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

Saturday, June 30, 2018

“Too Damn Beautiful” - A Short Story by Steve Wade - 2016

My Q and A with Steve Wade

Click here to read the story in The Galway Review

I have been following the work of Steve Wade since March 2013.  I have posted on four of his Short Stories (my posts contain links to the stories, just start at our Q and A session.)  if I did not his work in high esteem I would not, of course, devoted posts to him in six consecutive Irish Short Story Months on The Reading Life.

“Too Damn Beautiful” shows us the very rule bound relationship of a couple.  Both have had prior relationships and those of their acquaintances have failed. The man is a widower. They, mostly the woman, think that everything must be regulated and set out in advance if their relationship is to work.  They live together along with the man’s two daughters from his marriage and the woman’s baby.

This story is a lot of fun read and it also helped me think about my marriage, what works and what could be better.  Men may say the woman is too fixated on the chores being evenly divided, maybe women will say, “typical man just wants a sex partner and a maid”.

Just a short segment will let you see the pleasure and delightful humour of this story.  Anything else is a bonus!

“But Friday nights were pizza nights. As soon as the kids were gone to bed, they would order in and watch a movie. That was the rule. And it was her turn to choose from Netflix. He put his hands on her waist, looked into her eyes, and agreed that yes, of course it was. But the thing is, see, he’d had pizza at lunchtime. One of the girls in the office was leaving and they surprised her with a going-away lunch.
“I’ve already got ‘Titanic’ lined up,” she said. She stamped her foot on the carpet like a child. “I’m looking forward to it the whole week.”
“Come on, Rach,” he said. “It’s just this one time.” The rugby semi-final was on. Between Leinster and Scarlets.
“It’s not fair,” she said. And whacked away his hands from off her hips. She folded her arms. “And another thing. You didn’t tidy up last night. Or put the plates in the dishwasher. It was your turn.”
“I’m sorry, baby,” he said. “It’s been a mad week. With all the extra bullshit I have to do these days.” He reached out a hand towards her face.
She jerked from him. “Don’t touch me, David,” she said. She spat his name like a curse.
“Come on, baby, please,” he said.”

I look forward to following Wade’s work for years to come.

I suggest anyone interested in short stories, Ireland and a good bit more read the Q and A with Wade.

Steve Wade is an Irish Writer and English language teacher. A prize nominee for the PEN/O’Henry Award, 2011, and a prize nominee for the Pushcart Prize, 2013, his fiction has been published widely in print and online. His work has won awards and been placed in prestigious writing competitions, including being shortlisted among five in the Wasafiri Short Story Prize 2011, a nomination for the Hennessy New Irish Writer Prize, and Second Place in the International Biscuit Publishing contest, 2009. His novel ‘On Hikers’ Hill’ was awarded First Prize in the UK abook2read Literary Competition, December 2010 – among the final judging panel was the British lyricist sir Tim Rice. His fiction has been published in over twenty-five print publications, including Zenfri Publications, New Fables, Gem Street, Grey Sparrow, Fjords Arts and Literary Review, and Aesthetica Creative Annual 

Website of Steve Web

Mel u

Friday, June 29, 2018

“Bubbles, Mermaids and Broccoli” by Riham Adly - Published Today on The Reading Life

Click here read this story and others in The Vestal Review

Riham Adly on The Reading Life. Includes Links to other of her stories

Today I am very pleased and honoured to publish a short story by the multi-award winning writer Riham Adly.  

I have posted so far on four Short Stories by Adly (there are  links to these stories in my posts).  I would never read let alone post on four stories by a writer if I did not find their work intriquing, interesting, insightful and of lasting value.  I hope to follow her work for many years and I thank her for allowing me to share this story with my readers.

 This story is protected Under international Copyright laws and is the exclusive property of Riham Adly.  It cannot be published in any format without her permission.

