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Contenu rédigé par Alfred J. Kwak
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Commentaires écrits par
Alfred J. Kwak

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Numero zero
Numero zero
par Umberto Eco
Edition : Relié
Prix : EUR 28,09

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Prelude to 'bunga bunga', 14 octobre 2015
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Numero zero (Relié)
Dan Brown owes a lot to Umberto Eco’s oeuvre, notably “The Name of the Rose”. Did they become friends? Think not, because here Eco trumps him first with a fiendishly complicated tale linking Rome-centered bodies and agencies with fake aristocrats, dodgy financial schemes, freemasonry, what not? And then with his own Mother of All Conspiracies, explaining much of the worldwide mayhem between 1945 and 1992, with all trouble starting in Italy.
The city of Milan holds center stage in both conspiracies. Eco endows it with a mythical past of subterranean pathways and chambers full of skeletons and skulls, even a now built-over canal system à la Amsterdam. With more such details, some going back to Julius Ceasar, he challenges Dan Brown as if saying “Who is the best fantasist, you or me?” Except, just about everything Umberto Eco provides re the Mother, etc. is undisputed fact, firmed up by real evidence. Only the connections and linkages don’t fit, but every reader knows about that, or what? News does not exist, news is made…
Zero numbers are training grounds in publishing, bringing together an assertive editor and a core team of ambitious journalists to create a new format. Desired target groups and impacts are key matters for discussion; if the first issues are successful, investors will pour in capital enabling expansion of the core team. This all happens here, and then, it does not. The recruits for a newly-planned Milanese daily are fourth rate. Colonna (50+) is a self-described loser and charged, amidst other tasks, with writing a book about the rise to fame of this newspaper. That also makes him the one to tell us readers, what really happened.
Eco’s beautiful novel has two storylines covering events between April and June 1992. One follows researcher Braggadocio, a newshound obsessed with reconstructing the interconnections of all evil bedeviling Italy (see above), who regularly unburdens himself to Colonna. The other is the tone and content of the editorial meetings on the new paper, initially designed only for blackmailing (2% of shares) listed companies.
Braggadocio’s breathless conspiracy tales are rather lengthy and not always entertaining. Are they true? See above. The editorial process and discussions are wonderfully described. There is romantics even and readers will enjoy, fall in love even, with Maia. Umberto Eco, now 83, has rewritten postwar history, created an unlikely love affair and engineered a murder to kill a newspaper. And pays homage to many literary authors in a deeply serious book about populist media worldwide, backdated to 1992, in a book also full of humour and hilarious scenes.

Blood on Snow
Blood on Snow
par Jo Nesbo
Edition : Relié
Prix : EUR 13,93

1 internaute sur 2 a trouvé ce commentaire utile :
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Variations on "Les Misérables", 12 octobre 2015
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Blood on Snow (Relié)
Short novel, a novella almost by an author famous for writing doorstoppers to help his fellow Norwegians through another winter’s darkness and in which Victor Hugo’s 1852 feuilleton “Les Misérables” plays a key role. Raconteur and anti-hero Olav had a miserable start in life with plenty of beatings, parental alcoholism and destitution. He read the book as a boy and it determined his take on life as an expeditor, read hired killer. Olav has shortcomings and limitations he is more than ready to admit and explain, but also harbors feelings and emotions unusual and undesirable for men in his trade. He chose his first target himself, wholeheartedly. The others were selected for him. When he realizes what danger he represents to his sole client, his reptile brain takes over…
What follows is a thrilling tale of dreams and realities, love and deception and other classical literary contrasts. A protracted showdown follows in 1977 Oslo, where in the days before Christmas record low temperatures are predicted. “Blood on Snow” combines the themes and atmosphere of Hugo, a standard Western prelude to a shootout and Murakami’s universe of parallel worlds and realities. Most of all, this is Olav’s own book, an almost 19th century character re complexity and passion. Finished his story in two sittings. Loved it but for the ending.
NB This reader loves short, powerful novels and spied on the reactions to this book in his own country. Shamefully, many comments came from fans moaning about value-for-money, as if size matters. Hope other readers will purely enjoy and be less calculating.

