

6/10: Mai and Jack receive some startling news which could be their saving grace.

7/10: On a trip home, Jack is horrified to discover how bad things have become at home.

8/10: An inspector from the Ghana Police Force warns Jack to watch his back.

9/10: Can Jack and Mai ever regain the love they once had for each other?

10/10: Returning with Tom to his village, Jack witnesses a remarkable life-changing event.

I wallowed in this misery with the same delight that any Thomas Hardy potboiler by torchlight under the covers often shivered me to awestruck admiration.

CR The Secret Scripture
4* The Temporary Gentleman
2.5* On Canaan’s Side

Matisse the Master: The Conquest of Colour, 1909-1954

bookshelves: published-2005, under-500-ratings, radio-4x, summer-2014, biography, art-forms, nonfiction

Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from June 13 to 20, 2014


R4x

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0076r2v

Description: “If my story were ever to be written down truthfully from start to finish, it would amaze everyone,” wrote Henri Matisse. It is hard to believe today that Matisse, whose exhibitions draw huge crowds worldwide, was once almost universally reviled and ridiculed. His response was neither to protest nor to retreat; he simply pushed on from one innovation to the next, and left the world to draw its own conclusions. Unfortunately, these were generally false and often damaging. Throughout his life and afterward people fantasized about his models and circulated baseless fabrications about his private life.

Fifty years after his death, Matisse the Master (the second half of the biography that began with the acclaimed The Unknown Matisse) shows us the painter as he saw himself. With unprecedented and unrestricted access to his voluminous family correspondence, and other new material in private archives, Hilary Spurling documents a lifetime of desperation and self-doubt exacerbated by Matisse’s attempts to counteract the violence and disruption of the twentieth century in paintings that now seem effortlessly serene, radiant, and stable.
Here for the first time is the truth about Matisse’s models, especially two Russians: his pupil Olga Meerson and the extraordinary Lydia Delectorskaya, who became his studio manager, secretary, and companion in the last two decades of his life.
But every woman who played an important part in Matisse’s life was remarkable in her own right, not least his beloved daughter Marguerite, whose honesty and courage surmounted all ordeals, including interrogation and torture by the Gestapo in the Second World War.

If you have ever wondered how anyone with such a tame public image as Matisse could have painted such rich, powerful, mysteriously moving pictures, let alone produced the radical cut-paper and stained-glass inventions of his last years, here is the answer. They were made by the real Matisse, whose true story has been written down at last from start to finish by his first biographer, Hilary Spurling.

Episode 1: 1909, and Henri Matisse’s critics call his paintings monstrous. Can he find support? Eleanor Bron reads.

Episode 2: 1914, and with his family scattered across France, Matisse expresses the horror and uncertainty of the First World War in his art.

Episode 3: 1930, and Henri Matisse’s painting is dramatically influenced by his visits to New York and Tahiti.

Episode 4: 1938, and now in his 60s, Henri Matisse’s art must endure personal upheaval as war looms.

Episode 5: Post-1945, Matisse applies his extraordinary scissor and paper technique to the design of the interior of the chapel at Vence.

4* Matisse the Master: The Conquest of Colour, 1909-1954
4* Pearl Buck in China

The Rose of Tibet

bookshelves: mystery-thriller, tibet, published-1962, under-500-ratings, adventure, hardback, handbag-read, paper-read, spring-2014, casual-violence, one-penny-wonder, ouch, religion, buddhism, a-questing-we-shall-go

Recommended to ☯Bettie☯ by: Karen Witzler
Read from May 15 to 27, 2014

 

Bagged a first edition hardback. Smashing. The prologue states that this story is mostly true so even though some of it may appear ‘out there’ Charles Duguid Houston’s story is, we assured, a fictionalised account of a true adventure. He left for Inda in 1950, and returned on a stretcher in 1951 with a sensational story to tell.

Opening: In the summer of 1949, when he was twenty-seven, Houston found himself having an affair with a married woman. She was thirty, and he was not in love with her, and he had only gone into it because he was bored and lonely. He didn’t think that the affair would outlast the summer, but it did, and by the autumn, when he started school again he was wondering how to end it. He was a bit digusted with himself.

Charles’s half brother, Hugh Whittington, is missing, presumed dead after an avalanche in Tibetan pass, and for the life insurance company to pay out to the families of the four men team, death certificates will have to be acquired. Restless, weary of his art teacher job, and ambivalent regarding the two women in his life, Charles makes the journey…

Great adventure tale along the lines of ‘She’ and ‘Lost Horizon’
3.5*