Bubbles, Mermaids and Broccoli by Riham Adly 

Rainbow colored bubbles don’t like me very much. They fly away when I blow and never come back. Some just POP and kill themselves. Teddy bear said we should always use sunscreen because the sun screams at us; lots of sunshine screams can hurt us. Did they hurt my bubbles? Mom’s hurt too.  Mom once said, Bubbles are all soap, they drown in the air. I think, sometimes, you drown even if you’re all dry, like when you cry? But that’s water too.  Mom also said that even mermaids can drown, if they get feet and sit in bathtubs. I don’t believe it, but Mom never said anything wrong.  Mom’s prettier than mermaids and rainbow bubbles. She’s gone now, just like the bubbles.  I wish she’d come back, but she’s far away, deep down, like roots of that sad tree called Willow.
We are Twins, Teddy bear said. I’m the wee one and he’s the stronger one, like Batman, he said. Twins look the same. I have long hair, like Goldilocks. Teddy bear’s all fuzzy brown with black button eyes.
Teddy bear has a mama. No one can hurt his mama, he said, not even Uncle Jimmy. Uncle Jimmy likes to tickle me hard where I pee. I never ever laugh when he tickles. He calls me bad girl. I’m not bad. I’m all good, all good except when he tickles. Teddy bear said I’m not bad, I’m just the wee one, and that I should be like Batman. I just like bubbles but I hate it when they POP.
Teddy bear eats bad people who make his mama sad. I wish I could eat Uncle Jimmy even if he tastes like broccoli. Maybe when I become a grownup I’ll eat bad people, even if they taste like broccoli.
Riham Adly is a creative writing instructor from Gizah, Egypt.  Several of her short stories appeared in online literary magazines such as Page&Spine,  The 10 minutes Novelist,  Paragraph Planet, Visual Verse,  Fictional café, For The Sonourous and The HFC Journal. Her short story “The Darker Side of the Moon” won the Makan Award in Egypt and was published in an anthology with the same name. Riham started h

Thursday, June 28, 2018

The Cartography of Others by Catherine McNamara- 2018 - A Collection of Short Stories

My Q and A with Catherine  McNamara

“"She is older than the rocks among which she sits; like the vampire, she has been dead many times, and learned the secrets of the grave; and has been a diver in deep seas, and keeps their fallen day about her; and trafficked for strange webs with Eastern merchants, and, as Leda, was the mother of Helen of Troy, and, as Saint Anne, the mother of Mary; and all this has been to her but as the sound of lyres and flutes, and lives only in the delicacy with which it has molded the changing lineaments, and tinged the eyelids and the hands." - Walter Pater

On August 28, 2013 I posted about Catherine McNamara’s wonderful debut collection Pelt and other Stories.  Here is my overview of that collection:

“Pelt and Other Stories by Catherine McNamara, her debut collection, is a very powerful, thoroughly captivating collection of stories most of which center on the post colonial world of central coastal West Africa. The  subtlies and levels of irony in these stories show a very great insight into how cross cultural encounters impact all parties.  The people in the stories range from European hotel owners in Ghana, famous art photographers, mistresses of Europeans, drivers, and village people.   The stories are mostly but not all set in West Africa.  One is set in the very worldly city of Sydney, some in Italy.   .   The stories are miniature marvels in showing us the manifestation of orientalizing of the African not just by Europeans and Americans but by returned citizens.  The stories show us how hard it is to return home unchanged.   These stories are not about ignorant hateful prejudice.   McNamara is too knowing and intelligent for that.  They are about the very great difficulties of escaping from our deep conditioning, our unseen frames of reference.   The stories are also fun to read.  Lots of interesting things happen, there is some sex, women eyeballing each other, and a strong sense of humor.”  (There are brief descriptions of a number of her stories in my linked above post.) 

I highly recommend our Q and A session.  I just reread it and am very proud to have it on The Reading Life.

Now nearly five years later, I am delighted to have a copy of her brand new collection, The Cartography of Others.  There are twenty stories in the collection.  Posting upon, I dont see myself as a reviewer and dont like to be called one, collections of Short stories is very challenging.  One feels driven to find commonality among the works.