par Georges Simenon
Edition : Poche

3.0 étoiles sur 5 Bland man under pressure, 7 octobre 2015
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Belle (Poche)
Originally published in 1952, in English in 1954, “Belle” is a psychological novel Georges Simenon (GS, 1903-89) wrote during his stay in the US. This reader only recently tucked into his enormous oeuvre (220-400+ books; with 400-800m sold?) and is no expert yet. Specialists say his 1950s books are his best. Found “Belle” compelling but less of a page-turner than some much earlier GS books.
This one is situated in a closely-knit community of 2.000 in Connecticut told mostly by Spencer Ashby, who married bland but wealthy Christine late, aged 32 and 34 resp. and moved in with her. Was the union ever consummated? She embodies her native community, he is import and rootless, teaching physics and history at a posh finishing school nearby. No children. True drama erupts nine (9) years later when Belle (19), daughter of one of Christine’s friends living in their spare bedroom since a month, is found raped and strangled.
Intensive forensic, pre-DNA research of the deceased, her room, the house and neighborhood, village and outlying roads and bars follow in addition to background checks of Belle in her home state of Virginia. Very taxing and tiring for Spencer who was alone with her in the short time span in which she was killed. Unlike most GS (anti-) heroes, Spencer is a bloodless character leading a regimented life devoid of any sign of passion. Readers will gradually wonder about his state of mind as principal witness, never main suspect.
Simenon infused and constantly added doubts, dark thoughts and fantasies into both Spencer’s mind and his hostile non-community, contrasting his love for blandness and black & white with his fears, dreams, early memories and his fearful attraction to pink, red, purple and blue neon lights. How long can a repressed mind stay sane under so many pressures? Ultimately, Spencer’s mind slips from its moorings and the consequences are dire. Did he kill Belle? Who knows? No one knows.

The Trinity Six
The Trinity Six
Prix : EUR 6,21

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Brilliant read, 29 septembre 2015
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : The Trinity Six (Format Kindle)
Most readers interested in espionage know about the Trinity Five, all graduates of Trinity College, Cambridge before WW II, already then spying for the Soviet Union, who continued serving and betraying the UK in sensitive government roles and positions. This novel is about another, sixth spy, active for half a century and never flushed out' Time wise, TTS links WW II with today, thanks to an intriguing 91 year old character, a former spy.
This carefully paced and -plotted story starring Dr Sam Gaddis, a financially-troubled history lecturer at University College London, another prestigious university. His latest book 'Tsars' compared imperial Russian rulers with its current leader. It is not a bestseller. What he needs is a stunning shocker of a book that will solve his money troubles once and for all. Cumming's book is about the search by Dr Sam for an elusive Cold War spy called Edward Crane and a man or operation codenamed ATTILLA, persistently being frustrated by MI 6. Having reached Ch 39 on p 275 and looking forward to what happens next and the end game, still 125 pp away, I warmly recommend this thriller.
Charles Cumming has spelled out and used well the copious literature about the Trinity Five. The action covers a number of EU countries and stretches to New Zealand (!). What propels readers on is the likeable academic and anti hero Sam through whose eyes much of the terrifying events, the killings and the threats and suspicions are seen. Understanding and partly eluding today's spy tradecraft and surveillance technology (internet, telephone, public transport devices) comes quickly to Sam. I am rooting for him to succeed, but mentioning 'Dresden' early on has made me anxious about a plausible, not a silly ending.

