Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Missing Person by Patrick Modiano - 1978 - 2005 - translated from French by Daniel Weissbort

Missing Person by Patrick Modiano - 1978 - 2005 - translated from French by Daniel Weissbort

His sixth published work, it was awarded the Prix Goncourt Prize

Paris in July 2020 - Thyme for Tea

My Posts for Paris in July 2020

1. “Forain” - a set in Paris Short Story by Mavis Gallant
2. “Winter Rain” - a Short story by Alice Adams about an American woman living in Paris after World War Two
3. Marc Chagall by Jonathan Wilson
4. Missing Person by Patrick Modiano

My Prior Posts on Patrick Modiano

Born July 25, 1945

2014 - Awarded Nobel Prize (prior to then he had won all of France’s most prestigious literary awards).

He has written thirty novels, a memoir and as well as several film scripts.

Missing Person is the sixth novel I have read by Patrick Modiano.
During July in Paris 2017 I posted on The Black Note Book, After the Circus, and The Occupation Trilogy.

Occupation Trilogy is a work of a much higher order than the other three novels, it is a sublimely brilliant almost surreal recreation of what it was like to be a French Jew during the occupation of Paris by the Nazis.  It is why he won the Nobel Prize.  My bottom line is any one interested in this period will be glad they read the trilogy. The other three works are interesting well done works but one would have to say first read the trilogy.

Missing Person is kind of a detective story. In this story a man has lost all memory of his past prior to 1955.

Ten  years ago, Guy Roland lost all memories of his life prior to 1955.  He worked  as a private detective in Paris
until the owner of the agency retired.  He decides to use his detective skills to try to uncover his past. He finds some clues to his past but the trail seems to stop during World War Two. Then he goes deeper.

 It does appear he is a Greek Jew, Jimmy Stern from Solonica.  He lived in Paris under the assumed name Pedro McEvoy.  He worked for the legate of the Dominican Republic.  He was involved with a network of non- French nationals seeking to leave France.

As he seems to recover his memory, he goes to French Polynesia to look for an old girl friend.

The novel goes into lots of detail about the city of Paris.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Marc Chagall by Jonathan Wilson - 2007

Marc Chagall by Jonathan Wilson - 2007

Today is the 133rd birth anniversary of one of the greatest artists of the 20th Century,Marc Chagall.  He lived 55 of his 97 years in France, almost always in or close to Paris. Much of his art was inspired by Paris.

Website of Paris in July 2020 - Thyme for Tea

My Posts for Paris in July 2020

1. “Forain” - a set in Paris Short Story by Mavis Gallant
2. “Winter Rain” - a Short story by Alice Adams about an American woman living in Paris after World War Two
3. Marc Chagall by Jonathan Wilson

Marc Chagall,

July 6, 1887 born Vitebsk, now in Belarus, then part of the Russian Empire.

1910 to 1914 - resides in Paris

1915 - he Marries Bella Rosenfeld - The marriages endures until her passing in 1944.  They had a very deep relationship.  Wilson goes into detail on their Life together in Belarus, Paris and New York City.

1914 to 1922 resides in Russian Belarus.  He intended to only stay long enough to marry his childhood sweetheart but was trapped there by World War One and the consequences of the Russian Revolution.  Wilson goes into lots of details about Chagall involvements in developing matters in Soviet Belarus

1923 to 1941.  He and his wife Bella reside in Paris, they escape to New York City in 1941 to avoid the Nazis round up of non-French Jews going starting in Paris.

1941 to 1948.  New York City.  He has celebrity status as an artist accompanied by great financial success as detailed by Wilson.

1948 to 1985 . He lives in Paris

From 1952 to 1985 he was married to Valentine Brodsky
March 28, 1985 - he dies in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, France. His wife died there in 1993.  Wilson spends a lot of time on Chagall’s relationships with his wives.

