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Commentaires écrits par
Alfred J. Kwak

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An Event in Autumn
An Event in Autumn
Prix : EUR 6,50

5.0 étoiles sur 5 Final closure, 7 mai 2015
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : An Event in Autumn (Format Kindle)
This novella about Kurt Wallander (KW) is significant in two respects. First, time-wise it fits into the Wallander series, just ahead of “Troubled Man”, KW’s final case during which his struggle with Alzheimer became apparent. Here, KW shows signs of forgetfulness of the common kind, not really suggestive of dementia, but added together, a case can be made. KW’s thoughts are also more than ever occupied with the past and the future. He is unhappy with the now and frets about past mistakes, always in the personal domain, never as a professional. Looking forward, he dreads retirement without a job, real friends or female companion, but surely with a dog and hopefully in a cottage with a view of the sea. Inspecting a promising, vacant property by himself, he makes a horrible discovery…
Secondly, this volume contains a short afterword by Henning Mankell about his novella’s publishing history and a 14-page piece on how the series started and ended and what happened in between. Interesting..
Otherwise, a perfectly conducted and written police procedural of a case without precedent or record. Two key informants live where KW is determined not to end his days. Not to be missed by fans and reading clubs.

Black Sheep
Black Sheep
par Susan Hill
Edition : Relié
Prix : EUR 13,53

5.0 étoiles sur 5 About darkness and light, 6 mai 2015
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Black Sheep (Relié)
“Black Sheep” is about honour and disgrace in a small, isolated pre-WW II British coal-mining community. Its overcrowded terraces house miners on changing shifts and their hard-working wives facing many tasks. No work alternatives for school leavers (14+), early marriage for girls. The novella’s focus is the Howker family of three miners, daughter Rose and kid brother Ted. Home worked like a machine when Ted was small.
But at 14, Ted decides not to descend into the pit of darkness with his classmates. Instead, he chooses for an outdoor life of light and open skies with a view on the world below, looking after hundreds of sheep. He was not the first to break with tradition: his silent, oldest brother Arthur gave up mining after an injury and one day disappeared forever…
Have read, enjoyed and reviewed five Susan Hill novellas and always felt her work had been rushed into print. But “Black Sheep” is a perfectly paced and a truly searing family drama. It contains notable characters like work-shy, God-fearing grandpa Reuben, struggling mother Evie, nasty son-in-law Charlie, and of course, lovely Rose and Ted himself. Sad story, sad ending.
Perfect for reading clubs to discuss e.g. coal miners and their culture, then and now or today’s relevance of capital punishment and the Old Testament.

Granta Issue 111: Going Back: Summer 2010
Granta Issue 111: Going Back: Summer 2010
par John Freeman
Edition : Broché
Prix : EUR 17,82

5.0 étoiles sur 5 Superb issue, 30 avril 2015
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Granta Issue 111: Going Back: Summer 2010 (Broché)
This reader, proud owner of some 85 issues, is very happy with editions 110 and 111 of GRANTA, "Sex" and "Going Back". In the late 1980's, the Somali author Nuruddin Farah lent me issues of GRANTA when we were both working at the University of Khartoum, Sudan, and I have been addicted ever since. "Going Back" and its predecessor "Sex", published in Summer and Spring 2010, are a promising pair of magazines after a rather poor run of years during which I did not bother to buy every issue: Too many boy- and girlhood memories and few memorable reportages, with Wendell Steavenson on Iraq a rare exception.

The absolute highlight of "Going Back" is "The Book of the Dead". It is war correspondent Janine di Giovanni (JG)'s heart-rending account of her 2010 return to Sarajevo. JG suffered intense winter cold, deprivation of water, food, heating, and electricity in Sarajevo during the constant shelling by Serbs from hill tops and their sniping from buildings inside the city, which went on for more than 1.000 days. What a shame it was for this to occur and to last so long in Europe.
JG went back in 2010 to see how her former contacts had coped since. Terrible case stories about wrecked lives follow. Serbia dearly wishes to become part of the EU, but its brainwashed people (not its current government) is still in partial denial about the recent past, hiding its worst perpetrators. Janine's report alone justifies the cost of buying this issue. All the rest is a bonus.