A Five Year Plan
A Five Year Plan
par Philip Kerr
Edition : Relié
Prix : EUR 21,29

3.0 étoiles sur 5 Insufficient focus, 25 septembre 2015
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : A Five Year Plan (Relié)
Found the first 100 pages quite enjoyable, reminiscent of Mario Puzo and Elmore Leonard. I also wondered: serious crime story or a spoof?
Situated in 1997, when the fax was all-important, the internet and mobile phones newish and pubic hair considered sexy, it has a promising cast of villains and law enforcers. The central figure is Dave Delano (DD), freshly released after serving 5 years for a crime committed by a Miami mobster. Incarcerated, DD pumped iron from day one, learned Russian for four years from his cell-mate, became well-read and a planner of his own future. He quickly collects the reward for his sacrifice. The Miami mafia ponders whether DD remains a clear and present danger or a possible asset in the field of logistics...
What happens next is for readers to enjoy. Enjoyed DDs focus on carrying off a long-planned massive scam involving shipments of cocaine and cash across the Atlantic. Philip Kerr surrounded him with a cast of semi-competent mobsters and FBI-agents. His research on shipping and banking in 1997 is impeccable. His characters’ politically-incorrect thoughts, jokes and stereotyping are spot-on too, but they go on and on, slowly assuming a purpose of their own, slowing down the action in a tale that never becomes really thrilling. Halfway, after silent prayers to stop the joking and start to get on with the story, I shelved it. Well-written, but poorly executed re dosage of forward action and background, jokes and other roughage.
May pick it up again.

Sputnik Sweetheart: Roman
Sputnik Sweetheart: Roman
par Haruki Murakami
Edition : Broché
Prix : EUR 9,85

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Ode to Mozart et cetera, 21 septembre 2015
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Sputnik Sweetheart: Roman (Broché)
Lively and entertaining book full of little dramatic scenes and quasi-philosophical observations, gradually turning into high drama. It is mainly about chaotic Sumire (22), whose sole passion is to write the ultimate novel and has never felt any sexual desire. Until she meets Miu (38), a married Korean-Japanese ex-pianist, now businesswoman, who transforms her into a non-smoking, perfectly-dressed and competent personal secretary. The person recording it all is an unnamed male person, K (24), a fellow student Sumire trusts and loves above anyone else, calling him at all hours, discussing music, books and life until dawn. K is keenly attracted to her physically, but knows any pass would spoil their bond forever.
This reader (m) is an amateur re HM, having read only a handful of his novels. Here, the lighter parts read like Milan Kundera, the name dropping of foreign brands more like Bret Easton Ellis or Jay McInerney; the vast knowledge of pop, jazz and classical music is strictly HM’s own. The novel ups tempo when K in Tokyo receives a call from Greece from Miu. Could he please rush to a small island near Rhodes? Why? Because Sumire has disappeared, as if gone up in smoke…
What happens next is for readers to find out. This reader is of the recreational type, not keen on explaining philosophical or supernatural matters. However, one theme is the utter loneliness of every soul on earth and beyond, symbolized by the dog Laika viewing the earth briefly in 1957 from the SU Sputnik satellite. Another is Japanese upbringing and schooling: the little shoplifter in Ch 15 might now be a “hikikomori” a stayer-with-parents, adult Japanese rejectionists of real life not found in such great numbers elsewhere. But his teacher K. may have saved him just in time…
When finished I realized that even the most innocent remark, image or anecdote, would return later in a different context. Parallel worlds, time warps, stellar dark holes like deep wells in which a character pines for release, are ideas and images Murakami elegantly hogties with more mundane writing, creating a unique worldview. Diehard (f?) fans will grab its gravitas all at once, or reread it again and again, while playing all the musical pieces with the right performers, accessed via Google and YouTube. Found one minus point: Sumire’s early attempts at defining herself. Too woolly for recreational readers. Otherwise, engrossing and worth re-reading.