Jonathan Wilson has given us a very comprehensive biography of Marc Chagall, often regarded as greatest Jewish artist of the 20th century.  He gave me an understanding of how Chagall recreated
Paris as a huge shtetl, using animals and persons those familiar with Fiddler on The Roof will recognize easily.  He also uses the figure of Jesus on the Cross.  Wilson elegantly explains  the artistic  Development of Chagall from his early schooling in Belarus to the profound influence Paris had on his work.  Chagall met and became friends with now famous artists and developed valuable business contacts in Paris.

In 1941, Vishy authorities were starting to turn over foreign born Jews like Chagall and his wife to the Nazis.  They moved to New York City in 1941.  Wilson shows us How Chagall adjusted to his celebrity artist status. They returned to Paris in 1948.  By now Chagall had obtained significant commercial success.

Chagall spoke Russian, French and some English but Yiddish was his real language.  We can assume he and Bella spoke in Yiddish.

Anyone into modern art, Yiddish culture, French artistic developments in the 20th century will enjoy this wonderful biography.

Paris was very important as a place of refuge for Eastern European Jews.  Most were at least tri-lingual, some escaped in time, some did not.

Jonathan Wilson's work has appeared in The New Yorker, Esquire, The New York Times Magazine and Best American Short Stories, among other publications. In 1994 he received a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship. His fiction has been translated into many languages including Dutch, Hebrew, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Chinese and Uyghur.
Wilson is the author of seven previous books: the novels The Hiding Room (Viking 1994), runner up for the JQ Wingate Prize, and A Palestine Affair (Pantheon 2003), a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, Barnes and Noble Discovery finalist and runner up for the 2004 National Jewish Book Award; two collections of short stories, Schoom (Penguin 1993) and An Ambulance is on the Way: Stories of Men in Trouble (Pantheon 2004); two critical works on the fiction of Saul Bellow; and a biography, Marc Chagall (Nextbook/Schocken 2007), runner-up for the 2007 National Jewish Book Award. Kick and Run is his eighth book and his first work of memoir.
Wilson lives in Newton, Massachusetts. He is Fletcher Professor of Rhetoric and Debate, Professor of English and Director of the Center for the Humanities at Tufts University. .from

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Winter Rain - A Short Story by Alice Adams - Set in Paris - 1959

My Posts for Paris in July 2020

1. “Forain” - a set in Paris Short Story by Mavis Gallant
2. “Winter Rain” - a Short story by Alice Adams about an American woman living in Paris after World War Two

“Winter Rain” was her first published stories- 1959 in The New Yorker, and is included in The Short Stories of Alice Adams, 2002

Alice Adams

Born - August 14, 1926 - Fredericksburg, Virginia

She lived in Paris in most of 1947 and 1948 after graduating from Radcliffe.
Like many a Young writer and Artist, her time in Paris was a transformative period.

Died - May 27, 1999 - San Francisco, California

“Whenever in the final unendurable weeks of winter, I am stricken, as now, to the bone with cold—it is raining, the furnace has somehow failed—I remember that winter of 1947–1948 in Paris, when I was colder than ever in my life, when it always headlines. And everyone struck: Métro, garbage, water, electricity, mail—all these daily necessities were at one time or another with difficulty forgone. Also, that was the first winter of American students—boys on the G.I. bill and girls with money from home, Bennington meeting Princeton in the Montana Bar. There were cellar clubs to which French friends guided one mysteriously: on the Rue Dauphine the Tabu, with a band; the Mephisto, just off the Boulevard Saint-Germain; and further out on Rue Blomet the wicked Bal Nègre, where one danced all night to West Indian music, danced with everyone and drank Pernod. It was a crowded, wild, excited year. “

Up until a few months  ago I had never heard of Alice Adams, now i am close to starting a read through of The Short Stories of Alice Adams, 800 pages with fifty one stories, most first published in The New Yorker.

After graduating from Ratcliff College at 19, Adams and her husband spent some time in Post War Paris.  Perhaps drawing a bit on that experience, “Winter Rain” is narrated from Paris by a young American woman studying at the Sorbonne.