I intend to start my exploration of this collection by talking about three of her stories.  Every Short Story I Post upon I read at least two times.  If I dont find myself wanting to do that I dont post on it.

“Three Days in Hong Kong”

I decided to read this story as, with my wife, I have spent three days in Hong Kong, for us a fabulous place for shopping, sightseeing and scrumptious dining.  The woman at the center of this told in the second person story went to Hong Kong for a very different reason, to spend three nights with a wealthy married man, who lives there, with whom she is having an affair.  He paid her fare from London, where their affair began and has booked her into a luxury Hong Kong hotel.

As the story opens the woman is leaving  Hong Kong International to go to her hotel.  McNamara does a very good job capturing the feel of the ride in from the AirPort, kind of a surreal experience for first time visitors:

“You fly in. He says he won’t be there, there’ll be a sign with your code name.Philomena M. He likes secrets. You know he likes living between several worlds suspended in the air. He likes flight. He risks collisions. He travels way too much. There is the card with your secret name. Philomena M. The driver has pointed sideburns like Nick Cave and caramel skin pulled tight over his cheekbones. You drive onto the motorway into the night, past cheap housing blocks with scabbed facades, balconies crammed as though the life is oozing out of them. The city pulls you in, sucks you under, chucks you up, then streams around you. Chasms, rafts of lights, a Prada shop; the black numb sky and nowhere water.”

He calls the first day and says business will keep him away tonight. Disappointed, we sense the weakness of her passion for the man.  We wonder how much is her need, she is 37, childless and never married, to feel still sexually desirable mingled with a slighly buried arrousal by the idea of having sex at the ultra-chic hotel. On the second night he tells her he must be with his wife as it is their anniversary.  She begins to feel a need for sex.  On the third night he calls with another excuse.  I will leave the powerful ending untold.  In just a few pages McNamara brings a woman very much to life, does a fine job on the setting.  We see the woman does not really know her own feelings.  We know only a little about her early years, just enough to make the story even more intriguing.  She is a reader, she brought books with her and this made her more interesting.  As I read these charged lines I wondered did the man really want to see her or not:

“I cannot speak any more, my darling. Remove that dress.’ You stand naked over Hong Kong, your hands in tepees on the glass, your legs apart. Your hair falls down your back, over your breasts. It is hard to believe anyone is watching you. For him, you touch yourself. You are not very wet. The man you left used to arouse you in a moderate way that you felt was not enough. You would lie awake, your lips to his shoulder. You were so mad he never probed your body hard enough, that you made sure his efforts were in vain. You want to hug his disabled daughter. You decide that when you go back you will call him and do this. The next morning you rush to the door naked when you hear a knock. As you unlock the door you feel sweat between your hairless buttocks. Everything has been carefully waxed. Your sex is a peeled fruit. Your fingertips like to wander over the moist skin. It is a woman in a mauve uniform holding flowers. You snatch them from her. You throw them down and go to the bathroom where you look at your parts which are much more beautiful than the flowers. Then this disgusts you, the way the folds are so prominent. You love to pull a man’s cock into you.”

In just a few pages McNamara takes us deeply into two people and uses the vibrant pulsating city of Hong Kong wonderfully as background.

Return from Salt Pond 

Return from Salt Pond”, set in Ghana, opens very dramatically.  A couple, they met in London, both are from Ghana and are contemplating a move home.  On a dark road late at night someone threw a rock through the windshield of their car, striking the woman in the face, glass shreds cutting her. The man decides to take her to a friend’s  house.  Before they were attacked they were looking at a property the man wants to turn into a place for guests with a nightclub.  He needs the woman to front most of the costs.  The woman doubts their relationship will endure very long so she is resistant.  In this story McNamara shows the connection of sex and dominant behaviour, the man is a cruel predator.   Like “Three Days in Hong Kong” the male lead character cares little for the woman.  I got the feel for the scary after dark streets of Accra from this story.  McNamara is very good at setting her stories in place.  But just as I was ready to dismiss the man, we learn this and once again we are taken deep into a character and maybe a bit into our own rush to judgements:

