nine2By Andrzej Stasiuk.

Nine was quite different from Fado and White Raven.Having said that – it was a good ‘different’. I saw a quote from Irvine Welsh in the usual back cover superlatives and the novel has some similarity with his work – or the tone. The book is very gritty but also surreal at times there are flights of fancy and leaps about within the narrative so you have to concentrate to make sure you really understand what is going on. Generally though, it is quite an easy read – you are drawn into the seedy Polish underworld. I’ll keep looking for books by Stasiuk. This was well worth reading.

Soundtrack: Camper Van Beethoven – Pictures of Matchstick Men

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antBy Nicholas Royle

This was good. I like to feel at the end of a novel that I have been educated in some way. I had this sensation after finishing Antwerp. I need to look into the following areas:

1. Antwerp. I have only been to Belgium once for work and most of it was spent working unfortunately. This was in Brussels – not Antwerp.

2. Paul Delvaux. I like surrealism but have never really been conscious of Delvaux. This needs further investigation.

3. Harry Kumel. I had never heard of Kumel but have seen Last Year at Marienbad by Resnais which is discussed along with Kumel in the novel. I wonder if there is some sort of box set on Amazon.

4. Belgian designers. Apparently their work is cut very nicely but with an absence of colour which quite suits me.

This novel engages you almost immediately and is structured in an interesting way as it moves towards the final climax. It is a thriller of sorts but with many interesting art and film references. If it was purely a thriller I might not have been so engaged but the meat on the bone was a sometimes hinted back story for each of the characters and the general art and film context within which it was set.

At the end I was left nodding with a few more more creative roads to investigate, which is what a good book or piece of art should engender. In my opinion.

After the the Russian behemoths I read immediately prior to this, Antwerp was a welcome change before my next read – the Oxford Reference Grammar. Very enjoyable.

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