The story is told after narrator has returned to the United States, it appears years have gone by, she has not kept up with anyone she knew in Paris.  Her most interesting relationship was with Mme. Frenaye, an older woman, from whom she rented a room.  Mme. Frenaye overcharges her while somehow representing French sophtication to an American ingenue.  I found this a charming and elegant story.

This story is included in sample of the Kindle edition of The  Short Stories of Alice Adams, along with two other stories  and a Forward  by  Victoria Wilson her long time editor at The New Yorker.

Friday, July 3, 2020

“Forain” - A Set in Paris Short Story by Mavis Gallant - 1993

“Forain” - A Set in Paris Short Story by Mavis Gallant - 1993

“Forain took in the likeness of the man who had fought a war for nothing.”

“Forain” is included in The Collected Short Stories of Mavis Gallant and her collection, Across The Bridge

Website of July in Paris - Thyme for Tea

 Buried in Print’s Mavis Gallant’s Mavis Gallant Project.

Mavis Gallant loved Paris.  I decided to begin my sixth year of
participation in July in Paris with one of her Paris  stories.

Mavis Gallant

April 11, 1922 - Montreal

1950 - moves to Paris

September 1, 1951- publishes, in The New Yorker, her first short story.  She would publish 116 stories in The New Yorker.

February 18, 2014 - passes away in her beloved Paris

Buried in Print began her read through of the short stories of Mavis Gallant in March of 2017. (It is projected to reach completion in September of this year.) Lots of the short stories are set in
Paris, often among expatriates who have cut most of their ties.  There are stories about American women who came seeking romance after the war ended, ex-French and German soldiers and several centering on emigrates from Poland, as is today’s story.

There are leitmotifs that emerge in Gallant’s stories if you read enough of them.  Among them are people who seem old before their time, a sense that the best days of European culture maybe passed, a preoccupation of emigrates with their compatriots to the exclusion of the French, a feeling life passes the people in the story by as they await a remittance of some sort.  Forain came to Paris after the war, he runs a publishing house specializing in translations of Central and Eastern European literature into French.
“He ran his business with a staff of loyal, worn-out women, connected to him by a belief in what he was doing, or some lapsed personal tie, or because it was too late and they had nowhere to go.”  This is a vision of Gallant’s Paris.

At thirty eight he is characterized as old.  He is very involved with
 the Polish community, rife with intrigue and gossip.

Gallant perfectly sets the stage in the opening sentences:

“ABOUT AN HOUR before the funeral service for Adam Tremski, snow mixed with rain began to fall, and by the time the first of the mourners arrived the stone steps of the church were dangerously wet. Blaise Forain, Tremski’s French publisher, now his literary executor, was not surprised when, later, an elderly woman slipped and fell and had to be carried by ambulance to the Hôtel-Dieu hospital.”

Of course a funeral often launches interior monolugues and involuntary memories about things that might have been or never again will be. We learn about his history with Tremski, a figure very much in accord with Gallant’s vision of expatriates in Paris.

Later on we learn Tremski’s work has attracted interest of young scholars:

“The chronicle of two generations, displaced and dispossessed, had come to a stop. The evaluation could begin; had already started. Scholars who looked dismayingly youthful, speaking the same language, but with a new, jarring vocabulary, were trekking to Western capitals – taping reminiscences, copying old letters. History turned out to be a plodding science. What most émigrés settled for now was the haphazard accuracy of a memory like Tremski’s. In the end it was always a poem that ran through the mind – not a string of dates.”

This is a great short story, I will close with these lines:

“Season after season, his stomach eaten up with anxiety, his heart pounding out hope, hope, hope, he produced a satirical novella set in Odessa; a dense, sober private journal, translated from the Rumanian, best understood by the author and his friends; or another wry glance at the harebrained makers of history. (There were few women. In that particular part of Europe they seemed to figure as brusque flirtatious mistresses or uncomplaining wives.) At least once a year he committed the near suicide of short stories and poetry. There were rewards, none financial.”