The Blue Room
The Blue Room
Prix : EUR 6,59

5.0 étoiles sur 5 Super, 17 septembre 2015
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : The Blue Room (Format Kindle)
Georges Simenon grabs readers by the throat in his opening chapters, then rarely lets go. This brilliant psychological novel’s first chapter is quite steamy and absolutely key to what follows in the rest of the book. What is described is also instructive literature in a day and age promoting via apps, websites and TV-docudramas the act or practice of adultery: it is worldwide and in every religion frowned upon or severely sanctioned, a legal ground for divorce and motive for manslaughter or murder. Many cultures tolerate men having an occasional one night stand or maintaining another woman as a maîtresse. Simenon describes a dangerous, secretive variety with lovers equal in passion but acting from different ulterior motives.
This emotionally taxing and intrusive novel describes the affair of Andrée and Tony, both married to others. They meet in the blue room of a small provincial hotel with a terrace below whose clinking- and other noises and voices can easily be heard, as if the Others are always close. They meet eight times in 11 months, untraceable as a pair, taking every possible precaution. Their final passionate tryst described in Ch.1 contains some halting dialogue, pierced at a crucial moment by the shrieking warning sound of a passing express train. Soon after, a slow train stops and Tony spots Andrée’s husband among the passengers, minutes later sitting down on the terrace below. He panics and flees.
What follows is a brilliantly-worded tale of a slow, dramatic aftermath... Later, Tony is arrested and jailed, trying to remember what he said or promised while the noisy train sped by. He is questioned time and again by the law and its experts. Why? What has he done? Where is Andrée? What about her sickly husband Nicolas and Tony’s caring wife Gisèle and little daughter Marianne? This reader won’t tell and wishes new readers the same hype he experienced himself to find out.
By all accounts, Simenon himself was a hyper-active lover. His novel is morally troubling and a warning, not an endorsement of adultery. Readers (m/f) will find it hard to put this book down once begun and will not miss his message. Could it be a great choice for readers clubs too?

The House By The Canal
The House By The Canal
par Simenon
Edition : Relié

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Intriguing early work, 15 septembre 2015
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : The House By The Canal (Relié)
Relatively early (1933) and -unknown psychological novel of a writer most famous for his creation of Commissaire Maigret. Belgian experts think this was his fourth such novel, written at a time when he had grown a little tired of Maigret (19 novels in <3 years) and not keen to be remembered as a writer of ‘romans policiers’ only. Eventually, Georges Simenon (1903-1989) wrote 102 Maigrets and 116 ’romans littéraires’… Belgian experts do not consider this a masterpiece and were surprised to find it included in the highly prestigious French “Pléiade" series along with 20 more of Simenon’s most representative works.
From page one this novel breathes darkness, inclement weather and disaster foretold. Bourgeois-educated French-speaking Edmée (16) from Brussels has been orphaned and can stay with relatives from her mother’s side she has never met or heard of before. They live in the eastern province of Limburg, close to the river Meuse and the Netherlands. The moment she arrives, the family father passes away, leaving behind a mother and six strange-looking children aged 4 to 21. They are owners of vast irrigated meadows producing hay for the army’s horses, but the estate was not well managed. The three oldest children Fred, Jef and Mia can speak French too, but Aunt and the little ones speak and understand only Flemish.
Simenon follows from Edmée’s perspective what she and her weird new family go through over the next year or two. She has lively, feverish bouts of fears and fantasies and is no stranger to prejudice, intrigue and manipulation. Opportunistic too. And beautiful. This in stark contrast to members of her adopted family, whom she suspects of genetic decay. Can the estate be saved? Who will win over Edmée, incompetent caretaker Fred or ugly workhorse Jef? Or is the choice up to her and will she strike out in new directions?
Weather plays a key role. It is rarely sunny and dry. People always walk mud and clay into the house, which is leaky, droughty, ice cold and humid. Strong contrasts permeate the tale: black or white vs. red. The Mondrian-like, sculpted landscape dotted with reservoirs and locks linked by straight (sub-) canals and outlined by clean rows of planted, tall wind breaking poplars, clash with the facial and other irregularities of a family, Edmée thinks, embodies generations of inferior life on a farm. Culture vs Nature?

