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review 2018-02-03 11:00
Rebirth of an Orphan Girl: The Encyclopaedia of Good Reasons by Monica Cantieni
The Encyclopaedia of Good Reasons - Monica Cantieni,Donal McLaughlin
Grünschnabel - Monica Cantieni

Here's the sublime debut novel of a - so far - rather unknown Swiss author. As a matter of fact, the book won the most renowned Swiss literary award. The story is simple and yet gripping:


Being only six years old and an orphan girl she is a greenhorn in life and in a family, when she arrives at the home of her new parents sometime in the 1970s. They are Swiss, but not particularly well-off so they live in a poor immigrant neighbourhood on the outskirts of Zurich with all its problems. The little girl needs to learn an awful lot and not just new words that she stores in all kinds of boxes (following the suggestion of her new father). With the help of her new - senile - grand-father Tat she finds her way.


To know more about this Swiss novel, I invite you to click here and read my long review on my main book blog Edith's Miscellany!

Source: edith-lagraziana.blogspot.com
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review 2015-03-02 00:52
Snapshots of life in a Swiss village thirty years ago.
Behind the Station: A Novel (Swiss Literature Series) - Arno Camenisch,Donal McLaughlin

This is the second book in Arno Camenisch's Swiss Literature series, but I did not feel that I had missed out by reading this first. The author was born in 1978 so this would have been set at the time that he was a young boy, like the two brothers in this novella. The brothers seemed quite young, too young to be wandering around the village, but their ages are not given. I think this wandering free was what appealed to me most about the book; I lived in a small village in UK and was also able to wander around in a way that children today are unable to do.


Reading the novella was more like looking through a photograph album; it is made up of snapshots of events, as would be remembered by children. These anecdotes are fascinating insights into life in an isolated Swiss village in the eighties, but I did regret not having kept a record of who's who from the beginning, as this is a cast of thousands.


Reading this as a novella of a hundred or so pages, was perfect. If it had been book length I think I might have lost interest. Now I need to read the two others in the trilogy.



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review 2014-01-24 14:00
When Idols Fail in Reality: Once a Greek by Friedrich Dürrenmatt
Grieche sucht Griechin - Friedrich Dürrenmatt
Once a Greek... - Friedrich Duerrenmatt

Abridged version of my review posted on Edith’s Miscellany on 3 January 2014


The satire Once a Greek is set in French-speaking Switzerland, presumably in the (fictitious) capital. The protagonist called Arnolph Archilochos is a middle-aged sub-accountant, an insignificant underling in one of countless open-plan offices of the Machine Factory Petit-Paysan plc. He’s a very principled and religious man, a model of virtue imitating a number of chosen idols who leads a rather ascetic and bleak life. One Sunday the hostess of the Chez Auguste where he has his meals convinces him to place a Lonely Heart’s ad in the paper. Being of Greek descent, he seeks a Greek girl, an innocent like himself. Beautiful and charming Chloé Saloniki answers to the ad and everybody except Arnolph realizes at first sight that she is a prostitute. They agree on getting married quickly and even quicker the collapse of his idyllic view of life as well as the fall of his idols announces itself.


The plot of Once a Greek is absurd, the language matter-of-fact. Essentially Friedrich Dürrenmatt satirizes our inclination to idealize the world before our eyes and to simply fade out or mentally alter everything that doesn’t fit in. People of rigorous virtue are particularly prone to it, if they – like Arnolph – take for granted that others observe the same moral values as themselves. But sooner or later everybody has to face reality and to decide how to deal with it. In the end unconditional love is all that counts.


For me Once a Greek by Friedrich Dürrenmatt has been a quick and interesting read which I enjoyed very much and therefore recommend although the English has been out of print already for a while.


For the full review please click here to go to my blog Edith’s Miscellany.

Source: edith-lagraziana.blogspot.com
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review 2013-07-03 10:20
Pascal Mercier: Night Train to Lisbon
Nachtzug nach Lissabon - Pascal Mercier
Night Train to Lisbon - Pascal Mercier

Pascal Mercier’s Night Train to Lisbon is no light read. It’s a philosophical novel about the search for identity, for the outer events of a life and seized as well as missed opportunities moulding a personality.

The protagonist of Night Train to Lisbon is 57-year-old Raimund Gregorius who has been teaching ancient Greek, Latin and biblical Hebrew in a grammar school in his birth town Berne for decades. He is a creature of habit and a model of reliability paired with precision avoiding the imponderables of life best possible. After a chance encounter with a woman about to jump from the bridge that he crosses every day on his way to school, he starts a chase after a strange Portuguese man whose book Gregorius found in a second-hand book shop. He takes the night train to Lisbon not knowing what he will find, nor what he is really looking for. In Lisbon he plunges into the history of Amadeu Inácio de Almeida Prado and that of Portugal during the dictatorship of António de Oliveira Salazar.  At the same time he analyses and questions his own life as a school teacher without ambitions and as a divorced man without passion. The story is absorbing like a thriller with the difference that on the way through the book we aren’t hunting for a dangerous killer, but for the life story of a person never catching more than just a small glimpse of it at a time.

For the full review please click here to get to my blog Edith's Miscellany!

Source: edith-lagraziana.blogspot.com
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review 2013-05-27 08:00
Martin Suter: The Chef
Der Koch - Martin Suter
The Chef - Martin Suter
The Chef (origninal German title: Der Koch) in Martin Suter’s novel is the Tamil refugee Maravan who works as badly paid kitchen help in a posh restaurant in Zurich. He’s a trained cook and a genius in his profession, but as an asylum seeker he is limited by Swiss law to doing unskilled work. One night he cooks a traditional Indian dinner for his Swiss colleague Andrea who more or less invited herself to teach the other cooks and waiters in the restaurant a lesson. She spends the night with Maravan, but being a lesbian she doesn’t understand why. Later she figures out that it had to do with the dishes that the Tamil cook served her. She asks him to prepare the same aphrodisiac meal again for her and a friend who so far resisted all her advances. He agrees and Andrea is delighted with the success. Meanwhile Maravan lost his job in the restaurant and struggles to make ends meet with the unemployment benefits. Then Andrea suggests that they team up and start their own business, a catering company called Love Food. Hesitatingly Maravan plunges into the adventure because he needs more money to support his family in Sri Lanka. The special qualities of his cooking get round and attract new customers. Love Food slowly slips into the abyss of politics and dirty business. Before soon Maravan and Andrea are confronted with questions of moral and responsibility that are closely associated not just with their business, but also with their private and family lives. 
The language of The Chef is simple and humorous. At first glance it seems to be a light story about two people who start a love business of an innocent kind, but in reality Martin Suter touches on many serious topics in his novel and he starts with it right on the first page.
For the full review please click here to get to my blog Edith's Miscellany!
Source: edith-lagraziana.blogspot.com
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