But there is plenty more to enjoy. Hal Crowther (HC)'s essay "A Hundred Fears of Solitude" is awesome, brilliant and only mildly paranoid. HC appears to argue on my behalf why I have no mobile phone and am not on Facebook, YouTube, Linked In and other manifestations of what he calls the electronic bee-hive. What happens on these platforms is creating and maintaining an addiction to reaction without action, a total waste of time. HC's virulent essay accuses parents, companies and governments alike to have caused the creation of a new, fat, ignorant, educationally underachieving generation of new Americans (and soon Europeans, Asians and Africans). Everyone blindly promoted and embraced these new media in the name of progress and innovation. Well argued and documented in less than 20 pages.

Among other gems, a selection of love letters from a youngish Iris Murdoch to much older French author Raymond Queneau prompted this reader to do some research on the net about this rather ugly man-eater. Finally, Mark Twain has ruled a century from the grave. Only in 2010, 100 years after his death, was publication of his autobiography possible. This GRANTA issue provides a preview with Mark Twain's "The Farm".
Highly recommended as an alternative to wasting time on electronic media. Start your own collection of new or second-hand issues.

par Niall Leonard
Edition : Broché
Prix : EUR 9,76

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Juvenile British action Hero, 29 avril 2015
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Shredder (Broché)
Eventful sequel to “Crusher”, a thriller I missed, in which Finn Maguire (FM, now 17) lost both his parents. Early chapters of “Incinerator” often hark back to this drama, because the police long suspected FM of his dad’s brutal killing. I admit that the many flashbacks made me very curious about “Crusher”, with Finn challenging London’s gangland for answers, and prevailing.
This volume portrays FM as dyslectic but quite smart and endowed (by nature and through relentless training) with a powerful physique and great endurance. He is also a promising boxer owning his own gym, advance-paid for by the promise of his forthcoming inheritance. When his lawyer absconds with his money, FM faces a black hole. Plus deep shame for failing to protect his poor and elderly Caribbean coach and business partner Delroy from all his. Now Finn and Delroy face severe sanctions from a powerful London loan shark... How will Finn extricate himself from his many problems? This genre of thriller is about fate striking innocent people, who react as best as they can against huge odds, which readers must enjoy for themselves.
Otherwise, Finn’s creator is a successful screenwriter. Why he wrote about Finn’s struggles in only 12 long chapters/322 pages is a mystery to me. With ever more people preferring their smart phone for solace and entertainment, many crime writers have given in to today’s shorter attention spans. Fast-paced thrillers with 8 or even 6-page chapters are the result.
Finally, “Incinerator” is marketed to the general public, not to urban juveniles not in school, work or in training. The author’s language use, choice of hero and realistic descriptions of miserable situations, suggests otherwise. And why not? Highly entertaining and likeable page turner.

Barracuda (English Edition)
Barracuda (English Edition)
Prix : EUR 6,49

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4.0 étoiles sur 5 Portrait of a devil as a young swimmer, 18 avril 2015
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Barracuda (English Edition) (Format Kindle)
Sprawling and very eventful, often raw and shocking novel about relentless ambition and fear of failure. Also full of minor emotions like jealousy for richer class mates, shame of one’s parents and emerging, passionate or protective feelings about certain boys he meets when given the chance to attend an elite secondary on the strength of his swimming talent. Time wise the novel switches constantly and readers are given searing accounts of the formative events and incidents during different phases in the life of Daniel Kelly (DK), never chronologically, always via flashbacks of a younger DK by an older version of him. By following DK in this way from age 15 to 30, Christos Tziolkas (CT) has composed a literary thriller without a murder. But the threat of murder is ever present, throughout the book...
‘Barracuda’ is situated mainly in Melbourne, Australia, with intermezzos in Japan, Scotland and Hong Kong. CT describes Australia as a lonely continent crazy about sport because it doesn’t excel in much else. And as a former British colony where racism, xenophobia and class consciousness thrive as never before. DK’s dad is/was a long-distance trucker, his mother a hairdresser, working class. At his new school DK feels shunned, but continues to rise at 4.30 am for early training practise. His mum helps him in every possible way to accomplish his ultimate goal: winning gold for Australia in the 2000 Sydney Olympics. But fate rules otherwise and it transforms Danny into Dan, a quite different person. Or not?
Tziolkas is an excellent writer. His occasionally shocking ‘The Slap’ sold 1.2 m copies worldwide. This book may possibly attract fewer buyers/readers: (1) Domestic readers may take offense at his highly polemic portrayal of Australia, a rainbow nation of people with roots elsewhere. (2) Profane language use and descriptions of gay lovemaking may deter readers and libraries. (3) Few readers are likely to recommend it to friends and relatives, because of DK’s rather hateful personality and character. The way DK turns on his father late in the book, is unforgivable and evil.
This novel brims with ideas and feelings about love and hate, shame and remorse, taking charge or letting it all go. Kept me off the streets for a week. Almost a true masterpiece.