“There had been an uninterrupted stretch of six months when his father had been dying, when every night he had come to the club from the hospital with stricken hands. Every night he had changed the old man’s soiled garments and sheets. Kenneth had a strong suspicion he would end up like him, a marooned vessel other people would have to look after and clean. He hoped he still had time to think about these things. But tonight, as he thought about the burst of shattered glass, he realised that what he wanted more than anything was a companion to see him through. He wanted a wife. And what Erica saw as a sign that they would never stay together and produce a child now made him think of orgasm, and the grappling and piercing and deliverance of sex. He wanted to explain this to her. He imagined her limber body over him and felt weak in his groin. He knew they would never make love again.”

“They Came from the East”

“They Came from the East” is a fascinating story, set in France and related to the immigrant influx changing European politics in a rightward direction.  There are five central characters, the young male living at home narrator, his parents, Peter a refugee from wars “in the east”, and Peter’s late brother Milo.  

The father took Peter in, feeling sorry for him.  His wife really did not want him in the house so the father fixed up a shed for him.  The family are professional musicians.  McNamara slowly and subtly reveals, not completely, a terrible secret I strained to understand.

“You think of young men your own age, promised safety but pushed off buses and led in single file through the woods. You think that Milo, had he been raised in Peter’s country, would have worn a uniform and slaughtered men. You are not sure how this skill is devised but you know that your brother would have given captives water, pronounced their names; absorbed duty. Shot them. You disconnect that thought, but it stays awash in you. Your father travels to Devon to see to works on your grandfather’s house. Your mother is at college teaching. Peter has long departed across the suburbs on a dawn train. You have a recital tonight outdoors; your throat is dry. You swallow honey and make herbal tea. You do not possess Milo’s exuberant organism. When Milo finally hanged himself in the park, the doctors wished to dissect his brain.”

This is a disturbing story, there is much more involved than I have mentioned.

There are seventeen other stories in The Cartography of Others.
I will post on at least seven more of the stories in July, I hope.

I highly recommend this collection to all lovers of short stories.
As I proceed on I may begin to talk of the themes of the stories.

I defer to the elegant judgement of Hilary Mantel, twice winner of The Booker Prize to close this post.

““McNamara’s work has a fierce, vital beat, her stories robust yet finelyworked, her voice striking in its confidence and originality. She writes with sensuous precision and a craft that is equally precise. This is fiction that can stand up in any company.” –Hilary Mantel

Mel u

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Our Holocaust by Amir Gutfreund -2001- translated from Hebrew 2006 by Jessica Cohen

“Those sadists, I understand. It is not them that I fear. People like them are hiding everywhere around me today. I can guess who they will be and where they will come from if-what-happened-there-happens-here-too. What frightens me is the ones who maintained their integrity. The-people-who-did-not-hate-Jews. The-people-who-were-only-doing-their-job. Those people, I cannot understand, and I have no idea where they will come from. I pick Yariv up from kindergarten and we walk through his world together. No one will be shot here. Pregnant women need not worry—no one will stab them in the stomach. Women pushing strollers can keep peeking at their babies to make sure they’re not too warm, not too cold. No one will throw a baby in the air, wish the first shot had hit it in flight, and try again. But I know. The monsters are here. The only thing missing is the circumstances, and when the circumstances arise it will all happen here, and it will be directed against me because I will not collaborate. They will emerge, all of them, even the people-who-did-not-hate—although where they will come from I do not know—and the camp-commandants-who-triedto-supply-the-regulated-calorie-quotas-even-during-shortages.” Amir Gutfteund

I discovered this book through the newsletter of The Jewish Book Council.  As soon as I saw it was priced at $0.99 as a Kindle I hit purchase now and I am so glad i did.  It is a great addition to Holocaust fiction.  I am behind in my posting and accepting I could not describe The wonders of this book adequately I decided to share with my readers the post from The Jewish Book Council