I hope very much to return to Mavis Gallant this month.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

My Plans and Hopes for Paris in July 2020

My Plans and Hopes for Paris in July 2020

Website for Paris in July 2020 - Hosted by Thyme for Tea

Thyme for Tea has hosted Paris in July for ten years, this is our sixth year as a participant.  This is a great event. It is a good way to meet bloggers outside the book Blog World.  Maybe most of us figure we don’t have a  Paris trip coming up soon but we can still visit  one of Cultural capitals of the World thanks to Paris in July.

Every year I design my own image for the event (The official one is really perfect).  This year I found a lovely post card created by Picasso.

I even have have an official song for The Event, The Summer I Read Colette by Rossane Cash.

“Welcome to the first week of Paris in July 2020, the 10th anniversary of sharing our love of Paris, and all things French through our blogging community. There are so many ways to celebrate Paris - literature, food, wine, theatre, language, history, holidays, and of course music”.  From Thyme for Tea’s opening statement.

I have some no doubt  overly ambitious plans for Paris in July but here is what I hope to read.


RITUALS FOR THE DEAD Religion and Community in the Medieval University of Paris WILLIAM J. COURTENAY

Ambition and Desire: The Dangerous Life of Josephine Bonaparte by Kate Williams

James Joyce and The Question of Paris by Catherine Flynn

Marie Antoinette’s World by Will Bashir

Marc Chagall by Jonathan Wilson

The Flaneur: A Stroll Through Paris by Edmund White

PROUST’S DUCHESS how three celebrated women captured the imagination of fin-de-siècle paris by Caroline Weber


Fear by Gabriel Chevallier.  A classic account of France during WW One

Missing Person by Patrick Modiano . A Paris detective story by a Nobel Laureatte

The Parisian by Isabella Hammad

The Memoirs of Two Young Wives  by Honore de Balzac
Short Stories 

For sure I Will post on at least one set in Paris Short Story by Mavis Gallant, hopefully several.

I have selected Short Stories by two of France’s greatest writers, Emile Zola and Guy de Maupassant

I have hopes to read Paris based Short Stories by 20th century English language writers i admire such
As Alice Adams, Shirley Hazzard, Paul Boules, and Hortense Callisher. We also have collections of Short Stories by Colette, Marcelle Ayme and Emanuel Bove, in translation.

I hope to get to Short Stories by two of my favourite writers, translated from Yiddish, Chava Rosenfarb and Blume Lempel, both lived in Paris for several years.

I look Forward to Reading the marvelous posts by participants and offer my thanks to Thyme for Tea for giving us this oppurtunity

Mel u
Ambrosia Bousweau.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

The Reading Life Review - June 2020

June Authors 

Column One

1. Sam Liptzin - Belarus to USA - prolific Yiddish author
2. Fradel Shtok - Austro-Hungaria to USA - Yiddish language stories focusing on women
3. Jane Boules - USA to Morocco - Two Serious Women
4. Sarah Hames-Jacklyn - Poland to Canada, Short Stories, well known Yiddish Theater Preformer

Column Two

1. Amos Elon - USA - historian focusing on Jewish history, author of The Pity of it All - The German Jewish Experience - read but no post
2. Avrom Reyzen - Belarus to USA - Yiddish author
3. Mavis Gallant - Canada to France
4. Alison Mac!eod. Canada to USA   Multi awarded novelist, author of two Short Story Collections

Column Three

1. Danielle Evans - USA - highly regarded Short Story Writer, author Before You Suffagate Your Fool Self
2. Ruby Cowling - UK - author The Paradise - I hope to follow her work from now on
3. R. L. Maizes - USA - Short Story Writer. We Love You Anderson Cooper
4. James Joyce - Ireland

Column Four

1. Kelly Link - USA - highly regarded Short Story Writer
2. Jonah Rosenfeld - Ukraine to USA - Yiddish Short Story Writer
3. Pingmei Lan - China to USA - 2019 Pen Short Story Winner
4. Chikodili Emelumdu - Nigeria - 2020 Caine Short Story Prize Finalist

Birth land of Authors

1. USA - 7
2. UK - 2
3. Austria- 1
4. Poland - 1
5. Belarus - 1
6. Canada - 1
7. Ireland - 1
8. Ukraine- 1
9. China - 1
10. Nigeria- 1

During June, 2020 12 female writers were featured and five men, nine deceased and eight living.  Ten writers were featured on The Reading Life for the first time. Nine of the authors immigrated from their birth country.