par Stephen McGeagh
Edition : Broché
Prix : EUR 11,22

4.0 étoiles sur 5 New twist to an ancient taboo, 8 avril 2015
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Habit (Broché)
The first 100 pages are full of morose, sometimes irritated descriptions in the I-form of the bleak lives of a number of characters in Manchester, UK, permanently on the dole like narrator Michael or doing poorly-paid work as his sister Manda. Background percolates slowly down, with Michael living with Dig, wearing black hoodies and bad at holding his drink (poor eater). Manda has scary mental episodes (their Mum’s were worse). They look after each other by phone and in person as best as they can.
By page 101, it has already happened, slowly but surely: Michael’s enticement, then recruitment by the girl Lee, who looks 12, into a new, darkening world. It concerns a historically and ethnographically well-documented worldwide taboo practice that is rarely breached nowadays. Practitioners caught today are judged criminally insane. But the massage parlour into which Lee lures Michael to become doorman, is far from lunatic. It is organised like any franchise, with a front and back office, staffed competently by devoted people.
Amazon reviewers praised SMG for his realistic portrayal of Manchester and/or for sticking to his guns as a debutant. I cannot judge the first, but fully endorse the second claim that SMG dances to his own drumbeat. Morality is absent in readers reviews. To succeed as a debut writer is hard. Hope his next book is as focused as this, which has given another, intriguing twist to a long-established literary and thriller subgenre.
A second reading enhances the book's initial impact. Given its length, not its content, well suited for reading clubs. Because what exactly happened and does the end mean? And why this title?

Personal: (Jack Reacher 19)
Personal: (Jack Reacher 19)
Prix : EUR 6,50

5.0 étoiles sur 5 Sherlock Homeless, 1 avril 2015
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Personal: (Jack Reacher 19) (Format Kindle)
Publication of a new Jack Reacher (JR) is a moment of bliss and enjoyment extending for days for his many fans (m/f) worldwide. Always found his adventures in remote parts of the US less engaging than those in urban settings, but the rapid succession of the former helped the author slow down the aging of JR, who is still a super fit schemer and bruiser aged 54. This one promises to be one of Lee Child’s best, his best according to one quote, because at last, finally, etc., JR is deployed abroad again. Abroad is where JR grew up on Army bases and where he spent a large part of his MP-career.
This book takes him to Paris and London. Why? A world-class sniper took a shot at the French president from 1.300 meters. A new type of glass stopped the bullet. The event caused near panic is all intelligence services of the G-8, whose leaders meet in London in three weeks. Was the Paris event an audition? How many people worldwide can shoot so accurately? The combined G-8 intelligence services quickly provide 25 names, with 21 assuredly not having been in France or Paris. One of the four remaining snipers is American.
JR remembers him because he arrested him long ago in Colombia. Do 15 years of yoga and meditation in prison weaken or strengthen a sniper’s accuracy and hatred about his captor? Deep plot with many cliff hangers: are Brits better than Yanks at penetrating each other’s most secret communications? Are some criminal gangs in Britain operating above the law? Can JR and his 28-years old girl partner (a CIA novice on tranquilizers) prevent a sniper, perhaps two of them, from turning a G-8 summit into a bloodbath?
Finally, a comment on an assertion on p.1 and repeated later, saying that you can say goodbye to the army but that the army will not. Not forever, not completely. Lee Child/Jack Reacher must have had officers with unique skills in mind, not the >1 million sometimes badly traumatised veteran troops from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, who are poorly looked after by the US government...

