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

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 

Sunday, June 17, 2018

“The Menace at The Gate”. - A Short Story by Janet H Swinney, 2016

Janet H Swinney on The Reading Life

“The Menace at the Gate” is the third marvelous set in India short story by Janet H Swinney which I have had the great pleasure of reading. I would not repeatedly read stories by an author if I did not find their work intriguing, interesting and insightful.  

Swinney has the gifts of a first rate writer of historic fiction.  Using background details derivitive from reality, she creates characters in and of their time, persons  with a strong feel of vermisilitude and settings with near cinematic  vividness. I can feel the heat, the sensual overloading, the political chaos and clash of cultures that are her the daily life of those in her stories, whether it be on a beach in Goa, the birthday observation of a venerated guru or, as in “The Menace at The Gate” the coming of age of a young woman in violent times.

As the story opens a young woman, maybe 18, is trying to sleep but the sweltering heat and the swarms of mosquitoes that won’t leave her alone keep sleep away.  We are in a violent place, learning of acts of terrorism and political kilings.  She lives with her parents, her aunt and uncle from England are visiting.  As she tries to sleep, problems treated in her classes run through her mind.  To make it worse, her period is late.

In opening of the story you can see the skill of a serious artist:

“Her period refused to come. She lay in turmoil beneath the ineffectual ceiling fan. No position brought relief from the heat. After days of tossing and turning and lying in limp sheets, her shoulders and her buttocks were disfigured by the blemishes served up by prickly heat, and the monsoon was still an age away.

Clans of mosquitoes infested the room, convening under the bed, as well as in the adjoining bathroom, where you took your pants down at your peril. Every night, before coming to bed, she fumigated the entire place with Deet, and plastered herself with Odomos. It made no difference. The evil empire persisted in rude good health, while she lay upon the bed like a living sacrifice. Despite a monstrous nightgown and cotton socks that came up almost to her knees, her ankles, wrists and toes were swollen with multiple bites, the flesh ripped raw with scratching.

Her mind was in no better state. Her head was filled with equations that she could not solve. The reek of formaldehyde from the lab was still in her nostrils. She had never guessed when she chose her subjects for Ten Plus, that even Biology, which was her favourite subject, would involve so much chemistry. She thrashed about the bed, struggling with valencies that were at odds with one another, and the chemical description of photosynthesis that she could not complete.”

We learn of terrible violence.  In a very vivid scene the woman tries to relieve her stress through a casual sexual encounter, one that would horrify her conservative parents.

I dont want reveal too much of the exciting story line.  The conclusion was very unexpected, dramatic and perfectly wrought.

I endorse this story to all lovers of form.  It can serve as an object less about to write historical Short fiction.

I look forward to following the work of Janet H Swinney for many years.

Author supplied data

Repentant education inspector, based in London but with ties in India.
Eleven of her stories have appeared in print. The most recent of these, 'Political Events Have Taken a Turn,' appears in ‘The Sorcery of Smog.’ (Earlyworks Press 2018). Other stories have appeared online in ‘The Bombay Literary Magazine’, ‘Out of Print’, ‘Joao Roque’ and the ‘Indian Review’.
She was a runner-up in the London Short Story competition 2014, and nominated for the Eric Hoffer prize for prose 2012. Her first collection of stories will be published shortly by Circaidy Gregory Press. She is currently working on a play based on stories by Manto.
Find her on Facebook at Janet H Swinney – Addicted to Fiction, or at

Mel u

Thursday, June 14, 2018

“The Smith: Or A Tale of a Man that Poisoned His Wife” - A Short Story by M. J. Berdcyzewski - 1902,translated from Yiddish 2018 by James Adam Redfield


A detailed biographical article

“The birds, real and imagined, speak Yiddish, and the wind at my window speaks Yiddish —because I speak Yiddish, think in Yiddish. My father and mother, my sisters and brothers, my murdered people seek revenge in Yiddish. No world language is comparable to Yiddish, with its unique sighs, its unmatched sense of humor. After the melody has died away and the tears have ebbed, there remains an echo that travels on the wind. Do not wipe out the language that accompanied your people to the mass grave, the echo says. Do not take up the murderers’ sword with your own hand. Do not allow the word that bloomed in bitter climes to wither. Remember Amalek. Remember Hitler. Do not extinguish the spark that smolders in the ashes. Those who deny the past can have no future. Remember”. Blume Lempel

Today’s story is very dark, a story of murder, of hatred of women, including a vivid description of death by poison.  Like many a short story, it is a tale told on a train trip by a very dispicable man to a trapped listener.  

The narrator relays to us the story.  A man was more or less forced by his family into a marriage.  He described his wife as a woman with no good qualities, nasty, ugly and a terrible housekeeper.  He grew to hate her but it got much worse when his younger brother married a beautiful, kind, and loving woman devoted to being a good wife. His jealousy drove him to poison his wife.  As she is dying he cries out trying to make his neighbors think he does not know why his wife is dying.  He ends up sentenced to six years in prison.  He is back now.

This story is an important edition to my expanding admiration for Yiddish Literature.

I read this story in The 2018 Pakn Treger Translation Issue from The Yiddish Book Center.

Micha Josef Berdyczewski, born in Ukraine, died in Berlin (1865–1921); Micha Josef Bin-Gorion from 1911 on) was a prodigious man of letters in multiple languages (Hebrew, German, Yiddish) and literary forms. He is remembered as an innovative prose stylist and polemicist on Zionism and Jewish identity; as the “Jewish Nietzsche” (Y. L. Peretz’s epithet); as an essayist and scholar on Jewish history and religion through the ages; as an anthologizer of Jewish folklore; and as a pioneer in Jewish autobiography. His Yiddish writing, however, remains obscure and disconnected from this vast corpus due to its short period (1902–1906), spare idiom, and restricted set of themes—themes inspired by a return to the shtetl and the language of his youth, through which he hoped to reanimate the spirit of the Jewish people. And yet (as Sholem Aleichem was among the first to note) there is a remarkable emotional range and realistic depth in this collection of stories, one acts, character sketches, and rewritten folktales.

Mel u