Flight From Honour
Flight From Honour
par Gavin Lyall
Edition : Broché

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Lovingly written & a delightful read, 13 septembre 2015
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Flight From Honour (Broché)
Delightful spy thriller is situated in the summer and balmy autumn of 1913 (as Trevanian’s “The Summer of Katya”} when, with mainland Europe boiling with conspiracies, Britain’s Bureau of Secret Intelligence, the infant version of MI 6 (est. 1910) is finally, and incrementally, expanded. The Army and Navy long had their own intelligence branches, whilst the Foreign Office disdained espionage as a profession or career track. Therefore, the new Secret Intelligence Bureau- all stakeholders agreed- must be kept small and manageable, commanded by a mere colonel. Britain’s new counter-espionage bureau was also headed by someone easy to overrule from above... Early on, a commentator remarks that such services are useless unless controlled independently by the PM’s Office or the Cabinet’s Office.
BSI’s new staff intake is tiny: Major Dangler served in the Indian Army as a spy. He is by far the most experienced in the craft. Capt. Matthew Ranklin (MR) narrowly escaped bankruptcy and readers will see through his eyes what happens next. He is analytical and a good planner. Irishman Conall O‘Gilroy spent years in South Africa, then ran afoul of ‘Fenians’ back home. He is a proud man, an evasion & surveillance expert and a fierce fighter. And keenly interested in technology, esp. flying. This trio is also tasked with training four fresh volunteers from the armed services.
This thriller gathers real pace thanks to an Italian Senator, two foreign assassins and two sexy female characters, one English , the other an American future heiress and MR’s unlikely lover. Each and every character has secrets of their own. Professionally or personally, their minds are primed to uncover secrets of other persons and their governments.
Asked why espionage is called the Great Game, one character said Englishmen would not take spying seriously otherwise. Well researched re European pre-WW I history and regimental and class issues over centuries esp. pertaining to reasons to start wars. GL highlights GB’s 1913 industrial and fashion prowess via e.g. Burberry and BSA (Birmingham Small Arms). Also illuminating about the use of airplanes this early (GL often featured planes and their pilots in his books). This thriller taught me where the word ‘sabotage’ comes from and rushed me to the next page and chapter. Great read for fans of the history of flying, pre WW-I history and lots of intrigue. Highly recommended thriller, more authentic and better written than most..

The Secret Servant
The Secret Servant
par Gavin Lyall
Edition : Broché
Prix : EUR 15,76

5.0 étoiles sur 5 Brilliant from start to finish, 8 septembre 2015
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : The Secret Servant (Broché)
First spy thriller starring Major Harry Maxim (HM) as a troubleshooter acting from inside Number 10 Downing Street. Why was he picked? He does not know. A soldier with a perfect service record abroad and unconnected to either Britain’s MI 5 or 6, he is given a tiny room upstairs, soon joined by the PM’s cat seeking rest from the bustle below. There, two sets of bureaucrats--separated by a single door and circulating for half an hour informally for tea each afternoon--daily vie for attention, control and prominence. One team is devoted to the Headmaster (the PM), the other, bigger lot serves the Cabinet, which meets weekly at Number 10.
Why the call for Harry and the urgency? Because of a suicide by someone linked to a letter written shortly after Cambridge Professor John White Tyler was appointed head of a committee reviewing GB defence policy. Early on, the professor wrote a bestselling book about his WW II days in e.g. North Africa, inspiring HM to become a soldier. What follows is a thoroughly satisfying spy thriller with lots of Whitehall intrigue between the services, a foray into Ireland, a flashback to Egypt, Libya and Tunisia during WW II, and a compelling ending.
This is a quintessentially British Cold War thriller, quality-wise fully on par with John Le Carré’s best in the 1970s and -80s. GL’s plot is exciting, brilliant even. His characters are excellent too, esp. Agnes, MI 5’s liaison to the PM’s office, and her interactions with George Harbinger, the PM’s in-house defence advisor. Lesser characters are well portrayed too. Dialogues and language use often cynically mimic British upper middle class values. Great read and value for money, this work has aged well or not at all. Highly recommended.

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