Prix : EUR 2,95

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Death of a lotto winner, 20 mars 2015
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : BEYOND EVIL (Format Kindle)
Billy Privett was a nobody until he won a small fortune by getting six figures right. The tabloids, aware that hated people sell newspapers, keenly follow his conspicuous spending and partying spree. One night, acting on a neighbour’s complaint , Oulton police visits Billy’s sprawling home to find it empty, except for a naked, dead girl in his swimming pool. She is pulled out by DI Sheldon Brown (well into his 40s), a life-changing experience in view of his subsequent failure to find a motive or a killer. He is soon taken off the case. A team from Manchester makes no progress either.
Over a year later, Billy himself is found murdered, with the skin of his face sent separately to the local newspaper. Sheldon is appointed leader of the investigation, much to the surprise of his colleagues. Since his wife deserted him, he is looking shabby and insecure. Will he manage?
Sheldon’s counterpoint is struggling, hard-drinking small town defence lawyer Charlie Barker (39). His business partner Amalia defended Billy until his murder and she was perturbed by the news. There is also an occasional change of scene with a man called John who joined an anarchistic group, who slowly becomes alarmed by its leader Henry’s plans. Separately, there is also talk of men in black, seen in various places, stalking and pursuing the main protagonists. And of some sort of top-level police compliance...
Neil White, a criminal defence lawyer himself, presents a heady mix of human frailty in 67 chapters with many cliff-hangers. Found its length and weird plot quite challenging. Great book for people serving lengthy stays abroad to read and re-read and discover more and more about what really happened.

Every Day is for the Thief
Every Day is for the Thief
par Teju Cole
Edition : Broché
Prix : EUR 9,84

4.0 étoiles sur 5 A clinical look at Lagos, 4 mars 2015
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Every Day is for the Thief (Broché)
Teju Cole’s novel “Open City” about a Nigerian psychiatrist-in-training in New York was met with critical acclaim. This book is a revised edition of a book first published in Nigeria in 2007. It is about the author’s month long stay in Nigeria meeting with old friends and relatives after years in the US. Son of a long-dead Nigerian father and a long-departed American mother, returning to his birthplace Lagos was bound to be confrontational and dramatic.
As in “Open City” TC is essentially a loner given to walkabouts. In Lagos this is fraught with risk because it is a city full of despair and danger, with home invasions, street robberies, car and truck hijacks, so walking safely requires a certain body language to deter one from becoming a target. Many things astound him: its general decay, any business and the rich relying on generators in an oil-rich, but dirt-poor country, the criminal use of internet cafés, its all-pervading culture of graft and corruption in government and Nigeria’s indifference to its history.
Seeing his old friends again was not very uplifting either and TC views the success of the Pentecostal faith as another unwelcome import: after secondhand cars, clothes, airplanes he cringes to see the appeal and success of its secondhand message. Is there nothing positive to report about? TC did find a few rays of hope, but they are for other readers to discover. Otherwise, sobering, erudite re music and literature and very well written.

Granta 35: The Unbearable Peace
Granta 35: The Unbearable Peace
par Bill Buford
Edition : Magazine

3.0 étoiles sur 5 Uneven collection but with highlights, 26 février 2015
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Granta 35: The Unbearable Peace (Magazine)
This spring 1991 edition highlights the curious mountain state of Switzerland, a diverse confederation with a unique form of direct democracy. Not a member of the UN, peaceful for hundreds of years, it has one of the largest standing armies in the world proportional to its population. The issue begins with John Le Carre (JLC)’s solid 66-page journalistic reconstruction of Switzerland’s biggest spy scandal, the case against Brigadier Jean-Louis Jeanmaire, accused of passing military secrets to successive Soviet military attaches posted in Bern. In 1977 he was sentenced to 18 years and served 12. After his release, aged 80, he welcomes JLC to his tiny flat to put the record straight. Despite much of the trial’s evidence shrouded in secrecy, JLC (a former GB-spy in Bern) reviewed Jeanmaire’s case anew. His conclusions and suspicions are startling and painful for the Swiss intelligence community and its judiciary.
More about the Swiss army thanks to venerable author Max Frisch, who debuted in 1940. His rhetorical dialogue with grandson Jonas was written in support of the YES vote ahead of a referendum on abolishing the Swiss army. It contains strong evidence about faulty army strategy in case of war and invasion, and startling WWII examples of the negative aspects of neutrality: hosting a miserly 9.600 refugees, selling arms to all sides, allowing goods and troops from Germany to cross by train to Italy, and worse. [A more sympathetic portrayal of the Swiss army is John McPhee’s “La Place de la Concorde Suisse” from 1983, which despite its ill-chosen French title, is remains in print in English.]
Swiss author Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s speech to Vaclav Havel, John Berger’s musings on human nature in Basel’s zoo and Alex Kayser’s intriguing photo-essay on bankers and soldiers complete the Swiss section of GRANTA 35. Finally, who might buy this old issue? JLC has thousands of followers worldwide owning all or most of his novels. Many may be unaware of “The unbearable peace”. And because Max Frisch’s piece still holds relevance today.

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