Blog Stats

As of today there has been 6,059,525 page views

Country of Origin of Visitors

1. USA
2. India
3. Hong Kong
4. Germany
5. Russia
6. UK
7. Phillipines
8. Turkmenistan

Blog traffic is about fifty percent from pre-pandemic days.

The top most viewed posts were

1. The Flood - by Thakazhi Sivaankarow
2. Flush - A Biography by Virginia Woolf
3. The Flowers of May by Francisco Arcellana
4. A Piece of Bread by Francois Coppee
5. Overboard by Ivy Ngeow

Future Plans.

I Will be focusing on literary and nonfiction works with a Paris Focus In July,I Will do a post on that soon.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

“What to do When Your Child Brings Home a Mami Wata” - a Short Story by Chikodili Emelumdu- One of five finalist for The 2020 Caine Prize for African Literature.

“What to do When Your Child Brings Home a Mami Wata” - a Short Story by Chikodili Emelumdu- One of five finalist for The 2020 Caine Prize for African Literature.

Published in The Shadow Booth: Vol. 2, 2018

You can read all five stories and learn about the importance of The Caine Prize here.Here

A very interesting interview with Chikodili Emelumdu

An interview with a link to three of her earlier stories as well as very interesting bio data provided by the author.

I first began reading and posting on The Caine Prize Stories in June 2011.  I think I was the first blogger of any sort to post on them.  Now book bloggers, country specific  cultural blogs and African focused political blogs take interest in what countries are represented in the nominations in subsequent years.

This is Chikodili Emelumadu’s  second time to have a story in the final five for The Caine Prize.  In 2017 her story “Bush Baby” was among the finalists.

“What to do When Your Child Brings Home a Mami Wata” is a delightful very creative story.  Kind of a mix of Science Fiction, satire on advise to parents works and a genre of short works I am just getting into, weird fiction.  It is also a saltire on government prose.  It is also a kind of mini-course in Ibo riverine folk lore about semi humanoid acoustic creatures.  The purpose of the paper is to tell parents of boys what to do if their son has a Mami Wata”
paramour. Deeper in, the story can be seen as mocking extremism in sexual conservatism.  Evidently the Mami Wata goes almost exclusively for teenage boys.

From the opening paragraphs I knew I was reading something very special:

“Please note: ‘Mami Wata’ (also known in various other regions as ‘Mammy Water’) is used in this context as an umbrella term for both genders of the popular water entity (i.e. Mami and Papi Watas) and does not represent those other mer-creatures without the appearance of absolute humanoid traits. For these other non-humanistic water entities including but not restricted to: permanent mermaids and mermen, crocodile fellows, shark-brides, turtle crones and anomalous jelly blobs of indeterminate orientation, please see our companion volume, ‘So You Want to Kill a Mer- Creature?’ which will guide you through the appropriate juju framework to avoid or deflect repercussions and will elucidate general and specific appeasement rituals. See also, ‘Entities and Non-entities: The Definitive Legal Position on Aquatic Interspecies Marriages, Non-Marriage Couplings and Groupings”

This story reads like something the Jonathan Swift who wrote “A Modest Proposal” would admire and respect.

I cannot imagine anyone not loving this story. You will find this a welcome pleasure in these times, I certainly did.

Shirley Jackson shortlist 2015
Caine Prize shortlist 2017
Curtis Brown First Novel Prize winner 2019
AKO Caine Prize Shortlist 2020
She was born in Nigeria and moved to the UK at an early age then she and her family moved back to Nigeria as she moved home.  As a child her parents made her read English classics and the complete Encyclopedia Brittanica.

For sure I would purchase a collection of her stories. I hope to follow her for a long time.

Mel u