Naw Much of a Talker, by Pedro Lenz/translated by Donal McLaughlin, Freight Books, RRP£8.99, 240 pages
Lenz’s Naw Much of a Talker is narrated by “Goalie”, a man recently in prison on drugs charges and now determined to go straight. The story he tells is largely uneventful – he takes his girlfriend on holiday to Spain, and belatedly discovers that a mate grassed him up to the police – but is enlivened with earthy witticisms and anecdotes.
Lenz, a Swiss performance poet, wrote his debut novel after a six-month residency in Glasgow, where he came under the influence of James Kelman’s vernacular prose. It seems only appropriate, then, that Donal McLaughlin’s translation draws on colloquial Scottish idioms rather than the Queen’s English.
Despite the initial strangeness of a Swiss protagonist speaking in the Glaswegian demotic (“afore ah done time in the Joke, ahd this flat fur a while in Aarwengenstrasse”), the rendition works beautifully, capturing both the melancholy and the verbal music of Goalie’s monologue.