“Review by Barbara S. Cohen

Beautifully translated from Hebrew, Our Holocaust is a novel narrated by a nameless child of Holocaust survivors. A prizewinner in Israel, it tells the story of relatives who are “collected” by virtue of the fact that they themselves have no one to call their own family since many of their parents, children, brothers and siblings were murdered during the Holocaust. The relatives operated under the “Law of Compression,” wherein fellow neighbors were turned into uncles, cousins and even grandparents. The colorful characters range from the eccentric, inwardly fearful Grandpa Lolek to Uncle Mendel and the cantankerous but loving Feiga. Although these Holocaust survivors make an effort to conduct sane lives, the horrors they experienced continue to haunt them, from panic and fear over a knock at the door, to inner demons plaguing the minds and souls of those who experienced the brutalities of the Nazis. Soon, the narrator also takes on the fears of his relatives, and begins to question those who walk down the street, or frequent his home, wondering if they were themselves Nazis, loyal soldiers or even worse, murderers themselves.

Our Holocaust is titled so appropriately: It makes the reader see that those who survived the Holocaust are not alone, that the horrors, the brutality, the pain and suffering are emotions that each of us share collectively as Jews. This book is impressive, and would be treasured by anyone interested in historical fiction as it relates to Jews who survived the brutality of the Nazis.

From the Rohr Judges
Gutfreund’s work is, as he takes pains to stress, not an autobiography. But it isn’t precisely not an autobiography either, and therein lies some of its complexity. In focusing on the story of how the Holocaust resonated among Israelis in the decades after the war, Gutfreund is following the imaginative ground of other writers, most notably David Grossman; but he does so in a way that is entirely his own. Gutfreund has stressed the remarkable research at Yad Vashem that went into the book, and the results are evident: even if this is, in part, a family story, it feels like more than that: a chronicle of the kind of stories that could have taken place, even if they didn’t. 
The survivors themselves, with their tics and their idiosyncrasies, are instantly and permanently memorable; the children who grow into adulthood, wanting simply to know more, are equally so. By the time that the story begins to move in the less firmly realistic ground, into the land of “Over There”—what might have been rather than what we know to have been—it hardly matters to the reader of the novel what was true and what Gutfreund has invented; what we are witness to is the development of an important work, not only of the genre often called “Holocaust literature,” but of Jewish literature more generally”

Amir Gutfreund was born in Haifa in 1963. After studying applied mathematics at the Technion, he joined the Israeli Air Force, where he worked in the field of mathematical research. The author of five novels and a collection of short stories, he received the Buchman Prize from the Yad Vashem Institute in 2002, the Sapir Prize in 2003, the Sami Rohr Choice Award from the Jewish Book Council in 2007, and the Prime Minister's Award in 2012. Gutfreund lived with his family in the Galilee in northern Israel. In November 2015, at the age of fifty-two, he passed away after a brave battle with cancer.

Died: 27 November 2015, Haifa, Israel

I have acquired his novel about Palestine in the 1920s The World is a Moment Later and hope to read it soon.

I give this book a very high endorsement 

Saturday, June 23, 2018

“Happy New Year” by Sholem Aleichem - A Short Story 1906- translated from Yiddish by Curt Levmet

“Imagine, every single one of them up to Mr. Big; yes, the czar himself takes bribes. Don’t be shocked—Mr. Big accepts them too, if he gets an offer. What’s that? You don’t believe me? You’re all laughing, eh? Well, have fun . . . Ready now? Have you all laughed yourself dry? Now gather round me, brother Jews, and listen to a story that happened a long time ago to my grandfather, may he rest in peace. It happened in the good old days when Czar Nich was boss....”

