Bar Balto


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Faiza Guéne

It was a huge success in France, selling over , copies and translation rights around the world, and was shortlisted for the Young Minds Book Award and longlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize Her second book was Dreams from the Endz.


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Du kanske gillar. Unspoken- The voice beyond Faiza Saqib Inbunden. Bar Balto av Faiza Guene.

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This is always a danger for novelists who start publishing when very young, partly because a writer's relationship to his or her material is different after becoming a published author. Those who start later have a deeper store of memory to draw on. Like its predecessors, Bar Balto is set in a wretchedly poor housing estate on the outskirts of Paris, and written in a demotic French, which the translator, Sarah Ardizzone, has rendered into English with some ingenuity and general success.

Her task must have been difficult. If, just occasionally, the language doesn't ring quite true, then one should remember that finding the equivalent in one language for the street language of another is devilish hard. Think for instance of the problems James Kelman's translators must have. Bar Balto is a crime novel, and, like any serious crime novel, a social novel and an exploration of a pathology.

It is presented in a series of monologues from half a dozen different characters, some of them interior monologues, others purportedly transcripts of statements given to the police investigating the murder of Joel, the unpopular owner of the bar of the title, the only one in town. Most of these aim at naturalism - that is to say, they attempt to render the thought and speech processes of the various characters: Yeva, a desperate and angry woman, still attractive in early middle-age but oppressed by the hardship and disappointments of daily life; her unemployed husband, Jacques, a gambler forbidden to gamble, who spends almost the whole day watching television and visits the bar to get the couple of scratch-cards he is permitted as his daily ration; their two sons, Taniel, who is lively but, as a drop-out from college spends his days on the streets hanging out with his mates and pursuing gorgeous blonde Magalie, and Yeznig, who is learning disabled; Magalie herself, who is obsessed with Paris Hilton; the twins, Nadia and Ali, Arabs who have come north from Marseilles.

We see a failed marriage his side, her side , a mother with her sons her story, their stories , a young couple breaking up the lies she tells, the lies he believes. It's the sharp and sometimes very funny portrait of a society that has failed, and its people, that will stay with you.

Bar Balto by Faiza Guene

Conventional wisdom dictates that any translated book hoping to find a decent readership should disguise its translated-ness, lest it frighten off those poor delicate souls averse to anything alarmingly foreign. But at the risk of doing Bar Balto a commercial disservice, its triumph is to the translator's account every bit as much as the author's. This is a virtuosic work of literary ventriloquism, each voice brilliantly paced, heavily idiomatic and utterly distinctive. Even if the original were barely half as good as it is, this Bar Balto would still be a thrilling read for the translator's performance alone.

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Balto Co Bar History- Part III

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