Sholem  Aleichem’s work is the heart and soul of Yiddish literature.  To most he is the genius behind Fiddler on the Roof.  He is a great writer, his stories, mostly about Eastern European Jews are wise, delightful, often hilarious and very wise.  Mark Twain on meeting Aleichem told him people often call him “The American Sholem Aleichem”

“Happy New Year” is set on a Russian train, as are numerous of his stories.  Many of the stories are structured as one person telling others on the train a story, maybe a bit apocryphal but anchored in real life events.  Jews could talk freely as the Goyim on the train could not understand Yiddish.

Our narrator is repeating a story his grandfather told.  It seems a New Czarist official had taken over the area in which the family lived.  To everyone’s shock, he won’t take a bribe!  Unheard of, even “The Big Man”, the Tsar takes bribes, it is how things are done.  His grandfather went to a highly regarded Rabbi for advise.  I don’t want to spoil the delightful plot but the grandfather ends up smoking a cigar and having tea with the Tsar and a new bribery friendly official is soon put in place.

Sholem Aleichem, the pseudonym of a Russified Jewish intellectual named Solomon Rabinovitz (1859–1916), created many of the most enduring works of modern Yiddish fiction. Born in Pereyaslav, Ukraine, he received a traditional education and lived in Kiev and Odessa before immigrating to New York City. Upon his death in 1916, the New York Times published a front-page obituary, memorializing him as “the Jewish Mark Twain.” More than 100,000 people attended his funeral procession, making it the largest New York City had ever seen. His humorous representations of the rhythms of Yiddish-speaking Eastern European Jewish life have had a lasting influence on modern Jewish literary traditions.

Curt Leviant is the translator of Sholem Aleichem, Chaim Grade, I. B. Singer, and Avrom Reisen, and the author of ten critically acclaimed works of fiction, the most recent of which are King of Yiddish and Kafka’s Son. His novels have been translated into seven European languages and into Hebrew and Turkish. But not yet into Yiddish.

I read this in the 2018 Pakn Treger Translation Issue, published by the Yiddish Book Center. 

I really enjoyed this story and I thank Curt Leviant for this elegant translation.

Mel u

Thursday, June 21, 2018

The House of Rothschild The World’s Banker 1849 to 1998; Volume II

An Autodidactic Corner Selection

The House of Rothschild : Volume 1: Money’s Prophets 1798 to 1848 by Niall Ferguson and The House of Rothschild Volume 2: 1849 to 1998:The World’s Bankers are close to essential reading for anyone into not just 19th century European history, banking history, Jewish 
history but much of European literature, especially that of Balzac (who fashioned an important character in La Comedie Humaine on James Rothschild), Emile Zola, and Marcel Proust.  The Rothschild’s created the international bond market and this made the dazzling world of The Guermantes possible. They created a form of upper Class wealth seperated from ownership of land and in so doing changed The landscape of European life and literature, especially that of France.

As Ferguson says in his introduction there is a great deal of web space devotrd to the Rothschild’s and it is all pretty much trash.  The Rothschilds are part of the fantsies of the right and the left.  Ferguson’s work gives the truth about the history of what by around 1850 was the richest family in the world. He explains how they became so wealthy in fascinating detail.  We learn of their government contacts, their private information networks, how governments received loans, how the bond market worked and also currency trading.  We learn about how laws dictating where Jews could live impacted the family.

I was fascinated to learn about how James Rothschild was part of The Comedie Humaine.  James Rothschild walked behind Balzac’s coffin and secured the future of his widow by buying her house for ten times the market value.

“Literal-minded modern scholars tend to dispute the notion that James was the model for Balzac’s fictional banker Nucingen. They point to obvious dissimilarities: Nucingen is said to be from Alsace, he is the son of a convert from Judaism, he has no brothers, he is too old (at sixty in 1829) to be James, has only one daughter and so on. Yet Balzac himself told his future wife in 1844 that James—“ the high Baron of financial feudalism”—was “Nucingen to the last detail, and worse.” And a careful reading of the relevant parts of Balzac’s great work shows how much of Nucingen was inspired by James. None of the other financiers of the day is more plausible as a model; fictionalised he may be, but Nucingen is James, to the extent that Balzac could never have created the former had he never known the latter. Nucingen is first introduced in Le Père Goriot (1834-5) as the husband of one of the two self-centred daughters of the impoverished vermicellier Goriot. He is a “banker of German origin who had been made a baron of the Holy [Roman] Empire,” speaks with a thick, phonetically-spelt German accent (for example, “quelque chose” becomes “keke chausse”) and lives in the rue Saint-Lazare, “in one of those light houses, with thin columns [and] mean porches which are considered pretty in Paris, a true banker’s house, full of expensive elegance, ornaments [and] stair landings in marble mosaic.”

The Rothschilds were  the wealthiest family in history.  They created international banking, they are said to have financed both sides of all Major wars, including The American revolution and The  Wars of Napoleon.  Ferguson explains in great detail how family developed a jewelery business that acted as the banker for a few minor German princes to a firm of incredible wealth and power.

Ferguson shows us ways the five branches of the Family stayed unified while spread to five cities in Europe.  

Rothschilds married other Rothschilds, especially the men.  Marrying cousins was relatively common in the limited marriage market of affluent Germanic Jews. 

“not even the royal families of Europe were as closely inbred, though self-conscious references to “our royal family” suggest that the Rothschilds regarded them as a kind of model”.

As the years advance the family gets involved heavily in Railroads and silver mines, they were very involved in Brazil.

Ferguson tells us what happened to the family during World War One. The Nazis did confiscate some of the assets of the Vienna branch.  One family member died in the Holocaust.

The family had ties to American Jewish banking houses but never opened an American branch.

At 1000 plus pages, these are books for the serious.  For those who want to understand banking history, they are invaluable.

Niall Ferguson, MA, D.Phil., is the Milbank Family Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and a senior fellow of the Center for European Studies, Harvard, where he served for twelve years as the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History. He is also a visiting professor at Tsinghua University, Beijing, and the Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation Distinguished Scholar at the Nitze School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, DC. 

He is the author of fourteen books. His first, Paper and Iron: Hamburg Business and German Politics in the Era of Inflation 1897-1927, was short-listed for the History Today Book of the Year award, while the collection of essays he edited, Virtual History: Alternatives and Counterfactuals, was a UK bestseller. In 1998 he published to international critical acclaim The Pity of War: Explaining World War One and The World’s Banker: The History of the House of Rothschild. The latter won the Wadsworth Prize for Business History and was also short-listed for the Jewish Quarterly/Wingate Literary Award and the American National Jewish Book Award. In 2001, after a year as a Houblon-Norman Fellow at the Bank of England, he published The Cash Nexus: Money and Power in the Modern World, 1700-2000.  More detail can be found at

Mel u

Monday, June 18, 2018

The Moon Opera by Bi Feiyu - Translated from Chinese by Howard Goldblatt - 20@8 - 140 pages

The Moon Opera is about the backstage drama and political underpinnings involved when a rich cigarette factory owner offers to underwrite a second production of a classic Peking Opera.  The opera was last staged twenty years ago.  The female lead, in a jealous rage, assaulted her understudy and has been working as a singing teacher ever since then.  The factory owner will bankroll the opera only if the old star returns in the lead.

There is a lot of drama between the characters, we do learn a good bit about how  operas are staged.  There are romances and we learn about the last twenty years in the life of the diva.

I found the details on the opera production interesting, the characters only possibly engaging.

I bought this book, in a Kindle Edition, on sale for $1.95. I checked and it is now back up to $9.95.  I cannot endorse the purchase of this book at full price and in fact endorse it mildly only those who want to read a story about Chinese opera.

BI FEIYU, winner of the 2010 Man Asian Prize for Three Sisters, is one of the most respected authors and screenwriters in China today. He was born in 1964 in Xinghua, in the province of Jiangsu. A journalist and poet as well as a novelist, he has been awarded a number of literary prizes, including the Lu Xun Prize for 1995–96. He cowrote the film Shanghai Triad, directed by the acclaimed Chinese director Zhang Yimou.

Avant Bousweau